Last week, Auckland Council unanimously voted to approve the construction of Skypath, the long-overdue walking and cycling link across the Waitemata Harbour. (There is still the hurdle of a potential Environment Court appeal by opponents.) Well done to all the councillors, some of whom had previously expressed scepticism – the city will be better for their votes, and their willingness to rethink an occasionally contentious issue.
In the wake of the Skypath decision, it’s worth taking a look at what’s happened to cycling in the city over the last year. The other week, Bike Auckland published some valuable new analysis of Auckland Transport’s cycle count data. Thanks to AT’s programme of rolling out new cycle counters, we now know a lot more about where people are cycling.
We also know a lot more about the outcomes from recent investments in new safe cycle facilities, such as Grafton Gully, the Pinkpath, Nelson St, and the newly installed Quay St cycleway.
The summary is that these cycle investments have been quite successful. The number of people cycling has increased in locations where safe cycling facilities have been rolled out, while staying relatively constant in other places. (This is, needless to say, good news for the fortunes of Skypath.)
Over to Bike Auckland:
AT is now also reporting the details of those counts much more openly, here. The summary data for June is not available yet – although we have the data for individual locations, as seen on the graphs below – but we do know that in May 2016, cycle numbers were up 22% on May of the year before!
If this growth continues, Auckland may well be the city in New Zealand furthest along on the way to reaching NZTA’s goal of 30% growth in urban cycling by 2018.
…it is pleasing (if not unexpected) to see where the greatest growth is.
Surprise! It’s where new cycleways have been built… and on the routes leading to these new bikeways. This is the network effect – another way of saying ‘the whole is greater than the sum of the parts’ – and it’s really starting to kick in.
And especially on those routes, we see an interesting change – the usual winter drop-off is much shallower than usual, and in some cases hardly seems to be happening. Can it be that, with better cycleways and more company, riders are happier to keep going when it gets chilly, damp, and dark in the evenings? Is Auckland exhibiting a bit of the ‘Viking biking’ spirit of our Scandinavian antipodes?
Richard Easther, one of Bike Auckland’s associates, has done us all the lovely favour of putting those dry numbers into easy-to-grasp visuals, so we can see how and where Auckland biking is growing. Below, see some fascinating graphs of the flows at some of the counters around Auckland…
[Ed note: if you’re not a graphs or data person, two things to note: the numbers up the left hand side show the monthly total of bike trips; and you’ll notice a dip in the middle of each year as winter arrives. What’s striking about the growth on the new and newly connected paths is that not only is the annual ‘high tide’ getting higher, but the ‘low tide’ is too.]
Clearly Beach Road is benefitting from all the improvements, including Grafton Gully and its own Stage II extension. A jump of around a third in many of the months earlier this year!
A few instructive contrasts, and some (brief) added commentary from me.
The first thing has been that new cycle investments in and around the city centre haven’t simply cannibalised existing cycle numbers. Cycle counts on Beach Road (and the off-road Grafton Gully cycleway) are up, in spite of the competition from the PinkPath / Nelson St. And, if you follow the link through, you’ll also see that cycling on Symonds St and K Rd has held steady:
Nelson Street (i.e. through the City itself, not Lightpath) is showing very heavy numbers. The REAL growth here is not visible in the stats: after all, before the protected cycleway opened, this route had just some 5-10 incredibly brave cyclists every morning… now there are several hundred daily, even though the route is still truncated and stops at Victoria St.
The second is that investments in and around the city centre have been followed by significant growth on existing parts of the cycle network. That’s most clearly in evidence on the Northwest Cycleway, which is seeing the largest annual growth ever:
Here’s where the network effect rubber really hits the road, er, off-road cycleway. You can see how the magnetic field of the pink path boom (and the related Grafton Gully effect) has spread far and wide – even more than 5km away, in Kingsland, where numbers are massively up on 2014 and 2015.
And the effect continues at Te Atatu over 10 km away; if the numbers traveling to the city from further out are a bit lower, they’re still really really high (and resisting the usual winter drop-off). Recent cycleway improvements along the causeway will definitely have helped with this.
The third finding is about the dog that didn’t bark: cycle counts on streets that have not seen investments in safe separated cycle facilities. Some of these streets show some minor growth, but by and large demand is not increasing. That’s in evidence on routes like Tamaki Drive:
We see a slight boost on Tamaki Drive – but the real growth will come from Quay Street (now open), Quay Street to Ngapipi (~2017-2018) and Glen Innes-Tamaki (2018). Until then, though, our busiest cycle route continues to pedal along in huge numbers.
And, on the North Shore, East Coast Rd:
Numbers on East Coast Road near Constellation Drive have been static – not surprising, as little cycle investment has occurred in the area in recent years.
The good news is that we can learn from the positive results on and around new separated cycleways. If we want to boost cycling elsewhere in the city – and we should; it’s the cheapest and most efficient way to get around in cities – it’s pretty clear what we should do.
Bisbane, Queensland, Ausdtralia
Welcome to Sunday Reading. I’m phoning in here from Brisbane. On Friday Patrick and Matt gave a talk about urban advocacy and the role of the Blog to a local planning firm Buckley Vann. We’ve enjoyed being able to connect with Greg Vann on several occasions both in Brisbane and Auckland. Greg is busy with an update to the South East Queensland Regional Plan where is has established an impressive public communication program that feels a little bit like our Auckland Conversations. Greg is particularly passionate about equity in cities and he speaks regularly on the subject heading “Fair Cities”.
