Thursday, January 5, 2012

The 180-min journey to work

The Waiheke Marketplace newspaper ran a piece with commuter experiences on the ferries, sadly it's not online. A slightly different article, but based on the same information appeared in the East & Bays Courier.
It inspired me to fire off the following letter to the editor:

Dear George,

The fluffy piece of salad day journalism by Nicola Murphy and Lyndal Jefferies "Work's a 180-min journey" requires necessary balance. For Waiheke commuters, the journey to and back from work in the city involves one of the most expensive commuter fares in the world. At $4,000 a year, what do you actually get? Boats that rarely arrive at the advertised time causing missed bus and train connections. Cancellations and breakdowns occuring like clockwork, often mid-channel and which require a return and transfer (but, mercifully, a $10 compensation voucher). Those breakdowns are euphemistically referred to by Fullers as "unplanned maintenance" and they come on top of annual boat surveys that seem to take longer every year.
You may think that the Waiheke commute is a damn sight better thing than sitting in a gridlocked motorway every morning, but your 'reverse commuter', Mr Schippers, enjoying the "easy parking" in Devonport, should have mentioned he can actually park for free, a privilege not enjoyed by islanders, who are unique in the Auckland public transport system of not having a free park & ride facility that North Shore busway commuters take for granted. Perhaps this is because the Waiheke Fullers route is actually not a public transport service but communal private transport delivered by a monopoly company.
It's my impression that Fullers actually doesn't like commuters. It prefers the $35 return tourist fares because revenue per passenger is so much juicier. Tourists don't turn up in Winter so boats can be taken out of service at random, and bugger the resulting cramped conditions for the captive daily customer. In Summer, boat charters and private cruises for corporate Christmas parties yield so much more profit it pays to cram commuters onto the smaller vessels, sardine-style.
The vaunted aspects of the boat commute - the community-style interactions between passengers and the opportunity to actually make the time work for you - are a little overdone. There is, for example, no free wi-fi on board, something that is increasingly common on public transport overseas and even on inner city Auckland buses, trains and even Sea Link to Half Moon Bay.
As long as Waiheke is not integrated into the Auckland public transport system (we haven't heard whether Hop will come to Fullers, let alone at $14.50 for a day pass valid for travel across Greater Auckland, a fare touted for travelling a similar distance on other Auckland public transport modes) Fullers - and Sea Link - will continue to abuse their monopoly position and slowly strangle life on Waiheke for all but the well-heeled. The island's gentrification and unaffordability will continue and the only beneficiary is Fullers' bottom line.

UPDATE: The letter (slightly edited) was published, good on ya, George.
UPDATE: The original article has been retracted by the Marketplace after one of the interviewees complained he wasn't actually interviewed for the piece.


Don said...

WIFI also available on trains:

Hans Versluys said...

Cheers, Don, added it.

Louis said...

Thanks for linking to my post on the Auckland Transport Blog. I would point out that my proposal was to include Waiheke Island in Zone C so yes you would be eligible for the $14.50 day pass.

Hans Versluys said...

Comment sent in by Mr Schippers:
To call the article in the WaihekeMarketplace a salad day journalism is an insult to journalism. I have never been interviewed by the WaihekeMarketplace for this article. Yet I have been quoted several times. I never travel through Devonport and have never parked my car there. If, and that is only if it rains and the condition are not the best for a two wheeled vehicle I take my car to the ferry and pay my fair share. I have no experience of parking at Devonport. I also travel from outside Auckland but foremost I don't consider a days work on Waiheke a holiday. That would be an insult to my customers. I had an email exchange with the authour of the article and her editor and I'm still for an apologise.
The article was on the level of an acceptance exam of a journalist course and scored a fail.
Kind Regards
Koos Schipper