Stuart’s 100 #15 Understanding the City Link Bus a s a Tram on Rubber Wheels

15: Understanding the City Link Bus as a Tram on Rubber Wheels

#15

What if the red city link bus was more like a tram on rubber wheels?

Ok, so trams do have wheels, steel ones on rails. But bear with me, they also tend to be used for short intra-city trips like the City Link Bus route, and therefore have different seating layouts compared to longer haul trains and buses. Anyone who regularly rides the City Link Bus must have noticed how busy it is, often with very little standing room.

Wouldn’t it be great if this bus was designed more like a tram, with inwards-facing (longitudinal) seats creating much more standing room and supporting the hop on, hop off nature of short trips?

Inner Link ext

Inner Link int

(Image Credit: Craig https://www.flickr.com/photos/craigsyd)

 

Deferring Transport Projects

So what do you do when you’re told you have to cut some of your $826 million budget for capital projects and that in choosing what to cut it can’t apply to public transport projects?

Well it seems if you’re Auckland Transport you start by cutting PT and active mode projects.

Back in May when the council was discussing their budget for this year it was decided that Auckland Transport should reduce capital expenditure spend. At the time Chris Darby managed to get this amendment passed saying that the cuts won’t impact on PT.

MOVED by Cr C Darby, seconded by Cr PA Hulse:
Cr Darby moved by way of amendment, seconded Cr Hulse.
That the Budget Committee:
i) agree that the $5.1 million transport opex increase is dedicated to public transport and the $50 million reduction in transport capex will not be applied to public transport.

But it seems the $50 million isn’t enough if the council wants to keep to Len Brown’s goal of having rate rises next year average 2.5%.

  • On 26 March, staff provided the results of financial modelling in response to the mayoral direction for the LTP 2015-2025. One conclusion from this analysis was that it is not possible to reduce the average rates increase for 2015/2016 down to 2.5 per cent solely by reducing or deferring capex in that particular year.
  • The lagged impact of changes in the capital programme on operating budgets means that reducing or deferring capex in 2014/2015 will have a greater impact on rates for 2015/2016. The Budget Committee therefore agreed on 8 May 2014 to request the Chief Executive undertake an immediate review of 2014/2015 capex programme with a target of reducing or deferring $300 million of capex.

The cuts mean Auckland Transport has to find $100 million (which goes up to $150 million once NZTA subsidies are included). They don’t say all the items they’ll cut but the ones named are all PT projects.

The targeted reduction can be achieved via the reduction of budget across all transport activities. Projects such as Parnell Station, the Pukekohe Station upgrade and bus and transit lane improvements may have to be deferred to the LTP period. The Auckland Transport Board will consider the current capital programme to confirm which projects may be stopped, reduced or deferred to the LTP in order to minimise negative impacts on Auckland Plan outcomes. An updated 2014/2015 capital programme will be provided to the CCO Governance and Monitoring Committee in November.

It seems the only projects specifically named as being deferred are those that PT projects which goes against what the council asked for in the first place. Further projects like bus and transit lane improvements are often some of the cheapest and highest benefit projects. An example of this is the recent extension of the Fanshawe St bus lanes resulted in lots of full buses being sped up in the evening for what I understand was a fairly minor cost. In saying that I can live with the Silverdale Park and Ride (which is having issues of it’s own to sort out first) and can also live with Parnell to a degree.

Here’s the total list of capital projects in the current annual plan.

AT Funding - 14-15 - PT

AT Funding - 14-15 - Parking

AT Funding - 14-15 - Roads 1

AT Funding - 14-15 - Roads 2

It seems to me there are a lot of other projects on the list that should be being cut before $2.5 million bus lane improvements, for example Lincoln Rd or Penlink.

For their part the council passed a (much weaker) resolution saying that AT should take into account the councils priorities around PT and active mode outcomes however based on past performance I wouldn’t hold up hope of AT actually listening to that.

Recapping the Congestion Free Network

Over the past couple of weeks there has been a lot of renewed interest in the Congestion Free Network, as first the Greens and then Labour picked it up as the core of their Auckland transport policy.  Given the growing support for the CFN, it’s useful for us to highlight in a bit more detail what it is, where it came from, why we think it will transform Auckland, and how we can pay for it. There’s a lot more detail on the CFN within its specific page and on the dedicated CFN website.

What is the Congestion Free Network?

