With perhaps the shortest notice ever, we have now learned the extent to which public transport fares are going to rise on October 1st because of the hike in GST from 12.5% to 15%. Here’s ARTA’s media release:
Public Transport fares to rise in line with GST increase
The Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA) announced today the government’s GST increase will come into effect for all public transport fares in Auckland starting on Friday
1st October 2010.
Fullers Waiheke Island service, tourist and other charter service fares will increase on Friday 1st October. Other fare increases for bus, train and most ferry services will come into effect on Sunday 3rd October.
ARTA’s General Manager, Customer Services, Mark Lambert, said “It is important that all customers check the MAXX website www.maxx.co.nz or call the contact centre for full details and to get a breakdown of the changes in fares so they are prepared.”
First reading this media release my thought was “well that’s incredibly unhelpful, what are the actual fare rises?” In yet another indictment of Auckland’s stupidly complex ticketing system, we have to go to not only one webpage, but a whole pile of them to find out what the actual fare rises are. For my one stage bus ride, the price goes up from $1.70 to $1.80 (although as I used stored value that will knock a measly 10% off the fare). This is a bit galling as the fare already went up 10c back in January this year – although I guess to be generous to ARTA they didn’t know the government would raise GST.
A single stage rail fare has also gone up from $1.50 to $1.60. It seems a bit strange that another opportunity was missed to better align rail fares and bus fares – something that is surely inevitable once we have integrated ticketing up and running. Once good thing to see is that it seems as though the monthly passes have not increased in cost – which is excellent as I think we should be encouraging more and more people to purchase unlimited ride passes (as they will be likely to use PT for non-work trips if it’s “free”).
I would have done a few things different though:
- Raised the cash fares a bit more, but made it so that stored value cards give a 20% discount on the cash fare rather than only a 10% discount. The more people using cards for PT, the faster boarding will be (particularly once we get a contactless smart card).
- Looked at the fare change as an opportunity to phase out multi-journey rides, instead replacing them with stored value. This would have involved allowing university students to access the 40% discount they get on stored value and monthly passes, not just on multi-journey passes.
- Raised rail fares more than buses, perhaps not to the extent of complete alignment between the two – but to bring it closer to alignment. The sooner we head down this track the better as it means there won’t be a sharp and nasty fare correction later on to match the two up.
I would have also announced the details a bit sooner. We’ve known about the rise in GST since May.
I’ve noticed a few construction sites as I head around the city that I know are (or look like) new parking building being built. They are:
- The large parking building being built on Quay Street
- A small building at the intersection of Dominion and View Roads
- A three or four story building on the site of the University of Auckland’s Medical School across the Auckland Hospital
Is any one able to shed a bit of light on these sites?
If all three are parking buildings I have to say it is a bit of a blow for public transport. Consider the locations:
- The Quay Street parking building is within walking distance of the Britomart interchange
- Dominion Road is the busiest bus route in the city
- The University of Auckland Medical School is on the central connector
Recently a very large parking building was built at Mt Eden Prison, a few hundred metres from the new Grafton station.
Maybe we haven’t got over that 1950′s parking thinking yet.
So we are now on the final stretch of our holiday, with just a few days to go before returning to NZ. Today we caught an Amtrak train from Washington DC to New York, which is a pretty pleasant 3 hour journey.
Washington DC is a pretty impressive place, with its grand museums, grand National Mall and grand pretty much everything else you could think of. Of course on a transport blog, how could I talk about DC and not mention its Metro. Of a similar vintage to the Montreal Metro, the DC Metro is basically everything that is right about late 20th century public transport projects (I will talk about it’s history and quality a bit more when I am not blogging via an iPad). One thing that really stands out about the DC metro is the architecture,with all the stations underground having a very similar design. It made for some fantastic photos that I will share when back in NZ.
With just a few days left in the holiday I am starting to think about the million posts I have to write when I get back. So I have a few questions/requests for you readers.
1) What bits of my holiday, particularly in terms of transport and urban issues observations, are you interested in hearing more about. Cities I can comment on include New York, Boston, Montreal, Quebec City and Washington DC.
