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The Great Upgrade Timeline

Public transport patronage has been source of much concern for the last year and a half on the back of falling or flat numbers which followed about 6 years of almost constant growth. During that time the performance of the PT network has come under ever increasing scrutiny as public discussion and interest in transport has increased. For many of the PT figures there have actually been some fairly logical explanations as to why the numbers aren’t looking as good as they used to however unfortunately most people don’t look at the fine print and just look at the headline number.

Getting patronage growing is considered to be one of the key goals of Auckland transport and a lot of the expectation for future growth is being is being placed on a handful of key projects. Many of these projects have been going on for a long time however it is only over the next few years that we will really start to see them come to fruition and make an impact. This paper going to the AT board on Wednesday looks at these key projects and provides a timeline for when we will start to see the next batch of major changes. The key projects are:

  1. HOP integrated ticketing followed by progressive implementation of the initiatives within a strategic pricing and fares review for public transport including integrated and fares
  2. Service regulatory and procurement reform through the PT Operating Model (PTOM) following enactment of enabling legislative reform of the Land Transport Management Amendment Act 2013 in June
  3. New service network rollout of high frequency bus services and integrated and connected support services with associated facility and infrastructure upgrades
  4. Rail service enhancements and transition to the new EMU fleet
  5. Ferry service and facility enhancements
  6. On-time service performance and customer information
  7. Customer experience enhancement across all customer touch points

These projects are often what we refer to as “The Great Upgrade”. They represent Auckland Transport finally addressing the key issues of our current public transport network and putting in place the foundations for future expansion. Without these projects being successfully completed there is no City Rail Link and there is definitely no Congestion Free Network. Sadly they are all projects that should have happened at least decades ago and they help to show just how far behind we are. As far as I’m aware there isn’t a city in the world that is about to go through as much fundamental change as we are – but that is because most other cities have all, or at least a decent proportion of these things in place already.

The paper then goes on to show the most interesting part which how these projects will fit in on a timeline for the individual modes.

Rail

The next major event for the rail network will be later this year where AT are saying that we will finally get improved weekend frequencies which should mean at least half hour frequencies and services to Swanson on Sundays. One of the interesting things is that with no other changes on the rail network due till at least April when the EMU’s start running, it should give hopefully give AT some excellent data to see the impacts of the changes separate from anything else that is going on. Moving on to the end of the year and we are finally getting a new journey planner. This is long overdue as the current one is absolute rubbish and I simply won’t use it (I keep a copy of the timetable on my phone).

We have always known that the introduction of the EMUs will be spread out over a couple of years and I think I have seen a similar timeline before so it isn’t a surprise. What is a surprise though is the suggestion that we won’t be seeing integrated fares until the end of 2014. Of note the bus timeline has integrated fares happening slightly earlier and at the same time as the new bus network rolls out in South Auckland. Lastly we can see that in 2016 the current Transdev contract expires after having been extended a few times to avoid any possibility of a change in operator in the middle of the EMU roll out (we don’t want a labtests/Medlab situation happening and holding up the delivery of trains). I believe that the contract will be put out to tender so it will be interesting to see what comes out of that.

Timeline - Rail

Bus

On the bus side most of the timeline is similar to what we have seen previously in the likes of the Southern Network consultation documents. The next year and a half seems like it will be a particularly busy time in which most of the consultation, procurement will occur  and where the first areas will go live.

Timeline - Bus

Ferry

There seems to be quite a bit less going on with ferries however I think the key thing will be the first light blue arrow below the timeline where there are meant to be on-going service improvements to existing routes. You can also note that there is no integrated fares note on the ferry timeline once again confirming that ferries will exist outside of the integrated fare structure.

Timeline - Ferry

Across the bottom of all of the images above there are a couple of very specific points. One relates to marketing PT and shows how AT are really going to be a bit limited to only targeting towards specific services or areas for some time however once the entire new bus network has been rolled out it will enable them to market the entire network as a single entity. The network concept is probably something that many Aucklanders haven’t thought about it in the past.. The other piece common across all modes is the Customer Experience Programme which is the one area we haven’t really heard much about. Below is an explanation from the report as to what is involved. It will certainly be interesting to see what a fresh pair of eyes and thoughts might come up with and we will be following it closely.

