Commuter costs

A report from the Australasian Railway Association highlights one of the reasons why investing in public transport can be so useful – it allows people to save money and in some situations a considerable amount. The report titled The Costs of Commuting: An Analysis of Potential Commuter Savings compares estimates of the cost of commuting by car with the costs for using PT to get to work. It also compares the costs based on just leaving their car at home with not having a car at all. The key findings for NZ are:

  • The average New Zealander commuter pays $11,852.98 per annum in car ownership and running costs
  • For those that decide to not own a car and commute with public transport instead, New Zealand commuters on average can potentially save $9,065.78 each year.
  • On average, if a New Zealand car owner decides to leave their vehicle at home and use public transport to commute to work, they can potentially save $2,119.03 a year

However in the case of Auckland and Wellington those costs could be even higher as the analysis uses what they call a “conservative estimate” of $1,000 per year for parking costs. That works out at about $4 per day which in some parts of Auckland like the city centre, is way less than you can find a carpark for. Further they also haven’t taken into account other vehicle costs such as insurance, or non monetary costs such as the costs to the environment or from congestion. Similarly on the PT side the analysis hasn’t considered potential upsides to PT use such as being able to use phones/tablets, read a book, have a sleep, socialise or even be productive and work.

The estimated savings for the various cities in the study are below.

PT vs Car costs

The savings are further broken down depending on the size of the vehicle being driven.

PT vs Car costs Graph

PT vs Car costs Graph 2

One big issue I do have is that it appears the authors of the report have only chosen to compare the costs for a two locations at the extremities of the rail network which in the case of Waitakere is one of the least used stations in Auckland.

Despite its limitations I do  think the point that PT can save individuals (or households) a considerable amount of money is an important one and it highlights why we need to build projects that make the PT system more useful. By doing so it means more people are able to use the network and in turn benefit from the savings provided. It also means that households may be able to drop from three cars to two or from two cars to one saving them even more money and space.

The AT Metro Bus app

I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve had issues with or seen others complaining about Auckland Transport’s real time system for buses and trains. The most frequent issues include:

  • Buses saying they’re due then never showing up and disappearing from the display
  • Buses saying they’re only a few minutes away but being considerably more e.g. due in 2 minutes but turns up 15 minutes later.

These issues are incredibly frustrating when they happen, often leaving passengers frustrated and angry. They’re an example of where having more information can lead to a worse experience yet there’s often a quite logical explanation – not that you care when your bus is late. The key problem with it all though is that the system is having to make a prediction and with traffic there’s always a lot that can occur that will impact on that e.g. some localised congestion.

I also have an issue with how the current real time information is displayed. The boards at the stops themselves only show three services at a time and often you can wait for what seems like an eternity while it scrolls through a few hours worth of buses, most of which aren’t going where you want to go. The web version and phone app aren’t much better.

Bus Real Time board

Tomorrow Auckland Transport launch a new phone app that represents a paradigm shift in how AT delivers real time information. Instead of trying to predict when your bus will turn up it simply tells and shows you where you bus is. That shifts the prediction part to the user which might sound like a step backwards but the in reality is a huge step forward in usability. I was able to experience this for myself for a few months late last year as AT included me in their trial of the app. Prior to this trial I had never found a PT app that I liked and so generally never used one however with this app I quickly found it so useful I was using it daily.

When it launches the app will be known as ‘AT Metro Bus’ and launches first on Android tomorrow followed by iOS by the end of the month (sorry Windows Phone users, AT say they have no intention of a Windows Phone app). Here are the key feature AT say about the app:

  • Save multiple bus stops and bus routes to track
  • See in real-time where your bus is on your favourite routes
  • Track your bus progress from the ten preceding stops
  • See when a bus has arrived or already gone

Below are some screen shots from the trial I was involved in showing how the app works.

Upon launching the app you can choose a pre-saved bus stop you regularly use or add a new one.

AT Metro Bus App 1

One of the great things about the app is when you save a bus stop you can select only the services (route numbers) that use it that you want to see. As an example the bus stop in Takapuna for buses heading to the city is also used by buses that are going to Devonport and Akoranga but I have no interest in them.

The one downside to this that you need to know which services to use i.e. in my Takapuna example the services that go to the city are the 820, 839, 858, 875, 879 or 895 (there are a few other one off routes too depending on the time of the day or week). If you didn’t know you have all of those options then you might think the services on offer are worse than they are. The lack of a journey planner means the app is primarily going to be for people doing a regular commute rather than one that will help learn what PT options they have.

