By almost any measure, Aucklands public transport system leaves a lot to be desired. Among other things it is often seen as slow, expensive, difficult to use and pretty unreliable but thankfully things are starting to improve and that is already starting to show through in our patronage stats. Over about the last 10 years we have finally started to reinvest back into PT and while the results have been ok so far, I feel that it is the changes over the next 3 to 4 years that will have a far greater impact on the PT landscape than what has happened so far. The reason for this is that we will be finishing of a number of projects that address some of the fundamental issues with our system. Each project on its own is really good but it is the fact that they will all be happening at about the same time that will make the change so dramatic. These fundamental projects are:
This will change our rail network perhaps more than anything else that has happened so far. For the first time probably ever, we will have brand new, purpose built trains that will of course be electric and that will be running on a substantially upgraded network. The trains will faster, quieter, more reliable and have significantly more capacity. I suspect that they will be so popular that part of the problem will making it easy to get to them and that leads to …..
Redesigned bus network
The entire PT network is being rethought at the moment with the intention of getting better use out the same resources we have now. Perhaps the most visible part of this will be a redesigned bus network that will see a decent number of high frequency routes that run at frequencies of at least every 15 minutes for most of the day on every day of the week. These routes will be supported by other routes to form a network across the urban area and will among other things, be much better at feeding passengers to the rail network. Overall transfers are meant to be much more common and so we need to make them as easy as possible, one of the key ways to do that is …..
Integrated Ticketing and Fares
The ticketing systems on public transport in Auckland seem to have been around since the stone age, on trains we still have up to four staff members walking through the train collecting cash and clipping tickets while the buses have not been much better. We should hopefully be able to get this Snapper debacle sorted out within this time frame and and with the new PT network we should also a new fare structure that makes transfers easy. Of course this will significantly change things for operators, especially how they get paid their money which leads to …..
The Public Transport Operating Model is a new way of contracting out services, in short Auckland Transport will contract one or more routes that are grouped together into a unit that have a fully developed unit. Operators can register a unit as a commercial service where they take any profits only if they run every single service set out in the timetable and they will not receive a subsidy for it. If they don’t want to run it as commercial they will enter into a contract with AT that will include certain performance criteria but also a revenue sharing agreement to act among other things as an incentive to provide good service and increase patronage. What this should do is bring much more control to the current mess which has saw subsidies increase faster than patronage over the last decade with it only coming back a little bit in recent years. PTOM contracts will be rolled out in conjunction with the new bus network and should lead to us getting better efficiency which means less subsidies have to be spent to get a better level of service.
As I said, these projects are really fixing some of the fundamental issues that we have within out PT network right now and combined should lead to some pretty spectacular growth in PT usage. One question I have is, what are the next group of things that we need to be thinking about to take our PT system to the next level? There are obviously some big projects in this list which includes things like the CRL but there are probably a huge number of smaller things like rolling out more bus lanes, improvements to walking/cycling access in general but also combined with better access to busway/train stations and bus stops. So what do you think are the next batch of projects we should focus on from a PT perspective?
Either way the next three years are going to be huge for us in Auckland with so many improvements and changes about to take place, I just wish I had my time machine to see it now.