This is one of the seven strategic projects in the three-year programme. This is a five month project that began in July 2013. The aim of the project is to develop a set of design blueprints and standards for an enhanced experience that customers will receive on future bus, rail and ferry services and through multi-modal support services. One of the first implementation of a customer experience blueprint is targeted for the service revenue launch of the EMUs on the Onehunga Line in April 2014.

Thoughtful Design consultancy has been appointed to facilitate the work having recently completed similar blueprint and experience design remits for Auckland Council and Air New Zealand.

The first four weeks of the project has been an information gathering exercise across current and new public transport services and public transport traveller profiles have been developed, that visually articulate current travel journey scenarios across public transport modes identifying pleasure-points, pain-points and needs. The phase one report is being finalized.

For the next six weeks to mid-September, from the public transport traveller profiles created, a set of guiding service design blueprints will be developed – the basis for building public transport customer-oriented experiences and products across services, facilities, support services and staff-customer interactions.

The rest of the paper looks at how these projects then get modelled to estimate what patronage might be. I will look at that part of the paper in a separate post.

34 comments to The Great Upgrade Timeline

  • Who is “Thoughtful Design”? Nothing on Google, nothing on the companies office website. Any reason why AT’s own staff can’t do this exercise?

    • I’ve meet them, was impressed, did similar work for Air NZ; on to customer focus and not institutionalised. Pleased AT have got them in.

      • Yes, I met them last week, The company name is Thoughtfull, found them on companies office but can’t find a website. Their work has led to Air NZ wining a number of awards which is why AT have got them in, the COO used to work at Air NZ and was the one that hired them there too.

        I’m not entirely sure AT staff could have done this exercise to the same level (no disrespect to them). Sometimes it is good to get a fresh pair of eyes to go over things.

      • I’m pretty interested that Air NZ is seen as a good example of a customer-focused airline becuase that has not been my experience with them. Even Jetstar manages to do a better job than they do, domestically at least. What sort of things has resulted from their work over at Air NZ? Hopefully they can make some positive changes at AT — AT definitely needs improvements when it comes to customer relations!

        • Simon C

          Funnily enough James Air NZ has obviously done something right as they have been world airline of the year two out of the last three years. Of course I can tell you James from being in the industry when it comes to airline travel it is impossible to keep 100% of customers happy. I don’t know about your experience (s) – You may be entirely granted in your views and sad to say like any industry there are occasions the service is not as good as it should be (and that’s doubly disappointing to me when it’s Air NZ) but it seems from many industry/travel magazine etc customer service surveys I’ve seen Air NZ is always one of the top if not the top. A recent one (can’t remember exactly but it might have been skytrax) had Air NZ and Singapore together at the top both with 89% customer statisfaction which is incredibly high given the expectations (quite often unrealistic) that many seem to have when travelling by air. James, you try telling a customer you can’t request an aisle seat for them because there are none left to request (they’ve rung up only two days before the flight departs for example) yet the customer is not listening and demanding an aisle seat no matter how you explain it to them. That’s no fault of the customer service yet you can bet more often than not the airline, whichever one it is, will get bad-mouthed by the customer. Is that bad customer service on the part of the airline though? Everyday, airline reservations staff and travel agents face these kind of scenarios and face getting pilloried for no fault of their own and yet we take it with good grace and do our best to suggest alternative options which can lead to a happy resolution (good customer service!). Anyway that’s my biased take on that! :-) BTW There are things that could be improved at Air NZ but my thoughts on them are not for the public domain.

          • Sean

            Hmm Air NZ and Customer service? What i might suggest is a quick check on what corporate airline contracts the foreign owned companies in New Zealand uses. I have yet to meet one that believes NZ offers value and instead they all choose the Asian airlines where service is at a completely different level. NZ is like Mr Luxon recently said, suffering a fair bit from world famous in New Zealand disease.
            Thats perhaps why they couldnt compete to Singapore or why they had to liaise with CX to HongKong, (the only other route where they have direct competition from an Asian airline)

            As far as I know, and I know this pretty well, NZ ranks by non kiwis as a run of the mill airline. Mainly because their FF program is seen as the worst in Star Alliance offering extremely little to travelers. kiwis of course have very little choice. if you want to fly domestically youre stuck with NZ.

