Tomorrow the AT board meet for their penultimate meeting of the year and it looks like it will be a big one with a lot on the agenda of their closed session.
I’ve added my thoughts after many of the items.
Items for Approval/Decision
- Panuku Framework Plans – I assume this relates to AT working with Panuku Development Auckland on plans for the areas they’re focusing on redeveloping.
- Dominion Road Bus Lane Improvements – When AT announced they were looking seriously at light rail for Dominion Rd, the planned upgrade that was about to go ahead was put on hold but now that ATAP appears to have pushed LRT out, it’s important that AT make some improvements to the bus lanes now. Hopefully this means they’ll be extending the lanes, including through intersections rather than stopping short like now and extending the hours of operation.
- Road Stopping
- Clonbern Road Carpark – AT have indicated previously that there’s a redevelopment proposal for the carpark they own on Clonbern Rd, Remuera.
- Execution of Deed by Directors – Lease of upper levels CPO – Presumably this is for after the CRL works have finished.
- Execution of Heads of Terms – Lease of Land
- 2017 Annual Fare Review – It will be interesting to see if AT propose any fare changes given they’ve just made some with the introduction of Simplified Fares. If they do make changes, past years indicate they would be implemented in January.
- Rail Operator – In the main board report it is mentioned that AT are currently conducting a periodic efficiency audit as part of the rail passenger services contract terms of reference
Items for Noting
- CRL Procurement Update – I assume this item related to AT holding a day long industry briefing on the main works of the CRL later this month before tender documentation goes out next year.
- MRT/LRT Update – One of the outcomes from ATAP was the use of the term Mass Transit instead of Light Rail for several projects. Essentially the NZTA are busily trying to show that a bus only solution to capacity problems can be found but my guess is they will do so by ignoring the capacity issues on city centre streets.
- Parnell Station Update – It appears that Kiwirail have already started some works to move the old Newmarket Station building to the site, presumably this will update progress.
- Procurement Update
Moving on to the items that got my attention in the main business report, in the order appear in the report.
AT say the handheld devices used by ticket inspectors to check HOP cards are at the end of their life and they have a project underway to replace them.
The Mt Roskill Safe Routes is now complete and due to be officially opened on Wednesday while the first stage of the Glen Innes to Tamaki Dr path – from Merton Rd to St Johns Rd – will open on 16 December.
In a piece of great news, it appears AT have agreed to remove the left turn slip lanes from Nelson St onto Fanshawe St as part of the project to extend the Nelson St cycle lanes. Dealing with this intersection is what has delayed the project by so long as I understand some of the traffic engineers were more concerned about vehicle flow than the safety of people. Construction of this section is planned for March 2017
The Nelson St/Fanshawe St intersection
AT are hoping mediation will solve the appeal by Cowie St residents against the bridge that will replace the Sarawia St level crossing. If it doesn’t, the environment court appeal is set down for February.
The Half Moon Bay ferry terminal is progressing with the wharf works due for completion in January and the land side works in April.
As mentioned this morning, double deckers are due to be rolled out on Onewa Rd in February next year. AT say DD mitigation works also planned for Gt North Rd in Feb 2018 and Manukau Rd in June 2018.
AT say they’re on track to meet their target of rolling out 19km of bus lanes this financial year, despite them later in the report claiming to have a target to roll out 26km this year.
The roll-out of the new bus network in West Auckland is scheduled for 11 June 2017. AT are in the middle of assessing the bids for the Central and East networks and have now gone to tender for the North Shore services.
We’ve mentioned before that AT are finally looking at boosting capacity of services prior to the regular March Madness. There’s a little more detail about what this entails.
- For the NEX they say approximately 25-35 extra peak trips will be added in January-February 2017 – but it doesn’t say what timeframe those extra trips are over i.e. per week/month.
- They say Birkenhead Transport have the fastest growing bus patronage after the NEX and as well as double deckers being added in February, eight additional peak trips will be added to the timetable.
- On rail they say “Further line speed, interlocking works and signalling works to improve journey times are being targeted for the March/April 2017 timetable recast.” – although this does also suggests the new rail timetable might be being pushed out a little.
