Since 2011, NZ Bus (who run the Link buses, Metrolink, North Star, Waka Pacific and GoWest) have purchased over 350 ADL Enviro200 buses for use – most of these in Auckland. These are the ones:
NZ Bus seem pretty proud of these buses – noting the following on their website:
Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) is the UK’s leading bus and coach manufacturer, employing around 2,000 people at facilities in the UK, continental Asia and North America.
The fastest growing bus and coach builder in Western Europe, ADL encompasses three famous and successful marques – Alexander, Dennis and Plaxton. ADL produces a wide range of innovative and fuel efficient, low floor single and double deck buses, plus a full portfolio of coaches, welfare and mini vehicles.
ADL products offer real operator, passenger and environment benefits, all backed by an unswerving commitment to world class customer support.
In January 2011 NZ Bus announced a $50 million investment in new fleet and after an intensive search, we chose Alexander Dennis as our preferred supplier of fleet. Since then, NZ Bus has purchased 354 new Enviro200 buses at a total cost of approximately $140 million. These buses are of the highest quality, reliable, safe and with a Euro 5+ emissions standard, are environmentally friendly.
While the buses may have good fuel economy and less emissions than earlier types of buses, in a large number of ways they’re not ideal for the tasks we ask of them on many routes in Auckland – particularly when running City Link, Inner Link or Outer Link services.
Here’s a bunch of flaws these buses have:
- The doorways are too narrow for someone who is paying with a HOP card to easily slip past someone who is paying with cash. This massively slows down waiting times leading to enormous operating inefficiencies, reduced reliability (due to slow boarding time) and longer trips (slower boarding times again is the culprit). For the lack of a slightly wider entrance to the bus the efficiency of the entire bus system is quite significantly undermined. This could be partially addressed by allowing people to buy tickets offline and/or having a policy of issuing no change, things that should probably be done anyway.
- The aisles are too narrow. Perhaps due to the greater than normal separation between the two seats on either side of the bus, the aisle down the middle definitely feels significantly narrower than most buses. This makes manoeuvring around the bus really difficult when it’s full and once again slows down trip times hugely as people take ages to exit and enter buses when they’re busy. I imagine it would be even more difficult if someone in a wheelchair needs to board, as shown in this Campbell Live piece (from 11:20 but it is different kind of bus)
- The seat layout at the front of the bus is completely unsuited to use on services where people are getting on and off all the time – like the City Link. The buses previously used for Inner Link services realised that it was worth sacrificing a bit of seating capacity for much greater circulation and standing area for bus services where people wouldn’t be on it for that long – but where loads may be really high. The ADL buses basically use a seating layout for an inter-city coach and then apply it to very busy inner city services – hopeless!
- The buses are too small. While smaller buses are needed in some situations, I don’t know what possessed NZ Bus to invest in fairly small buses at a time when public transport patronage is growing and then to put them on popular routes. Very frequently people are unable to board packed Link services in particular – simply because the buses are too small and also because the silly seat layout referred to above means there’s hardly any standing room.
- Low Ceiling height at the back of the bus. Because you can’t stand at the back of the ADL buses (ceiling is too low and there’s a sign on the steps banning it) once again the buses get so overcrowded that people are often left behind at stops. This doesn’t happen with other types of buses.
- Really dark window tinting. The tinting on the window is really dark and while that is useful for helping reduce the impact of sun which in turn means the air-con doesn’t have to work as hard, it makes it harder to see in and out of the buses. Being able to see in and though buses was one of the key points made by Jarrett Walker the other day.
Overall, it feels like the ADL buses aren’t necessarily bad buses – they’re just being used for the wrong services or need a major internal redesign in order for them to work better. Key changes should be to shift to side-facing seats on Link Services (especially City Link) or preferably to use other buses in the fleet that are larger for these busy routes. That in itself raises another point, whatever happened to NZ Bus’s plan to buy some double deckers for busy routes? Another critically necessary change is to somehow make the front entrance wider – or perhaps allow rear door boarding with AT Hop cards to get around the narrow front door issue and make the buses faster, more reliable and more efficient.
I also hope that NZ Bus thinks harder about their next purchases to ensure that these same mistakes aren’t repeated. With the new bus network proposing many frequent services that will result in increased patronage over time, it’s important that we don’t get stuck with too small buses with too narrow aisles and entrances again.
