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:
- HOP integrated ticketing followed by progressive implementation of the initiatives within a strategic pricing and fares review for public transport including integrated and fares
- 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
- New service network rollout of high frequency bus services and integrated and connected support services with associated facility and infrastructure upgrades
- Rail service enhancements and transition to the new EMU fleet
- Ferry service and facility enhancements
- On-time service performance and customer information
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.