Once you’ve saved your favourite stop/s it’s simply a matter of selecting the one you want. When you do you’ll get a list of services that are due however with one key difference. That difference is that instead of saying how many minutes the bus is away, it says how many stops away it is (up to 9). Unfortunately I don’t have a screenshot of this and the app no longer works. The app also shows the previously departed bus which is useful to know that it has actually been.

Selecting the bus you want to track gives you the apps key feature, the location of the bus on the map in real time along with showing the route it takes. Leaving the app open and the location of the bus will update roughly every 30 seconds.

AT Metro Bus App 2

It might not sound like a it would make that much difference over the system telling you how many minutes away the bus was but I personally found it far more useful and intuitive. As I’ve mentioned before I regularly walk from Takapuna to the Akoranga busway station for more exercise. The app meant that while I was on my way I could see very easily whether it was worthwhile walking faster to get a quicker bus and more than once it resulted in me getting home quicker (as the earlier bus meant I connected to an earlier train).

Overall I think the app is fantastic and as a testament to its usefulness I have certainly missed being able to use it since the trial ended (app works but there’s no data for it). It’s a bit of a one trick pony but it does its trick very well. This doesn’t mean it’s perfect though, the major criticisms I have of the app are the lack of a journey planner function, the lack of any HOP integration and that it is for buses only as it would be great to have train information too.

Well done to AT for finally creating a useful app.

Update:

So it seems AT weren’t clear on their comms and the app has only had an internal soft launch. It won’t go live to the general public till February.

How far we’re travelling on PT

Last week I wrote about how I’d found some interesting data from the NZTA on how our Public Transport system is performing. In the post I looked specifically at the fare revenues that were collected and in this post I’ll look at Passenger Kilometres Travelled.

Passenger Kilometres Travelled (PKT) is the total distance that people travel on PT services and is useful as it helps to show how the PT system is being used. While we know patronage in Auckland has increased remarkably over the last decade it might be that people are travelling the same distances as they were, alternatively they could be making longer or shorter trips. As an example more people taking longer trips might mean that PT is becoming a more attractive as a way of avoiding congestion. PKT is also useful as it more accurately allows us to compare with Vehicle Kilometres Travelled (VKT) as in the past some people have criticised us for comparing VKT and the total number of PT trips.

One aspect I’m not sure about is how PKT has been calculated in the past, I can only assume it’s an extrapolation of some combination of ticket sales, passenger counts and other measures. The total VKT graph looks similar to overall patronage results so I’ve skipped that and instead will focus on the average distance people are travelling. This is shown below:

Auckland

AK PKT

There are a number of fascinating insights we can take from this as all modes are showing some change. The first thing you will notice is that VKT is quite different for each mode, on average train users travel the longest distance while bus users generally have the shortest trips. The overall distance travelled is a reflection of the changes in each mode:

  • Bus – For a decade the average trip length of bus users remained almost unchanged at less than 6.5-7km per trip. Since 2011 thought it’s rocketed up to be just over 9km per trip in 2014. To put that in perspective 9km in a straight line from the city centre covers almost all of the old Auckland City Council area. I suspect the reason for the increase is twofold, longer trips due to increased patronage on services like the Northern Express and probably better data from Hop (and formerly Snapper on NZ Bus).
  • Train – Train journeys are bucking the trend and seem to be getting shorter over time as more people use them for a wider variety of trips. While most people travel on train to the city, the station stats we saw at the end of last year highlighted there are also a lot of shorter local trips, especially on the western line.
  • Ferry – The ferry result is the one that surprises me a bit. Around 80% of all ferry patronage comes from either Devonport or Waiheke Island. The increase since 2011 might be a reflection of more trips from Waiheke plus ferries from Half Moon Bay, Gulf Harbour and Pine Harbour.

Wellington

WG PKT

Patronage in Wellington has seen much less change over the last 15 years thanks to its more mature system and that is reflected in the PKT stats. Like Auckland trains generally have much longer trips over buses or ferries. Again this isn’t surprising considering how far out of Wellington the rail network extends.

The next graphs show how buses and trains compare between Auckland and Wellington. For buses Auckland and Wellington are remarkably similar until recently while the rail networks is considerably different thanks to the longer network e.g. the Wairapapa trains.

Auckland vs Wellington PKT by Mode

Lastly I mentioned that this allows us to more accurately compare measures against changes in VKT. The next graph looks at the PKT compared to VKT for Auckland. Due to the disparity in the number of trips I’ve indexed the results to show where the change is occurring. This is just based on the total VKT however it looks pretty similar if compared on a per capita basis with the primary difference being that the blue line is flatter.

