2016 Rail and Busway Station Boardings

The biggest driver of public transport ridership over the last year has been on the Rapid Transit Network (RTN), which consists of the busway and the rail network. Over the 2015-16 financial year both grew an astonishing 20.6% after each also grew by over 20% in the 2014-15 year. Trips on the RTN now make up over 25% of PT trips in Auckland, up from 10% a decade ago and that’s while usage of non RTN services has increased by 35% over that same time frame. The RTN has helped in showing that when relatively fast, frequent, reliable and high quality services are provided, that Aucklanders will flock to use them.

Auckland Transport have now kindly provided the the numbers breaking down both the busway and train results by station including where each

Before delving into it a few caveats.

  • The rail trips only count completed trips i.e. where both the origin and destination are known. This means trips where someone has forgotten to tag off, trips on some passes like the child monthly pass (a paper ticket) and special event trips aren’t included. The trips included below account for about 92% of all rail trips.
  • Where a train to train transfer takes place, such as at Newmarket, the transfer is included as a new boarding
  • The busway figures are slightly different and are based on trips that board or alight at a busway station. Outside of the busway, such as in the city, AT don’t show the exact stops where people board or alight but just group them into the general council area such as Waitemata and Gulf. As an example a trip from town to Albany busway station will show as boarding in the Waitemata and Gulf area and alighting at Albany station.
    • These aren’t busway stats, they’re results for the busway stations themselves. The results don’t show trips where people board and alight a bus outside of the busway where the bus travels on the busway for part of its journey e.g. someone who boards the 130 in Hobsonville and alights at Takapuna despite the bus travelling down the busway.
  • The busway results also include where a paper ticket is bought at a busway station but where the destination is unknown. Surprisingly that only accounts for about 7% of trips from busway stations.

As a result of the caveats above, I don’t think the rail and busway stations can be directly compared but seeing how they’ve changed over the year is valid.

This graph shows the change in boardings for each RTN station over the last year. The colours are based on the ones AT use with the grey, purple and orange depicting stations shared by multiple lines. I’ve also included the Waitemata area in the busway results as most of that will represent people catching a bus from town to a busway station.

  • As expected, Britomart easily dominates the results with 4.7 million people boarding a train from the station in the last year, up from 3.9 million the year before. In total 59% of all rail trips begin or end at this one station.
  • Some good growth too for Newmarket and for buses from the city too
  • Two stations actually saw usage drop, Pukekohe – which will almost certainly be attributed to the shift to shuttle services – and Sunnynook, for which I have no idea why usage has dropped.
  • Hibiscus Coast busway station only opened in about October last year so I haven’t included it here but impressively it now already it has about the same number of passenger trips as the Sunnynook station.

Station Boardings Growth 2016-2

The graph below looks at the how the usage of stations has changed as a percentage. Some observations:

  • Swanson has had great growth from its low base which I would assume is due to the opening of the new park & ride as well as the closing of Waitakere which will have seen a lot of users now drive to Swanson.
  • Manukau had the strongest growth and I expect that will only continue once the new bus network and particularly the new bus station open.
  • Puhinui is also improving well and even if you take the transfers out, it would still be up 28%

Station Boardings Percent Growth 2016-2

 

Below is a bit of a wall of number which are the basis for the graphs above for anyone interested. On separate tabs is also a matrix showing how many people travelled between each station should anyone want to make a visualisation of it. Or friend Aaron Schiff has in the past.

What do you think of the station usage results?

Update: Thanks to some comments I found I made a mistake with the Sunnynook and Smales Farm results for 2014-15. I’ve corrected that in the graphs and data set.

The HOP Blacklist

Auckland Transport’s HOP card generally works pretty well for most people and is a vast improvement from what we had before with different ticketing systems for each mode/company. But almost 5 years on, it still has some amazingly annoying and very customer unfriendly bugs/features that they’ve never fixed. One of the chief among these what happens when an auto top-up fails due to a credit card expiring. The issue goes like this:

  1. Person sets up for their HOP card to be automatically topped up by a chosen amount from their credit card every time the HOP card drops below a pre-set balance. A great feature when it works.
  2. When the credit card expires – unlike most companies which a) stop attempting additional payments and b) contact the customer to get them to update the credit card details – AT keep on trying to charge the existing card. After failing a three times, AT then block the HOP card. The customer is blissfully unaware the payment has failed as the system will have already put money on the HOP card, until it is blocked.
  3. The customer then has to shell out $10 for a new card and in many cases loses whatever credit was left on their HOP card.

To make matters even worse, it appears that the original card and ‘stolen’ balance still show up when people log on.

Thanks to an OIA from one person affected, the herald have now revealed just how much this has happened.

More than 12,000 people have had their AT Hop cards blacklisted because their automatic top-ups failed.

And Auckland Transport is now reviewing its processes around how it notifies customers that their card is about to be blocked.