Greg also has an interesting blog covering a wide range of urban issues. Here is an interesting post taking a long view of the arc of urbanism in Brisbane. It’s the vibe, Brisbane!, Reviewanew.
I reckon Brisbane really came of age in the 1990s. We started to believe that we could do things in our own way, that we had something special here, that our city is different from other places. Since then we have developed a rich history of contemporary subtropical architecture, which is uniquely Brisbane and much admired around the world. My good friend former Vancouver city councillor, Gordon Price, always sings its praise – the use of colour, the blurring of the indoor and outdoor, and public and private space, together with buildings made more interesting because of external treatments that improve environmental performance – shades for temperature control and the like.
How does the quality of cycling infrastructure design influence the usefulness and attractiveness of cycling? Here Henry Grabar describes how crappy cycling is in NYC and compares it to London where they have shifted from compromised designs to fully separated facilities – “Why Bicycling Infrastructure Fails Bicyclists“, Slate.
The city’s 1,000-mile network of bike lanes is riddled with gaps and incongruities. Outside of some very fine greenways, the system rarely measures up to global standards. Our 400 miles of bike lanes free of vehicle traffic are expanding at a rate of just 5 miles a year, and the network is only as strong as its weak points, which can be very weak: Sometimes lanes suddenly switch from one side of the street to the other. Sometimes they end without warning. Cars turn across them without signal permission. Mostly, they are full of double-parked cars. This doesn’t always feel like a big deal: We can ride our bikes in traffic with cars, trucks, and buses. But sometimes it puts us in uncomfortable situations. It certainly doesn’t inspire confidence.
For a glimpse of what could be, we can look to London, where Boris Johnson—yes, that one—helped push through a network of bike lanes physically separated from traffic. (Financial Times reporter Robert Wright recently wrote a delightful dispatch on the differences between riding in the two cities.) London has almost 50 percent more bike journeys per day than New York but fewer bike deaths. Most remarkably, the ratio of cars to bikes in central London has fallen from 11-to-1 in 2000 to 2-to-1 in 2014. In three years, if trends continue, more people will be biking to central London than driving.
Why do bike facilities suck in most American cities? Tom Babin thinks it has something to do with a philosophy known as ‘vehicular cycling”. “The philosophy that has pitted cars against cyclists for the last 40 years is finally dying“, Los Angeles Times.
What would-be cyclists respond to is safety, or at least the perception of it. Most people, when presented with the idea of “bicycle driving,” as Forester sometimes called it, choose not to ride at all. Safety concerns also help explain why simple painted bike lanes have failed to attract cyclists in large numbers. For many tentative cyclists, only a physical separation from moving automobiles can make them feel secure.
From a distance, it’s obvious the notion of vehicular cycling was misguided. Not only did Forester’s theory put cyclists in harm’s way, it generated anger among motorists and taught them to see bikes as nuisances. This enmity, in turn, arguably hamstrung local governments’ efforts to build more and safer infrastructure.
via Stong Towns
Charles Marohn, The Shopping Mall Death Spiral, Strong Town Journal. Chuck and Joe Minnicozzi have teamed up to quantify the costs of sprawl, specifically large format retail. Strong Towns has enlisted been running a series on the “rigged game” that us urban retailing in America.
These buildings require millions of dollars of pipes, streets, sidewalks and curbs to function. When they were originally built, loose money from the Fed along with a myriad of federal, state and local tax incentives made it easy for the Wal-Marts and Bass Pro’s of the world to absorb these costs. Now the cost of maintenance is the city’s, i.e. the local taxpayer.
Walking away from these really bad investments would be easy if it weren’t for the fact that most cities use these “investments” to juice horizontal growth in other, less-accessible areas. So you can ignore that pipe that needs replacing, but then you have to deal with the plethora of housing subdivisions, low-value retail and storage sheds upstream.
Contrast this with the traditional development pattern of the downtown. When one of those businesses close, what happens? We all know: something else takes it place. In our nasty downtown here I’ve seen — in my short life — one storefront be home for dozens of different things, from a pizza restaurant to office space to retail establishment. Downtown, we may not be able to get 48 different kinds of mustard in the same store where I can buy car tires and flannel underwear, but we’re also not going to go broke as a community.
After the malls, the big box stores will be the next species to falter and go on the endangered list. Strip malls and drive-through restaurants may hang around longer and may, in some places, find ways to adapt, but their general model is going to die as well. Cities that tethered their future to this experiment are going to struggle while those that still have a pulse in their core neighborhoods will have a chance at renewed prosperity.
Many people are over commuting long distances. Here’s the story from Melbourne. Katherine Townsend, “Walk to work: the Melburnians ditching the suburbs for inner-city life“, Domain.
He says many buyers from the outer suburbs trying to move to within one kilometre of the city are just “over it”. “They’ve bought into the Great Australian Dream with the quarter-acre block and the free-standing house but the congestion of trying to get to work wears them down. They think ‘if I can save two and a half hours a day, I will’.”
