ANZAC Day Dawn Service PT options

AT are putting on a few PT services so that people can reach  the ANZAC day dawn ceremony. The good news is that for the first time that includes being able to catch a train there (plus a little bit of a walk). The details are on AT’s website. The dawn service starts at 6am.

  • A Saturday timetable will be in place for all bus services with additional Inner LINK and Northern Express services provided for the ANZAC Day Dawn service from 4:30am
  • Inner LINK buses will operate approximately every 15 minutes (clockwise and anti-clockwise) from 4.45am to 6.30am. From 6.30am the services will operate to the normal Saturday timetable. These services operate to Auckland Museum in the Domain, linking Newmarket with additional rail services and Britomart for Northern Express and rail.
  • Additional Northern Express services will operate from Albany to Britomart at 4.30am, 5.00, 5.30 and 6.00. The normal Saturday timetable resumes from 6.30am.
  • If you have a Veteran’s SuperGold card, SuperGold card or RSA membership you can travel free all day on any Metrolink, Waka Pacific, North Star, GO WEST or any LINK bus.
  • One additional early morning train per line to Newmarket from:
    • Swanson departing 4:15
    • Papakura departing 4:07
    • Manukau departing 4:05 (travels direct to Newmarket)
    • Onehunga departing 4:15
    • Britomart departing 4:50
    • All timed to arrive at Newmarket before 5:00am.
  • Western Line train services travel to Grafton station on Park Rd, which is a 10-15 minute walk to the Auckland Domain. For Southern/Eastern Line services the closest station to the Auckland Domain is the Newmarket station, which is a 15-20 minute walk to the Domain but remember you can take an Inner LINK bus from Newmarket or Britomart to the Domain.
  • A normal Saturday timetable will be in place for ferry services. Travel on all train and ferry services is free for SuperGold cardholders all day.

For full details of public transport on the day: and for more information about the Dawn Service:

There will however be disruptions to some services later in the day for the various parades around the region and the details of those are here.

City Centre Investment Map

The last five years have seen Auckland change dramatically for the better. If you were in the city then you wouldn’t have found any of the shared spaces, much of the area surrounding Britomart was still run down and unused and Wynyard Quarter as a people place didn’t exist. While we’ve already seen a lot of change the next 10 years promises even more and much of it – such as the CRL – will fundamentally alter Auckland for the better.

In fact there is so much going on in Auckland’s City Centre right now that it’s starting to resemble a sand pit. There are a huge number of publicly and privately funded improvements happening. Importantly they are leveraging off each other to make Auckland a more liveable and attractive place. That’s good for Auckland’s economy which in turn is good for the entire nation. It also bears reminding that the changes and growth that’s occurred in recent years hasn’t spelt doom on the regions roads as all the growth in travel to the centre has happened not on in cars but via PT and active modes.

To highlight all of the known changes that are planned or desired for the next decade the council have created a map showing all the ones they know about (there are bound to be more appear over that time – especially private developments). Note: not all of these projects have funding confirmed yet so not all might happen. Click to enlarge the images or go here for the PDF version (2.6MB).

City Centre Projects April 2015

City Centre Projects April 2015 Legend

There are of course a few things missing from this map. A few I noticed quickly are AT’s Light Rail plans, Cycle lanes on Pitt St as part of the Nelson St Cycleway and cyclelanes on Karangahape Rd as part of the city centre priority routes.

The major criticism I can see in all of this is that the map is focused on the city centre. That’s understandable seeing as it’s come from the city centre integration group however perhaps the council should create an interactive version for the entire region. It could show what’s going on and how projects like the CRL benefit the entire region.

I’m looking forward to the changes that planned. It should make the city centre a much more vibrant and interesting and liveable place.

What’s with ‘The Void’?

Could Auckland have something like this running on a couple of major city routes before this decade is out? The AT board is to decide later this month how to proceed with its Light Rail plan and with what sort of pace. Everybody it seems loves trams, but why now and why there? What problem are they addressing? In a follow-up post I will discuss the financial side of the proposal.

CAF Urbos Light Rail for Utrecht

CAF Urbos Tram recently ordered by Utrecht

First of all lets have a look at Auckland’s situation in general terms. Auckland is at a particular but quite standard point in its urban development: 1.5 million people is a city. The fifth biggest in Australasia; behind Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth. But on the location with the tightest natural constraints of the group; squeezed by harbours, coasts, ranges, and productive and/or swampy farmland, it shares the highest density of the group with Sydney in its built up area. And is growing strongly. It also has the poorest Transit network of the group and consequently the lowest per capita Transit modeshare [although the fastest improving one].

So these three factors scale, growth, and density are all combining to create some serious pressure points that require fresh solutions especially on existing transport routes, and particularly on the harbour constrained city isthmus.

This pressure is on all transport infrastructure, at every scale from footpaths [eg Central City, Ponsonby Road]; the desire for safe cycling routes; on the buses, trains, and ferries; to road space for trucks and tradies, and of course road and street space for private vehicle users. Transit demand in particular is going through the roof and this is way ahead of population growth and traffic demand growth, especially at the higher quality Rapid Transit type of service where growth over the last year has been at an atsonishing 20%.

This is to be expected in a city of Auckland’s current state as Transit demand typically accelerates in advance of population in cities of a certain size, because of the universal laws of urban spatial geometry, as explained here by Jarrett Walker;

This problem is mathematically inevitable.  

