New look for our buses

The mission is to get more people using the bus; that’s what we hear from our regional council. And to achieve the mission, the buses will get a new teal coloured livery. Ho-hum.

the new livery; image courtesy CCC

Don’t get me wrong. Branding is super important. But I get a bit anxious if our efforts of improving patronage is too strongly tied to something that should be a background issue, supporting those things that really make a difference (and on the traNZport blog, a very similar sentiment was expressed in a post written at the same time). Fact is, the public has a dim view of our public transport system; many wouldn’t be seen dead on a bus. That is markedly different to Auckland or Wellington, where public transport use is much more normal. Earlier this year, Chris published an article where he compared public transport use and deprivation. His finding: rich people in Christchurch stay away from buses, whereas in Auckland and Wellington you don’t have this effect.

a telling graph from the deprivation research mentioned above; image courtesy Chris Morahan

Michael Hayward from Stuff has tried to get his hand onto how much this rebranding exercise costs but, as usual, has been fobbed off. In this information vacuum, let me make some wild guesses:

  • the rebranding exercise costs significantly more to implement than it would cost to implement Zone 0 (a concept that I proposed previously)
  • the teal livery will, by itself, have no effect on patronage numbers
  • Zone 0 would make a big impact on patronage numbers
  • Zone 0 has low operating costs (some loss of revenue) that I predict would be more than covered by turning free (central city) users into paying users

Subsequently, ECan stated that they have a $95k budget for the livery exercise. The first bullet point in the list above stands.

I don’t think that the new livery will turn the poor state of public transport around. Zone 0, on the other hand, does have the potential to reverse the decline in patronage that we’ve had since 2014. Why? My proposal concludes the following:

Zone 0 has many advantages over reintroducing the Shuttle. It gives users much better geographic coverage. It provides much more frequent service on some routes than the Shuttle could provide. The cost to operate the system is tiny. Importantly, it will turn many Zone 0 users into paying bus users outside of the Four Avenues (by giving people the payment system – the Metrocard – and by them familiarising themselves with the public transport network); something that the Shuttle never did. It can reverse people’s negative attitude towards public transport to something that’s seen as useful. It’s an important step in growing our public transport usage.

September 2019 Zone 0 proposal conclusions

Oh, how I wish that our elected members would focus on the things that really mattered.