Last Friday Jarrett Walker spoke at an Auckland Conversations event about How will an integrated public transport network create a city for people?
For those that didn’t attend, the talk is now available to watch online. It’s 72 minutes long but well worth it. Click on the image below to go to the Auckland Conversations page to watch.
And if you missed Jarrett and want to hear him (and it’s well worth it), a reminder that he is talking tomorrow night for The Sustainability Society on How Clearer Thinking about Public Transit Can Enrich Our Communities and Our Lives
Date: Wednesday 4 December
Time: 5:30 – 6:30pm
What: How Clearer Thinking about Public Transit Can Enrich Our Communities and Our Lives
Co-hosted by Transforming Cities and The Sustainability Society, this free public seminar features international public transit consultant Jarrett Walker discussing his experiences and ideas from his book in terms of how they could be applied in the context of Auckland’s transport system.
Where: Room 439, University of Auckland Faculty of Engineering, 22 Symonds
St, Auckland Central
RSVP: email@example.com by Friday 29 November 2013
Update: The has been a venue change new detail below
18 Waterloo Quadrant
Fisher Building, level 9
One of the features of the new bus network is that in return for a much greater number of frequent routes, some people will need to transfer. It’s important that we make that process as easy as possible, especially at the major interchanges – like the Panmure one that Luke posted about this morning. In South Auckland where the new network has already been consulted on – and received really positive feedback with something like 70% support – one of the biggest interchanges will be at the Otahuhu train station where there will be two frequent and numerous other bus routes.
The the current situation is fairly grim with the station being hidden from the main road by walls of empty shipping containers, there’s not even really any bus stops nearby. Here are some images from Auckland Transport of the station and it’s surrounds as it is today.
Auckland Transport are now consulting on a design for a fully interchange to make it easy to transfer between train and bus (or bus and bus). They say key design features include:
- Integrated platform – dual bus bays (x4 buses each site)
- Canopied bus and rail platforms – continuous coverage for passengers moving between bus and train services
- Enclosed waiting room on bus platform
- Concourse – linking bus and rail platforms, incorporating retail kiosk, staff facilities, gating and ticketing
- Multiple bus / train platform access options – stairs/lifts/ramps/escalators
- Kiss & Ride parking, taxi stand
- Secure cycle storageOtahuhu bus train interchange
- WiFi Hotspot facility
- CCTV security – real time information
I really like the idea that there will be an enclosed waiting room for bus passengers. That’s something we haven’t seen be a feature in Auckland so far so a nice addition. Here are some images of the proposed upgrade.
If the final design turns out like this then I think it will be quite a neat station. I really like the wide concourse building and the close integration with buses. Certainly a much better use of the land than what is currently on the site. If this is the standard for the major interchanges – which it must be considering other major stations like New Lynn and Panmure – then I think it suggests we are heading in the right direction.
If I was to have one concern about the project though it is that it focuses only on the interchange, why not also take the opportunity to upgrade the local roads to improve walking and cycling connections for locals but that is something that can be included in the feedback.
Note from Matt L: Please welcome Luke to the TransportBlog team. He has been a long time reader and commentator of the blog. He is half way through a Masters of Urban Planning Degree at Auckland University, and is also the Auckland Policy Director for Generation Zero.
As we have previously highlighted work is ongoing around Panmure as part of the first major stage of the AMETI project.
Panmure is an important node on the future frequent network as it links buses from Eastern Suburbs such as Pakuranga and beyond into the rail network.
The Howick and Eastern buses are timetabled at about 40 minutes from Panmure, while the trains take 20 minutes. This new interchange will allow very easy interchange between rail and bus, and this may mean that passengers bound for Britomart from the East will find it best to transfer to train if they are headed for the Britomart part of town. This will give further capacity to the buses down the line for passengers from Ellerslie – Panmure Highway and Great South Road.
This interchange also includes the first part of the Eastern Busway, which is planned to extend to Pakuranga by 2020, and Botany by 2030. Of course as part of the Congestion Free Network we would really like to see this fast-tracked, and generally complete by 2020.
Substantial progress has now been made on the new Panmure Station and Bus Interchange. I must say it looks very impressive and will allow the easiest rail-bus interchanges in Auckland, with the bus interchange being right on top of the station.
Panmure Station and Interchange from the slopes of Maungarei/Mount Wellington. This shows the relation to the Panmure town centre, the roundabout (soon to be removed), and the new roading connections around the station.
