4 Mar 2013

Fewer travellers using Auckland public transport

4:33 pm on 4 March 2013

Public transport use in Auckland is falling for the first time in recent years.

Forecasts of continued growth have proved to be wrong, with actual patronage down for the first eight months of the financial year.

Auckland Transport believes the number of trips taken this year could fall 3.6 million below the forecast 74.5 million.

Managers at the agency say disruption as the rail network is electrified, a levelling off last year of rising petrol prices and higher unemployment have played a part.

Senior Auckland politicians say fares are too high and mayor Len Brown says focus is needed to ensure tickets don't become unaffordable. "We went down that track fifteen, twenty years ago and we're not doing it again."

Mike Lee who chairs the council's Transport Committee says the fall in patronage is a crisis he too believes a key problem is high ticket prices.

Understanding, and reversing the fall is the top priority for Auckland Transport Lester Levy, who says the mayor's aim of doubling the patronage inside 30 years is a big ask.

"We need to have a much different and much more innovative marketing approach and customer service approach," he told Auckland Transport's board's meeting.

An annual review proposing some fare increases has been knocked back by the board, and is being reworked by officials.

The plan proposes further reducing the discount offered to tertiary students, who make one third of all trips.

Auckland Transport faces challenges in trying to get more people on board. The Government wants fares to cover a larger proportion of the cost of running public transport.

A complicated new method for local bodies to buy services from companies is being rolled out, the final cost is unclear.