Here’s a House of Lords select committee report on the housing crisis in the UK. Some of the problems cited here are relevant to New Zealand. Daniel Bentley, “Notes on an oligopoly: What did we learn from the Lords’ report on the housing crisis?“, CityMetric.
England needs 300,000 homes a year – not 200,000
The government’s commitment to building 1m homes by 2020 (equivalent to 200,000 a year) will not be enough to meet future demand and tackle the backlog after years of undersupply. “To meet that demand and have a moderating effect on house prices, at least 300,000 homes a year need to be built for the foreseeable future,” the committee says. “Otherwise the average age of a first time buyer will continue to rise.”
Note too that the government is nowhere near hitting even 200,000 a year. Completions last year were just 155,000, just over half what is now recommended.
The large housebuilders restrict output to optimise profits
Private developers alone have neither the ability nor the motivation to build all of the homes we need. The housebuilding market is “oligopolistic”: its business model is to restrict the volume of housebuilding in order to maximise profits.
The government’s reliance on the private sector to meet its housebuilding targets is therefore misguided. “To achieve its target the government must recognise the inability of the private sector, as it is currently incentivised, to build the number of homes needed,” the peers say.
It was a fantastic day for transport in Auckland yesterday with the council’s Finance and Performance committee voting to support the project Skypath and doing so unanimously. Yes even long time opponent George Wood eventually agreed to support the project. It was decision that took over five hours to reach after listening to supporters and opponents of the project including our friends at Bike Auckland and Generation Zero.
The council agreed to the recommendations from the agenda (below) with two amendments from Cathy Casey, that the council support children under 5 using Skypath for free and that dogs on leashes be allowed subject to negotiations with NZTA and health and safety regulations.
That the Finance and Performance Committee recommend to the Governing Body that it:
a) agree to proceed with the SkyPath project and that the hybrid Public Private Partnership proposal is the preferred procurement option to deliver SkyPath.
b) authorise the Chief Executive to enter into all necessary agreements in relation to the SkyPath proposal, subject to minimal financial impacts, and to take any other actions in the Chief Executive’s delegation to facilitate the progress of the project.
c) agree to make appropriate provision for the project in the 2017/18 Annual Plan and the 2018/28 Long-term Plan.
I wasn’t able to be there, but thankfully this is one of the meetings that the council live stream and publish on YouTube. If you’re interested you can watch the various parts of the meeting here.
Barb Cuthbert from Bike Auckland spoke passionately about the project, from about 5 minutes in the first video
One of the funnier interactions of the day involved our friend Niko from Generation Zero. I thought his presentation was strong and effective, on top of which he handled the questions from councillors masterfully, and in particular George Wood and Cameron Brewer. A couple of highlights included:
- George Wood saying to Niko that he’d love to actually meet the people who supported Skypath in Northcote, to which Chris Darby quipped that they’ve been emailing him.
- Shortly after Wood asked Niko if he’d read the NRA submission to which Niko replied only briefly. Wood then followed that asking if he agreed they had some grounds for concerns leading to one of the replies of the day of No I don’t, that’s why I stopped reading”
There were plenty of other funny or noteworthy moments – such as the guy who referenced a truck falling off a cook straight ferry as a health and safety issue for Skypath.
Then there were the comments from councillors themselves. There were a lot of good comments from so many of them which was pleasing to see but also hard to include everything. So I’ll leave it with a few points from George Wood’s speech that I did agree with
- That Skypath should connect directly to Seapath. Where I probably differ from him is that I think it should do that as well as connect to Northcote Point.
- That the NZTA should be funding the full thing. In my view it’s crazy that such a vital piece of transport infrastructure needs to be proposed and funded by a private company because our transport organisations in the past simply ignored cycling. In perhaps a bit of irony, had the private company not been funding this, there is a good chance it would have been included in the Urban Cycleway Funding projects.
Here’s what the council had to say in their press release following the decision.
Auckland’s SkyPath project has been given the go-ahead to be delivered through a public private partnership, after a unanimous decision at today’s Finance and Performance Committee.
Auckland Council’s Governing Body will formalise the decision at their next meeting on Thursday 28 July.
Mayor Len Brown says SkyPath is a uniting project that brings Auckland together.
“In a short space of time we have made Auckland a cycle city – and this is the vital link for walkers and cyclists.”
The partnership with H.R.L Morrison and Co’s Public Infrastructure Partnership Fund (the PIP Fund) is set to be the first of its kind for significant infrastructure in Auckland by the council.
The public private partnership means construction, operation and maintenance of SkyPath would be financed and delivered by the PIP Fund for the contract period and there would be an admission charge for users of SkyPath.
The council would then provide a limited underwrite of the revenue. This means if minimum revenue streams from fares and sponsorship etc are not met, council will need to top-up funds to meet a pre-agreed amount. In turn, if profits reach a certain level, council and the Auckland Harbour Bridge Pathway Trust will receive a share in these.
Auckland Council would also receive ownership rights and obligations at the end of the contract period.
Lastly, with this meeting, one thing that stands out to me is just how long it took. As mentioned it took over five hours of sometimes intense debate for councillors to agree on a critical project for the region being built by a private developer and for which the council have a very limited exposure to. Yet this same council will hand wave through a $2 billion roading project like the East West Link with barely a question or concern.
