West Auckland Network with new interchanges

Last week Auckland Transport began consultation on the new network for West Auckland. I and many readers were highly critical of it as it seemed to ignore much of the network design philosophy and elements AT are implementing elsewhere and enshrined in the Regional Public Transport Plan. In particular the consultation sees a move away from the idea of a high frequency all day network that may require some to transfer to a network with lots of infrequent routes but may have not direct routes. The two different network design models are shown in the image below.

New Network Model

In most post I speculated the network proposed was a result of not having interchanges at Te Atatu and Lincoln Rd. It appears like that is exactly the case with AT now saying:

AT is redesigning the bus network across all of Auckland. Within each area, there are opportunities to improve public transport. However, the reality is that all changes will take time to implement, especially where major new infrastructure needs to be built, or where the cost of operating services will increase substantially. Both will require more ratepayer (Auckland Council) and taxpayer (New Zealand Transport Agency) funding than is currently budgeted.

For West Auckland, AT has taken the view that it is better to make as many improvements as we can afford to make in the next 2 years, to take advantage of the benefits electric trains will bring, rather than wait until all of the desirable infrastructure is in place.

The current proposal which is out for consultation is shown on the left-hand diagram below. On the right-hand diagram is the network we want to implement as soon as we have the necessary funding and consents to build interchanges at Te Atatu and Lincoln Rd, in anticipation of the long-term proposal to build a Northwestern Busway. We hope this clearly illustrates the benefits of the more frequent and better connected network that will be possible once the required infrastructure is funded and built.

West Auckland With and Without Interchanges

To me the network on the right is so much cleaner and easier to understand as well as being more useful due to the higher frequencies. What’s clear is both AT and the NZTA need to urgently get on with sorting out the interchanges at Lincoln Rd and Te Atatu to enable the new network to properly implemented. I suggest that anyone submitting on the West Auckland Network highlight the need for the right hand image to become a reality.

Auckland Transport’s 30 Year Project List

As part of the discussion on Alternative Transport Funding, which was launched yesterday, the Council also released a copy of Auckland Transport’s entire 30 year transport programme which includes the cost of projects and seemingly ranked according to some combination of criteria. The programme unfortunately does not include state highway projects, which makes it difficult to fully assess the merits of the overall transport packages outlined in yesterday’s announcements. However, it’s certainly clear what Auckland Transport projects can and cannot be afforded over the next 30 years under the two scenarios.

The document doesn’t explain the list in any detail, but it seems as though there are a number of projects on the first page which have some form of existing commitment or are ongoing requirements and therefore are not really considered “discretionary”. These are shown below:

committed-projectsThe ‘committed’ projects include those that appear to have contracts in place (electric trains, Albany Highway, a few things around Westgate), renewing existing assets and the City Rail Link. I actually wonder if it would be helpful for CRL to be ranked against all the other projects – rather than be included in this “other” list – as almost certainly it would rank either right at the top or very near it.

Anyway, moving on to the top of the list the projects listed below are those that are in both the Basic Network and the Auckland Plan Network – as well as some fairly broad brush allocation of funding to support sprawl in some of the areas identified by the Unitary Plan:

basic-network-projects

It’s a pretty short list for the 30 year transport programme, as well as being strangely focused on the first decade. The other key thing to notice here is the yellow boxes, which appear to be wrapped up programmes of projects (e.g. walking and cycling) where the amount of funding allocated to the programme varies quite significantly, depending on whether it’s the Auckland Plan Transport Network or the Basic Transport Network.

Even taking a fairly harsh look at the list above, there doesn’t seem to be too many projects that don’t make sense doing at all over the next 30 years. For me the three most glaring ones that need to be questioned are:

  • The Reeves Rd flyover at $141 million
  • The widening of the almost $200 million and soon to be opened Te Horeta Rd for another $74 million
  • Mill Road at $472 million which is something that we’ve highlighted could be looked at for a cheaper option, especially seeing as the government are now widening the southern motorway.

The rest of the projects are those which form part of the Auckland Plan Transport Network only. Essentially, these are the additional projects from Auckland Transport which the additional funding is being asked to pay for:

auckland-plan-network-projects

While there are a few really dumb projects on the list above (Mt Albert Park & Ride, what the heck?) there’s also a lot of pretty good stuff that is missing out under the Basic Transport Network. Furthermore, while there is some, it seems at first glance that there isn’t a huge amount of really expensive dumb stuff in the programme list of Auckland Transport’s projects. That contrasts with the package of state highway projects highlighted yesterday which doesn’t appear to have been questioned at all.

Over the next few days I’ll be starting to look into the detail at the overall balance of the packages, as well as assessing the extent to which they are similar to what we proposed in the Congestion Free Network.

