Rail Patronage Dropping, I know subsidise it more

I see the Auckland public transport people are slashing their wrists because the use of the rail system is DROPPING. Their solution is to
subsidise it some more…

Auckland Transport have provided a multitude of excuses for the patronage dip over the past few months – some more plausible than others (they blamed the World Cup for some of the declines in August and November, even though the World Cup was only in September & October 2011).  Some of the decline may be due to higher rail fare evasion than we think (anecdotal evidence on this is pretty strong) but I wonder whether public transport fares are really starting to hurt some people and put them off catching the bus, train or ferry. With inflation at near-zero, wage growth stagnant seemingly forever and petrol prices still below the peaks of a few years back the fare increases for rail in particular over the past few years may be starting to bite.

Oh but wait they have a solution…and it all involves your ratepayer and taxpayer monies.



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  • stinkeye3

    There’ll be a marked increase soon due to the forced usage of Hop cards or single use tickets to get in and out of the gates.

    Plus removing a ton of conductors will slash costs, and they’ll say its the subsidy that did it.

    • No reduction of staff but in fact even MORE staff are needed due to the inherent flaws of the system (AT-HOP) which make everything more Labour intensive than previous

    • Mr_Blobby

      How will that happen, under the TOW indigenous people get to travel for free.

      • Hazards001

        yeah…but they have to provide their own paddle!

        • Pissedoffyouth

          Ah, thats why they call the buses going to South Auckland Waka Pacific?

  • Steve R

    It’s ok wait till we get Len smack myself in the face like a retard browns new train set . With cost bombs ( that’s my modern twist for cost overruns it sounds way more exciting ) tripling the original costs this will look so minor we’ll all laugh when looking back

    • Cadwallader

      Absolutely Steve. Did you read the Sydney fiasco?

      • Steve R

        I say it in passing while driving my truck today , Im sure it said thier cost bomb was over 700 mill . i cant help thinking councils the world over are on some kind of spending spree . everywhere you look another one is overspending and has debts that are out of control .
        Just wait till the real costs are revealed for the stadium swapping Auckland is about to do . Im told that the cost of moving Auckland cricket to western springs is 29 mill alone . Dont forget thats just the start . Theres still the Warriors , Ponsonby Rugby ,Speedway and athletics to sort out .

        • Louis

          There’s no cost over run with the electric trains. What are you talking about?

  • maninblack

    FFS- are we ever going to see some money(taxes) heading back towards the tax payer?

    • blokeintakapuna

      only for the incarcerated ones… if they ever were a nett tax payer

  • Shoreboy57

    I get in my car. I drive to work and park there. why the f**k would I want to use public transport?

    • Gazzaw

      Because Shoreboy you are a rich prick and you must be punished.

      • Shoreboy57

        Of course, and I shall be lashed by my rates bill for penance

    • Mr_Blobby

      Same here shoreboy I live out East Auckland the nearest train station is panmure, like I want to park there all day.

      • Karl Laird

        Actually your closest station is Sylvia Park, where you cant park all day.

        Of course the council should stop providing subsided parking as well and let the two compete properly

        • Mr_Blobby

          50/50 and have you seen the trash that hangs around Sylvia park.

          • Gazzaw

            Len’s constituents you mean?

      • Shoreboy57

        No trains of course on Shore and no parking unless I drive north (which makes no sense when you are trying to head south to City). Where there is parking at Constellation you need to get there so early you may as well drive.

    • Marc Williams

      All I read there was me me me me me me me…

      • Shoreboy57

        and your point is? why would you use public transport when it is easier not too?

      • And just who else should be Shoreboy’s first concern if not himself….why not HIS own happiness first? Altruist douchebag…take your slave doctrine elsewhere.

        • Gazzaw

          And your problem is Marc? If you want to use a train or a bus then go for it, it’s a free world. I sometimes do if the weathers good and I don’t have a meeting scheduled (PT is way too unreliable timewise) but mostly I use my car. It’s my choice not fucken Len Brown’s or any of his petty minions as to how I choose to travel. The last I heard NZ was not East Germany revisited.