Auckland PKT vs VKT

Clearly one mode of transport is growing much faster than the other

Update:

AT have got in touch to say that since the full roll out of HOP in March it’s allowed them to get a more accurate picture of bus PKT and that the average distance travelled on buses is 7.6km

How much we pay in PT fares

Looking through the NZTA website recently I managed to find some data I’ve wanted to see for some time about our PT system. In particular information is about fare revenue, the amount of passenger kilometres travelled and the number of kilometres services travel. I’ll cover it all off over a few posts but to start with I’ll just look at fare revenue.

Fare revenue is the total amount that passengers pay to use PT services and can be affected by a number of factors such as

  • The number of trips taken – more people will generally mean more revenue
  • The distance people travel – i.e. if users start taking longer trips revenue will grow
  • The age of passengers – e.g. a higher proportion of younger people will likely mean more concession/child fares and therefore less revenue
  • The fare structure – reducing fares, like what happened last year for most users, could mean less revenue
  • The number of people paying by cash – cash fares are more expensive than passes or multi trip/HOP fares
  • The mode people used – e.g. ferries re more expensive than buses or trains

Unfortunately we don’t know what’s changed with all of those factors over the years so for this analysis I’m going to assume most (such as the age of passengers) has stayed fairly constant. Usefully the data is also broken down by mode allowing us to see the changes at that level.

In Auckland fare revenue has almost doubled over the last decade from $85 million in 2003/04 to $162 million in 2013/14 while at the same time patronage climbed from 52 million to 72 million trips. An interesting fact I noticed while looking at this data – and that highlights the factors listed above – was that despite patronage on trains and buses falling during 2012/13 fare revenue from passengers actually increased slightly. I was also surprised at just how similar both ferry and train revenues have been for most of the last decade.

Auckland Fare Revenue

That means the average fare Aucklander’s pay has also increased and risen from $1.64 per trip in 2003/04 to $2.24 per trip in 2013/14. The average ferry fare stands out as being well above the other modes reflecting the fact that ferry services cost more to use. I’m not sure why ferry revenue dropped so much in 2003-2007 period, patronage on ferries were certainly growing.

Auckland Average Fare Revenue 2

At this stage it’s looking like we’re paying quite a bit more for many of our PT services but before we declare that I’ve also made a version of the graph above where the average fare has been adjusted for inflation. Doing so shows that on average for buses and trains, fares have actually decreased while ferries remain volatile.

Auckland Average Fare Revenue Inflation adjusted 2

It will be fascinating to see the impact on these figures from the patronage surge we’re experiencing and from the reduction in fares for HOP users (the majority) in July last year. Overall it seems like Aucklander’s are on average paying the paying slightly less for their buses and trains than they did a decade ago. Can the same be said for our friends down in Wellington.

The overall Auckland and Wellington graphs have a number of similarities, especially with the total figure. What’s particularly interesting is that the increases has occurred despite limited patronage growth for most of the last decade.

Wellington Fare Revenue

What’s particularly interesting is that the increases has occurred despite limited patronage growth for most of the last decade. That means like Auckland the average fare has increased.

Wellington Average Fare Revenue 2

 

And here it is inflation adjusted. Unlike Auckland, adjusting for inflation doesn’t change the outcome for rail which in Wellington is still seeing fares increase on average.

Wellington Average Fare Revenue Inflation adjusted 3

So how do these average fares compare with other international cities? I took look at a number of them in Australia, Canada and the US. In most of those cities, but not all, the average fare is somewhere been $1 and $2. That puts Auckland and slightly above average of the cities I compared but not massively so and as mentioned earlier and I think the average will come down thanks to the fare reduction in July. I also hope the current surge in patronage continues and that too is bound to bring the average down.

Lastly I’m going to look at revenues per Passenger Km travelled. I’ll only compare bus and train fares for this one but include both cities. What we can see is that on average Aucklanders catching the train are paying more per km travelled than those in Wellington but Wellington bus users pay more.

Auckland vs Wellington Fare Revenue

Time for a different approach to the Long Bay problem

It seems that every year during the Christmas/New Year break thousands of Aucklander”s flock to Long Bay to enjoy the sun, sand and water. Every year we also hear about the congestion that ensues as thousands of vehicles try to get into a carpark that is quickly overwhelmed. The experience often leaves people frustrated, not to mention hot after sitting in a metal box in the sun for some time. Some like reader Aaron Schiff manage to get it lucky and have a local offer them a place to park but many don’t.

One solution as suggested by Stu last year is for the council to start charging for parking in a bid to manage demand.