Interchange building from opposite side of Ellerslie-Panmure Highway. Note the white bus shelters to the right of the photo.
Close up of interchange building from the future busway. The lifts inside are already in use as disabled access. Managed a quick look inside and must say looks very impressive.
The project website does not give an update as to when this interchange will open, however I suspect it be in January, soon after the summer shut down. Should see a big boost to Panmure station patronage as a result, as well as helping renewal of this part of town.
Auckland Transport is proposing to widen Lincoln Rd – something that in my opinion is probably already Auckland’s most soul destroying street, particularly from a land use perspective. Every time I travel down there (which is frequently as I live not far from it) it always reminds me of the worst aspects of auto-dependency. Even the recently built ASB regional centre promotes auto-dependency by not only having a drive through ATM but also drive through banking.
It’s a road that doesn’t seem to do anything well. It’s a road that is quite wide with a minimum of five lanes (two each way and a full painted median), the major intersections are massive blowing the road out even wider to cater for turning in all directions including slip lanes yet can also get horribly congested, particularly for people heading towards the motorway – which the NZTA are currently upgrading into an absolute monstrosity. On top of that it has poor pedestrian amenity, no cycling amenity and the only bit of bus amenity being a small section northbound at the intersection with Triangle Rd/Central Park Dr to give buses a slight head start.
AT say the road carries about 42,000 vehicles per day and a poor safety record with 446 crashes reported between 2008 and 2012, over a third of which were from drivers exiting driveways or side roads failing to give way. The road has also been listed in various documents over the years as needing to be an RTN in the future as part of the primary route connecting the North Shore to West Auckland. The area surrounding the road is also home to around 8,500 residents, 9,000 jobs, a primary school and the Waitakere Hospital.
It’s the northern section which is the worst and that is the part AT are proposing to upgrade with the plans being to
The upgrade seeks to
- widen Lincoln Road to provide an additional bus and high occupancy vehicle (transit) lane on each side of the road to increase capacity and improve pasenger travel times.
- upgrade existing intersections to reduce congestion and improve safety
- build a solid raised and planted median to replace the existing painted median to improve vehicle and pedestrian safety
- install shared paths for pedestrians and cyclists on both sides of the road
- implement stormwater treatments to minimise surface flooding
- relocate and upgrade existing utility services
- integrate with the NZ Transport Agency’s current motorway interchange upgrade.
There are some seriously big cop-outs there, a transit lane (because there aren’t already enough lanes for private vehicles to use) and shared paths that will pit pedestrians against cyclists (although the road is so horrible that very few people walk anyway). Here is what the typical mid-block cross section is meant to look like.
However while the mid-block may be 7 lanes wide (including median) the major intersections of Universal Dr and Triangle Rd/Central Park Dr blow out to over 9 lanes in width in a bid to cater for every kind of vehicle movement its own lane
And here is a video (from which the image above has been taken) showing the works planned
There is some more detail about some of the features on the AT website and they say the that construction isn’t planned to start until 2018. Here is the timeline.
There will also be two open days about the project next week
Thursday 5 December
3.30pm – 7.30pm
Netball Waitakere Centre
31-35 Te Pai Place
Saturday 7 December,
10am – 2pm
Lincoln Green Conference Centre
159 Lincoln Road (use Te Pai Place entrance)
I think it’s fair to say that we’ve been pretty disappointed with patronage results over the last year or so (longer for rail). After about 7 years of almost constant growth we saw patronage decline and then flat line with it only just starting to show signs of turning around. If there is perhaps one silver lining from all of this it’s that it has hopefully shaken Auckland Transport up and made them realise they can’t just sit back and expect patronage growth will always occur.
There are a heap of big projects happening at the moment which will dramatically improve public transport over the coming years, in particular electrification, the new bus network, integrated ticketing and eventually integrated fares. However these are all big, multi-year projects that we won’t see the full benefit from for a while and I suspect that AT may have been resting on their laurels waiting for those projects to be completed. The patronage problems forced AT to start thinking about PT more and we’re now starting to see some of the early outcomes of this with them starting to improve their marketing – and there is likely to be other improvements to come.