The Congestion Free Network is a future system of bus rapid transit, railway lines and light-rail which come together to form the “top layer” of the public transport network – true rapid transit that is fast, frequent, reliable and most importantly free from congestion. Over the next 16 years we think that the Congestion Free Network can be rolled out across Auckland, providing people with an alternative to driving that’s faster, more reliable and more pleasant.

As Patrick outlined in his post which launched the CFN over a year ago, the key point is in the name – this is a network to get Aucklanders out of congestion, to avoid it, to opt out.

The other important point is that these routes represent the highest quality Public Transit corridors – “Class A routes”, as described here in this hierarchy of transit Right of Ways. They include a variety of modes: Train, Bus, Ferry, and maybe even Light Rail, chosen for each corridor on a case by case basis. The key point is that by growing this network Aucklanders will have the option to move across the whole city at speed, completely avoiding road traffic. By connecting the existing rail and busway to new high quality bus and rail routes, the usefulness of our current small and disjointed Rapid Transit Network can become a real option for millions of new trips each year. At the same time, we will take pressure off Auckland’s increasingly crowded roads by offering such an effective alternative to always driving, as well as providing a way around this problem.

The Congestion Free Network is both a solution to our overcrowded roads and a way of being able choose to avoid them altogether, for many more people, at many more times, and for many more journeys.

The CFN can be built in stages over the next 16 years, firstly starting with the City Rail Link and busway in the northwest and southeast, before extending rail to the Airport and then to the North Shore, light rail on the isthmus and other bus rapid transit improvements to fill in the gaps.

cfn-implementationThe CFN is supported by the vastly larger network of frequent public transport routes proposed as part of the “New Network” by Auckland Transport, as well as by enhanced walking and cycling facilities which boost access to the CFN by making it easy and safe to walk and cycle to your nearest rapid transit stop.

Where did the Congestion Free Network come from?

The Congestion Free Network came about for a number of reasons, including that we were frustrated with how politicians ramped up the costs of PT projects to make them seem unaffordable (e.g. in the 2010 mayoral election). We were frustrated with the project-centric focus of our transport plans, something which might be helpful for officials working out what they have to do but which doesn’t show the public any real vision. However by far the biggest source of our frustration was the Integrated Transport Programme (ITP), released by Auckland Transport last year and which modelled the transport investment the council included in the 30 year Auckland Plan. The ITP includes around $68 billion of transport expenditure in Auckland over the next 30 years, but quite incredibly – even with such a massive amount of money being spent – Auckland’s transport situation is predicted to still get a lot worse, with many of the Auckland Plan’s transport targets not being met.

Congestion is predicted to get worse:

Greenhouse gas emissions are predicted to go up, rather than down:

Modal shift is nowhere near what the Auckland Plan requires:

When we looked at the ITP in detail, we found the prime reason for such terrible results was the programme’s huge focus on expensive roading projects – over $22 billion worth of them over the next 30 years, compared to barely $8.5 billion on public transport!

With road pricing unlikely to be palatable to the general public in the near-term future, we figured that we would tackle both the inept performance and the huge price-tag of the ITP by coming up with something that stripped out the rubbish projects, still kept the ones that made sense, optimised the proposed public transport network and put a 2030 timeframe on completing the rapid transit network, rather than the 2040 end year proposed in the Auckland Plan. That became the Congestion Free Network.

How will the Congestion Free Network transform Auckland?

Auckland is a great city, but it could be the best city in the world if it improved in a few key areas – transport is undoubtedly one of those areas. Aucklanders know this, with transport being recognised as the city’s biggest issue, while we also agree that improving public transport is the best way to do something about our transport problems.

The problem with public transport in Auckland has always been that it’s just too slow, too infrequent, too unreliable and therefore just not attractive enough to get enough people out of their cars. Where high quality public transport infrastructure has been provided, Aucklanders have flocked to it in droves – the hugely popular Northern Busway and the quadrupling of rail patronage since 2003 are testament to this. Yet there is still so much potential for growth – as shown in other cities that have invested in rapid transit over the past 20-30 years:

The CFN supports the urban form outlined in the Auckland Plan by connecting all the major  centres by rapid transit – combined with the frequent PT network that sits underneath the CFN, these major centres will become highly attractive and accessible locations, supporting them to flourish and Auckland to benefit from the success of these major employment areas.  It provides true resilience to future oil shocks and has the potential to fundamentally lower the level of pollution that comes from all those cars stuck in traffic.