2) What NZ stories have I really missed and should blog about ASAP?
Last Tuesday Parliament passed the Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Act. Put simply this act allows the Minister for Earthquake Recovery, Gerry Brownlee, to amend any law he wants, apart from 5 constitutional laws and the right of Habeus Corpus, via Orders in Council (OIC). The Act removes the right for judicial review, so any decision he makes cannot be challenged in court. It’s worrying from a democratic stand point but one of the first OIC related to transport:
(b) regulations 5(1) and 18 of the Heavy Motor Vehicle Regulations 1974; and
(c) sections 4 and 5 of the Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Dimensions and Mass 2002
(1) While this order is in force, a person who operates a heavy motor vehicle and complies with subclause (2) is exempt from—
- (a) sections 16 and 43 of the Land Transport Act 1998; and
So essentially I think Joyce is getting his 53 ton trial, just without paying a political price by us pointing out it is economically and fiscally dangerous. I think it may make it easier to sell here in Auckland too – “it worked so well in Canterbury”, etc.
I was pretty gutted to miss it, but on Saturday the Onehunga Line reopened to passenger trains for the first time in 37 years. Jon C at Aucklandtrains has extensive coverage, including photos, of the opening. It seems like the opening event went incredibly well, with a huge crowd turnout. Furthermore, mentions of rail to the airport were very popularly received.
The NZ Herald also had an article, here are some extracts:
Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee, a long-time proponent of reopening the Onehunga line to passengers, said the huge turnout yesterday indicated a seachange in the way Aucklanders viewed rail passenger transport.
Referring to the Onehunga and New Lynn rail developments, he said people would look back on September 2010 as the day the phrase “Aucklanders never get out of their cars” lost its meaning.
Transport Minister Steven Joyce said the developments were a step towards Auckland becoming an “efficient and prosperous world class city”.
New network-wide timetables began yesterday, with more than 400 extra train trips a week across Auckland, about a 25 per cent increase in services according to ARTA chairman Rabin Rabindran.
I’m very much looking forward to catching the train out to Onehunga on the weekend to do shopping at DressSmart, and to check out the awesome second hand bookshop there. Will certainly beat trying to find parking.
A couple of weeks back I blogged about an NZ Herald article which cited a survey to note that transport was Auckland’s biggest issue in the lead-up to the Super City election, and perhaps more importantly – that most Aucklanders felt that the transport situation could most be improved through better public transport, rather than building more roads. This paragraph from the original article was the most intriguing:
Transport is the single most important issue for 27 per cent of survey respondents. And 44 per cent of voters say improving the train services should be the top priority for the new council.
Today we see another article in the NZ Herald confirming that Aucklanders really do want rail improvements more than anything else – at least in terms of big ticket transport projects. Here’s an excerpt:
Rail to the airport has emerged as the most important transport priority in Auckland in the latest Herald-DigiPoll survey on the Super City.
In something of a surprise, 23.5 per cent of respondents voted for a rail link, ahead of improving the roading system (18.4 per cent) and a new harbour crossing (17.7 per cent).
Next was rail to the North Shore (15 per cent), a CBD rail loop (8.6 per cent), extending the Northern Motorway to Wellsford (8.4 per cent) and expanded ferry services (1.4 per cent).
When it comes to a new harbour crossing, 59.7 per cent said it should be a road and rail tunnel, 17.3 per cent a road tunnel and 16.5 per cent a bridge.
If we ignore the specific projects for a second and focus on a “rail versus roads” divide, we see that 47.1 per cent of respondents wanted one of the three big rail projects (rail to airport, CBD tunnel or North Shore Rail) as their number one transport priority. By contrast, 26.8 per cent specified either improving the roading system or building the Puhoi-Wellsford holiday highway. I’ve left out “new harbour crossing” from either group as most people want it to contain both road and rail.
I agree with the article that it is something of a surprise to see “rail to the airport” as the number of preferred project. While I think it’s something Auckland certainly does need, in my opinion the CBD rail tunnel is more essential. The primary reason for that, something that most people probably don’t know, is that until we have the CBD rail tunnel we will not have the capacity in the rail system to allow the other major rail projects to be constructed.