The patronage results were even more concerning as in the Auckland Plan the council set AT a target of doubling patronage over a 10 year period to 2022 with a longer term goal of reaching a PT usage of 100 trips per person per year by 2041 (currently at about 45). A big question has become whether the organisation can actually meet the targets that they have been set and to help answer that Deloitte have been analysing what is planned to estimate just what kind of patronage we can expect. They presented their findings to the AT board last week and the report itself has now been made public. The results are both incredibly interesting and concerning.
All of the various initiatives currently on the list have been summarised into the following groups and there are no surprises from this. What it does help to show is just how much will be happening over the next couple of years.
Deloitte say that even if we manage to fund every PT project currently on the list – including the CRL – and we do it well and on time (i.e. not like HOP so far) then the best we can achieve by 2022 is 101 million PT boardings. That’s a ~31 million increase on what we have now but is 39 million short of AT’s target.
They have also estimated patronage by each mode and say that capacity issues on the bus network could start hurting patronage from 2015 onwards and if not addressed then by 2022 it would mean bus patronage affected by up to 15% (roughly 9 million boardings)
Further they say that if the various projects were to get similar results as seen in other cities that have completed similar projects, then patronage could be as low as ~83 million boardings depending on which comparisons are used. The other cities compared were Wellington, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, London, Toronto and Vancouver and they say none of them managed to double patronage in 10 years with it typically taking twice as long as that with the best being Vancouver at about 16 years. They say that the cities that have seen significant patronage growth have also seen sustained network investment and service improvement.
The one thing perhaps in Auckland’s favour is all of these cities did start from a high base and with a more mature PT network which probably makes it harder to double patronage on. However if Deloitte are right then don’t have a hope in hell of reaching the target that has been set.
So what does all this mean for Auckland Transport? Deloitte say there are two primary options to pursue
In my mind cutting the targets should not even be considered to be an option and I would hope our elected officials would feel the same way. That leaves only option 2 which will mean AT will have to rethink what they are doing and helpfully Deloitte have even suggested a few potential options.
1. Operational, network and service initiatives — for example:
- Fare reduction and restructuring
- Increase frequency, coverage, or additional service kms
- Focus on operational improvements including punctuality and reliability
2. Modification of existing planned projects — for example:
- Rescheduling capital projects (i.e. bring forward CRL and potentially other projects)
3. New capital investments — for example:
- Additional investment in busways
- Bring forward the harbour crossing
4. Incentive management initiatives — for example
- Creating a competitive process for operators
5. Structural reform — for example:
- Congestion/road user charges
Basically if AT want to meet the targets then they will have to really invest in improving the PT network. The really big one is 3. where at the meeting Deloitte said we would need one or two additional busways on top of what is currently planned for a capital cost of ~$355 million. Also I must say I have no idea how pulling forward the AWHC does anything to help patronage, if anything it will do the opposite. In addition improving fares, frequencies and/or network coverage as well as other areas of the PT system will be critical and Deloitte estimate that could cost up to an extra $1.5 billion in operational funding (~$150m per year). In addition to the carrots of better services and infrastructure the authors say we also need to consider some stick type approaches by way of road pricing and increasing parking charges.
By in large I couldn’t agree more and of course the need for AT to change their current investment patterns by re-prioritising spending is something we have suggested quite strongly with the Congestion Free Network. We’ve even suggested a number of busways they couple pursue.
Of course my guess is that they will try for option 1 first using the excuse that they can’t afford to invest more in PT without the council giving them more money as to some within the organisation, the thought of cutting the roading budget seems like a concept from a different planet.
At the board meeting the only real question that arose was whether the goal of 140 million boardings was actually worth it and what would it do to mode share. In other words what sort of difference would that extra 39 million boardings make to metrics like congestion, emissions or how the city works. That wasn’t able to be answered at the time so presumably it is a piece of work that will now be happening.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on what unfolds as a result of this report.
Last week I talked about Penlink and how it appears that it is back on the agenda and being pushed ahead fairly rapidly. This has also been partially confirmed by this listing on the Auckland Transport tenders site.
This Request for Proposal (RFP) is issued for Auckland Transport (AT). The aim of this process is to award a Contract for supply of Planning Professional Services to implement the Penlink Planning Strategy to successfully complete an alteration to the designation and obtain all required consents. This will involve the use of other professional services skills including design, project management and technical experts which are to be provided and managed by the Planning Consultant.
