New Zealand's National Public Transport Network

Published on 12/01/2023 at 5:12 pm.

Public transport in Aotearoa New Zealand is currently uncoordinated, hap hazard, not user friendly and lacks regional connectivity as it is based on regionalised and commercialised procurement through the Public Transport Operating Model (PTOM), where each regional council through their respective Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP), develops and grows their own 'commercialised' public transport services using competitive tendering, to allow increased fare revenue whilst reducing reliance on rate and taxpayer subsidies, that has resulted to little or no inter-regional cooperation and planning, creating inequalities between regions.

Aotearoa New Zealand has 16 local government administrative regions, with 1 region having a population over 1 million, 1 region having a population over 600,000, 2 regions having populations over 500,000, 1 region having a population over 300,000, 2 regions having populations over 200,000, 4 regions with populations between 100,000 to 199,999 and 5 regions with populations less than 99,999.

Since most regions have wide spread on low density semi rural towns and rural communities, the cost to each region with a population, less than 500,000 to maintain and operate a regional public transport system is expensive, especially for those regions who have populations less than 200,000.

More densely populated regions like Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury and lessor extent Waikato, have better 'metro' style public transport services and less populated regions have little or no public transport services like the Westland region, so it is time to reform public transport in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Why a National Public Transport Network

Aotearoa New Zealand population is expected to increase to 6-7 million by 2030, which will require major rethink and reform on how public transport is planned, funded, procured and operated.

Under Aotearoa New Zealand government Emissions Reduction Plan, the government is committed to develop a national public transport strategy by 2025, which raises the question, why can't Aotearoa New Zealand have an integrated national public transport network that connects urban, semi rural and rural communities across the country from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island with a sustainable environmentally friendly, easy to use 'door to door' subsidize 'turn up and go' national public transport network to reduce non essential personal vehicle travel and Aotearoa New Zealand's toxic fossil fuel induced emissions by 2030.

The National Public Transport Network would operate as a subsidized 'Not for Profit' integrated national urban metro, regional and inter-regional bus, passenger rail and ferry public transport network, using an 'open' national 'tap and travel' payment/ticketing system, a national information and timetable website and associated smart phone travel app containing all 'turn up and go' and 'book and travel' bus, passenger rail, ferry services and other passive public transport modes, linking Aotearoa New Zealand's 6 main cities with 13 provincial cities, major towns, semi rural towns and rural communities, across Aotearoa New Zealand 16 regions.

The National Public Transport Network would be funded by a dedicated national public transport funding agency, who will be responsible for national funding, planning, procurement and operational guidelines for subsidised 'turn up and go' urban, semi rural, rural, regional and inter-regional bus/coach, train, light rail, ferry and other passive passenger transport services and good passenger facilities like stations, bus/train interchanges etc, across the country.

On the 21 October 2022, the government announced the introduction of a national wide 'open' integrated 'tap and travel' payment/ticketing system that can be used on all subsidised 'turn and go' metro urban rail, bus, ferry, on-demand buses and regional passenger rail services.

What is the National Public Transport Agency

The National Public Transport Agency would be a 'not for profit' state entity under Aotearoa New Zealand's Ministry of Transport taking over all subsidize public transport planning and funding functions from Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.

The National Public Transport Agency would plan, fund, procure public transport services, use existing or new public transport assets, established national operating guidelines and procedures, an 'open' national 'tap and travel' payment/ticketing system, a national information and timetable website and associated smart phone travel app, in association with the National Public Transport Agency's city, district and regional councils and transport services partners under one brand ÔÇô Public Transport Aotearoa New Zealand.

The National Public Transport Agency would encourage its city, district and regional council partners to prioritize good public transport services, public transport infrastructure design and access in their future urban planning and design.

How will the National Public Transport Agency be funded

Currently, the government has budgeted for the 2021 to 2024 period, $2.6 Billion ($867 million per year) for subsidize 'turn up and go' public transport services and $2.3 billion ($767 million per year) for public transport infrastructure.

The current funding model under the Passenger Transport Operating Model is on average, after fare income has been deducted - a 50/50 split, with regional councils marking up their 50% funding rate payers and the remaining 50% from Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.

More the regional councils contribute, less funding from Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, hence those regions with populations over 500,000 have better public transport services and those regions who have populations less than 500,000 have moderate to no public transport services.

Under a more 'open' funding policy like the recently announced - Sustainable Public Transport Framework, the National Public Transport Agency would receive funding from the National Land Transport Fund and fares from the national 'tap and travel' payment/ticketing system and will be able to tailor funding solutions based on what a regional council public transport plans will be, the region's population density and rate payer public transport subsidies.

In some cases where a region has low population density and rate payer base, funding could be up to 95% of a region's public transport services, like the Westland region.

W´╗┐hat is the difference between 'subsidised' and 'non subsidised' public transport services

-´╗┐ 'subsidised' public transport is were service/s are funded by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and the respective regional council rate payers, operating as non bookable, frequent 'turn up and go' services.

These services are usually urban. metro and/or regional passenger transport services operating within a regional council boundary.

-´╗┐ 'non subsidised' public transport is were service/s receive no funding from Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and the respective regional council rate payers, operating as scheduled 'book and travel' services.

These services are usually inter-regional and long distance passenger transport services, as they cross regional council boundaries.

How will this affect the traveler

By traveling on a National Public Transport Agency funded bus, light rail 'tram', passenger train and/or ferry service/s, a traveler will be able to 'tap' and travel from Kaitaia in the North Island to Oban in Stewart Island and most communities in-between.

What will inter-city regional passenger trains be like

Inter-city regional and inter-regional passenger trains will be modem, quiet, fast, using clean renewable energy environmentally friendly powered train sets with on board toilet and disable facilities, power points at seat, wifi and some cases an on board Cafe facility.

What about the electric trains in Wellington and Auckland

The current electrified metro rail networks in Wellington and Auckland and the existing regional and inter-regional passenger trains like the Capital Connection train between Wellington and Palmerston North, the Wairarapa Connection train between Wellington and Masterton and the Te Huia train between Hamilton and Wellington, will be funded by the National Public Transport Agency in association with the respective regional councils.

What about travel on long distance buses and passenger trains

These services will not be funded by the National Public Transport Agency, as they are non subsidsied, commercial 'book and travel' services, where a passenger will have to make reservation/s and pay directly with the bus and/or train operator they are planning to travel on.

If any 'book and travel' bus and/or train service operating any route/s, that is providing essential rural community connections, like between Fox Glacier to Wanaka, would receive funding from the National Public Transport Agency, as these services would be deemed to be essential service/s.

Aotearoa New Zealand National Public Transport Network consists of the following components -

Aotearoa New Zealand National Public Transport Network is one of the components of the Connecting Communities Initiative.

For further reading concerning the points raised in this discussion article -

If you support a national public transport network concept, have your say or become proactive by getting involved in local better public transport campaign groups.

The creation of a National Public Transport Network is one of the initiatives of the Public Transport Forum New Zealand.

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