Sir Dove-Myer Robinson on his Rapid Transit Scheme – Part 2

This is the second in a series of six posts looking at a collection of articles written by Sir Dove-Myer Robinson in the mid 1970’s promoting and clearly trying to build support for his rapid transit plan. They come from a booklet I stumbled across while in the Takapuna Library one day. The first post is here.

This was published in the NZ Herald on 24 June 1975

‘All-Bus’ Scheme a Non-starter on Capital Cost

Despite gloomy prophesies of unbearable capital costs and ruinous operating costs, the philistines were confounded when the costs of an all roading-bus transport plan were compared with the proposed bus and rail plan.

First of all, we should get straight what we are talking about. When De Leuw Cather & Co. reported on the suitability of an all-bus, or a bus and rail transport plan for Auckland in 1965, after nearly two years of study, they strongly a bus system fed by a main railway artery.

This recommendation has supported by all Government departments and officials who have examined it, and by the ARA and the Government itself.

Simply stated, the plan is to widen to four lines the existing railway from Papakura to the city near the present railway station, and in a loop underground connecting up again with Main Trunk Railway at Newmarket.

The lines would be electrified and modern electric three-coach trains, controlled by the most modern electronic controls and signals, provide a service every 10 minutes during off-peak hours, and every seven a half minutes at busy periods.

STATIONS

There would four underground stations in the city:

At Beach Rd (“Railway”) near the present station.
Under Customs St (“Downtown”) adjacent to present bus station.
Near the junction of Queen St and Wellesley St West (“Civic”).
Under Karangahape Rd (“Karangahape”) near the top of Upper Queen St.

Another station is planned in the Grafton area, when estimates of passenger demand require it.

Ten other stations would be located at the suburban stations on the main line between the city and Papakura.

Provision would be made for large scale car parking and bus/rail transfer facilities at the suburban stations. The reorganised bus system would provide feeder services to and from the railway stations, providing for a fully integrated bus and rail service that would be fast, clean, silent, cheap, safe and comfortable. More important still, it would be reliable and not be affected by road congestion or other conditions. This would result from the reduction of private vehicles on the roads, thus allowing freer and speedier travel for the buses.

Various proposals have been made to construct the line and stations in phases, but there are disadvantages of rising costs and delays in getting the maximum benefits, if this “phasing” plan is adopted.

The Government has stipulated that results of operation of the first stage – Papakura – City – Newmarket – must be studied before, later, undertaking one or all of the three recommended main extensions, which are:

  • Eastern loop through Tamaki, Glen Innes and Mt. Wellington to Westfield.
  • Northern extension under the harbour to the North Shore.
  • Western line to Henderson and Glen Eden.

However, because of the high revenue-earning potential of the eastern loop in comparison with its capital and operating costs, strong pressure is likely to be brought to bear to persuade the Government to construct the eastern loop simultaneously with the Papakura-Newmarket stage 1.

CAPITAL COSTS

The Government has agreed to provide the capital costs and to replay loans and interest, therefore, Auckland ratepayers will not have to bear any part of the capital costs. Nevertheless.
as rateplayers, they will be interested in the financial aspects of the scheme.

Based on 1974 prices, the estimated capital costs are as follows:—

Stage 1. Papakura-City-Newmarket, $125,254,000
Rolling stock, electronic equipment, signals, controls, buses, etc., $29,300,000.
Eastern loop, Tamaki-Glen Innes-Mt. Wellington-Westfield, $16,162,000.
Total cost stage 1, eastern loop, rolling stock. buses, etc., $170,716,000.

Now a very important factor must be considered. If, for any reason, the railway part of the plan were rejected, it would be necessary, in the area covered by this scheme, to provide additional motorways, bridges and parking facilities to cost a calculated $110 million.

Therefore the difference in cost between stage 1 plus the eastern loop, which would provide the backbone of a first-class transport system, as against the cost of perpetuating the un-satisfactory, bus-only present system, is $60 million.

To take the plan to completion, we have the following estimates:

Stage 1: Plus Eastern loop, rolling stock, electrification, etc., $170 million.
Now add in the later provision of the western line to Henderson and Glen Eden, estimated at $20 million.
Also, the harbour crossing to the North Shore estimated at $50 million.
Provide for additional rolling stock, signals and other contingencies $60 million.
The estimated cost, at 1974 prices, of the ultimate completion of the whole plan, $300 million.

This is where the financial advantages of this scheme begin to show up very clearly.

On the other hand, if the underground rail loop were not available, Auckland would be compelled to accept another bridge across the harbour with its inevitable disturbance of housing and other properties to provide more motorway approach roads.

The city would be on the horns of a dilemma, because the city council has already made it perfectly clear that under no circumstances will it agree to another harbour bridge that would further destroy the appearance of harbour and which would encourage the disgorgement on to already overcrowded city streets daily of more thousands of motor vehicles.

Summing up. the capital costs two alternatives, we have:—

Cost of new and upgraded motorways and roading, new buses, etc., in 25-30 years. at least $600 million.
Alternatively: Cost of providing electrified railway services, Papakura-City-Newmarket, including eastern loop to Westfield, western loop to Henderson and Glen Eden, and tunnel under harbour and connection to North Shore with rolling stock, etc., estimated at $300 million.

On this basis. the estimates show the capital costs of an all-bus system would be at least twice as great as the proposed bus/rail system

DIVERSION

The reason for this great difference is simple: The need to provide more, and upgrade present roading systems to carry the immense additional load of traffic, if some means has not been provided to divert some of it off the roads.

The map below shows how the tunnel then proposed would have fed through the city centre.

1974-4

As for the costs, running them quickly through the RBNZ’s inflation calculator gives us the following results:

  • Total cost of initial project, $1.8 billion
  • Eastern line, $174 million.
  • Rolling stock, signals, buses etc., $315 million.
  • Stage 1. Papakura-City-Newmarket, $1.3 billion
  • Western Line, $215 million
  • North Shore line, $538 million.
  • Additional rolling stock etc., $645 million.
  • Cost for the completion of the whole plan, $3.2 billion

And for the roads

  • Eastern Motorway if rail not built $1.2 billion
  • Total motorway package $6.5 billion

 

The next is titled Question of who pays the operating costs

North Shore New Bus Network to be confirmed

In the middle of last year, Auckland Transport consulted on the new bus network for the North Shore. Now in a report to the open session of the AT board meeting today is an item with the outcome of the consultation (9.9MB).

