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2016 – A Year in Review Part 1 – PT

As the year rapidly draws to a close it’s a good time to look back at all the important events that have occurred. Because there’s so much to cover, I’ll be splitting this up over multiple posts, starting with public transport.

It’s been a huge year for public transport. Sometimes it can be easy to get caught in the day to day details which makes it easy to forget that a lot of really positive things happened in 2016. So, here’s my summary.

City Rail Link

We started the year with the great news that the government had come to their senses, agreeing the main part of the project should start as soon as possible, not be delayed till sometime after 2020 like they had previously said. This was primarily due to two things, we were continuing to see stellar ridership growth following electrification, well ahead of what was projected and with Auckland in a building boom with $billions planned to be spent, developers wanted certainty around the project.

While some of the earliest signs the project was underway began at the end of 2015, in June the project officially exploded into action in a ceremony outside Britomart.

In September the government and council signed an agreement that would see them share the costs of the project equally.

The project is now hard to miss in the city centre with works in full swing from Britomart through to Wellesley St. One of the first big pieces of work is to move a water main out of the way along Albert St and that has involved digging some deep shafts to enable a small tunnel boring machine to dig and install a new pipe. Auckland Transport kindly gave us a tour of the sites in October. On Albert St the project is now hard to miss with large parts of it closed to traffic and a huge piling machine busy at work.

In just a few weeks another milestone will be reached as passengers will start using the new, temporary entrance that has been built at the back of the CPO building to enable the CRL tunnels to be dug under the CPO.

 

Not everything has been great though. From what we’ve seen so far, Auckland Transport’s plans for the streets being re-instated after the CRL is completed have been a disappointment, especially so on Victoria St. In fact more than that they appear to be trying to actively undermine the Council’s publicly consulted City Centre Master Plan by removing key pedestrian space so a few more car lanes can be squeezed in. This is obviously something we’ll be following very closely in 2017.

Simplified Fares

August finally saw the introduction of Simplified Fares, another of the key steps in bringing public transport in Auckland up to a more modern standard. It introduced fare zones instead of stages and meaning people can transfer between multiple buses and trains and only pay one fare for their journey rather than how many buses or trains they used. This also had the advantage of reducing fares for many trips.

AT have also started work to integrate ferries into the system.

New Network and Otahuhu Station

The new bus network in South Auckland was another of the big puzzle pieces to slot into place, finally rolling out at the end of October

At the same time as the new bus network, the impressive new Otahuhu Station opened which is a key interchange on the network.

Also tied to the new network, the bus station at Manukau got underway in 2016

Progress on rolling out the new network to other parts of Auckland has progressed too. West Auckland is confirmed to roll out in the middle of next year while AT are currently assessing tenders for Central, East and North.

Double Decker rollout

A big feature of this year has been the roll out of double deckers on many routes. They are now almost exclusively used on Northern Express services and have rolled out to other routes too, such as Mt Eden Rd and the 881 from Albany to Newmarket. In 2017 we should see at least Onewa Rd added to this list.

Government agreement on Strategic PT network

The Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) was a big feature of the year, especially after the final report was released in September. I’ll talk about that more in a separate post but one particularly good point in relation to PT was that we now have agreement between the government and council on a future rapid transit network. While there are still finer details to be resolved such as exact modes and routes, it’s good to finally have the need for this agreed at a high level.

Ridership

Use of the PT network has seen solid growth over the year and the big star of that has been the Rapid Transit Network (busway and Rail) which has primarily driven that growth. Usage on the RTN in the 12 months to the end of November grew by a staggering 22.2% over the 12 months to November 2015.

As mentioned at the start of the post, the stellar growth on the rail network was one of the reasons the government had to change their position to support the CRL. That growth has continued this year and as of now there will have been over 18 million trips during the last 12 months. This is well ahead of where it needed to be for the silly target the government set in 2013 and that the Ministry of Transport once said it was unlikely we would achieve.