Still, lets celebrate a fantastic result and thank you to all who have helped make it happen. Now we just need to wait for the envrionment court appeal to be sorted and lets get this thing built.
The next revolution of public transport in Auckland now has a date, August 14. That’s the day that the city will finally shed its clumsy and expensive fare system with Auckland Transport finally implementing what they call Simplified Fares, also known as integrated fares, which will be smarter and in many cases cheaper.
Currently Auckland has a stage based system where you pay for every bus, train you use based on how many stages you pass, with only a small transfer discount for those that use multiple services. With Simplified Fares it will shift to paying one fare for your total trip based on how many zones you travel within and that includes using up to five services to get to your destination over a four-hour period. Even better is the cost for most trips is set to get significantly cheaper for a lot of people thanks to the new fare structure.
The confirmed fare map is below and AT say this about it.
Zone overlap areas (grey coloured areas on the new fare zones map) at some zone boundaries allow for travelling to the edge of the zone borders without crossing into another zone.
The zone overlaps are much more defined than they were in the consultation which is good and there are a few new/bigger ones too, such as at Westgate and Otahuhu
And here is the fare table
With an AT HOP card, you will pay for one entire journey from A to B, instead of paying the fare on each bus or train separately.
During your journey:
- You can use up to 5 buses or trains within 4 hours, just ensure you transfer between each trip within a maximum of 30 minutes.
- Tag on and off each bus and train as you do now and simply count the number of zones you travel through to find out your fare.
As mentioned for many fares will get cheaper or at least not get more expensive, in fact AT advised me that they calculated 99% of all trips taken will fall into that category which is great news. As an example of just how much cheaper this makes trips, here are a few personal examples. They don’t entirely reflect the costs I pay as I usually use a monthly pass simply due to how expensive it can be but that also makes it a good example.
I live not far from the Sturges Rd train station and travel to Takapuna. This usually involves me catching a train to town and since the bus changes for the CRL transferring to up to two buses, a Northern Express to get me to the Victoria St bus stop where I transfer again to a bus going direct to Takapuna (as an alternative I sometimes catch the NEX to Akoranga and transfer to a local bus or walk). If I was to use normal HOP fares that would be:
- 5-stage train to Britomart = $6.00
- 1-stage bus to Victoria Park = $1.30 ($1.80-50c transfer discount) – I could reduce this to $0 if I used the City Link or walked up to Wellesley St but both are less convenient.
- 2-stage bus to Takapuna = $2.60 ($3.10-50c transfer discount)
- Total = $9.90
Instead with Simplified Fares I would pay for 4-zones, Waitakere, Isthmus, City and Lower North Shore and all up that would be $6.00. That’s a saving of $3.90. Even if I was just going to the city, for 3-zones I would be paying $4.90, a saving of $1.10 over the current HOP price.
If you don’t use HOP – why wouldn’t you and now over 80% of trips are by HOP – cash fares are changing too. The fares have been rounded to a dollar amount which should help make it easier for drivers needing to give change. See AT’s website for those details.
In addition to the zonal fares, AT have introduced a new child weekend fare which looks good with a maximum trip cost of 99c for using HOP with a child concession.
A new AT HOP child weekend fare will be the most you pay for weekend and public holiday bus and train journeys when paying with an AT HOP card with a child concession applied (excluding SkyBus services).
You can take up to 5 bus or train trips over a 4 hour period with a maximum transfer time of 30 minutes between each trip and pay a maximum 1 zone fare (99 cents from 14 August 2016) regardless of how many zones you cross.
Like the monthly pass, AT are also moving to a single Daily Pass which will cover all zones. It also comes with a price change and will be $18 as opposed to the two passes it replaces being $16 and $22. I can’t imagine too many would buy this. AT have said in the past, and reconfirmed to me recently that they want to eventually move to having daily and weekly fare caps which would solve this issue.
At this stage the new fares only cover buses and trains. I’m aware that AT plan to integrate ferries into the mix although that doesn’t necessarily mean there will be fare parity. We’ll have to wait to hear more about this from AT.
Overall this is going to be great for Auckland and I can’t wait for it to be implemented.
This is a guest post submitted by reader Harriet.
Town Centre Upgrade
We talk so much about how to make the CBD more pedestrian friendly by removing general traffic, and concentrating on public transport and active modes instead, but do we do this enough for our town centres? For the CBD we talk about traffic calming, diverting and even removal of cars for places like Queen Street, so why don’t we apply the same logic to our town centres?
Town centres for the most part sit along main arterial roads. As Auckland has expanded outwards, and over time became more auto focused, these roads have increasingly become through routes for people driving past, rather than functioning as places. Let’s think about the CBD. Is Queen Street a through route arterial or is it focused on access? Policies especially since the 90’s have encouraged motorists to use orbital routes by reducing the speed limits on Queen Street, Barnes Dance crossings, and street upgrades to encourage pedestrian access. In the future Queen Street could become a pedestrian mall with LRT (Light Rapid Transit, or light rail). In a way Symonds Street, Albert/Nelson/Hobson are like western and eastern ring roads. Most motorists therefore freely elect to use these orbital routes. So can applying the same principles to our town centres which presently have radial through roads and instead change it up investing in orbital routes instead which will allow traffic to still flow around, but leaving our Town Centres free for people. Could this be a win win?