As cities grow, and especially as they grow denser, the need for transit generally rises faster than population, at least in the range of densities that is common in North America.  This is completely obvious if you think about it, and I stepped through it in more detail in Chapter 10 of Human Transit.  In brief: Suppose a particular square mile of the city doubles in population.  Transit demand would double because there are twice as many people for whom transit is competing.  But independently of that, if density is higher, each person is likely to find transit more useful, because (a) density creates more disincentives to driving and car ownership while (b) density makes it easier for transit agencies to provide abundant and useful service.   Those two separate impacts of density on transit, multiplied together, mean that transit demand is rising faster than population. Again, go to my book for a more extended and thorough argument.

And that this means that the infrastructure needs of our growing city is likely to be ‘lumpy’. Big long lasting kit that is costly and disruptive to build become suddenly urgent:

As transit demand grows in a growing city, it hits crisis points where the current infrastructure is no longer adequate to serve the number of people who want to travel.  Several major subway projects now in development are the result of transit’s overwhelming success using buses.  I’m thinking, for example, of Second Avenue in New York, Eglinton in Toronto, Wilshire in Los Angeles,  Broadway in Vancouver, and Stockton-Columbus in San Francisco.

Broadway, for example, has local buses running alongside express buses, coming as often as every 3 minutes peak hours, and they are all packed.  In that situation, you’ve done just about everything you can with buses, so the case for a rail project is pretty airtight.   In all of the cases I mention, the rail project usually has to be a subway, because once an area is that dense, it is difficult to commandeer enough surface street space, and we tend to have strong aesthetic objections to elevated lines in these contexts.

As driving amenity is very mature in Auckland there is very little opportunity to add significant driving capacity to streets and roads to much of the city at any kind of cost, and certainly not without a great deal of destruction of the built environment. This has long been the case so in a desire to solve capacity and access issues with a driving only solution we did spend the second half of the last century bulldozing large swathes of the Victorian inner suburbs into to make room for this spatially very hungry mode. This solution is no longer desirable nor workable. Below is an image showing the scar of the Dominion Rd extension citywards and the still extant Dom/New North Rd flyover. These were to be the beginning of a motorway parallel to Dominion rd to ‘open up’ or ‘access’ the old isthmus suburbs.

1963, Dominion Rd flyover in the foreground

1963, Dominion Rd flyover in the foreground

Where we can’t nor want to build ever wider roads we can of course add that needed capacity though the higher capacity and spatial efficiency of Transit. Most easily with buses and bus lanes. There are also potential significant gains to made at the margins by incentivising the Active modes with safe routes especially to Transit stations and schools and other local amenity.

However as Jarrett Walker describes above there comes a point where buses, through their own success, cannot handle the demand as the number of vehicles required start to become both less efficient and more disruptive than is desirable. At this point demand can only be met with higher capacity systems with clearer right of ways. Such systems require expensive permanent infrastructure and are never undertaken lightly.  The CRL, being underground, clearly fits this definition and is due to begin in earnest in the new year. And although the physical work and all of the disruption of the CRL build occurs in the Centre City, the capacity and frequency improvements are to the entire rail network, and therefore much of the city: West, East, and South.

But not everywhere. Not the North Shore, not the North West, and not in ‘the Void’, as AT call it, the isthmus area between the Western and Southern Lines. Shown below in purple with the post CRL Rapid Transit Network. This area has a fairly solid and quite consistent density, housing about the same number of people as West Auckland, around 150,000. Note also the South Eastern Busway [AMETI] plugging directly into Panmure is very much a kind of rail extension for the Transit-less South-East, as is the Manukau spur further south.

RTN Void

The Void

These three major areas will still be relying on buses. The CRL, New Bus Network, and Integrated Fares will enable and incentivise more bus-to-train transfers that expand the reach of the core rail network and that this will help limit the numbers of buses going on all the way to the city. But this is primarily for the South, South-East, and West of New Lynn, there will still be an ever increasing number of  buses with from the remaining areas converging on the City Centre. AT calculates that we need to act now to cut the bus numbers from at least one of these major sources to leave room for growth from the others, and all the other users and uses of city streets. [More detail on this in Matt’s previous post, here].

The North Western is currently getting more bus priority with the motorway widening, and hopefully proper stations at Pt Chevalier, Te Atatu, and Lincoln Rd [although NZTA and/or the government are showing little urgency with this aspect of the route]. Also priority improvements to Great North Rd and further west too. The North Shore is the only one of the three with a Rapid Transit system [which also should be being extended now], and while there is still plenty of capacity on the Busway itself, like the other routes these buses are constrained once in the city. This leaves the very full and frequent ‘Void’ bus routes as the ones to address with another solution first.

