Monday, June 29, 2009

Those dark, dark days

Winter is upon us. You reflect while you are shivering on Pier 2, dark, windy and wet. Nothing much changes year to year in ferry transport, really. The old shelter sheds have been replaced by a cavernous, sails-inspired structure that protects nobody against the stiff northeasterly wind or driving westerly rain. To save on power only half the lights are turned on, which makes it too dark to read, even if your paper doesn't blow away. And you are not allowed to sit anywhere on the steely cold benches. No: for over a year there have been "structural improvements" going on on Pier 2 (I'm not talking the addition of a forlorn Esquire cafe hut). The amount of time it is taking to strengthen Pier 2 is not imbibing me with confidence on how long it will take to get Queen's Wharf up to scratch for the rugby party animals in 2011.

And since it is that darkest period of year again, Fullers is treating us with daily rides over the coming weeks on everybody's favourite boat, the Jet Raider. The "Superflyte on survey" is an annual event to show its customers who really is boss, and if you dare to murmur criticism of inappropriate timing, daily lateness and uncomfortable rides in the said nor'easter, there is always the threat of a fare increase.
Happy commuting!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Ferry transfer mid-harbour

Cross-posted from CountryMike at Waiheke Radio:
Last night (Thurs 25 June) the 8.45pm Auckland to Waiheke ferry suffered a breakdown that resulted in pasengers being transferred mid-harbour to another ferry. The following is an eyewitness report from one of the ferry passengers.
"It was a normal 8:45pm sailing and I headed upstairs on the Wanderer. Shortly after departure I popped down to the bar for the obligatory Merlot, Without warning I felt myself falling backwards as the boat suddenly lost all power. A cruise ship had just departed Auckland so I assumed we had slowed down to let it pass.
You think something is wrong when the men with the stripes on their shoulders start running backwards and forwards, you know something is wrong when all the lights go out.
So there we were, just off the container wharf, drifting powerless and lightless toward the shipping lane and the path of the departing cruise liner...
I went back to my merlot, placed a few tweats on a rapidly flattening phone, observed other commuters texting and ringing loved ones, watched the cruise ship sail past; more men with stripes running backward and forward, now with torches, “shall I try restarting the genset?”, lights come on, drop anchor.
The Seaflyte returning from Half Moon Bay pulled alongside, we transferred via the wheelhouse and on our way back to Waiheke.
To the Fullers staff and crew: a big thumbs up for a well executed mid harbour manoeuvre in unusual circumstances and cheers for the free beer".

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Nikky Kaye MP to present C4FFF Accountability Petition to Parliament (updated)

This Monday 29 June, Campaign for Fare Ferry Fares (C4FFF) will be presenting Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye with a petition signed by more than 500 people, calling for accountability on the Matiatia to Auckland ferry route that is currently operated by Fullers (Souter Holdings).
Nikki Kaye will be meeting with C4FFF on Monday and has agreed to present the petition to parliament on behalf of her constituents, as part of the discussion on the Public Transport Management Act.
The petition, now signed by more than 1000 people, calls for a mechanism of accountability so that fares cannot be raised without consultation with the governing transport authority, and for regulation or fair competition on the Matiatia to Auckland route.
C4FFF spokesperson Dr Cathy Urquhart says with the review of the Transport Management Act looming, this is a key moment to request regulation or accountability of some kind before more residents are forced to leave the island.
‘Our long term future is at stake each time diesel goes up. Our economy is deeply affected by who can afford to commute and live here, and who can afford to visit. Should the future of our ferry link to the CBD be in the hands of an unaccountable monopoly? No! Let’s get some accountability into the equation, before our Waiheke community loses the diversity we treasure so much.’

C4FFF members will also travel in person to Wellington to talk to members of the Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee when the Public Transport Management Act goes under discussion later this year – presenting the petition on behalf of the signatories gives them this opportunity to speak.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Red hot deals

Amazing how precarious island life is when one of its key infrastructure elements is taken out of action for a length of time. Last Saturday night the Woolworths supermarket suffered fire damage to the extent that the supermarket will be closed for at least 2 to 3 weeks and will not be fully operational, like, probably ever or before a new one is built in Ostend in about 2 years' time.
It is of course hardly a civil defence emergency, and various other market players have stepped up to fill the market demand for shopping services, including Woolworths itself, which is for the first time offering online shopping to Waiheke (the island being the only area in New Zealand deprived from such service before - you could get your groceries delivered to Stewart Island but not Waiheke). The other online shop, FoodDirect, is island-run.

The transport companies are doing their bit too, with Sealink's fortuitous June $50 open return offer (unrelated to the fire) now extended for July too.
Fullers is doing a shopper's fare too (a reduced fare return for the 10am to 3pm sailings, with a free shuttle to the supermarket thrown in). I can't actually find that deal on the Fullers website but it's mentioned in a NZ Herald report. It is also unclear whether this shoppper's fare will be retained now that the supermarket has reopened.

Amazing what competition can achieve.

UPDATE: Now that the Woolworths supermarket has partially reopened the internet service has been cancelled by Woolworths.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Integrated ticketing: still a distant dream

From Computerworld / Stuff:
Auckland local authorities have trimmed the budget for a new integrated ticketing system for local transport and now plan to borrow to fund the project.
Yesterday, the Auckland Regional Council (ARC) decided to borrow $15 million and deliver what its chairman, Mike Lee, descibes as an "economy model" integrated ticketing system to allow commuters to travel across the city on different modes of transport with a single ticket.
However, the plan still depends on further funding being granted by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA).
"We're putting the ball back in the government's court."
This is an issue that even a super-city structure will have trouble with setting up, implementing and running, given the balkanised set up of public transport systems in Auckland.
Tha aim of an Auckland Oyster Card should be: all systems, all passengers, all times, all routes, all areas. And to include all Waiheke public transport.

The London Oyster card, as an example, isn't perfect in all these aspects either: National Rail surface trains are excluded from the system (with a temporary exemption over the coming days as the London Tube will be on strike)

Fullers to buy Kawau Kat Cruises

Fullers is looking to expand its reach over the harbour ferry business by buying its competitor in the commuting, cruising and touring business. Kawau Kat Cruises offers services from the CBD to Gulf Harbour and Coromandel, apart from tourist cruises to Kawau and Tiri Tiri Matangi.
The National Business Review reports that:
Fullers Group has now lodged a clearance application with the Commerce Commission to buy Kiwi Kat Ltd, which operates Kawau Kat Cruises.
The consolidation in the ferry business continues apace with this further setback to any possibilities of ever getting a viable competitive service.
Let's see whether the Commerce Commission is more than a rubber-stamping watchdog.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Waiheke island public transport survey

The Campaign 4 Fair Ferry Fares has launched a public survey to gauge usage and opinion of the various public transport modes and infrastructure available to them.
The survey is anonymous and open to anyone who uses Fullers, Waiheke Bus Company and the wharves.

Please feel free to take the survey via this link.