View interactive

Cherie Howie

Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Buses - why Seattle for less?

New Zealanders are paying less for travel than people in some cities

Ignacio Arellano is happy with the student rate he pays but would like more frequent services. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Ignacio Arellano is happy with the student rate he pays but would like more frequent services. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Cheaper than Brisbane, dearer than Seattle, similar to Wellington.

Our public transport fares have landed in the middle of results in a Herald on Sunday survey of fares in six cities.

We compared how far $5 would take an adult travelling during peak hours in Auckland, Wellington, Brisbane, Melbourne, Seattle and Vancouver.

The American city of Seattle represented the best value - train travel there was a minuscule 10c a kilometre and bus travel not much more, with commuters paying an average of 21c per km they travelled.

The city itself is home to 630,000 people but 3.7 million people live in the greater Seattle region.

The survey showed life wasn't all golden across the Ditch. Brisbane coins commuters $1.13 for every kilometre travelled by bus.

Train commuters fare better - they pay 45c a km.

That was just ahead of Auckland fares of 37c a km but better than fares for Wellington's train users, who fork out 51c for the same service.

Those in the capital will save money by taking the bus, paying 24c a km compared with 32c a km in Auckland.

Campaign for Better Transport spokesman Cameron Pitches was surprised Auckland compared so well with other cities.

Its own survey a few years ago showed that Aucklanders were paying more to travel on public transport than commuters overseas.

Still, Auckland Transport could do better - Pitches said monthly passes for commuters and off-peak fares should be introduced, and services should run on time.

Speaking of delays, Auckland Transport was unable to respond to the survey ahead of the Herald on Sunday's deadlines.

The council-controlled agency has come under fire from commuters after fares were almost doubled for some routes.

Auckland Transport defended the move as necessary to align fares throughout the region under the new electronic Hop ticketing system.

Spokeswoman Sharon Hunter said on Thursday that once the integrated Hop system was introduced around the city (it had already been delayed) the fares would apply across all forms of public transport in Auckland.

That was expected to happen in a little more than a year, she said.

Mayoral candidate John Palino said public transport in Auckland was not good value because it was not easy for people to use.

Services needed to be more frequent, and park 'n ride capacities should be increased.

But Mayor Len Brown said Auckland fares would be "even more competitive by the end of the year", with the Hop card giving users a 10 per cent discount off the cash fare.


Hard to find ride late at night or at weekends

As long as the wheels on the bus go round and round, Ignacio Arellano is content.

He isn't too concerned that, in the words of the song, the driver says tickets please, tickets please - to the tune of $3.40 a trip.

What annoys him is the infrequency of buses, or when they run late.

"I'm okay with paying more if there is more frequency," the 32-year-old sport and recreation student says.

"That's the biggest problem here in New Zealand."

Waiting in the afternoon sunshine for the 625 bus, Arellano's main gripe is poor schedules and lack of comprehensive coverage, which mean fewer buses on weekends and late at night, and having to change buses on his journey home.

That, he says, was never an issue in his home city of Vina del Mar, in Chile, where the buses were also cheaper.

Arellano pays a student rate of $3.40 a journey when he travels across three stages from Meadowbank to central Auckland each day.

"I reckon the cost is okay, it's fair - and having lived in Auckland for the last four years, I'm quite judgmental about public transport."

- Herald on Sunday

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n1 at 22 Sep 2014 09:10:31 Processing Time: 15ms