Small Steps Giant Leaps Campaign – Better Timed Transfers


Panmure Interchange

We often talk about the big projects, networks, as well as game changing best practice regulations. However what about the small things, low hanging fruit where for cheaply i.e. not for 100s of millions of dollars we can achieve with a “Small Step” a “Great Leap” for the people the project & area it effects, part 3 is about the difficultly of transfers in the off peak.

During the peak, transfers are not to bad, lots of bus routes have 10-15 frequencies, as well as the trains. However during the offpeak transfers become difficult, because of timings. Here are 3 examples

  1. The Southbound Southern Line service on the Weekend departs Newmarket the same time the Westbound Western Line is scheduled to come into Newmarket, meaning a 30 min transfer wait is required as you always miss the transfer.
  2. The Eastbound service from Britomart leaves 1 min after the Western Line arrives on the Weekend, if you know this, putting yourself strategically in right carriage, and know to run, you can just make it if Eastern TM is onto it, however if not you will usually miss the service which means 30min transfer wait.
  3. A person I knew wanted to head to the Airport from Avondale, the original plan was they would catch 008 to Onehunga & then 380 to Airport, however the 380 left one min they said before 008 was timetabled to arrive. Again 30min transfer wait.

These types of events really put people off, and make people not want to use PT on off peak except for direct to destination services. While in the long run Auckland Transport should fix these issues through the introduction of the New Network with many routes including the trains having a service every 15mins 7-7, Monday to Sunday. However the New Network won’t go live until later next year for Central, East & the North Shore, the 380 also is still only has a 30 min frequency service in the New Network. I also can’t see how they can run a train every 15 mins Monday-Sunday 7-7 due to the Eastern & Southern Lines sharing the tracks between Westfield to Wiri, this would mean in this section 8TPH would be running each way, now this is fine for passenger services we run 12TPH each way during weekday peaks on that section, but the question would be when &  how easily would KiwiRail fit in it’s freight services without a third main in that section?

While it was good to see the Westfield-Wiri third main in the indicative projects lists in the first decade, we still have no idea if this means it will funded tomorrow, 2018, or even 2028, it is an ATAP ASAP for me, but whether it is for AT & Government I am not sure.

In the meantime, we could make peoples lives easier if in the next timetable adjustments, we tweaked a few off peak services to better connect to each other like the examples above.

So what do you think?

Central Access Plan – Mass Transit for the Isthmus

In July Auckland Transport stealthily uploaded a 97 page Programme Business Case on the Light Rail page of the AT website. Due to ATAP (Auckland Transport Alignment Project), the Unitary Plan and City Rail Link (CRL) has gone a little bit under the radar.

So what is it? Technically while Light Rail is one part of the business case, the document is called the Central Access Plan (CAP) & deals issues identified in City Centre Future Access Study, which was even with the CRL CBD bus corridors would reach breaking point due to bus congestion/numbers on Wellesley & Symonds Streets.


Bus Numbers with CRL 2041

It looks to be part of a wider scope of studies/works about providing transport access to Central Auckland, they being the CRL which provides good access for the West/South/Inner East, the North Shore Rapid Transit study, which I assume is looking at a need for future rapid transit options either standalone or as part of AWHC project in the foreseeable future, and the Northwest Rapid Transit Project which one would assume is the Northwest Busway report due April 2017 prepared by Aurecon. 

Access to Central Auckland

Access to Central Auckland

The area the Central Access Plan looks as if it trying to address is Void, which has been mentioned on this blog before, the isthmus area between the Western & Southern lines. This area consists of some of Auckland’s major arterials & bus routes – Mt Eden Road, Sandringham Road, Manukau Road and Dominion Road.  

The Void

The Void


The study identified 3 major problems

  • The inability to meet current and projected transport demand on key corridors will sustain unreliable travel and poor access to productive central city jobs
  • Blockages and delays in central bus services worsen travel times and customer experience for those using public transport
  • High and increasing traffic volumes on residential and inner city streets create adverse urban amenity and environmental effects.

The study also notes that “There is already a substantial problem now with buses frequently late and full, resulting in passengers being left behind. Projects and initiatives such as the City Rail Link (CRL) and the New Network, largely with double-decker buses, will provide substantial additional capacity, but the underlying growth in projected demand is so great that most bus routes and the associated terminals and bus stops will have reached capacity by the early 2020s. The stress on the system at that time will be such that only the introduction of a mode that can move more people in fewer vehicles and that can use the sole under-used City Centre corridor – Queen Street – will provide more than very marginal relief. While measures to optimise the use of the bus services and reduce demand through promoting active travel are integral components of the proposed programme, they only ‘buy time’ before the extra corridor must be brought into use with a higher capacity mode. They will help to make conditions more tolerable as demand continues to grow and before a step-change can be introduced.”

CBD Street Capacity

CBD Street Capacity

The below graphs show the buses per hour needed on each street, the Orange shows unmet demand due to over the realistic capacity of buses on the corridor.

