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November 2013 Patronage Results

The patronage results for November are out and they are an interesting mix. Here are the highlights according to Auckland Transport.

Auckland public transport patronage totalled 69,912,987 passengers for the 12-months to Nov-2013, an increase of +0.2% on the 12-months to Oct-2013. November monthly patronage was 5,905,112, an increase of +163,329 boardings or +2.8% on Nov-2012, normalised to ~ +5.2% accounting for one less business day in Nov-2013 compared to Nov-2012 and AT HOP
transition on rail in Nov-2012.

Rail patronage totalled 10,482,330 passengers for the 12-months to Nov-2013, an increase of +1.7% on the 12-months to Oct-2013. Patronage for Nov-2013 was 918,708, an increase of +173,228 boardings or +23.2% on Nov-2012, normalised to ~ +9.0%. This increase in part reflects the downturn in recorded patronage through Nov-2012 as legacy paper tickets transition to AT HOP.

The Northern Express bus service carried 2,292,434 passenger trips for the 12-months to Nov-2013, a decrease of -0.1% on the 12 months to Oct-2013. Northern Express bus service patronage for Nov-2013 was 182,775, a decrease of -3,153 boardings or -1.7% on Nov-2012, normalised to ~ +3.0%.

Other bus services carried 51,482,310 passenger trips for the 12-months to Nov-2013, a decrease of -0.1% on the 12-months to Oct-2013. Other bus services patronage for Nov-2013 was 4,316,087, a decrease of -45,520 boardings or -1.0% on Nov-2012, normalised to ~ +3.7%.

Ferry services carried 5,655,913 passenger trips for the 12-months to Nov-2013, an increase of +0.7% on the 12 months to Oct-2013. Ferry services patronage for Nov-2013 was 487,542, an increase of +38,774 boardings or +8.6% on Nov-2012, normalised to ~ +13.8%.

As noted in the highlights there was one less business day in 2013 v 2012 so that has had a decent impact on patronage results. In addition for rail patronage there is quite a difference in numbers which is largely due to the fact that HOP was introduced to the rail network at the end of October 2012 changing the way patronage was counted. This meant that a heap of people were still using up their old ten trip or monthly tickets in November and December but which weren’t being counted. This would have artificially reduced November 2012 results however AT have estimated that even without the change in ticketing systems that patronage would have been up.

The graph below shows the 12 month rolling average for each mode.

Dec 13 Total Patronage

Even excluding the change in ticketing systems, less working day and without the special event (in the form of a Coldpay concert), AT estimate that rail patronage increased by 9% on November 2012 which is a pretty good result. The graph below shows that patronage definitely seems to be starting to turn upwards again which has been driven largely by better peak time usage.

Dec 13 Rail Patronage

While there are good results for the rail network, the results on the bus network are definitely concerning and it makes me wonder if part of the problem has been that people were put off using buses as a result of the HOP roll-out.

Perhaps the most concerning of the bus results is the Northern Express which has seen little growth for some time despite investment like extra park n ride at Albany. Patronage on the Shore in general has also been flat suggesting it isn’t just that people catching other services.

Northern Express Dec 13 Patronage

Dec 13 Sector patronage

Lastly there continues to be good results for cycling with cycle counters continuing to show growth.

Dec 13 Cycling

76 comments to November 2013 Patronage Results

  • Bryce P

    Imagine if Auckland Transport got serious about cycling rather then playing at the fringes? Like stepping up with cycle lanes and cycle streets to schools, PT stops etc.

  • Looks like the work on improving reliability on the rail network is paying off. Hopefully an end to whole network closures is coming. Looking forward to seeing the response to the new trains entering service, and hopefully that process continues to go as smoothly as it has begun.

    • George

      As long as they don’t slap on another fare rise. The sensible thing would be to put a moratorium on increases for several years, and instead focus on increasing patronage by improving the quality of services.

      Punctual reliable services at a constant price are attractive. The opposite is much less so.

      The new trains will have substantial impact. It’s important that their entry is managed well, to get the most from them. I would consider special promotions, for example.

      Stagnant bus numbers should tell us that current practice is unacceptable, and must change.

      • Stu Donovan

        I’m confused by all this talk of “stagnant” bus numbers and buses being a “failure”.

        If you look at the first graph, you can see the patronage low point occurred about March 2006.

        If you then fast forward from that time to now you can see that bus patronage has grown from about 41 million to 55 million boardings p.a., i.e. approximately 14 million boardings in total or circa 1.5 million additional boardings p.a. for the last 8 years.

        Running the same calculation for rail has patronage growing from 5 million to 10 million boardings p.a. over 8 years, or approximately 700,00 additional boardings p.a. In other words, the absolute rate of growth in Auckland’s bus patronage has – for the last 8 years – run at approximately twice the rate of growth in rail patronage.

        In this context I don’t understand how one can conclude that 1) bus patronage is stagnant nor that 2) buses have been a failure. In fact, given the relatively limited investment in buses over the last 8 years I’d suggest that they have been (and continue to be) the unsung success story of PT in Auckland.

        None of this is to say that rail investment is not important nor that buses can’t be improved. But the need for bus improvements should not take place in an uninformed and negative atmosphere. Auckland’s buses are already fulfilling a very important transport task and they look set to become even more important in the (near) future.

  • Pete g

    With the northern busway, how many new services have been added in the past 12 months? I ask this in the context of Wellington’s rail service has stagnated for years as they have not increased any off peak services for a long time.

    • Sailor Boy

      0.

      Loads of uni services (881) added though, and most of those won’t be counted as they are generally tertiary week passes.

      • Yeah that’s just an arterfact of how they count the ‘busway’ patronage. The NEX is but one service of many on the busway and indeed the 881 that does exactly the same thing as the NEX but also continues past Britomart to the Universities, Grafton and Newmarket is proving very popular and is getting a lot of service added.

        Why they don’t just run the NEX to Newmarket beats me…

  • The plateau for three quarters around the RWC is quite obvious, it seems that event ‘stole’ some of the growth to be followed by a corresponding lull. Overall however it seems that the general trend continues to track the same line.

    Can’t wait for the electrification programme to be complete to see what the line does, my guess is the rate of growth will at least double and stay that way for several years. In fact if they deliver 10 minute all day all week frequencies like proposed then strong growth could be sustained for a decade or more well after the city commuter market is saturated.

    • So Nick what’s your educated guess for ridership say out to 2020? I have less of a grasp on the bus system and so much depends on whether AT sorts out the ROWs, but for rail it interesting that if we take a starting point of 10.5m now then a compounding 10% growth to the end of 2020 (7 years) is 20m. Which would be possible in my view if, as you say, they actually deliver on 10min frequencies all day all week from the suburban end points (obviously making for much higher frequencies closer in).

      What do y’all think?

  • The bus stats does not look good at all. Would be interesting to see if there’s a correlation between poor punctuality and the decrease in patronage lately. More and more of the routes I use have incredibly poor punctuality (one route in particular runs to time only one in ten trips) and every time I put in a complaint I’m assured it’ll be fixed when the new network goes online. I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks that it’s not worth putting up with a few years of poor services just because AT has done a incredibly poor job at keeping the timetables up to date, especially on the worst performing routes. Sadly NZ Bus seems to have got the short end of the stick. I’m aware of at least one contracted route which NZ Bus has requested changes to the timing which AT has yet to implement. 2014 will be an interesting year for me on the PT front as I’ve decided to buy a car for the first time… I’m telling myself I’ll still take the bus to/from work but if the bus punctuality issues get any worse I might switch to car altogether.