Yve Bourke was left stranded in July when her card was blacklisted and depended on the kindness of a stranger to pay her bus fare because Auckland Transport hadn’t told her that her card had been blocked.

“I went to get on the bus one morning and it declined and I thought, ‘That can’t be right’ so I tried a few more times and the bus driver told me I had to get off the bus.

“Luckily some lovely man paid for me who said to me, ‘You should check your credit card if you’ve got an auto top-up because mine expired mine last month and I got blacklisted.”

That turned out to be almost exactly what happened Bourke.

While I haven’t had it happen to me, I know it is incredibly annoying and embarrassing to find your card not working. I had it recently when an online top-up was delayed despite being before AT’s 10pm cutoff. This particular customer seems quite lucky that AT both transferred her balance and refunded her the cost of a new card. Most others I’ve heard this happened to aren’t so lucky.

So infuriated with the process, Bourke fired off an Official Information Act request to find out how many others had gone through the same ordeal.

Since their roll-out in June 2013, 12,124 people have had their cards blocked because of top-up failures totalling more than $330,000 in remaining value – however this figure includes the amount of the automatic top-ups even if the payment didn’t go through or whether the customer transferred the value to another Hop card.

Auckland Transport was not able to provide the actual amount of customers’ prepaid credit which it’s seized.

HOP actually first rolled out to trains at the end of 2012 but I’m guessing June 2013 is the date that AT pulled the data from. Based on that, it works out at AT blacklist an average of almost 11 cards every single day, that is huge. If it caused say 5% of those people to stop using public transport, that could equate to 300,000 trips a year.

Given the numbers this has happened to and the comments here and on social media we’ve regularly seen over the years, AT’s explanation that it they notify customers appears to be complete BS.

Spokesman Mark Hannan said three attempts were made to complete Bourke’s automatic top-up and admitted a trigger email wasn’t sent because there were two email addresses attached to her account and there “was some confusion”.

Usually, a customer would be notified of the problem twice before the card is blocked.

The agency is working on an AT Hop website improvement project which includes reviewing the notification process to “improve both the content of the email notification, and the subject, to make it clearer for customers”.

 

As mentioned this is only one of the many annoying quirks of HOP that exist and which have never been fixed. Some others include, but not limited to:

  • If you top up online but don’t tag on within 60 days the money disappears into a void.
  • Tagging on, then topping up as your balance is low, then tagging off can charge a penalty fare.
  • They still advise it can take up to 3 days for an online top up to occur – even only updating daily was archaic four years ago.

HOP Top Up Delay

I was aware the upgrade to Simplified Fares (this Sunday) involves some significant software upgrades to the HOP system. As such and not long before the fares were announced I asked Auckland Transport if the upgrade would also address some of these frustrations. The only answer I got was that they wouldn’t comment on it.

If improvements aren’t coming as part of the changes this weekend, then AT need to get on with it and with some urgency.

Guest Post: March Madness Marches On

This is a guest post from reader Stephen Davis and was originally posted here.

Regular readers of TransportBlog will be familiar with March Madness. With workers, students and kids all trying to use public transport simultaneously, it’s the busiest month of the year. In rush hour, trips can take an hour longer. People stand helplessly at bus stops as bus after bus sails by packed to the gunwales, with their headsigns proclaiming “BUS FULL”.

Once you do get on the bus, scenes like this are fairly common. The “no standing” line is completely ignored, and it’s your turn to watch from inside as your bus now leaves other people behind.

Now, Auckland Transport treat this as a temporary, transient thing. It’s a problem for a few weeks, but we can’t afford to run enough buses to solve the problem when we’d only use them for a few weeks of the year. To quote an AT spokesman, “The numbers travelling on buses and trains does increase but settles back again as students work out their schedules. The best advice is to plan ahead and try to travel outside peak times.”

Now you can debate whether that attitude is justified. Our friends at Generation Zero compiled a rather nice report on the issues people reported, and it’s been ignored by Auckland Transport. But at least it’s over now, and those of us who haven’t given up on public transport entirely can at least get on our buses.

Except for one thing: these pictures aren’t from March. They’re not even from peak time. All of them were taken between May and July, this year, after 10am and before 4:30pm.

Welcome to New North Road.

I live in Kingsland, and study at the University of Auckland. I head in and out at all times, peak, interpeak, and evening. So this gives me a good chance to see how the buses are getting used, all day. There’s a lot of students, but the crowds aren’t just timed on the hour as people try to get to lectures. There’s also lots of non-students on the buses, too – judging by the number of beeps on their Hop cards.

The last week is typical. I’ve travelled in during the peak once, and interpeak four times. Of those four, twice I was left behind by a full bus, with the next at least ten minutes behind. Three of the four times it was standing room only. Twice the standing room was in front of the line saying “no standing in front of this line”. And this is at Kingsland, not even the end of the run – so as we go through Eden Terrace, those buses are no longer picking anyone up.