Alternative Transport Funding Report Released

The latest report on alternative transport funding for Auckland, prepared by the Independent Advisory Board (formerly the Consensus Building Group), has just been released. The report will form a critical part of the Council’s public consultation on the next Long Term Plan (the 10 year budget), essentially asking Aucklanders two key questions:

  • Are you willing to pay more for a better transport network?
  • If so, then should that extra money be from existing sources (rates, fuel taxes etc.) or from a “motorway user charge”?

We have been highly skeptical of past proposals that request more money to be spent on transport – in particular the first version of the Integrated Transport Programme as well as the initial report on alternative funding prepared last year by the Consensus Building Group. In fact, the Congestion Free Network came into being as a result of our frustration with the transport programme being a “build everything” and we felt a large part, if not all of the $12 billion funding gap could be resolved through removing poor value projects, rather than by requiring additional funding.

Overall, the new report is a clear step in the right direction and combined with the work being done as part of the next LTP and the next ITP it seems as though quite a lot of effort has gone into removing the more idiotic projects included in the original ITP, although there isn’t a huge amount of detail in the information that has been provided. There are, however, still many unanswered questions that the report doesn’t seem to address – plus its key recommendation of suggesting a “motorway user charge” is fraught with problems. But I’ll get onto that in a moment – first to summarise some key points from the report.

A comparison between what is in the two programmes – known as the “Basic Transport Network” (that which can be afforded under the 2.5-3.5% rates increase proposed in the LTP) and the “Auckland Plan Transport Network” (the preferred network, which requires additional funding) is shown in the series of tables below.

Firstly, for bus and ferry investment:

bus-ferry

The main difference between the two networks seems to be in the scale of the bus lane programmes and the provision of additional busways in the second and third decades, supported by service frequency improvements. The proposed Botany to Manukau busway appears to be extended to the airport like we suggested as part of the CFN however more interesting is to see a new proposal for a “cross isthmus” bus RTN between New Lynn, Onehunga and Otahuhu. I wonder what route and form that would take.

Next for rail:

railThe difference between the two networks is fairly stark in the second and third decades, with no investment at all in rail over this period in the Basic Transport Network. I must say the complete lack of rail investment in the Basic Transport Network after 2025 is a bit surprising and raises some questions about the prioritisation process that determines what’s in and what’s out of the Basic Transport Network after 2025. Importantly, CRL is in the Basic Transport Network and therefore does not require alternative funding.

Next, for roads:

roadsLooking at arterial roading projects first, it’s clear that even the Auckland Plan Transport Network is much smaller than what was proposed originally in the first version of the Integrated Transport Programme. In fact it seems like billions upon billions have been shaved off the previous ITP’s numbers, which included crazy things like nearly a billion dollars on upgrading Great South Road. We’ll take a more detailed look at this in a future post, but credit where it’s due to Auckland Transport who have responded to criticisms of the first ITP by ensuring the Auckland Plan Network has been significantly refined to deliver much better value for money.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said about the state highway programme, which doesn’t vary much between the two networks – aside from some rather optimistic “widening to reduce congestion” in the final decade (haven’t they heard of induced demand?) A whole bunch of very dodgy projects (Additional Harbour Crossing, SH16 Port Access, SH1 Warkworth to Wellsford etc.) have been included in the Basic Transport Network for some unknown reason, as well as of course being in the Auckland Plan Transport Network. This is important to keep in mind when considering the resulting “funding gap” – which of course could be a whole heap smaller if we stripped out the $5.5 billion Harbour Crossing and multiple billions on these other unnecessary projects.

Components of the walking, cycling and safety programmes for the two networks are shown in the table below:walking-cyclingIt’s not clear what the cost difference for walking and cycling is between the two networks, but it’s clear that only the Auckland Plan Transport Network goes anywhere close to delivering on the Auckland Plan vision for active transport.

Now for miscellaneous other stuff, like maintenance, renewals and supporting sprawl:

maintenance-renewalsThe shortfall in funding maintenance and renewals under the Basic Transport Network is a real concern, as the last thing we want to do is end up like the USA where infrastructure is falling to bits because politicians want to “cut ribbons” rather than look after what we already have. The lack of funding for developing the greenfield sprawl areas may not be such an issue as this could force the developers themselves to come to the party a bit more.

Overall, as I noted above it’s clear the Auckland Plan Transport Network is vastly improved from what was in the first ITP. A lot of the really poor investment in the arterial network appears to have disappeared, although there are still a few remaining remnants like Penlink and Mill Road, although even with these projects it seems like the bulk of spend has been pushed out into the future. However, the big remaining issue is that a similar exercise doesn’t seem to have occurred with the State Highway network and there are still billions upon billions of dollars in poor value for money projects – most particularly the Additional Harbour Crossing but also other duplicative projects like SH20B, Warkworth-Wellsford and others. NZTA have really dropped the ball on this one and unfortunately I suspect part of this comes about because the under the current situation motorway projects get full government funding while every other transport project has to beg for a slice of the funding pie. More than once I’ve heard council people say we should build certain projects simply because the government are paying for them.