But perhaps most of all, the CFN simply provides Aucklanders with the choice to ‘opt out’ of the daily grind of congestion. It provides a way of travelling around the city that is reliable and doesn’t completely lock up at the first sign of rain or if there’s a slight incident on the motorway at peak times.

How can we pay for the Congestion Free Network?

A lot of our work on the CFN over the past year has been in relation to its financials – so that we have confidence it is affordable, value for money and achievable. One of our main justifications for developing the CFN was the extremely high cost of the ITP so we were keen to achieve all the following goals:

  • Time and sequence CFN implementation in a way that balances affordability and speedy progress
  • Ensure every additional dollar spent on CFN was saved from other projects in the programme
  • Ensure value for money non-CFN projects could still be funded
  • Come up with a programme that was significantly cheaper than the ITP and goes a long way to resolving the “funding gap” for transport

In this recent post we explained how we would fund the CFN – exactly which projects would happen and when, where savings would be made to reinvest in the CFN and how the overall balance of the transport programme would look. Interestingly the overall programme we suggest is actually far more balanced between road and public transport than the ITP was:

The financial details of the CFN can be analysed further in these spreadsheets.

Conclusion:

The overall message we would like people to understand about the CFN is that it’s easier than they might think. Let’s put it this way: for significantly less investment than the current transport plans, we can implement the whole Congestion Free Network over the next 16 years. A vastly superior system for a much cheaper price – we think it’s a no-brainer and we’re not surprised it’s becoming increasingly adopted.

Auckland Transport August Board Meeting

The Auckland Transport board meeting is today and below are the bits and pieces from the reports that caught my attention.

First up as usual there are a number of items in the closes session of the meeting that it would be very interesting to see the details about. These are

  • Ferry Services Contract
  • EMU Implementation
  • Tiverton/Wolverton
  • City Centre Access Options
  • Mill Road
  • Parking Services report
  • AT HOP Update
  • Rail Operations shortlisting

On to the Chief Executives report. These are generally just in the order they come up in the report.

AT are working with some of the teams from the HackAKL event and two of the top five teams will have a completed concept within three months.

Discussions have been held with the top 5 teams, 2 have progressed to a stage where the concept will be completed inside of 3 months, with the help of AT. The other 3 in the top 5 are still discussing within themselves how to progress. As well an additional application (hop Balance) from one of the other groups has been launched. We are still restricted in the data that we can make available, PT is working on this with the bus operators.

AT are creating a customer charter which includes specific measures that cover PT, roading, walking and cycling and they say they have been looking overseas to find out what the best practices are. They say the draft versions of the charters will go to a board committee in October. I think a customer charter with specific measures is a good thing and I would hope that there is some consultation from the public on final versions.

AT will be holding a consultation in late September on the rehabilitation of Franklin Rd and surrounding streets. They say Major focuses for the consultation include maintaining the heritage value of the
road (including the trees), parking, a lowered speed zone, walking and cycling. 

A detailed business case will finally be done for the East West Link. It’s something I would have thought should have happened long before it was moved near to the top of the priorities list.

AT say the Environment Court appeal against the Silverdale Park n Ride might delay construction till the next financial year (i.e. after July next year).

 

On the EMUs there were 22 in the country at the time of writing the report however some more arrived yesterday and provisional acceptance had been issued for 18 of them. After the August summer holidays production will be ramped up as the intention is that by the end of the year we will get four delivered a month instead of the current two per month. On the issues with the over cautious signalling system they say

The ETCS system has been modified by reducing the driver warning before curves and other infrastructure features and the resulting improvement in running times.

 

As part of the Otahuhu Bus Train Interchange AT are looking at connections to and from the station. The report notes that this will include additional bus priority and improved walking and cycling connections.

At Panmure the new road alongside the tracks is almost finished and due to open to use at the end of September. It’s been called Te Horeta Rd. The image below is from the board report showing the road and it’s looking very much like a mini motorway although I would be happy to be proven wrong once it’s finished.

AMETI - Te Horeta Rd from AT Board Report

HOP use keeps on growing which is a great sign. Overall 67% of trips were paid for with HOP which was up from 65% in June. By mode bus was up from 62% to 65% while rail was up from 75% to 76%. In some ways this is not surprising given the changes in fares that occurred and means the trend of increasing HOP card usage is likely to continue. They also say a strategic business case as well as revenue and patronage modelling for integrated fares is almost complete.

