9 May 2019

Auckland Transport lauds its AT Local rideshare scheme, local board members critical

7:08 pm on 9 May 2019

A rideshare scheme that's half way through its trial is being hailed as a success by Auckland Transport but some local board members argue it's a waste of money and should be canned.

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The Auckland Transport Local scheme in Devonport has been called a success by the agency but a failure by local board members. Photo: 123rf

The AT Local scheme in Devonport began last November and uses six electric vehicles to transport residents mostly to and from the ferry at a subsidised cost of $2.50 per ride.

It has been described by critics as financially irresponsible because after almost six months passenger numbers are still short of the target of 1200 to 1400 per week.

But Auckland Transport's general manager of marketing Kevin Leith said the numbers were moving in the right direction.

"Last week we hit our biggest record week of 838 people and it continues to grow quite quickly actually, and probably a little quicker than what we anticipated."

"Given that this is a 12-month trial, we sort of thought it would probably take upwards of the 12-month period in order to get to that 1200 to 1400," he said.

It would take about another three months, and some colder weather, for the scheme to reach its target, according to Mr Leith.

"On the growth of what we're seeing at the moment and as it continues to grow, it's going to be successful, which is fantastic," he said.

"And then I think the bigger question we have is, how are we going to take the success and emulate it to other parts of the city."

Devonport's ride-sharing service is heavily subsidised.

An electric vehicle used in the AT Local Scheme. Photo: RNZ / Eva Corlett

AT was confident in the way the trial was going and that it would hit all its various indicators that would be needed to set up an ongoing regular service.

The set up costs, like the cars and developing the phone app, had been paid by AT, while the NZ Transport Agency had chipped in $475,000 to subsidise the scheme.

But local board member Michael Sheey said despite the recent increases in passenger numbers, the scheme was a flop.

"It hasn't worked, it's something they've tried, it hasn't worked. It's been incredibly unsuccessful and therefore should go," he said.

If passenger numbers reach the weekly target of 1200, the subsidy per ride is about $14 dollars but with the number of rides per week 400 below that target, each ride had to be heavily subsidised, Mr Sheey said.

"The actual figures if you use the same numbers, the subsidy per ride is $41.48 to ride which is unbelievably irresponsible to continue the trial, financially irresponsible," he said.

Transport commentator Matt Lowrie from the website Greater Auckland agreed that the money could be better used.

"It's a lot of money to be spending on what, in my view, is a relatively small number of trips."

"I'm pleased to hear that say that the the number of trips has been increasing, but I still wonder how well that's going to translate to other parts of Auckland," he said.

The chances of a service like AT Local working in Devonport were higher than almost anywhere else in the city, Mr Lowrie said.

"So even if it does work in Devonport it might not work in other places and the problem is that's a lot of money to be spending."

"We could be spending it on a lot of other improvements to public transport networks and walking and cycling.

AT's Mr Leith remained positive about how the trial was tracking and said passenger feedback had been very positive.

He said a decision on the scheme's future and whether it could be rolled out in other parts of Auckland would be made in August or September.

However, Mr Leith wouldn't disclose which other suburbs in the city AT was considering for a rideshare scheme.

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