Cut out what I estimate to be around $8 billion in very poor value for money state highway projects and we’re left with a $4 billion funding gap. If we push $8 billion of state highway projects out of both the Basic Transport Network and the Auckland Plan Network, it means we can afford $8 billion more of good projects before we have to turn to Alternative Funding and it means that we only need to find ways of raising an additional $4 billion. Over 30 years, that’s not a particularly huge issue to overcome.

So if we think back to the two questions at the top of the post, it seems as though the answer to the first one is there may well be value from paying a bit more to get a better transport network, but the actual requirement for additional funding might be around a third of what the report highlights. Now let’s turn to the second question of which would be the best way of raising this additional funding.

Essentially the two options proposed are:

  1. Increasing existing funding mechanisms like rates, fuel taxes, development contributions, central government grants etc.
  2. Introducing a charge for entering the motorway network

Some more detail on the “Rates and Fuel Tax” option are shown below:

rates-fuel-taxI must say I was pretty surprised to see how low the additional rates and fuel tax increases would need to be in order to close the funding gap. A rates increase of between 3.4 and 4.4% is actually lower than what was assumed in the 2012 Long Term Plan (that had 4.9%) while a 1.2 cent per litre annual fuel tax hike would probably get lost as a rounding error in typical price fluctuations. It’s a credit to Auckland Transport’s project prioritisation that they’ve managed to develop a network that could be fully funded under the funding assumptions of the 2012 Long Term Plan, and it’s only the political decision to have a much lower rates increase that’s essentially “re-created” the funding gap.

Combine this with the above observation that the “funding gap” could be further reduced to around $4 billion instead of $12 billion and we could see the gap closed by rates increases only 0.3% higher than otherwise or fuel tax increases of a mere 0.4 centre per litre compared to what would otherwise occur. That’s starting to look like a pretty compelling option.

The other funding option is called a “Motorway User Charge” and is summarised below:

motorway-user-chargeThere’s a lot of discussion in the document around the relative costs and benefits of the two approaches – with the report seeming to express something of a preference for the motorway user charge scheme, based on its travel demand management effects of discouraging some trips and encouraging higher levels of public transport use. We’ll look at the details of this analysis in further posts, but note that this option does come with some fairly significant set up and operational costs (~$110 million set up with opex costs of 24c per trip) as well as potentially diverting quite a lot of traffic off the motorway network and onto local roads – which seems quite counter-productive.

To summarise, there’s quite a lot to like in the Independent Advisory Board’s report. It seems like some hard work has gone on by Auckland Transport (although sadly not NZTA) to optimise their desired transport network so it’s far more realistic than what was proposed in the first ITP. Take out a few of the dumber motorway projects and we’re left with a pretty damn good 30 year transport network that can almost be funded from existing sources (just requiring 0.3% higher rates increases and 0.4 cents per litre higher fuel tax increases) or from a very low motorway user charge. Or from other ways we might think up of to find $4 billion over 30 years.

 

Update: unsurprisingly the government has once again poured cold water on the idea of tolling or fuel taxes.

http://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/govt-responds-auckland-transport-report

Auckland Transport Late October Board Meeting

The Auckland Transport board meet today and other than the outstanding patronage results, here are the other items on the on the agenda or in the public reports of note. Firstly the closed session which once again contains quite a few interesting topics including:

  • Newmarket Crossing – This is the Sarawia St level crossing issue.
  • Penlink Designation – AT have been looking to make changes to the existing designation to Penlink although hopefully this doesn’t mean it is moving any closer to actually being built.
  • CCFAS2 – AT are being very secretive about just what the second CCFAS is looking at.
  • Integrated Fares Business Case
  • Amendments to Statement of Intent 2014-17 – perhaps they’re correcting for the really low rail patronage targets.
  • Parking Consultation Analysis – the feedback from the draft parking strategy consultation a few months ago.
  • CBD/West Transport – I’m not sure what this is about but I was told it is confidential as involves property acquisitions (or the potential for them).

On to the items that are in the public session. From the board report:

AT are responsible for developing a region wide wayfinding system. Some of it has started to appear and they say the next stage will see precinct specific signage go through user testing and stakeholder feedback in January and February next year.

Construction of the Wolverton to Maioro cycle route will happen over the year end school holidays

AT say after reviewing feedback to the consultation on cycling routes through Wynyard they are now looking at alternative options. You may recall these are the cycling routes that many of the local marine businesses complained about claiming the loss of parking would destroy their businesses despite them having off street parking and the on-street parks being empty a large amount of the time.

AT are still working on the new Otahuhu Bus-Train interchange however they seem to be getting more vague about when it will be completed. This is important as the roll out of new network for South Auckland is reliant on the completion of this interchange and when announced at the end of last year was planned for mid-2015. In August they said the bus portion was targeted for completion in July 2015 with the rail upgrade completed by the December 2015. In September they said the target for completion was by the end September 2015 although this wasn’t specific to modes like August was. Now they are saying the interchange is scheduled for completion in the last quarter of 2015 and aligned to the new network. This suggests a delay both for the interchange and for the bus network rollout.