On a personal level, it doesn’t matter too much being a little late. I aim to get in well before lectures so that I’ve got time to do some work. I’m also young and not travelling too far, so standing doesn’t bother me.

But none of this is helping anyone else. Auckland is trying to grow public transport use, but in order to do so it needs to actually have some capacity for growth. We’re also trying to improve the reputation of public transport, and this sort of unreliability isn’t going to convince new people to try it.

So why is the crowding so bad? Have a look at the frequency of buses between Saint Lukes and the city. The hours are the times they arrive at Victoria Park at the end of their routes.

The frequencies are fairly high in the peak from 8-9, naturally, and are still high as late as 11am. But during the middle of the day they drop as low as 3-4 buses per hour. All that needs doing is to extend the frequency of buses throughout the day to be closer to the level during peak: 6 buses per hour or more. That’s what we run on Dominion Road, and less than what runs on Mount Eden Road. Some of the services can also keep running as expresses during the day, for example the 224 which starts all the way in Henderson. If it’s not going to stop in Kingsland anyway, it might as well be called an express.

You can also see that we need to extend bus lane hours and lengths. The few bus lanes along the route end at 9am – but the second-busiest hour, by the number of buses, is 9-10am.

The most infuriating part is that overcrowding off-peak is actually a good problem to have and a relatively easy one to solve. Full buses make money. Adding a new bus is expensive, but we already have them – there’s extra buses running during the peak hours, so all that’s needed is to run them at higher frequency a little longer. That’s good for business. It’s good for drivers, who can avoid split shifts or short shifts. And it’s good for passengers, current and potential.

Increasing frequency off-peak also helps with peak crowding. If the service is more attractive, more people will try to move their travel to avoid the peak.

Solving the overcrowding during the peak and in March is harder. There’s issues with the buses bunching once they get too frequent, for example. It’s going to take double decker buses, more frequency, more bus lanes, and maybe even light rail. But crowding in the interpeak? We could fix that right now, and it’ll make money, not cost money.

June-2016 Patronage

When it comes to public transport patronage, June is always important as it represents the end of the financial year and so also gives up the official annual results for the year. The June results are now available and the result was fairly similar to what we’ve been seeing for a few months now, continued strong growth on the rail network, decent growth on the ferries but with bus numbers relatively stagnant, even after some fairly great growth on the busway services.

All up patronage grew by 4.6% to 82.9 million and I’ve heard that only one other region in NZ experienced growth over the 2015/16 year, which I assume to be Wellington based on the numbers up to May. That’s the highest patronage has been since 1956 – although we obviously had a much lower population then.

1920-2016 Auckland Patronage

The breakdown of the June results is shown below. A couple of things that stand out in particular include:

  • The busway continues to show great growth, good thing we have all of those double deckers on it but perhaps more will be needed soon.
  • Other buses are performing poorly, some more details of which are below.
  • Rail is still performing strongly and the western line is clearly benefiting from the increased peak frequency.

2016-06 - Patronage Table

For a bit more detail, here are some comments from AT’s business paper on the results

Bus 

Bus patronage has grown by a modest +0.7% which is contrary to the general downward trends experienced across New Zealand where Auckland is only one of two systems (18 in total) that have experienced growth. The comparison found after allowing for population changes, the total New Zealand boardings /capita in 2015 declined by 3.2%. This may be compared with increases in 2013 (+1.0%) and in 2014 (+0.4%). The main reasons cited for the 3.2% decline include a real reduction in fuel prices impacting boardings by (-1.5%) and car ownership increase as a result of real price reduction in cars of (-0.8% reduction in boardings). Specifically in Auckland fare elasticity on a single service resulted in (-1.1%) reduction in boardings. In addition there were some unique events affecting Auckland, including disruptions as a result of CRL works and a bus strike earlier in the financial year

2016-06 - Bus Patronage

Rail

Train services totalled 16.8 million passenger trips for the 12-months to June, an increase of +20.6% on the previous year. Patronage for June was 1.5 million, an increase of +17.3% on June 2015. June normalised adjustment ~ 15.5% accounting for special event patronage, with the same number of business days and weekend days/public holiday. Rail patronage during FY16 has continued to grow in line with extra capacity provided by way of a homogenous EMU fleet, improving passenger comfort, punctuality and reliability. An increase in western line peak frequency in May 2016 with timetable improvements in February 2017 should see continued growth in this mode.

2016-06 - Rail Patronage

Ferry

Ferry services totalled 5.9 million passenger trips for the 12-months to June, an increase of +6.2% on the previous year. Patronage for June was 0.41 million, an increase of +9.6% on June 2015. June normalised adjustment ~ 9.6% accounting for special event patronage, with the same number of business days and weekend days/public holiday. Ferry patronage growth of +6.2% has been strong, with Gulf Harbour, Hobsonville and Pine Harbour showing strong growth in line with increased residential development in these areas. Additional sailings by two competing companies on the Waiheke route also saw strong growth both in terms of service trips and patronage. Continued expansion of capacity and further development in these areas

2016-06 - Ferry Patronage

It will be a few months before we see any results but it is going to be fascinating to see just what impact the introduction of Simplified Fares will have on the numbers. Also likely to be having an impact soon will be the introduction of the New Network to South Auckland, due on 30 October.