At a high level:

  • AT had a massive response with over 3,100 responses which is huge considering the South and West Auckland consultations each only had around 1,000 responses.
  • In response to the question “Overall to what extent do you support or oppose the North Shore New Network?” 54% were in support and 34% opposed.
  • As a result of the feedback they’ve made changes to 21 of the 40 routes that were proposed in the consultation and have added two new routes although one route was removed. In addition 15 routes have had changes to their frequency or hours of operation.

Here’s what the final bus routes on the Shore will look like

North Shore New Network Final

As a comparison here’s what the route maps currently look like. It’s a much busier map which largely because there are a lot of infrequent services that wind their way through the suburbs.

North Shore Current Buses

One of the key principles of the new network is to make use of transfers to get better use out of buses so that rather than running multiple buses infrequently in all directions, buses run to fewer locations but more frequently with transfers to extend the reach of PT routes.

Principles of the New Network model

Of course competing with this, many people want buses to travel express from their local stop to their destination. As such AT received a number of pieces of feedback to retain or create express services. Positively it appears they’ve resisted the urge to do this as it would likely have both increased costs and AT say in their report that it would have put even more buses on already busy city streets. With the exception of the Western North Shore and a few other locations, most services will feed into a busway station – like buses will do with trains in the South and the West. To ensure there is adequate space for people transferring from feeder buses in the mornings, AT say some busway buses will start at Constellation or other intermediate stations.

The busway itself will get a boost with multiple Northern Express (NEX) routes so services to the city will be even more frequent than they are now – although different services from across the Shore to the city will use different routes. This is shown below but essentially the NEX 1 and the frequent services from Onewa Rd will go to lower Albert St like they’ve started doing since the change for the CRL works. The NEX 2 (former 881) and other buses from the shore will loop through the middle of town while a few services like the NEX 3 will go via Ponsonby and K Rd to Newmarket however these will only operate on weekdays. A small note says that whether they go via Ponsonby Rd or not will depend on bus priority investigations.

North Shore New Network Final - City

AT say that to implement the new network they’ll need 100-150 new or relocated bus stops and likely some other minor infrastructure too such as bus layover facilities, and bus priority.

It’s hard to say just what impact the new network will have but AT estimate the should achieve about a 15% increase in bus use during the morning peak within 12-18 months of implementation which would be the equivalent to about 1,000 cars.

But it will still be some time away before these changes take place. AT say the procurement for the North Shore is likely to happen at the end of this year with the new network rolled out in early 2018. The network that’s is to be approved will result in around a 20% increase in service kilometres being run and about a 15% increase in the number of hours they run for compared to what currently exists. AT managed to save $3 million a year on the South Auckland contracts so I imagine they’ll be needing the same levels of savings from buses on the Shore to help pay for that.

Lastly here is a view of the new route map showing the changes that were made, what do you think about them?

North Shore New Network Final - with comments

April AT Board Meeting

Tomorrow is the next AT board meeting and as usual I’ve been through the reports to pull out the stuff I find interesting.

The closed session is where all of the really interesting stuff happens, my comments in italics.

Decisions for Approval/Decision

  • Quarterly Report
  • AMETI Delivery Strategy
  • CAP Programme Business Case – This is briefly described in the business report as

The Programme Business Case for the Central Access Plan (isthmus to city centre) has been developed jointly with NZTA and Council. A recommended integrated programme (IP) will be provided to the AT Board in April and NZTA Board for approval in May. The IP identifies a range of investments to address growing bus patronage demands against corridor / terminus capacity constraints.

  • Road Stoppings
  • Lodgement of Lincoln Rd NoR
  • Station Security & Fare Enforcement – This will likely relate to changes announced last year including changing some stations including changing access to platforms etc.
  • Integrated Fares Product, Pricing – With integrated fares only a few months away I’m sure AT are finalising the details for it now.
  • CRL Enabling Works Update
  • CRL Procurement update – AT appear to be finalising how they’ll procure the main works part of the CRL

Items for Noting

  • 2016/17 Budget
  • Deep Dive – Harbour Master
  • CRL Communications Update
  • AT Deliverables
    1. Results for Projects completed to 31 March 2016
    2. AT Deliverables – Tasks for completion by 30 June 2016

In the open session there is an item looking at the final design of the New Network on the North Shore, I’ll look at that in more detail tomorrow.

On to the main Business Report. These are listed in the order they appear in the report

From the technology team there is this about AT HOP. It’s not clear just what this entails or what parts of HOP infrastructure are classed as aging.

A programme has been established to address the aging AT HOP infrastructure and the associated support requirements. This will also incorporate increased capacity if required; following the Integrated Fares rollout.

Project Updates

  • They say the design of Nelson St phase 2 is 85% complete and construction is due to start in October. As yet there is still no indication of just what the final decision about what side it will go on.
  • On the trains they’re now trialling harmonic reducing software and other power management tools presumably to improve reliability of the trains further.
  • The hearing for the bridge to replace the Sarawia St level crossing was held last week. Hopefully we can get a resolution on this project soon.
  • Otahuhu Bus/Train interchange is on track for completion in August which is earlier than I thought was intended.

Not in the project section but this chart below shows how AT are tracking on their PT project spend for the financial year and as you can see there’s still quite a bit to go in some areas. On the bus infrastructure improvements they say they are still on target as a lot of works are due to happen in May and June however on the bus priorities and bus lanes they say

As a result of delays in receiving project mandates, we are forecasting a $1.3m underspent this financial year. It is proposed to defer the underspent amount to next financial year. That way we will still be on track to deliver the overall three year programme. We continue to work with Metro to improve program and gateway handover’s

2016-04 PT Infrastructure spend

When AT introduced the city centre parking zone a few years ago it also came with a policy about how AT would review the pricing on a regular basis. The pricing is meant to be demand responsive to ensure that occupancy of the carparks is in the 70-90% range and as part of that the hourly price increases if you stay in the park longer. The point of that is to encourage long term to parking buildings and leave on street parking just for short stay parking. As part of this the first 10 minutes are also free. As a result of the regular review AT plan to make some changes to prices.