There are now 29 of a total 57 EMU’s now in Auckland with 24 unit’s with provisional acceptance (up from 20 in the September report). They say two more are due to arrive in November and another seven in December. Regular train users will have seen the EMUs start to be stabled at the old Auckland Railway station as Wiri only has the capacity to store 28 trains.

Strand Stabling Yard in use

Strand Stabling Yard now in use, photo by Jonty

There is more detail about the upcoming timetable change which will be the first major one for a number of years. It will come in on the 8th December and as we found out last month all services from Pukekohe or Papakura will go via Newmarket and all services from Manukau will be via Glen Innes. The services on the Manukau line will increase to 10 minute frequencies and should also hopefully include some longer trains. Now AT are also stating that weekend trains to Onehunga will also see improvement moving to a 30 minute frequency (it would be good if they did 30 minute frequencies on weekdays too). Early testing of electric trains on the Western line has also commenced after Kiwirail finally finished in September, over a year late.

The first stage of AMETI is now effectively complete. The new road parallel to the rail line and which includes a 220m tunnel next to the station, named Te Horeta Rd, opens to traffic this Sunday 2nd November and there’s a public open day on Saturday 1st from 11am to 3pm. A separate paper to the board shows some before and after photos. AT say there is still expected to be some minor works on the project till early next year and that the final cost for this stage is expected to be $212 million compared to the project budget of $239 million. Here is a video from AT of the road.

HOP use as a percentage of all trips remained at 71% after jumping strongly in July and August following the change in fares from early July despite AT selling 15,000 new ones in September. AT say that now almost 420,000 have been sold with around 56% of them registered. The exact figures aren’t clear but it appears that HOP use for rail and bus is approximately 79% and 69% respectively. We’re now almost two years since HOP first started rolling out so this got me thinking about how the uptake of HOP compares to similar situations overseas. Back in May 2013 AT received this report from Deloitte doing just that. In the absence of the actual data behind the graphs, I’ve manually added approximately where HOP is and as you can see the result looks pretty good. I would suggest to AT staff that they might want to highlight this fact.

HOP usage compared to other cities estimation

In a good move AT now have an agreement in place with Budgetary Agencies which allows them to give out a free HOP card as part of the assistance they give to clients.

September 14 Patronage

Auckland’s Transport’s patronage results for September are now out and they show that the city is experiencing spectacular PT growth, growth which is also setting a number of records. The big news was earlier in the week was that when it was announced that over the last year there had been more than 12 million rail trips on the rail network and that for the first time more trips than the rail network in Wellington. As it turns out the 12 million trips milestone has actually occurred some-time in October rather than in September. Here are the highlights according to AT.

Auckland public transport patronage totalled 73,957,488 passenger trips for the 12 months to Sep-2014, an increase of +1.1% on the 12 months to Aug-2014 and +7.6% on the 12 months to Sep-2013. September monthly patronage was 6,612,702, an increase of 782,718 boardings or +13.4%on Sep-2013, normalised to ~ +11.0% accounting for special event patronage, one more businessand one less weekend day in Sep-2014 compared to Sep-2013. Financial year to date patronage has grown by + 8.5%.

Rail patronage totalled 11,923,347 passenger trips for the 12 months to Sep-2014, an increase of +1.7% on the 12 months to Aug-2014 and +16.7% on the 12 months to Sep-2013. Patronage for
Sep-2014 was 1,119,230, an increase of 194,217 boardings or +21.0% on Sep-2013, normalised to ~ +21.2%. Financial year to date rail patronage has grown by +16.8%.

The Northern Express bus service carried 2,540,018 passenger trips for the 12 months to Sep-2014, an increase of +1.6% on the 12 months to Aug-2014 and + 11.1% on the 12 months to Sep-2013.Northern Express bus service patronage for Sep-2014 was 234,282, an increase of 40,686 boardings or +21.0% on Sep-2013, normalised to ~ +20.8%. Financial year to date Northern Express patronage has grown by +18.6%.

Bus services excluding Northern Express carried 54,387,408 passenger trips for the 12 months to an increase of +1.0% on the 12 months to Aug-2014 and +6.2% on the 12 months to Sep-2013. Bus services excluding Northern Express patronage for Sep-2014 was 4,887,764, anincrease of 516,418 boardings or +11.8% on Sep-2013, normalised to ~ +8.8%. Financial year to date bus services excluding Northern Express patronage has grown by +7.1%.

Ferry services carried 5,106,715 passenger trips for the 12 months to Sep-2014, an increase of +0.6% on the 12 months to Aug-2014 and an increase +2.0% on the 12 months to Sep-2013. Ferry services patronage for Sep-2014 was 371,426, an increase of 31,397 boardings or +9.2% on Sep-2013, normalised to ~ +8.1%. Financial year to date ferry patronage has decreased by -0.3%.