The recent changes to SuperGold is likely driving some of the changes with HOP usage, as of the end of June AT say 78.2% of all trips used HOP while I understand some days are now seeing well over 80% HOP usage which puts it on par with systems like Brisbane which has had integrated ticketing and fares for about a decade.

2016-06 - HOP Uptake

One area AT have been doing particularly well on has been farebox recovery which has now stormed above 51% to the end of May (it is always two months behind). This is a great result considering that the NZTA require AT to reach a 50% farebox recovery by the end of June 2018, so the recent results should have given them a bit of breathing space. One of the biggest factors has been the significant improvement in the rail result thanks to electrification lowering costs and encouraging more people to use the system. In the coming year a number of things will be impacting this including:

  • Simplified Fares which will see a lot of trips get cheaper, the question is just how much impact it will have, perhaps it will drive enough additional people to use the system to offset some of the costs.
  • The New Network in South Auckland which will considerably improve services while seeing AT also save around $3 million a year in costs.
  • Additional rail service improvements, likely to come early next year should see better off peak and weekend services to tie in with the new network.

2016-06 - Farebox

With a lot of the improvements on the way it’s going to be another interesting year ahead.

 

Auckland PT fares to get a whole lot better

The next revolution of public transport in Auckland now has a date, August 14. That’s the day that the city will finally shed its clumsy and expensive fare system with Auckland Transport finally implementing what they call Simplified Fares, also known as integrated fares, which will be smarter and in many cases cheaper.

Currently Auckland has a stage based system where you pay for every bus, train you use based on how many stages you pass, with only a small transfer discount for those that use multiple services. With Simplified Fares it will shift to paying one fare for your total trip based on how many zones you travel within and that includes using up to five services to get to your destination over a four-hour period. Even better is the cost for most trips is set to get significantly cheaper for a lot of people thanks to the new fare structure.

The confirmed fare map is below and AT say this about it.

Zone overlap areas (grey coloured areas on the new fare zones map) at some zone boundaries allow for travelling to the edge of the zone borders without crossing into another zone.

The zone overlaps are much more defined than they were in the consultation which is good and there are a few new/bigger ones too, such as at Westgate and Otahuhu

Simplified Fares Map

And here is the fare table

With an AT HOP card, you will pay for one entire journey from A to B, instead of paying the fare on each bus or train separately.

During your journey:

  • You can use up to 5 buses or trains within 4 hours, just ensure you transfer between each trip within a maximum of 30 minutes.
  • Tag on and off each bus and train as you do now and simply count the number of zones you travel through to find out your fare.

Simplified Fares - Fare Table

As mentioned for many fares will get cheaper or at least not get more expensive, in fact AT advised me that they calculated 99% of all trips taken will fall into that category which is great news. As an example of just how much cheaper this makes trips, here are a few personal examples. They don’t entirely reflect the costs I pay as I usually use a monthly pass simply due to how expensive it can be but that also makes it a good example.

I live not far from the Sturges Rd train station and travel to Takapuna. This usually involves me catching a train to town and since the bus changes for the CRL transferring to up to two buses, a Northern Express to get me to the Victoria St bus stop where I transfer again to a bus going direct to Takapuna (as an alternative I sometimes catch the NEX to Akoranga and transfer to a local bus or walk). If I was to use normal HOP fares that would be:

  • 5-stage train to Britomart = $6.00
  • 1-stage bus to Victoria Park = $1.30 ($1.80-50c transfer discount) – I could reduce this to $0 if I used the City Link or walked up to Wellesley St but both are less convenient.
  • 2-stage bus to Takapuna = $2.60 ($3.10-50c transfer discount)
  • Total = $9.90

Instead with Simplified Fares I would pay for 4-zones, Waitakere, Isthmus, City and Lower North Shore and all up that would be $6.00. That’s a saving of $3.90. Even if I was just going to the city, for 3-zones I would be paying $4.90, a saving of $1.10 over the current HOP price.

If you don’t use HOP – why wouldn’t you and now over 80% of trips are by HOP – cash fares are changing too. The fares have been rounded to a dollar amount which should help make it easier for drivers needing to give change. See AT’s website for those details.

In addition to the zonal fares, AT have introduced a new child weekend fare which looks good with a maximum trip cost of 99c for using HOP with a child concession.

A new AT HOP child weekend fare will be the most you pay for weekend and public holiday bus and train journeys when paying with an AT HOP card with a child concession applied (excluding SkyBus services).