            And design wise, lets hope the company have nothing to do with turning NZ into a black monstrosity that is A ugly and B will reduce Asian travellers. Yeah that Asia Mr Luxon just said was the key to NZ survival. (he didnt believe NZ could keep on being in a monopoly situation on 80% of their routes for so much longer)

        • You might be one of the only two people in NZ who consider Jetstar to be more customer-focussed than AirNZ. I know nobody who has sworn off AirNZ, but I know plenty who have sworn off Death Star on the basis of either direct, repeated poor experience or first-hand knowing people who have had those bad experiences.

  • Luke Christensen

    Would be great to see improved marketing. Too often AT have relied on word of mouth to get info out about service improvements. For example be great to see advertising when Western line goes to 30 min weekend frequencies and 15 min off peak.

  • It was my understanding that Fullers owned part of the Downtown Ferry Terminal. Are they contributing to the cost of the upgrades?

    Not including ferries in the integrated fare structure is a pretty stupid idea in my opinion.

    • starnius

      Based on the perceptions survey about future fare structures they ran among Aucklanders as recently as the last week, they are still considering whether ferries should be included – one of the questions the survey had was whether ferry fares should be included.

      • I am disappointed that this is even up for discussion. They should just get on with whatever they needs to do (even if legalisation etc needs to be passed to force Fullers et al to participate) to get ferries into the integrated fare scheme.

        • starnius

          They can’t pass laws, only Parliament can (and you may have noticed that the current government is happy to FU** UP everything about PT in Auckland if they can).

          And the other questions is apparently around the cost – ferry trips are expensive, especially if you want to include commercially contracted routes into the system. You might have a system where a simple trip between CBD and Devonport has to pass through the equivalent of 2-3 extra fare zones to make up the money needed to pull it into the system. Might still be preferable, to get it into the system, but not a straightforward thing.

          • They don’t need any more legislation, AT have currently exempted most of the ferries from the PTOM, it is within their power to include them,
            Its an AT call, not one from central government….

      • I’m pleased to hear that. I guess there is always the possibility of including ferries at a later date. In my opinion, Fullers are abusing their position and should be reigned in.

    • Don

      I understand that the ferry wharves are owned by AT but the pontoons the ferries tie up to are owned by Fullers effectively giving them a monopoly on most of the available berths. AT and its predecessors seem unable or unwilling to do much about this issue

  • PS1

    It would be good to have a little symbol that could be awarded to events and businesses that are within 10 – 15 minutes walk of a train station. Eg a symbol of a train with a 5 , 10 or 15 so that business or places near the train could put it on the bottom of their advertising or website and it would link to the train timetable. Picked up my car from Greenlane – was not on my side of town. Took the train and my bike. It was sooooo close to the train station, and i had driven their previously. Had no idea it was so close to a stop until they didn’t have a courtesy car and was forced to look a bit harder. But a symbol (Iike a wine award) would make it easy to know that it’s train friendly and would reward businesses who are pt transport friendly. Markets, playgrounds, bike paths and businesses.

    • Great idea, will pass it on to people I know within AT

    • Bryce P

      A symbol and a QR code perhaps that, using a smartphone, will take you to the nearest station.

    • OrangeKiwi

      As opposed to businesses and events not mentioning trains at all: “Easy transport to and from the location is available via bus, City Link, Air Bus, Ferries, Cruise Ships and even driving to there and parking at the many available parking lots.” That is how the new Auckland Tourist Market at Queens Wharf promotes its transport options (www.eventfinder.co.nz/2013/auckland-tourist-market/auckland). Not that it’s much of an option at the moment with frequent closures and low frequencies on weekends, but surely they could at least mention it?