All in all, I think it’s incredibly promising to see the level of support for improving Auckland’s rail system. Remember the proportion of Aucklanders who actually use the rail system on a daily basis is fairly low, so obviously there appears to be an understanding that even those who continue to drive will benefit from there being a better rail system. It also suggests, I think, a general desire in the population to use the rail system, if only it went where they want to go. Clearly, Aucklanders want a better rail system – who’s going to give it to them?
It has been a while since my last blog post, partly because finding internet cafes in Montreal and Quebec City has been a little bit more of a challenge than finding internet in the USA was. It has been good to experience a part of the world a bit different to what I’m used to – particularly in terms of the language. Although my French is sadly pretty much non-existent.
In terms of transport observations, the Montreal Metro is particularly worthy of mention. Out of Montreal, Boston and New York’s metro/subway systems, it definitely feels as though Montreal is the city most concerned about its system – in terms of making the stations pleasant, keeping riders well aware of when the next train is and so on. Now that’s not at all to say that Boston and New York have poor systems: in Boston a train seemed to turn up immediately just about every time we arrived at a platform, indicating pretty damn high frequencies (or the most uncanny good luck ever). In New York, the four-tracking and the sheer extensiveness of the system do more than make up for the fact that it feels somewhat run-down, a bit neglected and a tad claustrophobic. But there is something about Montreal’s system that makes it feel well cared for, valued and up with the times.
The other transport experience that I’ve had in French Canada is catching the inter-city VIA Rail train between Montreal and Quebec City, and now back again. In fact, I am now taking advantage of their free WiFi to write this post on my phone (hence the lack of links). As we speed along, passing vehicles on the adjacent highway, there’s a great quality to the journey that just can’t be replicated on the inter-city bus. This was hammered home to us on arrival in Montreal, as we got stuck in a traffic jam for over an hour in our Greyhound bus from Boston. I can’t help but feel New Zealand is missing out on opportunities to give its visitors a better experience by not having further inter-city rail services, like links between Auckland and the Bay of Islands, Auckland to Rotorua and many others I am sure. Of course our system would need giant upgrades to ever offer the speed and quality of service I am currently enjoying, but the gains could be significant.
From here we have two more nights in Montreal before flying to Washington DC, and after that heading back to New York and eventually our flight home. I have quite a few blog posts buried away in my head to do in the not too distant future!
According to a recent publication from the Auckland City Council, In the next 20 years they expect there to be an additional 54,000 jobs in the Auckland CBD and a further 17,000 residents. Straight away we can tell this is going to result in a lot of pressure on the transport system!
I though I’d try and figure out if those sorts of growth projections are even possible, and what we would need in the way of infrastructure to support them. So let’s start by estimating the number of trips this sort of growth would result in. Of course the number of jobs isn’t directly related to the number of trips, but I think we can get a ballpark figure.
For a start let’s take those extra residents and assume half of them will end up working in the CBD, while the rest would be students or work elsewhere. If we take that half off the number of extra jobs we are still left with 45,500 extra people coming into the city to work each day. Now not every worker in the city comes in each weekday and of course many people come to the CBD for all sorts of reasons beyond work, but I think we can say roughly 45,000 extra commuters a day is the sort of numbers we’ll need to accommodate by 2031 to meet those growth projections.
So how will all these people get there? For a start let’s assume that ongoing walking and cycling improvements have a good effect, and the current 4% walking and cycling mode share gets up to 10%. Knocking 10% off our total still leaves us 40,500 commuters to accommodate on motorised transport. If we assume they all come into the city in the two hour morning peak, what we are really taking about is capacity for an extra 20,000 people per hour. So therefore if we don’t want our transport congestion to get any worse, we’ll need to construct new infrastructure capable of bringing twenty-thousand more people an hour into the CBD over the next twenty years.
So looking at how this might be achieved, the first port of call is the road system. Could we meet our growth needs with new roads for the private car? I don’t think so!