    • toby_toby

      Agreed. I get to park for free at work in the CBD (I know, lucky). I drive from the Shore and it costs less than the bus. The occasions where I’ve had to use the bus leave me in a foul mood due to the muppetry of the service.

      • Gazzaw

        Totally agree Toby. Personal hygiene of other passengers is another big issue on a crowded bus. The BO, farting and bad breath drives me insane. I never travel peaktime on public transport for that reason.

      • Louis

        Why you should get free parking the CBD though? Why not instead get higher pay and then you can choose between public transport and driving a car – then it’s a fair comparison.

        • toby_toby

          Nah, I’d totally prefer a car park. It’s highly unlikely that my employers will pay me more to cover my transport needs.

  • Mr_Blobby

    A friend of mine who works at britomart was asked a question by a patron, best answered by the on train security. So he suggested that the best people to approach would be the on train security. They didn’t want to ask the on train security because they looked scary criminals. So who are these scary security guards, that look like criminals, Maori Wardens.

    • blokeintakapuna

      I wonder how much the Maori Warden “consultants” are paid to keep the youth from vandalizing the trains?

  • Matt L

    Nice to see you reading the blog Cam although if you read it correctly you will see that it isn’t calling for more subsidies but to alter pricing to to encourage more usage. More usage would likely outweigh the impacts of lower prices.

    More importantly the biggest issue is that operating costs are to high due to a number of reasons. The good news is that over the next 5-10 years a couple of key projects will see those costs plummet and with that the level of subsidies will drop too.

    Of course you do realise that local roads are subsidised too don’t you, there isn’t a road in the country that pays its way like you expect PT to.

    • Mr_Blobby

      What Planet are you from Muppet, subsides never drop for public transport.More than happy to pay for roads.

      • Steve R

        Roger that . Not to mention the extra debt the city will be left with !!!
        Dont forget its the rate payers that will get stuck with it .

    • Hazards001

      Are you serious? “Of course you do realise that local roads are subsidised too don’t you, there isn’t a road in the country that pays its way like you expect PT to.”

      Local roads were almost without exception built by developers then handed over to council. The maintenance of them was meant to be covered by our rates along with upgrading major arterial routes..also originally constructed by developers along with developer contributions (read extortion) plus the cost of resource consents.

      At a local level we have Auckland Transport and The Auckland Council bleeding money like its a pissing contest. Exorbitant legal bills paid by council to council to use rate payers money but needing permission from one branch of council to another. Consultants charging like wounded bulls sitting nicely in the trough provided.

      Or how about Auckland Transport leasing space in Smales Farm in Takapuna all the while the Council buildings on The Strand remain empty?

      At a National level we see our taxes and user charges spent on re election promises and bribes to get back into power. I could keep ranting but you get the idea.

      To say our roads don’t pay for themselves is an outrageous joke that could only be offered up by one of the self serving troughers talking in typical bureaucratic double speak.

      • Ururoa

        Exactly Hazards; “…maintenance of them was meant to be covered by our rates…” The local roads are subsidised by all ratepayers to the benefit of private car users.

        Why don’t we just tax car use at the appropriate level to fully fund the road maintenance? Surely that would be fair?

        And very few major arterials were built/paid for by developers; most of the ones in Auckland were built originally by Imperial troops during the Land Wars or the colonial government, and then maintained by either national or local government.(e.g. Great South Road).

        • Hazards001

          That’s also true no doubt and interesting,however they (arterial routes) are also subsidised by developers (I seriously doubt Great South Road was a 40 meter wide carriageway when the Imperial soldiers built it) as I said in the contributions they are forced to make, road widening and upgrades are often done portion by portion by each developer or paid for by developer contributions(read extortion) The Albany Highway (often misnamed the old Albany highway) is a good example of this. As a sub divider does his section he is required to upgrade the frontage or pay a contribution. Been going on for years, mind you not much of the road has been widened.