    • The New Network by itself won’t fix this at all unless it is accompanied by bus lanes on high demand routes at least for a wide definition of the peaks. Reliability is a function of priority. Until this is accepted at the highest levels of AT and actioned throughout the New Network performance and therefore ridership will increasingly struggle. Be literally ‘stuck in traffic’.

      And it is self-reinforcing because the worse the service, the more people will give up in despair and add yet more cars to the road to further delay those buses, and all other road users. There needs to be a revolution in understanding at AT they are too deferential to the status quo, they seem unwilling to back the idea that speeding those ‘people fountains’, buses, through busy routes in fact works for all road users including those who choose to drive.

      Quicker boarding from the HOP rollout will help a little, but here more needs to be done to get the cards into as many hands as possible, but still this won’t help buses stuck in traffic.

      The rail network is poised to bloom as it at last gets it’s limiting factors addressed; frequency, reliability, legibility, and desirability, but until and unless it can be spread to more of the city, Auckland really needs the bus system to do the heavy lifting in a growing and improving economy.

      • Waspman

        The revolution must start with admitting the 50 year experiment of buses being the major component of PT has failed to deliver. Base it on rail and supplement it with buses being short trip suburban feeders to the trains. The solution to improving the many short comings of buses as per the current Auckland model is far too difficult and not worth it.

        Sadly with the infighting within Auckland Council at the moment I don’t hold out much hope.

        • What do you mean failed to deliver? I wouldn’t call carrying 80% of PT trips failing to deliver. The New Network reorganises a lot of buses to feed into rapid transit (rail and busway), which is what you seem to be asking for.

          But there are also many lines that simply must be bus based, now and forever. That includes most of the isthmus for which rail cannot cover and for which feeder buses would be crazy. Unless you are proposing that we build fifteen light rail lines to replace our busiest bus routes, but I get the feeling that bus lanes would be a hell of a lot easier to achieve. If you have to take a lane for rail, then why not take it for buses first.

          There are very few shortcomings of buses that aren’t also shortcomings of rail, and they are basically a fact of running in mixed traffic. Bus lanes are a simple and effective answer to buses stuck in traffic.

          • Waspman

            80% of PT trips is precisely what I meant, buses are the predominant mode of PT so of course they top the numbers, but 80% of what, not all forms of transport that’s for sure.

            The point I am trying to make is think bigger, not just what we’ve got and how we can somehow figure out a way of displacing cars and trucks to accommodate buses so the system kind of works. They have been the predominant mode since the 1950′s and all the changes over the years have not enticed anywhere near enough people out of their cars, the mode of choice for the vast majority of Aucklander’s. Is enticing people to use PT not the goal? We keep fiddling with buses while Rome burns and hoping the public will change their ways but they don’t, I’ve been watching this for years.

            Every time a motorway is built lately and lord knows our government loves them, the opportunity is there to add rail lines to the project to fill the voids in the network but Auckland doesn’t take it. We think about changes to bus time tables or routes and go with whacky paint schemes and hope for the best. Its bloody hopeless.

            Rail done properly or something close complimented with short trip bus feeders offers fast efficient comfortable transit that genuinely competes with the private car, something few if any long trip bus routes will ever do. Maybe then the people will use the PT rather than the half arse crap we have at the moment.

          • Waspman, what you are describing is exactly what the New Network will do: all long distance trips will be via short feeder buses linked to rail or busways. No local buses will make long trips from the suburbs to centre.

            Yes enticing people to use PT is the goal, but I don’t see how you can entice people to PT if there isn’t PT to catch, and without buses you can’t deliver PT to where 90% of Aucklanders live. What is more enticing, a train three suburbs over you can’t get to, or a bus at the top of your street that runs every ten or fifteen minutes all day long, seven days a week?

            Could you please outline exactly what it is you are proposing? Where would you build rail lines that would allow us to do away with buses?

          • Waspman

            @ Nick R. This is just one example;

            It is along the lines of the 1970′s Rapid Rail proposal. Currently buses are the only form of PT from the far eastern suburbs of Howick area to Auckland CBD. Build a rail link from Panmure to Highland Park and have feeder buses from Howick, Pakuranga, Bucklands Beach peninsula, Botany and neighbouring suburbs feeding the train station rather than a fleet of buses all converging on the Pakuranga Highway and getting stuck in traffic as they slowly meander their way through Mt Wellington, Ellerslie, GI or where ever they go and every road they go risking further traffic delays. The rail link can then feed direct into the southern or city directions without encountering endless traffic lights and intersections.

            Having used the Pakuranga highway, Te Rakau Drive, the original Panmure Bridge etc around there at different times of day or night and especially at or around peak its a nightmare for cars let alone buses. In other words terminate buses away from the traffic hell holes that exist and use them to bring the passengers from the nooks and cranny’s of the suburbs to a train that can avoid the traffic. Its a long term investment but one Auckland badly needs.

            I know a bus lane is proposed similar to the North Shore but this could easily be rail.

            As to the question of enticing options a bus does not tempt me off peak and as we know they barely exist at frequencies you mention anywhere in Auckland anyway. My objective is around the 4 – 6 hours of peak on week days we are experiencing at the moment and how buses get stranded in the traffic but rail does not (if its done well that is).

          • With the New Network those buses will feed into the train station at Panmure, exactly as you describe. Yes a busway is being built between Pakuranga and Panmure to facilitate this.

            You are wrong to say that the AMETI busway could easily be rail. Maybe if you had half a billion dollars extra to spend you could make it rail, but why would you bother when the busway can do the exact same thing for a tenth of the cost. That’s the difference between actually happening and getting nothing. Furthermore, where would you run the trains you are proposing? There is no capacity on the network for extra trains, so you’d have to take them off the eastern line. So you’re looking at a maximum of three trains an hour on the eastern line and three an hour through Pakuranga. Would you really want three trains an hour for half a billion dollars over a bus every five minutes on a congestion free busway?

            Saying “we have to spend billions on rail PT to everywhere or I won’t use it” is a very good way of getting nothing at all.

            As for the frequencies, are you at all familiar with the New Network that AT is currently implementing? It will be fully rolled out over the next two years. This creates around forty main lines that run at a minimum of once every fifteen minutes, all day, seven days a week. This is reality, this what we can actually deliver with buses.

            I’d much rather have those forty frequent lines in a network all over the region, than a single rail stub for more money.

        • Sigmund

          Nonsense. Buses remain and will continue to remain the most flexible and effective means of public transport for Aucklanders, not to mention the most cost effective. The infrastructure supporting them (ticketing, road access, real-time info), however, is abysmal. Let’s not forget Len Bornw

          • Tom

            Buses remain and will continue to remain the most flexible and effective means of public transport for Aucklanders

            This almost sounds like a judges verdict. If the statement is true then there’s not much hope for quality PT in AKL.

            not to mention the most cost effective

            Sure, if you don’t build extra roadspace buses are cheap. But if you share the road then service is bad. So, how competitive would be to build an extra bus lane on all major roads in AKL (including the endpoints in the city)? Because that would be an apples – to – apples comparison with a bigger train network.