Consider this: A standard motorway lane carries about 2,000 vehicles an hour at maximum. At Auckland’s low occupancy rate of 1.2 people per vehicle this equates to about 2,400 people per hour. Now putting aside the potential for carpooling and the like to improve occupancy, this means we would need an additional eight inbound motorway or arterial road lanes (and another eight back out again) to meet those growth demands with private car travel alone.
In other words we’d need two or three brand new motorways feeding into the CBD, or to double the width of four major arterials.
Could we even consider adding more motorways to the CBD?!
Of course once that traffic had reached the CBD it would need to go somewhere, so we also need another eight to ten lanes of arterial roadway to circulate within the city, and then of course there would be the parking problems. At 1.2 people per vehicle our 40,500 commuters would need about 34,000 new long stay car parks to store their cars in while they were at work. To put that in relative terms we would need to build 27 new carparking buildings of the scale of the new one going in near Britomart!
So what are the chances of all this happening? Absolutely none. Three brand new motorways is simply ludicrous, as is doubling the width of major arterials. The cost in land alone would run into the tens of billions. And widening the streets within the city would be worse (as most of them are now lined with skyscrapers) as would finding places to build dozens of new carparking buildings.
Based on this ‘quick and dirty’ analysis it is plain to see that it is simply impossible to meet anything like these growth targets with private vehicle transport alone. In fact I think it is safe to assume that the level of private vehicle access to the CBD we have today is more or less the most we will ever have, unless we start to tunnel road lanes under the existing streets or build them in the air. Basically if the Auckland CBD is to grow at all, that growth must come on the back of public transport. But luckily public transport is a hell of a lot more efficient that cars on the road.
So what would take to shift the same 20,000 commuters an hour by public transport?
Well to begin with let’s look at ferries. The ‘Kea’ run by Fullers has a capacity for 400 people. Using that as a baseline we would need about 50 new ferry trips an hour to meet the whole increase, or about five times as many as in the busiest hour today. That is feasible, if a little unlikely. For one it would mean the purchase of at least 20 new boats to shuttle back and forth and they would certainly need to extend or duplicate the ferry terminal to handle almost one ferry per minute. But the biggest constraint would be the other end. There is really only a moderate amount of growth to be had out of the Waitemata’s seaside suburbs, so a massive ferry system would involve a huge level of bus feeders, park and ride or transit oriented housing development. Ferries have good capacity, but are probably limited in their potential to expand significantly.
So let’s look at buses. A typical bus can carry about 50 people before things start to get too much like a sardine tin, so to meet our future CBD growth by buses alone we are looking at an extra 400 buses an hour. Now this is a lot of buses, but they can run from all over the region and access the CBD at about a dozen points so this is probably more feasible than the ferries.
Is this central Auckland in a few years time?
The problem of course comes with road congestion. To actually get 400 buses an hour through the CBD is going to require a lot of high capacity bus lanes and some serious bus stops. At one bus a minute per lane we are taking about seven or so new sets of bus lanes leading into the city. Effectively to go with a bus only system would require full bus lanes and bus priority signals on all the motorways and every major arterial leading into the CBD, plus maybe two or three bus-only streets through the city (an a new bus interchange or two for good measure).
Is that actually so unrealistic? I don’t think so, if it is politically acceptable to convert general traffic lanes to bus-only lanes then it would be a relatively cheap proposition in terms of capital expenditure. The real problem I think comes with operational efficiency. Four hundred new buses wouldn’t come cheap, nor would 400 drivers to operate them. Furthermore we would need to find sites fairly close to the CBD in which to stable those 400 buses during the middle of the day.
One option with greater efficiency would be to develop trams (aka “light-rail”). Modern articulated trams of the kind they use in Melbourne and Europe can carry about two hundred people per vehicle. So this drops our requirement down to 100 new trams and 100 new drivers. At one tram a minute we would need to convert only two or three arterials to having dedicated tram lanes, and could probably get away with just one tram spine through the CBD. There are two problems with meeting all our growth with tramways however. Firstly it would be a brand new system that would cost a lot to install, certainly a lot more than painting bus lanes. Secondly trams don’t have the same ‘reach’ as buses. This is fine for travel on busy arterials but for trams to service the whole region there would again need to be a big system of feeder buses linking into the tram network in the suburbs.