Conclusion

These are of course only some of the big changes and discussions we’ve had over the year and many of them are likely to continue to be discussed over 2017 but on the whole, I think it’s been a pretty good year for PT in Auckland. We’ve definitely made many more steps forward than we have back.

Are there any key changes I’ve missed?

Tomorrow’s wrap up will focus on walking and cycling

21 comments to 2016 – A Year in Review Part 1 – PT

  • Brian

    The difference between ridership growth for rapid transit vs other PT is stark. I guess in major cities most PT trips are taken on rapid transit, so Auckland is just reverting to the mean perhaps?

    • Also it would be very good to show that chart to the next person who pops up to say that Auckland’s Transit future is surely ferries; I mean don’t we have lots of free harbour to use?; that’s how you beat congestion. Well ferries are great, and certainly more services could be offered and the current routes worked harder, but they have none of the potential to transform Auckland’s accessibility like high quality Rapid Transit. It just can’t scale, geography rules, as ever, and where ferries are viable they’re viable, and where they’re not, they’re not.

      Rapid Transit can scale, is scaling, that is clearly proven here in Auckland. The problem is getting the full network funded and afforded the kind of priority that the complementary driving, but already mature, system has.

  • Greg N

    I think Phil Goffs (as expected) election in October and his subsequent removal of councillors from the AT board, and then the set of directions and expectations given to the CCOs, particularly, AT, to pull their heads in and “get with the programme”, may prove to be just as important for the success of PT in Auckland as the other items from 2016.

    While its not directly “Public Transport”, his directions, finally, clearly put the intention behind “Council Controlled” in the “CCO” moniker back on to the top table at Auckland Council and Auckland Transport.

    It was long overdue, and its to Len’s discredit that he never got a handle on this part of the governing of Auckland.
    I think AT should be realising that the roading-fest gravy train left the station, about the same time Len left.

    So, it will be interesting to see exactly how the currently ungelded, out of control behemoth that is AT, responds to having a rope tied round its neck, and its nuts being chopped off shortly afterwards.

    Hopefully, Aucklanders will get a reliable workhorse as a result, and not simply an even more uncontrollable wannabe stallion.

    • Jeff T

      Not sure the road-fest is going anywhere without a change of government. I note the Onehunga rail bridge is being removed this christmas, preventing any chance of Onehunga heavy rail to the airport.

      • Anthony

        Or even a one stop extension to Mangere Bridge. The selection of Light Rail to the airport is AT and Phil Goff’s preference.

        • Warren S

          I would love to see even a single rail line extension to Mangere Bridge, utilizing the bridge provision already existing, under the current road bridge over the Manukau Harbour.
          And this, whether or not it continued further toward the airport. It would tap the the increasingly popular and expanding suburb of Mangere Bridge whose inhabitants at present are pretty much forced to come city-wards by car.
          In this regard it would be interesting to know if the Mangere Bridge catchment provides a significant worker contribution to the Neilson Street industrial environs. Users would certainly not have to come all the way into town but may well alight at intermediate stations.

      • Greg N

        A roads fest can only continue while the money tap is open.

        And given that the majority of the money for the Auckland non-State Highways comes from Auckland Council [and that in turn, comes mostly via rates], the Auckland Council is signalling, courtesy of Goff’s announcement, that under this council, the money tap flow is most definitely being redirected and the policy changed from “traffic flow comes first, people second” to a better balanced “people first, cars, especially SOVs, distinctly second”.

        Whether Central Government is part of that program is not critical to this sorting out.

        AT actually has plenty of money to do almost all the beneficial things on the ATAP, providing that the relative priority of each item is better arranged than now, and also if fewer of the big $$$, mega-road projects (Penlink, Mill Road) do not get to go ahead of the “maximise what we have now, first” options, like more bus lanes and sorting out their hours of operation.

