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Statement on Auckland’s Transport

Ben Ross Ben Ross : Auckland (BR:AKL) April 2013

In the March 27 Auckland Transport Board meeting which was open to the public meeting (and I went to for the first time), it was stated for the record that Auckland Metro Rail patronage has fallen below 10 million (9,996,066) for the first time in around 18 months. The Auckland Transport executive offered excuses such as an extra day in February last year (as the comparison month), continued AT-HOP teething issues, the Rugby World Cup hangover still in effect, and tertiary students unable to bulk buy tickets as they could in the old system. Was not explained (and if so it was vague) actual reasons for this continued rail patronage slippage such as (but not limited to):       reliability of the services punctuality of the services frequency of services especially in the off-peak and weekends fare prices and concessions (the Family Pass saga) Fare Evasion The timetable suitability (ask the Pukekohe passengers still reeling at the loss of their 18:00 Britomart to Pukekohe via Newmarket service which was always packed to the end of its run) Convenience of the rail service for patrons Ease of use of the ticket system Connectivity of rail service to other services including buses and park and ride facilities (which then spans into accessibility) behaviour of patrons of both public and private transport

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Now some issues are being addressed in the Regional Public Transport Plan (RPTP) such as the last bullet point. But for the rest of it all we hear is a deafening silence from Auckland Transport and how they actually plan to do something meaningful to reverse this patronage slippage rather than just a marketing gimmick of a campaign

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But what startled me the most however, at the AT Board meeting was statements from some Auckland Transport Board members in the situation with rail (and by extension bus as well) Note: These are what I heard verbally from the meeting and took down as notes at that meeting. Any inaccuracies please let me know for correction. Comments and Statements included included  “They want to know why people are no longer catching public transport.”

“Auckland Transport does not have enough information to make informed strategic decisions on public transport in relation to (as Board Member, Councillor and Council Transport Committee Chair Mike Lee made in a statement or rather statements): o o 1) causes for chronic poor punctuality 2) details and consequences of fare evasion.”

As well as (From Councillor Lee’s Facebook page): “At the Auckland Transport Board meeting this afternoon we heard that overall public transport patronage was down by 6.9% on Feb 2012. Rail was down 8.4% over the same period. Auckland's PT patronage is tanking but management is still making excuses. Until we admit there is a problem nothing will be fixed. I suggested Auckland's public transport operations be reviewed by independent experts. AT chair Lester Levy received this idea favourably. This has gone on long enough. No more excuses.”

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Board Member, Councillor, and Council Transport Committee Deputy Chair Christine Fletcher commented on parking behaviours around her area at Mt Eden and that people who work in the CBD drive to Mt Eden where there is free parking, then catch a bus for a $1.71-$1.90 bus or train trip into the CBD and back again. Basically Councillor Fletcher wanted to know parking behaviour and by extension people behaviour in response to both private and public transport habits.

Myself personally I have covered much of this through my blog Ben Ross : Auckland (BR:AKL) to which I recommend having a good thorough read. I recommend that thorough read as the blog also has my private musings and serious alternatives for getting our public transport system back on track. I try my absolute best to maintain a positive attitude and outlook on all this but after Councillor Lee’s comments you could gather why I would struggle from time to time.

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But despite the statements or comments from the AT Board, this is not time for panic or utter pandemonium – because there is actually light at the end of the Auckland ’ s Transport Tunnel, I can see it and I/it is going towards that light.
Again I mention my previous successes in heading towards that light at the end of the tunnel albeit rather slowly: forcing Auckland Transport to back off a technical fare rise for AT – HOP card users in September last year, compromise with the Manukau North Link Duplication, a semi-backtrack with the Family Pass and Christmas in the Park and kick starting a business case for the Manukau Rail South Link which should be due out soon (if not time for a chase up). But with successes is some heartbreak (stalling heading towards the light at the end of the tunnel) such as Auckland Transport dragging their feet on a universal roll out of the Family Pass to all stations. But I can stress that strenuous lobbying by myself and Councillor Lee continues to get the Family Pass rolled out.

While I cannot speak for the city I can state I am raising my hand in answering Councillor Lee’s call in “I suggested Auckland's public transport operations be reviewed by independent experts.” Now experts do not mean necessarily consultants but user-experts such as actual patrons and workers of the actual rail system. I bet a case of beer they are willing to answer the call but at the same time I can also understand reluctance knowing Auckland Transport does not have the best dialogue skills I can think of. The same would go for a consultancy firm as well that had a moral compass. For example this outside review can be done but if I were a consultant undertaking this review for Mike, I would be extremely annoyed if after the handing over of the review will full recommendations Auckland Transport shelve the work in some back office to gather dust for the next 100 years. As an example of some simpler straight forward positive initiatives that Auckland Transport could do to turn around our flagging rail patronage I recommended the five simple initiatives in my BR:AKL SO WHERE NEXT FOR AUCKLAND TRANSPORT post: And so again I am going to trot out some things AT can actually do to turn these flagging rail stats around – the actual simple stuff first, infrastructure later (and a reference to Auckland Transport Blog as what I am about to post, some of it comes from them): 1. Reintroduce the Family Pass – make every ticket machine sell the Family Pass. $57.80 for 2 adults and 4 kids to run around the rail network in the off peak and weekend due to no Family Pass is enough to put any person off travelling on the rail road 2. Step up the Onehunga and Western Line weekend frequencies from hourly to at least half hourly. And with the Western Line that means going to Swanson on a Sunday rather than Henderson as of current 3. Begin an overhaul on the timetable. Pukekohe passengers are still fuming some six months later that their 18:00 Britomart to Pukekohe Service via Newmarket has disappeared…

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4. Wasn’t going to mention infrastructure but for heaven’s sake AT, pull finger and find a way to build: 1. Selwyn Station replacing the Meadowbank Station 2. Spartan Road Station near Te Mahia replacing Te Mahia Station 3. Walters or rather the Glenora Road Station in Addison replacing Takanini Station 4. Build the Manukau Rail South Link by 2014 to allow flexibility of new running option when the EMU’s start coming on stream 5. No more Fare Rises! Everyone is anticipating one so surprise us and hold fares for the next 12 months until the new integrated fares are on stream fully

Concluding
There are positives to our basic public transport system and although slowly it is heading towards the light at the end of the tunnel (by citizen led initiatives rather than Auckland Transport led initiatives currently). We have seen it grow over the last ten years bit we are now seeing a slip that is becoming out of control. We have seen positives but now we are back to negatives and not even $60 billion will ever turn that negative around if the Integrated Transport Plan is anything to go by. We will undertake such an outside review for Councillor Lee and the AT Board to assist Auckland Transport having enough information to make informed strategic decisions (and most likely learn something quirky about ourselves too). Decisions that turn these negatives around, better spend that $60 billion, and actually take the city positively forward. Heck if one person can get positive changes through for 30,000 rail commuters (with AT-HOP) imagine what a city could do for ALL its commuters! But what I and most likely the city will not tolerate from Auckland Transport is our blood sweat and tears in putting together this fact review for you on what we want for our positive public transport system only for the Auckland Transport Executive to file the report away in some storage dump and have it gather dust for 100 years. So the call has gone out from Auckland Transport and I/we are willing to put the negatives behind, think positive and give that helping hand for you. The question is Auckland Transport are you basically going to bite the hand that feeds

This statement is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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