Mt Albert was once a strong historical town centre with access to the old tram network, it has now fallen into decay. The local board has lately fought for revival and DART has brought an upgraded station but people still flock to St. Lukes Mall or the CBD. Anyone who has been to Mt Albert can see that New North Road is used as a through route for people driving to New Lynn, Avondale and further afield, not for people coming to Mt Albert. New North Road thus has been upgraded for this purpose being a dual carriageway through the town centre, not including the protected parking on the station side and on-street parking on the other side. Traffic lights are phased for vehicle flow and the walkways remain decayed and cracked. All this creates a seriously unfriendly environment for pedestrians and shoppers. The new town centre plan really does little to change this. It keeps the same amount of lanes, not adding in any real cycle or bus priority with really token improvements to aesthetics.
Tram heading to Mt Albert
What if we treated Mt Albert the same way we would treat Queen Street, or even the ways other cities would treat their own versions of Queen Street? What if we wanted our town centres to be destinations, not another set of traffic lights? What if we wanted to create great town centres for people without even hurting traffic flows? It’s possible, if just like the CBD here and in other cities we think orbital not radial.
Here is my alternative proposal. If we rail-bridged the Woodward Road level crossing (which needs to be done regardless) and if we diverted New North Road down Carrington Road and Woodward , we would remove one level crossing and create a bypass of Mt Albert Town Centre. From the Woodward Road/Richardson Road intersection to the Mt Albert Road/Carrington Road intersection there would be a section of road completely free from general traffic. The area especially on the NAL (Western Line Side) is mostly post-war low density retail, light industrial, re-purposed warehouses and a service station. If we pedestrianised the old New North Road this would leave enough room for cycle lanes, shops to re-purpose the old walkways into outdoor space and of course plenty of space for pedestrians. If up-zoned to allow mixed use and higher density this would create plenty of area for apartments, offices and retail right next to Mt Albert Station and a future light rail terminus for the Sandringham Road LRT, all without drastically affecting traffic flows. Traffic instead would use the orbital route or potentially switch to SH16 when the upgrades including Waterview are completed.
Objections would be:
- Parking (always parking) – Study after study has shown that retail owners greatly overestimate the amount of customers who come by car compared to active modes and PT. That after improvement to active modes & PT more customers tend to visit not less. Also, with more residents as part of the mixed use potential development, there will be a larger base of local shoppers who can simply walk to the centre.
- Bus Access – In the long run, before 2023, it is possible to have both Sandringham Road LRT which could potentially terminate at Mt Albert and likely to have the CRL with potentially 5 minute frequencies to Henderson and the City plus a 3 train per hour crosstown service. We are moving to a best practice bus network which would mean there will be significantly fewer New North Road buses after the CRL, as well as Electric Buses which will be more Town Centre friendly due to less pollution both noise & air. In the short run buses could use the Town Centre with strict rules on idling & speed restrictions.
- It will create a negative outcome for some on the new orbital route – Perhaps in some ways, however, the proximity of the town centre and increased transport options would likely increase their property values and they would have access to the improved town centre. Also, Woodward Road is busy at present and the removal of the level crossing would be of great benefit to the residents.
- Wouldn’t it be better to just reduce the traffic? Possibly. However, I wanted to show a win-win situation where through motorists wouldn’t realistically be affected travel wise and the local people would have their town centre returned to them. Who doesn’t love win-win?
If we think orbital and not radial is it possible we could have a Swanston Street in every town centre in Auckland, such as Kingsland, Mt Eden, Glen Innes, Sandringham, Avondale, New Lynn, Ellerslie and more?
Is it possible that with a little creative thinking, town centres can become great places just like CBDs or like Santa Monica Promenade? What do you think, any ideas of your own? Also, let me know in the comments if you would like this to become a series as I do have ideas for the above.
Santa Monica Promenade
It seems like only yesterday and at the same time forever ago that Auckland finally rolled out electric trains across the region (except for Pukekohe). Yesterday marked one full year since electric trains rolled out to all lines. Electrification was the result of a strategy a decade in the making but the originated in dreams and discussion going back to at least the 1920’s.
Since going all electric the results have been fantastic and the constant increases in train use have been both impressive and staggering. In the last year alone patronage has gone up by 2.9 million trips and AT say that over the last 12 months just under 17 million trips have been made, an increase of over 20%. The sparks effect in action. The growth has been so strong that we’ve surpassed usage predictions originally set a decade earlier despite implementation occurring two years after initially planned. Those predictions expected us to hit about 15.7 million by the end of the June 2016 (rounded up to 16m). Instead we surpassed that mark in April and as of 30 June hit 16.8 million trips in one year.
Shortly after all services went electric, the final of the 57 trains we ordered arrived in the country but it definitely won’t be the last. With growth exceeding expectations and a lot more expected, even before the CRL is complete, we’ll soon need some more.