So essentially LRT for this area has been selected because of the need:

  • for higher capacity and efficiency on core Isthmus bus routes
  • to reduce bus numbers on these routes and especially in the central city
  • adds Queen St as an additional high capacity North-South city route
  • for extra capacity both before and after CRL is operational
  • to address Auckland Plan air quality, carbon emissions, and resilience aims
  • to enable major public realm improvements along routes, especially Queen St

and possibly because:

  • it may be able to be financed as a PPP so helps smooth out the capital cost of building both projects [more on this in a follow up post]
Above is a schematic from AT showing the two proposed LRT branches. The western one leading to Queen St via Ian Mackinnon Drive from Dominion and Sandringham Roads, the eastern one down Symonds St from Manukau and Mt Eden Roads, some or all routes connecting through to Wynyard Quarter. More description in this post by Matt.
It is worth noting that this area, The Void, gets its very successful and desirable urban form from this very technology; these are our premier ‘tram-built’ suburbs. With all the key features; an efficient grid street pattern, mixed use higher density on the tram corridors, excellent walking shortcuts and desire lines. So what the old tram made the new tram can serve well too.
Auckland Isthmus tramlines

Auckland Isthmus tramlines

With all door boarding and greater capacity LRT will speed more people along these routes with fewer vehicles and lower staffing numbers. Frequency will actually drop from the current peak every 3 minutes down to 5 or 7 minutes [I’m guessing]. This along with the narrower footprint required by LRT is a big plus for other users of the corridor. But the huge gain in travel time comes from improvement to the right of way and intersection priority that can be delivered with the system. Stops are presumably to be at intersections, instead of midblock as buses are, so the passenger pick-ups are coordinated with traffic lights.
But best of all for this writer is that LRT is a tool to drive enormous and permanent place uplift. The removal of cars and buses from Queen St, improvements to New North and Dominion Rds, hopefully including that intersection itself, a fantastic new Dominion road with the potential for real uplift to premier status.  It will spur the redevelopment of the mixed uses zone all along Dominion Rd. This is real place quality transport investment. And all of course while moving thousands and thousands of people totally pollution free and with our own mostly renewably generated electrons. Breathing in the Queen St valley will become a fresh new experience.
Light Rail in Queen St 1 - Nilut
We all look forward to hearing the proposed details of the routes and of course the financials. I will follow up this post with my understanding of the thinking on this next.
Light Rail in Queen St 2 - Nilut
Finally it is very good to see that there is no dispute over the necessary solutions to Auckland’s access and place quality issues, just the details and timing. Auckland Transport’s map above is pretty much the same as our solution in the CFN. We are delighted that AT are planning for four light rail routes were we proposed one.
There are of course plenty of debates to had about further extensions to the Transit networks that this proposal invites; LRT in a tunnel from Wynyard to Onewa, Akoranga, and Takapuna? Then up the Busway? From Onehunga to through Mangere to the Airport? Along Grey Lynn’s apartment lined Great North Road, to Pt Chevalier, and the North Western? Panmure, Pakuranga, Botany, Manukau City Airport? Which of these need to be true grade separate Rapid Transit and for which are bus lanes or busways a more cost effective option? Are their others that would be better suited to extending the rail network? Is there enough density elsewhere in the city to justify other LRT routes?
CFN 2030 + Light Metro

Massive March Patronage

We were expecting public transport in March to be mad and throughout the month we certainly saw it living up to that expectation with daily reports of full services. Some people watched up to 12 full buses go past their stop before one with enough space arrived for them to squeeze on. On the parts of the rail network not yet served by electric trains services were also overflowing – and that was when they weren’t being cancelled or severely delayed.

Auckland Transport have today released the patronage results showing just how busy the month was and the results are astonishing. Across all modes there were an extra 1.1 million trip taken compared to March last year which at 15% is a huge increase. The annual result increased by 10% in comparison to the year to March 14. The results were helped by there being one extra business day plus events such as the Cricket World Cup, Volvo Ocean race and the Auckland Arts Festival.

2015-03 - AKL - Total Patronage

Once again the star performer was the rail network which increased by a massive 33%. At 1.56 million trips in the month we finally surpassed the one month record of October 2011 which was from during the Rugby World Cup (although we got very close in February). Patronage for the last year is now at 13.4 million (up 21%) and at this rate we could see it top 14 million by the end of the financial year in June.

2015-03 - AKL - Rail Patronage

Of course with rail patronage growth accelerating it continues to reinforce our view that we’ll likely hit the CRL patronage targets well in advance of the 2020 date set by the government. At this stage it’s still looking like it could be in 2017 that we cross the 20 million mark. I wonder what the Ministry of Transport will say about it in their next report due August which will use those June numbers.

2015-03 - AKL - Rail Patronage vs Govt Target-1

The other modes aren’t standing still either, bus patronage is also growing strongly. Patronage on the Northern Express is up over 14% and on other buses it is up over 11% compared to March last year. The 12 month figures are up 16.8% and 8.4% respectively. On ferries there was strong growth however the 12 month figure is still below its peak of mid-2012.

2015-03 - AKL - Bus Patronage

Lastly Auckland has now passed the milestone of 50 trips per capita per year (this accounts for population growth each month). That’s a good improvement from where we were a decade ago but well short of other cities. As a comparison Wellington has around 74 trips per capita while Perth has 80-90 per capita and Sydney about 130 per capita. Where do you think we’ll be in 10 years’ time? If the current growth can be continued – and with all the improvements planned then it should be possible – then around 80 trips per capita is not beyond the realms of possibility.

2015-03 - AKL - PT per capita

Here’s AT’s press release.

There’s been another big jump in the numbers using public transport in Auckland.

Annual patronage now exceeds 78 million boardings, an increase of 10%. In March there were 8.4 million boardings, a jump of more than 1 million on March 2014.

Auckland Transport chairman, Dr Lester Levy says it’s been a big year with increased services across rail and bus and the gradual replacement of the diesel trains with new electric models.

The big performer was rail which reached 13.4 million passenger trips for the year, an annual increase of 21%. March saw a monthly record high of 1.56 million train trips, an increase of 29% on March last year.

The growth is put down to the enhanced travel experience and additional capacity provided by the new electric trains and greater service frequency introduced over recent years.