Now back to the issue at hand: In my mind the delays incurred by people who drive to Long Bay are unacceptable because they seem easily avoided – if we are prepared to pay for parking.

I’d suggest Auckland Council and Auckland Transport start charging for parking at Long Bay during busy summer times. Charging for parking would encourage a few more people to car-pool, catch the bus (yes there are buses to Long Bay), or postpone their visit – and thereby reduce delays.

My instinct is that most people would be prepared to pay $5 to enter the park during very busy summer periods – not all week or all year. Not only would charging for parking help save people time when they visit (1-2 hours is a long time to spend sitting in a car on a hot day with screaming kids), but it would also generate revenue that could be used to improve facilities at the park.

That is indeed the silver lining from charging for parking: Not only does it help to manage the demand for parking within the limits of the available supply, but it also provides AC with additional revenue to spend on park facilities and/or access, such as more/better toilets, more car-parks, and more frequent bus services. These improvements would otherwise have to be funded from general rates, or not be funded at all.

So what about the alternative of using public transport to get to the beach. Two things really highlight the issue of using PT to get to Long Bay. The first is exemplified in this tweet from Auckland Transport during delays on Jan 2.

So not only have PT users had to endure a long and frustrating trip by bus (more on this soon) but due to everyone else driving they get dumped about 1km from the beach and have to find their own way there. It wasn’t until after 5pm – four hours later – that AT said buses had returned to their normal routes.

Perhaps instead of terminating the buses, AT should do the opposite and stop any extra cars from entering the area and put on a shuttle bus to and from the beach. Even better is they could make use of  the Albany Park n Ride – which is largely unused on weekends/public holidays – and divert vehicles to use that with a frequent shuttle from there to the beach which is a mere 10-15 minutes away.

The second issue is that the normal buses to the area are so rubbish I’d be surprised if anyone actually used them. The two main services that go to Long Bay are the 839 and 858 and both take well over an hour to get to Long Bay from the city compared with as little as 25 minutes in clear traffic. One look at the routes shows with them zig zagging all across the eastern bays before getting close to the beach.- not that the AT timetable map is any use in this regard, good luck working that mess out.

Long Bay PT Options

AT is going to need to seriously change their thinking about how they manage congestion in summer to long bay because right now it only seems to be getting worse. Why not at least try a few ideas out some weekends.

Not Shopping by Car

In my predictions for 2015 I didn’t include that a elected official would make a fool of themselves but I should have – although in hindsight I guess it was inevitable. What can’t be predicted was that it would happen barely a few days into the new year. The honour for this idiocy goes none other than Auckland Councillor Dick Quax who in replying to a tweet from Luke about making Sylvia Park more sustainable said this gem.

Franktly it’s such an absurd comment it deserves ridicule. What’s more it wasn’t a one off as after a number of people replied telling him how wrong he was he made this comment.

and this one after Bryce mentions he gets groceries by bike.

For those not on Twitter, the number of replies and comments in relation to Dick’s comments has been huge. As many pointed out, in cities such as London, Paris and New York millions rely on PT, walking and cycling in their daily lives for not just getting to work but for socialising and shopping.

Unfortunately Dick seems to fall into the view that “you can only shop with a car”, a view that’s especially strong amongst retailers who almost universally call for more (free) parking. Yet interestingly research shows retailers generally overestimate how their customers get to their shops and that considerable numbers of people get to shopping areas without a car. Studies done in Graz, Austria in 1991 and repeated in Bristol, UK show this mismatch.

Shopping travel by mode Graz 1

Shopping travel by mode Bristol 1

 

 

But what about local information? This research conducted for the NZTA on the reallocation of road space looks at the issue. It found that retailers in NZ were a little better at estimating shoppers transport modes but then that could be due to there being fewer viable options. Despite that it says

The data shows that sustainable transport users account for 40% of the total spend in the shopping areas and account for 37% of all shoppers who completed the survey. The data indicates the pedestrians and cyclists contribute a higher economic spend proportionately to the modal share and are important to the economic viability of local shopping areas.

The study also identified that retailers generally overestimate the importance of on-street parking outside shops. Shoppers value high-quality pedestrian and urban design features in shopping areas more than they value parking and those who drive are willing to walk to the shopping precinct from other locally available parking areas.

Considering how vehicle dominated most of our cities are and how high car mode share is on most other measures are – e.g.the census which only measures journeys to work – 37% shopping by non car means seems remarkably high.

Of course if you really want to, for much of your shopping you don’t even need to leave your house with online shopping getting more and more popular. At the end of the day there are two important things it would be worth Quax remembering.

