Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Scrooge running NZ Bus

The Christmas tradition of free bus travel in Auckland came abruptly to an end this year when posters in buses announced a reduced timetable service, plus no free travel as normal fares apply on the day.
NZ Bus blames the economic situation this year and one must not be a heartless cynic suggesting it's aimed to clawback some losses from the lock out earlier in the year, perish the thought. NZ Bus has a 20% return on capital to recover for Infratil, after all, so no more festive rides, thank you very much.
Needless to say Christmas traditions have never been Fullers forte: I can't remember there ever being any festive cheer in the form of discounted travel on the ferry or the Waiheke bus at Christmas.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Auckland Octopus on the cards

From the ARTA press release:
The Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA), in conjunction with its partner Thales and its funders the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) and the Auckland Regional Council (ARC), today signed the contract to deliver a super transport ticket for Auckland. The ticket will be Auckland and New Zealand’s first, true multi-modal transport ticket. Thales’ strategic partner of Hong Kong’s leading contact-less smart card payment system, Octopus will supply the core central clearing house system.
This is very important news for regular users of public transport in the Auckland region. It is a seamless, electronic ticketing system that lets you use all transport modes at all times for the cheapest fare going, and, hopefully, at a daily/weekly/monthly capped rate. $5 to $10 a day for all your public transport needs sounds about right.
We will have to make sure that Fullers Waiheke service and the Waiheke Bus is included in the system.

Read more about Hong Kong's Octopus card system here.

A useful background to the proposed Auckland system, and an opportunity to discuss it can be found here. But feel free to discuss the Waiheke situation and place in the system here.
To kick off here are some ideas:

1. The Super Gold Card concessions should become integrated too with the Auckland Oyster. This will provide a much better audit trail than we have now where transport companies simply push a button to collect the fare off the Government, no checks on validity can be made as Gold Cards are not linked to fare tickets issued (the last 12 months have been a gold mine for bus and train and ferry companies, with so much suspected abuse and fraud by transporters going on that now plans are in train to limit the fare concessions to the off peak hours only)
2. Why not set up ARTA as a “Pharmac for public transport”, i.e. a bulk purchaser of public transport on the passenger’s behalf? Fares could then be set as a flat fare (or even free for Auckland City residents) for a yearly card.
3. I have personally major concerns, as a Waiheke Islander, that our local transport monopoly provider will do all it can to avoid fare capping or charge a fare comparable to other (subsidised) zones in the city. Fullers has been re branding itself as a tourist service instead of a public transport service with boats routinely taken out of commuter service to ply the charter trade. Commuters are seen as a useful nuisance (as a good cashflow provider in winter) but the $32 return tourists and dirty weekenders are Fullers real market. The Oyster system needs to make sure that ALL transport modes in Auckland are included with the same terms and conditions.
4. A useful price comparison: in Switzerland the national railways company offers an annual season ticket valid on all trains and local transport (buses and trams) in most cities and regions for the price of 3,100 Swiss Francs (NZ$2,250). 12 monthly passes on Fullers cost NZ$3,780.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Bill's suggestion taken on board

Some of us, as noted before, are commuters on the weekend too. Fullers prefers to be a tourist service on the weekend so timetabling is much altered to suit weekenders, holiday and merry makers, and commuters are very much an afterthought when it comes to taking them to town in time.
Now a few weeks ago the 8am weekend sailings from Waiheke have started to call in at Devonport. Heaven (again) knows why since barely anyone got off or on at those stopovers, but results in major delays in getting into Auckland. Since the bus services on the weekend are depleted as well, the connections are even more challenging to get to work on time.
One of my fellow commuters suggested to the captain to make an announcement on board instead asking passengers who want to go to Devonport to make this know to the crew, otherwise they just chug on to Auckland. After some correspondence with Fullers management this has now been taken as policy. Cheers, Bill.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The slow boat to Auckland

Every Wednesday (only the Fullers Gods know why) the QuickCat chugs along to eventually do the 8am ex-Waiheke service. The boat never arrives on time and never leaves at 8am, and thus never gets on time to Auckland to connect with the usual other transport modes.
The old lady seems to be knackered, when even Jet Raider can maintain a semblance of meeting a published schedule.
Why they keep flogging QuickCat into doing a service it's obviously not up to is a complete mystery.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A buses' graveyard

Getting on the bus from Matiatia home last night yielded some walking exercise for many people as the bus engine died at the Art Works bus stop. The driver had to call in technical assistance, but I and quite a few others didn't hang around to see how it got solved. Waiheke is the confirmed place that buses come to to die.