AT are also keen to having electric trains run all the way to Pukekohe but doing isn’t cheap and estimated at over $100 million just for the infrastructure. As such, AT have been working with supplier of the trains to investigate the option of battery powered versions. As I understand it they would be exactly the same trains as we have with about 10 fewer seats in the middle/trailer car which is where the four-tonne battery along with associated equipment would go. By being otherwise identical it means that in the future if we ever did install wires the batteries could be removed and the trains would be identical to what we already have. As the services would go all the way through to the city, buying a batch of them would then free up some of the current trains to add capacity to services. One of the biggest issues is that even if the government approved funding for the trains tomorrow they would take at least two years to get here.
Below are some figures from AT.
- Patronage has risen by 2.9 million trips
- Trains have travelled 3.8 million kilometres over the last year
- There are now 158,000 rail services operated a year
- The busiest time on the network is between 7.30 and 8 on weekday mornings
- Britomart is the busiest station and at peak in the morning there are 6,500 passengers using the station an hour
- Punctuality for services has improved from 82 to 96 percent – although some of that is due to lengthened timetables
- For the year to April (the last data available at the time of writing), farebox recovery has increased from 30.4% to 37.7%. The cost per passenger km travelled has decreased 27% from $0.469 to $0.343.
But while there has been some great news as a result of the move to electrification, we still haven’t yet seen much in the way of speed improvements and the train timetables are slower today than they were with diesel trains. This has been due to a combination of factors including dwell times, line speeds, signalling issues etc. Last year Auckland Transport started working on a big list of initiatives to improve the trains including making them faster and more reliable. Some of those tasks have been completed and are contributing to the improved performance figures but others, such as improving dwell times remain a distant dream.
I understand the next timetable change, which is likely to be in February, will finally incorporate the benefits from some of the initiatives into improving performance. Whether that will include any changes to dwell times remains to be seen.
Overall the improvements to rail services and the network have been considerable and very welcome. AT’s target for this year is for rail patronage to hit 19.5 million trips. With the growth we’re seeing and what can be expected in the next few years following integrated fares and the new network we should see that mark easily reached.
When going through the City Rail Link business case for yesterday’s post, I left out one aspect I thought readers might be quite interested in, details about the stations being added or upgraded as part of the project. They say
Station entrances have been designed to address the needs of each station in terms of function, performance and personality, as well as the needs of the particular urban context into which they are to be inserted. Effort has been made in placing and configuring the above-ground components of the station entries and other station components to maximise local benefits. This included consideration of:
- potential for architectural treatments and materiality
- scale, massing and form
- activation of street frontages
- preserving important heritage structures
- transit oriented developments
- potential to explore inclusion of Iwi cultural landscape and design themes.
Aotea Station platform
On to the details about the stations themselves, this is laid out in the the table below
Britomart will get three additional escalators but also lose one entrance. With a reduction to four platforms post-CRL I’m guessing some of the new escalators could relate to improving access at the eastern end of the station. As for losing an entrance, AT have said the gateline will be moved from the platform level up to the CPO so this might suggest the entrance out the back of the CPO could close.
Aotea will have a lot of escalators including about four sets to/from the platform. It’s also good to see them stating that the station is future proofed for a future North Shore line – which would be under Wellesley St. The only concern is that the platform is quite narrow at only 9.6m for what will be the busiest station on the network but I guess the various escalators will help somewhat in moving people.
The Karangahape Rd station platforms are a little narrower but the station isn’t expected to be quite as busy. In the post yesterday I highlighted how they expect up to 34,000 during the AM peak. The report suggests about 20% of that will go to K Rd while Aotea and Britomart get around 40% each. As a rough guess that seems about the same width as some of stations in other parts of the network. It’s worth pointing out that side platform aren’t really on the outside like other stations but more like two halves to an island platform with cross passages directly between them.
Of course it’s a shame that they’re not building the Beresford St entrance as that would make the station more useful.
Karangahape Station Platform
If you’re interested in how the stations will be built, the info below gives some idea.
Construction for Aotea Station will be staged so that only one of Victoria Street, Wellesley Street and Custom Street West is closed at any one time. As Aotea Station is on the critical path, early enabling works to divert the stormwater culvert in Albert Street are planned to reduce the overall construction programme.
Components of the Station construction include:
- southern construction yard and shaft
- Wellesley Street West intersection structural works covering relocation of the street furniture and utilities, constructing the roof slab and reinstating the Albert Street/Wellesley Street intersection for public use, constructing the station box to platform level, the structures for the station entrance, ventilation, and mechanical and electrical equipment. The base slab at platform level will be designed to span the tunnel works for the future North Shore Line. This section of the station is on the critical path as it must be completed to receive the TBM from the first tunnel bore.
- Victoria Street intersection structural works covering the street furniture, utilities relocation, constructing the roof slab and reinstating the Albert Street/Victoria Street intersection for public use, construction of the station box to platform level from the adjacent section and the structures for thestation escape passage and entrance
- Durham Street intersection structural works including carefully removing the heritage bluestone wall (for reinstatement on completion), construction of the roof slab and reinstatement of the Albert Street/ Durham Street intersection for public use, and construction of the station box to platform level. This section of Aotea Station is on the critical path, as it must be completed before the rail track installation works can proceed to Britomart Station.
After completion of the tunnelling and structural works, the station will be accessible for fit-out.