Wellesley St Bus Numbers

Wellesley St Bus Numbers

Symonds St Bus Numbers

Symonds St Bus Numbers

The below map shows the Business as Usual scenario, with the red areas no longer within the 45min PT Commute of the City if speeds decrease by 31% (This was a KPI in ATAP)

Areas within 45 CBD PT Commute

Areas within 45 CBD PT Commute

To try & mitigate the 3 problems above they first tested 6 options against the Do Minimum Network (The Do Minimum Network included CRL/AMETI/Busway to Albany, Puhoi-Walkworth, as well as Southern/Northern Corridor Improvements.), the options were (Please note these are the Plan’s Pros/Cons, I don’t necessary agree with all)

Option 1 – Do Regardless which includes: Auckland Cycle Network – $200m, More Double Deckers – $80m, City Centre Street Improvements – $30m, Footpath improvements – $15m, Bringing forward Te Atatu and Lincoln Rd stations – $10m, Implementing off board collections, traffic signal changes, more cycle parking and bus shelter improvements – $2m

Pro: Buys Time & minor increase of capacity.

Cost: $340m

Option 1 - Do Regardless

Option 1 – Do Regardless

Option 2 – Non-Financial Demand Management which included reducing parking supply in CBD, all lanes on Symonds (Past K’ Road) & Wellesley during peak would be bus lanes, more aggressive cycle/walking upgrades due to removal of parking.

Pros: Improves Bus Efficiency, more space for Active Modes, does not preclude further options & reduction in pollution.

Cons: Effectiveness Short Lived

Cost: $540M (Not sure if Do Regardless Cost is Part of each Options Cost or Not)

Option 2 - Demand Management

Option 2 – Demand Management

Option 3 – Extended Bus Network which turns Queen Street into a surface busway for Dominion & Sandringham Road bus services as well as changes to other routes.

Pros: Increase of Capacity & Bus Efficiency, Removal of General Traffic from Queen, Buys a number of years before further intervention.

Cons: Lots of Buses on Queen Street, effective short lived without bus terminal capacity, restricts future interventions, high cost.

Cost: $920M

Option 3 - Extended Bus Network

Option 3 – Extended Bus Network

Option 4 – A Mt Roskill Spur using the Avondale Southdown Corridor with two stations at Owairaka & Mt Roskill.

Pros: Low Impact due to using rail designation, provides extra capacity on inner west stations, buys time before further intervention, some reduction in buses, does not affect further intervention.

Cons: Short lived, low train frequencies adds to travel times, longer distance for Dominion Road.

Cost: $540M

Option 4 - Mt Roskill Spur

Option 4 – Mt Roskill Spur

Option 5 – An LRT Network which consists of 5 stages. Stage 1: Mt Roskill via Queen Street & Dominion Road, Stage 2: An extension to Wynyard Quarter, Stage 3: A Sandringham Road LRT Line via Queen Street, Stage 4 & 5: Three Kings via Symonds & Mt Eden Road LRT, Onehunga via Symonds & Manukau Road LRT.

Pros: Provides necessary capacity, travel time improvements, removes high level of buses from CBD, removes traffic from Queen Street, increase of public space.

Cons: Cost & potential impact on general traffic in isthmus.

Cost: 3,740M  

Option 5 - LRT

Option 5 – LRT

Option 6 – The introduction of a Bus Rapid Transit System with a CBD Bus Tunnel.

Pros: Provides necessary capacity, travel time improvements, removes buses from CBD surface, increase of public space, North Shore services can use tunnel.

Cons: Extremely high cost, large tunnel portals & potential impact on general traffic in isthmus.

Cost: $9,540M

Option 6 - BRT Tunnel

Option 6 – BRT Tunnel

AT then put each option against criteria with a ranking of 1-5 for each, the total was the average score with LRT coming on top as best option with a average of 4.4/5 compared to the next highest option the BRT tunnel at 3.7/5.

Cap Option Evaluation

Cap Option Evaluation

After concluding that LRT was possibly the best way forward, they looked deeper into the option, the first observation they made from the models was that “a second light rail service pattern using Symonds Street, Manukau Road and Mt Eden Road may be required towards the very end of the 30 year period. Allowance has not been made for this service pattern in the IP owing to the level of uncertainty in forecasting so far out as noted in ATAP.” So in the time frame they would only be looking at Cost/Benefits of two of the LRT Lines, Dominion Rd & Sandringham Road

Dominion Rd LRT had a Cost Benefit Ratio (CBR) of 0.7 – 1.9 if land value uplift was included, this allowed the potential of a Mt Roskill Spur to be potentially added to the package. The Cost of Dominion Rd LRT including Wynyard Quarter was $1,367m.

Dominion Rd & Sandringham Rd LRT had a CBR of 0.5 – 1.1. However they say this should improve due to it being able to be staged. The cost of Sandringham LRT they have estimated at $500m.