Dr Levy says, “We’re moving to speed up the roll-out of the electric trains because we know Aucklanders want the extra capacity and the improved service that they provide.”

Auckland Transport is aiming to have a full electric network by the end of July except for the link between Papakura and Pukekohe which will continue to use diesel trains. These will be refurbished over time to provide an enhanced experience. The electric trains will provide improved travel experience and more capacity on the Southern and Western Lines.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown says the figures are good news for the City Rail Link.

“At this rate, Auckland will meet the Government’s threshold for financial support for the CRL three years early in 2017, three years earlier than predicted. Growth has been accelerating since late 2013.”

March was also a record breaking month on the Northern Express with patronage up almost 17% on the same month last year, the 12 month total reached 2.8 million.

It was also a record for other bus services as patronage rose 8% to 56.6 million. Ferry numbers for the year totalled 5.4 million trips, up 5% on an annual basis.

General Manager AT Metro, Mark Lambert, says growth on bus services is attributed to increased services and frequency, improving travel times from new bus priority lanes and a significant improvement in service punctuality being achieved by bus operators through new timetables. Further service level increases and punctuality improvements are planned for later this year along with the introduction of double decker buses on a number of routes. New network designs will also be introduced from later this year.

Meanwhile, Auckland Transport apologises for recent disruptions on the rail network including track and signal failures (operated by KiwiRail), mechanical breakdowns with the old diesel trains and staffing issues.

Mr Lambert says, “The new timetable from December 2014 introduced a 20% plus increase in services across the constrained Auckland rail network making it difficult to recover when there is an issue. We are working with the rail operator Transdev to speed-up the recovery time when unfortunately inevitable failures occur.”

What’s up with PTOM

Bus contracts might seem like a fairly boring topic to most people, but they can have a big impact on how our transport system operates – including, obviously, how much we as tax/ratepayers pay. In New Zealand we’re slowly moving towards a new contracting system known as the Public Transport Operating Model (PTOM). I’ll explain a bit more about what PTOM is shortly. According to the most recent Auckland Transport board reports, they are just awaiting approval on the contracts from the NZTA before they can start to tender routes using PTOM. However recent developments suggest a snag in those plans could be forming.

I spoke yesterday about Simon Bridges speech at Infratil’s latest investor day and other presentations suggest the company is no longer happy with PTOM. As they own one of the largest bus companies in NZ – as well as having a strong history of successful lobbying of the government – that could pose a significant risk to the whole process.

So what is PTOM? To understand it, you kind of need to understand the history of bus contracting in New Zealand.

Briefly, regulatory changes saw most of the public bus companies privatised in the early 90’s. The network was split up into commercial and contracted services, and a lot of the responsibility for planning was turned over to the various bus companies. Commercial services existed where the bus companies could provide a run commercially; however, where the local authorities wanted to run services that were not under a commercial agreement, they had to provide subsidies to do so. Because operators were able to cherry pick individual services on a route to be commercial it led to all sorts of issues, not least of which was some operators rorting the system to get extra subsidies. There were lots of other issues too such as explained in this cabinet paper on PTOM from October 2011.

As a comparison, some of the most common contracting methods used overseas are:

  • For the transit agency to own and run the buses themselves – this is something that not allowed in NZ. Christchurch gets around this because the bus company is owned by the city council while the routes are tendered by the regional council.
  • To gross contract out services – On a gross contract the operator charges the transit agency a set fee to run services with all revenue going to the transit agency. That means that the profits from the routes and services which are commercially viable can be used to help support the less viable services meaning less overall subsidies need to be paid. This is how the Northern Express and the rail network currently run.

The previous Labour government passed the PTMA in 2008 which would have allowed regional councils to take over and gross contract out all PT services. As you can imagine the PT companies didn’t like that idea and were successful in lobbying then-Transport Minister Stephen Joyce to scrap the PTMA. Fast forward a few years, and officials were obviously semi-successful in highlighting to the Minister the issues with the old system, and so from that PTOM was born in collaboration with bus industry.

In essence, PTOM is a bit of a hybrid between gross contracting and the current/old system. The Transit agencies divide up their networks into ‘Units’ which contains one or more routes along with a full timetable for them. Operators can still run commercial services but one slight improvement is they can only do so if they run all services on the timetable. There can still be commercial services but for that to happen an operator has to run all services in a unit – even if that’s 3 in the morning. If they don’t want to make a unit commercial then effectively the unit is gross contracted, however another feature of PTOM is that there is meant to be a partnership based approach where additional revenue is shared with the operators based on the councils.

After having been what is likely a key player in the involved in the formation of the PTOM, NZ Bus like other bus companies were very happy when the details of PTOM were formally announced:

Chief Executive of New Zealand Bus, Zane Fulljames says, “The new framework will drive a quantum leap in service provision and growth in public transport usage through an effective partnership model and performance based agreements. Certainty will enable operators to invest with confidence, recognising the requirement for value for money and an appropriate return on investment”.

And Infratil who own NZ Bus have been upbeat about the prospects of PTOM since then and in their most recent Operational report in December saw them singing Auckland Transport’s praises for patronage growth while noting the following about PTOM.

After a decade of gestation, the new Public Transport Operating Model is moving towards implementation. It is intended to define a new contracting arrangement between bus operators and regional transport agencies with the goals of reducing the cost on tax/rate payers and increasing the use of public transport.