          As to a car tax, well I thought I covered that. We already more than pay our way. How about the buses and pushbikes get off our roads?

          A number of years ago there was a bitter debate about public transport going on in the news and some local pollie made a disparaging comment about people that took cars to work into the city. At the time I was working on the Grafton Gully project for Spaghetti Junction and the comment got up my nose. My wife (ex) took a video of me the next day as I walked to the bus stop and waited for the bus which appeared on time. Then the hysterical performance from the bus driver and passengers as I tried to get on with my concrete saw a tin of petrol a crowbar a sledgehammer a builders tool belt with hammer chisel and various other bits and bobs + my lunch bag. Some of the passengers were laughing fit to bust as I showed the driver the article in The Herald and tried to explain I was prepared to do my bit to ease traffic
          congestion. I also pointed out that the guy with the briefcase was allowed his tools on the bus. The poor bugger wasn’t having a bar of it and got a bit angry so that’s when I backed off.

          She sent that vid to TV one news but they sent it back and said not news worthy. Which it wasn’t. But it was bloody funny.

          So based on that is it ok if I take my ute to work? Or would you prefer me on your bus?

          • Hazards001

            You were late for work too that day!

          • Do you still have the video?

          • Hazards001

            Thought you might ask. I called the ex this morning, was her brothers camera. They tapes were ruined years ago she said, lost the kids stuff too. Typical.

          • blokeintakapuna

            User pays – that’s also why the fuel tax and cost of petrol and diesel is so high. Trouble is, the funds raised from this is often spent elsewhere on other needy projects…

        • Of course buses don’t travel on roads do they? They don’t benefit at all from those roads. Fail, idiot.

          You show your bias with your comment about private car users…who fucking pay rates!

          • Louis

            Buses pay RUCs as well, and bus passengers pay rates too…

    • Pissedoffyouth

      Once you get increased patronage will you be paying the subsidy back?

      “Our business model stinks so lets get government assistance”.

      You want more people on the train/bus? How about more park and rides with security guards to stop the daily crime pages rolling into Papakura for a daily thieve, making it so you don’t have to go to a dairy to top up the HOP card – why the fuck can’t you do it online with a debit card?

      Make it – all of which is possible.

      I take the bus finish work at 5, waiting for a 5.15 bus which is always full and 15 minutes late to top it off, so half an hour of waiting for the bus, get home at 5.45 for the grand total of $3.06 a trip, around $30 a week.

      Versus chucking $30 a week into the Toyota, leaving at 5 and getting home at 5.15, I don’t have to sit in a puddle of piss on a graffiti covered seat,
      sitting next to breeders with a new phone who like rap music on 10.

      And you wonder why people drive?

      • Hazards001

        Well said

      • Louis

        Umm, you can top up your AT HOP online.

        • Pissedoffyouth

          For the bus? Where?

          • Louis

            HOP / Snapper cannot be topped up online, but when it is replaced with the new AT HOP system you will be able to top up online.

  • J.M

    Mind you rail patronage did increase in Auckland year on year for the best part of a decade. WIth the new trains it will increase further. Build the CRL and patronage will double. Temporary blip this one.
    That said, I would like fare box recovery in Auckland to at some point get near Wellington levels.

  • John Q Public

    You Shoreies wouldn’t know what a train looked like, but we can’t hold that against you as you’ve never had them, and likely never will. Why putting in underground trains between points that are already served by above ground services is more important than to the Shore has got me fucked.

    I understand that to either Puhinui in the south and to Sturges Rd in the west, or points further, it’s cheaper to not tag-off and be pinged than to pay the proper fare. People are also apparently jumping off at nearby stations, tagging off then getting on the train again to carry on further.

    The holes in this system may be costing more than it’s solving.