In area one prices will go from $4/hour for the first two hours with $8/hour thereafter to $4.50/hour for the first two hours then $9/hour for every subsequent hour. In area 2 there are two different prices and AT will standardise them to $3/hour for the first two hours and then $6/hour for every subsequent hour. That’s an increase for some areas such as at Wynyard but no change elsewhere. Occupancy of the areas is shown below.

Of course some media have already picked up on this and are using it to make headlines.

2016-04 City Centre Parkting Zone changes

There’s a section of the report talking about a Waterview Connection Completion Plan which appears to be the NZTA and AT working out how everything will operate but it also says some physical works will be needed to local roads as a result. It also says this is needed “due to the requirement to manage traffic in the Waterview Tunnel”. The wording of the information suggests to me that the NZTA don’t want traffic backing up in the tunnels and so they will restrict access to them at times (presumably during the peak) and divert extra traffic to local roads. I’ve asked the NZTA for more info about this.

AT are closely monitoring traffic in the city especially so with all of the disruption that is and will be going on for some time to come. They say this highlighted issues with bus journey time reliability which seems mostly related to works that were happening such as the CRL enabling works on Victoria St. In response to this they’re making changes such as to signals to reduce impacts. The wording seems to suggest they’re only worried about traffic flow and I hope those changes that are being made aren’t also negatively impacting on pedestrians as a result.

There are a number of PT Updates, some of the more interesting are:

  • AT are in discussions with Birkenhead Transport for them to buy double deckers for use on Onewa Rd in the future.
  • In what is likely related to the PT financial tracking, AT say that as part of the new network for South Auckland, 32 projects for new or upgraded bus stops are under construction or about to start with another 152 in the pipeline.
  • AT are working on moving the Glen Eden Park n Ride which is due to be completed in June
  • On-board train digital information screens have been installed on one train and will be tested in May while they say the screens on buses will be trialled from April
  • AT include information on the number of complaints they have had about PT. With crowded buses in February and March it’s no surprise bus complaints have jumped up recently.

2016-04 PT Complaints

Thoughts on CBD Bus Changes

Last week Auckland Transport made the latest round of changes to streets in advance of the construction works for the City Rail Link. As mentioned in my post the other day, these changes impact me quite a bit as my commute normally involves transferring between buses and trains at Britomart. Below are just a few personal observations I’ve made over the last few days and I’m keen to hear your experiences of the changes.

Train to Bus

For my trip to work I catch a train to Britomart and then transfer to the Northern Express. In the mornings, the NEX runs every 7-8 minutes and so every second bus is effectively on the same timetable pattern as the western line. Due to the timetabling of services, previously I usually arrived in town just a few minutes before the next NEX departure so a quick dash from the train platform to the bus and I was on my way again with minimal delay.

CRL Bus changes map departure

Now, instead of walking across the road outside of Britomart I now have to walk to Albert St and the timing difference means I just bus I would have previously caught is just pulling away from the stop. That’s a little frustrating but given the frequency it’s not a massive deal. This should also all change when the Western line gets a frequency bump in about two weeks so I suspect could see pretty much back to as they were – with a slightly minor and not terrible walk.

Given lower Albert St is where many buses will leave from post CRL, I don’t think the short walk is terrible – or at least it won’t be once the permanent lane through the Commercial Bay development is completed. It’s certainly not the disaster some like George Wood would have us believe

Downtown Lane

Bus to Train

My trip back to the city is generally a little varied. I’ll either catch a bus direct from Takapuna and then transfer to either a City Link or a NEX on Fanshawe St or I’ll go to Akoranga and catch a NEX from there. For the purposes of this I’m only referring to these services from about the Nelson St intersection towards Britomart.

CRL Bus changes map arrival

City Link – Previously this used to travel down lower Hobson St then along Quay St before heading up Queen St. This part of the trip used to infuriate me as lower Hobson St and Quay St were often jammed up and it could sometimes take over 10 minutes to travel about 500m and the reason I’d transfer to a NEX if possible. The change to using Customs St West with a right turn into Queen St has been a fantastic change and it feels like it’s significantly sped up the service. The stop is just up from the Customs St intersection and even with a short walk from there to Britomart instead of being right outside, it is a much more pleasant journey.

Of course on Queen St also now has bus lanes and it was good to see AT out monitoring them the other day. Given how AT have acted in the past, I suspect they will start with an educational approach first.

Queen St Bus Lane enforcement

NEX – I’ve had mixed results with the NEX so far. In the afternoon peak the downtown carpark can disgorge a lot of cars onto Customs St West who then want to loop around the block to get to Hobson St – presumably that’s faster/easier than using the dedicated ramp to Fanshawe St. In one experience the bus was held up from being able to turn left at Albert St for a set of lights or two as a line of cars in front of my full bus took their turn to do so. That plus the short walk to Britomart was just enough to see a western line train departing as I walked in the building. However in another experience there were only a few buses and we weren’t held up so I suspect it could be a bit of a hit and miss situation.

Other observations

A few other related observations.

  • Crossing lower Queen St outside Britomart was quite easy, sometimes a bus or two to dodge but fine so long as you were paying attention. Crossing lower Albert St is not the same as for one general traffic is allowed on it which they weren’t on Queen St. And because it’s open to cars and quite a wide road there are inevitably some idiots out behind the wheel trying to see how fast they can get to the next set of traffic lights.
  • Of course crossing at the lights is always an option too and given the numbers of people who will now be getting off NEX services and probably heading southeast of the bus stop I wonder if AT should consider converting the Albert/Customs St intersection into a Barnes Dance like the intersections to the east of Albert St.
  • By contrast to Albert St, the new/currently temporary space outside of Britomart has been a welcome improvement. Walking to/from the station and having more space without having to dodge buses is fantastic. I also like that AT are thinking about temporary activation of the area – such as this which was being painted the other day.