So with this post I thought I would look at some of the alternatives that should be done first – and the impacts properly assessed before committing to building Penlink. Like we have suggested with the East-West link and Operation Lifesaver the focus is on a series of smaller upgrades that can likely be done significantly quicker and cheaper than what is currently planned. Further some of these projects are already on the drawing board so aren’t actually new.
Firstly the primary areas of development that are going to occur in the area in the future is not so much on the peninsula but in the areas closer to SH1 in and around the Silverdale North area. As you can see in this Unitary Plan map there is a heap of land set aside for housing (cream), business (purple) as well as future urban (yellow). It’s this development that will really put a lot of pressure on the Hibiscus Coast Highway (HCH) between Whangaparaoa Rd and the Silverdale interchange.
So with that in mind the focus should be on addressing how we can avoid putting too much pressure on that section of the HCH. Here are a series of projects that could do that.
I understand this has been talked about for some time but the idea is fairly simply, Wainui Rd travels through the south western part of the Silverdale North area before crossing the motorway just over halfway between the Silverdale and Grand Drive interchanges. The idea is to create a set of south facing ramps and therefore providing a more direct connection to SH1 for the Silverdale North area. That would remove the need for many of the future residents to travel down to use the Silverdale Interchange. It would also help in serving that large section of Future Urban land to the west of SH1.
East Coast Rd and Curley Rd Extension
Again this is something that has been talked about for a while but the idea is to extend Curley Rd – a small stub road – to the east and eventually connecting up with Wainui Rd south of where the ramps mentioned above would be. An extension of East Coast Rd to the north across the Wheti River would then connect in with the Curley Rd extension. The idea is to create a connection allowing for traffic going north-south from one side of the HCH to the other to do so in a single crossing without having to use the HCH for part of the journey (other than a single intersection). The rough idea for these two roads is shown in the map below with the new road in red.
Whangaparaoa Rd Upgrades
Whangaparaoa Rd is generally a single lane road for most of its length except for a short section for about 1.5km west and south of the intersection with Red Beach Rd. A previous review of Penlink in 2010 found that while not a substitute for Penlink, widening the section between Red Beach Rd and the HCH would relieve congestion and push back the need for the expensive capital investment that would needed to build Penlink.
My understanding is that this widening was planned to happen fairly soon but has now been put on hold until a new decision on Penlink has been made.
Of course these are all road upgrades, what about some PT upgrades? To me there are two things that should be considered – probably together. First though what is current happening with PT in the area.
AT are going to be building a busway station and park n ride at Silverdale. I believe that stage one which includes access roads and the first 100 or so car parks has been built however stage two which includes the station itself has now been delayed by potentially up to a year. This is due to a neighbouring land owner who has fought the development all the way now seeking a judicial review by the high court. Assuming that eventually falls in AT’s favour then the station can be built and some Northern Express services extended Silverdale. Connecting in will be local services which I will talk about soon. At the other end of the peninsula is the Gulf Harbour ferry. So what could we do?
Improve Local Bus Services
Like most of Auckland the current bus services appear to be a shambles and the maps are hard to read. The new network proposes a much simpler network for the area.
However a key issue that will remain is the frequency of those services with the RPTP suggesting that they will only be half hourly during the peak and hourly off peak. At the very least we should consider what the cost would be to increase the frequency of the green route to be every 15 minutes during the peak and half hourly off peak. That would likely help a lot in making the system much more usable and is unlikely to cost massive amounts of money. Likewise the service to Gulf Harbour might need improving to go with some improved ferries.
The current ferry service is only any use for commuters travelling to the CBD during the peak. For commuters there are only two sailings towards the CBD in the morning (7:00 & 7:30) and two back again in the evening (4:40 & 5:35). Along with increased connector bus services, investing in improving the ferry service should be considered. That would likely require the investment in new ferries and would obviously cost a lot more to run that what exists now however the costs need to be considered in relation to what we would be paying for Penlink. Remember the talk is now that it will be built as a PPP which means we will be paying for the project out of operational budgets for the following 25 years. The cost of running some extra bus and ferry services is probably less than the amount we would be paying just to cover the private company’s interest bill.
So there we go a series of projects that would help in addressing some of the direct traffic problems in the area. I’m not sure how much it would all cost but is almost certainly a lot less than what is planned for Penlink which could now be more than $200m yet only make a difference of about ~7000 vehicles a day. It doesn’t mean Penlink might not be needed in the future but does help address things for the short to medium term.