You can take up to 5 bus or train trips over a 4 hour period with a maximum transfer time of 30 minutes between each trip and pay a maximum 1 zone fare (99 cents from 14 August 2016) regardless of how many zones you cross.

Like the monthly pass, AT are also moving to a single Daily Pass which will cover all zones. It also comes with a price change and will be $18 as opposed to the two passes it replaces being $16 and $22. I can’t imagine too many would buy this. AT have said in the past, and reconfirmed to me recently that they want to eventually move to having daily and weekly fare caps which would solve this issue.

At this stage the new fares only cover buses and trains. I’m aware that AT plan to integrate ferries into the mix although that doesn’t necessarily mean there will be fare parity. We’ll have to wait to hear more about this from AT.

Overall this is going to be great for Auckland and I can’t wait for it to be implemented.

Govt ignored advice on allowing EVs in bus lanes

In May the government announced a package to try and increase the number of electric vehicles in New Zealand as a way of reducing emissions – a laudable goal but some of the government’s proposed some measures missed the mark. At or at least near the top of the list was the idea to allow for electric cars to use bus lanes and the Northern Busway.

Northern Busway

Enabling electric vehicles to access bus and high occupancy vehicle lanes

Access by electric vehicles to bus and high occupancy vehicle lanes (lanes where a vehicle must have more than a certain number of occupants) will be of value to households and businesses. Access to such lanes will mean electric vehicles will be able to travel more quickly than vehicles otherwise held up in traffic.

At the same time, the changes will also empower road controlling authorities to allow electric vehicles into special vehicle lanes (such as bus lanes) on their local roading networks.

The Government will make changes to the Land Transport Act and Rules to allow electric vehicles to drive in bus and high occupancy vehicle lanes on the State Highway network, which it controls. One example is the Northern Busway in Auckland.

As I said at the time, the idea is madness and defeats the whole purpose of having bus lanes which is to make buses:

  • faster, making them more attractive to use and can also make them time competitive with driving.
  • more efficient, because buses are faster they can run more services can be run for the same cost or alternatively fewer vehicles and drivers may be needed
  • more convenient as if they allow more services to be run it means higher frequencies so less time waiting at bus stops.
  • more reliable as they’re more likely to arrive at stops and the final destination on time.

It’s now been revealed by the Herald that the government ignored advice to at least consult with councils first before announcing the idea and highlighting that at least one council is ruling it out.

Andy Foster of the Wellington City Council said his city had the country’s highest rate of public transport use “by far” and did not foresee it opting for the change.

“Traffic getting in the buses’ way is not conducive to maintaining reliable timetables.”

Foster, who chairs the council’s transport and urban development committee, said he saw “no chance” that electric vehicles would be allowed to use the city’s bus-only lanes.

“Bus lanes are generally very well respected by motorists. If some vehicles start using bus lanes because they are [electric] there is a greater risk that others which are not [electric] will do so too.”

They also say Auckland Transport and the Christchurch City Council seem cool on the idea although the NZTA say they have begun initial discussions with Auckland Transport to investigate the potential of permitting electric vehicles on the Northern Busway

Back when this policy was announced I sent an Official Information Act request to the Ministry asking for details relating to the idea. I received back some excepts from a report looking at options for promoting EVs but it had been sitting in my inbox for a while. It includes the suggestion that the Minister consult councils on the idea first as well as a few other interesting comments. For example, not only did they recommend talking to road controlling authorities (RCAs) first, they say the NZTA expects none of the major RCAs would implement it.

EVs in Bus Lanes OIA - Considerations

I find the point that the NZTA highlighted that such and idea was unlikely to work as the RCAs wouldn’t want to implement it as much more damning than the fact he didn’t consult with them

They expand a bit on the efficiency impact portion below highlighting that it will likely impact PT and general traffic congestion. Even more so bottom paragraph below confirms the bus lanes will be full soon but that people will still want to drive in them.

EVs in Bus Lanes OIA - 1

As a way of implementing the idea, it was suggested to either use legislation to declare EVs as allowed in all bus or transit lanes or give RCA’s the power to decide on what lanes to allow EVs to use. Thankfully the Minister at least chose the second option but given the responses above, it seems unlikely to they’ll approve having EVs in bus lanes. That raises the prospect despite the government suggesting it, it won’t actually be possible anywhere. That in turns means the whole point of the policy would be a flop and will have wasted precious resource from the ministry. I wonder if the government will quietly drop it.

Of course if they really want to get more use out of bus lanes one idea would be to provide more funding to put more buses on which would have the added benefit of making PT much more useful.

Mangere and Otahuhu bus stop upgrades planned

With implementation of the new bus network in South Auckland coming up in October, Auckland Transport are consulting on the designs for the bus station in Mangere Town Centre and the bus stops in the Otahuhu Town Centre. Both of these improvements are also being classed as part of the East-West Link Connections project. Both upgrades are due to start in August and be finished in October.