The construction sequence for Karangahape station needs site preparation, service protection/diversion, and demolition of existing buildings followed by construction of the main entrance shafts, excavation of the sloped entrance escalator shafts, and construction of the permanent works after the mined tunnels have been completed. The Mercury Lane shaft must be completed before the down main TBM reaches this location. After completion of the tunnelling and structural works, the stations will be accessible for fit-out.
In May the government announced a package to try and increase the number of electric vehicles in New Zealand as a way of reducing emissions – a laudable goal but some of the government’s proposed some measures missed the mark. At or at least near the top of the list was the idea to allow for electric cars to use bus lanes and the Northern Busway.
Enabling electric vehicles to access bus and high occupancy vehicle lanes
Access by electric vehicles to bus and high occupancy vehicle lanes (lanes where a vehicle must have more than a certain number of occupants) will be of value to households and businesses. Access to such lanes will mean electric vehicles will be able to travel more quickly than vehicles otherwise held up in traffic.
At the same time, the changes will also empower road controlling authorities to allow electric vehicles into special vehicle lanes (such as bus lanes) on their local roading networks.
The Government will make changes to the Land Transport Act and Rules to allow electric vehicles to drive in bus and high occupancy vehicle lanes on the State Highway network, which it controls. One example is the Northern Busway in Auckland.
As I said at the time, the idea is madness and defeats the whole purpose of having bus lanes which is to make buses:
- faster, making them more attractive to use and can also make them time competitive with driving.
- more efficient, because buses are faster they can run more services can be run for the same cost or alternatively fewer vehicles and drivers may be needed
- more convenient as if they allow more services to be run it means higher frequencies so less time waiting at bus stops.
- more reliable as they’re more likely to arrive at stops and the final destination on time.
It’s now been revealed by the Herald that the government ignored advice to at least consult with councils first before announcing the idea and highlighting that at least one council is ruling it out.
Andy Foster of the Wellington City Council said his city had the country’s highest rate of public transport use “by far” and did not foresee it opting for the change.
“Traffic getting in the buses’ way is not conducive to maintaining reliable timetables.”
Foster, who chairs the council’s transport and urban development committee, said he saw “no chance” that electric vehicles would be allowed to use the city’s bus-only lanes.
“Bus lanes are generally very well respected by motorists. If some vehicles start using bus lanes because they are [electric] there is a greater risk that others which are not [electric] will do so too.”
They also say Auckland Transport and the Christchurch City Council seem cool on the idea although the NZTA say they have begun initial discussions with Auckland Transport to investigate the potential of permitting electric vehicles on the Northern Busway
Back when this policy was announced I sent an Official Information Act request to the Ministry asking for details relating to the idea. I received back some excepts from a report looking at options for promoting EVs but it had been sitting in my inbox for a while. It includes the suggestion that the Minister consult councils on the idea first as well as a few other interesting comments. For example, not only did they recommend talking to road controlling authorities (RCAs) first, they say the NZTA expects none of the major RCAs would implement it.
I find the point that the NZTA highlighted that such and idea was unlikely to work as the RCAs wouldn’t want to implement it as much more damning than the fact he didn’t consult with them
They expand a bit on the efficiency impact portion below highlighting that it will likely impact PT and general traffic congestion. Even more so bottom paragraph below confirms the bus lanes will be full soon but that people will still want to drive in them.
As a way of implementing the idea, it was suggested to either use legislation to declare EVs as allowed in all bus or transit lanes or give RCA’s the power to decide on what lanes to allow EVs to use. Thankfully the Minister at least chose the second option but given the responses above, it seems unlikely to they’ll approve having EVs in bus lanes. That raises the prospect despite the government suggesting it, it won’t actually be possible anywhere. That in turns means the whole point of the policy would be a flop and will have wasted precious resource from the ministry. I wonder if the government will quietly drop it.
Of course if they really want to get more use out of bus lanes one idea would be to provide more funding to put more buses on which would have the added benefit of making PT much more useful.
Back in April Auckland Transport released a summary of a business case they’d produced for internal use to help with their planning and procurement for the project. The new business case took into account all of the changes to the project that have been made over the years as well as AT’s improved understanding of the project and other changes within Auckland. The business case found the project has a Benefit Cost Ratio of 1.6-1.7 thanks to $2.96 – $3.2 billion in benefits coming from the project.
Last week the herald triumphantly announced that the cost of the CRL had blown out by a cool $500 million up to $3 billion but as I wrote following that article, the actual cost was $2.5 billion +/-20%. So it could be that when tendered the project comes in lower than currently expected. The cost blowout was overblown. While looking at some details for that article, I found that Auckland Transport had actually published the full business case online (8MB), not just the summary like they had earlier.
While the summary was useful, the full business case contains a lot of information and so with this post I thought I’d have a look at some of it.
The first thing that I noticed is the report pulls a lot of history and previous reports together as part of explaining why the project so important. Perhaps one day I’ll do a post in more detail about this info but if not, I’m sure it will be a useful resource for students and studies in the future.
The diagram below can take a bit to understand but shows roughly where, when and how construction will take place across the entire project.
Related to construction, this comment caught my eye as part of talk of altering some designations (page 50).