Another of the board papers presented to the AT board yesterday seemed fairly innocuous and so I didn’t cover it but at the meeting today I actually found it slightly interesting but then more details have emerged which has raised a heap of questions.
The paper was about all of the upcoming major events in Auckland and what the impact was for Auckland Transport. There are a surprising number of major events coming up over the next few months and the table of them is below.
The event that caught my attention in the board meeting was the mention of Christmas in the Park where AT said for the first time they would run a proper rail service right through the evening an into the next morning. This is a change from normal where they might run a couple of special services but trains often quickly fell away to hourly leaving PT as a terrible option for families. They didn’t say exactly what the frequencies will be but I’m hoping for 15 minutes on all of the main lines. AT also mentioned that for the first time the event will be alcohol free.
Others to note are an incredibly busy weekend in the middle of February during which there are the NRL 9′s, the Lantern Festival, Eminem and the Weekbix Triathlon. That has the potential to be one of the biggest weekends of PT use we have ever seen.
You might also notice in March that AT are planning an open day for the EMU’s where it sounds like they will be showing off the new trains with rides between Britomart and Newmarket.
However the thing that really got be frustrated – and I don’t know if it was just that I missed it in the meeting – but was definitely in a press release shortly after was about the upcoming Santa Parade. Here is the press release:
Plan your travel early to the Farmers Santa Parade
Take the family on board a bus, train or ferry to a magical day out at the Auckland Farmers Santa Parade on Sunday 24 November, 2pm.
The parade is one of Auckland’s most popular Christmas events and public transport and roads in and out of the city will be busier than usual.
To accommodate the parade and public safety, roads around the parade route will be closed and parking restrictions will apply.
People should expect crowds and plan to travel early. Check by using the journey planner at www.at.co.nz
If the event is moved to the rain date of Sunday 1 December some services may not operate.
Travel to the parade by train:
Event trains operate approximately every 15 minutes on most lines in to the city from 10.30am.
Limited services will depart from Pukekohe and rail buses will replace trains at Helensville, Waimauku and Huapai. These services will transfer to trains at the Swanson Train Station.
After the parade passengers travelling to Helensville and Pukekohe will have dedicated entrances for priority boarding.
Travel to the parade by bus:
Bus services will operate to a Sunday timetable.
Some bus stops in the central city will differ due to the parade. Auckland Transport ambassadors will be on site to help passengers.
Travel to the parade by ferry:
Ferries will operate to a Sunday timetable.
Parking in the city:
If you are planning to drive to the Parade, be aware that road closures and parking restrictions will be in place. Public parking is free at the Auckland Transport Downtown and Victoria St car parks for vehicles exiting between 12noon and 6pm. Check road closures here at Auckland Transport’s website
Trains will have decent frequency but buses and ferries will be left on what are normally crappy Sunday frequencies however the really annoying part is the last point. AT are making two of their parking buildings free for the afternoon. Are they completely insane?
Firstly it completely undermines the any incentive for people to use public transport to get to the city, the one location that would be easiest to ramp up services to. But worse it is likely to cause nightmares on the day. The free parking only covers the Downtown and Victoria St carparks which according to the AT website have 1,890 and 850 spaces respectively so 2,740 all up. Even if every space was taken up with a car carrying the mythical nuclear family of two parents and two kids, that only represents about 11,000 people. That might seem like a lot but would only represent a small fraction of the overall crowd, often estimated at up to 300,000 but more realistically to be around the 80-90k mark.
The problem though is that lured by the potential for free parking heaps of people will then decide to drive to the CBD, after all why pay for a train or bus when you can get free parking in the CBD. Also worth pointing out that it isn’t possible to buy a family pass now unless you are at one of the handful of train stations that still sell them and it is also the same day that the rest of the Metrolink fleet switch over to HOP.
Those car parking spaces will be gone in a flash (probably before the free period even starts) and that will leave the CBD clogged with cars trying to find an alternative places to park and will potentially even see people missing the event as a result. It has the hallmarks of the RWC opening night all over again but instead of the trains failing it will be the road network. Further the congestion is likely to spread out of the CBD which is then bound to affect the few buses that are running – and because it’s a weekend the bus lanes aren’t in operation.
Seriously this sounds like it is going to be a nightmare. If AT were serious about this they would have
- Put on more buses and ferries
- Put the bus lanes into operation
- Made PT free for the event and encouraged as many people as possible to use it.