          • Why do you need to build extra roadspace for buses? We have lots of roadspace, more often than not used for parking. Adding bus lanes to our arterial roads is a hell of a lot easier than building new rail lines through established suburbs.

            Why would we need extra bus lanes to the endpoints in the city? We already have rail and busway to the ends of the city as it is.

          • Sigmund

            Remove roadside parking at chokepoints along Mt Eden Road, for example (Mt Eden Shops) and you increase capacity, reliability, speed etc enormously along that corridor, not to mention improving private traffic flows. Hazzah!

          • Luke C

            I don’t think anyone here disagrees with you, and their are plenty of posts to prove this.
            However buses do run up against trouble if you keep trying to use them for all your CBD bound traffic in the long run.

  • grantb

    The stats seem to make sense from my personal experience.

    I would have taken the Northern Express three days last week, but I have an AT Hop card loaded with credit, which of course are still not accepted on all buses. Had to let the nice and frequent NEX buses (ironically decked out with AT hop card signage), sail on past, while I took the Northstar buses. Presume that is covered in the stats, but Hop card woes don’t help perception of a good effective system, if you are considering taking the bus.

    In the end, last couple of days of the week, I cycled down to Devonport and took the Ferry. Nice way of getting to work, but the ferry is still the weakest part of the link. Bring on the Skypath.

    On the Skypath, I think having something as highly visible and iconic as the skypath, will really help cycle use take off. I discovered the ‘green route’ path yesterday between Takapuna and Bayswater; an amazing asset, but as a cyclist was surprised I did not know it existed. Cycle lanes connected to the Skypath I think will have usage explode.

    • Dan C

      Yup, since they rolled out Purple At Hop on the infratil buses, i’ve noticed a number of people either turned away or (once) let on for free because they didn’t have cash, expecting to be able to get on the AT branded buses with an AT transport card. These people won’t be counted in the patronage

  • Sigmund

    Bus patronage is declining/stagnant? You mean, people don’t want to pay for an expensive, time consuming, unreliable, uncomfortable and inconvenient service? Now who woulda thunk it?!

    But that’s ok right because we have a new network coming… in three years. And fares are going to… increase. And ticket options… remain abysmal, with still no 2-hour or weekly options. And unsuitable buses are going to… continue to be used. And realtime information remains… a pipedream. And bus transfers are… hugely inconvenient (addressed by ATHOP?). And retailers/information/access to HOP cards remains… abysmal.

    Yup, “progress”. But that’s ok because we have shiny new trains. Nevermind the 80 per cent using buses.

  • Autocentric_John

    These are outstanding results. Around 147,700 people per day using buses and 28,700 people per day on trains. That means Auckland buses are carrying about 15% fewer people than the harbour bridge (assuming occupancy at 1.1 per car) and the three rail lines combined are carrying a similar total to the flow on Whangaparaoa Rd each day or perhaps Lake Road in Takapuna. With continued growth and investment the rail system might eventually make a similar contribution to say Te Irirangi Drive!

  • So what you are saying is that the number of cars the bus system takes of Auckland roads each day is almost the same amount as the number of cars crossing the harbour bridge every day? Wow, imagine what traffic would be like if all the car trips using the bridge in 24 hours just disappeared.

    What your passive aggression belies is the huge impact public transport makes on peak capacity. During the two hour morning peak buses carry just under half the people crossing the harbour bridge. In other words without the buses we would need a six lane bridge with tidal flow in parallel and an entirely new motorway down from Albany… just to keep traffic congestion at the same level it is today.

    Same with the rail lines, at peak times the southern and eastern lines together move about as many people per hour in the peak direction as the southern motorway. Would you prefer twice as many people tried to use the motorway instead?

  • Phil

    If we applied the same twisted mentality to these figures as you usually show to cars you would say we reached ‘Peak PT’ and now its in decline we should stop all expenditure on public transport :D

    • Sailor Boy

      What expenditure Phil?

    • PT dipped for about 12 months after the artificial boost of the Rugby World Cup then started to climb again, car traffic has been flat for nine years. Read into that what you will, but I don’t see it as “peak PT”.

    • Greg N

      Phil, if we were Peak PT, then we should at the very least, double down on PT investment, just like we’ve been doing the last 60 years, and that we’re still doing with roads even now via the RoNS.

      In any case, even if it was peak PT in 2011, we still have a least 7 more years to go before we can acknowledge it as such – based on the track record and current attitude of NZTA and MoT to the current “Peak Car” trend that started way in 2004 and is stil lcalled an anomaly despite that fact that a seachange is underway and is obvious to all and sundry – both here, and most every other G20 country.

      But will our PT usage in 7 years be lower than it is today? I very much doubt it no matter how you measure it either absolutely, passenger km or in per-capita forms it will be higher. much much higher. the only arguments will be how high, and how quickly.

      Ca’t say that about vehicle traffic growth (especially) cars though in reality can we?

      Well you might, but I gather you’re some kind of “futures” trader, so you’re wrong close to 50% of the time right statistically speaking, if you’re a good one, and wrong more than percentage that if you’re not.

      And lets not forget your prognostications the forthcoming SkyPath will cause the Northcote point property market to crash overnight when SkyPath opens, and how it will also cause the bridge to fall into the sea due to the increased loading on the clip-ons to factor in your credibility in transport predictions.

      Got any other “predictions” you care to lay on the table while you’re at it?

  • Phil

    Gee Greg, as I said above…It was a JOKE!

    I do not see Peak Car or Peak Oil, two things you guys bang on about all the time. I work in oil trading, given the industry I work in, chances are, I know a lot more about Peak oil and Peak car than you do… just saying! I also clearly no a lot more about futures trading… how on earth do you imagine most futures traders get the market wrong close to 50% of the time??? No one in trading would survive that sort of hit and miss pnl…. You, like most people, (including the Fed, SFA, and the Bank of England) seem to know very little about trading. What sort of job do you do?

    Peak car ignores all the growth in new car sales in most OECD countries and certainly Asia. Of course if you want to say driving is in decline in Spain I will agree with you, with a 30% unemployment rate pretty much everything is going to be in decline. As we come out of the economic crisis you will see a lot more miles driven and transport fuel consumption. People will be driving to work in the new jobs that are created and then trucks will be driving to deliver all the new goods that are produced and consumed. It’s just basic common sense. If you dont believe me, try your hand at the futures market and sell forward stocks in car companies and oil futures. It’s not hard, just call a broker.

    Skypath is not a done deal so dont break out the sticky tissues yet. I said it would be an unfair inconvenience for the residents and it will be, as it seems you can not afford to live on Northcote Point you will have to take the word of people who can. I also said it would be a financial disaster for the rate payers, if it does get built, time will tell.

    What I can predict though with certainty is that a new vehicle harbour crossing would be much better supported overnight than Skypath. If you dont believe that you are like all the idiots that said the M25 would never need widening.

    • That sort of “everything is great, I know all there is to know about trading, nothing will ever change” talk is exactly the same as the share traders in the mid 80s, all talking about continued business growth, investment and emerging markets. Heard it again in the dotcom era. People whose livelihoods and self worth depend on them not seeing the writing on the wall often have a hard time seeing the writing on the wall.

      Just had a quick look at the rates on Stokes Point, not a single one has a CV or rates more than my place. I guess because Phil can’t afford to live in my neighbourhood he’ll just have to take my word for it, most people across Auckland really don’t care about the self entitled griping of a handful of arrogant nimbys with delusions of grandeur living next to the bridge.