AT says there is issues with the modelling however for the following reasons which do not allow a proper case to be made

  • The constraint of requiring a fixed land use for the evaluation is a flawed assumption, as without additional capacity for travel to the City Centre, the ability to deliver the land use is compromised.
  • Similarly, for the people that are ‘crowded off’ the public transport services, there is likely to be a second order effect on general traffic as some of them would be forced back to car travel, making it even less efficient in the process. The performance of the road network would also be expected to degrade over time so potential benefits further in the future are likely to be under represented.
  • Large public transport projects where a step change is being made represent a significant investment up front, but offer comparatively modest benefits in the early years. However, for a number of reasons there is a need to make that investment at that point in as there are no feasible options to allow continued functionality without the investment.
  • The reliability improvements that come with almost completely segregated travel need to be explored further, particularly as the EEM currently caps them at the same value as the travel time savings.
  • The non-transport benefits, such as increased tourism activity in the City Centre would further contribute to the overall economic benefit of the IP.
  • Land use value uplift has not been estimated in detail but based on overseas examples is potentially large. Further assessment will confirm the magnitude of these benefits.

These are now the same graphs as before but with the Programme Interventions

Wellesley St Bus Numbers with Intervention

Wellesley St Bus Numbers with Intervention


Symonds St Bus Numbers with Intervention

With ATAP released the other day, it should be noted they in the Indicative Projects List have said that Bus Improvements may be able to last until the 2nd Decade 2028-38 period before a Mass Transit system may need to be introduced, I am not sure ATAP & CAP are on the same page regarding this, and this issue may potentially need more investigation.

So what do you think?

Manukau Bus Station Fly Through

Auckland Transport have released a fly-through video of the Manukau Bus Station that is expected to start construction soon. They are also saying it will be complete in the second half of 2017 which is at odds with the board report a few days ago.

September 16 AT Board Meeting

The monthly Auckland Transport Board meeting is on again next week so I’ve take a read through the main reports to pull out the bits that interest me.

Closed Session Agenda

Some of my thoughts about them in italics.

Items for Approval/Decision

  • CRL – PTA & QS Contracts
  • Road Stopping
  • Execution of Deed of Lease of Land
  • Route Protection for Roading Projects
  • CPO – Surrender of LRT Easements – Britomart was designed so it could also have light rail but our existing network has been too successful so is not a possibilty now
  • Transport for Future Urban Growth (TFUG) Programme Business Case – Business cases are now needed to support all of the projects needed to support the sprawl enabled as part of the Unitary Plan
  • AT designations for the Unitary Plan

Items for Noting

  • Deep Dive – Rail Infrastructure
  • MRT/Light Rail Update – I see AT are already using the Mass Rapid Transit name from ATAP
  • Rail Development
  • Bus Services March Capacity – A hint about what this is later in the post.
  • ATAP Update

Business Report

Things that interest me in the order they appear in the report.

Albany Highway – This project is nearly complete and expected to be completed in October

Glen Innes/Tamaki Shared Path – Section 1 is due for completion at the end of October. Section 2 and 3 got resource consent and section 3 will start construction in October

Franklin Rd – Works are now starting on services, although there will be no works around Christmas when the annual lights are on. The actual road works start in March next year. They say the design of the catenary lighting system has been completed and materials ordered. The lights will have a clearance above the ground of 7-8m so shouldn’t have issues with overheight trucks. They also say the lighting system is estimated to cost $900,000. I wonder what an aspiring Councillor standing on a platform of capping rates might say about that.

Franklin Rd Impression

Newmarket Crossing (Sarawia St) – AT are hoping for mediation with the Cowie St Residents in early October and if that fails an environment court hearing before the end of the year.

Parnell Station – Kiwirail have building consent and works are due to start on the foundations so the old Newmarket railway station can be moved to the site. AT also say they’re working on the design of ticket gates but that they won’t be in place in time for opening due to long lead times for them. They’re also working on getting a footpath connection down through Carlaw Park finished in time for when the station opens in March 2017 (with limited service).

Parnell pic June15

Manukau Bus Station – AT will be issuing the construction contract early next month and say the station is due to be open in early 2018, this appears to have been delayed as previously they were saying late 2017. Oddly later in the same report it once again says late 2017.

Manukau Bus Station 1

Otahuhu Interchange – This is on track to open on 29 October, just before the new network goes live. Ticket gates will be installed in the second quarter 2017 “due to a delay in receipt of the gates from the supplier

Otahuhu Interchange Sep-16 1

Bus Lanes – AT are planning on building 19.1km of bus lanes this financial year but later on they say 26km is planned. This image is from August but it still accurate.

2016-08 - Bus lane Programme

AT Parking App – Earlier this year we saw a glimpse of a mobile app to pay for parking (from 3:05). It’s currently in a live trial till the end of the month and is expected to be launched later this year

AT Park is an account based parking payment system, which will go live later this year. Customers can pay for parking directly from their phone without using a parking meter, significantly improving customer convenience through mobile payment and parking location/availability maps. Other features of the new service are: start and stop a parking session with an interactive voice recording, start stop session with texting and also with the call centre. This innovation will enable customers to pay with ease and therefore increase compliance across the network

PT Services

Supergold Cards – AT are going to transition blue HOP card holders to gold HOP cards and a campaign for it is due in November

Ferries – AT currently has a tender out for the non-commercial ferry routes – like they’re doing with buses. I understand this will likely include some additional services on some routes too. Interestingly this will also include Stanley Bay services as Fullers has advised they’re not going to run it commercially anymore. This will leave only Devonport and Waiheke as commercial routes exempt from PTOM contracts.

