Mayor Wayne Brown is announcing the first phase of a practical and achievable programme to turn around Auckland’s flailing public transport patronage, by improving services and reliability.
As part of the first phase of the plan, the Mayor will include in his final budget proposal an immediate $20 million injection for public transport to:
- increase bus driver wages to $30 per hour
- stop bus cancellations and improve reliability on current routes
- enable the reinstatement of 1200 suspended bus services, as supported by demand
- implement proposed free and half-price public transport fares for young people
- improve communication with the public, particularly during disruptions.
The $20 million package would be funded by reducing proposed operating cuts by $10 million, reprioritising $10 million additional savings found by Auckland Transport during the budget process and leveraging recently announced Government funding of at least a further $20 million.
A full turnaround plan, involving further short-term and longer-term measures will be developed in conjunction with Auckland Transport over the next few months.
“One of my main priorities as Mayor is to help Aucklanders get around the region easier so we must resolve the current public transport crisis and do better with what we already have.
“Auckland Transport is cancelling thousands of bus trips every week because there aren’t enough drivers. One way we can solve that problem is to pay drivers a fair wage.”
In the week of 8-14 May, Auckland Transport reported 5778 cancelled bus trips, up by 250 from the previous week. Many of these cancellations were unannounced and caused widespread disruption to commuters.
“This plan builds on recent improvement. We need to stop the cancellations, so the services are reliable, and then we can work on increasing services as supported by demand. I have heard that many Aucklanders do not want cuts to public transport services and that we also need to ensure we are getting value.
“I am pleased that we can fund this initiative in part because of additional savings found by AT. AT is spending less on corporate overheads and, as a result, there is more funding available for service delivery. That is exactly what I stood for,” Mayor Brown said.
The proposal is progress on a broader turnaround plan that the Mayor and Transport & Infrastructure Committee Chair have instructed Auckland Transport to progress following last week’s Committee meeting.
The full plan will be a key operational priority for AT and include measures to speed up bus services, improve performance of the ferry network, improve communication to customers and introduce new ways to pay for public transport services.
Transport & Infrastructure Chair John Watson said “I am happy to support these initiatives that help with our immediate crisis. We have started to see a change of approach at AT, and we need a turnaround plan which shows how we plan to improve services without spending a great deal more.”
“Aucklanders have made it clear that they are frustrated with the state of our public transport system. We have listened, and we are committed to fixing it, while also reducing congestion and improving roads. Our plan is for convenient, fast public transport that people want to use because it is great, not because we’ve made driving and parking harder,” Mayor Brown said.
Phase one of the Public Transport Turnaround programme includes the following initiatives:
- Increase bus driver pay from $28 to $30 per hour: this provides the local share of the funding required to access government funding to enable pay rates to lift.
- Stop cancellations and allow the reinstatement of an additional 1200 services: recruiting more bus drivers will enable AT to run the current timetable reliably, stopping the frequent cancellation, and then steadily increase bus services as required.
- Roll-out free and half-price fares initiatives: AT will make use of recently announced government funding to implement these initiatives. We will also consider expanding free fares to under 16s.
- Improve communications with customers, particularly when disruptions occur
Work is underway on phase two of the plan, which is expected to include:
- Easier payments: introducing the ability to pay for public transport trips with contactless payment cards ahead of the planned transition to national ticketing
- Roll out of priority for buses at intersection to speed up bus trips: trials are underway and the next phase of this initiative is being prepared.
- More dynamic bus lanes to speed up bus journeys along congested corridors
- Making the most out of large investments, including CRL and the Eastern Busway: which includes securing funding for level crossing removal.
The budget package is subject to the approval of the Governing Body as part of a balanced budget decision.
Improving public transport will be a key focus of the investment in the Auckland Integrated Transport Plan being prepared by the Mayor and Transport Minister Hon Michael Wood.