• Fast and affordable: One of the AT Local buses at the Devonport Ferry Terminal

AT Local makes ridesharing simple

Auckland Transport introduced its first rideshare scheme in November 2018, helping locals get around the Devonport peninsula. Bruce Craig took a ride to find out more about AT Local.

Covering the peninsula from Bayswater and Belmont south to Devonport, Cheltenham and Stanley Bay, the AT Local rideshare service takes passengers to and from the Devonport, Bayswater and Stanley Bay ferry terminals. It also enables passengers to travel to any other location in the rideshare zone.

To get started with the service, I needed to download the AT Local app. This proved an easy task, even for someone as IT challenged as me. Other users agree. The app has earned a rating of 4.88 out of 5 in the most recent customer satisfaction survey and an overall satisfaction rating of 94 per cent.

After filling in the online questions, I gave the app my credit card details and prepared for my first journey – from Belmont to the Devonport Ferry Terminal.

If you have used Uber or Lyft, you will find AT Local similar. If you haven’t, simply follow the prompts on your phone. You can book trips immediately, for up to six passengers, and up to 30 days in advance. The app tells you when your ride will arrive and advises the driver of your destination. The cashless payment, using the app, costs $2.50 per person to one of the ferry terminals (Devonport, Bayswater or Stanley Bay) or $5 to any other location in the rideshare zone. However, you must be 18 years or over to book rides and you can’t ride solo if you are under 14 years.

My ride arrived on time and delivered me to the Devonport ferry terminal in just a few minutes. The van comfortably seats eight passengers and offers disabled access. Unfortunately, I was the only passenger on board but, at 3pm during the school holidays, I could hardly expect a full vehicle. Driver Majeed says the service predictably gets busy during peak hour traffic times and the seats soon fill up.

AT Local uses six vehicles: three LDV EV80 minibuses that each carry eight passengers and three electric-powered Hyundai Ioniqs, which fit four passengers each.

Shane Ellison, Auckland Transport’s chief executive officer, says the idea for the trial came through the Smart Seeds Programme, where young professionals from government/business co-create solutions for the future. He says, “Like AT, most transport agencies are using pilots or trials to see how new mobility, particularly mobility facilitated by new technology, is likely to play out in their city or region. It is a sensible, low-risk, rapid response approach that enables testing and getting real feedback before making big decisions that would impact customer experience. Devonport seemed like a good place for us to trial the AT Local concept, with Lake Road being heavily congested at peak times.”

He says the scheme has enjoyed good success. He explains, “Everything you would expect to get from a pilot has been delivered. The product has evolved. We have had some great learnings and we are now in a better position to look at how we can apply on-demand, shared mobility to more pilots across the Auckland region.”

In the first week of AT Local, customers made just 126 trips on AT Local but by week 52, that had increased to 1232 trips. Shane says, “Patronage is hitting its target with 200 trips being made almost every week day over the last few months.

“The average subsidy per passenger is now approximately $10.30 and still decreasing. The subsidy per passenger on 40 bus routes (among them essential school bus services) are higher, and in some cases much higher than the subsidy per passenger of AT Local.”

If you think that is a lot, consider our Trans-Tasman neighbours in New South Wales, where your fare covers only 32 per cent of the cost of services. The subsidy from the NSW government for transport across the state costs a whopping A$5.8bn. each year.

Shane says, “Throughout AT Local’s time on the road, we have seen an increase in patronage on the two bus routes servicing the local Devonport precinct: Route 806 patronage up by 43 per cent and Route 807 by 60 per cent. As far as tackling congestion, customers appear to be getting used to the idea of sharing a ride with other customers. In Devonport, ride sharing is happening on as many as 49 per cent of all trips in peak periods.

“On-demand services appeal to many customers because you can book a service, meaning you don’t need to rely on a timetable, and it will pick you up much closer to your home. The success of AT Local in Devonport means we see on-demand shared ride services having a future.”

I must agree with Shane. AT Local is easy and relatively inexpensive. Devonport Wharf and the surrounding streets are clogged with commuters’ vehicles during the day. If AT Local can help take some of these wagons off the road, everyone will benefit.

AT Local website https://at.govt.nz/local

Issue 107 March 2020