March Madness – It appears AT might have finally got the message about March Madness.

Every March there is a spike in patronage which results in insufficient capacity on main corridors. In order to provide sufficient capacity and an enhanced customer experience for next March, new timetables and capacity increases have been developed for main corridors. The expectation is that no customer will have to wait for more than 10 minutes (depending on advertised frequency) to be able to board a bus. This will see an approx. +6.6% peak only bus capacity increase implemented progressively between November and February.

Double Decker NEX – The Northern Express goes from strength to strength and now Ritchies are boosting capacity again with the number of double decker buses used to operate the service going from 18 to 29 in October. That will leave just 2 standard buses at peak times and all off peak services will be run by double deckers. Extra trips are also being added in Jan & Feb ahead of March.

Speeding up trains – AT say a reduction in turn back times at Papakura from late October will free up one train set enabling them to boost another peak Southern Line service in the morning and afternoon. A good example of why they need to focus on speeding up our trains.

New Network – The new bus network in South Auckland is due to go live on 30 October while new buses for the new operators have been arriving. Ritchies/Murphys buses have been arriving from China while the Go Bus buses being built mostly here but also in Malaysia have been arriving.

Station Gates – In addition to completing designs for gating Henderson, Manurewa, Middlemore and Papatoetoe, AT say they’re also now planning and designing gates for Glen Innes, Papakura and Parnell.

Click and Collect – A 6-month trial got underway this week allowing for deliveries to made to one of four AT Metro locations and one park & ride (Orakei I believe). This is positive to see and I only wonder why they didn’t trial it years ago.

Forward Programme

An indication as to what’s coming up to the board and board committees in the next month so an indication of things to keep an eye out for.

  • Northern RTN Programme Business Case
  • Roads & Streets Framework
  • Clonbern Road Carpark Redevelopment proposal
  • Bus Patronage Analysis
  • Train Capacity
  • PTOM West Tenders – the preferred tenderers were announced last week.
  • Manukau Road T3 Operational Impacts
  • Future of HOP
  • Digital / Technology impact on transport

Anything you’ve seen in the reports that I’ve missed?

August-2016 Patronage

Auckland’s public transport patronage results for August are now available and there are some decent numbers on show. This was partially expected thanks to there being two extra business days in August this year compared to August last year but even accounting for that, numbers are up. August is traditionally a strong month for patronage with its 31-days and no school or public holidays, and the month didn’t disappoint clocking in with the third highest patronage behind March 2015 and 2016. The month was significant as halfway through we finally had integrated fares roll out, something that Auckland has needed for decades. Changes like we had normally don’t have an immediate impact though and so it will be some time for us to see the full extent of the new structure and for many, cheaper fares.


Overall patronage was up 8.7% for the month (normalised to 3.9% when taking account of the extra weekdays) and 7.9 million trips were taking on PT. Drilling down to the PT modes:

  • Trains once again led the charge up 18.4% (normalised to 14.5%) and on a 12m rolling basis, we surpassed 17 million trips for the first time. Looking at the rail numbers we’re still seeing fantastic results but the percentage increases are slowly starting to reduce, guess we can’t grow at 20%+ per annum for ever. The next boost is likely to come from the roll out of the new network.
  • Buses have been struggling lately despite some key routes such as the busway growing impressively. This month we’re still seeing that overall trend with this month the busway looking even more impressive after posting a 34.6% increase in August. On a 12m rolling basis, Busway usage could soon exceed usage on the Eastern Line. In fact, patronage growth has been so strong that AT say Ritchies will increase the number of double deckers on Northern Express services in October from 16 to 29 and there will only be two non-double decker buses used (all off peak services will be double deckers too). Other routes that have had double decker love are also said to be posting some good growth. But with stagnant patronage on buses overall, it means those routes seeing crazy growth are offsetting declines elsewhere and the two areas experiencing this the most are the south and the west. More on this later in the post.
  • Ferries have continued to show relatively good and consistent growth over the last 18 months or so.


As part of some travel planning, AT conducted a survey of employees in a number of large office buildings in the CBD on how they travelled to work. From over 10k responses an impressive 51% said public transport.



In some analysis of bus patronage performance, AT have broken the results down by area and eventually route. As you can see from the last image, many of the routes in the south have been on a bit of downward trajectory. Hopefully the New Network launching at the end of next month will help address this.


Looking at some other results, farebox recovery was expected to take a bit of a hit, and it has, but not by too much. We really need to wait to see a few months with integrated fares to see just what impact it has but a promising start at least. Related to integrated fares, AT say 84% of all PT trips were taken by using a HOP card.