The first offer of the new contracts is expected to occur in Auckland in mid-2015 and is widely recognised as an opportunity to develop partnering arrangements to capitalise on the positive development of the last three years.

Auckland’s public transport has massive upside if the contracts can encapsulate a positive and durable partnering relationship

However that seems to have changed. At the Infratil investor day their CEO talked briefly about it noting in particular (26:55):

I don’t see in the new model encouragement for public transport passenger growth, you know, which you would have thought was one of the key criteria for what’s called the PTOM structure, the new operating methodology. And so that might affect how we bid for these contracts. I don’t get that sense of engagement of what’s happening in Auckland, I don’t get it in Wellington. I think it’s probably one of the more disappointing aspects that you’ll probably hear about during the day.

There’s also bit more detail of some of their issues in this article from back in December.

I’ve heard some suggestions that some of the rewards in the contracts greatly favour the operators over AT while the operators are saying the opposite. As it’s all behind closed doors, it’s hard to know exactly what’s going on – however, given that the bus companies’ natural behaviour is to extract as much revenue as possible, I suspect that’s behind a lot of the issues. As an example, one of the complaints in the article above is that they don’t like the length of the contracts, however they’ve already been successful in getting PTOM contracts pushed out to up to 9 years on tendered routes.

Perhaps these companies are in a last ditch bid to delay the implementation of PTOM as they are the ones likely benefiting the most from the massive patronage growth we’ve been seeing.

While AT likely can’t run the buses themselves, perhaps it’s also time for a Christchurch type solution and have the council through one of its other CCO’s buy or set up a bus company that then goes and competes for routes commercially. If the existing operators don’t like the contracts then that might leave space for someone who does.

New Network and Integrated Fares Update

At the Infrastructure Committee two weeks ago not only was there an update on AT’s light rail plans but also on the status of the New Network and Integrated Fares including some maps of what is proposed.

New Network

On the New Network there is the rough timeline of when we’ll see the next steps in the process.

2013, 2014 – consultations completed

  • South Auckland, Green Bay/Titirangi, Hibiscus Coast, Pukekohe/Waiuku, West Auckland

2015 – Consultation dates

  • North Shore Consultation – June to July 2015
  • East and Isthmus – Combined Consultation – September to November 2015
  • Waiheke Consultation – to be decided

2015 – Implementation of Hibiscus Coast

2016 – Implementation of South, Pukekohe/Waiuku, West

2017 – Implementation of North, East and Central

There are also some low quality images of what is proposed for the North Shore and Isthmus/East consultations.

North Shore

Other than the busway it suggests there are four services which will meet the frequent definition of a bus at least every 15 minutes, 7am to 7pm, 7 days a week as well as a number of other services running at lower frequencies. For me personally I quite like that the services that serve Takapuna appear to be greatly simplified which should make it much easier for non-regular users to work out which bus to catch. Currently Takapuna is served by a handful of buses that pass through Takapuna on their way to other locations such as the East Coast Bays (and they tend to be well patronised throughout the day).

The presence of the busway also makes it much easier to develop a connected network on the eastern side of the North Shore which sees most services feed in to the busway stations. The same can’t be said for the western side which looks much like it does today with almost all routes feeding to the CBD. This makes it difficult for someone on the western side of the North Shore to reach the eastern beaches or north to Albany. Given Birkenhead Transport’s previous aversion to changes it seems like AT are still caving in to this patch protection effort. It is something that we will need to submit on when it consultation opens because it really weakens the new network in this part of the city. Of course this wouldn’t be so bad had the original busway plans of a having a station around Onewa Rd had happened but that was dropped after strong opposition from the Northcote Residents Association. Such a station would have allowed people using the buses that feed into Onewa Rd to the frequent Northern Express or Takapuna buses.

New Network North Infrastructure Committe

There’s also a slide suggesting that AT are thinking about how the buses that access the city centre will be dealt with. The two options are shown below with my preference being the second one which would be simpler while still enabling easy and frequent transfers to services covering Ponsonby Rd and Karangahape Rd from the proposed Victoria Park station.

New Network North Infrastructure Committe - City Centre options Central Auckland

This is where the new network will be at is strongest with the highest number of frequent routes including a number of frequent cross town routes. There also appears to have some changes to a few of the cross town routes compared to the current network schematic shown on AT’s website. As an example the frequent route along St Lukes Rd/Balmoral Rd/Greenlane West now carrying on to Orakei Rd and Kepa Rd and Glen Innes instead of terminating at Ellerslie. It seems like a good change. It also highlights how good Mt Albert is for Transit, it’s served by the western line, New North Rd buses, the remnants of the outer link and two cross town frequent lines – an ideal place for some intensification.

New Network Central Infrastructure Committe

Of course I’m sure AT will also need to show at the time how light rail would fit in this mix, particularly as it seems like the tracks will remain north of SH20 so there will need to be an explanation of what happens south of that.

East Auckland

I think it’s worth remembering the southern part of the network looks a bit bare due to that part having been consulted on as part of the South Auckland Network e.g. there’s a frequent route linking Botany, Otara, Papatoetoe and Mangere. I also thought there would be a stronger connection between Botany and Manukau along Ti Iriangi Dr considering it’s meant to be a future Rapid Transit route – although again worth noting there’s also a non-frequent service connecting the two via Harris Rd/Springs Rd/Preston Rd.