    • Pissedoffyouth

      I see people tag off the bus while its moving and get off another stage or 2 later, bus drivers don’t care.

      • Louis

        This will change. Penalty fares will become (and in fact may be already) steeper. And soon legislation will be introduced so that non paying customers can be fined.

        • Gazzaw

          You must be one of Lenny’s minions Louis up late doing the PR bit. Hate to tell you but 99% of the posters here will have gone to bed and none of your propaganda will get read. Tomorrows another day.

          • Louis

            Not sure why the comment showed up so late. I posted it at about 9pm last night.

  • Ururoa

    Have caught the train many times heading into Auckland over the last few years from Ellerslie and Panmure; twice I was never asked to pay the fare. What an idiotic system.

    Before that used to catch the bus daily from Grey Lynn into the city. I am 100% positive that the bus company never actually ran all the buses that were on the schedule. Most days in the morning I would say 20% of the scheduled buses never turned up. Great money (subsidies for buses that don’t actually run!) if you can get it.

    That said lived in Japan for 15 years, where the buses and trains run like magic. But they lose mega billions of yen every year and have no way of paying back their infrastructure loans (some years ago they increased the tobacco excise tax to subsidise the railways, woops did I give Len an idea?). But irrespective of that, the overall social and economic benefit of having a timely, efficient, well patronised PT network outweighs that cost.

    As Matt L says, every local road in Auckland is subsidised (no, your car registrations, fuel taxes etc. don’t cover it). Should we make car drivers pay the actual cost of maintaining those roads?

    • J.M

      Some of the railways in Japan are definitely unprofitable but the likes of Tokyo Metro make stackloads of money, the equivalent of NZ$4B last year. The larger JR companies are all very profitable, only JR Shikoku and JR Hokkaido are losing money.

      • Ururoa

        They may make money on a cashflow basis, but they never pay off any of the investment to start them up and have massive loans sitting on their books for which they can do absolutely nothing about, hence the ongoing govt subsidies.

      • blokeintakapuna

        plus their population has about 126.5 Million or so – economy of scale anyone?

    • Louis

      The ticketing system is changing. You need to buy before boarding, or pay a fine.

    • We do pay the actual cost of the roads, who you think pays the bills? The council? That’s us fool. We pay through our ever increasing rates….so where is this mythical fucking fantasy of yours about subsidized roads?

  • Michael

    Auckland rail is only practical for the people who live along the lines – probably about 20% of the total population – who want to go to the central city. But there are many corporates in Auckland are not in the CBD.

    In Wellington, that is just about everyone in the Hutt Valley and Porirua/Kapiti who works for corporates or government departments, which is why it works.

    As soon as Auckland Council wake up and realise that residential suburb to town centre buses are the best for Auckland, and those buses need roads to run on.

    • Louis

      Have you read the RPTP? It contains a huge improvement for buses across Auckland with much more frequent, convenient services. It will act as a superb complement to the upgraded rail network.

      • If I was an Auckland Transport planner I would have spent the rail billions on a comprehensive motorway/expressway with peak time bus lanes. Trains won’t work in Auckland as it is too spread out with no concentrated employment centre. Even where rail works in Wellington 60% of a passengers fare is subsidised, and the regional council provide the trains and stations (except Wellington Station, which is owned by the state.)

        • Louis

          Okay a couple of points:

          1) I’m pretty sure Auckland has a very comprehensive motorway network – especially with Waterview and Upper Harbour coming.

          2) “Peak time bus lanes” – buses can’t run on motorways very well because they can’t stop anywhere.

          3) Auckland is actually a very dense population. It’s actually denser than any other city in New Zealand and Australia, including Sydney. Also denser than Perth which is similar population to Auckland but with much better PT..

          4) Rail is structured in exactly the same way in Auckland as it is in Wellington. Council contracts it out (Veolia in Auckland’s case, TranzMetro in Wellington’s case) and collects the fares, and hands out a fixed subsidy. The network is maintained by KiwiRail.

      • What do buses run on? Oh, roads, the same thing you wankers want to run down and cut funding too.

  • out2lunch

    Wouldn’t mind seeing a viable way for a fare decrease. After the electrification of trains (which is happening right now?) wouldn’t it be cheaper to run the trains?

  • In short, Auckland has reached the extent to which people are willing to commute by rail, largely because only 1 in 8 Aucklanders actually works in the CBD.

    The railevangelists of course continue to claim there is a desperate need to pour $2 billion down an irrecoverable black hole because the network wont be able to cope with growing demand.

    Well that growing demand is a mirage, and it would be grossly irresponsible to consider such expenditure (the misuse of the word “investment” for something that wont actually return a cent), particularly when the government is already committed to spending not far short of a billion already on electrification and new trains.

    That will be the key. If patronage does not meet forecasts after electrification, then the CRL underground rail loop project should be dead and buried. It wont stop the Greens seeking to waste money, they always will want that, but it should cause Labour and Mayor Len to think again – and if not, it shows they are interested in totemic projects, not economics.

    Of course, one might argue similarly for a few of the RONS road projects, but that’s a different matter. At least the roads are self funding from fuel tax, RUC and MVR.

    If Auckland urban rail was to pay just the costs of operating the trains, the fares would go up by around 2.5x what they currently are, if it was to recover the cost of capital over the long term, it would be a matter of 4x.

    Quite why the vast majority who will never use the trains, and who do not benefit (the congestion reduction benefits are barely discernible, and besides enough has been taken from fuel tax for Auckland rail to more than cover that) should continue to pay is unclear.

    Unfortunately, it is largely now a sunk cost and the best that can be done is to minimise operating costs, raise fares to revenue maximising levels, and run it till it needs major new capital to renew it.

  • Louis

    Did you blog about every time rail patronage increased? Patronage has hit a roof thanks partially to reaching maximum capacity (due to the lack of a CRL) and also due to NZTA’s farebox recovery policy.

  • Well this attracted the most comments yesterday – seems mentioning rail gets everyone going as much as Marriage Equality when that crops up in here.

    Okay linkie time from one of my own posts:

    In short thanks to a recent ticketing change this is the situation if you want to take your family to say Santa Parade

    2 Adults, 3 kids from Papakura to Britomart and back again

    Cost by rail (if you did not get the inaccessible Family Pass before you travel): $53.30

    Cost by car (including gas, parking and everything else) around $25 (parking sucked up most of that cost)


    So those here arguing on cost grounds – yep can understand your reasoning.

    And for an example I have a meeting in Henderson today. So from Papakura to Henderson these are my costs:

    Rail: Time to Henderson (and taking into account a transfer at Newmarket): Departs Papakura at 11:25am, arrives at Henderson (after transfer at Nerwmarket) at 1:07pm (I have to wait at Newmarket for the transfer is 23 mins) – so total travel time is 1:44 hours. Cost one way is $12.40 + $1 in gas as I would drive the the Papakura Station park and ride.

    To do this back to Papakura: Cost is the same so $12.40 + $1. As for travel time: Leaves Henderson at 3:45pm and will arrive in Papakura at 5:14pm (this includes a 9 minute wait at Newmarket while transferring trains) – so total travel time of 1:31 hours

    Total cost for rail is $26.80. Travel time total: Varies each way but total time is 3:15hours

    Car: Using State Highway 20 – 80km there and back. Parking: Free. Fuel at 14km/l =5.71l. 5.71/l at $1.959/l for 91 = $13 (take into account some low speed and idling). Travel Time: 42 minutes each way. Maintenance and other car costs (WoF, Rego) $2.

    Total for car is $15 (for all travel) at a travel time of 42mins one way (1:26 total)

    So on crude terms it costs and takes me double to go by train to where I need get to (and out of luck I live near a station and my place of meeting is AT HQ right on Henderson station) compared to by car. So yeah I can see major issues here folks

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