Postcard from Bogota

Following a few days in Mexico City, I’ve had the pleasure of staying a week in Bogota, Colombia. Bogota is both the federal capital and the capital of Cundinamarca state, and while it probably doesn’t yet figure as a world capital of culture or clout, it certainly is a thriving mega city of regional importance.

Because of its position straddling the Andes, Colombia is a country with every climate conceivable, it has snow covered alps, temperate savannah, dense jungle, dry desert, not to mention both tropical Caribbean and temperate-maritime Pacific coasts.

The city itself sits on broad plain high up on the middle finger of the three-branched Andes mountains, in fact at 2,700m it’s high enough to cause altitude sickness in some people. The altitude gives the nominally tropical city a very mild temperate climate, with clear skies, low humidity and temperatures that sit around the high teens and low twenties every day of the year. You could call it the city of eternal Spring.
Bogota is big. At around 11.5 million people it is as populous as greater London, or all of New Zealand two and a half times over.

Bogota is also dense. The majority of inhabitants live in apartment towers, mid rise block or terraced house style developments. The north of the city has a very European feel, with four to six story apartments of brick or concrete on a grid of fairly narrow tree lined streets. If it weren’t for the language you could be in the Netherlands or Germany.

Curiously, the city is three sided. The original colonial centre was established on one edge of the plain at the foot of a great mountain range. It has since sprawled across the plain to the north, south and west, but not to the east on account of the mountains. This allows for one unique benefit: you can ride a cable car a further 400m up the mountain of Monseraté near downtown and take in the whole sprawling metropolis in a single vista, including the bizzare experience of standing on terra firma and looking down at the tops of fifty story skyscrapers in the commercial district far below. If the thin air doesn’t take your breath away, the view certainly will!


Accordingly Bogota has basically two types of land use structure. A long, thin, but dense band of apartment towers runs for 40km north-south along the eastern edge of the plain, taking advantage of the Andes foothills to provide spectacular view back across the city. These buildings are accessed by a circuitous web of winding narrow switchback roads not too dissimilar to western Wellington. For the most part the wealthy live here in gated apartment communities, however dotted amongst them are university campuses (Bogota has dozens of them for some reason) and patches of impoverished and dangerous barrios similar to the famous favelas of Rio de Janeiro.

The other structure is on the plain itself, an enormous flat and regular grid of broad multi-lane avenues, filled with three to thirty storey buildings. Think Los Angeles but consistently taller. This is perhaps Bogota’s downfall: it land use is what can only be described as dense sprawl, and it’s transport system is entirely road based. Not surprisingly the traffic is truly horrendous. I have to laugh whenever people complain about Auckland’s supposedly worlds-worst traffic. Puh-lease. If you want bad traffic, take a city the same area as Auckland, with an entirely road based transport network… then add another ten million inhabitants all trying to drive at the same time.

Naturally Bogota has spend decades trying to accommodate it’s traffic with more, bigger roads. The city is covered in a massive amount of six, eight, ten lane avenues. They appear to have tried a bit of everything, separated motorways, limited access avenues, boulevards, frontage roads, slip lanes, underpasses, overpasses, one way streets, the works. The system almost works too… when conditions are perfect. However that almost never happens. It only takes one small crash, a truck parked illegally to unload, a taxi doing a u-turn or one of a thousand other small disruptions to infarct the system. This is perhaps the folly of huge roads for huge capacity, on an eight lane road one disruption clogs up eight times the traffic.

Transport here has an interesting socio-cultural element. From what I understand Bogotano society has six distinct classes with a broad spread of inequality, from the destitute poor up to the untouchable elite with money and connections above the law. For the middle classes, there is a great preoccupation with not sliding down the ladder. Few in the middle classes would ever dream of catching public transport as that is the domain of the underclass. Maintaining a private car is a necessary symbol of status regardless of the cost or the traffic, and if one does not drive they rely on cheap and ubiquitous taxis or town car services. Either way, not escape from the traffic is possible and it’s one form of private car all the way.

The transit wonks among us must now be thinking, but what about the Transmillennio? For the less frothy-mouthed readers, the Transmillennio is a now-famous busway system with half a dozen lines running along Bogota’s main arterials forming quite a wide reaching and effective network. This system is A grade busway of world class design. It is based around a system of dedicated, physically separated median busway lanes, some of which are grade separate at key intersections. The are combined with train-style island platform stations accessed by elaborate overpasses and footbridges. The busways themselves are serviced by special red colour high capacity trunk-only metro buses, very long vehicles with two or three articulated sections, high floors that match up with platform level, and four or even five double doors per bus. At the end of each of the busways there are huge interchanges where green-coloured feeder buses of conventional design connect the surrounding suburbs to the trunk busways. In that regard it really is metro system writ with rubber.


