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2012: A year in review

Well as another year draws to a end it can be interesting to review what went on and to start with

Blog:

Well we started the year with the news that this sites founder was having to give up blogging due to the fact he got a job at the council. This prompted myself and my fellow bloggers to have to step up to help fill the void. Even shared between us, its amazing how much effort it takes at times to keep things going which highlights just how hard he worked to keep this going. The effort though seems to have been rewarded though with huge increases in the number of visitors and page views. I remember earlier this year I/we would get excited if we had over 3,000 page views a day yet now we regularly get over 5,000 and have recently started getting over 6,000. The graph below shows our monthly page views.

Nov 2012 Views

When it comes to transport, to me 2012 has been a year where not a lot new has happened but that has mainly be a continuation of the same projects that we have had going on for a few years now. We are effectively in a bit of a transition year waiting for a whole host of projects to be completed. Here is what went on with some of the big things:

Electrification:

Infrastructure

Wires are starting to become a familiar sight along increasingly large parts of the network and by the end of this years Christmas shutdown around 60% of the network is expected to have been completed. A few months ago the wires along the Onehunga branch line became the first section to be fully powered up. Here is where wires the were installed up to the 19th of December.

Out at Wiri a new state of the art depot is being built to maintain the trains and in recent months those out south will have seen the framework for it going up.

Electric Trains

Those wires are of course being installed for our new electric trains (EMUs). This year saw a lot more details come out about them and in the middle of the year we had a mock up arrive in the country that was used to help refine the design and give us a good idea of what we can expect these trains to really look like. Construction has now started in Spain and the first of the 57 new trains is expected to be in  the country at the end of August 2013.

Outside 1

Recently we have also heard that the case is quite strong to carry on electrification to Pukekohe.

City Rail Link:

Despite recent setbacks with the CCFAS, the CRL project has taken some major steps forward this year as Auckland Transport have confirmed the exact route the tunnel will take along with the footprint needed. They have contacted affected property owners to start the consent process and while this will continue over the next year or so, it is a good step forward. We here at the blog still think AT has a long way to go to improve their marketing of the project though as there seems to be a huge amount of misinformation out there amongst the general public.

Integrated Ticketing:

If there is one topic more than any other that driven a huge amount of views and comments on the blog this year it has been integrated ticketing. In fact 6 of the 10 most read posts this year have been about the topic. It seems to have been one of those projects that went rogue with constantly missed deadlines and broken promises. A lot of the discussion centred around the role Snapper have played in the whole fiasco and things came to a head in August when AT dumped them from the system and decided to take over the roll out of the system to buses. Snapper has responded by claiming they will take AT to court to recover their costs but as of yet we haven’t heard anything else. In October the first part of the system finally went live with the introduction of the AT HOP card on the rail network.

Redesigned bus network:

This is one of the few new things that have happened this year and something that has been needed for a long time. As part of their draft Regional Public Transport Plan, AT have completely redesigned the bus network to make it into a complete network rather than a bunch of spaghetti thrown onto a map. Assuming it passes through the consultation phase we will start seeing the system rolled out next year. The proposal is to have a large number of core routes that run at high frequencies all day and it should help to revolutionise PT in the city.

New FTN Network

Roads of National Significance:

This is one group of projects where we would like to see a lot less haste on but sadly the opposite has been happening. Over the course of they year it seems more and more has come out about just how bad many of these projects are including discovering that at least one part of the Wellington project, the Kapiti Expressway has a BCR of just 0.2. Other projects like Transmission Gully and Puhoi to Wellsford also continue to be pushed hard despite also performing poorly economically and in the case of the former, it has recently been announced it will be built as a PPP. This massive motorway building programme has also caused the budgets to blow out a bit which has resulted in the Government needing to put up fuel taxes.

AMETI:

AMETI was born out of the failed Eastern Highway proposal of John Banks as a way to fix some of the transport problems in the South East. Initially it started life as a very road centric idea but over time it seems to have morphed into being at least a little more PT balanced and will now include a busway from Pamure to Botany. It had seemed to be a bit of a vapourware type project for a while but this year things have finally started construction and one of the first things we will see as a result of it is the start of the busway and a brand new Panmure station.

Patronage:

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the year has been the continually stubborn patronage figures, especially on the rail network. All year results have been disappointing and it seems that AT has been pulled out every excuse in the book to try and explain it and they now say they are now investigating a series of measures to improve things and we should learn more about them in the Feb board meeting.

Auckland Rail Patronage to Nov 2012

Auckland Plan:

The last thing but certainly not the least is this year saw the council adopt the Auckland Plan which is the high level 30 year plan is intended to guide the city. This is generally a pretty great document and will really help to make the city more liveable.

Lastly, here are the 10 most viewed posts that were written in 2012

  1. Fried Snapper
  2. Auckland Density Illustrated I: The Inner City
  3. Does Auckland Transport now have a Logo?
  4. Would You Like Some Integrated Fares To Go With That New Bus Network
  5. Topping up your AT HOP card online
  6. In come the Lawyers
  7. Why I love the Netherlands
  8. EMU Update – with new pictures
  9. And the transport prizes go to … Queensland Rail and Symonds Street
  10. The Snapper/HOP debacle finally resolved?

Have I missed anything major?

16 comments to 2012: A year in review

  • Ben S

    Great blog, just stumbled across it recently and been reading it over the break and finding out more about what’s going on.

    Solving AK’s transport (aka ‘social’) problems – bit of fun to be had there, huh?