        If we do that then who is in power in central Government becomes less critical to being able to deal with the many transport problems Auckland faces, and doing so in its own terms, and according to the priority order that Aucklanders all say they want.

        Yes NZTA will still do its own thing, with East/West, SH1/SH18 interchange, adding more motorway lanes everywhere they can, RoNS, and generally gold plating “their” roads as much as they can.

        Eventually, a new Government will curtail their money tap too, not least as the money well [via the NTLF] will actually run quite dry long before the NZTA can build all of their pet projects. So sooner than later the day of reckoning is coming.

        So the smartest thing we can do right now, is avoid blindly following NZTA down their rabbit hole.

        As for the Onehunga Railbridge, what is done, can be undone.
        It is however becoming clear, that heavy rail via Onehunga [using right of way as it now stands] is not gong to be the best/most cost effective solution for an Airport RTN for a long time to come. Sometimes you need to lose a battle, in order to win the war.

  • Dan

    The temporary Britomart entrance looked a lot nicer on paper. That thing looks like it belongs next to the shed on Queens Wharf

  • Steven Charles

    I think it is important to note that to enable integrated fares AT had to negotiate with all the operators to convert all the existing Net contracts to Gross contracts. Under a Gross contract operators are paid by the in-service hours and kilometres as well as the number of buses they require to operate the timetable. AT take all the revenue and the associated risk under a Gross contract.

    I have heard that some of these negotiations were difficult.

  • Vance Barrett

    I had to laugh at the guy running in the Manukau Station fly-through.
    Is he running because it’s so far to catch the train which is over the road through the uni building and down the escalator?
    All because of the short sightedness of Len Brown and those involved in the building of the train station.
    If the track had been extended a couple of hundred metres we could have had the station on one site instead of two.

  • I wonder if one of the relative advantages of the electric trains over the buses is that they are electric? Much smoother and quieter, 8-). no roaring. Not downplaying key role of dedicated road of course!

    There are now decent long-range and rapidly rechargable busses available from BYD and others. What is the right strategy to persuade AT to look at them?

  • Sanctuary

    PT my area, what sort of fucking idiots think it is acceptable to close the entire fucking western line for a week. Fucking retards. The entire AT board should be made to use PT only for six months.

    • Sacha

      They do not even require their own staff to use public transit between AT offices located right next to major rail nodes. It would be revealing for a journalist to ask the Board members about their PT experiences.

    • Dgd

      …yes, my arse too.
      There is no detail info on either AT web site or Kiwirail web site as to the exact work/maintenance/upgrades etc that are necessary to have the AT rail network closed for a week. I can’t wait until 4th so I can travel the whole network to see if I can spot any differences.

  • Sanctuary

    And to add insult to injury, the replacement bus service is hopelessly inadequate. What moron at AT thought one fucking bus every 30 minutes has the same capacity as a train? Good grief. And the planning managers at AT are completely beyond public accountability, despite all the public money they get.

  • Sanctuary

    And to add insult to injury, the replacement bus service is hopelessly inadequate. What moron at AT thought one bus every 30 minutes has the same capacity as a train? Good grief. And the planning managers at AT are completely beyond public accountability, despite all the public money they get.

  • Sam F

    Simplified fares have certainly made our shift out West a lot easier. From $3.10 from Morningside to town to $4.90 from Glen Eden isn’t exactly a huge jump – assume it would have been a lot dearer before. Plus there’s the bonus of being able to jump a connecting bus from our place right to the train station for free. And if I bring a bike along, getting off and downhilling from Kingsland to town brings my trip right back to the original Morningside fare cost. Nice!

  • JB

    A friend told me about this game app yesterday and I’ve hardly stopped playing it since:

    http://dinopoloclub.com/minimetro/

    You design a metro system for various cities – ending with a “hypothetical” one for Auckland. Not just coincidence – the designers are NZers. I have no connection with them – just thought it would be of interest to this audience.

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