So the final option to explore is heavy rail.
The best way to shift tons of extra people into the CBD?
Auckland’s new six-car electric trains will be able to hold about a thousand people at maximum, this means we would need an extra 20 trains an hour into the city to meet our projected growth by heavy rail alone. Twenty trains and drivers sounds a lot more efficient than 400 buses or 100 trams. In fact 20 trains an hour is merely the one way capacity of a single rail line.
Now there is well more that twenty trains an hour’s worth of capacity left in our three main suburban lines, so no problems there: assuming we order another 20 or so trains the lines can handle that growth. The main issue is the capacity at the city end, as we know Britomart is almost at capacity and a CBD tunnel is proposed to alleviate that. Luckily for us the tunnel project would add about 20 trains an hour capacity in the CBD, almost exactly what we need! Now again the rail lines don’t go everywhere, so some bus feeders will be needed. But effectively we just need to build the CBD tunnel project and order a second batch of trains and a bunch more buses to meet all the projected growth in the central city for the next twenty years.
So lets recap, to support an extra 45,000 jobs in the CBD we would need a big increase in walking and cycling plus one of the following options:
- Three brand new motorways across the region plus eight to ten new arterial road lanes and twenty-seven new parking buildings in the CBD.
- Twenty or so new ferry boats, a hugely expanded ferry terminal plus a massive system of bus feeders and parking to wharves.
- Four hundred new buses and drivers, plus bus lanes on every arterial leading into and through the city and a new city bus interchange.
- One hundred tram vehicles and drivers, plus two or three new tram lines leading into the city and a central tram interchange, with bus feeders in the suburbs.
- The proposed CBD rail tunnel, with about twenty additional trains and and a series of bus feeders to suburban railway stations.
This has really just been an exercise in comparing the people carrying capacity of various modes and in reality the true answer is going to involve a mix of these options. We will need to look at greatly expanding bus priority and new ferries, get more people living next to transit stops and investigate light rail on our busiest bus corridors. Whatever the option bus feeders and integrated tickets are probably essential.
However one clear point stands out, that the CBD rail tunnel and the existing rail lines could single-handedly accommodate twenty years of projected growth in central city commuting.
Tomorrow morning we leave Boston and head to Montreal on our Greyhound bus. It has been an interesting three days here, and I have certainly found myself very much liking the city. Compared to New York, Boston has felt quite small, a bit quiet and I guess certainly a bit more familiar. Not to say that I don’t also like New York of course - the two cities are just, well, quite different.
One interesting aspect of wandering around Boston is taking a look at how it responded to what one might call the “dark days” of urbanism – the mid 20th century. The days of “urban renewal” (which really meant widespread demolition), the days of highway building and so forth. In many respects Boston suffered worse than New York did during these dark days – probably because there is a bit less to Boston than there is to New York, so therefore the city was less resilient to the impact. There are two classic projects that hammer home the effect of mid-20th century thinking on Boston: the Central Artery (now replaced by the “Big Dig“) and the Boston City Plaza.
The Central Artery was an elevated freeway slammed through the heart of central Boston in the 1950s – a photo of it is included below:
The elevated highway cut off the lovely North End area from the main part of the city, and unsurprisingly had horrific effects on the functioning of the city as a whole. It didn’t even do its traffic distribtuion job very well, with traffic jams occurring near continuously.
City Hall Plaza (photo here) somewhat reminded me of Aotea Square – only worse: a large blank space with difficult to define edges surrounded by ugly buildings (although at least with Aotea Square we have the town hall to try to fix things a bit). To create the space for City Hall Plaza and the surrounding buildings, a complex network of little streets and buildings was completely bulldozed in the 1950s and 60s.
So far, so bad. However, despite the horrific efforts of mid-2oth century urban planners to destroy Boston – I would actually now call it largely a planning success. The enormously expensive “Big Dig” (latest estimated cost of around $US22 billion including interest) has put the Central Artery underground, and while the City Hall Plaza has yet to be changed, there are plenty of other amazing parts of Boston that have rehabilitated very well over the past few decades – such as South End, North End, Back Bay and Beacon Hill. All these inner-city suburbs embody everything that’s good about inner-city areas, and all seem to be absolutely thriving. The town houses have been refurbished, there are exciting cafes and shops, the lack of parking doesn’t seem to put people off living in the townhouses and so forth.
