Following on from Nick’s post defining what a Metro system is and why it really is the best way for a city to exploit a rail Right-Of-Way I thought it would be useful to dig a little deeper into this model for potential running patterns in Auckland. Not only for once we have the new trains but also what would be best to work for from there.
When the new EMUs are in operation I understand we’ll have enough trains for a simple 6 trains per hour [tph] model on the three main lines plus 2 tph on the single tracked Onehunga Line. This means a train every 10 minutes each way across the network, a frequency that Daniel Moylan from Transport for London considers to be a minimum for the ‘turn-up-and-go’ experience of a real metro system. Beyond this the network has a number of physical limitations to any greater frequency. Especially the approximate 20 trains per hour limit of the Britomart throat, and the hard to sort restriction at the confusing Newmarket junction. Confusing for me at least because of complications arising from the awkward backing and filling undertaken to get Western Line trains to visit on their way to and from Britomart [more on that later]. The Manukau City junction also looks like it might need work, grade separation or at least the quantity of track through through the spine of the Southern Line will need to increase because of the need to mix Metro services there with Kiwi Rail’s freight operations. Many of you will understand this better than me, so I look forward for your advice on that.
Ok so here’s an option:
This isn’t the only option of course but it is a clear Metro style ‘Line’ pattern assuming enough frequency for easy transfers to get to your preferred destination.
Now 6 tph, especially if that is most of the day everyday and not just a peak pattern, sounds really plush compared to what we have now, but this is for 2016. By then we will not only have integrated ticketing and fares and a bus network designed around delivering passengers to interchange stations, but also those much quicker and more appealing trains so it ought to be at great deal busier than ever. So will it be possible to add any more services to this as it grows? Well not on this pattern; Britomart is clearly full, and Newmarket is probably at least struggling.
But remembering that as much as the Metro system doesn’t try to tell you what time of the day you want travel it also doesn’t assume your destination either. So while Britomart can’t handle any more services until the CRL is open there is another line that I think would be well worth looking at [which may mean additional rolling stock]. Below in pretty green:
A Henderson-Manukau Line. Now there clearly are issues around Manukau City Station that I’m unclear about at this stage. If this really is too many trains for that poor little station some portion of the Eastern Line services could head further south. Regardless, I think there is much to like about this line. It would be this system’s first non CBD centric service pattern, so really going with the Metro philosophy of serving all kinds of directions and desires. But more importantly I think it could prove popular. In the first pattern above anyone heading to Manukau from the west faces two transfers in order to do that by train. Personally I really think with a system of Auckland’s size and given how new we will be to the transfer model one transfer per journey is a target to aim at. And West to Manukau and visa-versa is a long enough route for it to be attractive to take the train. It also connects our two biggest hospitals, a bunch of schools, and heaps of intersecting bus routes. And the Manukau MIT Campus will be open above the station attracting students from all over. And it also improves access both to Manukau City and out West from the core of the Southern Line, including the coming bus interchange station at Otahuhu. I have no idea whether 4 tph is a good number; it is too infrequent to be ideal but among all those other movements it’s as a good a number for this argument as any other.
This pattern does work Newmarket hard as a hub. What an ideal place for that, a good destination for many purposes and at the centre of the network. But perhaps this will put too much stress on that intersection as it is currently configured? Well if that is the case how about we route three or four of the Western Line services directly to Parnell and Britomart without pulling into Newmarket? There will still be a high volume of West to Newmarket services on the line and for the majority of riders who are heading to the city [or Parnell] the journey will be considerably quicker and less subject to delay. If you accidently get on the wrong train you will just find yourself needing a transfer from either Parnell or Newmarket where there will be a train every 6 minutes for you to pick up through this busy route.
It does come at a cost to simplicity, but really that is the fault of the half-pie network we’re stuck with for now. Which is especially evident when you consider this running pattern suggested by our previous admin for when the CRL is open:
Clearly it assumes that Onehunga is double tracked and that the CRL has an eastern as well as western link at its southern portal. Check out the simplicity and see how all those conflicts have been reduced, in fact it’ll be pretty quiet at Parnell compared to before and only 12 tph through Britomart and Newmarket [still a train every 5 minutes each way all day]. Which is great because of course that means there is now no problem to up the frequency of any line that warrants it. But still, west to south is either a long journey with one transfer or a shorter one with three! Bring back the Hendo-Man City Line I hear you say?
Yes. I really do think this is a better solution than just adding more trains to the CBD, it still gives the core of the Western Line a train every 5 minutes, just with a richer variety of destinations with in direct reach, and there are plenty of other frequent services to mix and match any desired destination by making a single transfer:
It looks like a more balanced system to me. We will have plenty of time to look at the value of this service by the time the we get the CRL and so many more users with so many different destinations on the network- but only if we cater for them.
There are also a couple of other interesting conclusions that can be drawn from this thought experiment.
First; that is a lot of movements through the Mt Eden junction at the southern end of the tunnel so I conclude for this sort of pattern to ever be possible we had better build a proper grade separated junction there from the beginning, making it a more expensive build. But also, by continuing to run this west south pattern from the opening of the CRL it would allow us to stage the construction of Newton Station as it wouldn’t be immediately required for Western Line travellers wanting to transfer to head towards Grafton, Newmarket, and all points south, including Manukau City. So it would assist in spreading the cost of the CRL but also give us a better and more future proofed asset in the long run. So that cost could well more than balance out.
Anyway, I reckon the map needs another colour.