  • Cars don’t buy stuff, people do
  • People are logical and most will use what is the easiest and most convenient method for them to get around.

Making PT, walking and cycling easier will mean more and more people will choose to use those modes for more trips, including to the shops.

2014 – A Year in Review Part 1 – PT

With the year fast coming to a close this is the first in a series of posts wrapping up what happened this year. In this post I’m just going to look at the changes we’ve seen with Public Transport.

While 2013 was very much a lull year while many projects ticked on in the background, 2014 has arguably been one of the biggest years for PT in Auckland for some time. This has largely been thanks to two major projects seeing significant milestones.

Electrification

The first trains arrived in 2013 but this year saw them carrying paying passengers for the first time starting with the Onehunga line at the end of April. Electric trains then started running to Manukau in August before a full timetable upgrade earlier this month that saw improved frequencies – especially off peak. We don’t yet know the impact the most recent change have made however the earlier changes have shown the sparks effect in action in Auckland with those two lines seeing massive growth compared to last year – in the case of Manukau patronage is up 50% on the same time last year.

The fantastic news about the electrification story is that the biggest impact is yet to come which will happen the Southern and Western lines go electric by the middle of next year.

PT RESOLUTION EMU_6484

Integrated Ticketing

After years of delays and issues, integrated ticketing was finally rolled out to all PT services meaning you can now use a single card to pay for any trip across Auckland, regardless of who operates it. That is especially useful for anyone who has multiple options for which service they catch or those who catch transfer between services. It’s hard to say for sure but integrated ticketing is likely to behind some of the spectacular growth we’ve seen this year as from memory, internationally it’s been credited with patronage increases of around 7%.

As with electrification the best is yet to come and in 2015 we will hear more about the real game changer of Integrated Fares. That should simplify the fare structure significantly and mean you pay a single fare for your trip regardless of how many services you catch to get to your destination. It makes transferring much much easier and is needed for the New Network to work. From what I understand Integrated Fares requires some significant changes the HOP system and as such is not likely to roll out till around this time next year so it won’t really start having an impact till 2016. In the meantime Auckland Transport have already started making some positive changes including increasing the HOP discount in July that meant if you were using a HOP card then for most trips (except ferries) fares actually got cheaper.

Hop Card

 

Other than the two key projects above there’s been a lot of improvement in the PT space. Here are some of the other things we’ve seen this year.

Patronage

Patronage has grown very strongly this year and has been one of the best years we’ve seen. We’re obviously still waiting for the results for December however for the 12 months to the end of November patronage has increased by 5.685 million (8.2%) to be over 75 million trips. Within that the star performers have been the Rapid Transit Network which is made up of the rail network and the Northern Express which combined have grown by 17% (2.166 million) compared to the same time last year. 2.166 million trips. On the rail network Auckland achieved two milestones at the same time with patronage surpassing Wellington for the first time and also passing the 12 million trips mark. That occurred only occurred in September however growth has been so strong it’s possible we will pass 12.5 million in December. However the regular bus network hasn’t been standing still either with that seeing a 7% increase (3.485 million). By mode the changes are:

  • Bus – 3.817 million (7.1%)
  • Train – 1.835 million (17.8%)
  • Ferry – 32,900 (0.6%)

AK Total Patronage Nov 14

Down in Wellington patronage has had a spurt of growth for the first time in a while with the total number of trips rising above 36 million for the first time.

WG Total Patronage Nov 14 Bus Lanes

This year for the first time in Auckland Transport’s four year history we saw them implement a new bus lane. It occurred on Fanshawe St after a great post from Luke highlighting why it was needed and while small has made a big difference to buses leaving the city towards the North Shore.

In November we learned of a lot more bus lanes that Auckland is planning over the next three years which should really help improve the customer experience for bus users and improve operational efficiency.

City Rail Link

It feels like news has been relatively quiet on the CRL this year although the project has definitely moved forward. Earlier this year the project received approval from the independent commissioners which means for the first time in the projects 90+ year history there is a designation in place. Some groups are challenging that aspects consent and they should be heard by the environment court in the first half of 2015 however that is unlikely to stop the whole project.

In the meantime Auckland Transport have been moving forward with the project and the first section – the enabling works which will see the tunnel dug from Britomart to Wyndham St – should kick off by the end of 2015. AT have already put out a tender for the works and that should be awarded in the next few months. Positively, while the council and government still debate over when to provide funding, it seems everyone is in agreement that the enabling works should kick off now as they are needed for Precinct Properties to build their redevelopment of the Downtown Mall site.

Perhaps the biggest news about the CRL was that AT have dropped the Newton station in favour of an upgraded Mt Eden station.

