Monday, July 29, 2013

Plans to axe passengers' discounts will entrench car dependency & traffic congestion

Northern Pass tickets introduced in 2008 to kick-start bus patronage are doomed, as are Discovery Passes. Photo / APN
Northern Pass tickets introduced in 2008 to kick-start bus patronage are doomed, as are Discovery Passes. Photo / APN 
By Mathew Dearnaley
NZ Herald, Monday Jul 29, 2013
Auckland Transport intends ditching discount travel passes while extending the $100 million Hop ticketing system to buses.

The move, potentially affecting thousands of commuters and day-trippers, could almost treble the cost of some multi-stage journeys.

Discovery Passes giving Aucklanders and tourists unlimited daily travel for $16 on buses, trains and some ferries will be among casualties of a drive to co-ordinate prices across transport operators.
Also doomed are Northern Pass tickets introduced among three bus companies in 2008 to kick-start patronage of the $300 million Northern Busway. Those were to encourage use of feeder buses to the busway through two-hour, daily and weekly discount travel, including return trips from upper North Shore suburbs such as Torbay to Britomart or Newmarket and back now costing just $5.90 if taken within the shorter time limit.

That could almost treble to $17.40 for passengers resorting to cash fares to travel to Newmarket and back, although Hop card users can expect 10 per cent discounts.

Auckland Transport has confirmed - through a previously confidential paper issued to the Herald - intending to axe most discount fares during the Hop rollout to buses, which it expects to complete by the end of the year.

"While a significant communications campaign will be undertaken, some of these changes may attract some criticism initially as AT transitions to the integrated ticketing simpler product suite," the paper warned the council agency's board in March.

The agency has begun introducing a three-tiered monthly pass system common to all bus and rail operators, costing $140, $190 or $250 depending on distance travelled. These will be the only alternatives to single-trip fares. Although adults now travelling from the upper North Shore on seven-day Northern Pass tickets could save $16 by swapping to $190 monthly passes, those from south of Constellation Drive face a $28 rise.

Students and the disabled face steeper rises, of $58 a month from north of Constellation Drive and $90 from the lower North Shore.

Urban Express bus passengers have already been hit with a 90 per cent monthly fare increase for travel between Green Bay and Onehunga, and Auckland Transport has quietly raised single-zone rail passes by 16.7 per cent.

One woman who works in the CBD, who asked not to be named, said the fare increase would drive her to add to the congestion and drive in. She mostly buys a seven-day pass from the lower North Shore to Britomart, meaning she could see a $28 rise for a $190 monthly pass.

"It's just too expensive - for that much a month I could drive in and pay for parking with change left over. That rise will just make more people use their cars and add to the traffic and pollution problems."

University of Auckland student Man Jun pays $33 for a student weekly pass between upper North Shore and the CBD. He believes that is already "expensive enough".

Despite the March report's promise to raise public awareness before axing discount tickets, it took an industry source to alert the Herald to the plan. He expects the Northern Pass to be gone by late September, when busway operator Ritchies becomes the last of the three Northern Pass companies to join Hop, after Birkenhead Transport and NZ Bus subsidiary North Star.

The source, who became alarmed about the changes while working on the rollout, fears a serious dent in patronage under an integrated ticketing scheme which was supposed to attract more Aucklanders to public transport.

Auckland Transport chairman Lester Levy repeated the promise of a sweeping review of all public transport fares to ensure "attractive and affordable pricing" to entice more people from their cars.
His organisation has meanwhile failed to respond to Herald requests for more information, including the number of passengers travelling on discount passes.
- additional reporting Amelia Wade
By Mathew Dearnaley Email Mathew

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Free public transport coming to Brazil in October

Portal Paulinia: "Withing a few hours of becoming of the new mayor, in Southeastern, Edson Junior Moura (PMDB), announced zero tariff on transportation to population from 1 October this year. Paulinia becomes the first city in the RMC (Metropolitan Region of Campinas) to ensure free public transport for residents. The rate will be fully subsidized by the government..."