      Once again you’re predictions are likely to be quite off. According to a Horizon Poll 81% of Aucklanders surveyed support building Skypath, and 88% said they would try it out within the first year if it were built.

      Yet the Shape NZ survey showed only 38% of Aucklanders surveyed though the harbour crossing was the main priority, the other 62% picked extensions to the rail network.. and that is without stating that both the existing bridge and new crossing would be tolled, as NZTA has confirmed. If you told Aucklanders, North Shore residents especially, that they would be forced to start paying tolls to cross the harbour then support would drop to a single figure percentage.

      I would wager my fortune on Skypath being much better supported that a new vehicle harbour crossing, because it already is. I’ll take any odds you like that Skypath is built within three years and a harbour vehicle crossing is still just a series of planning options in the same time.

      They’ve been trying to build a second crossing since the 60s, the problem is it’s just to invasive, too expensive, and generally unwarranted. It would take National doubling down on the RoNS and pulling five billion bucks out of thin air for it to go ahead. They don’t have that kind of money to fritter away (thats more than the whole asset sales budget!), NZTA can’t fund it in their programme, Auckland Transport certainly can’t, and it is impossible to fund through tolling because people will simply not drive rather than pay the sort of toll that would be required to cover it.

      • Greg N

        Don’t forget, the same attitude was present in the run up to the 2008 crash too – those “20 years on from the great crash of ’87 articles the papers all ran in ’07 – general consensus from “those in the know” all said – “can’t happen again ever, rules are different now, and even if it did wouldn’t affect the economy”, and you know what happened, right afterwards – the Big US Investment banks started going broke, and the car companies right after – all starting the GFC..

        And all those “not driving because I can’t/won’t pay the tolls” on the Shore folks will still expect an option to cross the Harbour, some could use SkyPath, but many can’t, so they’ll all eventually crowd on to the PT options instead.
        So you can include another $500 million at least in additioal spedning needed to fix up PT options on the shore to cop with the massive growth.
        If that tolled 2nd harbour crossing ever comes to pass.

    • Luke C

      Just because the M25 was widened, or was congested doesn’t mean it needed widening. Those orbital motorways around large cities drive road based land use so very quickly induce traffic. Of course an orbital ring road is no comparison to the harbor crossing, which would be $5 Billion for a 3.5km section of road, which would lead nowhere, because it is too destructive and expensive to do anything to the CMJ or Northern Motorway north of Akoronga.

      • Indeed, it’s a five billion (more actually, from what I’m hearing) project that in net effect simply increases capacity between the lower North Shore and City Centre. Five billion to drive between Esmonde Rd/Onewa Rd and Shelly Beach Rd, Fanshawe St and Cook St. As you say, Nothing extra through the CMJ or further south.

        The question I would loved answered is what the proposed to do to Fanshawe St and Cook St to support that traffic, and following that, where does the traffic go? Where are the extra parking buildings to be located, and what roads would the traffic access them on? Can we really afford all that road widening and new parking in the CBD on top of the billions of the harbour crossing itself?

        Seems to me if there was a need for more capacity to move peak commuters to the CBD there are a lot cheaper ways to do that.

    • Bryce P

      I’ve just been working in Northcote Point and the people in the house are supportive of the Skypath. Apparently you don’t represent everyone Phil.

      • He clearly only represents himself, but likes to insinuate that his views and desires are universal truths. Nobody on Northcote Point wants the walking and cycling link, just like a new harbour motorway will be built regardless of what the politicians in Wellington say and just like doubling the price of fuel has no impact of car use. Yeah right.

  • Molly Woppy

    Re North Shore stats, the bus commuter in this house would switch to a car in an instant if he could, because of the lack of reliability of the current system. You can accept the odd delay but when it happens virtually every day…

  • Sailor Boy

    Agreed, busway ius amazing, everything else is very, very poor.

  • Phil

    Nick, You can make all your nasty little snips but the fact is that Aucklanders will be paying road tolls regardless of if a second crossing is made or not.
    You sound exactly like all the people that] said if petrol became £1.00 a litre/$2.00 a litre/$2.00 a gallon (take your pick which country) that people would stop driving overnight and there would be abandoned cars on the sides of roads. Petrol could double in price and people would still drive in exactly the same way as you can toll the harbour crossings and people will still drive. Dont delude yourself, any toll on a new tunnel will be matched by a new toll on the existing bridge.
    The tunnel is about future proofing Auckland. As you well know the two biggest population growths were the CBD and the North Shore. Connecting those two centres is a priority and making sure we have more than one credible crossing option is critically important. If the bridge was unusable (earthquake/new cracks/accident that caused a massive fire) Auckland would be fucked. You may like to think the city would cope perfectly well by driving around the upper harbour but it wont. The tunnel will get built regardless of which bunch of politicians are sitting in Wellington. As for cost, its cheaper today than it will be in 20 years so why not build it now?
    Surveys mean squat. If a survey was taken that said “Do you support Skypath if it adds $100 a month to your rates” the only people that would say yes are the handful of koolaide drinkers on the Auckland Transport Blog. Neither you or I have a crystal ball, we can not say with 100% certainty if the path will be a success, failure, or something in between. If you think you can you are arrogant and delusional. I can say with absolute conviction that this is a financial risk to rate payers and a project that expects to have 60% of Sydney Harbour crossing in year 1 is well in the danger area of being pie in the sky economics.
    Your comments about traders are a laugh…If you had invested in the 80′s in the emerging markets you would have done rather nicely. Putin, Abramovich, Timchenko, and Usmanov all seem to ‘have done ok’ from exactly that investment. Your understanding of the GFC sounds like it came from the Truth or Sunday Times.

    • Stu Donovan

      how do you know it will be cheaper today than in 20 years time? Would that not depend on relative movements in the price of labour/materials, as yet unknown technological improvements, and income levels?

      As a general economic “rule of thumb”, if we need it in 20 years time, then we should build it in 20 years time. And the things we need now we should build now.

      More specifically, the CRL has a higher BCR than the harbour crossing specifically because we “need” the former more urgently than the latter.

    • nonsense

      ah ah I love your examples of people that have done ok. I’d do ok as well if I had the entrepreneurial capacity to kill journalists.

    • Erm, why would skypath add $100 a month to rates? That would equal $570,000,000 a year, enough to pay for the entire project nineteen times in the first year alone, assuming that it was entirely ratepayer funded. So let’s rephrase that question “Do you support Skypath which will cost the public nothing if usage estimates are correct, but could add up to 40c a month for ten years to your rates bill in the worst case scenario?”.

      You are delusional if you think that petrol could double to $4.35 a litre and people would still drive exactly the same way. You cannot double the price of something and expect no change in demand. Do you honestly think the price elasticity of car travel is zero?

      I’m not sure what you mean by “Dont delude yourself, any toll on a new tunnel will be matched by a new toll on the existing bridge”, that’s exactly what I said. Aucklanders, and North Shore residents in particular, will be most unhappy at the prospect of paying $6 to $8 on a new crossing (which is the range indicated by NZTA), and especially unhappy at being forced to pay the same toll on the existing crossing also.

      So let’s rephrase your question and ask the people of Auckland “Do you support a second harbour crossing if it costs each taxpayer in the city $500 a year, plus requires tolls of $6-$8 to use either the new crossing or the existing harbour bridge?”.