14 - Sep AK Patronage table

14 - Sep AK Annual Patronage

At 73.96 million trips to the end of September represents a massive jump in usage compared to last year and even from last month when the total was 73.14 million trips. Importantly it’s not just from the growth of rail but increased bus patronage too that’s causing this surge. The Northern Express along is up 21% on the same month last year. It definitely appears that AT’s major projects such as integrated ticketing and electrification are starting to pay off and with so much positive change to go the tend is only likely to accelerate. One little milestone that did occur is that per capita we crossed 48 trips per person which is the first time that’s happened since 1989.

The rail patronage growth has been stunning for months and is really highlighted on the Onehunga and Manukau lines – the only two running electric trains so far – which respectively saw a 32.6% and a 50.6% increase for the month compared to the same time last year. I’ve personally really been noticing of late that both buses and trains have been getting very full, even if travelling against the peak flow such as from the North Shore to the city in the afternoon suggesting that we’re likely to see this strong patronage growth continue in October and be hopefully beyond.

14 - Sep AK Rail Patronage

Crucially the growth of PT is also happening faster than the population growth in Auckland with the latest results showing Auckland increasing at 2.3% per annum. With PT having grown as 7.6% over the last year it shows the growth is coming from many existing Aucklanders.

Moving on to other modes, for Ferries one thing that did catch my attention was this patronage graph. Significantly they have split out ferry patronage by whether the service is subsidised (contracted) or not. As I understand it only the Devonport and Waiheke runs are exempt and the graph shows how significant the patronage from those two locations compared to the rest of the ferry destinations.

14 - Sep AK Ferry Patronage

Lastly after a few lower months (possibly due to a faulty counter) cycling numbers are up 6.3% on September last year and 11% on a 12m basis (despite what the Monthly Cycle Monitoring Report says). Partly because we’re now in spring but it certainly feels like in seeing a lot more people out and about on bikes, even compared to previous years.

West Auckland new network consultation

Consultation for the West Auckland portion of the new network is now underway. This follows the consultations for Pukekohe/Waiuku, Warkworth, Hibiscus Coast and South Auckland. The consultation runs from today till Monday 1st December. It’s a consultation I’ll be following very closely seeing as I line in West Auckland.

Like much of Auckland the current bus network in West Auckland is an absolute mess. It consists of a myriad of routes, some as slight variations that focus on providing coverage at the expense of directness or frequency. As such many buses trundle around the suburbs largely empty. Some routes also mimic the rail network which is a hangover from the days when rail services were virtually non-existent. A map of the existing network is below and you almost need a degree to properly interpret it. In fact I believe this isn’t even all routes.

West Auckland Existing Routes

Like with the other consultations the new network shifts the thinking about how we could run our buses and instead focuses on transfers to increase mobility.

The map for the proposed new network is below.

West Auckland Proposed Routes 1

 

There are a few thoughts I have about the network for West Auckland. I’ll list them below in no particular order.

The immediate thing I noticed was the lack of frequent services. There’s just two of them, the 4 which travels between the CBD and New Lynn and the W3 which travels between New Lynn SH16 via Henderson before branching (more on that service soon). This is less than was signed off in the RPTP just let year. The key frequent routes missing are from Te Atatu Peninsula to Henderson and a route on SH16 with interchanges at Lincoln/Triangle Rd and at Te Atatu interchange. I can only assume these interchange upgrades are held up NZTA and AT not being able to come to an agreement/location for them. The lack of a frequent on seems to being SH16 is also disappointing considering the growth that is about to occur there.

RPTP New West Frequent Network

I’m a little surprised that they’ve branched the W3 frequent route as one of the outcomes from the South Auckland consultation was to keep the frequents as a single route. Again this is possibly to do with the fact there appears to be no bus interchanges at the Te Atatu Interchange or the Triangle Rd/Lincoln Rd interchange.

There are some notable areas both gaining and losing service. The most noticeable of these is the buses to more rural areas such as Oratia and Waiatarua (a service I used to use in my teenage years) as well as Henderson Valley.

West Auckland Proposed Routes service changes

In September an update to the Council’s development committee talked about the the future NW Busway and indicated that bus shoulder lanes would be built on the motorway between Lincoln and Westgate by 2018 however in this consultation AT are now saying it won’t be till 2021.

NW Bus lanes

There will be these specific open days to discuss the proposal.

  • Sunday 26 October, 8am – 12 noon, Avondale Markets.
  • Tuesday 28 October, 2.30pm – 6pm, New Lynn Interchange.
  • Thursday 30 October, 2.30pm – 6pm, Henderson Interchange, Council airbridge.
  • Sunday 9 November, 7.30am – 12 noon, Te Atatu Peninsula Markets.
  • Tuesday 18 November, 2.30pm – 6pm, Westgate Bus Interchange.
  • Sunday 23 November, 9am – 1pm, Hobsonville Point Markets.

Improving AT’s Patronage Reports

This week we should learn about the patronage results for September and with this post I want to explore whether Auckland Transport are delivering the results to the public in the best way that they can.

