Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Auckland Bus System

One of the big pushes in Auckland in recent years is to improve the public transit (transport) system. Just like in the UK in the 1980s, the public transit bus system was deregulated allowing anyone to run buses anywhere they liked leaving regional councils (aka the taxpayer) to foot the bill and provide service for non-profitable routes. Each bus operator set their own fares and things that we take for granted like transfers are non-existent. Today there are 10 bus transit operators with just as many fare structures. This lead to transit ridership crashing and with Auckland only having a transit mode share of 4% in 2006. Realizing the mess that deregulation left, in 2008 New Zealand’s central government passed the Public Transport Management Act which allows regional councils to:

(a)confers powers on regional councils to set standards for commercial public transport services provided in their regions; and
(b) provides for and regulates the registration of commercial public transport services; and
(c) confers powers on regional councils to require all or any public transport services in their regions to be provided under contract with them, and consequently to discontinue any commercial public transport services provided in their regions that are subject to such a requirement; and
(d) helps regional councils and the Agency obtain the best value for money in achieving an affordable, integrated, safe, responsive, and sustainable public transport system, having regard to the desirability of encouraging fair competition and a competitive and efficient market for public transport services.

Basically, it allows public transit to be managed by the regions much like it is done in most North America cities. In Auckland, this has resulted in the launch of a smart card system and fare integration project. There is now common branding, timetables, and real-time information for the bus network. According to the Auckland Plan:

The transport system is one of the key shapers of the urban environment. If we don’t understand how the transport system works in connecting settlements across Auckland nor how it works with the development around it, we get poor quality places for people to live and work. Most international cities that have reinvented themselves well have been endowed with a roading and transport system that is very well networked because it was not originally based on the car. Rather than adapt to the car, these cities have been able to adapt old traditional networks to manage concentrated populations, with a range of transport modes – trains, buses, cars, taxis, trams, ferries, cycles and walkways for pedestrians - that produce fabulous places to live. Below are examples of the city form of places such as Vancouver, Paris, Barcelona, Melbourne and Sydney. If you look at them carefully you will see that their roading and transport systems are highly inter-connected.

An integrated bus system is the first step to getting the transit system needed to support the goals of this plan. Next time, I’ll talk about the rail network.

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