Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Give us cake or we'll take the bus instead

Half Moon Bay Fullers ferry users group (HMB FUG) were treated to an afternoon of cake and cruise to celebrate 10 years of ferry linking between the eastern suburbs and the CBD.
A report from the Howick & Pakuranga Times:
More than 100 guests boarded the ferry for a celebration cruise organised by the Half Moon Bay Ferry User Group in conjunction with Fullers.
The afternoon was spent sailing to the southern end of Waiheke Island and back to Motutapu, where passengers disembarked to visit the Reid Homestead. A barbecue on board followed and an anniversary cake was cut.
Since the first sailing by City Cat, patronage has grown to the point where most peak-time commuter sailings are close to capacity, says Cheryl Williams who chairs the ferry user group.
The group was formed in collaboration with Fullers in 2006 in response to the need to deal with matters relating to the service.
As a result the group has successfully campaigned for the installation of a shelter, improved car park lighting and the continued service by Fullers.
A monthly pass costs $226 for Half Moon Bay. The distance travelled isn't much less than to Waiheke but a Waiheke pass costs almost 50 per cent more (inclusion of Stagecoach bus service is irrelevant as Half Moon Bay passengers can buy a Howick & Eastern monthly all-zone bus pass for $159 instead and be done with the ferry). The Half Moon Bay service attracts an ARTA subsidy.
So congratulations on the Howickeds and Pakurangutans for their affordable service, not least the successful ARTA screwing down the subsidy demanded by Fullers last year.
Now where is our cake (and affordable fare to go with it)?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Monopoly power horror

This caught my eye in the news today, from the NZ Herald:
The Commerce Commission released its long-awaited report into the electricity market.
It concluded each of the four big generators - Meridian, Contact, Genesis and Mighty River - has been exercising the power the market's design gives them to command unjustifiably high prices, at least during years when inflows to the hydro lakes are low as they were in 2001, 2003 and 2006.
But this did not amount to a breach of the Commerce Act, the commission said. It was a lawful and rational exploitation of the opportunities the market gave generators and they would not be hauled before a court. [...]
Residential power prices rose by two-thirds between 2000 and 2007, or 5 per cent a year faster than general inflation
It would be easy to substitute the company names with the company that holds a monopoly position on the Auckland - Waiheke run, and come to the exact same conclusion - which the Commerce Commission actually did when asked about monopoly practices by Fullers a few months ago, giving it a clean bill of health since "it was a lawful and rational exploitation of the opportunities the market gave" Fullers.
And it is interesting to see that monopoly pricing behaviour is following a general pattern: that sweet spot you are striving towards as a company when you can charge more than general inflation.
To quote Milton Friedman (lest you want to accuse me of leftwing bias):
Monopoly implies absence of alternatives and thereby inhibits freedom of exchange. Monopolies exist because of failure to create a "real" free market, because of "market inefficiency". Dynamic changes are highly likely to undermine monopoly and there is at least some chance that these will be allowed to have their effect."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Public meeting aftermath

A productive and informative meeting was held at the Ostend Hall last Saturday on the transport issues on the island, prompted by a good amount of activism, animosity and law changes over the past 6 months.
Good to see a big variety of people and organisations represented, including FUG, Waiheke Bus Co and Sealink, despite a dearth of politicians and policy makers. A big boo to ARTA for not showing up. As the public transport regulator in Auckland it should be their priority, being at the heart of the problems and the solutions, to step up.
A wide variety of topics got briefly discussed or mentioned or debated and it was hardly a "Fullers-bashing" session some have described it as, and who probably were never there. Despite there being no-one from Fullers, I'm sure they got a detailed briefing on what was said by whom.

The next steps for C4FFF is to get the petition to the ARTA and parliament to get things moving under the Public Transport Management Act.
And the survey, which is still available for responses (see link in the blog item at the top of this page) and which will be collated and analysed for public use.
It is shaping up to be an interesting mine of suggestions, criticism and praise, and we won't be shy to share them with the ferry operators, regulators and the media in due course

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Former Gulf News editor dies

From the NZ Herald:
An Auckland man who jumped from the Devonport Ferry on the North Shore on Sunday afternoon has died in hospital.
He has been named as Simon Johnston, 53.
Mr Johnston rushed through an exit door and attempted to jump off the ferry, back onto the wharf, while it was leaving the terminal shortly before 4.30pm on Sunday, witnesses told police.
A Fullers crewman alerted the rest of the crew, then put on a lifejacket and jumped into the water to help.
Mr Johnston was rescued from the sea by the Coastguard and resuscitated, before being taken to North Shore Hospital for treatment to a head injury.
Police interviewed a number of passengers and witnesses at the terminal who confirmed the man was a ferry passenger who had attempted to jump to the wharf.
Simon was until last year the editor of the Waiheke Gulf News, and you can read a selection of his work on the Gulf News website. He was also an accomplished musician who often, after a hard day's work, played his guitar at many Waiheke social events and venues.
If you have any particular memories of Simon, you can share them on his Waihekepedia page.

Friday, May 1, 2009

C4FFF petition

Community Consultation for future fare rises is a must!

Make Fullers Accountable to ARTA and the Waiheke Community.

Future ferry and bus fare increases are going to affect working families, students and all members of the Waiheke community who commute or travel to and from the city. Will you be consulted about the next fare rise? No! Will it affect your life? Yes! Should the future of our ferry and bus link to the CBD be in the hands of an unaccountable monopoly? No!’

We the undersigned, call for the following:

1) A mechanism of accountability to be put into place so that Fullers cannot raise our ferry and bus fares without consulting ARTA or the governing transport authority and the community of Waiheke

2) Regulation or fair competition on the Fullers ferry route

3) Affordable and sustainable public transport for Waiheke for the future


This petition is supported by the Campaign 4 Fair Ferry Fares and the Better Bus Action Group.
If you want to help us collect signatures please print out this petition.