Currently we get patronage results a couple of reports that go to the AT board each month. There is the Public Transport Monthly Patronage Report, the Monthly Transport Indicators, the Statistics Report and even some details about HOP usage in the Chief Executive’s Report. Each offers the same high level information but there are variations between them. I tend to use the Statistics Report as that generally has the more detailed information than the other reports. The fact there are multiple reports to begin with is odd and at the very least the Public Transport Monthly Patronage Report, the Statistics Report and the HOP reporting from the CEO’s report should be combined together in a single report.

Other than the number of them, there are a couple of other issues I have with the reports. The primary one is that they are only available as a PDF report. That means each month I have to go through the report and pull out all of the details manually if I want to keep track of them (which I do and I know some others do too). This opens up the chance of data entry errors with the information or incorrect numbers if a figure is revised which happens from time to time and happened recently with the ferries. You also have to know that the patronage results are included in the board reports and where those reports are buried on the AT website. Other issues relate to what information is available compared with what other cities provide.

So with that in mind here are some examples of what some similar organisations provide to the public.

Wellington

Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) through Metlink recently improved the level of information they provide and importantly do so in an easy format for anyone wanting to look at it. They provide a range of graphs showing the monthly results for the current financial year or the annual results as far back as 1999/2000 and most of the data is available in a spreadsheet that can be downloaded. The data provided includes many of the same types of areas that AT provide but there are some important additions. In particular

  • Annual peak and off-peak patronage – this shows how much patronage occurred during the peak and off peak and in the spreadsheet is also available by mode.
  • Annual passenger kilometres by year and mode – This shows how far people have actually travelled on each PT mode which is useful for seeing how commuting trends are changing. As an example on average bus trips are getting longer while rail trips are getting shorter.

The one downside to how GWRC produce their PT information is there is no context able to be given, for example patronage that is impacted by special events or holidays etc. The results are updated approximately 1-2 months after they occur.

Wellington Patronage Spreadsheet

Perth

The Public Transport Authority runs PT in the Perth through their Transperth brand. The authority provides monthly and annual patronage information via an online interactive table by mode and for trains by line. It’s not clear how frequently the information is updated however as the image below shows, it’s not as frequent as Auckland or Wellington. There are no graphs or any contextual information however. There’s also no information on other metrics

Perth Patronage Tool

Portland

PT in Portland is run by TriMet and they provide a number of ways for the public to get patronage information. Firstly there is a Performance Dashboard which shows graphs about the average weekly boardings per month (instead of total patronage) but most interestingly they also provide financial information including the average cost per trip and revenue. Reporting revenue monthly is particularly interesting as in most cities you have to delve through dull Annual Reports to find the information hidden in the financials – although even this isn’t possible with Auckland Transport as it isn’t specified in their annual report.

In addition to the Performance Dashboard also publish monthly reports which includes all of the figures from the dashboard plus a few others and to top it off the data is also available back to mid-2008 in one file.

One of the more interesting aspects about all of the TriMet data is how they break the bus data down by whether the bus is a frequent route (at least 15 minutes all day) or a local connector route. In Portland frequent buses carry over 50% of all bus patronage. As Auckland Transport roll out frequent buses as part of the new network here I hope they differentiate between the frequent and non-frequent services too.

Portland Operating Cost per Ride

It would be great if AT could also provide operating cost information regularly

 

San Francisco (BART)

San Francisco is unusual in that the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system is run completely separately from the rest of the PT services in the Bay area. The patronage information BART release doesn’t show the total number of trips, instead it shows the average daily ridership for a weekday, Saturday or Sunday. One of the advantages of using an average weekday result is it more easily accounts for the variations of the calendar and is something Auckland Transport have recently started doing. Instead of just showing the overall result the monthly data goes a step further by using an Entry/Exit Matrix which shows the average daily ridership from each station to each other station on the network. The image below is from last month and as an example it shows that on average for a weekday 852 people catch a train from El Cerrito Plaza (EP) to Berkeley (BK). This is a level of detail is likely to only be practical to provide for a rapid transit system and something I think AT should definitely do for both the rail network and the Northern Busway.

San Fran patronage matrix

In addition to the level of detail the files are updated quickly and are usually available by the 5th of the next month (compared to almost one month later in Auckland). Lastly one extra feature is that a spreadsheet is available with the annual patronage information back to when the system opened in 1973

Conclusion

So what could AT learn from these cities to improve how it provides information on patronage to the public.

  • At the very least:
    • consolidate the various reports into a single report that contains all the relevant information
    • a page on the AT website with links to each of the monthly patronage reports to the board.
  • Should have:
    • A page on the AT website with some graphs explaining the key PT results
    • Provide a downloadable file with historical patronage results
  • Would be nice to have:
    • An Entry/Exit Matrix for the Rapid Transit network (rail and busway)
    • Data updated automatically earlier in the month
    • Operating Cost and Revenue information
  • Would be ideal but won’t hold my breath for:
    • An Entry/Exit Matrix for the entire PT network that the data wizards out there can use to create new insights into our system.