Overall, it seems to me as though Boston has learned from its mid-century mistakes. Some of the lessons have proven to be extremely costly – such as the need for the Big Dig. Other lessons are yet to be properly remedied (like City Hall Plaza) but there seems to be an understanding and appreciation of what is good for the city and what is not so good. Taking this experience and applying it to the Auckland situation provokes some interesting thoughts – what could we do to rehabilitate our inner areas and once again link the central city with its surrounding suburbs? What should we think about new projects like AMETI and the Waterview Connection, which seem stuck between operating in a 20th century mentality of “we must provide more road capacity“ crossed with a 21st century conscience that this comes at a price for local communities.
In the end, I guess it’s all a reflection of the fundamental transport paradox: that the more emphasis you give to moving people around the city via cars, the worse the impact on the city generally is. How do we find that balance between enabling people to get around while ensuring that the city itself is somewhere people will still actually want to go to and be in? Boston appears to have regretted its mid-20th century focus on prioritising the through over the in. I get the feeling that in Auckland we are starting to regret it too, although it remains to be seen whether that means a new transport paradigm, or whether we will continue to want to “complete” motorway networks, widen roads and somehow magically “fix congestion”.
The Campaign for Better Transport, Walk Auckland, Cycle Action Auckland and Living Streets Aotearoa have created a new campaign and website looking at affordable transport initiatives the new Council can make during it’s first term to create a much better transport system for the city. It’s called Easy Transport Auckland, ETA. There are eleven projects the campaign is advocating for and hopes to get a commitment on these from as many candidates for our local body elections as possible before the election.
The eleven initiatives are:
Project: Enjoy fast, frequent ferries to and from an expanded downtown terminal
ETA 2014: Upgrade the Half Moon Bay terminal and expand the ferry service.
PROJECT: Open Auckland’s clogged arteries for more efficient freight and car trips
ETA 2014: Plan and fund strategic corridor improvements
PROJECT: Enjoy fast, frequent, friendly ferries to and from an expanded downtown terminal
ETA 2014: Expand the Downtown ferry terminal to cater for up to 500 movements, by building new berths on Queens Wharf.
Project: Provide efficient cross-city bus services linking homes and businesses across Panmure-Botany-Manukau
ETA 2014: Plan, fund and implement strategic cross-city bus services for Panmure-Botany-Manukau.
Project: Extend the Northern Busway from Albany to Orewa
ETA 2014: Plan and fund Northern Busway Extension
Project: Provide plentiful, convenient cycle parking at all train,ferry and bus stations and town centres
ETA 2014: Plan, fund and implement adequate train, ferry and bus station and town centre bike parking.
Project: Enable everyday trips on a network continuous cycle routes
ETA 2014: Plan, fund and implement 50% of the regional cycle network (276km of new routes)
Project: Slower traffic zones in all town centres.
ETA 2014: Plan, fund and implement initiatives for slower traffic in town centres.
Project: Enjoy the CBD as a walkers’ paradise — from Vic Park to Uni and K’ Rd to the sea.
ETA 2014: Plan, fund and implement wider footpaths, or other pedestrian-friendly improvements, for High, Quay, Victoria, Wellesley and Wyndham Streets.
Project: Fly all the way to the airport on a dedicated train line.
ETA 2014: Designate/buy land to protect the route for the Airport train line.
Budget: $1.6b (est.)
Project: Swift travel, not just to Britomart, but through it — on the CBD loop train tunnel.
ETA 2014: Complete planning and funding and start construction for the CBD Tunnel
This is an exciting co-ordination of Auckland’s “alternative” (sad that anything apart from motorway, basic rail and bus advocation is alternative in Auckland) transport lobby and I hope it becomes an ongoing project to get commitment from politicians on important and practical transport solutions from election to election. The website is growing all the time and has more content than I’ve reproduced here. It is going to be well worth checking in on regularly: