$1m Budget to Publicise Hop Card

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The Herald has run a story on the name of the upcoming integrated ticket:

Auckland Transport is calling a new electronic ticket for seamless travel on buses, trains and ferries the Hop Card, and has approved a $1 million budget to publicise it.

It refuses to confirm the name until launching an awareness campaign late next month for the $98 million card, although chief operating officer Fergus Gammie has assured Auckland Council’s transport committee that the region’s public transport brand would be prominent on it.

We actually started a competition yesterday to come up with a name – it’s here on our ideas forum if you are interested.

It would have been great if there was a public competition to name the card, but in the end the main thing is that we get a card that works across all operators and the fare system is made a lot simpler to understand, without penalties for transfers.

Integrated Ticket Brand Name Competition

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The new ticketing system for bus, ferry and rail needs a great brand name. It needs to convey that its easy and convenient, as well as offering great value to a wide variety of destinations in Auckland. All in two words or less.

Vote at http://ideas.bettertransport.org.nz/forums/92933-integrated-ticket-brand-name

Joyce: Central Govt to Review CBD Business Case

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A Beehive media release has announced:

Transport Minister Steven Joyce has asked officials from the Ministry of Transport, the Treasury and the NZ Transport Agency to work with Auckland Transport, Auckland Council and other agencies to review the business case for a CBD rail link ahead of any further discussions between central government and Auckland Council next year.

The business case, released last month, provides a capital cost of $2.3 billion for the rail link in 2010 dollars.

Mr Joyce says the business case was a first step but it leaves a number of questions unanswered.

“It would be irresponsible for the government to even consider being involved with a project of this size without being confident about having the full facts.”

Mr Joyce says he wants a number of questions answered as part of the review, including:

  • Does the business case include the full capital and operating costs needed to realise the project?
  • How many additional passengers will the rail tunnel attract over the $1.6 billion electrified network we are currently building?
  • What impact will the rail tunnel have on car travel and congestion?
  • When will the tunnel be needed?
  • How does the tunnel project relate to the growth and productivity of the CBD and Auckland more widely?

Mr Joyce has today spoken with Auckland Mayor Len Brown who has agreed that a formal assessment of the business case by central government agencies is a necessary step.

“The findings of this review will help us determine if, how and when to progress with the CBD rail link project and will give both central and local government the certainty needed,” says Mr Joyce.

I had thought most of these questions had been answered. I wonder if Auckland Council will have the guts to ask for a review of the business case for the Holiday Highway:

  • How much is the toll, and what impact will this have on traffic volumes?
  • What safety improvements will be made to the existing State Highway 1
  • How does the CBT’s Operation Lifesaver alternative compare?
  • etc

Transport In Auckland 2011 – 2016

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Joshua Arbury has beaten me to it over at his blog, but today we presented Josh’s five year plan for Auckland Transport to the Transport Committee of the Auckland Council.

An incredible amount of voluntary effort has gone into the plan, almost entirely Josh’s.  It is a tribute to the quality of the presentation that the Auckland Council has directed its officials to investigate the recommendations within the plan. Auckland Council acknowledged that they don’t have a monopoly on good ideas, so hopefully we can look forward to some more engagement with Auckland Transport than we have had in the past.

Bearing in mind some of the councillors are relatively new to transport, I introduced Josh’s presentation with this:

We’ve presented ideas on how to improve transport to a number of councils, and today we find ourselves presenting ideas to a brand new council – a council I hope will become the “can do” Council.

Our advocacy is not about forcing people to use public transport or any other mode. Its about providing choice.

When looking at roading projects, its not about just the capital cost to the ratepayer and the taxpayer, but the cost as a whole to the economy – the running costs of cars, our reliance on ever depleting fossil fuels, the cost of building more and more parking spaces to support the more than 800,000 cars we now have in the city.

When we look at public transport, its not about providing for everyone that lives in Auckland. Its about building a cost effective, integrated network of buses, trains and ferries that especially focuses on reducing peak time congestion.

Finally, its not about planning for the modes of transport we travel on today, but the modes we will be travelling on in the future.

Ritchies: No Urgency To Join Integrated Ticket

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Mathew Dearnaley reports in the Herald

Bus operators Ritchies Transport and Howick and Eastern said they were still investigating various options for joining the scheme, and were unlikely to sign up in time for the rugby cup.

Ritchies director Andrew Ritchie said the ticketing machines on his 200 or so Auckland buses were relatively new, and he saw no urgency to join the scheme until restructured fares become available as a sequel to the ticketing project.

Ritchies operates the hugely successful Northern Busway, so getting Ritchies on board is pivotal to the success of an integrated ticket.

Again, it is disappointing that a huge amount of effort is going into technical solutions to support ticketing products that should be redundant.

Take 10 trip (multi-journey) tickets for example.  Users have to buy blocks of 10 tickets for preset stages.  You can currently use your GoRider card for this.  But if your bus trip goes 3 stages and your multi-journey ticket is good for two stages, then you have to pay for the extra stage with cash.  Similarly you lose money if you only travel 2 stages on a 3 stage ticket. The only reason that people buy these inconvenient tickets are because the tickets are heavily discounted, especially for tertiary students.  Implementing a 10 trip ticket on a GPS “tag on / tag off” system like the new integrated ticket is problematic.  You have to have logic to know how much extra to charge the customer if they override the preset number of stages, and deduct this amount from the card on exit.

This is complexity we don’t need. These same discounts could easily be applied to” stored value” fares.

The sooner we get on to a simplified fare structure that includes the Northern Busway in Auckland, the better.

Integrated Ticketing Update

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Auckland Transport have just done a media release:

Auckland Transport today announced a key development in the region’s Integrated Ticketing system will be introduced early next year which will allow people to use a single “smart-card” on public transport in Auckland.

Auckland Transport’s Chief Executive, David Warburton said, “Supplementing the contract already in place with Thales, a Participation Agreement has now been signed between Auckland Transport, NZ Bus and Snapper for the introduction of a single smartcard for use on NZ Bus services as part of the Auckland Integrated Ticketing program.

“Interoperable equipment will be deployed onto services run by NZ Bus early next year. Customers of North Star, Waka Pacific, Go West, Metrolink and LINK will use a contactless smartcard which will launch Auckland Transport’s Integrated Ticketing brand.”

Dr Warburton said, “We will be following the deployment of equipment on NZ Bus services with the expansion of Integrated Ticketing on rail and ferry services. We expect the timing for this to be in the lead-up to the Rugby World Cup.

“This will be linked to the launch of a travel product specifically for visitors to Auckland which will make public transport an attractive option during the period of the Rugby World Cup. We will be announcing further details of this and other initiatives over the coming months.

“Supporting this participation agreement for bus equipment and ticket deployment, Auckland Transport’s ticketing system partner, Thales is progressing the development of the rail and ferry solutions and the central system”.

Peter Beggs, Country Director, Thales New Zealand said, “As the core ticketing system provider (central system, rail and ferry), Thales welcomes the participation of other suppliers in providing the bus solution for the system…”

I was at the (poorly attended)  media conference. In attendance:
  • David Warburton (Auckland Transport CEO)
  • Bruce Emson (NZ Bus CEO)
  • Mick Spiers (Thales Programme Manager)
  • Miki Szikzai (Snapper CEO)
  • Greg Ellis (Auckland Transport AIFS Programme Manager)

Other bus operators were not there.

The guts of it is that Snapper and the Auckland NZ Bus rollout has officially been brought into the AIFS project. Mick Spiers said that the Snapper card will integrate with the Thales designed back end system.

The Snapper card is apparently going to be branded as the integrated ticket – they didn’t mention “Hop” card branding.

Mick Spiers said that Thales is focussing on implementing validator hardware for selected train stations and the Auckland and Devonport ferry terminals. He didn’t specifically say that they rail and ferry validators would support the Snapper card though.

I asked if there was going to be any rationalisation of the different ticketing products such as multi-journey. The answer from David Warburton was today’s announcement is stage 1, and that rationalisation will occur at a later stage. This is the wrong approach in my opinion. Products such as multi-journey tickets with preset numbers of stages just do not work with a tag on / tag off system. The only reason MJ exists is because tertiary students get a 40% discount when they use it.

Other bus operators were not present. They are “at different stages of understanding”. I’m curious to know what they think and if they are going to use the Snapper card or the Thales card (if this is still going ahead). I asked if this meant that there is still the potential for two different cards to have to be carried. Greg Ellis said that the key objective is to have one card across all modes. I’m still struggling to see how the card can be anything but the Snapper card at this point, given the Snapper and Thales cards are different technologies, but for now I guess we take this at face value.

Bottom line is that there doesn’t seem to be much new here, and there are still more questions than answers.  I’m really hanging out for the new fare structures as I was hoping that after a year this would have been thought about.  Kudos to NZ Bus if they can pull off the Snapper implementation in the first quarter of next year, especially if they have to support the existing ticket types.

Mathew Dearnaley asked for a list of milestones for the project because, as he said, the project has been going for a year now and it has been hard to know what has been going on.

Factual Errors

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Steven Joyce responded to my article in the Sunday Star Times last week, as well as Rod Oram’s:

Rod Oram’s second opinion piece on Auckland transport issues contains a further significant factual error, which results in him again overstating his case.

It is simply incorrect to say that the proposed CBD rail loop and the Puhoi to Wellsford Road of National Significance have different benefit cost ratios (BCRs). If you use the same calculation – that is the standard transport BC including wider economic benefits – then the BCR for both projects as the same 1.1.

The associated opinion piece by Cameron Pitches also contains factual errors.  It is incorrect to say that the government has not committed any new money to rail capital projects in Auckland. In fact, we have provided $581 million in new funding and loans to support Auckland metro rail, as well as reinvesting $50m to complete Project Dart and a new $500m appropriation for the Auckland Electrification Project.

The previous government planned to fund these projects through an additional 9.5 cent regional fuel tax.

Of course, Minister Joyce is making a few factual errors of his own here.

Starting with the regional fuel tax, this was never going to be 9.5c per litre.  The ARC press release here summarised how the fuel tax was to be applied:

As a result of consultation, it is proposed that the fuel tax commences on 1 July 2009, and is phased in over three years at 1 cent per litre on petrol and diesel from 1 July 2009, rising to 3 cents per litre on 1 July 2010, and 5 cents per litre from 1 July 2011.

So initially the tax was going to be 1 cent per litre, rising to 3 and then 5c. The additional 4.5c was to be at central Government’s discretion.

In the end, government repealed the regional fuel tax and replaced it with a nationwide increase in excise tax last October of 3c per litre.

As to the Minister’s contention that the BCRs are equal for the Holiday Highway and the CBD rail taunnel, Josh Arbury has an in-depth analysis here, which concludes:

In short, while the CBD tunnel is definitely the more expensive project, its benefits – no matter which way you measure them, are enormously greater than the benefits of the Puhoi-Wellsford road. Under none of the scenarios for including wider economic benefits does the holiday highway make economic sense, just as under all the scenarios we see the CBD Rail Tunnel making economic sense.

There are other matters that make me think Puhoi-Wellsford’s cost benefit ratio is enormously inflated (like the unrealistic time savings and the fact that the effects of tolling haven’t been considered), but even with the most generous interpretation of that project’s economic benefits, it simply can’t compare to the CBD Rail Tunnel on all measures.

Martin Gummer: Auckland at Crossroads

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Martin Gummer was chief executive of Transfund NZ from 1997 to 2002, and chief executive of ARTNL (the Auckland Regional Transport Network Ltd) from 2002 – 2004.

Transport officials, past or present, almost never speak out on transport issues, so it is particularly courageous of Martin to do so in an opinion piece in today’s Herald.

In particular the following quotes should be making people stand up and take note:

The holiday highway, however, has a lower cost alternative – improvements to the existing road, that could defer replacement for a further 20-30 years. Corners could be smoothed, alignments improved, maybe a short bypass built around Warkworth, and three- or four-lane sections with a central wire barrier built in the Dome Valley…

So what huge benefits justify spending four to six times greater than that for a major overhaul of the existing road? A time-saving of 10-15 minutes over the status quo? Hardly.

The minister and the Government are getting into tricky territory here. This has more than a whiff of the politicisation of transport funding that characterises the Australian system.

The CBD rail loop should encourage urban renewal, commercial activity and property development along its alignment, and more intensified urban development around or near other rail stations – helping to harness Auckland’s growth within its existing urban area.

It should also make rail travel a more viable, accessible option for more Aucklanders.

The holiday highway will further improve property values, increase property development in Warkworth, Wellsford and surrounding communities, and encourage more commuting from there to Auckland. Where do the Government’s priorities lie?


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