I’m not looking forward to hearing what happens on Sunday.
The Auckland Transport board meets again on Thursday and as such we now have the patronage results for October. Even better is there seems to be good news all around with all modes improving compared to October last year. Further there were the same number of working days making for an easier comparison – although on the rail network there were two full weekend shut-downs compared to one partial one in October 2012.
Auckland public transport patronage totalled 69,749,658 passengers for the 12-months to Oct-2013, an increase of +0.7% on the 12-months to Sept-2013. October monthly patronage was 6,321,771, an increase of 460,631 boardings or +7.9% on Oct-2012. No normalisation is required due to equivalent business days.
Rail patronage totalled 10,309,102 passengers for the 12-months to Oct-2013, an increase of +0.9% on the 12-months to Sept-2013. Patronage for Oct-2013 was 964,380, an increase of +91,309 boardings or +10.5% on Oct-2012.
The Northern Express bus service carried 2,295,587 passenger trips for the 12-months to Oct-2013, an increase of +0.4% on the 12 months to Sept-2013, a record 12 month performance for the Northern Express service. Northern Express bus service patronage for Oct-2013 was 206,265, an increase of 9,041 boardings or +4.6% on Oct-2012. A promotional campaign to areas around the Northern Busway contributed to the growth.
Other bus services carried 51,527,830 passenger trips for the 12-months to Oct-2013, a 0.6% change on the 12-months to Sept-2013. Other bus services patronage for Oct-2013 was 4,654,739, an increase of 298,591 boardings or +6.9% on Oct-2012. The implementation of AT HOP on further bus services has contributed to growth, along with promotional campaigns and improving service and on-time performance on the North Shore. Attachment 2 provides an overview of bus and Northern Express patronage growth marketing activity for the remainder of the financial year within the context of the over-arching public transport marketing approach.
Ferry services carried 5,617,139 passenger trips for the 12-months to Oct-2013, an increase of +1.1% on the 12 months to Sept-2013. Ferry services patronage for Oct-2013 was 496,387, an increase of 61,690 boardings or +14.2% on Oct-2012.
Summary performance against SOI targets is provided in Table 1
There are some pretty decent increases in there. For rail it’s the second month in a row with double digit growth and also finally reflects us being able to shed the RWC patronage boost from the 12m comparisons. Once again the increases are being driven by the increases in both average weekday usage as well as increased usage on the weekends – the latter of which was substantially higher than the year before and that only included one day of the finally improved weekend services on the western line.
The ferry increase is also extremely substantial, especially after a number of months where patronage growth had appeared to be slowing down. Even the buses saw increased patronage compared to Oct 12 although the 12m figure is still down. Overall some pleasing results and what’s more the graphs now show that the worm is really starting to turn once again.
The one downside as pointed out in the first chart is that with the exception of ferries, AT are already quite far behind their targets for the year. For each mode, the patronage report also highlights some of the initiatives being undertaken by AT. There are two buses ones I really like. The first one is this which is a retention campaign talking about the benefits bus users get or provide.
The second one is some neat and quirky art work being used to promote buses in the inner western area. You can see all five posters here.
Personally I think it’s great that AT are trying stuff as for a long time there was little to no advertising. All up some positive signs continuing to emerge.
Moving on to the main board report, as usual there is some interesting information in there. On integrated ticketing they say
Metrolink Inner and LINK went live on 10 November 2013 and is averaging 27,000 passenger trips a day. There is customer feedback on having to carry two cards Snapper HOP and AT HOP but otherwise the rollout went as planned. AT HOP card usage on Metrolink Inner and LINK has continued to grow during this week (see table below) and AT HOP card usage is expected to grow during the next week and a half.
Metro Inner & LINK AT HOP card Usage
Sunday 10/11/2013 – 21%
Monday 11/11/2013 – 28%
Tuesday 12/11/2013 – 32%
Wednesday 13/11/2013 – 35%
Based on the comments the other day I don’t think AT can really say that there was customer feedback on carrying both cards as if it was just a minor point.
On the EMUs they suggest that train testing is going well and over in Spain that CAF are cranking into the production with them already working on parts of trains 14 and 15. Things don’t look so good on the electrification side though with it noted that Kiwirail are asking for the Newmarket to Britomart section to be closed for an extra week over the Christmas shut-down so they can get work finished and it also mentioned that they are preparing an updated electrification programme. The project was already meant to have been finished by now but we found out that it had slipped with completion being pushed back to sometime in the first 3-4 months of next year. I wonder if this has slipped further.