      • Greg N

        Is that predicted toll on both crossings going to be charged each way or in one direction only like the old bridge tolling had?

        • It’s not actually clear in any of the reports, but I assume it is one way only. Make it $6-8 in both directions and the number of people actually using the crossing and paying the toll will tend towards zero.

    • Greg N

      “I can say with absolute conviction that this is a financial risk to rate payers”

      Everything the Auckland Council does, even “a not doing anything” stance carries a financial risk to ratepayers.

      Your point is what? SkyPath is simply too risky financially to go near?

      As a ratepayer, I – and others I know – all support SkyPath despite its “risks”.

      Furthermore all the many surveys AC does on SkyPath shows a clear majority of support from other ratepayers for the project and councils approach to it.
      I know you dismiss the wisdom of crowds and believe in autocracy i.e. your way or the highway.
      Regardless of your beliefs well run surveys do count for something statisically.

      And on SkyPath I think a lot of people who support it realise that even if its a total abject financial failure and council bails it out completely, that even then the cost to council and ratepayers will be way, way less than the cost of some of the more idiotic projects AC/AT takes on now that are seemingly at face value “less risky” financially [like forever widening arterial roads to fit more and more traffic in without considering any real alternatives or serious considerations of changing priorities
      e.g. adding more bus lanes by removing on street parking].

      So yes, complain about the financial risk of SkyPath all you like, but also include in your argument the true risks of status quo and all the other stupid projects Council does now and intends to do..

      And you may find the actual costs, and also the opportunity cost of doing many small things like SkyPath well, year on year, is much much better than yet another mega-bucks project like the AWHC crossing, every 15-20 years or so.

      And at the end of the day, you either accept that the majority rules, or you can leave
      - so what’ll it be Phil sell up and move out of town or sit in your little fortress on Northcote point and snipe at the world like a crackpot?

    • Luke C

      using incredibly corrupt KGB agents as examples of people that have done well in the 80′s…..
      Also your statement about tunnel being cheaper now that in the future suggests you have no knowledge of basic financial fundamentals.
      Paying road tolls would be a great way to show that no new harbor crossing would be required, nor any post Waterview motorway expansion.

  • Phil

    There is no certainty of a toll or how much that toll would be so stop pretending it will be $6 – $8. There has been no discussion on tolls except the Govt said it was unlikely to try and recoup its share of the costs through tolls.
    Personally I think they should start tolling all motorways in NZ now, so long as there is a free alternative then why not toll the expressway? People accept paying to park in the city, why shouldn’t they accept paying to use the motorways? Only people that believe this blog would be stupid enough to drive the long way round the harbour to avoid the toll.
    As for doubling the price of fuel. It has doubled in the last years and yet plenty of cars are still on our roads. I doubt anyone would waste their time looking at the figures for an energy backwater like NZ but if you look at the USA, the elasticity of road transport fuel price is -0.26%. Hardly a figure to have OPEC rushing to discount crude oil.
    As for majority rules, Im so glad your brought that up. A Shape NZ survey established that of the 4 major transport plans for Auckland the second harbour crossing was the top priority for the majority of Aucklanders. The CRL was the least prioritised coming in 4/4.
    To use your own words “well run surveys do count for something statistically”.

    • Nick R

      I’m not pretending anything, only reporting what the NZTA have indicated the toll was likely to be last time they looked at the matter. There has been plenty of discussion on tolls actually, see section 10.6 of this PWC analysis:
      http://awhc.nzta.govt.nz/eBooks/Preliminary%20Business%20Case%20Report/Preliminary%20Business%20Case%20Report.pdf

      Here is a concise summary, fails miserably just tolling the new crossing, yet still isn’t self funding if you toll both the existing and new:

      “Where both crossings (i.e. existing AHB and either the defined bridge or tunnel) are tolled, the project moves closer to a
      point of self funding. Where only one crossing is tolled, traffic is diverted to the toll free crossing which has a material
      impact on toll revenues and ultimately the ability to raise debt to fund the project. Under single tolled crossing scenarios,
      the majority of tolling revenue is expenses on maintenance costs and therefore the ability to issue debt is significantly
      restricted and the total debt balance is immaterial to the total project cost.”

      and various media reports on the matter:

      http://www.thelawreport.co.nz/news/4035/6-toll-to-cross-auckland-harbour-bridge-5-july-2011/
      http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/north-harbour-news/5254526/Shore-rejects-6-toll-for-new-crossing
      http://www.aktnz.co.nz/2011/07/05/6-toll-for-bridge-suggested/

      Ok so fuel price elasticity is -0.26. Double the price of driving and you lose a quarter of your vkt. Fine, so if the price of fuel does double we can take a lane off the harbour bridge each way with a quarter less traffic.

      Thanks for your input on pricing the motorways, we’re quite open to the idea here. Unfortunately that doesn’t make the harbour crossing economically sound. You could charge every single one of the 170,000 vehicles using Spaghetti Junction an $8 toll one way and still not have enough to meet the payments of the new harbour crossing. Furthermore if you charged $8 many drivers would stop driving across the harbour, very many by the sounds of things.

      This is what Litman says about the elasticity of tolls:

      “Motorists tend to be relatively sensitive to road pricing compared with other types of
      price changes (Evans, Bhatt and Turnbull 2003; Lake and Ferreira 2002; Litman 2012).
      Spears, Boarnet and Handy (2010) summarize recent road pricing experience. They
      conclude that the elasticity of traffic volumes to tolls is typically -0.1 to -0.45.

      Research by Parsons Brinckerhoff (2012) indicates significant bias against paying tolls,
      regardless of amount, often equivalent to 15-20 minutes of travel time. This reluctance to
      pay road tolls has reduced traffic volumes and revenue below what was predicted for
      many toll road projects (NCHRP 2006; Prozzi, et al. 2009; Williams-Derry 2011). ”

      So indeed many folks will spend an extra fifteen minutes driving around the harbour, or more likely they will simply stay on their respective sides and not cross it by choice, or use public transport instead, or perhaps even cycle across (!).

  • Andrew Stevenson

    The document “Funding Auckland’s Transport Future” (Google for link and PDF) identifies four main funding options for new transport projects that should be investigated further. (Over and above the existing funding sources.)

    1. Increase in fuel taxes
    2. Increase in TLA rates (possibly targeted)
    3. Road pricing (I prefer to call this “congestion charging”), in either the cordon form (eg London) or motorway tolling (as you suggest, Phil)
    4. Tolls on new infrastructure (eg Northern tunnel)

    Ones they rejected included a regional lottery, regional payroll tax, regional GST/sales tax, visitor bed tax, departure tax and others.

    The funding shortfall (AFAIK) is about $400m per year, working out to about $400 per adult in the region. Central government may put in half, leaving us to find $200 per adult.

  • Phil

    I think they should recoup the funding shortfall by taxing all the Japanese second hand cars we import. I sit on my lounge watching these huge car transport ships discharging cargoes all the time wondering who is buying all these used Toyotas.
    As a shore resident though I would have no objection to a toll on the harbour crossings. I don’t expect the bus or ferry to be free, why should the road be. To maintain fairness, all motorways should be tolled at the same time, otherwise it’s just a tax on people living on the shore.
    Fuel tax is also a good option, like GST, it’s very hard to dodge.