The two stations have been major advocacy projects for the Māngere-Otahuhu Local Board says Māngere –Ōtāhuhu Local Board Chair, Lemauga Lydia Sosene.

“Both projects are significant milestones for the community and it is great to see them getting underway.”

“These high quality projects will help deliver safer, more practical and connected local bus services and complement other works underway in both centres to improve and rejuvenate the local communities.”

Mangere

“The new station in Māngere will be extended to accommodate seven parked buses (two more than currently), new shelters to extend the covered passenger area and a covered connection to Māngere Town Centre. It will also include a toilet adjacent to the bus shelter, new cycle racks, an additional westbound lane for traffic and paving and landscaping of the area around the bus station.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the area, here’s where the town centre is and the area affected is shown in yellow.

Mangere Town Centre Bus Station Upgrade - Location

And here’s what’s planned for the town centre

Mangere Town Centre Bus Station Upgrade - Plan

Mangere Town Centre Bus Station Upgrade - Plan 2

The shelter and other station amenity upgrades are good however there are a few things that appear to be changing that AT haven’t mentioned. Most notable is that there now appears to be two westbound lanes rather than just the one that currently exists. In addition, the cycle lane appears to have moved to the outside of the bus station and is just a line of paint. It’s crazy that in this day we still have AT staff proposing crap, even more so that AT currently have an active project trying to improve walking and cycling connections to the town centre, including using protected cycleways. Our friends at Bike Auckland have more to say on this too.

Here’s what it currently looks like from Google Street View.

Mangere Town Centre Bus Station Upgrade - current

 

Otahuhu

In Ōtāhuhu the existing bus station on Avenue Road will close. It will be replaced by new bus stops and bus shelters installed on both sides of Avenue Road, retaining a familiar bus stop location for existing passengers.

In October, many south Auckland buses will travel between the town centre and the new bus station at Ōtāhuhu train station.

Once again, the area affected is shown in yellow

Otahuhu Centre Bus Upgrade - Location

And here’s what’s planned

 

Otahuhu Centre Bus Upgrade - Plan

Otahuhu Centre Bus Upgrade - Plan 2

It’s not clear what’s happening with the old Otahuhu Bus Station but I believe it is privately own by Infratil so I’m guessing it will be developed or sold. These new stops are likely to be fairly busy with a couple of frequents and other services passing through on their wait to or from the Otahuhu Bus/Train interchange. In some ways it’s a little suprising that AT didn’t just turn this short section of road into a transit mall given there are a number of other nearby streets that can handle general traffic. That would have also allowed for cycle lanes on this street for people to use to access the station

 

Auckland Transport are going to hold two information days about the upgrades:

Ōtāhuhu
11am to 2 pm, Thursday, 14 July 2016 and Saturday, 16 July 2016 – Toia, (Community Centre), Mason Ave, Ōtāhuhu

Māngere
11 am to 2 pm, Tuesday, 19 July 2016 and Friday, 22 July 2016 – Māngere Town Centre

 

 

Lincoln to Westgate Motorway Widening Underway

On Friday while we were basking in the glow of the opening of another great cycling project, the government were busy turning the sod of the next motorway widening project to get underway, something with decidedly less fanfare – to the point there hasn’t even been a press release about it. This was for the Lincoln Rd to Westgate section of SH16 with the most prominent thing I’ve seen being this tweet from Prime Minister John Key

The NZTA also published this video which includes Transport Minister Simon Bridges praising the project.

As mentioned, this $100 million project is widening SH16 between Lincoln Rd and Westgate includes: adding more motorway lanes, some bus lanes, a cycleway as well as upgrading the Royal Rd interchange. Some of the work was originally meant to have been done as part of that the over budget Lincoln Rd interchange project.

Lincoln Rd to Westgate Motorway Widening Map

While there are a few useful things coming as part of the project, like all non-motorway features, they generally appear to be half arsed and incomplete. This includes:

  • The cycleway will be a useful addition, mainly because it will be at a nicer grade than the local road alternatives. I currently ride through this area when going to/from work on the North Shore and the local network options drop below the motorway before rising up above it creating some very steep streets to navigate. But while the cycleway will be useful, the NZTA will force cyclists off at Royal Rd interchange, up a steep section of Makora Rd and through the intersection with Royal Rd. Given the grades, a simple underpass of the off-ramp seems like it should have been easy as well as presenting an easier grade for cyclists.

Makora Rd Steepness

  • Bus shoulder lanes are being added to the motorway. While this is definitely an improvement it’s not the dedicated NW Busway that we need and buses heading further west will be forced to merge out of the bus lane at the Royal Rd interchange. That means to get a proper busway in the future we’re going to have to go back and widen the motorway further, likely taking homes and probably rebuilding the cycleway again when it could have all be integrated at the same time. I recall that back when the NZTA were consenting Waterview and the causeway, they used the excuse that the former ARC plans didn’t list that section of SH16 as a rapid transit route as to why they weren’t including a busway. But those same plans did list Henderson to Constellation via the motorway as a future RTN route as one so it seems the NZTA pick and choose which of the plans it listens too.

Busway schematic

There’s another feature of this project the NZTA have not said a single word about, that they’re taking 7547m² of land from a local reserve under the public works act plus another 1666m² as an easement for access, all of which is hidden under the brief bullet point above of Stormwater treatment. Information on the NZTA’s plans for Lowtherhurst Reserve are detailed in the agenda to the Henderson-Massey Local board at the beginning of April and the land they want for a stormwater pond is shown below in pink. The land in question is also what can be seen in the background of the video above.

The reserve is almost 44,000m² but most of that is steep and covered in bush. Only about 14,500m² is flat and grassed so the NZTA want to take half of that. I know somewhat well as I ride through it as part of my commute.

Lincoln to Westgate - Lowthehurst Reserve Land

The NZTA offered the council/local board one of two options:

A. base option is financial compensation for the land only. Boundary fenced off from the reserve

B. the development and use of a wetland walkway and multi-activity use area for the local community with Auckland Council maintaining the footpath and multi-activity area at an ongoing cost of $500 a year (this will be cost neutral as there is a cost saving of $555 from reduced mowing on the reserve resulting from the divestment of land).

More detail on each of them is provided in the report but the minutes show the local board supported selling the land and chose option B. They’ve also requested the money received by the council for the sale of the land go to other open space priorities in the local board area.

According to the NZTA website, the project is due to be finished in February 2019.

A deadline for PT improvement

Auckland is in the midst of the most transformational change to public transport the city has seen since the trams were ripped out in the 1950’s – and I’m not even talking about the City Rail Link. Much of the change is the result of strategies set a decade or more ago but which have only really started to be implemented in the last few years. Once complete they represent the laying of foundations upon which we can build public transport to a level Aucklanders expect and can start to be proud of and with this, projects like the CRL will never be as successful as they could be. The changes are both public facing and behind the scenes with some of the main ones being:

  • Integrated Ticketing
  • Integrated Fares
  • Rail network improvements
    • Double tracking the western line
    • Reopening the Onehunga Line
    • Building the Manukau line
    • Station upgrades
    • Electrification
  • New contracting model (PTOM)
  • New Bus Network

Some of these are already completed while others are due to start rolling out soon, for example integrated ticketing first started rolling out in 2011 while integrated fares are due to go live on 31 July. The results from the initiatives that have rolled out so far have been impressive. Overall, annual patronage in the last decade has increased by nearly 32 million trips a year from around 51 million in 2006 to nearly 83 million as of the end of May. Despite rapid population growth, per capita usage has increased by around 14 trips per person per year up to nearly 52 – although that is still low by international standards.

2016-05 - Total Patronage

The biggest aspect yet to be implemented is the new network with the first part in the South due to roll out in October. The West was tendered for recently and AT are currently evaluating the responses at the moment but the other parts of the network aren’t due to roll out till next year or even early 2018. The timings below come from AT’s latest Board Report.

Oct 2015: Hibiscus Coast bus service design implemented

Oct-2016: South bus service design implemented

May-2017: West bus service design implemented

Aug-2017 to Feb-18: North, Central and East bus service design implemented

Getting to the point of the post, I feel Auckland Transport need to impose upon themselves a deadline of around 14 months to get all of these changes implemented.

There are few reasons for this. First and foremost, the sooner we get the new network rolled out, the sooner we can start to reap the benefits from it but there’s now another reason too. Last week the government announced the date for the next census as Tuesday 06 March 2018.

The census is important as the results are used heavily in many analyses’ for projects and policies as it’s the only to get detailed journey and mode data across the entire (working) population. With Auckland in particular changing so rapidly, being able to show that through the census results is important. As one example, the last census in 2013 revealed that as a change in modal share, PT and active modes in Auckland were all improving and given the results we’ve seen I’d expect that to continue from the 2018 results.

modeshare-change-percent

The data has also been used to create interactive results like the commuter view, allowing you to click on an area unit and and see where people are coming from or going to for work.

Census Journey to Work - Auckland Central West and East

Maximising the outcome for PT and active modes represents a great opportunity for AT to show how the city is changing and it’s one I think they should be looking to take which is why I think they need to set a deadline to get as many PT improvements in place prior to that time.

But why only allow 14 months, that only takes us to about September 2017. The main reason for choosing that date is that it’s about 6 months prior to census day. Having everything implemented by then would therefore allow users to adjust and get used to the changes and new ones to start to take advantage of them. We know from overseas that these types network changes often result in an initial reduction in patronage but they achieve stronger growth over time as new users try the changes and adapt to them. Conversely, holding off changes till after the census is also not a great idea as it will mean the network isn’t operating as well as it should be and patronage growth wouldn’t be as strong as a result. AT need to find the goldilocks zone.