New Network East Infrastructure Committe

Integrated Fares

Moving on to Integrated Fares it’s noted that in October the AT board approved the business case for Integrated Fares which will see us move to a Zonal based fare system. All up there are 14 different zones although only seven in the main urban area (eight if you include the Hibiscus Coast). However the second slide on fares suggests there will only be 5 zone fares which suggests there will be a maximum cap (not many would likely go over that anyway i.e. how many people are travelling from the Silverdale to south of Manukau on PT on a regular basis.

While I do think the map is an improvement on what we’ve seen before I still think there will be some major issues around the zonal boundaries, even where they overlap as the overlap seems to be fairly small. As an example someone going from Fruitvale to Avondale on the train pays the same price as someone from New Lynn all the way to the city centre. This is something that using distance based fares would have addressed.

Integrated Fares Infrastructure Committee

The big winners in all of this will be those that make cross town trips like those in the green arrows below or across the isthmus e.g. from Mt Albert to Sylvia Park. Obviously a key feature is that there is no penalty for transferring however I wonder if there are any trips where the fastest option involved more than 3 legs.

Integrated Fares Infrastructure Committee 2

For the next steps in rolling out integrated fares we should hear more detail next month. I like that they are talking about family and ferry passes although on the latter I suspect they’re still unlikely to include ferry trips in the monthly/daily passes also eligible for buses and trains. This is likely in part due to the key ferry routes of Devonport and Waiheke being enshrined in legislation as outside of AT’s control.

Integrated Fares Infrastructure Committee 3

To implement this and some of the other changes like Light Rail at also note that they need to update the Regional Public Transport Plan (RPTP) which was formally adopted in September 2013 and that should also happen this year. This likely won’t be a full new RPTP but just a refresh of the current one.

Easter Works

This is just a quick reminder that there’s heaps of transport works on this Easter Weekend that could impact your travel

For PT 


  • On Good Friday and Easter Monday, buses will run to public holiday (Sunday) timetables.
  • There will be no Good Friday NiteRider services. (NiteRider will run as normal on Saturday night/Sunday morning).
  • Airbus Express and the Airporter 380 service will operate to a public holiday (Saturday/Sunday) timetable Good Friday and Easter Monday.



  • On Good Friday and Easter Monday ferries will be running to public holiday (Sunday) timetables.
  • There will be no services for West Harbour, Pine Harbour, Gulf Harbour, Hobsonville and Beach Haven.
For Roads

Easter 2015 coincides with the start of the school holidays and the NZ Transport Agency is warning motorists to plan ahead with traffic expected to be heavy on Auckland and Northland’s highways and roads.

“We expect the highways and roads throughout the region will be much busier than usual as people take one of the last opportunities to enjoy a long break away before winter,” says the Transport Agency’s Auckland and Northland Highway Manager Brett Gliddon.

“Everyone needs to think about their Easter journey and take extra care on our roads. If everyone takes time to plan their journey, it will help ease any stress and reduce the need to hurry, making for a safer and more enjoyable journey for everyone.”

In the Auckland region there were 32 injury crashes last Easter, resulting in two deaths, six serious injuries and 28 minor injuries. This was the highest Easter crash rate in the region in the last three years.

“We urge everyone to make their journey part of their long weekend away, taking time to stop for coffee or visit attractions if traffic is heavy to avoid frustrations and most importantly, to be patient and courteous.”

Traffic is expected to be heavy from 3.30pm on Thursday 2 April and particularly on the Northern Gateway Toll Road (SH1), north of Auckland. Last year, there were 18,500 toll road trips on the Thursday immediately before the start of Easter – 4000 more than normal on a Thursday.

“We expect numbers to be similar this Easter and to remain high throughout the holiday period.”

Mr Gliddon says drivers heading north are encouraged to pre-pay their Northern Gateway toll online – – before they leave on their journey. “Not only will there be no need to stop to pay the toll, there will be no bills when you get back home either.

“To help plan your journey, the Transport Agency has produced a congestion map for both the North and South Islands. If heading north from Auckland on Thursday, SH1 at Wellsford will be busy from 3.30pm to 8.30pm and again from 8am to 4pm on Friday. If heading south, SH2 at Waihi will be busy from 2.30pm to 7.30pm on Thursday and 11am to 2pm on Good Friday.

“Traffic heading back into Auckland will be heaviest on SH1 at Wellsford on Easter Sunday from 3.30pm to 5pm and noon to 2pm on Easter Monday, while from the south on SH2 at Waihi, the heaviest traffic flows will be on Monday from 10am to 3pm.”

For more details on traffic flows on SH1 and SH2 for the Easter period and the days and times when motorists may like to consider alternative travel, visit

In Auckland, the quieter Easter period will be used to complete major works, on the SH1 Ellerslie widening project and Northwestern Motorway. This work will involve on-ramp and overbridge closures.

  • The Ellerslie-Panmure Highway citybound on-ramp will be closed, along with the left-lane citybound between the Ellerslie-Panmure Highway to Main Highway overbridge, from 8pm to 6am each night, from Thursday 2 to Tuesday 6 April.
  • The St Lukes Road overbridge will be closed to all vehicles from 8pm Thursday 2 April to 5am Tuesday 7 April. Contractors will work around the clock to safely build up the existing road levels and construct the approaches to the new, higher overbridge. Pedestrian access across the bridge, as well as the cycleway, motorway, local roads and public transport links in the area, along with local attractions such as Auckland Zoo and MOTAT will remain open throughout the weekend.
  • At the Te Atatu interchange both of the citybound onramps will be closed from 10pm Thursday 2 April to 5am Tuesday 7 April. In addition, the citybound motorway at Te Atatu will be reduced to one lane during the day (5am to 10pm) and closed each night (10pm to 5am). These closures are necessary to lower the Te Atatu citybound motorway on-ramp and raise a portion of the motorway, near the bridge. Pedestrian access across the bridge, the cycleway and westbound motorway will be unaffected.

