The Auckland Transport board meeting is next week and the documents are now online (although only through the old website, not the new one for some reason). As usual I’ve gone through and here are the parts that stood out to me.
The February board meeting felt like it was much busier compared to March which is probably due to it having been the first one since December. As usual the most interesting thing on the agendas is in the closed session where the board will be discussing ITP prioritisation. It also appears that the April meeting is going to be an incredibly interesting one with a number of key papers due then (more at the end of this post).
Testing has gone well and trains have started to be provisionally accepted by Auckland Transport. Driver training has being going on. As we know the trains have started being seen out on the network including this one by Alex Burgess of one of them alongside the motorway just north of Ellerslie station. I just happened to see one at Newmarket at the end of last week so quickly grabbed the photo below. I’ve also heard that on Wednesday night one successfully ventured into Britomart for the first time.
- Tiverton/Wolverton is now 95% complete. The report does note that some changes are being made to the alternative cycle route on New Windsor Rd
- It’s noted that the Brigham Creek Motorway interchange which was only completed a few years ago is expected to be congested by 2020 and that existing widening planned for Hobsonville Rd won’t be enough. As such they are planning to add even more infrastructure to the area to try and solve it. I wonder if this is the same modelling that predicts traffic volumes to always increase despite us knowing that hasn’t been happening. Also the motorway was meant to take the long distance traffic and congestion off Hobsonville Rd so it could become more of a local road yet it is being widened anyway. Does this suggest that a) the motorway interchange was designed badly and b) there remains a lack of decent and viable alternatives in 2020.
PT projects (other than EMUs)
- Work continues on the Manukau Bus interchange and it will be going out for detailed design shortly. It is expected to be complete by late 2015. I seriously hope they drop the stupid sawtooth design.
- The Otahuhu bus interchange process is a little bit ahead of the Manukau one and overall is expected to be finished by mid-2015. AT also say they have signed a 35 year lease with Kiwirail for the land the interchange will sit on.
- The Parnell Station is progressing and there are three concept designs. The report confirms the station will be gated.
- Work will start soon on coming up with an overall scheme for to upgrade the Half Moon Bay ferry terminal.
- A final report from NZTA on the feasible options for bus priority and congestion reduction on all projects comprising the Western Ring Route was due early March.
- A new journey planner is due to launch shortly (late March/early April) which will hopefully fix the horrible one that exists today.
- AT are coming up with new bus shelter designs through a design competition. Three companies are currently building their designs and they will be trialled from April
- AT have finally come to an agreement on leasing land at Swanson to enlarge the Park n Ride. The mention of them trying to secure the lease has been in reports for many many months.
Walking and Cycling
- Work on Beech Rd cycleway is progressing and the intention is to have it completed by the end of this year.- what should be the first protected cycleway in Auckland
- AT will also be looking this year at overall plans for cycleway connections of New Lynn to Waterview and Glen Innes to Tamaki Dr. While good that doesn’t mean any construction is starting this year.
You may remember that in November we covered the work done by Deloitte which looked at what kind of patronage growth we could expect based on the projects underway. This was to see how well we might perform compared to the target set by the council of doubling patronage to 140 million trips by 2022. Deloitte came to the conclusion that we would fall short of the target by at least 39 million trips. They presented two options to the board of either cutting the targets or change what’s planned to do more to achieve them. Positively the business report suggests that the board have gone for the latter and that more work is being done to look at what can be done. Some of the options include.
- Bring forward busway investments and bus lane / prioritising the proposed high frequency bus network
- Increase frequency and service kilometre coverage of the proposed new bus network and bring forward investment earlier than currently proposed
- Fare price reduction and fare restructuring – a business case is proposed to be presented to the April 2014 Board meeting
- Increase cost of PT alternatives including parking and congestion charging
- Bring forward proposed park and ride provisions and improve other PT journey ‘first and final leg’ options.
In Feb the last of the major bus companies switched to HOP card usage of it across all modes is sitting at 56% of all trips. AT has a target of reaching 60% of all trips on HOP within the first year. The graph below shows the individual bus companies HOP usage. What’s perhaps concerning is that the companies that have been on HOP the longest (Birkenhead, NZ Bus and Urban Express) all seem to be fairly flat with lines when it comes to HOP usage. Perhaps AT need to start running some campaigns to encourage more people to use HOP. Increasing cash fares and giving HOP users bigger discounts might provide some decent encouragement.
As mentioned at the start, the April meeting is looking interesting due to a number of papers being due then although all fall in the closed session. These include papers on
- The rail strategy for how AT plans to develop the rail network in the future.
- Electrification to Pukekohe.
- Infrastructure funding agreement (not sure what it’s about but could be interesting)
- SMART (airport rail) and Mill Rd
- Integrated Fares
- Rail Operations tender (the Transdev contract ends mid 2016 but AT are starting to plan for what they want in the future).
- CBD Seawall replacement
- New paid parking machines (I believe this is to replace the existing on street parking meters which are obsolete. I hope any new machines support HOP payments)
- A financial comparison for PT between Auckland and Wellington (I’m sure we can expect it to say something like “Auckland’s rail network costs lots to run compared to Wellington due to our old crappy trains”)
There’s also some really good news around patronage which I will cover in a separate post.