Is there anything else you would like to see?

AT’s Get on Board with Jerome Campaign

Auckland Transport recently launched a new campaign featuring Jerome Kaino encouraging people to use PT and HOP. It seems to be primarily an online campaign focused on the videos below however I’ve also seen a few ads on the backs of buses too. Overall I think the campaign is pretty well done and Jerome seems like a good choice to front it.

I’m not sure I agree that the journey planner is as great as Jerome suggests. I find it often ignores the most logical or sometimes even the fastest options. For example to get from Takapuna to New Lynn on a Monday afternoon it only suggests catching the horrid 130 bus for almost two hours but ignores the much faster option of catching a bus to town and then transferring to either another bus or a train.

It’s good to see AT talking about what’s coming up and importantly highlight that the changes are helping to give Auckland a system like found in many other cities around the world.

Overall I think AT have done a decent job with this

Although it doesn’t have quite as many cool points as this 1980’s style video that L.A. Metro has just released.

Stadium Strategy un-strategic on transport

There’s been quite a bit of news in the last week or so about council CCO, Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA) and their stadium strategy. RFA is the body who manage most of Auckland’s stadiums and other facilities such as the Art Gallery, the Zoo and MOTAT.

The strategy is trying to address the fact that Auckland has three major stadiums – Eden Park, Mt Smart and North Harbour (QBE Stadium) – all of which are underutilised and face financial pressures as a result. Mt Smart and QBE Stadium are also owned by the council meaning any shortfalls as a result of those financial pressures directly affect ratepayers. In summary the strategy is

  • The Warriors would have to move from Mt Smart to QBE stadium which would basically become the default venue of most small to medium sized games for the rectangle field codes
  • Move Cricket from Eden Park to Western Springs
  • Speedway would move from Western Springs to Mt Smart
  • Eden Park would basically only be be used for large sporting events such as rugby tests or shorter format cricket international tests. Technically Eden Park won’t come under the Stadium Strategy due to the ownership situation

Most of the noise about the strategy of late has revolved around the Warriors being forced out of Mt Smart when their current contract expires in 2018. I personally think that moving the Warriors to QBE stadium is a bad decision and if the information from the club about the process is true, it paints RFA’s approach in very bad light.

But what I want to talk about is a part of the discussion that hasn’t really been discussed, how the strategy affects transport.

Firstly QBE stadium. Put simply, it’s a real pain to get to, as being right on the northern edge of the urban area it means almost everyone converges on it from the south in one of two directions, Albany Highway or SH1 (via Albany Expressway or Oteha Valley Rd). To make matters worse all approach roads converge on and are affected by a single intersection. At times of events, especially large ones, this generally means traffic chaos which is further multiplied by people searching for parking. This is something I experienced first hand during the Rugby World Cup where I remember it took what felt like close to an hour either side of the game to move a few km’s. Let’s not forget that in the case of the Warriors, many fans come from well south of the harbour and as such a move to Albany would see them having to travel much further to attend games.

Unfortunately PT options aren’t any better. The Albany Busway station is over 1km away through a currently barren landscape and even during the RWC when PT use was heavily encouraged and a lot of special services put on, only around 30% of people used it. As a comparison for large events at Eden Park sometimes over 50% will arrive using PT (although much less for some games). All of this is important as the council have set a target of doubling the number of PT trips from 70 million to 140 million by 2022 and special events have potentially a large role in helping to achieve that.

North Harbour Stadium

Overall it seems like moving all smaller games to QBE is likely to mean very little opportunities for any real change in travel habits. This is a shame as it seems that events provide one of the better opportunities to get people who don’t normally use PT to try it.

Before we start getting comments about the Waterfront Stadium the former government suggested for the RWC, it’s perhaps worth pointing out that it too would likely have suffered from some of the issue of being too big for most games. Also sorting out the issues surrounding too many stadiums is one of the reasons why RFA exists in the first place.

The Great Auckland Transit Revival: Theory and Practice

Einstein

2011 saw the release of a study led by Ian Wallis Associates into Auckland’s public transport performance. It is a sober and restrained report that simply sets out to describe the performance of Auckland’s PT systems on comparative terms with a range of not dissimilar cities around the region. A very useful exercise, because while no two cities are identical, all cities face similar tradeoffs and pressures and much can be learned by studying the successes and failures of other places. The whole document is here.

The cities selected for the study are all in anglophone nations around the Pacific from Australia, the US, Canada, and New Zealand, with Auckland right in the middle in terms of size. And as summarised by Mathew Dearnaley in the Herald at the time, it showed Auckland to be the dunce of the class by pretty much every metric. Although the article is called Auckland in last place for public transport use it’s clear that the headline it would have reflected the report’s findings more accurately if the paper had simply said; Auckland in last place for public transport. Because it showed that the low uptake of public transport in Auckland cannot be separated from the low quality, slow, infrequent, and expensive services available.