So what is it like to use? I wouldn’t know myself, as I was consistently dissuaded from trying it by friends and family whenever I mentioned it. The locals advised it was too crowded, too dangerous, too much of a risk for any decent person to use. I do wonder if this is simply a hangover of the same cultural understanding that buses were for the poor and to be avoided. Indeed when I asked few of my advisors had ever set foot on the system. My one young cousin who did actually use it to get to university each day only complained that it was too crowded, and the station too far away from his apartment.

What we do know is that the system is indeed hugely popular and overcrowded, a victim of it’s own success. Preoccupations of class and status aside, hundreds of thousands of people use the system every day. For all its efficiency at beating traffic and it mega capacity buses ability to move the masses, the simple fact is it barely touches the sides of the transport task in Bogota. Imagine London with no tube, not overground, no suburban trains, no national rail, no DLR, no tramlink. Imagine a London with six busways as the only rapid transit. That is Bogota. They have a long way to go to turn the traffic situation around. So yes it is a massive success, and very worthwhile, but for Bogota it is just the start of fixing things.

So if the Transmillennio is so effective (if not comprehensive), one has to ask why we don’t build them in Auckland. Indeed we hear this quite often from certain politicians, why are we talking about CRL tunnels and trains and light rail, when the bus can do the job for half the price? It’s a good question, and one that deserves an evaluation. Nonetheless, the answer is pretty simple: space.


The Transmillennio takes up space, lots of space. More space than we have. The basic cross section of these busways is two bus lanes either side of a median. That’s basically the full width of most of our main roads to start with. However, once you get to a stop the situation blows out again. Each of the stations has a large platform, then stopping lanes either side, then passing lane beside those again. That means a cross section of four bus lanes and the station, about 25 metres wide. Now as most of Auckland’s arterial roads are one chain wide (about 21m), building a Transmillennio in Auckland would require buying and demolishing all the buildings down one side of the street just to fit in the bus corridor, let alone any other traffic lanes, footpaths or street trees. Indeed, the one place we are looking at a multilane street busway, the AMETI corridor in east Auckland, they are planning to do exactly that.

So while we can do busways alongside motorways like we do on the North Shore (and hopefully the northwest), we can’t fit them in the street for the most part. This is why AT is looking at light rail, because for the same capacity LRT needs only two lanes and compact platforms, where the bus systems need four to manage the greater number of vehicles.

Bogota managed this by building into their existing avenues, which had huge wide medians in addition to three or four lanes in each direction. The Transmillennio got away without any land or building purchases by virtue of having huge road reserves to start with. In fact they had such wide corridors that they actually widened the roadways at the same time, adding extra lanes for traffic to offset the squeals of indignation about spending proper money on public transport. So in one way Bogota was lucky to have a fair whack of empty space effectively lying around, or arguably they were wasting land to start with and found a better use for it.

My end evaluation? The Transmillennio was a good move for Bogota that fits the city well and takes advantage of spatial resources, however it’s only the start of much more for fixing their transport issues.

More buses on Mt Eden Rd

Back in May Auckland  Transport and NZ Bus launched double deckers on Mt Eden Rd in a bid to improve the capacity by 15% on what is one of Auckland’s busier bus routes.

NZ Bus double decker

At the time I said I was concerned that wouldn’t be enough and that the double deckers were likely to encourage even more people to demand and we continue to see reports of full buses leaving behind. In their latest board meeting they said they were seeing good growth on the corridor.

Now a good little piece of news from Auckland Transport with them announcing they’ll be increasing the number of services on Mt Eden Rd at the end of the month.

From Monday 26 September, the changes below will be made to 274 and 277 bus services:

  • 7am to 9am buses will depart every 5 minutes or sooner between Mt Eden shops and the City
  • 3.30pm to 6pm buses will depart from the City to Mt Eden every 5 minutes or sooner

A quick calculation shows that between 8am and 9am the number of buses that arrive at Britomart increases by a whopping 44%, going from 18 to 26 buses. It’s good to see Auckland Transport responding and putting more services on. Perhaps what this also shows is that improving services and especially adding double deckers not only helps improve conditions for existing users but encourages a lot more people to use them too, a case of induced demand if you will.

This is of course not the first time we’ve seen this happen with PT in Auckland and it won’t be the last. I sometimes think it happens simply because officials can’t conceive or at least dare to hope that patronage will grow so fast.

Of course to really make sure those buses work and do so efficiently it will be vital that AT improve the bus lanes along Mt Eden Rd, increasing both the length of the lanes and the length of time they operate for. They also need to ensure that the buses are operated efficiently so that we don’t have the situation where there are no buses for ten minutes then four turn up all at once.

Otahuhu Interchange making good progress

On the weekend I was out near Otahuhu so I took a quick diversion to take a look at progress on the new Otahuhu Interchange which is on track to open on October 29 before bus services start using it a day later when the New Network in South Auckland goes live.

One thing that surprised me and that I didn’t really get from the artist impressions was just how big this station will be. The concourse building is around 80m in length

In the image below you can see the rail side of the station with the existing platform complete with new, longer shelter. You can also see the platform edge and backfilling underway for the third platform which is needed for train operations after the CRL but is being built now while all of the other works are happening, perhaps a rare bit of future proofing for Auckland. Not to be missed in the Background is the new station building/concourse. To the left of the image you can see the old signal box and the back of the bus shelters.