AT Metro

Just a few weeks ago AT launched a new brand for PT called AT Metro and to accompany it all buses will eventually have a unified livery rather than each operator having their own brand.

Double Decker

New Network

Three more consultations for the New Network occurred in 2014 following the South Auckland network in 2013. This year there were Hibiscus Coast/Warkworth, Pukekohe and Waiuku and West Auckland. One major issue that has emerged with the new network though is the lack of progress on interchanges with the West Auckland network suffering the most from this.

West Auckland With and Without Interchanges

AMETI

The first stage of AMETI which will eventually see a busway from Panmure all the way to Pakuranga and then Botany was completed at the beginning of the year with the opening of the new Panmure station and interchange. It is already having a significant impact with patronage at the station up as much as 100% in some months compared to 2013 and that is only likely to continue as more improvements are made.

Panmure Station 1

MIT/Manukau Station

The Manukau station opened back in 2012 however since then it has been a bit hidden away thanks to the construction of the MIT campus that sits above it – which was subject to delays thanks to the collapse of the construction company building it. Those issues are now over and in June the MIT campus opened providing a spectacular entrance to the station.

MIT dyptych

 

So what did I miss?

Holiday Travelling

With Christmas upon us tomorrow this is just a few reminders

Public Transport

From tomorrow through to 4 January (and till 11 January for the Northern Express and Western Line trains) a holiday timetable is in effect that will see fewer services available to use.

The holiday season is almost here and that means there are some changes to public transport services over the next few weeks.

Train

From Christmas Day, Thursday 25 December all trains will be replaced with rail buses. We’re putting on replacement buses so we can carry out important improvements on the rail network particularly around Newmarket.

For the first time replacement buses will run on Christmas Day and the other good news is you can now use your AT HOP cards on-board all planned Railbus replacement services as well. You will need to tag-on and tag-off the rail bus like any other bus service.

You can buy a cash ticket for your entire journey on board the rail bus from the driver.

The reduced timetable runs from Christmas Day, Thursday 25 December through to Sunday 4 January. The closure on the Western Line will run through to the following Sunday 11 January.

Bus

Most bus services will be operating to a Christmas/New Year Holiday timetable from Monday 22 December to Sunday 4 January, for the Northern Express the holiday schedule will run to Sunday 11 January.

Some additional NiteRider services will be operating prior to and on New Year’s Eve. Please check timetables carefully.

If you’re heading to the airport, Airbus Express and Airporter services will operate as normal over the Christmas and New Year period. They will run on a Sunday timetable on the public holidays: 25 and 26 December and 1 and 2 January.

Ferry

If you’re using a Fullers ferry, a special timetable will run from Wednesday 24 December to Sunday 4 January.

Other ferry services will be running special timetable, check out our website. All ferries will be back on a full timetable from Monday 5 January.

Christmas rail shutdowns are always a contentious issue and at least this year AT have explained what is being done.

Thursday 25 December 2014 to Sunday 4 January 2015:

Full network closure – a bus replacement service will operate on all lines. This is to allow for significant track maintenance at Newmarket, Penrose, Westfield, Wiri and Papakura, sleeper replacement on the Eastern Line, station work at Otahuhu and NZTA motorway work at Takanini and Ellerslie.

Monday 5 January to Sunday 11 January 2015:
Buses replace trains on the Western Line. Normal train services will operate on all other lines. This is to allow for track upgrades at Morningside and Kingdon Street and sleeper replacement works at level crossings.

Roads

The annual resurfacing of a few lanes on the harbour bridge is taking place, this year it will be the Northbound clip-on lanes and the closure of those lanes goes from 7am on Friday through to 5:30am on 8 December.

Around the Te Atatu Interchange there will be a number of disruptions due to work to raise the Te Atatu Rd bridge over the motorway.

  • Te Atatu Rd will be reduced to a single lane in each direction over the bridge between Te Atatu South and Te Atatu Peninsula 4am Saturday 27 December to 5am Monday 5 January
  • The Northwestern motorway will be reduced to a single lane each way under the Te Atatu Bridge during the day, and then closed under the bridge from 10pm each night. All lanes on the motorway will be open on New Year’s Eve night (31 December) and New Year’s Day (1January)
  • The Te Atatu city bound loop onramp will be closed from Saturday 27 December to Monday 5 January

And let’s not forget the annual “don’t drive north on Boxing Day” reminder. What’s more even the NZTA are saying the road is only busy because of holiday periods

Traffic on Boxing Day (26 December) will be heavy on regional highways and roads and the NZ Transport Agency is advising motorists to plan for a safe journey and to avoid delays.