      • Mike

        OrangeKiwi: tell the errant businesses/events about the omission, and in my experience they’ll often be grateful for the feedback and add/correct public transport information.

      • SteveC

        a surprising number of jobs are advertised as being close to PT, possibly not as many as “free parking” appears in, but a gratifying number

  • PS1

    Agree Orange Kiwi. I saw on trip advisor, 2 feedbacks from tourists saying how hard my local rural market is to find and use a tom tom etc. But it’s10 mins from train station with a cool off street bike path. When the council have built the infrastructure we need to let people know it’s there and get them using it.

  • Really need more information at stops. For example Grafton advertised as hospital stop. But if you get off there no maps or signs showing you where to go, and its really not obvious at all if you don’t know the area.
    These are great examples I saw in Belgrade of all places. Network map, local detailed map and regional map all on one well designed poster. And this was at a minor bus stop.
    http://aklobservations.tumblr.com/image/51692477081

    • Great signs like that are all over Eastern Europe. I wouldnt be so surprised that this area of the world is so good on PT. The thing is that pre-89 many of them had a 90%+ PT modal share so the whole city is based around PT and didnt change that much, though the modal share dropped.

      On PS1′s comment above as well, I do think we should either rename stations (Grafton => Hospital?) or at least list the main places accessible from that station – eg

      Britomart (Ferry terminal, Queen Street)
      Greenlane (Ellerslie Racecourse)

      Right now you would have no idea anything was near the stations. Signage for non-car related travel is just so woeful in Auckland – cycling/walking is the worst.

  • Simon C

    Agree. I reckon just about every railway station in Japan has maps near its entrances showing the local neighbourhood, the major buildings in it like schools, hospitals, businesses and points of interest in the area. They really need to add this to stations in Auckland.

    Luke C – That’s one of the few things bus PT in Belgrade is good for. Many buses were old and battered and I couldn’t find out how one paid or even how much or if I needed exact change etc etc! I took about four buses and didn’t pay once! It seemed from observation on the bus that few people actually do and it is entirely voluntary (I got told multiple times – don’t worry you don’t have to!). One wonders how Belgrade can actually afford to keep running its public transport. And Auckland thinks it has a revenue evasion problem! On the plus side, apart from free bus rides, The Hotel Moskva which is a Belgrade institution since more than 100years ago had been done up very nicely with a great cafe attached outside (great to watch the amazing Serbian women walk by at midnight or 10am the next morning etc!), nice floating restaurants next to the rivers Sava and Danube and got a great Beograd tramvaj T-shirt and 1950s communist-era Belgrade trolley-bus street scene print. The free wi-fi worked there as well unlike broken down/permanently under construction Italy. So I have a lot to recommend Belgrade by!

  • An encouraging article in the NZ Herald from a civil engineer who’s company is involved in the electrification project among others:
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10912847

    Nice snippets:

    “We are never going to build our way out of traffic congestion. You can build lanes and lanes and lanes for vehicles, but there will always be a demand for more. So there needs to be another view around balancing people’s expectations to travel from A to B. The bus rapid transit system on the North Shore has been a great success.”

    “I am a firm believer in the City Rail Link as it will really raise the profile of Auckland as a world-class city and serve the needs of the people. Auckland is the gateway to the rest of New Zealand. We need to be a truly world class city for the people of Auckland and the country.”

    Great article and gives me hope that there are some people in the transport industry out there who get it and dont see only providing more space for cars as the answer.

    • Yes I saw that in the infrastructure section. However of worry most of the articles/sponsors were banks/finance companies. Just really wanting to clip the ticket on public infrastructure projects. As Nick outlines in other projects where the private sector has taken the risk this has been disastrous. Hence the PPP’s in NZ where the private sector takes no risk, and the govt gets the benefit of expensive private funding…

  • Graeme

    Auckland Transport has sent out an email today advising due to technical difficulties, the roll out of AT HOP onto Northstar, Northern Express and Ritchies has been temporarily delayed. The planned bus roll out information on http://www.athop.co.nz/what-is-AT-HOP/bus-rollout-schedule/Pages/default.aspx has been updated

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