Temporary Activation outside Britomart

Overall the changes seem to have gone fairly smoothly and I haven’t seen any real issues with the changes either personally or on social media (not saying there haven’t been). I’ve also noticed that AT have had a lot of ambassadors around directing people who might need it to the new bus stops which is useful. So all up sounds like AT have been fairly successful here. Were you affected by the changes and if so what are your thoughts on them?

March-16 Patronage

March was definitely mad for many bus and train users with the annual surge in usage resulting in many reporting full services – which in the case of buses often resulting in having to wait for a number to go past before one with enough space to squeeze on came along. Infact it was so mad AT even roped in other operators like Party Bus to help provide extra capacity. However, a number of factors – such as having Easter in March – meant that for buses at least, the month won’t go down in the record books. There were however still some good results on the city’s trains and ferries.

2016-03 - Total Patronage

In total patronage was down slightly by 2.8% however taking Easter and special events like the Cricket World Cup last year in to account it would have been up 1.6%. What isn’t mentioned anywhere in the AT reports is any impact the fare changes at the end of February may have had.

2016-03 - Patronage Table

The fall in patronage was led by buses which in March were down 5.8% compared to March last year, a fairly substantial change. When AT normalise the usage to take into account the unique factors they say it would still have been down 2.2%. But in addition to the normal factors, they say changes to bus stops late last year as part of the first stage of City Rail Link changes also had an impact on usage and had they not occurred, patronage would have been slightly up. They also say they expect to see some recovery in these figures in April. I certainly hope that happens as March is the third consecutive month that patronage has fallen compared to the same time last year.

Despite the factors that negatively impacted on patronage, the solid growth in train use in the past few years has continued – although those factors tempered it a bit. For the month train trips were up 4.7% but AT say taking the other factors into account would have seen it up 13.8%. The underlying growth has remained solid with the average number of trips each business day rising by around 10,000 per day or 17.3%. Given the pattern seen last year with weekday usage, this suggests we should continue to see strong rail growth this year too. As we already know, we passed 16 million trips in early April.

2016-03 - Rail Weekday

One thing that will definitely be helping rail usage is the significant improvement in performance since going all electric in July last year. In March 98.9% arrived at their final destination and of those 95.1% did so within 5 minutes of the timetable.

Ferries are also doing well with the number of trips up 9.2% compared to last March and it would have been up 11.2% without the likes of Easter.

 

In addition to the overall patronage, there are some other interesting metrics in the monthly stats report.

  • The latest quarterly satisfaction results are available and show a mixed bag with trains up, buses flat and ferries down compared when last measured in December. Buses and ferries are also down compared to March last year.

2016-03 - PT Satisfaction

  • There is a two-month lag on the financial metrics but they show PT and especially rail continuing to improve. Farebox recovery which is mandated by the NZTA to reach 50% by June 2018 reached 49.6% and that is primarily being driven by a relatively rapid improvement in rail performance. As this month’s result won’t be seen till we get the April figures, it will be interesting to see what impact the falling bus patronage and change in fares at the end of February has had.

2016-03 - Farebox

  • HOP usage also improved in March hitting 80% for the first time on trains and buses not far behind on 78%

2016-03 - HOP Usage

There are a number of things that will boost patronage in coming months.

  • According to AT’s journey planner, the Western Line will go to 10 minute peak and 20 minute inter-peak frequencies – matching the southern and eastern line – on May 9
  • At the end of July AT will introduce integrated fares which along with making multiple trips using PT easier, is also likely reduce the cost for many people. AT staff are seeking board approval for the prices in the closed session of the board meeting later this week.
  • HOP usage should continue to improve as all SuperGold card trips will have to be made by HOP card from July onwards (via a concession)
  • AT are also planning to improve the frequency of the Northern Express from Silverdale in late June, shifting from 15 to 10 minute peak frequencies which they say is in response to high patronage growth and insufficient capacity.
  • The new bus network for South Auckland along with the Otahuhu bus/train interchange is still on track to go live in October.

Cycleways and T2 lanes – Wellington’s latest ideas seem to miss the bus lanes

This is a guest post from Wellington contributor Andy C who has previously written about the capital’s laneways.

Last year I wrote a post about Wellington’s so called Bus Rapid Transport system. In the comments a reader wrote how they would like to see more bus lanes in Wellington and gave some suggestions. So this post looks at one of those suggestions in a little more detail.

As some may know, the Wellington City Council has just finished consultation on improving the shared cycle path along the Old Hutt Road – a 3km long stretch of road. They are also asking about introducing peak hour T2 lanes there.

That consultation covers the area in the red circle below and calls for a wider shared cycle and walking path on the right hand side of the road. It also asks about introducing T2 lanes during peak hours.

Andy - BusBike Consultation

According to their consultation documents this is one of the most used cycle paths in Wellington (around 400 southbound cyclists hour at peak compared with around 2,000 southbound vehicles with 2,500 people in them an hour at peak). And at peak time it has 40 – 45 buses an hour run along it. To give you an idea of how congested it can get, the northbound bus time for this 3km stretch ranges from a fast 5 minutes, to a very slow 26 minutes.

According to the consultation documents; ‘buses carry a comparable number of people as motor vehicles along the corridor even though the number of buses is a very small fraction of the number of motor vehicles.’

Based on that, I personally submitted on making the proposed T2 lanes full time bus lanes for two hours at peak. Firstly because they are already moving almost as many people as the cars, and secondly because adding bus priority in this way should act as an incentive to get more people out of cars and into the congestion-free options.

Sadly the Council documents say the current level of vehicle traffic is too much for only one lane. I find this odd given that we are about to get a whole new northbound traffic lane on the urban motorway that exactly replicates this stretch of road. But it seems we will keep adding traffic lanes and not bus priority down here as part of the Wellington way…

Anyway, having taken the bus this way quite a bit lately I’ve actually come to the conclusion that the easiest way of improving bus times along the road is not necessarily what they are consulting on, but is the stretch circled in yellow on my map – Thorndon Quay.