2014 - August - HOP Card graphs

Perhaps the biggest news from the report is about the next train timetable which is now targeted for November

Finalisation with KiwiRail and Transdev of the new timetable to support the increased frequency of Manukau services and the introduction of an EMU weekend timetable was progressed in July and early August. This provides 6 trains per hour from Manukau in the peak period and 3 trains per hour in the interpeak and off-peak, with weekends going to a 30 minute service plan. When the timetable commences, diesel shuttle services will run an hourly service between Pukekohe and Papakura on Saturdays and Sundays and connect with arriving/departing EMUs at Papakura. The target date for the timetable introduction is early November following progressive replacement within the existing timetable of diesel rolling stock with EMUs on the Manukau Line.

Some good news about the look of buses in the future with AT developing what sounds like a region wide design. This is long overdue although I’m sure some operators won’t be happy (I for one can’t wait to see the back of the horrid Birkenhead bus livery). They say the starting point for the new livery is based off the design used on the electric trains and the livery will be included in the future operator contracts which will be rolled out with the new network.

AT say they are also working on a wayfinding system which is something long overdue.

Labour announces transport policy

The Labour party released its transport policy yesterday and it’s one that has some really good aspects to it but that also leaves a lot of questions. Here are what they say are the key points.

Labour will:

  • Build a 21st century transport system that provides choice and is cost effective
  • Rebalance the transport budget away from the current government’s exclusive focus on motorway projects towards a more rational investment in the most efficient and sustainable combination of transport modes. For freight this means investing in roads, rail, our ports, and coastal shipping. In our cities it means a greater emphasis on public transport, and walking and cycling
  • Invest in the Congestion Free Network for Auckland
  • Reduce congestion in Auckland by building the City Rail Link immediately, funding it 50:50 with Auckland Council
  • Eliminate an unnecessary hassle by removing the annual registration charge for light trailers and caravans
  • Reduce congestion and make the roads safer by requiring trucks to not drive in the fast lane on three and four lane motorways
  • Reduce costs for motorhome and campervan owners by reversing changes made by the current government that have doubled their Road User Charges

The last three points were announced back in April and frankly they seem like tinkering around the edges to keep a few people happy. Today’s announcements were obviously more substantive.

For Auckland they say Labour will:

  • Build the City Rail Link immediately, funding it 50:50 with Auckland Council. We won’t wait until 2020 and hold back Auckland’s growth and prosperity for another five years.
  • Negotiate with Auckland Council a 30 year transport plan for Auckland, including funding, with our starting point being the Congestion Free Network. As well as the City Rail Link, this includes giving priority status to rapid transit busways in the North West and South East, electrification of the rail to Pukekohe, rail to the airport, and ensuring the next harbour crossing includes rail to the North Shore.
  • Integrate transport infrastructure with residential and urban development

For me it’s fantastic to see that Labour are backing the Congestion Free Network. We put a lot of time and effort into creating it and so it’s great that we now have two parties that have adopted it as part of their official strategy. Of course we’d love it if National also adopted the CFN but we’re I’m not holding my breath on that one.

CFN 2030 South-Grafton

What’s not clear as part of this policy is just how much Labour would contribute towards the CFN. The Greens have said they would fund everything bar the CRL at 50% with the council needing to pick up the tab for the rest (CRL is at 60%). Labour on the other hand has said they would fund the CRL at 50% but not how much they would provide for the other projects that make up the CFN. As I mentioned with the Greens policy, why pick such an arbitrary amount of funding as 50%. The rapid transit investments are really more akin to state highways which enjoy 100% funding from the government and so I think there’s at least an argument to be had over what’s the right level of funding.

I also like that they have singled out the need to integrate transport infrastructure to with land use planning, something the government doesn’t seem to worry about when making their decisions.

The CFN isn’t the only plan adopted by Labour with them also agreeing to Operation Lifesaver as part of their official policy. It’s included of the State Highways section under which they say they’ll review all of the other RoNS projects too.

Labour will

  • Prioritise highway investments that stack up economically and environmentally.
  • Review RoNS projects that are under construction, and look to modify negative impacts. Where construction is not underway, we will consider affordable, safe and environmentally friendly alternatives.
  • Require heavy trucks to not use the fast lane in multi-lane roads.