Here’s the uptake overview:

Comparator cities

So it’s clear that population alone is no determinant of PT uptake. If it isn’t the size of the city what is it? Various people have their pet theories, some like to claim various unfixable emotional factors are at work, like our apparently ‘car-loving’ culture, though is it credible that we have a more intense passion for cars than Americans or Australians? The homes of Bathurst and the Indy 500? Others claim that the geography of this quite long and harbour constrained city somehow suits road building and driving over bus, train, and ferry use. A quixotic claim especially when compared to the flat and sprawling cities of the American West which much more easily allow space for both wide roads and endless dispersal in every direction. Another popular claim is that Auckland isn’t dense enough to support much Transit use. Yet it is considerably denser than all but the biggest cities on the list.

So what does the study say is the reason for Auckland’s outlying performance?

It considers service quantity [PT kms per capita], quality [including speed, reliability, comfort, safety, etc] and cost both for the passenger and society, and easy of use [payment systems]. Along with other issues such as mode interoperability, and land-use/transit integration. And all at considerable depth. The report found that Auckland’s PT services are poor, often with the very worst performance by all of these factors and this is the main driver of our low uptake.

And happily some of the things that stand out in the report are well on the way to being addressed. Here, for example is what it says about fares:

Fares and ticketting Benchmark Study

The HOP card is no doubt a huge improvement and has enabled some fare cost improvement. And we can expect more to be done in this area soon, we are told, especially for off peak fares. Additionally the integration of fares is still to come [zone charging].

Here’s what it says about service quantity and quality:

Service qual. Benchmark Study

Oh dear.

Yet there is one thing that the report returns to on a number of occasions that perhaps best captures what’s wrong with Auckland, and offers a fast track to improvement. And, even at this early stage, gives us a way of checking the theory against results in the real world:

Rapid Transit benchmark study

Right, so perhaps the biggest problem with Auckland’s PT system is simply the lack of enough true Rapid Transit routes and services. To qualify as true Rapid Transit it is generally accepted that along with the definition above, a separate right of way, the services must also offer a ‘turn up and go’ frequency, at least at the busiest sections of the lines. And that this is generally considered to mean a service at least every ten minutes, but ideally even more frequent than that.

In Auckland we only have the Rail Network and the Northern Busway that qualify as using separate right of ways, and the busway for only 41% of its route. At least the frequencies on the Busway are often very high, where as on the Rail Network they only make it to ten minute frequencies for the busiest few hours of the day. So to say that Auckland has any real high quality Rapid Transit services even now is a bit of a stretch. However these services have been improving in the three years since the report was released, and will continue to do so in the near future with the roll out of the new trains and higher frequencies on the Rail Network, and more Bus lanes on the North Shore routes especially at the city end of their runs.

Here is a map with a fairly generous description of our current or at least improving Rapid Transit Network:

CFN 2015

Even though it is only three years since the report was released, and there is much more to come, there have been improvements, so we can ask; how have the public responded to the improvements to date?

Below are the latest Ridership numbers from Auckland Transport, for August 2014:

August 2014 Ridership

SOI: Statement Of Intent, AT’s expectations or hopes. NEX: Northern Express.

So the chart above, showing our most ‘Rapid’ services, Rail and the NEX, are clearly attracting more and more users out of all proportion with the rest, and way above Auckland Transport’s expectations or hopes as expressed by the SOI, is a pretty good indication that both the report authors were right, Auckland is crying out for more Rapid Transit services and routes, and, at least in this case, Einstein was wrong: Practice does indeed seem to be baring out the Theory.

And from here we can clearly expect this rise in uptake to continue, if not actually increase, as the few Rapid Transit routes we have now are going to continue to get service improvements. And 19% increases, if sustained, amount to a doubling in only four years! Rail ridership was around 10 million a year ago, so it could be approaching 20 mil by mid 2017, if this rate of growth is sustained.

But this also means we can clearly expect any well planned investment in extensions to the Rail Network [eg CRL] or additional busways [eg North Western] to also be rewarded with over the odds increases in use. Aucklanders love quality, and give them high quality PT and they will use it.

Furthermore, given that these numbers are in response to only partial improvements even extending on-street bus lanes for regular bus services looks highly likely to be meet with accelerated ridership growth. I think it is pretty clear that Auckland Transport, NZTA, MoT, and Auckland Council can be confident that any substantive quality, frequency, and right-of-way improvement to PT in Auckland will be rewarded with uptake.

Given that Auckland’s PT use is advancing ahead of population growth [unlike the driving stats] I believe we have already improved that poor number up top to 47 trips per person per year. So there’s still plenty of room for growth even to catch up with the next city on the list. So perhaps it’s time to formally update that report too?

Imagine just how well a full city wide network of Rapid Transit would be used? Clearly Auckland is ready for it:

CFN 2030 South-Grafton