Busway Fees Update: Council Fingers New Govt’s Pro-Car Policy


The North Shore council is pointing the finger at the government as the reason why it’s moving to start charging for park and ride facilities in Albany and Constellation Drive for commuters using the Northern Express on the Northern busway. The move has caused an outrage among commuters and a council committee was virtually told today that the cause was it’s in line with the new government’s push for cars over public transport. How else can one interpret this following explanation given to the committee by the council’s busway official?

And it’s an explanation that suggests the government has been successful in preaching its new mantra - cars rule and public transport doesn’t.

The official wrote:

“Since city parking charges start at $7 per day and a one stage feeder service from the suburb to the P&R adds $2.60 to travel costs, a charge of $2 per day is competitive.  There may be a tendency to return to car driving, but the GPS funding allocations and the Minister’s  speeches indicate that this is not out of line with government policy priorities.

“These include responding to the dominant transport mode – private motor vehicles – and reviewing farebox recovery for public transport . Although a parking charge will not increase the farebox, as such, it does reduce the implicit subsidy to the public transport user, manifested by the provision of free parking.”

This is one of the first public explanations I have seen, in which officials are interpreting their new masters saying motorists are far more important than public transport commuters - and a sign of things to come with the government’s farebox recovery plan and cut in levies forcing higher fares and charges for anyone using public transport.

The net result of that will be forcing people back to cars, which is also what the council is admitting here.

North Shore says it’s wrestling with the new government’s cuts. The figures may do your head in but it’s worth following as again, it’s an early sign of what we are in for throughout the public transport sector.

BRIDGE DRIVE; Time to get back in our cars

BRIDGE DRIVE: Get back in your car

The report before the committee says as a result of a 26% subsidy cut passed on by ARTA, the busway budget for 2010/11 has to be adjusted by an amount of approximately $437k, and $472k in 2011/12. A range of options were explored but, to maintain levels of service for this highly successful and popular operation, a viable option seemed to be introducing a $2 daily charge for parking to rebalance the budget. Included in this option would be reducing some of the maintenance and staffing costs.

Another option is for Council to cover the budget gap out of rates income at an additional cost of $257k in 2010/11 and $292k in 2011/12.  ARTA has advised that the subsidy for busway operations has been reduced by 26%, starting in the current year for a three year period, in line with reductions in NZTA subsidy funding, as directed by the Government Policy Statement (GPS). In the past the Council:ARTA funding split has been 40:60.

The LTCCP budget for busway operations amounts to $ 2,360,631 in the current year, with $ 2,477,143 provided in Year 1 (2010/11). This spending covers a range of activities which are directed at ensuring a high quality level of service in the stations, including security, cleaning, repairs and supervision. The ARTA subsidy, previously provided at a level of 60% of the total budget, amounting to $1,417,742 in 2009/10,has been cut by 26% relative to the current year budget. Council provided the balance of 40% of the costs in the past. The subsidy cut stems from changes in the priorities and allocation of funds set out in the Government Policy Statement (GPS), which is applied by NZTA.  The current ARTA subsidy contribution of $ 1,049,129 will be carried forward at this level fixed for 3 years i.e. with no provision for inflation. The subsidy cut created a shortfall of $ 368,613 in 2009/10, but this will grow to $ 437,157 in 2010/11 (Year 1) and $ 471,873 in 2011/12 (Year 2) due to the inflation of other costs.

The council also has another bizarre issue related to the busway costs - the rates it charges itself.

The rates bill for the busway stations has risen from $137k in the 08/09 year to $254k (as a result of QV valuation) in this and future years - an increase of approximately $120k. However, it has begun a process of challenging this  assessment and that may result in some reduction, although costs will be incurred.

Some staffing and operating reducations could be incurred - not replacing someone, a reduction in garden and other maintenance -resulting in cost savings of $180k.

So the council still thinks it needs to introduce parking fees and looked at either $1 or $2 a day with some provision for free bays for particular categories. Some capital costs would be incurred in providing for the pay and display dispensers, plus some running costs. There are a total of 910 parking spaces now – 360 at Constellation and 550 at Albany. From February 2011 (approximately) there will be up to 650 more spaces at Albany making the total there of up to 1200 and the total potential P&R spaces 1560 in Year 2. A charge of $ 1 per week day would yield an income of up to $ 110k in year 1 and up to $ 160k in year 2.

The report estimated that a charge of $ 2 per week day would yield an income of up to $ 250k in year 1 and up to $ 355k in year 2.  Both P&R sites compete with feeder bus services by providing free parking, but they also provide facilities for passengers that would not otherwise use buses and who would simply drive to their destination. Both sites tend to be full during non-education break periods from an early hour of the day. Since city parking charges start at $7 per day and a one stage feeder service from the suburb to the P&R adds $2.60 to travel costs, a charge of $2 per day is considered “competitive.”

The report said the decision to introduce the fees needed to be formalised with the busway partners – NZTA and ARTA – at a meeting.

But the cat is now out of the bag.

The report concludes: “Public consultation would also be needed, and subsequently, a communications campaign designed to inform the public and promote a positive reception.”

Sorry, too late. People know and are angry. But let’s hope the anger is directed at what is really triggering this - and  how the Labour - Greens landscape, flawed and slow to act  but at least favourable to public transport, has now well and truly changed.




  1. James says:

    not a good outlook for any Public Transport development not already committed.

  2. Carl says:

    Charging for parking could actually encourage people onto feeder busses, rather than clogging up routes to the station - especially since you can already buy an integrated ticket to include the feeder bus. Charging for parking at stations is also the norm overseas.

  3. M says:

    “it does reduce the implicit subsidy to the public transport user” is nonsense - it reduces the massive subsidy to the car user that free parking represents.

  4. Uroskin says:

    Join the real world. Auckland City Council imposed parking charges at the Waiheke Matiatia ferry terminal some years ago where it was free previously.

  5. James says:

    All the park and rides on the rail network that I know of have free parking (don’t tell Mr Joyce)

  6. Jeremy Harris says:

    I love it that essentially, the council is appealling it’s own rates rise to reduce it’s rates… Classic…

    This is a blunder from top to bottom..!


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