However it’s here where I have the first major concerns. They single out each of the remaining RoNS and what they would to do and that includes leaving some of the worst performing ones on the books, projects like Transmission gully which I can only assume is for political reasons.

When it comes to walking and cycling they say they will improve it by significantly increasing the budget. They don’t specify just how much they would spend other than to say that it’s higher than the $100 million National have proposed. They also say they’ll say they’ll require all future roading projects make provisions for a cycling.

Scattered throughout the policy document are a number of other interesting and potentially important changes. These include:

  • Giving local communities more of a say on how the money is spent in their areas.
  • Re-opening the Napier to Gisborne rail line.
  • Looking into building a rail line to Marsden Point to allow imports/exports to use rail to get their goods to the wharf.

Overall the policies seems fairly solid however in my opinion there are some significant issues to be addressed. The biggest of these is that there are elements of Labour having just added to what’s already happening in a bid to keep everyone happy rather than making some tough calls and cutting the projects that have poor business cases. The outcome of this likely to be an over-commitment of our transport funds unless or they will need to scale back what they promise. That is made harder to see as the costings for what is proposed is completely missing from the policy document.

One last point, to both the Greens and Labour. One of the key drivers behind the CFN was to create a vision that people could quickly and easily understand and that’s why we went with the network map. It’s a core part of the CFN message so how about putting the map/s on your websites or in your policy documents themselves. Also I would expect a lot of people don’t know what the CFN actually is, how about a link to www.congestionfree.co.nz

Should Vector be able to use Bus Lanes

Vector have thrown up an interesting question by suggesting that their repair crews should be able to use bus lanes to get around the city.

Network lines company Vector wants its faults crews’ vehicles to be able to use Auckland’s bus lanes and T2 lanes in order to get quickly to the scene of storm damage, building fires, or motor accidents instead of having to wait in traffic jams like other motorists.

The company’s group manager network operations Les Parker said the time in getting the power back on, or making lines safe like during Auckland’s four major storms this year could be reduced by up to 20 per cent where traffic congestion was occurring.

However, though the company looked after lethal high and low voltage lines running down roads and streets, did not fit the legal classification of a “first responder” in the emergency sense, like police, fire and ambulance.

Accordingly, they were not allowed to use bus lane.

“Our crew have to obey the traffic laws and they have to wait in queues like everybody else,” said Mr Parker.

Vector chief executive Simon Mackenzie said the company had asked the Ministry of Transport whether it could use bus lanes and T2 corridor lanes.

“It would be just for emergency events when there is storm or when a car hits a pole, to give our crews the ability to have flashing lights and get through the traffic quicker.

“This has not found any traction.

“But for us to be able move around the city quicker is really beneficial.

bus-lane

I can definitely see their logic and have some sympathy for what they’re saying however at the same time I’m concerned about whether it opens up the floodgates to others suggesting they should be able to use the lanes too. There are likely many individuals, organisations or businesses that would benefit from being able to benefit bus lanes. For example what about a cabinet minister trying to get between meetings or Auckland Transport shuttles, how about taxi drivers or couriers. In effect the biggest risk is the death by a thousand cuts type scenario where we keep creating exceptions and letting more and more people use them.

It’s also worth considering how many bus lanes would actually benefit vectors crews. As they say themselves faults could occur anywhere in Auckland but our bus lane network is extremely limited and is primarily in central Auckland with some on the North Shore although of course I think Auckland Transport should be growing the number and quality of them substantially to support the new bus network being implemented.

As an aside it would be great if AT could make a map showing all current bus and transit lanes across the city. These maps from AT only show transit lanes, one for the region (but excluding the North Shore) and one for the North Shore.

July 14 Patronage results

The patronage results for July are now available and they show another strong month of growth.

Auckland public transport patronage totalled 72,740,387 passengers for the 12 months to Jul-2014, an increase of +0.5% on the 12 months to Jun-2014 and +5.9% on the 12 months to Jul-2013. July monthly patronage was 6,268,752, an increase of 343,651 boardings or +5.8% on Jul-2013, normalised to ~ +5.4% accounting for additional special event patronage only, same number of business and weekend days in Jul-2014 compared to Jul-2013.

Rail patronage totalled 11,552,643 passengers for the 12 months to Jul-2014, an increase of +1.0% on the 12 months to Jun-2014 and +14.4% on the 12 months to Jul-2013. Patronage for Jul-2014 was 1,089,839, an increase of 117,561 boardings or +12.1% on Jul-2013, normalised to ~ +9.9%.