Fare evasion is noted as being 7% (was 7.1% last month) which is based on ticket checks of just 15.3% of all trips. 7% is a similar level to what we saw prior to HOP rolling out to trains.
Over at Panmure, AT say that the new station building is coming along well and they are already starting to plan for an official opening. This will be one of the first tangible benefits from the AMETI project towards PT. After the station has been completed it will become even more critical that AT focus on how they can get the busway from Panmure to Pakuranga and beyond.
On CBD spaces the report mentions that there is/has been a tender for the upper part of Khartoum Pl with works starting early next year and that they will be going out to tender for O’Connell St in December. It’ll be good to have a few more improved public spaces.
There are a few other reports that look quite interesting but unfortunately I don’t have time to go into them right now.
Usually when you get yourself into a hole the best thing to do is to stop digging, and that is how I often feel I think about the rollout of AT HOP which among plenty of other things has been plagued by poor communication. The latest comes in an interview with the Greg Edmonds who is the Chief Operating Officer of AT and was part of a Radio NZ piece that I also talked on.
Or listen here.
First up I do agree that from a technical level the rollout so far to Metrolink has probably been smooth in that the machines have worked. It’s the customer side of things that has been left wanting due to poor information including not even giving an indication as to while routes are most likely to be using which card. But it was the next part that caught my attention (and others). Here is the transcript about that part of the interview.
I think in anything with this level of complexity there will be some people that read the information thoroughly, there are others that glance over it and sometimes when they glance over it they may miss things and so the ambassadors are there reinforce and I think overall yep there’s been some genuine concerns about the information but overall we’ve done a pretty good job of it.
So the confusion is caused by people glancing over the information. Well it’s no surprise when it looks like this.
How many people are really going to read all of this?
At least it isn’t as bad as this comment from AT last week
Asked how long the freebies would continue, she said: “I can’t say, but it is very brief – that’s about to disappear, so get with the programme.”
Yesterday we also had this piece from the Herald on Sunday
Commuters who have less than $10 left on their cards will be unable to transfer the money to the new Auckland Transport Hop cards without jumping through complicated hoops – meaning Snapper will be able to quietly pocket their money.
The minimum transfer on to an AT Hop card is $10. So if the Snapper card balance is below $10, users must either top up the purple card to more than $10 and transfer that to the AT Hop card, spend the balance at one of the 150 Snapper-affiliated businesses in Auckland – or let Snapper keep their money.
Snapper chief executive Miki Szikszai blamed the problem on Auckland Transport. “The $10 limit is AT policy, not Snapper.”
There was no time limit on when the Snapper Hop cardholders could use any leftover balance, Szikszai said. They would not be giving cardholders their money back.
When pressed on why not, he said: “We’re actually not able to, due to the Anti-Money Laundering Act.” He would not elaborate.
Auckland Transport spokeswoman Sharon Hunter said the $10 policy was created by the former Auckland Regional Transport Authority, which was in charge of transport in Auckland before the Super City amalgamation.
“It was in the original terms and conditions of the purple Hop card.” She said it was easy to transfer the money.
Now I am aware that there were some bad decisions made about the HOP system from ARTA days that are still causing AT headaches today but to suggest that they can’t change the $10 minimum top-up policy seems absurd, especially considering that ARTA haven’t existed for three years.
In the end I think the real problem with all of the HOP change over comes down to a few key messages that often contradict each other. They are:
- Run down your balance because there are no refunds (page 2 of the brochure)
- But hold on to your card and keep it topped up as some buses will still use it – and we won’t tell you exactly which ones.
- It’s easy to transfer the money off the card – but we won’t make it easy by telling you the best way to do that
If it is easy to transfer balances like AT claim then it would have been so much easier for everyone if AT had just said “We know it’s a challenging time so keep your old card topped up and once the changeover is complete you can easily transfer your balance by doing …..”
At the end of the day I think the Herald on Sunday editorial sums up the real loser in all of this which is the perception of public transport when they ask:
Who would dare hop on an Auckland bus?
My biggest fear is that this has the potential to set back the use of PT in a big way and if that happens, it will take a while for people to have confidence in the system once again. It’s time for AT to stop digging and start building that trust.