Brian Rudman 's Opinion

Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman: Two-tier tram fare just another complication facing city's commuters

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Aucklanders pay $5 and non-Aucklanders to pay $10. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Aucklanders pay $5 and non-Aucklanders to pay $10. Photo / Brett Phibbs

I'm confused about what the Wynyard Quarter tramway service is supposed to be. When the fare was a straight $10 a head, the answer was simple. It was a fleece-the-tourists funfair ride, to be avoided by all sensible Aucklanders. Now, three weeks after it was launched, there's been a partial change of heart, and a complicated new fare structure to match.

The exploitation of tourists remains, with non-Aucklanders still having to pay $10. But Aucklanders who can give the secret handshake will now get off with a $5 semi-fleecing.

Oh yes, and it's now a workers' transport service as well. People who work locally - presumably foreigners and locals alike - and have a card to prove it will pay only $2.

So what gives? We're supposed to be encouraging tourists to stay in town an extra night or two.

But not, surely, so city authorities can shake them down for their spare coinage in return for a 1.5km tram ride around a bleak and dreary commercial development site.

The Museum of Transport and Technology at Western Springs, charges $1 an adult on its tram service between its two sites, or $2 return. If you buy an admission ticket to the museum, the trip is free. And there's no rorting the foreign guests.

That's a more reasonable price for the trip, and a more sensible approach for a public authority trying to awaken new punters to the joys of public transport.

The ad hoc pricing of the Wynyard Quarter tramway also draws attention to the confused pricing for inner-city public transport. Instead of one city, one simple price structure, confusion reigns.

For anyone not wanting to pay the exorbitant tram fare, there's the new red City Link service which, for free, loops around the Wynyard Quarter like the tram, then heads off up Queen St via Greys Ave to Karangahape Rd and back. From January 1, it will cost 50c - except for HOP swipe card holders, who continue to receive the free ride.

The 50c fare, though unpublicised, is also available on most buses travelling within an inner-city crescent stretching east to Beach Rd, south to Karangahape Rd, and west to Howe St and Victoria Park.

But being Auckland, there are exceptions. It's not available on the Inner Link or its new Outer Link sibling. It's also not available on express or flyer services, "except for North Shore express services". Head starting to reel?

The rearrangement of the inner west bus services this week, highlighted for several users another shortcoming in the ticketing system - the lack of true integrated ticketing.

The politicians talk as though we already have it, or will, by the Rugby World Cup. But we won't. We won't have that until passengers have a swipe card that works on all modes of transport, and more importantly, until we have a fare structure that charges passengers according to the distance travelled per journey.

This week, a new group of travellers discovered they will have to change buses to reach a destination which previously required one bus. Not only will it take them longer, but it will cost them an additional fare.

The long-promised zonal fare structure, in which changes between buses and trains and ferries within one zone incur no extra fare, are still a long way off.

Auckland Transport says it will start looking at it by the middle of next year. How long after that before it is introduced is in the hands of the transport planners and the private bus operators, so I'm not holding my breath. But while we wait, would it be so hard to rationalise the inner-city fares we already have, starting with the 50c inner-city zone fare.

It's hard to imagine a 50c fare deterring people who want to zap down to the Wynyard Quarter or up to Karangahape Rd on the new free City Link.

The fare would help to pay for the service and could be use to eliminate the price gouging associated with the tram service.

Then there are the Inner and Outer Link buses.

Where's the fairness or rationality in charging a passenger travelling from Queen St to the Victoria Park Markets $1.80 in the Link buses but only 50c on the 005, which follows the same route?

- 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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