The Northern Express bus service carried 2,460,177 passenger trips for the 12 months to Jul-2014), an increase of +1.4% on the 12 months to Jun-2014 and +7.6% on the 12 months to Jul-2013. Northern Express bus service patronage for Jul-2014 was 233,814, an increase of 33,433 boardings or +16.7% on Jul-2013, normalised to ~ +15.2%.

Other bus services carried 53,653,594 passenger trips for the 12 months to Jul-2014, an increase of +0.4% on the 12 months to Jun-2014 and +4.6% on the 12 months to Jul-2013. Other bus services patronage for Jul-2014 was 4,578,804, an increase of 228,637 boardings or +5.3% on Jul-2013, normalised to ~ +5.2%.

Ferry services carried 5,073,973 passenger trips for the 12 months to Jul-2014, a decrease of -0.7% on the 12 months to Jun-2014 and an increase +1.6% on the 12 months to Jul-2013. Ferry services patronage for Jul-2014 was 366,295, a decrease of -35,980 boardings or -8.9% on Jul-2013, normalised to ~ -8.9% (no special events).

14 - July AK Patronage table

14 - July AK Annual Patronage

Again it’s the rail network showing the most growth up 13% with the 12 month rolling total up 14.4%. One of the interesting aspects about this result is the Western Line managed a 14.2% increase despite there being no additional services other than half hourly services on Weekends in October last year. The Onehunga line continues to show strong growth since it was converted to using electric trains – although part of the month saw the old diesels return as Auckland Transport and others try to address some ongoing power supply issues. The most impressive result was on Manukau services in the first full month that the new MIT campus was completed. Patronage on those services was up over 26% and it will be interesting to see if that level of growth continues.

14 - July AK Rail Patronage

To highlight the growth that’s occurring this graph shows the average patronage on each weekday which since July last year has risen from just under 37,500 to about 42,000 per day. AT say that on average seven services per day are over the planned capacity ratio of four people standing for every 10 sitting while a further six were very near to that level

14 - July weekday average

While the rail network is increasing the fastest the biggest growth by overall number continues to be the bus network which was up 5.8% when you combine the Northern Express with other bus services. The graph below shows the NEX patronage while the one after shows the average weekday patronage for the other bus services

14 - NEX Patronage

14 - July other bus weekday average

As AT said last month, from now they have finally dropped the self-reported bus reliability and punctuality stats and have instead moved to reporting them using the on-board GPS tracking equipment. A separate report on the stats highlights the reasons why the old self-reported stats were so high.

Under existing contracts, bus operators provided AT with a monthly service delivery report. Two main variants of contract exist: ‘North Auckland Spine’ (~5% of services), and the remainder (~70% of services). Commercial services (~25% services) are exempt from performance reporting. The majority of contracts reported contracted performance rather than actual customer experience, i.e. excluded trips where performance was impacted by factors outside of operator control e.g. adverse weather, exceptional passenger loadings and significant traffic congestion, resulting in artificially high performance reports. Various metrics were used including reliability at within 30 minutes of start of trip.

Reliability and punctuality has been predominantly monitored through manual self-reporting systems. AT has been working with operators to transition to an automated system based on actual performance data generated from new GPS-tracking equipment. Reporting reliability and punctuality using GPS-tracked performance data will commence from 1 July.

New and consistent, PTOM KPIs will be reported – reliability (trips started within 10 minutes of schedule and completed) and punctuality (trips started within 5 minutes of schedule). In future punctuality at points through the trip and at the final destination will also be measured.

This new methodology reports on customer experience with no exclusions or exemptions such as congestion or adverse weather. An expected punctuality is 100% at start of first each duty timetable trip (operator reaching the trip start) and for all other trips, allowing for an element of average statistical non-performance from outlying high congestion, poor weather, accidents, etc, and compounded where successive trips are linked, 95% at trip start for non-right-of-way (mixed with traffic) and 98% for right-of-way (busway) services.

As a result of no exceptions, the GPS-tracked reliability and punctuality will be lower than previously reported, however performance data collected will permit improvements in service delivery through an ongoing iterative programme of six to twelve monthly timetable reviews.