Mr Gliddon says while road works sites throughout Northland will shut down at noon on Thursday to reduce delays and make it safer for everyone, motorists will still need to be aware of major construction projects underway on the north side of the Brynderwyns and at Akerama, 30km north of Whangarei.

“There will also be temporary speed limits in place and some unsealed sections of highway on SH1, 3km north of Kawakawa and on SH10 north of Zidich Road will need motorists to take extra care.”

Check the Transport Agency’s website: for the latest highway information or sign up to for up-to-date information on what is happening on the route you plan to travel; freephone 0800 4 HIGHWAYS for national and regional travel updates.

“Don’t forget, you can also follow us on twitter and facebook to get the latest updates,” he says.

Birkenhead Transport orders triple-articulated double decker bus

Birkenhead Transport announced today that it is planning replace its entire fleet with a single triple-articulated double decker bus. The bus is 57m long and over 4m tall.

The Walfisch 57 double decker triple-bendy bus.

The Walfisch 57 double decker triple-bendy bus.

Owner, managing director and part time relief driver Max Headway had this to say:

“Birkenhead Transport is known as a forward looking innovator in the Auckland public transport sector, and this latest vehicle purchase backs up our reputation as industry leaders on the cutting edge of bus transit technology. This one bus can seat 726 people at a time, and it’s got wifi!”

The Birkenhead based bus company currently operates a large fleet of buses on seventeen different routes across Birkenhead, Northcote, Glenfield and Takapuna. The existing fleet will be scrapped, with the one new mega bus serving all previously timetabled destinations with a single route and departure per day.

The inbound route 999 will leave Verrans Corner at 4:32am on weekdays, proceeding to Birkdale, Beach Haven, Island Bay, Kauri Point, Chelsea, Highbury, Birkenhead Wharf, back to Highbury, Northcote, Northcote Point, back to Highbury again, Glenfield, Bayview, Sunnynook, Constellation, Rosedale, Albany, Massey University, back to Sunnynook, Smales Farm, Takapuna, North Shore Hospital and AUT North Shore Campus, before crossing the harbour bridge. It will then deliver passengers to Ponsonby, Karangahape Rd, Auckland Hospital, Grafton, Newmarket, Parnell and Hobson St before terminating near Britomart at a scheduled 9:21am.

The revised route 999 map.

The revised route 999 map.

The outbound bus will depart Britomart at 4:48pm and will follow the return route, arriving back at the Verrans Corner depot at exactly 9.33pm.

The company is confident it will continue to report 99.99% service reliability, while improving farebox recovery.

“We know what our customers want, and that is good coverage to every single street, everyone always getting a seat on the bus, and a direct one seat ride all the way. This innovative service model allows us to provide point to point service between any two bus stops in our area, so there is never a need to transfer.”

When asked about passengers who expect regular services and a fast trip, or those that might want to travel at other times of day, Mr Headway replied “it’s got wifi, and three bendy bus bits. Cool eh!”.

He continued:

“…and we’ll be sticking with the good old BT livery. My old man bought up a big batch of beige and brown paint in 50s and we’ve still got a few tins out the back”.

All existing fare combinations will be maintained, so trips on the route will be charged between 1 and 27 stages depending on just how long they stay on board. As the 27 stage structure is incompatible with Auckland Transports HOP card technology, the route will feature an experimental payment system based around a sack of copper milk tokens found at the Mokoia Rd op shop.

The new bus is one of the new “Walfisch 57” model offered by German consortium Unglaublich Grossbusfabrik GMbH. Asia-Pacific Regional Marketing manager Kerlmit Falschenamen noted that the company could only offer one product line to the small New Zealand market, so the Walfisch was developed to offer the benefits of both double decker and articulated models offered overseas.

Weighing 147 tonnes, the new bus counts as a High Productivity Vehicle (HPMV) under the revised Land Transport Rule framework. A subclause in the law means the bus is legally considered four separate buses driving very close together, as the bus driver is unable to see past the first section anyway.

An NZTA representative indicated ‘only twelve or thirteen bridges’ will need replacing along the proposed route due to weight increases. When asked about funding for the upgrades, the NZTA staffer -who wished to remain anonymous- added “let’s hope there is a by election in Birkenhead soon”.

AT March Board Meeting

Tomorrow the Auckland Transport board meet once again. I’ve already covered the new network consultations for West Auckland and Pukekohe as well as the patronage results so here are the highlights from the rest of the reports available.

First to the items in the closed session that caught my attention

  • Parking strategy – this follows the consultation on it last year.
  • Rail operator EOI shortlisting – it will be interesting to see how this compares to the shortlist from Wellington.
  • Deep Dive – NZ Transport Agency – presumably a detailed description of just what role the NZTA plays.

At the start of the open session Councillor Dick Quax is going to present on the Reeves Rd Flyover. I’m aware he and the local MPs (Maurice Williamson and Jamie Lee-Ross) have been very unhappy that the flyover was delayed and have been lobbying for it to be re-instated. That includes complaining about it to the Minister of Transport and pushing for it to become a State Highway and therefore funded by the NZTA.


The business report which gives updates on a whole range of items.

Otahuhu Bus-Train Interchange

There is to be some more enabling works to deal with settlement issues due to the peat under the site and another round of works over Queens Birthday weekend to move the old signal box off the platform and install foundations for two more canopies. The main works are due to start in July on the interchange.

Electric Trains

By now there should be 47 electric trains in Auckland and the final one is due to leave Spain in June. At the time the report was written 35 had been provisionally accepted. They note that routine testing has been impacted by driver shortages which is what I understand is partially why it’s taking so long to get electric trains rolled out on the Southern Line.

In addition it’s noted that Siemens Spain has spent two weeks investigating the new signalling system in a bid to improve reliability. A software update is/was due late March for this.

One thing worth noting is that AT seem to now be referring to rail services as Rapid Rail Services which perhaps suggests a bit of a re-branding of them is happening.

Pukekohe Bus Rail Interchange

The design work is almost complete on an upgrade to Pukekohe to enable bus and train transfers. Physical works are due to be completed by the end of June.

Integrated Fare System

AT is working through to transition the ownership and support of the Integrated Fare System to the NZTA subsidiary that will manage the back-end system nationally (this has long been the plan). Of note AT say that the work has identified implications for some of the plans that they have for future development of the system including parking integration and mobile top ups. I understand that AT have a number of updates planned like those mentioned that will improve the HOP system and get it in the hands of more people so it is critical that they make sure the system being managed nationally doesn’t hinder this.

AT also say that they are planning on updating the Regional Public Transport Plan to accommodate the proposed zonal integrated fares. System development by Thales for Integrated fares is under way and they are negotiating with the operators as to how fare revenue will be allocated between them

The New Network

The update suggests the New Network roll out in South Auckland has once again been delayed with the report stating it will now happen in April 2016 compared to previous reports which had suggested February 16.

AT are hoping to get final sign-off from the NZTA for their PTOM contracts soon so they can go out to the market to tender for South Auckland services in May/June. The first official parts of the New Network implemented are likely to be on the Hibiscus Coast though and will be done by negotiating directly with existing operators. That is likely to be implemented later this year or early next year.

The next consultation to happen is meant to be the North Shore which they say will happen in June this year.


As readers will know, there’s been a lot of capacity issues on the network over the last month and a half. In the report they note that patronage on buses is up 12% (I wonder if this is just at the peak). They note that a few corridors have seen exceptional growth and need “corrective action” to address capacity constraints. These corridors include

Onewa Rd where 776 services across the week were added recently as part of the timetable changes.

The Northern Express which has had two additional buses added to the fleet and has more capacity on the way in the form of two double deckers of which one each are due in April and May. Talks are under way with Ritchies to get even more.

Mt Eden/Dominion/Remuera Roads where 11 extra buses have been used to deliver 45 extra services (a day?). The services are used as a contingency capacity that AT say can be moved to where demand is greatest. Some of the common routes they are used on are the Northern Busway (881), Hibiscus Coast (897), Remuera Road (625), Mt Eden Road (274), Dominion Road (258), and New North Road (220). The extra capacity is only meant to be till this Thursday however they say the results will be reviewed and highly patronised services are likely to be retained at least until June.

Double Decker

More Double Deckers needed


There are a number of projects which seem to have had a similar status to what they had in February or for which we had an update during March. This includes:

  • Manukau Bus Interchange
  • Newmarket Crossing (Sarawia St Level Crossing)
  • Half Moon Bay Ferry Upgrade
  • Puhinui Station Upgrade (The upgrade should be started in April)

February 2015 Patronage

We’d already heard about the spectacular rail patronage results of passing 13 million trips, an increase of 1 million in just 5 months. Now we’ve got the full patronage information for February and it’s looking good.

2015-02 - Patronage Table

One of the aspects I noticed in the table above is the Western line appears to have dropped however AT say that is just because of the timing of events last year and so if removing special event tickets from the numbers of each year shows patronage growth for the month of 9.8%.

One impressive aspect about the rail growth is that the total patronage in February was higher than any single month last year despite being only 28 days and including a public holiday. Only one month – October 2011 which was the peak thank to the RWC – has higher and the difference is only around 2,000 trips.

The total patronage growth is shown below.

2014-02 - AKL - Total Patronage

Other than the rail results it’s also pleasing to see buses growing so strongly. The Northern Express (NEX) is obviously still up strongly but other buses which carry the bulk of patronage are increasing too. For the 12 months to the end of Feb patronage was 7.6% (around 4 million trips) compared to the same time last year.

2014-02 - AKL - Bus Patronage

With results so strong I’m really looking forward to seeing just how big the numbers are for March. Given what I’ve been seeing and hearing about how full trains, buses and ferries are the results could be absolutely massive. Of course we’ve also been hearing a lot about buses and trains being so full that it’s putting people off using them, especially on the rail network where issues and delays have become an almost daily occurrence.

On issues, this is showing through in the train punctuality stats which have shown a decline in recent months and it can also in part be attributed to services being too full increasing dwell times. I suspect the 78% the western line managed to achieve could go much lower in March.

2014-02 - AKL - Train Performance

We also have Wellington’s patronage results for Feb which have remained flat. The monthly figures for buses and trains were down 0.2% and up 0.1% respectively. Due to growth over the last year they were both up on the 12 month figure though.

2014-02 - WLG - Total Patronage