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Auckland Public Transport: Help Is On The Way Over The Next Three Years

George Wood is a North Shore ward councillor on the Auckland Council. The former three-term mayor of North Shore City lives in Forrest Hill with wife Myra.

This new term of Auckland Council is just underway and already the number one issue is clearly public transport.

In every which way one looks at the public transport costs and outcomes this is an area where Auckland Council and its subsidiary Auckland Transport have major issues to resolve.
Firstly the Auckland Plan identifies the transport system as crucial to achieving the vision for Auckland in 2041 as the world’s most livable city.
The Auckland Plan identifies the need for a major improvement in public transport and has set a number of challenging targets, including:

  • Doubling public transport from 70 to 140 million trips by 2022 (subject to additional funding)

  • Increasing non-car (walking, cycling and public transport) mode share in the morning peak from 23 to 45 per cent of all trips by 2040

  • Increasing the proportion of all vehicular trips made by public transport into the city centre during the morning peak from 47 to 70 per cent by 2040

  • Increasing the annual number of public transport trips per person from 44 to 100 by 2040

Increasing the proportion of people living within walking distance of frequent public transport stops from 14 to 32 per cent by 2040
Secondly this presents a number of issues and challenges: Some good improvements to public transport have been made in recent years, resulting in a strong increase in passenger numbers. Total patronage has more than doubled since the low point in the early 1990s, and is now at its highest level since the late 1950s. Significant on-going investments in rail electrification, new electric trains, and integrated ticketing are expected to further boost patronage in the short-term.
Despite these successes, Auckland’s public transport system still has shortcomings. The existing network of bus routes is complex, with around 400 different route variations. Many of these routes are infrequent, long, and indirect. This results in customer confusion and duplicated resources.
Public transport in Auckland can be particularly hard to understand for visitors to the city and occasional users of the system. When compared to car travel, many public transport trips are slow due to long waits between services and slow boarding and travel times.
Funding or lack of funds is a major issue that must be addressed. For this reason, a major focus over the next decade will be on enhancing services provided and getting a better public transport experience for the traveling public. This has taken a long time to materialize but I am certain that we will see major improvements over the next three years. To achieve this, the following combination of responses is included in this Plan:

  • Changes to the network structure, in order to deliver better service levels and higher patronage within the existing level of resources

  • More efficient procurement arrangements through Public Transport Operating Model, to deliver better value for money. This new model means that there is now legislative backing for Auckland Transport to achieve better contracting arrangements with bus operators across the Auckland Region.

  • Increased user contributions through higher fare box recovery
    During the next three years substantial changes are planned to Auckland’s public transport system. Planned improvements include:

  • Taking the integrated ticketing AT HOP card to a new level whereby it becomes an integrated fare for continuous trips;

  • Commencement of electric commuter trains on selected lines in 2014 with full coverage by mid-2016; and

  • Improved bus services across the Auckland area by mid-2016 (Auckland North will be completed by 2015)

The commencement of the double decker bus on the Northern Express service has been a success and Ritchies are now looking to increase the number of these specially imported buses in the near future (the sole double-decker was missing for a few months recently when it was taken on a demonstration trip to Australia).
Cross harbour ferries to places like Devonport, Bayswater and Birkenhead are somewhat of an anomaly as far as prices are concerned. It is hard to reconcile that it costs $6 for the one way ferry trip from Downtown Auckland to Devonport but only $3.40 on the bus from Takapuna to Auckland City Centre.
Public transport is therefore an area where I will continue to ask the hard questions and, hopefully, many improvements will be on the way over the next three years.
Finally, if you have not yet done so, please do get your own AT HOP card. If you are the holder of a Super Gold card then this card can be integrated into the AT HOP card meaning that there is no need to present your Super Gold card to the driver when you board but you merely swipe the card like all other passengers.
(Some material sourced from Auckland Transport’s Regional Public Passenger Transport Plan 2013)


by George Wood