Brian Rudman 's Opinion

Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman: Trying to hide you're targeting the oldies' perk not such a clever idea

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The SuperGold Card. Photo / Supplied
The SuperGold Card. Photo / Supplied

Attempting to bury a controversial review of the pensioners' free bus pass in the middle of the Draft Auckland Regional Public Transport Plan was never going to succeed.

And unfortunately, it's rather diverted attention from the document itself, an important plan to double public transport trips from 70 million to 140 million by 2022.

A pipedream? Not at all, when you consider that public transport usage has increased 35 per cent in five years.

But first, the SuperGold card concession. We're told that the NZ Transport Agency "has sought a review of the evening peak senior concession with a view to its removal, on the grounds that it is nationally inconsistent and unaffordable".

If the cost is what's worrying NZTA, then from the start, everyone knows the anomaly that is the Waiheke Ferry has been the biggest drain on the concession budget.

The first year's figures (2008-2009) revealed that $2 million of the national $18 million had gone to Fullers Ferries to carry canny Auckland oldies for a day in the sun and vineyards. Whether cutting the evening peak hour concession would save much is questionable. The oldies could always stay on for another bottle, then come home.

The question is, would abolishing the special Auckland evening peak concession help spread the passenger load at the busiest time of day? And if so, to be consistent, they might also like to consider a peak hour ban on student concessions.

As for the transport plan proper, I must concede my eyes glazed over at the proposed maze of new and improved transport routes. Mine seem not to have changed, so so far, so good. The draft promises "much stronger focus on integration between services", which can only be good.

Much of the plan is just a codification of earlier promises. Integrated ticketing, a zonal fare structure, and a revolution in the way bus routes are contracted out to private operators. The introduction of zonal charging goes hand in glove with the promise of greater interlinking between different bus, train and ferry routes.

By the end of 2014, if all goes to plan, the region will be divided into six zones, and commuters will be charged by the number of zones they've travelled in, regardless of how many conveyances they've used en route. I couldn't help wondering if a North Shore planner drew up the zones, because compared with citizens of the old Manukau and Waitakere cities, the northerners have lucked out.

The whole of the Shore north to Long Bay Regional Park is to be two zones from the city zone, the same zoning given to the old isthmus bounded by Tamaki River to the south and Te Atatu Peninsula (included) to the north. Further south or west are either three or four zones from the centre. On the other hand, travel within the large zones, say from Mangere to Papakura or Drury and from Westgate to Titirangi, will only cost a one-zone fare.

Of course the world-weary traveller finds it hard not to mutter, "We've heard it all before." There's the usual enthusing about providing wondrous bus shelters, for instance, which wears a little thin to those who have spent the winter huddling in the dry spot with our fellow passengers as the rain swirls into the ubiquitous leaky Adshel shelters.

I was also a little affronted to read that AT has been lobbying the police commissioner to get him to deputise AT staff so they could "enforce fines for fare evasion", but to find nowhere in the document any promises to penalise operators who fail to provide the services they're contracted to provide. Like ensuring buses turn up on time.

And no promise of upping AT's game either. The wonders of the real-time indicator boards are trumpeted in the report, yet everybody except AT knows they're a scandalous embarrassment. Only yesterday morning, I arrived at my stop to read that the next bus would arrive in 8 minutes. I looked up, and the bus was heading towards us.

- NZ Herald

Brian Rudman

Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman's first news story was for Auckland University student paper Outspoke, exposing an SIS spy on campus during the heady days of the Vietnam War. It resulted in a Commission of Inquiry and an award for student journalist of the year. A stint editing the Labour Party's start-up Auckland newspaper NZ Statesman followed. Rudman decided journalism was the career for him, but the NZ Herald and Auckland Star thought otherwise when he came job-hunting. After a year on the "hippy trail" overland to London, he spent four years on Fleet St with various British provincial papers. He then joined the Auckland Star, winning the Dulux Journalist of the Year award for coverage of the 1976 Dawn Raids against Polynesian overstayers. He has also worked on the NZ Listener, Auckland Sun, and since 1996, for the NZ Herald as feature writer and columnist. He has a BA in History and Politics.

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