Free Fare Movement - Brazil.  Blogsite:  (17 July 2013.)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Brian Rudman: Expensive transport plan doomed to failure

NZ Herald News: "A confession that even if their proposals for extracting an extra $12 billion out of Aucklanders are accepted, things will be worse than now. Its draft report, released in late March, was even more candid, admitting that "even with the fully funded programme, road congestion levels will deteriorate with volume/capacity ratios exceeding 100 per cent on most of our arterial road network by 2041 and emission levels exceeding current levels".

In other words, it's a plan that if successfully completed is doomed to fail."

'via Blog this'

If you build roads to solve congestion, you need more room for cars at the end of the trip

The number of parking spaces in the four avenues has risen 34 per cent in the past 17 months.
Car parks taking over city centre | "Christchurch has become a city of car parks."

Thursday, July 18, 2013

What binds the protest movements in Brazil and Turkey?

Two Continents, One Refrain: What Binds Protest Movements in Brazil and Turkey
United we stand - (Sebati Karakurt/Facebook group)
By Farid Kahhat, AMERICA ECONOMIA/Worldcrunch. 11/07/13

There are many similarities between the protests around Gezi Park in Turkey and those of the Free Pass Movement in Brazil.

In both cases, initial demonstrations were small with specific objectives: to save the park and to obtain free public transport, respectively. And discontent in both countries reached a critical mass amid widespread perception that police used excessive violence to disperse the protesters. It was at that moment, on two continents, when tens of thousands of people mobilized in solidarity with the initial dissenters — and not just in Istanbul and Sao Paulo, the cities where the confrontations initially took place.

Given the relative indifference or initial hostility on the part of both public and private mainstream media, social networks are the preferred medium for protestors, and they serve as an effective space for coordination and decision-making. Of course, this preference to inform and organize is also dirven by the social and demographic profile of those involved. According to the polling institute Datafolha, the average protester in Brazil is relatively young with a high level of education, and the same is no doubt true in Turkey.

They also tend to be middle class, as measured by income level, and this segment of society has a disproportionately high level of Internet use. They are also more likely to belong to non-governmental organizations or to participate in new social movements, as opposed to having membership in more traditional, blue-collar organizations such as trade unions.

The same was true in the cases of Iran in 2009 and Egypt in 2011, but unlike them, Brazil and Turkey have democratically elected governments. These are societies in which the middle class represents the majority of the population. And that's the paradox. In a little over a decade under the Workers’ Party government, 40 million people emerged from poverty in Brazil. During the same time period under the government of the Party for Justice and Development, GDP per capita tripled in Turkey. And in both cases, a decade of relatively high growth rates came to an end in 2012. The economy grew just 3% in Turkey last year in contrast to 8.5% in 2011. In Brazil, growth last year was an anemic and 0.9% after the previous year's 4.5% before President Dilma Rousseff came to power.

When success breeds discontent

In both cases, the governments that contributed to the emergence of a strong, middle class are the targets of protests by this very population. Perhaps they fear for their economic and social well-being, and don't want to risk a return to the poverty they left behind after their countries' respective economic booms. History suggests that few things are more volatile than a middle class faced with the possibility of downward mobility.

Their decentralized nature, their disregard for traditional hierarchies, and their unwillingness to settle or even ally with political parties are often considered virtues of these new social movements. But these factors can also dampen their political effectiveness, which would be enhanced with organizational cooperation around shared priorities and a more diverse socio-ecocomic representation. The latter, in particular, is still missing in both Brazil and Turkey.
In terms of formulating shared priorities, when a correspondent for the Spanish newspaper El Pais asked the protesters in Brazil about their primary reason for being there, most hesitated before answering. And their ultimate responses were far from uniform. As far as I know, nobody asked the same question in Turkey, though in that case there seems to be an overwhelming and unmistakable common grievance: the growing authoritarianism of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan’s government.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Tallinn becomes 'capital of free public transport'

Report from 'Environment - Eco-innovation Action Plan'. European Commission journal 17/06/13

On 1 January 2013, Tallinn, Estonia became the first European capital to extend free public transport to all of its residents. The results so far have been encouraging. The Tallinn authorities believe that, if done right, free public transport schemes can encourage a shift from cars to buses and trams, can cut congestion and traffic emissions, and can boost economic development.