The photo below was taken at 5.30pm on a Thursday evening recently, and as you can see, with only one lane for traffic things can get pretty congested. In fact, some evenings I can walk faster than the traffic along here, and when I cycle there is no comparison at all.

Andy - Bus Lane Missing

As you can see, there are a huge number of empty angle parks along the street. I estimate that the street ranges between 20 and 30m wide along its whole stretch. So to put it simply: if people are not using the car parks at peak time then surely we can use this road space for another use that will help all commuters – peak hour bus lanes.

From the railway station to the overbridge from Aotea Quay is 1.8km. Imagine peak hour bus lanes the full length of that road (with the exception of the intersection with Tinakori Rd where buses would probably have to merge with traffic for 30m or so). And then see what it does to patronage and timeliness.

Now I’m not traffic engineer, but when you have huge unused road space as we do here, and buses struck in general traffic, then the solution seems pretty simple. So come on Wellington City Council – take the plunge and run a three month trial and measure the time savings. I bet you’ll be surprised by how much this will improve bus times.

So what do you think? Is this a realistic plan? And where else you think we can easily introduce more bus lanes in Wellington?

Addendum: The morning after I wrote this, the local paper ran a front page piece using some fairly emotive language, claiming that Wellington’s next big cycleway fight is brewing on Hutt Rd, and it’s already drawing comparisons to the Island Bay saga. I found myself struggling to take the article too seriously when one of the people quoted was worried about it [the road] becoming congested once it was reduced to a single lane (fact: the road is remaining the same size with four traffic lanes) and another wanted a path on the along the edge of Wellington Harbour instead (fact: the Council have already explained this option will be six-times more expensive and will not easily connect to the other paths around here). So if that is the nature of the debate on a road where almost no one lives, then maybe my bus lane suggestion won’t be welcomed by many…

 

Editorial note: Since sending this to me a few days ago a review of Wellington’s cycleways has now been announced. Seriously Wellington, sort your priorities out. If Auckland can implement cycleways and bus lanes then you’ve got no excuse.

The Future of Lake Rd

It doesn’t seem to take much to get residents along the Devonport Peninsula to quickly cursing Lake Rd and over the years I’ve seen many comments across all forms of media and politicians calling for the road to be upgraded as a priority – and by upgraded the implication is for it to be widened. One such example is below from a month ago.

But Devonport-Takapuna Local Board member Jan O’Connor said Belmont was not an apartment area.

Building that number of extra homes would have a major impact on the already congested Lake Rd, the only route in and out of the peninsula, O’Connor said.

“Our board has really opposed any redevelopment until the Lake Road issue is addressed,” she said.

“It’s been like this for many years, it’s not something that’s just cropped up.”

Local residents Lesley and Myles Opie said the old navy housing area was a “shambles” and needed upgrading, but over 300 new homes would create unmanageable traffic.

“It’s going to be a massive increase in cars,” Myles Opie said.

As an aside, the 300-350 homes Ngati Whatua plan to build would represent just a ~3.5% increase over what’s on the peninsula now. Compared to the levels of growth in many other parts of the city that’s a tiny change. There is also not a huge amount of growth allowed for within the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan.

Some other examples from a quick google search include this, this and this.

A lot of the commenters have also blamed the painted cycle lanes for causing congestion problems on Lake Rd even though the addition of lanes in the late 2000’s didn’t remove any vehicle lanes.

Those hoping for their own personal expressway up the peninsula are likely to be disappointed though if Auckland Transport’s plans for the corridor go ahead. They are about to start an Indicative Business Case to look at improvements along Lake Rd and that will build on the work already undertaken for the Corridor Management Plan which was completed in December 2014.

For some reason AT don’t publish their Corridor Management Plans (CMP) but they should be public in my view. However, the Lake Rd CMP was included in the agenda (27MB) for a meeting of the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board last month (unfortunately due to the way the document is uploaded the images are low quality and can be difficult to read). CMPs incorporate a wide range of factors to create a 30 year strategic management plan including what if any changes might be made.

Lake Rd CMP area

The Lake Rd CMP area

My first thought is well done AT (and consultants), the vision is fantastic and exactly the kind of thinking that is needed across so much of our urban area. So what does the Lake Rd CMP say?

Network Role

The network role of the corridor was determined through a workshop process with technical stakeholders drawn from Auckland Transport, Auckland Council and the NZ Transport Agency.

Cyclists and pedestrians have been identified as the highest priority along the entire length of the corridor given the existing popularity for cycling and walking for recreation and commuting purposes to work and schools, their potential for growth and strategic policies requiring their increased support.

Public Transport has been recognised also as a high priority along the northern half of Lake Road, given its future use as a frequent bus route and the ability for this mode to increase the person carrying capacity of the corridor. South of old Lake Road this priority drops back to low as this section of Lake Road services few buses (and no frequent route).

Traffic has been identified as medium priority along the length of the corridor. This level is not so much a reflection of existing or future demand, but rather a strategic choice to provide greater focus and support for active modes and public transport to maximise the people moving capacity of the corridor.

Freight is generally identified as low priority as there are comparative minor levels of industrial and commercial activity along the peninsula.

I’ll cover the modes a little more shortly but first here are some demand forecasts for the peninsula over 30 years.

Population and employment growth are far lower on than for the rest of Auckland. According to Stats NZ there are about 27,000 on the peninsula and there is expected to be less than 10% growth over 30 years.

Lake Rd CMP Land Use

PT and Active modes are also expected to grow at a much faster rate than general traffic – although they start from lower levels.

Lake Rd CMP Transport Demand

Here are the strategies for each mode.

Pedestrians:

They say “a significant proportion of the land is relatively flat and with a well-connected grid of side streets in comparison to many other parts of Auckland” and that there are a wide range of destinations that are often in a short proximity to each other and so highly walkable. The plan includes increasing the frequency and quality of crossing opportunities, widened footpaths where there are current deficiencies, removal of shared paths where separated cycle-lanes can be installed and improved amenity elements (tree planting etc.)

