Friday, January 30, 2009

Taking lessons from the other side of the world

In case Fullers are worried about fuel going up anytime soon, they need to look at the Isle of Wight ferries in the UK, who have a simple fuel surcharge indexed to Brent Crude oil (in our case it would probably be Dubai Crude).

It's interesting to note, too, that Isle of Wight residents have a 'Ferry Fares Fair' campaign. The issues for any island community, once fuel prices get to a certain level, appear to be the same.

Fullers could certainly improve their ticketing practices, too. Isle of Wight Ferries not only offer yearly passes, but the ability to pay for them by direct debit!

Given that Fullers are a private operator of our only public transport to the CBD, it doesn't seem at all unreasonable to me that they look at these options. Transport options shape our community. I'm still hearing tales of young people who can't afford to live here - the most recent was a couple who moved back to the CBD - with the money saved on commuting, they plan to save up for a deposit on a new house - on Waiheke! Of course, commuting from Waiheke may still be too expensive. It's this sort of social impact we need to be aware of.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Update on "The appalling bus ride"

I received a letter from Fullers Waiheke Bus Company management today regards the racist behaviour of one of their drivers. It says they "have spoken with the driver concerned and are happy with the outcome." No specification what the "outcome" was. It certainly wasn't giving him the sack because I have seen him drive a bus last Monday.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Free showers on the ferry

I was on the 4.00 on Anniversary day and could not sit at a window seat upstairs because all the air conditioning units were leaking on to the seats and tables. Very 'Third World'. A staff member came and had a bemused look at the situation but nothing was rectified. Brent

C4FFF response to the February price changes

From the press release:
This is a victory not only for the Campaign 4 Fair Ferry Fares but the whole community. Many commuters took the time to write to Fullers and their elected representatives. Mike Lee was very vocal in his support for the campaign. Denise Roche and Nikki Kaye also actively helped. FUG contributed by keeping a communication channel with Fullers open.

I am delighted to see these reductions, it gives much needed relief to hard pressed commuters and the island economy. I note that Fullers say that they are rethinking how they set fares in future and this is also very welcome news. I hope this will mean much wider community consultation on fare levels, and a fuel surcharge if appropriate.

Remember that, even with the current reductions, the cost of ferry travel is still pricing lower wage earners off the island and impacting negatively on the local economy. This issue needs to be addressed by a cooperative effort involving ARTA (Auckland Regional Transport Authority), ARC, Fullers and the Waiheke Community. Options include fostering competition, regulated pricing and/or route subsidies. C4FFF is now focused on promoting a constructive and robust debate during the public consultation phase of the Draft Public Transport Management Plan for Waiheke due to commence in May or June this year.

Monday, January 26, 2009

February fare changes

The monthly pass for February will cost $315, only a $4 drop on the Dec/Jan pass prices, which in turn only represented a partial $25 fall from its lofty heights of $344. It still means a 5% price increase on 12 months, which is higher than CPI 2008 inflation. Such are the joys of a monopoly operator: the cost plus plus plus mentality.

Single fares will remain at current prices. I never thought Fullers could feasibly drop the single fares as it would cut into the Supergold Card bonanza it is enjoying at the taxpayer's expense.
Meanwhile diesel prices are at 5 year lows. The golden weather continues for Fullers.
We wish Mr Morrison, CEO of Infratil, owners of Fullers, a speedy recovery. You know you can count on your loyal customers to come up with the dosh to pay your health bills.

UPDATE 27 JAN: It's official now: the commuter fares are the only ones dropping by a few dollars. 10 rides are $125, worker's weeklies at $83. The 40-trip is $415, which is the biggest drop from $448.
The Fullers leaflet accompanying the changes states rather ominously:
This reduction is in response to recent fuel price decreases. Fullers is also undertaking a general review of the way its fares are set. We expect this new approach to our fares to better reflect our operating environment, including international fluctuations in the price of fuel and the influence of exchange rates. As a result, fares will be more frequently reviewed and changed.
We shall have to make suggestions and submissions on future fare policies. And thinking outside the box is necessary.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Rock the boat

3:00pm from city via Devonport. Boat choc a bloc by the time it reached Devonport. Many people had their luggage on the seats (the offenders were mostly Waiheke people). No announcements from Fullers to remind passengers about taking up seats with luggage. Staff too busy trying to sort out who was drinking illicit (i.e. not purchased from Fullers) alcohol.