Otahuhu Interchange Sep-16 1

This is the bus side of the station. As you can see the stops appear to be well advanced and aspects like planting are starting to happen. You can also see the carpark/kiss & ride area full of cars with people hard at work on a Saturday, presumably to ensure it is finished on time.

Otahuhu Interchange Sep-16 2

Out on Walmsley Rd the new footpath/shared path includes some concrete detailing as was suggested in the artist impressions. Just behind me the pedestrian crossing to Station Rd also includes a bike crossing and hopefully in time cycle infrastructure can be improved in the area to allow locals to make use of it.

Otahuhu Interchange Sep-16 3

As a reminder, this is what the station is expected to look like when finished.

Otahuhu Interchange aerial overview

The main entrance to the station can’t be seen in the photos as it is covered in shrink wrap. Here is what it is expected to look like.

Otahuhu interchange plaza area in front of entrance

All up it will be an impressive station and seems like things are well on track to be completed in time to open at the end of October.

Airport RTN: a quick first step

AT have now put the SMART study documents on their site, here. There’s a lot to review there and this post is not a look at the whole report and its conclusions, but rather is a response to the problem of the length of time this project is likely to take whatever mode is selected.

All of the proposals in the report are capital intensive, without any currently identified funding source, and the timing of the RT route looks likely to be complicated by the Airport’s development plans, particularly those for the second runway, so there is a good case for looking at interim improvements for Airport/RTN interconnection while these bigger decisions are being resolved. I am focussing on the airport because of its fast growth is clearly a major generator of increased traffic congestion for the whole Mangere area.

First some background from the report. Just setting aside travellers for a moment, what about the workforce at and around the Airport, what are their current patterns?:

AIRPORT Commuter movements

So we can see in the above data from the 2013 census that the key connection for workers is east to Manukau area, followed by that to the centre. Furthermore that employee movement is still quite peaky, despite the airport itself obviously being a 24 hour operation:

Airport worker arrivals


So what opportunities are there for a quick and relatively low cost connection between the Airport and the current RTN, particularly with the above information in mind, that could be built while the full Mangere/Airport RT route is being developed, whatever the mode? RTN 2016 AirportThe first and obvious point is that there is already, right now, great service on the spine of the Southern Line relatively close to the Airport, particularly to the City Centre, but also south and across to Manukau City. Where the red and blue lines overlap there are services every five minutes at peak. So there seems to be a clear opportunity to improve connection east from the Airport for its own catchment while that also will connect, via the rail system, the City Centre and anyone who can access a train station.

Currently the connection between rail system and the Airport is very poor, as anyone -like me- who has used it will tell you.

New Network South

The 380 via Papatoetoe station is not a viable option because of three problems [the longer and slower route to Onehunga is even worse, as well leading to an equally low frequency train]:

  • Low frequency: 1/2 hourly service
  • Slow route; the 380 has no priority on its route so therefore is subject to both delay and unreliability caused by other traffic [I have been on this bus stuck in traffic for tens of minutes]
  • The Station/Bus physical connection at Papatoetoe does little to encourage the transfer.

So why not investigate a dedicated shuttle between the even closer Puhinui Station and the Airport on a minimum 10 minute frequency with dedicated lanes on Puhinui Rd and improved passenger interchange at the station, complete with lifts for people with luggage, and all weather cover? Puhinui is currently timetabled at 33-35 minutes from Britomart [this should improve with current work] with a train leaving every 5 mins at the peaks, exactly when traffic congestion is at is most disruptive. With bus lanes on Puhinui Rd the journey to the terminals would be a reliable 10 mins. Including an average wait time of 5 mins that’s a perfectly satisfactory 50 minute journey from Britomart to the Airport. Because this journey time is reliable and not subject to congestion and avoids the time and cost of parking at the Airport it should be competitive enough for a good proportion of travellers and workers. As shown below, there is space to build an interchange and turning space to the west [Airport] side of the station, this would need to be of interchange standard.


The Puhinui Rd/20B road and bridge are due to be upgraded or duplicated soon in the on-going work to increase general traffic access to the Airport [what you feed grows] surely it would be wise to actually include dedicated transit lanes on a bridge in Auckland for once? This is a future RTN route, the route is flat and unconstrained by buildings; these are good practical and cost arguments for bringing this section forward. Shoulder lanes, or better, a dedicated busway and bridge, LRT ready, would be real ‘future-proofing’ [a phrase it is hard not to be cynical about in Auckland as it generally means doing less than nothing in practice].

With this service then it would be viable and essential to brand both the shuttle bus service at the terminals and the Southern and Eastern line services, both of which, with no changes to how they currently run, then become true Airport services.