 

Lake Rd CMP Walking

Cycling:

AT have recognised that the painted cycle lanes are not great for many people who may want to bike such as those less confident on the road and children. They are proposing to substantially improve them including separating them from traffic where possible.

 

Lake Rd CMP Cycling

Public Transport:

Public transport will be improved through high quality, better spaced and located stops and transit lanes where possible. While not part of the Lake Rd CMP, the map includes a potential bus bridge across Upper Shoal Bay connecting Akoranga to Takapuna which comes from a previous study into transport for Takapuna but they say would be relevant for the Lake Rd CMP.

Lake Rd CMP PT

General Traffic, freight and parking:

Due to the focus on active and PT modes there is very little suggested to change conditions for general traffic. They say that a substantial upgrade to traffic capacity such as four laning the section between Jutland Road and Bayswater Ave is unlikely to be appropriate, citing the high cost relative to benefits as well as the impacts on other modes and urban amenity.

Lake Rd already has low levels of on street parking. The CMP says it recommends retaining parking on the street through the Belmont local centre to “provide support to the economic viability and success of this local centre” but also say the design needs to be balanced with the objective of achieving continuous cycle lanes through Belmont shops junction.

Lake Rd CMP General Traffic

Urban Design amenity and place-making:

They say that while some parts of Lake Rd have retained their heritage landscape qualities, the rest of Lake Rd would benefit from regular street tree planting although that needs to avoid compromising the footpath width. They also say it would bring a number of benefits transport-wise such as visually narrowing the street corridor, thereby slowing traffic and providing a buffering for footpaths and potentially cycle lanes from moving traffic. Trees would also enhance residential property values and the local centre functions at Hauraki corner and Belmont Shops.

The CMP divides up Lake Rd into six distinctive segments each with its own strategy. The preferred spatial allocations for each segment are also shown.

Lake Rd CMP Corridor Segments

Segment A – Esmonde Rd to Jutland Rd

Lake Rd CMP Segment A

Segment B – Jutland Rd to Bayswater Ave

Lake Rd CMP Segment B

Segment C – Bayswater Ave to old Lake Rd

Lake Rd CMP Segment C

Segment D – Old Lake Rd to Seabreeze Rd

Lake Rd CMP Segment D

Segment E – Seabreeze Rd to Ariho Tce

Lake Rd CMP Segment E

Segment F – Ariho Tce to Albert Rd

Lake Rd CMP Segment F

Sections B-D are all essentially the same and an potential alternative version for them is below. The CMP says this would have greater benefits for walkers and cyclists plus urban amenity but would also likely have higher costs due to requiring kerbs, drainage and other utilities to be moved.

Lake Rd CMP Segment B-D Altnerate

At the Belmont shops the CMP gives two potential plans for how to improve either bikes or buses. Both would see the slip lanes removed and the angle parking on the eastern side of the road replaced by parallel parking. The differences between the two are both south of Bayswater Ave, one having a transit lane with a shared path and one having a single lane with a protected cycle lane.

Lake Rd CMP Belmont Shops

Overall the CMP looks great and would really help in turning Lake Rd into a complete St that catered for everyone.

As mentioned AT are about to start an indicative business case which will build on the CMP. This week the local board will decide on its feedback on the scope for it, the main components of which are listed as:

  • assessment of potential transit lanes to improve people-carrying capacity of Lake Road;
  • assessment of better pedestrian and cycle facilities within the peninsula to encourage more short trips by foot or bike;
  • analysis of intersection improvements to optimise traffic flows within the peninsula; and
  • analysis on travel behaviour change opportunities, to reduce and better manage bulk movements within the peninsula.

Given there’s so much else that needs to be done around the region, much of it in areas with far higher growth I’m not sure of the priority of upgrading Lake Rd but at least the thinking on what would be done is heading in the right direction, perhaps just not quite the direction some locals might expect.

City Bus changes for tomorrow

The City Rail Link gets a step closer tomorrow as the next round of changes for the city centre kick in as work ramps up to the start of construction.

The biggest changes will see all of the bus stops around Britomart move.

Changes are coming to bus services in downtown Auckland from this Sunday 17 April.

Construction work is about to start on the City Rail Link (CRL) and this affects bus services on Albert St and lower Queen St in particular.

AT Metro Bus Services Manager, Brendon Main says Auckland Transport is moving bus stops now to minimise disruption to passengers.

“Some parts of the downtown area are being closed off so we are have to move some buses. On our website we have set-up an interactive map which will help people find if their service is affected and where it departs from.”

Auckland Transport also has signs at bus stops in the area and will have ambassadors at stops to help customers.

Mr Main says Auckland Transport wants to make it as easy as possible for passengers but this is a big change and will need some patience.

“The CRL is the biggest construction programme ever in the central city so there will be some disruption during the construction phase. At the same time there is a lot of building work going on in Albert St so the buses will have to work around this.

“All we can ask is that people follow the signage and talk to ambassadors so that we can make this as easy as possible for our customers.”

The changes to routes and stops are shown below

Arriving

CRL Bus changes map arrival

Departing

CRL Bus changes map departure

There are a few other changes to such as to the 020/005 and 991x/992x routes. There is also an interactive map showing where stops are moving from/to.

I’m sure there is bound to be some confusion and teething issues while these changes bed in so I won’t be surprised to hear about issues come Monday morning but hopefully the issues will be minor.

Perhaps somewhat ironically (or depending on your view perhaps appropriately), as one of the biggest supporters of the CRL I’m also one of the most impacted by these changes. I work in Takapuna and pass through the city to get there. The first round of changes back in October last year removed direct buses to Takapuna from near Britomart resulting in me requiring an additional transfer to get to/from work and now buses from Britomart will be a little further away. But as frustrating as it can be at times, I’m also acutely aware of just how important and transformation the CRL will be.

In addition to bus stop changes, also going live tomorrow are (finally) bus lanes on Queen St which turned green 1-2 days ago.

Other recent changes include the closure of the underpass at Britomart which needs to be removed so the CRL tunnels can be built. It’s not being reinstated as after the CRL is finished the space outside the station will be a public plaza so there will be no buses to dodge.