“This is one of the busiest times of the year on our highways,” says the Transport Agency’s Highway Manager Brett Gliddon. “We’ll have all our teams working to help manage traffic flows and keep everyone as safe as possible and informed about traffic and road conditions.”

He says one of the busiest highways will be the Northern Gateway Toll Road on State Highway 1 north of Auckland. “Last Christmas holiday, there were an average of 20,600 trips a day – the busiest day being 2 January when there were more than 24,600 trips.

“This tremendous increase in holiday traffic on the toll road indicates just how busy the highways will be in Auckland and Northland and why we need everyone to plan their trips, allowing plenty of time for a safe journey.”

271209NZHGBTRAFFIC2_460x230

Expect to see an image like this in the Herald at some stage

Most importantly if you are out on the roads please be drive safely and I hope you all have a great Christmas.

Accessing the City Centre

As Patrick so eloquently described in his Metro article – and post yesterday – Auckland is experiencing an unseen revolution in transport. While the pace of the change is becoming increasingly evident, what many people don’t realise is that this revolution isn’t new, instead it’s been slowly building up a head of steam for over a decade. Nowhere is this more evident than in the central city where the sure but steady change has now become so dramatic that it’s now challenging the stereotype of Auckland being a drive everywhere city. Despite the frustrations we see from time to time one shift is that public transport and active modes are increasingly becoming normalised and not solely for those not able to drive.

We can see this change quite clearly from the data collected annually since 1986 by Auckland Transport and prior to that the Auckland Regional Council. The data comes from a screenline survey which counts all vehicles and people crossing a certain location. In the case of the city centre that screenline survey takes place on all roads that cross the motorway moat that rings the city.

The backdrop to the change has been growth in employment and education coupled with vastly improved retail and hospitality offerings. It’s difficult to get figures for some of those areas however for employment Stats NZ figures show there are now over 100,000 jobs within the screenline boundary mentioned above. That’s up from around 80,000 in 2001 – an almost a 25% increase despite a few bumps along the way such as the Global Financial Crisis. In addition there were only around 10,000 people living in the central city whereas now there are over 31,0000 helping to bring energy and vitality to the urban environment – and all/most without needing to drive to get to work or play.

AKL CBD employment & population 2000-2014

For people who have to travel to the city for, not all are doing so during the morning peak but it’s certainly when the largest number are of 7am to 9am and this is what the Screenline Survey captures. What the data astonishingly shows is that increasingly the change in the transport use over the has exclusively come from modes other than driving more. This screenline data was presented to the AT board last week.

Back in 2001 some 39,000 people or 64% of everyone arriving in the city centre via motorised transport during the morning peak via did so by way of a private vehicle. That means either they were driving or were a passenger in a car. The remaining 21,100 came by bus (23%), train (5%) or ferry (8%).

In 2014 38,000 people entered by private vehicle representing a slight fall in numbers compared to 2001. That in itself is interesting as during that time we’ve made it easier to get to the city thanks to numerous road projects such as the Central Motorway Junction upgrade. However the big story is that the number of people arriving by public transport share has risen dramatically to over 34,400 (48%). The change is shown on the graph below.

CBD Transport Change

If we throw active modes in to the mix (not including those already in the city centre) then the number of people not driving to the city outweighs the number who do

The graph above is a great result but what’s powering it? Is it just lots more people using PT in general or some parts of the PT network doing much more work. The graph below shows the growth rate by mode. *It’s worth noting that it appears from some of the other data I was sent that the Northern busway refers to people and travelling from the North Shore, not just those on the busway.

AKL CBD mode growth

And the numbers compared to 2001.

CBD Transport Change #

Looking to the future we can only expect the current trends to continue, not least because there is nowhere else to squeeze in additional roads/lanes.

Getting high patronage in a sprawling city

I’ve talked in the past about Calgary and how I think it’s an extremely useful city for Auckland to compare to and this article from The Transport Politic highlights why.

Calgary is a boomtown — the center of Canada’s resource economy, whose explosion in recent years has led to big gains in Calgary’s population and commercial activity. It’s the sort of place that might seem completely hostile to public transit; 87 percent of locals live in suburban environments where single-family homes and strip malls predominate; surrounding land is mostly flat and easily developable farmland; the city is almost 10 times bigger than it was in 1950, meaning it was mostly built in a post-automobile age; and big highways with massive interchanges are found throughout the region. Even the transit system it has serves many places that are hostile to pedestrians and hardly aesthetically pleasing.