Changes to provide for the relocation of ventilation equipment at Aotea Station to Kingston Street and the associated relocation of the Bluestone Wall (approximately 3m to east)
I’m guessing in part this is about providing better footpaths along this part of Albert St.
This diagram shows the cross section for the bored tunnels. They say it needs an indicative internal tunnel diameter of 6.24m.
The report gives an indication as to the capacity the rail network will have once the CRL is built.
Once the principal constraint has been addressed, with the CRL turning Britomart into a through station, it will be possible to run up to 24 services per hour, each way, through the Link, with initial plans for 18 services per hour in the peaks. Ultimately, advanced systems and further investment might see that figure rise to 30 services per hour.
Currently Britomart is limited to 20 trains arriving per hour so we go from that to 36 an hour with the CRL initially and up to 24 in the future while we might eventually get up to 30 an hour. They say that whilst the actual operating plan will be confirmed closer to the opening date, the running pattern below is what they used for planning and modelling purposes.
They’ve say the planning is based modelled demand and capacity needed for each line. The western line is used as an example:
Figure 13 below shows as an example how train capacity was matched against predicted demand by decade by line, in this case the Western Line for 2023. The capacity line represents 6 tph x 3 car service starting from Swanson, 3 tph x 3 car service starting from Henderson and a 3 tph x 3 car peak overlay starting from Henderson. Similar analysis was carried out for other lines and decades.
Over time, as demand increases, as the fleet size is increased, an increasing number of trains can be lengthened to 6 car operation, and the span of operation of the peak overlay can increase from 1 hour to 3.
This suggests the plans are to only run 3-car trains at the opening of the CRL. As covered later, I think they’re underestimating just how popular the CRL will be and given we already have 6tph, some of which are 6-cars in length, and on some services they’re getting full I think AT will need to revisit this. I’m also personally unhappy that despite the CRL there is no service improvement past Henderson (or at Manukau).
One last interesting comment on this, they say “until sufficient level crossings are addressed on the western line, a Henderson – Otahuhu service has no capacity to operate”.
There has been a lot of modelling on patronage – although like most previous predictions we’ve seen I think they’re on the low side. The CRL will be transformational and change like that is hard to correctly predict when using models that are based on current habits.
The table below shows the current and predicted AM peak trips to the city (CRL includes the three CBD stations).
It is expected that about 40% of that growth (green) comes from people otherwise using buses (but they may still use a bus to get to a station), the remainder is from new trips or those who would otherwise have driven. I’m a bit sceptical about just how much impact the CRL will have for buses as from memory Britomart was meant to decimate bus usage but it has grown too. Also the table below shows where patronage is expected to change. It seems unlikely that some of those routes will see any impact at all, for example on Richmond Rd.
As part of the modelling, the future patronage projections were updated to reflect the surge in usage we’ve been seeing in the last few years – but only for the short term and so they decided to leave the long term predictions unchanged. They say that “it is clear that this is highly conservative” and my gut feeling is that after opening we’ll quickly see usage rise to hit 45 million rail trips a decade or more sooner than they suggest. The biggest limiting factor is likely to be that we won’t have enough trains due to the wrong modelling saying they aren’t needed yet.
The summary document talked about how just within the CRL footprint there was 4.9ha of developable land with a potential floor space of 210,000m² to 250,000m² and which has an estimated value of $1.2-$1.4 billion. The business case also looks wider development across the city enabled by the CRL. They say modelling suggests the CRL will increase the feasibility for new dwellings within rail station catchments by 41% from about 40,000 to around 57,000. It’s also worth noting that the Mt Eden figure excludes the land counted earlier as part of the CRL footprint.
As mentioned the CRL has a BCR of 1.6-1.7 depending on the growth scenario and using the standard NZTA evaluation manual. That BCR stacks up even under higher discount rates and cost sensitivity testing.
For those economist types, the report breaks down all of the various components of the benefits that have been calculated.
The table below shows the capital costs of the CRL inflated to the expected dollars of the day.
This shows the costs by year
Operating costs are estimated at around $50m per annum when the project opens rising to nearly $80 million by 2046. As a comparison, last I saw we spend around $100 million on running trains in Auckland and the report suggests that due to the CRL providing shorter routes there will be savings on the running costs outside of the tunnel. The estimate that in the first year there will be around $20 million in additional fares from the CRL but that will also be related to the anaemic growth they expect.
Overall I thought there was some fascinating additional information within the business case.
This Wednesday the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand is running a seminar on our future with climate change. It’s open to the general public as well as IPENZ members, so come along if you’re interested in the topic.
Apologies for the formatting on their advert; I couldn’t figure out how to copy it across properly:
IPENZ Transportation Group Auckland invites members to:
Our Future With Climate Change
A joint event with EECA, NZPI and CILT. This event is free and open to the public.
“This event will be looking at what a sustainable transport future for NZ looks post the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference…both now and then into the 2040s…What will our energy patterns and sources look like? How will we be travelling? What will we be travelling in? Why will we be travelling? How resilient will our future be? How will energy help and hinder us?”
Date: 20th July 2016
Venue: Studio One (the Artstation), 1 Ponsonby Rd Ponsonby, Auckland.
Time: 5:00pm – Drinks and networking (There is a free bar tab so come in early!)
6:00pm – Presentations