Britomart Underpass Closed

I’m looking forward to the actual construction work starting. I’m not sure just yet of the exact date but I believe it is likely to be within the next month or so. I believe the demolition of the Downtown Shopping mall starts early June.

Combined with all of the other work going on in the city it’s certainly a busy time.

Draft Preferred future urban networks

Yesterday we saw the feedback on the first consultation from the Transport for Urban Growth piece of work that AT/NZTA are currently undertaking. Now the next more detailed round of consultation has started and they’ve released their draft preferred transport networks. By in large the networks are very close to including most of what was initially consulted on. One thing that they haven’t given any indication on is what the timing will

The websites for each of the three main areas also gives a little bit of information as to how they’ve responded to the feedback received and for each of the key areas there is also a more detailed map which is on the AT website. In all of the maps below the mode/intervention uses the same colour scheme, Red = Rail, Green = Bus, Blue = Road, Gold = Safety improvements.

South

In the south it’s good to see AT specifically mention electrification to Pukekohe as that was something no mention was made of in the earlier consultation. It’s something we can only hope gets the go ahead soon as it seems fairly critical to some of the other parts of the plan for the South including a bunch of new stations and better services. On the roads the massive Mill Rd corridor is set to march on all the way to Pukekohe. The biggest omission from compared to the first consultation seems to be an east-west route from Pukekohe to SH1.

In this transport network, a key focus is increasing access to public transport, with more capacity and a well-connected rapid transit network at its heart. This would include electric trains to Pukekohe, express trains, new stations and rapid transit links, for example between the airport, Manukau, Flat Bush and Botany and a high frequency bus route between Drury and Manukau.

The plan focuses on great access to jobs, town centres and recreation within south Auckland and links to the wider region.

Another key focus for the south would be an extension of the Mill Road corridor from Manukau to Papakura and Drury. This would help improve safety, provide improved access to new growth areas and provide an additional north-south route. Connected to the Mill Road corridor is a new route to Pukekohe to improve safety or reduce congestion on SH22. An interchange with SH1 will also be further investigated at Drury South.

We’ve also identified further work is needed on how better connections between Waikato and Auckland can be provided.

TFUG - Draft Preferred Plan - South

North

The North looks like a much bigger roads fest compared to the with almost all of the proposed roads from the earlier consultation included in this consultation. For PT the busway will be the heart of the system in the area and s being both physically extended by going to Grand Dr but also and with more stations too.

At the heart of the network is the extension of the rapid transit network (RTN) by linking Albany to Dairy Flat, Silverdale, Wainui and Grand Drive.

Additional stations along the RTN would become hubs for extended public transport services into the growth areas and Orewa, providing fast and efficient access to employment, town centres and residential areas.

Dedicated walking and cycling networks linking to public transport hubs would provide a range of options to get to work or for leisure. New and upgraded arterial roads running both eastwest and north-south would improve connections and safety through the area as well.

Capacity would also be increased on State Highway 1 (SH1). An interchange incorporating both Dairy Flat and Penlink will be investigated to see if it would alleviate access from bottlenecks at Silverdale further north.

TFUG - Draft Preferred Plan - North

Northwest

Like the others it appears that almost all of projects from the earlier consultation have made it through to this round. Perhaps the most interesting aspect is AT say they’ll do some more to look at the costs and benefits of extending rail to Huapai – although the website also suggests it could be compared to electric rail.

A key focus of the draft network is on providing high capacity public transport networks to move people efficiently and reliably between the places they want to go. This includes a rapid transport network (RTN) adjacent to the SH16 and SH18 to and from Kumeu, Westgate through to the city and the North Shore. Park and ride facilities are also identified to provide access to these services.

Further investigations are proposed on the extension of electric trains to Huapai to assess benefits and costs. Initial work shows a RTN along SH16 will have faster journey times and serve a wider catchment.

Another key focus is improving the safety and capacity of SH16 north of Westgate and the major arterials that intersect it. To help address congestion as the area grows and keep the Kumeu and Huapai centres as safe, local community-focused environments, an alternative through-route to SH16 is proposed.

A direct motorway to motorway connection between SH16 and SH18, improvements to Brigham Creek Road, and upgrade to the Coatesville-Riverhead Highway and arterial road networks in Whenuapai and Red Hills are also identified. The feasibility of a range of different types of interchanges at Northside Drive and Squadron Drive will also be investigated. Dedicated walking and cycling paths connecting to public transport and existing cycle routes also feature.

TFUG - Draft Preferred Plan - Northwest

TFUG consultation results

You may recall recently the consultation that took place for the piece of work AT/NZTA call Transport for Urban Growth (TFUG). Essentially over 2 Hamilton’s worth of people/homes are expected to be added to the fringes of Auckland in the North, North-west and South over the coming ~30 years. To accommodate that there will need to be significant public investment all forms of infrastructure and the two transport agencies say they are trying to work out what high level transport infrastructure will be needed now so it can be used for future planning and funding processes.

Today the Council’s Development Committee has an item on its agenda looking at the results from the initial consultations. Supposedly this has been fed into the next more detailed stage of consultation due to start tomorrow – but there are no details for that yet. Given how long it normally seems to take for AT to respond to consultation feedback, the whole process has a bit of a pre-determined feel to it.

There are over 160 pages in the consultation report so I’m only going to stick to the high level results. There is a very clear theme throughout the results of people really wanting much of the focus on public transport.

The South

In the South a lot of the focus included the level of use of the rail network and extending Mill Rd potentially all the way to Pukekohe as an alternative North/South road corridor.

TFUG Potential Projects South Auckland

From the 98 submissions there was a strong support for various improvements to PT in the area.