  • Andrew Stevenson

    There are points in favour and against each of the four funding options.

    Fuel tax is hard to dodge and requires no new infrastructure to implement, but applies to everyone equally and doesn’t encourage any (much?) behaviour change – if I drive at 10am I pay the tax and yet don’t contribute to congestion as much as if I drove at 7am.

    Increase in rates also requires no new infrastructure and is easy to implement (maybe not politically, but practically), but again doesn’t encourage any behaviour change.

    Congestion charging certain encourages behaviour change, but can be inefficient in terms of money collected, and can also require some infrastructure.

    Tolls on new infrastructure means those benefiting from it, pay for the bulk of it, but can also be inefficient.

    My calculations indicate a regional fuel tax of an additional 20c would be required, or $400 per household rates, or (back of envelope calculation) $5 cordon charge/motorway toll, or (ditto) $2 each way toll on all new infrastructure. Or a combination there-of.

  • Phil

    Hi Andrew, I agree with what you have said. A variable tolling system would probably do a lot to change habits. Increasing toll charges between 6-10am would probably encourage employee productivity as some people would be silly enough to go to work early to avoid $2.00 extra toll :)
    I’m not in favour of rates increases as they are a tax on property owners. I’d rather see NZ change from rates to a council tax where every household pays and not just the people who have savings in bricks and mortar.
    Having said that, 20c a litre, $2.00 bridge/tunnel toll, or $5.00 to use the motorways system each day doesn’t sound too bad a cost to build projects that create employment, pump money into NZ construction companies, and ease traffic congestion.

  • Andrew Stevenson

    Hi Phil. Thanks – though I’m just summarising what was in the FATF report. :-)

    “I’d rather see NZ change from rates to a council tax where every household pays and not just the people who have savings in bricks and mortar.”

    We’re already off the topic of this post, and I imagine the moderators will get grumpy if we go even further off topic. :-)

  • Phil

    True, back on topic, any revenue system designed to pay for new rods could also help subsidise PT. the best public transport system is a free one and giving Aucklanders the choice of paying tolls to use congestion free motorways or traveling for free on the bus/ train would really solve patronage figures and the cities traffic problems.

    • Problem is that our PT system simply wouldn’t be able to cope. We would need significant capital and operational investment in PT to give enough capacity, especially at peak times.

  • Andrew Stevenson

    Assuming an average fare value of $3 then the total fare-spend in Auckland is just over $200m per annum. Obviously that’s a lot of money ($200 per adult per year?) but it would be interesting to study benefits of finding it, and so making the PT in Auckland fare-free.

    FYI, the proposed future transport plan for Auckland is 2/3 of the funding for private transport, and 1/3 for public.

    • Problem with offering free PT is that our current system simply isn’t likely to be able to cope. Many parts of the system are already at capacity at peak times and will stay that way till we we get electric trains and the new bus network in place. Even with those I’m not sure there is enough capacity for free PT to be offered. My preference would be to keep fares at roughly the same level they are now (or with a slight decrease) then leave them that way for some time which would reduce them in real terms

      • Phil

        I expect a free PT would stretch our resources but the more PT is used the more we should invest in it. As Andrew has mentioned, it’s about changing habits. More people using PT mean less congested roads and less imported oil and jap cars. It’s a win win scenario. I do like the referendum suggestion.

        • It just has to be there to be chosen, it is a fallacy to assume that the current Ak mode share split is the result of perfect choice, price is a barrier at the margins, but utility is a bigger barrier. A free service that doesn’t take many people where they want to go, fast enough, frequently enough, nor comfortably enough is less use than a priced one that fulfils those criteria.

          A suboptimal free system will only attract the money poor but time rich, but no one else, not even the busy poor, and there are plenty of them. People holding down multiple low paid jobs for example. And certainly not anyone even slightly further up the income scale needing to get places.

          So a balance is required between price signals and service improvement. Our view generally is that off peak should be radically cheaper to accommodate the price sensitive but more flexible (Gold Card, unemployed, kids, etc) but that peak services should be priced. Same as the roads too, price the peaks.

          The marginal cost to society of both roads and transit seats is low to zero in the low demand periods.

          • Nick R

            I agree there, simply making it free would provide a boon to existing users and perhaps a few of the most price sensitive individuals at the margin.

            Upping the price on a product is a good way to drive down consumption, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that reducing price will up consumption if the fundamental utility of the product isn’t there for most people. Currently PT on really ‘works’ for three smallish groups of people:

            1) those that commute to the city on weekdays and are exposed to large parking and traffic disbenefits, but have quite good PT service as an alternative to get to the office (but basically drive at all other times and places when they don’t face CBD traffic and parking issues)

            2) those who are “captive” to PT by not owning or being able to drive a car for whatever reason, and rely on PT for basic travel needs (but tend not to travel much at all otherwise).

            3) and a small group who tend to live around the city fringe where they have good enough all day service to a variety of destinations that they can chose to get around by PT to avoid traffic, parking and car ownership costs, (even though they could afford to drive, park if they wanted to).

            Only group two are particularly price sensitive, group one and three already make the choice that PT is cheaper for them in terms of money, time and/or inconvenience.

            Simply making the existing network free wouldn’t do much for numbers except perhaps get a little more use out of two and maybe three. Improving the frequency, span and general usefulness of the network however would benefit all groups and more importantly result in more car drivers falling into the third category where previously they didn’t. A free network would be a bonus for existing users, but it won’t get many new ones. A free network that still doesn’t work for most people and trips isn’t going to change the rational assessment of transport options. Very few car drivers will suddenly decide to catch a bus that comes once an hour, doesn’t go anywhere near their destination and doesn’t run after 6pm even if was totally free.

            The first question has to be how much would it cost?

            Given that we have about seventy million PT trips a year, replacing the fare revenue would cost somewhere in the region of $200 million a year. So the city would have to fund two hundred million bucks more in the annual budget just to maintain the existing service levels, or in other words double the current rate/tax payer subsidy for not a single extra bus, train or ferry trip anywhere any time. Are we likely to double patronage with double the subsidy, I don’t think so as long as the service stays exactly the same.

            The second question would therefore be, how else could we spend the money that might have a better outcome? An extra subsidy of $200m a year would allow us to run roughly twice as much bus, train and ferry service as we do today, assuming about the same level of fares paid per service. We could do a lot with that, many buses could run every five minutes all day, seven days a week, ferries could run every fifteen minutes to Devonport, etc. That would probably do a lot more to shift the travel choice equation than keeping the slow and infrequent network and hoping zero price makes people overlook how inconvenient it is most of the time.
            If not more service delivery, then the money could fund infrastructure. $200m a year is enough to fund about five billion worth of capital works across a thirty year timeframe. That could mean several new rail lines and busways, more new trains, new ferry terminals, and a hell of a lot of buslanes. Funding infrastructure that increases speed and reliability of the existing services means they would be faster and have greater capacity. For example, if we doubled the speed of every bus in Auckland with amazing bus lanes and stations, not only would trips take half the time, but the same vehicles and drivers could make twice as many runs in the same time. That would mean twice the frequency and twice the capacity, as well as twice the speed. That also sounds like it would make a bigger difference than making the existing slow and infrequent services free.

            Naturally a network that was both greatly expanded and also free would get the most gains, but at what costs? Three, four times the existing subsidy each year? There is a vicious cycle there, needing more service with no revenue means even more expense.

