Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Auckland Mayor drives plan for public transport u-turn

Auckland Mayor, Wayne Brown, this week announced the first phase of a programme to turn around Auckland’s flailing public transport patronage.

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.

Mayor Brown said 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.

He said 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,” said Mayor Brown.

In the week of 8-14 May, Auckland Transport reported 5,778 cancelled bus trips, up by 250 from the previous week. Many of these cancellations were unannounced and caused widespread disruption to commuters, the Mayor said.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

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.

“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,” said Council Transport & Infrastructure Chair, John Watson.

Mayor Brown said Aucklanders had made it clear they are frustrated with the state of the city’s 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,” the Mayor said.

The budget package is subject to the approval of the Governing Body.

  

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