    Like this CRL business. You guys have obviously spent hours looking at this so could someone tell me why we would spend $3 billion – which would buy you roughly 100 miles of light rail – to get someone to New Lynn a coupla minutes quicker? Or am I missing something? Wouldn’t it be better to have extra lines/high speed express services out West & East in between all-stops services (using electric trains, that part makes sense) and focus the inner city development on actually figuring out pleasant ways to get around the inner city. For $3 billion we could have light rail around ALL of central Ak. On the other hand this CRl does nothing great for inner city travel – eg getting an undergrounded train from Britomart to KRd – horrible! Light rail up to K Rd along Hobson? Cheap, easy, user-friendly, social, open, connected.

    Thoughts?

    • Dan

      Try reading about the CRL in the link at the top of the page.

    • Thanks Ben

      Probably the biggest reason for the CRL is capacity. Light rail costs a lot more but isn’t that much different capacity wise from having good quality bus lanes and as we saw in the CCFAS, we are running out of space to put more surface based transport options in the city. To create enough space for buses or even light rail from areas that don’t currently have access to the rail network (Western bays, Isthmus, North Shore etc.) we need to remove the buses from the areas that are close to the rail network and turn them into rail feeders. The problem with that though is that the rail network is close to capacity itself. Electrification adds a few more trains and makes them longer but that won’t be enough medium to long term. The biggest issue is that Britomart is is a bottleneck due to all trains having to reverse back out of the station which limits the number of trains that can use it. That means we can’t add any express services and are stuck with a maximum of 10 minute frequencies on the major lines.

      The CRL pretty much doubles the capacity of the entire rail network and also adds new stations which further increases its catchment and usefulness. It is the only thing that will then create enough capacity to allow for other developments, like rail to the airport or shore, to happen or to free up enough space in the city centre for things like light rail. In fact as part of the CCFAS they looked at light rail options but they were ruled out as they didn’t provide enough extra capacity needed to meet the expected number of new jobs. Further the cost of the CRL is actually $1.8b and dropping as the project is more defined (the cost of Waterview dropped the further it went too), the $2.86b cost often quoted is an inflation adjusted figure that also includes things like grade separation of level crossings, extra trains and duplication of the Onehunga line.

      As for your comparison of a trip from Britomart to K Rd, I disagree, underground systems all around the world are not horrible to travel on and in this case would be significantly faster. You would probably be looking at at least 20 minutes to do that trip based on current conditions with all of the traffic lights and pedestrian priority, by comparison a train travelling up the CRL would do it in 5-6 minutes.

    • Hi Ben it’s about the network and not just about the area above the tunnel itself, by transforming Britomart from a terminus station to a through route it changes the whole network from a commuter in-and-out only system to a true metro. The CRL is, properly understood, a bargain; for the cost of a short tunnel Auckland instantly gets a widespread metro that reaches from Swanson to Pukekohe. It is the key to exploiting the existing rail right of way that is currently critically restricted by the Britomart bottleneck. And it enables expansion, like to the airport.

      The CRL will allow up to 30 trains per hour each way, fast clean and modern electric trains out of the traffic, always available.

      Oh and I disagree about Britomart to K’rd, it’ll be a great way to get up the hill to get to Ponsonby- either by walking from the Pitt St station or jumping on an Inner link on K’Rd [or to K itself of course]… I think Parnell to K’rd will be used too to avoid the clogged streets… or how about Meadowbank or GI to Kingsland for sports events or those great restaurants on New North Rd?…. The CRL will transform Auckland from being a totally auto-dependent city to one with a modern and really appealing subway system. And we only have to build 3.5km of tunnels and three stations to really achieve this. Currently the rail network is just out of reach; just not quite there as a resource. Electrification and bus coordination will help enormously, but the CRL is the ‘Killer App’ for Auckland’s transformation from bloated 20thC provincial town to true 21stC city.

  • Christopher T

    Er, the KiwiRail chart showing where the wires have been installed is a bit economical with the truth. Wires on the Western Line have been installed from Swanson up to Portage Road but after that it’s a bit patchy, e.g. no contact wire on the downline from the Whau Creek bridge (although the catenary and droppers have been installed up to Avondale station since September), so I’ll be mighty surprised if they can wire up 60% of the network by mid-January.

    • Rob Mayo

      If the Kiwirail / HILOR folk are sensible, they’ll whip in just before the end of the shutdown period, to properly complete that stretch of the down main from Whau Creek to just past Pak n Save – should take less than 5 hours to complete. As you say, that part of the line has been lying in an incomplete state for some time now which is not good.

  • patrick

    Thanks Matt, excellent post

  • Merry Chrissy and Feliz Nuevo Anno everyone!

    Great posts this year- thanks to the bloggers and guests for stepping up to the challenge.

    (Auckland Density 1 links to Fried Snapper though)

    See you at the fireworks- maybe we’ll take over Hopetoun bridge again?!

  • Sacha

    Congratualtions on a wonderful year, all of you. This blog is a taonga.

  • James

    Thanks for the great blogging and here’s to a great 2013. Good job chaps!

  • Big thanks to my fellow bloggers for a great year with great posts. Special thanks to Matt L for really putting in the hard yards and keeping the quality well researched posts coming in every day. You make the rest of us look lazy ;)

    Cheers to Kent, Peter and Mr Anderson for coming on board, and to Lucy and Louis for the guess posts (where there any others?)

    Arohanui to all the readers and commenters!

  • George D

    What everyone else has said. It’s been a great year to be a reader.

    And thanks to all the hard working AT, Council, and other people who read this blog. Though you get things wrong from time to time, you get more of it right, and the work that’s being put in to improve this city’s transport and urban fabric is appreciated.

  • JohnP

    Talked to a mate last night (who’s currently doing his economics PhD in the US) and he asked if I’d heard of this blog. Turns out we both read it compulsively, and he says a lot of his other economically-minded friends read it too. So go the ATB! Thanks for a great year guys, I’ve learned a lot from reading.

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