The introduction of free public transport in Tallinn follows on from a number of schemes in other countries, usually in smaller towns. One of the trailblazers was the Belgian town of Hasselt, which in 1997 made all buses within the city limits free. The scheme was successful in persuading people to use public transport - passenger numbers rose from about 1000 per day in 1997 to 12,600 ten years later. But the cost of the service increasingly burdened the budget, and Hasselt has said that the scheme will stop at the end of 2013.

For Tallinn, the motivation was a careful consideration of the budgetary implications, balanced against social, environmental and fiscal benefits. Allan Alaküla, head of the Tallinn EU Office, says that the city's annual public transport budget was €53 million, but ticket revenues amounted to only €17 million, €5 million of which was contributed by non-city residents.

By introducing free transport for Tallinners, the city thus stood to incur an additional cost of €12 million. This was judged to be a reasonable price to pay when considered against the benefits of the scheme.

Mobility for all

A key issue was mobility for all, Alaküla says. Pensioners and youths already benefited from free public transport in Tallinn, but the city wanted to make it easier for people to travel in search of work, and for low-paid workers, who might choose not to take a job that they have to travel to if the cost of transport means it is financially not worthwhile. Early impressions are that economic development generally has been boosted. “We really provide an incentive for stimulation of the local economy. We observed already that people tend to spend more if their mobility is free. They go out more in the evenings and weekends,” according to Alaküla.

Cleaner city air

Free public transport was expected to produce environmental benefits because of a modal shift away from cars, leading to less congestion and pollution. The expected reduction in carbon dioxide emissions is 45,000 tons annually. Noise abatement is a further benefit. Tallinn already has some electric public transport vehicles - trolley buses and trams - and has worked to improve its system of bus lanes so that public transport moves more smoothly and emissions from static traffic are minimised.

It is too early to fully quantify the environmental benefits, but during the first quarter of 2013, traffic congestion in the centre of Tallinn was down 15% compared to the end of 2012. Since the start of the scheme, public transport use has increased by 12.6%, car use throughout the Tallinn area has been reduced by 9%, and there have also been slight declines in walking and cycling, indicating that people will use free public transport whereas previously they might have been deterred by ticket prices.

There have also been fiscal benefits. Alaküla says that since it became known that free public transport would be introduced, about 10,000 people have registered as Tallinn residents. There are estimated to be an additional 30,000 unregistered residents in the city. The free transport scheme could encourage registration. Every additional 1000 residents brings the city about €1 million in additional annual tax revenues, Alaküla says.

A solid foundation

Residency is important because the system works by distributing contactless travel cards to Tallinners. The use of free public transport continues to be monitored and enforced, and non-residents, for now, must continue to pay transport fares.

Tallinn's system covers about 426,000 people and 480 public transport vehicles, making it the largest in Europe. Alaküla offers a number of recommendations to public authorities that might be considering similar schemes.

The first is to ensure legitimacy. Free public transport in Tallinn was only introduced after a referendum in which 75.5% of Tallinners voted for the scheme, and 24.5% voted against. The result meant that there was a strong public mandate for free public transport, which enabled the city to invest in the scheme, including the introduction of the contactless travel card system so that data can be collected. The evident popularity of the scheme, and the referendum result, also mean that it will be difficult for free public transport to be removed for political reasons, unless there is a similar level of public backing.

'Political shift'

Alaküla says that a number of Tallinn politicians were sceptical, believing the idea would be expensive or unworkable. However, since the introduction of the scheme, there has been a “political shift.” Alaküla adds that there is now “no party promising to abolish the free ride for Tallinners.” Because of the greater mobility brought about by the scheme, there is the sense that Tallinn has benefited in terms of its competitiveness. “It is what the municipality is all about: fighting for people,” Alaküla says.

The second issue for municipal authorities to consider, he adds, is the degree of public subsidy that it already provides to public transport. If the subsidy is greater than half of the overall cost, “then you have good arguments” to introduce free public transport. In cities such as London, for example, “there is almost no subsidy,” and making public transport free would have a huge budgetary implication, Alaküla notes. For Hasselt in Belgium, the ultimate stumbling block was the cost.

Tallinn is presently considering how it can expand its scheme, through agreements with neighbouring municipalities, or even through extension to the national level. “We are working on it,” Alaküla says.
Tallinn is also looking east. It has established contacts with the Chinese city of Chengdu (14 million inhabitants), which is experimenting with free public transport, combined with limitations on driving in the city centre. The two cities have established a dialogue on the issue, and representatives from Chengdu will be present at a “Capital of free public transport” summer school that Tallinn will host on 22-24 August 2013. Among the speakers will by EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas.

More information

Middle class angst at Free Public Transport

By Martyn Bradbury  /   'The Daily Blog' July 17, 2013 

If free public transport is good enough for baby boomers, why isn’t it good enough for those poor who would benefit from it most?

Is it just me, or is there a certain level of middle class angst about John Minto’s plan for free public transport?

To me, free public transport is the exact type of radical realignment Auckland needs if it is to be congestion free, environmentally positive and socially conscious all at the same time.

The flubber gusted grand olde doynenne of the NZ Herald, Brian Rudman, was having none of Minto’s plan however. He grumped and growled and sounded like every other selfish baby boomer gold card carrying free public transport oldie who is being told their favorite subsidy might be expanded to the greedy poor.

Cry me a fucking river Brian.

This is public transport as social policy. Transport goals can’t be left to the tech-geekdom of Auckland Transport Blog (bless their hearts) or else it just becomes a mechanical equation for free flow traffic. I’m wanting engineering deeper than the level of a plumber for something as important as public transport.

Free public transport would do more to put money directly into the pockets of the poor in a meaningful way. The free wifi and regularity of services would generate the REAL benefits a car addicted culture need to see before they can go cold turkey.

Having to listen to gold card eligible pundits whinge against being forced to sit next to the gypsies on the grounds of cost as they slink off yet again to Waiheke Island for another $70 round trip subsidy to visit the wineries is just the height of get-over-yourself-please.

If free public transport is good enough for baby boomers, why isn’t it good enough for those poor who would benefit from it most?

- See more at:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Traffic in Auckland is making life hell and more roads will not help

By Matt L: Scoop News: 11 July 2013.

"Heaven knows Aucklanders deserve a break from gridlock traffic.

I’ve lived in this city for 36 years and for the last 20 the quality of life has slowly ebbed away through traffic conditions no citizen should have to put up with. Despite the building of more motorways, express roads, adding lanes to existing roads, putting feeder lights on the motorways and all manner of expensive add-ons, the problem gets worse. With future growth we are looking at existing traffic congestion turning into hell on earth.

And there’s no end in sight. Prime Minister John Key says the Government will put $10 billion into funding for Auckland transport initiatives over the next decade but it’s really just more of the same – roads, roads and more roads with a smaller chunk for public transport in seven years’ time.

It also means we will be lumbered with wasteful spending on new roading projects which will NOT reduce traffic gridlock. Every Aucklander knows that when a new road is built it just gets you to the traffic jam faster."

Mayoral candidate Minto pledges free public transport

Mayoral candidate Minto pledges free public transport

The Mana party candidate for the Auckland mayoralty, John Minto, is pledging free public transport to unclog the city’s roads and cut the time spent commuting.

Mr Minto says the policy would save commuters an hour out of each working day and avoid the need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year on new roads.

He says the city would lose $280 million a year currently collected in fares, and would need to spend an extra $400 million to double the number of buses and start the downtown rail tunnel project earlier than planned.

He says that would be offset by savings of up to $400 million a year, no longer needed for new roading projects, and unclogging Auckland’s roads would give workers an extra hour a day to spend with their families.

Mr Minto says the policy, which would take a year to introduce, already works in two European cities.

The idea of free public transport has previously been floated for Auckland, the last time by Labour Party mayoral candidate Jim Anderton in 1977.