  • Improvements to public transport services in the area were considered highly desirable. In particular there was a call for improvements in rail services, including introduction of express services, extension of the rail network beyond Pukekohe, additional stations along the existing route (eg. at Paerata), further electrification of the network through to Pukekohe and beyond and more park and ride facilities. There was a clear preference to spend money and invest on public transport in the area and rail, rather than bus services, was seen as the key focus.
  • Support for improvements to public transport services came from both residents and businesses.
  • There was also support for improved road connections to reduce congestion on the Southern Motorway, such as by providing an alternative north-south route (eg. to the airport and the west via Weymouth and/or extension of the Mill Road corridor), or widening of the existing Southern Motorway. Reducing travel times was considered the highest priority and an alternative route was preferred as the best way to improve roads to achieve this. Others suggested that increasing rail freight services in the area would reduce the number of trucks needed to move freight by road and in the area, therefore helping to address congestion.
  • While most comments and most comments and feedback focussed on public transport and road networks, there was a small number of comments regarding improvements to walking and cycling facilities in the area, including pedestrian and cycle access and connections to railway stations.
  • Many participants were sceptical that only 20% of morning peak work trips would be further north than Manukau and the Airport trip data collected as part of the consultation suggested the Auckland CBD is a key destination for those living in the south.

One of the interesting features about the consultations was the use of a wallet that allowed people to divvy up $100 of spending across each of the proposed projects. Here are the results.

TFUG Feedback - Spend - South

The North (Silverdale,Wainui), Dairy Flat)

In the north the focus was also on North/South routes with a number suggested along with extending the busway to Silverdale and possibly beyond.

TFUG Potential Network - Dairy Flat-Millwater

Again public transport improvements received the most support from the 100 submissions received. A summary is below.

  • There was a call for improvements to public transport services the area, particularly to bus services. Many people living in the area would prefer to travel by bus and wanted to see bus that were efficient, affordable and well-connected. Specific improvements included more frequent and express services, separate busways and bus lanes, extension of the Northern Busway and local bus feeder services. Increasing at park and ride facilities was identified as a key issue There was a desire to see heavy or light rail in the area and increased ferry services.
  • There was a sense that many participants felt transport networks and infrastructure were behind housing growth and development the area, further contributing to existing traffic issues. Improvements to public transport were seen as key to alleviating some of the current congestion.
  • Recommendations for improvements to road networks focussed on improvements to routes (eg widening State Highway 1, additional on/off-ramps), as well as east-west routes such as Penlink. Safety was also highlighted as an issue on roads in the Dairy Flat area. Strong links to through roads and motorways was considered a key focus for business areas.
  • The Auckland CBD and Albany were key destinations tor people Wing in the Silverdale, Wainui and Dairy Flat areas.
  • There was notable support for improvements to walking and cycling facilities in the area, such as separate cycle lanes and widening of roads to make them safer for cyclists and footpaths in places where people are currently forced to walk along main highways

And the spending priorities:

TFUG Feedback - Spend - North

The North (Warkworth)

In Warkworth the focus of the consultation was almost exclusively on a range of roading projects.

TFUG Potential Network - Warkworth

Warkworth bucked the trend of the other consultations and was the only one where people wanted the biggest focus to be on road improvements. Given the town is much more disconnected from Auckland than say Pukekohe, this isn’t all that surprising. A summary of the findings from the 169 submissions received.

  • For this part of north, improvements to roads in the area was the highest priority, In particular. participants wanted to see improvements to the Hill Street and reduced congestion generally, particularly in Warkworth itself and on Matakana Road. Addressing particularly around the Hill Street intersection. was considered a matter of urgency and one of the main ways to make the area a great place to live. This was considered a priority by both residents and businesses. East-west were considered a lower priority.
  • Recommendations to address in the area Western Collector bypass, the Matakana Link to access to Elizabeth Street, changes to traffic light phasing and/or the intersection a roundabout instead. A Matakana Link Road extension in particular had a hotel level of support from locals in this part of the north.
  • Public transport improvements were considered a priority, but secondary to improvements to road networks. Primarily, residents called tor improvements to bus services (such as regular bus services, new bus stations and bus service connections to the Northern Busway) and adequate park and facilities.
  • Good walking and connections were also desired by participants. This included provision of footpaths in areas not currently served by them, wider and better quality footpaths and cycle paths.
  • The Auckland CBD is a key destination for those living in the Warkworth area, followed by local trips within Warkworth and Abany. There was a preference for making journeys by car or bus.

And the spending priorities:

TFUG Feedback - Spend - Warkworth

The North-West

The Northwest was different to the others in that it presented quite a few potential PT options and of course some road upgrades too to SH16 beyond Westgate.

TFUG Potential Network - Northwest

Like in the South and around Silverdale, the biggest response from the 254 submitters was for better PT as the highest priority. That trains to Huapai came out as the top request doesn’t surprise me as it’s something that sounds good as a soundbite.

  • Public transport improvements are considered the key priority in the north west. In particular, participants called for re-introduction of a commuter train service from Kumeu/Huapai (and potentially as far as Waimauku and Helensville) to the CBD. Participants wanted to see a train service that was frequent, reliable and fast, with a timetable that met resident needs (eg. at convenient times tor commuters to the CBD). There was also considerable support for improved bus services, including express bus services and shorter journey times, separate busways and bus lanes, extension of the Northwestern busway to Kumeu/Huapai and bus services to locations such as Riverhead. Re-introduction of rail and improvements to public transport generally received support from both residents and businesses.
  • Alongside public transport improvements, participants wanted to see accompanying park and ride facilities with sufficient capacity.
  • Secondary to public transport improvements, improvements to road networks in the area was considered a priority to reduce congestion and improve traffic flow.
    Recommendations included extending the North Western Motorway, widening the motorway and/or State Highway 16, bypassing Kumeu/Huapai, a direct connection between State Highway 16 and State 18 and improvements to intersections (eg. at the Coatseville-Riverhead Highway) to reduce congestion and improve safety.
  • Many participants mentioned that improvements to in the area needed to happen urgently, given that infrastructure is already to cope and the population the area is to grow
  • Improvements to walking and cycling facilities, particularly in the Whenuapai area.
  • The Auckland CBD was the key in the area, followed by Albany and Westgate/North West Mall. There was a preference for wanting to make journeys by train or bus

And the spending priorities:

TFUG Feedback - Spend - North-west

It’ll be interesting to see what the next stage of consultation includes.