It’s an environment that looks a lot more like Dallas or Phoenix than Copenhagen.

In addition to this it’s not a massive city population wise and is in fact is very similar to Auckland’s – and has had similar growth over the last 30 years.

Auckland vs Calgary Population

And yet Calgary is attracting big crowds to its transit system, and those crowds continue to increase in size. Like several of its Canadian counterparts, Calgary is demonstrating that even when residential land use is oriented strongly towards auto dependency, it is possible to encourage massive use of the transit system. As I’ll explain below, however, strong transit use in Calgary has not been a fluke; it is the consequence of a strong public policy to reduce car use downtown. It provides an important lesson for other largely suburban North American cities that are examining how to reduce their automobile use.

Much of the trend of increasing transit use has come recently, in part because of the expansion of the city’s light rail network, C-Train. That system, which opened in 1981 and has been expanded several times (it now provides service on 36 miles of lines), has become the backbone of the municipal transit agency and now serves more rides than the bus network. C-Train is now the second-most-heavily used light rail system in North America.

Calgary C Train network

Calgary C Train Network

Don’t be fooled by the term light rail, Calgary’s C-Train is the equivalent of our rail network and the Northern Busway – a rapid transit network providing a high capacity core network on a dedicated (largely on street) right of way. Supporting the C-Train network is a bus network based on the same principles as Auckland Transports proposed New Network. Both light rail and buses have seen growth over the last 17 years shown in the graph below although the light rail has clearly grown the strongest. Strong growth in rapid transit is a trend we’re really starting to see in Auckland.

The presence of rapid transit is clearly a critical factor in Calgary’s outstanding patronage results but it’ not the only factor.

At the heart of the matter seems to be a radically different view about how to manage automobiles downtown. Decades of progressive thinking about how to run downtown have produced a Calgary where there are no freeways entering the central city. Citizens there have been vocally opposed to building highways there since the 1950s, with the consequence that it is simply not that quick to get into downtown by car. This has a number of related effects, including the incentivization of non-automobile modes and the reduction in outward suburban sprawl (since it takes a longer amount of time to get to the center of downtown).

Perhaps most impressive have been Calgary’s parking policies. For decades, the municipal government has managed parking supply downtown, in part by directly owning a huge proportion of the spaces. The city has also limited the number of spaces allowed to be built in the center. In 1981, the city had 25 million square feet of offices downtown and 33,000 parking spaces (1,320 parking spaces per million square feet), but today, it has more than 40 million square feet of offices (and more under construction) and 47,000 spaces (1,175 spaces per million square feet, an 11 percent reduction). The limitations on the number of parking spaces has resulted in an expensive parking market; the city has the second-highest parking rates in the Americas, after New York City.

For car users wishing to get downtown, the city has compensated by investing in 17,433 park-and-ride spaces at almost every light rail station, of which 36 percent are reserved for people who have paid $80 a month, a considerable discount off the downtown rates. This emphasis on park-and-ride spaces departs from the typical urbanist emphasis on transit-oriented development as a strategy for station areas, but it seems to have worked in Calgary.

Charging for Park & Ride is a relatively new thing for Calgary and is a response to ever increasing demand for more and doing so has had no impact on patronage. The city is also now looking to reduce the number of P&R spaces it has by using them for development so the total number will drop over time.

I don’t how much office space Auckland has but as a comparison there are around 50,000 carparks in the Auckland CBD and many more on the fringes outside it.

CBD Parking Supply

And what of the impacts of the policy of restricting carparking.

These policies have produced the overall city transit ridership noted above, and have been particularly relevant in affecting travel trends downtown. Between 1998 and 2014, the share of downtown workers using transit to get to work has increased from 37 percent to 50 percent; a rise has also been noted in the share of people walking and cycling, which has risen from 8 percent to 11 percent over that period. That transit share is just a bit lower than that seen in Chicago’s Inner Central Area (55 percent in 2000), a central business district that was developed far earlier and which has a far more developed transit system.

Pro-transit policies have not produced a dramatic move of businesses away from Calgary’s center city — the fear many politicians and business promoters point to when complaining about limitations on automobile access to downtown. In fact, Calgary’s office market is doing quite well, with five office buildings over 500 feet completed downtown since 2010, compared to just one in Dallas, one in Houston, and none in Phoenix. Calgary’s downtown population has expanded rapidly to 16,000 people and now hosts 140,000 jobs and eight shopping centers. It should be noted that the Calgary municipal government has also played an important role in advocating for a compact city and directed local policies to support that goal.

In other words, restricting automobile use and encouraging transit ridership not only don’t hurt business — they may be encouraging it.