Listen to interview with John Minto on Morning Report
Radio NZ

Tallinn's free public transport leads to sharp fall in city traffic

Marko Leppik / Tallinn City Tourist Office & Convention Bureau
'Cities Today' journal - connecting the world's urban leaders.
Within six months of initiating free public transport, the city of Tallinn in Estonia has seen a fall of 15 percent in traffic, including 7,600 fewer cars entering the city, and an increase of 14 percent in public transport use.

Following a referendum, Tallinn launched its new system in January this year and it is the largest city in the world to implement free public transport for its residents, following the lead of Hasselt, Belgium, which introduced such a scheme in 1997.

“We win more than we lose,” said Edgar Savisaar, Mayor of Tallinn. “Citizens have more mobility options in town. Secondly there are environmental benefits as air quality is getting better and there are major improvements in the traffic flow.”

Operating the free system costs Tallinn €12 million annually yet the city calculates that the loss in ticket revenue is almost compensated by attracting new residents and thereby increasing the personal income tax revenue the city receives. Within the last year, the city has increased its population by 9,000, something the government equates to almost €9 million in extra tax revenue. The shortfall adds an increase to the city budget of 2.5 percent.

Although residents of Tallinn (pop 425,000) have to purchase a green card for €2 to entitle them to use the free transport, this is not extended to non-residents who still need to load money onto their green card and pay for tickets.

In preparation for an increased demand for public transport, the city purchased 70 new buses and 15 new trams and developed real-time information system for passengers with common ticketing facilities. Some measures were also implemented to discourage the use of private cars, including restricting street access and increasing parking fees.

Chengdu in China is in contact with Tallinn and is now trialling the concept of free bus transport to increase the efficient movement of its 14 million inhabitants.

Tallinn’s residents are happy with the system, with over half the population taking advantage of free transport and giving it a 75 percent approval rating. The Estonian capital city is seeking to become European Green Capital in 2018 given its efforts in improving its environmental credentials and the lifestyle of its residents.

For further stories of European initiatives to lower carbon emissions in cities, visit the Covenant of Mayors website.

Perth gets new $8.2 million free bus service

Australian Bus & Coach, July 1, 2013  
Western Australia’s Public Transport Authority (PTA) has fast-tracked the development of a new $8.2 million free bus service, ahead of major rail disruptions.
Perth commuters have again been warned to prepare for mass rail shutdowns related to the Perth City Link redevelopment planned for Friday July 12 to Wednesday July 17.
The new Green CAT bus service was launched on June 30, as part of a $46.7 million plan to ease the city’s congestion and help manage the rail shutdowns.
Western Australian Transport Minister Troy Buswell says the service will transport passengers between Leederville and Perth's CBD, starting July 1.
The service joins three existing free CAT services, which have operated for about 20 years.
“People are voting with their feet when it comes to our CAT buses, with eight million boardings a year,” Buswell says.
“They are hugely popular modes of transport and I expect the Green CAT will be the same, with commuters likely to use it as an alternative way into the city, or for those who want to head into Leederville to shop or meet friends for a coffee.”
The Green CAT will connect Leederville with the Esplanade Busport and is the fourth CAT route introduced to deal with growing population.
Seven new buses will operate on the route, which is timetabled to run Monday to Friday from 6am to 7.30pm.
CAT service passenger boardings account for five percent of the total number of public transport boardings a year.
The Green CAT has 19 stops on its route and will run every eight minutes in peak.
Each bus can potentially take more than 50 cars off the road.

Friday, July 12, 2013

John Minto: Free transport an end to 'hell on earth'

NZ Herald News:

As more and more money is thrown into roads, so we become more and more likely to stay gridlocked

Traffic jams are becoming worse in Auckland. Photo / APN

How about another hour at home with your family - every workday?

Heaven knows Aucklanders deserve a break from gridlock traffic.

...Isn't it time we broke out of the dull mediocrity of policies designed for the middle of last century and looked at ending traffic gridlock in less than a year with free and frequent public transport?"