It’s almost unbelievable that operators were allowed to ignore commercial services, services with lots of passengers, services caught in congestion or results when the weather was bad and it’s no wonder they always managed 99% of services on time. Like the self-reported stats this only reports buses based on when they start their run however AT say they are also looking at performance based on certain timing points too. Below is the punctuality results for July compared to December last year which I assume was when AT finalised their tracking methodology.

14 - Bus Punctuality

So Airbus, the service you probably most want to be on time has the worst performance. This graph shows how the performance has changed since December.

14 - Bus Punctuality graph

The PTOM target is the target that will apply once the new contracts are rolled out as part of the new network. They say that performance above or below the target will be subject to financial bonus or deductions so based on the info above I bet all the operators are happy those contracts aren’t in force yet. The same also applies to bus reliability (whether the bus even starts it’s run) for which there will be financial deductions for results less than 98% with again no operators yet meeting that level.

14 - Bus Reliability graph

It’s great to finally have some proper visibility around this and something we’ve only been calling for for about 3 years.

The biggest downside to Julys results was with cycling numbers which were down 21% on last July for some reason (despite what the text in the report says). If anyone has any reasons they might have fallen so much please let us know in the comments but a quick check shows that July was drier than normal with rainfall in Auckland at only 50-79% of an average July.

14 - July cycling

Poetiquette

If you catch a bus tomorrow morning you may get a poetry performance for your trip as part of an NZ Bus campaign to improve bus etiquette.

National Poetry Day is being celebrated this year with poets in residence onboard some of Auckland and Wellington’s main bus routes this Friday.

In Auckland, leading national poets have been invited by NZ Bus to perform onboard services travelling on: New North Road, Dominion Road, Mt Eden Road and Great South Road between 7am and 10am on Friday morning.

The day coincides with the launch of NZ Bus’ etiquette campaign #busbetter with the Bugbears www.busbetter.co.nz so the theme for the poets is public transport etiquette.

At NZ Bus we want to encourage everyone to be more aware and considerate of each other when travelling by bus around the city. And we thought who better to do the talking than the people who live here, our local poets. We call it ‘poetiquette’.

“Getting on buses to perform to commuters is a great way to show every day Kiwis how accessible poetry can be. There’s no need for a stage or microphone, we just need an audience every now and then. Poetry can be performed anywhere for anyone,” says New Zealand Slam Poet 2012 Champion Ali Jacs.

Teaming up with poets is not new to NZ Bus having previously supported Poetry in Motion in the late ‘90s.

“Public Transport etiquette is just one way of saying that passengers on our buses should expect to have a comfortable and safe trip every time”, says NZ Bus CEO Zane Fulljames.

“We thought having cartoon characters, the Bus Bugbears, and their messages through the medium of poetry would be a fun way to get that message out there – that there are conditions of carriage we expect people to adhere to on our buses to respect the other passengers, our drivers and the actual buses,” Mr Fulljames said.

We have kick started the poetiquette campaign with Block the Way Ray.

There aren’t too many performances but overall it seems like a neat idea by NZ Bus so they should be congratulated for it. The campaign is also one that is similar to ones seen in other cities like this one from Queensland.

NZ Bus Bugbears #1

I guess my only concern is that this campaign is only on NZ Bus buses and it would probably be worthwhile being expanded to all operators and modes.

Advertising on Buses and Trains

A bugbear of mine is moving billboard type advertising on the sides of buses and trains like the examples below.

Advertising - Bus

Advertising - Train

It primarily annoys me due to the fact it impedes the view of those on services which can make it quite hard for passengers to see exactly where they are, especially at night. But it also goes the other way, being able to see into and through a bus or train is an important part in passengers being able to see the service is safe to board and use – although that also isn’t helped by bus windows often having an unnecessarily dark tint on them.

Now I realise that it’s a bit harder to do something about the bus advertising due to the way the buses are currently run in the city – although I hope it is something that AT can hopefully address as part of the contracts for the new network. What I’m more concerned about the advertising on the trains as that is something AT have within their control and further the ads aren’t for a private company but for AT themselves. I’m also concerned as the ads are targeted towards getting people to try using PT when the vast majority of people who will see them are people who are using trains anyway. The train advertising above is currently on 8 carriages across the train fleet and each one costs about $1,000.