On top of just rolling out the new network by that point there are a couple of other things they need to have sorted by then.

The census takes place in March which we know is traditionally the busiest month of the year for the transport system. In the last few years we’ve seen repeated issues with buses being overcrowded resulting in people sometimes needing to wait for up to 12 to go past before one with enough space turns up. While the new network will address some of that, on top of setting that up they’ll need to be working with operators to have extra capacity provided during that time. Unfortunately given the lead in times it will be too late to do anything to get extra trains in so there are likely to be some busy trains by that point.

AT will also need to get moving on getting more physical infrastructure rolled out to support the new network, this includes upgraded bus lanes or other bus priority, improved stops and signage etc. In essence they need work on ensuring there are significant improvements to the customer experience.

For one more reason why it’s important, previously the census has only asked about journey to work which excluded a lot of trips, especially PT trips by students. Following consultation it’s appears quite likely that Stats NZ will add to the census a question about journey to education which should give a much more relevant picture of transport use.

What do you think, is it time for AT to put some harder deadlines in place in advance of the census?

Northern Corridor moving ahead

Auckland has no shortage of big road projects on the go at the moment but one of them that has at least improved a bit over the last few years has been the Northern Corridor Improvements project. This plans to convert the last remaining part of SH18 to full motorway standard with some direct motorway to motorway ramps to the north along with extra lanes. The improvement has come in the form of the NZTA now confirming that an extension of the Northern Busway will be part of the project. This a significant change as it had been specifically excluded by the government when the project was accelerated by the government in 2013 – which we understand was against the advice of the NZTA at the time.

The NZTA say the next stage of the project has now been approved which means they’ll be working towards getting consents before starting construction in 2018. As part of this they’ve now come out with an “Approved Draft Plan” which they say includes:

  • A new direct motorway to motorway connection between SH18 and SH1, separating motorway traffic from local road traffic.
  • Additional motorway lanes in both directions on the Northern Motorway (SH1) between Greville Road and Constellation Drive.
  • Extension of the Northern Busway from Constellation Bus Station to Albany Bus Station. Auckland Transport is investigating a new bus station along the extension in the Rosedale area.
  • A 5km dedicated shared walking and cycling path on the eastern side of the Northern Motorway (SH1), built alongside the new Busway extension and alongside Upper Harbour Highway (SH18) all the way to Albany Highway. A proposed new walking and cycling bridge across SH1 in Albany will connect Pinehill and East Coast Bays residents with Albany’s shopping, employment and university areas.
  • Local road improvements through the Constellation Drive and Caribbean Drive intersections, and a new Paul Matthews Road bridge.
  • Further investigation of a proposed bridge over SH18 to improve connections for the Unsworth Heights community

 

Here is the latest plan which also includes a few changes from the last time we saw the project almost a year ago. The main changes I can see compared to then are:

  • They’ve now clarified the connections around Paul Matthews Rd
  • They’ve dropped a big swooping on-ramp providing a direct connection from Albany Expressway to the motorway southbound.
  • Previously buses would use the bridge at McClymonts Rd to access the busway station before looping back to the motorway via Oteha Valley Rd. Now a new busway bridge will be built directly across the motorway to the station.
  • They’ve dropped a potential walking and cycling underpass from SH18 and seem to plan to include a connection as part of a new bridge extending Unsworth Dr
  • Previously there was a ‘potential path still under investigation’ showing along SH18 including west of Albany Highway. They’ve confirmed the walking and cycling path as far as Albany Highway but not west of there. This is a shame as the motorway has a much nicer grade than using Upper Harbour Highway

Northern Corridor - June-16 Design

 

On the busway they say in more detail

It’s now confirmed that the project will include an extension of the popular Northern Busway from Constellation Bus Station to Albany Bus Station. This means buses will be able to travel on a dedicated busway all the way to Albany, reducing travel times and improving public transport options. Auckland Transport is also investigating a new bus station and Park & Ride options in Rosedale along the new busway extension. As part of this, Auckland Transport will look at local road improvements and additional feeder services that could help transport people in and out of the station from the East Coast Bays, North Harbour, and Rosedale. Similar to Smales Farm, it is expected that this station will be a destination station for the many people who work, go to schools or attend sporting activities in the area. It will also provide another station to catch the Northern Express service to and from the city

Northern Corridor - June-16 Busway

As part of this final step before going to consenting they are giving people another chance to have a say on the project. Unfortunately, this post is too late for any of the open days but you can still email them or fill in their survey which is focused on a few specific issues like urban design, the new busway station, walking and cycling options and some other local road changes like the potential Unsworth Rd Bridge.

I’d like to see is the busway built first as it would have an added benefit of giving people options during the inevitable disruption that will occur during the construction of the motorway.

One aspect that the NZTA hasn’t talked about since the project was announced is the cost. Back then it was estimated at $450 million but that was without the busway.