Party island

Stonyridge organised one of its dance parties on Saturday night, always a tense time for Fullers as it doesn't really control the numbers that will turn up, with sometimes disastrous results. Not that they object to selling more ferry tickets than they can actually transport since your ticket is not actually a guaranteed seat on the boat of your choice, just a vague promise to get you to Waiheke at some time in the future.
Things seemed to have gone smoothly, the 6pm Saturday Quickcat from town was not very full, just a happy band of party goers trying to dodge the still leaking airconditioning units: at least one booth of seats was blocked off by staff to prevent party frocks getting prematurely soaked.

This morning (Sunday) a few dozen were snoozing on the first boat back home, but I didn't hear anyone being stranded. I heard Stonyridge, sensibly, chartered a vessel for its clients.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Quick Quick Slow

I don't know what it is about Wednesdays but Fullers always decides to put the Quickcat on the Superflyte run at 8am ex Waiheke. My fellow wag commuters tell me that Superflyte is used for "maintenance training" at that time, whatever that means (new staff being trained how to pour wine in rough seas? How to ignore using the upper gang plank?).
The downside is that the 8am service is consistently late in arriving (it was 8:45 this morning) mainly due to the non-use of the upper gang plank to speed up embarkation at that busy commuter time. Lack of staff?

As an aside, a Belgian newspaper reports that the Belgian railyways infrastructure company Infrabel is going to be asked to repay 1 million euro in Government support back to the Government because it failed to comply with a plan to improve the punctuality of train traffic (only 90 percent of schedule trains arrive with a delay less than 5 minutes!)
They have ways of making the trains run on time! How about ways to make Auckland ferries arrive on time?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Groaning numbers (2)

I travelled on the 11am to Waiheke via Devonport this morning on a beautiful sunny day, ideal for day trippers. The numbers getting on Superflyte were substantial but not overloading. A good number were added at Devonport and there were very few seats left anywhere.
The trouble came at Matiatia where 3 buses (one of them an extra direct one to Onetangi) were really insufficient to transport the massive crowds. There was standing room only on all buses and surely some passengers were left stranded.
The disembarkation was via both ramps, I'm happy to see, but the large number of elderly passengers with mobility problems made it a still very longwinded process.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Groaning numbers

From Cathy: The 5:30pm from Auckland left at 5:36pm today, due to the sheer numbers getting on and off. It's my feeling that they can't handle the numbers operationally at the moment. I wouldn't mind, but there is rarely an apology for the late departure. With the Supergold subsidy plus all all the tourists, they must be doing very nicely thank you. We are paying a hugely inflated price for a crowded and untimely service at the moment!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

$360,000 and useless

From Lynette: I came back on the 1pm ferry today after spending the morning at Auckland Hospital with an elderly friend. Being one of the smaller ferries it was unable to use our very expensive upper walkway at Matiatia. I would call it a cattle race but you would never have cattle so high up in the air.

Quickcat 3-day breakdown

The Quickcat finally gave out on Sunday night (4 January) and is expected to be back tonight (Wednesday). Nothing like sharing the Jet Raider with screaming children and people with suitcases full of unwanted Xmas presents. Needless to say the timetable has gone out of the window. You can now safely turn up late at the wharf but don't make time-sensitive appointments at the other end. Tuesday 6:30pm Auckland sailing left 20 mins late.

No word on what the actual fault was on Quickcat. My hunch is that the aircon finally ran out of water, so free showers were no longer on offer to passengers. See, 2009 is barely 7 days old and am already my cynical old self again.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The appalling Waiheke bus ride

When you come across subtle racism you don't often tend to notice it immediately, but when you're confronted with a blatant example, it tends to blow me away.

And that is what happened last night on the 6.45pm Onetangi bus.
The bus driver - Alan Davies who last year stood unsuccessfully for the community board and often makes submission at Waiheke community board meetings and is the Waiheke Island Grey Power branch chairman - took it on himself to check everybody's credentials to see whether they qualified for a discounted bus fare. So far so bureaucratically good, I hear you say. There was a mix of Waiheke high and Australian students wanting to get on, they did without trouble and got a student fare after showing their student ID.

When we got to the Red Cross, a Japanese student showed his Japanese student card but Mr Davies was unimpressed and insisted on a full fare, saying: "Only New Zealand high school student cards are valid for discounted fares". The student was bemused, got off the bus and decided to walk instead. Note that the Australian students earlier at Matiatia had no problem (they were young and pretty, always a good tactic).

Then at Blackpool, a mother and daughter got on and the daughter told Mr Davies she was a Waiheke High student but didn't have her student card on her. He let her board at a discounted fare without a murmur.

So do I conclude that Mr Davies is doing a sterling job in keeping the Yellow Peril off our Waiheke buses (and isn't that what we fought for in the War?) and can use discretion and racist attitudes in determining who rides on his bus and at what price?

Hence I have laid a formal complaint with the Waiheke Bus Company about this.