            Surely enhancing the network to be useful to most Aucklanders is the first step, then look at whether making it free is a good idea. We would probably find that if we funded the right infrastructure and service expansions that more people would use it, service delivery would become more cost efficient and revenue would go up, allowing futher investment with less subsidy. A virtuous cycle instead.

          • Andrew Stevenson

            True, Nick, “simply making the existing network free wouldn’t do much for numbers except perhaps get a little more use out of two and maybe three”, although your listing of groups has omitted a fourth: those who don’t use PT but would if the price was right. Does that group have the greatest potential for benefit?

            “…in other words double the current rate/tax payer subsidy for not a single extra bus, train or ferry trip…” True, but would usage be higher, and therefore congestion reduced overall? And what if the majority (who are private vehicle users) would pay for this?

            (Interesting question: what fee would you pay to drive to work in peak times as if it was Sunday afternoon?)

            If an immediate “PT is free!” announcement would overload services, would an incremental reduction in PT costs drag in this fourth group, while giving services time to adjust? (That is, is an extra couple of 31F flyers as numbers dictate, going to break the AT bank?)

            Is it better to have new customers, or improve the service to existing ones? I don’t know. A genuine question…

          • Nick R

            My view is it is much better to go for new customers, because if that is your goal you are also going to improve the service for existing ones at the same time… conversely there is only so much you can gain by encouraging existing customers to use PT a bit more often, and those gains are relatively small in terms of overall benefits as long as 85% of the population still never use it.

            If we are going to invest serious money into PT it should be to improve service levels in a way that attracts new users as well as makes things better for existing users.

            Having said that, one easy thing would be to make PT sort of free, some of the time. By that I mean keep it the same price and service levels at peak times but effectively give existing users off peak travel at no extra charge. Simplest way to do that would be through daily or weekly passes, price them at the cost of one or five return trips respectively so people buy them for a regular commute, but can then make extra trips in the same areas in evenings and weekends for free.

            That wouldn’t be a massive increase, but effectively you are giving away free rides in empty seats that are being operated anyway, to people who have already paid for their main travel. So there would be no cost of lost revenue, nor any new expense of extra service. Same revenue, same cost, same people travelling by PT but more often.

          • Phil

            If 200m a year would fund a 5 bill investment paid off over 30 years then we should all stop worrying about the cost of the 2nd harbour crossing. Funding 200m a year from extra fuel taxes or a $2.00 each way toll will be easy.
            Back to PT. Yes I agree that we should improve services. When I use PT (and I have used it in a lot of different cities around the world) I find one of the most important things to have is real time status updates. I first saw this on a bus stop in Zurich and thought it was incredibly helpful. I think people dont mind waiting 20-30 mins for a bus if they can see that it is actually coming. Surely real time boards wouldnt be too expensive. Do we need extra frequency on most routes? I cant speak for most of Auckland but the PT options from Northcote Point are a bus every hour, a ferry every 30 mins, or walk to Onewa and get a bus every 5 mins (or less). This seems reasonable to me, I mean, as an adult, surely I can organise my day to fit in with one of those services.
            Would it be nice to walk down some steps and catch an underground to anywhere in Auckland, like Singapore, Hong Kong, London or Paris – of course it would be but that is never ever going to happen in a city of so few people spread out over such a vast area. NZ wouldnt build a metro system like that even if we became mega rich overnight. It would never get used, Im not even sure we would have the man power to run it.
            I think AT do a pretty good job with the bus services, sure it could be tweeked a bit but overall lowering the fares and live update boards could do a lot to get more passengers on board. Forget about the grand ideas that involve expensive train sets and imagine what could be done for 1b. With that spend on PT and 5b on the second harbour crossing we only need to find 350m a year to increase PT spending, reduce fares, and pay for a better motorway system.. that is not a lot of extra fuel tax, especially as the price of Petrol is going to be significantly lower (in USD) for the next 10 years.

          • Nick R

            Absolutely we need better frequency on most routes, I don’t know about you but I’ve usually got much more important things to do than wait around for an hour to pop up to the shops or get to a meeting… particularly if I just miss one service and have to wait for the next. I can’t turn up at meetings an hour late.

            The ability to simply “turn up and go” is one of the greatest benefits of a car, and a network of high frequency routes will provide that same convenience of not having to know every timetable or to plan your life around when you are able to travel. For yourself the walk to Onewa Rd is probably the route of choice if you haven’t intricately planned your day around the ferry or local bus. You just go there and get the next one that turns up within a few minutes, like any metro system around the world.

            Frequency is the hardest thing for non PT users to understand, luckily the planners at AT understand it and are implementing a Frequent Service Network across Auckland with guaranteed frequency all day seven days a week.

            That is what Auckland needs, a transit system that runs like a metro: an integrated network of fast, frequent, direct and reliable lines. Whether those lines are run by buses on street or bus lanes, buses on busways, by trains on tracks or by ferries on the harbour is inconsequential to the network. We just need to use whichever mode is most effective for each route to deliver frequent and reliable transit capacity. In the case of the rail network we already have, that is ideal to provide long distance trips across the region with the speed and reliability that comes from being independent of traffic. The greatest benefit of the rail network is the fact we already have the corridors built and running between the western and southern fringes of the city. The only problem with it is the lack of capacity and integration, once the new electric trains are running the infrastructure will be full with no way to meet the additional demand. That is the greatest benefit of the City Rail Link, it takes those three separate lines and two branches and pulls them together into a single integrated system, more than doubling the passengers capacity and frequency in the process.

            The fact we get three new stations in the city centre is something of a bonus, the real gain is across the wider network from Swanson to Pukekohe. Spending two billion dollars to get a 3.5km tunnel with three stations sounds like a lot, but the project is so much more than that. In doing so we are actually converting our old legacy train lines into a metro system with 95km of track and 46 stations, and in the process adding the capacity to move an extra 21,000 people each hour to any given point on the network. That’s the same capacity as nine new motorway lanes by the way, so the CRL is effectively the same transport capacity as building two entirely new motorways running from Swanson and Henderson through the City Centre, across the isthmus and down through Manukau to Pukekohe. Getting such a large rapid transit system with so much capacity makes the two billion dollar cost an absolute bargain. We don’t need to build an underground metro all over Auckland, we just need the CRL to get the same.

            There is no way we could conceive to add such transport capacity with new motorways (could you imagine the cost of adding 95km of multilane motorway capacity across the suburbs and through town? Twenty billion might be a starting point!)… nor buses either. The CRL adds capacity to the rail system equivalent to 420 buses an hour. That’s about the same number as all the buses that enter the city at the busiest peak hour of a weekday morning. Unfortunately our buses are already so popular there is little scope to add especially many more to busy places like the City Centre, not unless we start closing main arterials to car traffic so that we can run double bus lanes instead.

            That is perhaps the great hidden benefit of using the CRL to unleash the latent unused capacity of the rail network: it allows so many more people to move around quickly without ever creating or experiencing traffic congestion. At the same time, shifting the heavy lifting of the transit system to heavy rail means that buses can be redistributed to greater frequency on suburban links to local centres and train stations. The bus at the top of your street may not look like a metro station, but it can function like one.

            The idea that Auckland has so few people spread out over such a large area is just plain false, it’s a common truism but an old wives tale nevertheless. The reality is that Auckland’s urban population is quite dense, about the same as Sydney and far more dense than the likes of Brisbane, Melbourne or Perth (or Vancouver, or Portland, or just about any other new world city under five million). Furthermore, that population is constrained along linear corridors due to the two harbours and various inlets, ridges and mountain ranges. The best example of that is the Harbour bridge, all transport between the North Shore and the rest of the city must follow one of two bridges. Auckland is almost perfectly designed for public transport because of these funnelling constraints, and conversely it’s not particularly good for private vehicles. Funnelling everyone onto one route results in very efficient PT operation, but creates horrible traffic congestion on the roads.

            We do already have real time departure boards at all major bus stops, while the system is a bit buggy they are improving it. There is one at the Onewa Rd stops by the top of Queen St, I’m surprised you haven’t seen it. Nonetheless, I’d much rather just knowing that a bus will always be along within five or ten minutes that having a board at the stop that tells me how long I have to wait once I get there.

          • Greg N

            Phil we’ve had this argument before from you about the cost of the tolls needed to pay for the second crossing.

            You assume that $200m a year will pay off a 5 billion investment over 30 years, it will – but thats assuming a cost of the borrowed money over 30 years is only 1 billion (20% of the total cost being the interest payments needed over 30 years) – yeah right – a house mortgage has a 30 year cost of more like 50% of the borrowed sum – even at todays low interest rates, and yes governments can borrow cheaply, but not at 8/10ths of 1 per cent a year over 30 years.

            And you neglect big time (again for the umpteenth time) to factor in to your calculations the costs of actually collecting the tolls.
            They’re not cost free you know.
            A $2 each way toll won’t work/collect enough money to mee tyour dubious 200m a year figure, let alone the actual much higher figure.

            At “zero cost of collection” at $2 each way toll on **both** the old and new crossing (160,000 vehicles per day, all paying $2 each way, will raise about $116m a year) – assuming everyone using the bridge pays the same toll.

            To get your $200m a year figure to pay of the tunnel in 30 years as you posit, with no costs of collection factored in you’d need over 300,000 vehicles per day to use both crossings.

            Once you include the cost of collection, a not insignificant percentage of the toll, you will need over 500,000 tolls a day at least for your $2 toll.

            And then the question comes, ok, so we have 500,000 trips a day over/under the harbour paying for our corssing somehow.
            How do those streams of traffic get to/from the crossings?

            You’d need over 10 lanes of traffic capacity, to carry that number of vehicles, assuming each lanes carries 2,000 vecicles an hour.spread evenly over 24 hours a day.
            If you factor in a twice daily tidal surge, you’d need more like 15-20 lanes of traffic capacity at each end to carry those vehicles to/from your toll gates.

            The true toll figure NZTA calculates they’d need is more like $8 each way. 4 times your estimated toll.

          • Phil

            Nick, I agree with you on the CRL.. And the point you make about at first glance it looks expensive for three stops is true. Having read the supporting arguments on this blog my opinion on the CRL changed completely.
            From my own personal experience I am very happy with my PT options. I take the ferry because it’s a 2 min walk from my house, I don’t mind that it’s only every 30 mins and it is well connected to anywhere I want to go. The airport and Eden Park are two examples. I would like a better service on Sundays but it’s not a huge issue. If I want to go anywhere in a hurry I take my car and if I’m coming back from the city after a night on the beers, it’s only $30 in a taxi. I know I’m luckier than someone that lives in Howick but location and the views are why I built my House on the point.
            I disagree with you about Aucklands geography, I find the city very spread out. Papatoetoe feels a long way from the shore, maybe because of the achingly slow 100km speed limit or maybe because I just don’t want to go further south than New Market? Yes London is more spread out but no one really travels far from where they live or work despite an extensive metro system. No one would have the time or the will power to go from Hounslow to Stratford for a night out. This is why for me Auckland won’t be building a metro in our lifetimes. An integrated bus service, as you say, is what will serve us best (and the rail improvements from the CRL).
            Auckland to me suits a road transport system, that works for bus based PT and the majority of people that will still want to drive their cars regardless of how much PT is improved. This is why I favour continued spending on roads, including the tunnel under the harbour. We all have opinions, right or less right, that’s mine :)
            Greg, if $2 toll raises 116m then $4 each way raises 232m. If we can’t collect tolls for 32m there is something very wrong. People will pay the toll because their only other choice is to drive via Riverhead. After paying the added fuel tax I’d levy for PT projects the fuel would cost more. Anyway, toll all Aucklands Motorway system, the Shore shouldn’t be the only people burdened with paying a toll.

  • Phil

    200m could be grabbed from fuel tax pretty easily, especially as the global wholesale price of petrol is falling like a brick.
    I think an Auckland with free public transport would really be a game changer for everyone. It even helps those less fortunate economically as they will be able to travel for free.

    • Nick R

      Well personally I disagree with that, I think it would be a game changer *only* for those in unfortunate economic circumstances, and very little change for the middle 80% of the population who have a fair amount of discretion with their money and time (and consequently no change for the elite 10% either who will still be stuck in traffic with everyone else).

      If we wanted to spend an extra $200m a year on PT there are better ways to spend it, ways that would be more useful to more people and consequently mean more people in PT instead of cars.

      If we are really concerned for the most vulnerable 10% of our people it would be better to spend $50m a year giving free monthly HOP passes to the most needy rather than make if free for everyone. The we could spend the other $150m making transit work better for the middle class suburban majority who can comfortably afford to take PT if it actually worked for them (a monthly pass is always cheaper than a second or third car per household as it is, price really isn’t the push factor there so much as it’s just not currently a realistic option for a lot of trips).

  • Andrew Stevenson

    My understanding of the London cordon charge is that it was unpopular when it was first proposed, but after it was introduced there was reluctant acceptance. (I did a study on it as part of some work for DTT back in 2005?, so I may be out-of-date.)

    That would be an interesting referendum to hold in Auckland: “Do you support or oppose the introduction of a regional fuel tax of an extra 20 cents per litre for 12 months to make public transport free for the same period?” With the condition that at the end of any trial period, a second referendum was held asking whether to continue it indefinitely, or to cease it.

    • Often the best way to introduce it is to do it the other way around like Stockholm did. Introduce road pricing on a trial basis for a period of time e.g. 6 or 12 months. Then remove it again, after that do a referendum on what people think. From memory in Stockholm after people experienced the transport system with road pricing they voted to keep it that way but the hard part is getting the trial in the first place. Often needs to be forced a bit as the majority wouldn’t support even a trial if you did it as a two referendum system.

      My preferred option would be to introduce road pricing as a revenue neutral exercise. Bring it in but at the same time drop rates by an equivalent amount to what is expected to be collected. That way it isn’t a new tax but a different way of collecting the same tax but one that has some transport benefits.

    • We are generally keen on road pricing, and better parking pricing (market price, not subsidised as it currently is) the general problem with the former, apart from the political difficulty, is that unlike London, Stockholm, and Singapore, our PT and Active systems are currently so poor that they couldn’t handled much mode shift at all. And we know that most people are in fact highly sensitive to price signals.

      Around 2016 Auckland will have a much much better system but it is likely that that improvement alone will already generate more demand and be stretching capacity…

      Basically the long neglected non-driving networks need some serious investment before or simultaneous to any road pricing, cos we’ed want it to work, wouldn’t we?

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