So I asked Auckland Transport about the advertising on trains and in particular what will happen once we have an entire electric fleet. The answer gives me hope we they are moving towards a more customer centric view. Importantly they have said that the electric trains will be clean, in other words there will be no advertising allowed on them (other than the giant AT symbol on the middle carriage of course). That is a very pleasing to hear and hopefully means the trains will stay nice and clean

EMU Southern Motorway

Photo by Alex Burgess of one of the few places non train users might regularly see a train

On the inside AT say that there will be some dedicated public information spots on the walls inside the trains for displaying information like timetable/service changes etc. but that they won’t be used for general marketing. In saying that they are looking at the idea of on-board digital marketing which would essentially be TV screens mounted to the roof of the carriages that would display ads however that is still only in early stages of investigation.

Overall I think this is the right approach to take. It keeps the electric trains looking good while based on what I’ve seen overseas small digital screens displaying ads are unobtrusive and can easily be ignored. I just hope that as part of AT’s focus to improve the customer experience they get tough with bus companies who want to wrap buses like has been done in the first image.

AMETI Busway gets design funding

Auckland Transport announced yesterday that $21 million had been approved, $11 million of which from the NZTA, to design the first stage in the AMETI busway which will run between Panmure and Pakuranga. A later stage will run from Pakuranga to Botany.

Funding has been approved to further develop plans for the South Eastern Busway from Panmure Station to Pakuranga.

The NZ Transport Agency has approved design funding of $20.9m, with it subsidising $11m, for the Panmure to Pakuranga section of the Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI).

It will be the next stage after the current work in Panmure, which comprised the new Panmure Station and a new link road between Mt Wellington Highway and Morrin Rd.

Proposed Panmure to Pakuranga projects also include the Reeves Rd flyover in Pakuranga, replacing Panmure roundabout with an intersection with traffic lights, a second Panmure Bridge for the busway and a shared cycle/foot path.

Auckland Transport aims to begin construction in 2017, subject to approval of construction funding and consents.

Auckland Transport Chairman Dr Lester Levy says the popular Panmure Station and a new road, due to open soon, are just the start of major transport improvements for the area. “With the first stage in Panmure almost complete and delivering benefits already, we’re looking forward to the next stage. This funding will allow us to further develop the design of the busway and other major transport projects.

“Public transport is currently a poor option because buses get caught in the same congestion as cars, resulting in long travel times. Large numbers of passengers are expected to be attracted by quicker, frequent and more reliable buses on lanes separate to traffic.

“Buses will run every 5-10 minutes most of the day and travel times will be reliable. It will take about 27 minutes to get between Pakuranga and Britomart by bus and train, about 8 minutes quicker than currently. There will be bigger time savings when the busway is extended to Botany in the future. Together, the AMETI projects are aimed at improving people’s transport choices and better connecting the south eastern suburbs to each other and the rest of Auckland.”

The Transport Agency’s Regional Manager of Planning and Investment, Peter Casey, says support for Auckland projects like AMETI are a high priority for the Transport Agency. “AMETI ticks a lot of boxes for us in a very busy area of Auckland where there’s strong economic and population growth. Supporting Auckland Transport’s upgrades of a whole range of transport choices will improve safety, and make the time it takes to travel between destinations a lot more reliable for people.”

Mr Casey says the Transport Agency will contribute just over a 50% share of the total cost of AMETI – funding that comes from revenue gathered by the agency from the excise duty on fuel, road user charges and vehicle registration fees and is then reinvested in transport projects.

Auckland Transport will continue to consult with residents, businesses and the community in the project area before applying for a land designation in the second quarter of 2015. This would be followed by a publicly notified hearing.

So as a summary the design covers

  • Replacing Panmure roundabout with an intersection with traffic lights and more direct pedestrian crossings
  • Panmure to Pakuranga busway on lanes separate to traffic congestion
  • Panmure to Pakuranga shared cycle/foot path separate to traffic
  • Direct connection from Pakuranga Rd to Pakuranga Highway via Reeves Rd
  • Pakuranga bus station
  • Second Panmure Bridge for busway and shared path

Phase 2 map

Here’s an earlier image of how Lagoon Dr will look once completed.

Lagoon Dr

It will be fantastic once  this has been completed as the South East is so woefully under served by public transport and is the most car dependant area in all of Auckland as a result. The other thing is even with the services that exist we’re already hearing stories of huge numbers of people transferring of buses and on to trains. This trend will continue to grow with the new network and once the busway is built will be happening in huge numbers.