Of course the transfer is less ideal than a system that takes you on one seat right into the Terminal either as a flyer or an employee there, however we know many travellers currently transfer from their cars to various bus shuttles in order to get cheaper parking, and surely many workers would be happy to not to have to battle increasing congestion with a reliable and cost effective alternative. In other words by optimising the bus connection we will further unlock the value of investments recently made in the rail system. It probably makes sense on those grounds alone.AIRPORT -Puninui

This should not be seen as instead of a north/south pan Mangere RTN, but it would surely make a good start, especially as this is the route for the future Botany-Manukau City-Airport RTN. So it would be even better if it continued to the new interchange at Manukau City, and then on to Botany and AMETI. And ensuring all hard infrastructure is built to be efficiently upgradeable to Light Rail in the longer term. Improving eastern connectivity is completely compatible with the northern Mangere routes discussed in the study, and indeed the current Airbus service, so arguably is an even more urgent direction to improve. There is no duplication in sorting this connection out first.

Botany Line

Incidentally this map clearly shows the other areas lacking RTN coverage: the Northwest and Upper Harbour, and the Isthmus and Mangere….

Which is exactly what AT have on their future RTN maps, but far too far into the future in my view. This is still based on last century’s thinking where every road is widened first, leading to the inevitable dysfunction and only then do we try to relieve this adding quality RT alternatives.

To summarise: we already have a high quality Rapid Transit service almost all the way to the airport, it seems to me that the addition of a high quality connection between these points would be a very useful first move in improving connectivity in this important area, especially if taken at least to Manukau City too, and as soon as possible.

HOP in detail

As mentioned this morning, at Auckland Transport’s board meeting today there is an interesting paper giving an overview of the HOP system, which AT say is the third largest financial transaction system in the country. Here are some of the figures from the paper.

  • AT have sold just over 965k HOP cards while they had only anticipated selling 338k over the same period – a case of AT underestimating demand? It certainly wouldn’t be the first time they’ve done that with a public transport initiative. They say they typically sell about 23.5k per month but that has increased to 26k per month due to the SuperGold card conversion that took place recently. I also wonder how many are due to people who have bought more than one due to cards being blacklisted.

HOP cards sold

  • AT say that as of July, 86% of trips are made using HOP and that compares favourably with systems overseas which have taken much longer to get a similar level of use. Trains still have the highest level of HOP use with 87% of trips being on HOP compared to 85% on bus (note: the graph below is to June, HOP usage has increased since then primarily due to the SuperGold card conversion.

HOP cards usage

  • AT now have 74 ticket machines at train and busway stations plus one in the Manukau Mall. There are also 73 retailers and 10 customer service centres.
  • All up the project has cost just under $100 million. That’s certainly a lot of money (and  time) but nowhere near what the two biggest cities across the ditch have paid.

HOP system costs

  • In the 2015-16 financial year (to end of June), the HOP system processed over $193 million in revenue. That was up 10% on the previous financial year and up 26% on two years prior. The charts below show where that revenue comes from (AT just stop with using pie charts will you).

HOP cards Revenue breakdown

  • There is currently $11.8 million in the HOP account, 85% of which is from stored value on cards and the remaining representing monthly passes. There is also a noticeable trend in January with the values dropping, presumably as people used up their remaining balance before going on leave over summer.

HOP account balance

  • HOP costs $16.6 million to run every year which is well above the expected $9 million from the business case. The additional costs get a 57% subsidy from the NZTA. AT give the following list of reasons for why opex is higher than expected.
  • Additional bus services which increased the cost of system support
  • Increased AT HOP Operating Staff from the original budget of nine FTEs to 37, in order to support retailers, operators, and customers
  • BT test support to provide system testing of BAU changes and system enhancements (average of 40 route changes are made each month).
  • Additional finance support – providing reconciliations, settlement support and process development (recognition that the AT HOP System is a significant financial system).
  • Increased banking fees, secure cash collection and retail commission due to the high uptake of the AT HOP Card
  • Removal of the 25 cent transaction fee for Top-up transactions

Also included in the paper is one of the worst business diagrams you’ll see, I’m still not sure what ticking and clocks have to do with it. But still a lot better than this.

HOP horrible diagram

Now that integrated fares have finally been rolled out (and done so successfully), many will be interested to know what’s next for HOP. After all payment systems are undergoing rapid change right now. Here’s what AT say about it.

The development opportunity to improve customer service offerings is being actively pursued by the AT Metro, HOP and BT teams. This may include the ability to use credit cards or phone applications for payment and the potential to extend HOP to other services such as parking. Other options include online bus updates for balances, mobile top ups, use of the ATM network and account based systems. Whilst many of these are feasible to a degree, e.g. bus updates for balances is probably only available at 10-15 minute intervals, much of this technology is new, not only to Thales but other card systems as well. Generally, development is very slow and expensive which has limited the ability for AT to progress at pace these types of initiatives. Currently AT is investigating a solution to enable the HOP card to use Near Field Communications on a smart phone and the business is working with Thales on proposals for a real time top up ability via smart phone to the physical cards.

Let’s hope we don’t have to wait years for some of these features which should almost be a minimum standard these days.