On Friday 21 October, they say for the first time ever had 100% punctuality and reliability on trains.
I continue to hear more and more complaints about Skybus since they took over the commercially run airport service around a year ago. Being a fully commercial service they sit outside of AT’s control so it’s interesting to see that they continue to be the worst performing bus company in Auckland.
A trial a Park & Ride run by Wilsons Parking will take place on Esmonde Rd at the Harbourside Church. It will be interesting to see how popular this is, perhaps cars stuck as part of traffic on Esmonde Rd, and seeing buses wizz past in the bus lane might decide to pull off and park up.
A trial park and ride facility is being prepared for opening on 28th November at Esmonde Road, Takapuna. The facility is owned by the Harbourside Church and will be operated by Wilsons Parking Ltd. AT Metro are facilitating the additional bus stops, services, promotion and planning of this initiative and will be monitoring the uptake and impact of this site on traffic patterns in and around Takapuna. The initiative is also linked to parking consultation activities in Takapuna and offers alternative parking options for both inbound and outbound vehicles
An indication as to some of the things going up to the board and board committees in the next month.
- Electric Vehicles in transit lanes
- Train Capacity
- Mangere future streets
- Strategic PT Network
- 2016/17 Budget realignment
- MRT/LRT Update
There’s certainly a lot going on.
Ridership figures for public transport in Auckland during October are now available and they continue to grow, driven almost exclusively by huge growth on the Rapid Transit Network (RTN) – the rail lines and the Northern Busway.
Compared to October-2015, total ridership this October increased by 2.7% with just under 7.3 million trips taken, but within that figure the use of the RTN has continued its double-digit growth and is up 16.3% (rail up 16.4% and busway up 16.2%). This kind of great growth is to be expected as it reflects the RTN continuing to establish itself as the core of the PT network. Now over 26% of all PT trips in the region happen on the RTN and the RTN will continue to grow in the future as it usage tends to follow a fairly simple and proven formula; high frequency services + high capacity vehicles + dedicated infrastructure = great PT use. The graph below shows the growth in the RTN and the overall PT growth over the last decade or so – at the start of the graph, the RTN accounts for just 10.5% of all trips vs 26.3% now.
But the RTN isn’t the only PT that’s been growing though, ferry use has continued some steady growth, inching ever closer to 6 million annual trips and a milestone that’s likely to be achieved any day now. AT also say the Mt Eden Rd and Onewa Rd bus services continue to see good growth which is positive. The former has seen the introduction of double deckers relieving some of the overcrowding issues that were seen earlier this year while the latter has also seen some improvement, Onewa Rd services are also due for more capacity early next year with AT saying double deckers are due to be introduced on some Birkenhead Bus services in February.
But the good news stories are partially balanced by other parts of the bus network which continue to see declining use. AT say the buses in the southern area continue to perform poorly and with bus services from the west which were heavily impacted about a year ago by the bus stop changes related to the City Rail Link works. It’s possible some of the changes from both the south and the west are a result of people migrating to the rail network.
For the south at least, it will be interesting to see how the numbers change over the coming months in response to the introduction of the new bus network that went live at the end of October. These kinds of changes can often take at least a few months to bed in before ultimately bearing fruit. Even if growth happened immediately we also may not see it unless AT split their patronage reporting out (which I hope they do).
Here is the detailed table they publish with the results.
It should be clear by now that growing the RTN is essential to the future growth of PT in Auckland. As such, AT really needs to put pressure on themselves to deliver on RTN expansion because at the moment it all seems to be moving at a glacial pace and the AMETI busway is a prime example of the heel dragging that has plagued the organisation. AT are only just now going for consent on the Panmure to Pakuranga section. The recent ATAP reports calls for that busway to be built as far as Botany within the next decade as well as the first parts of the North-western Busway, but both projects only seem to be in very early stages.
Here are a few other graphs from the stats report that we like to keep an eye on.
Farebox recovery has slipped again but is still well within the target range for the year and we expect to see some improvement from the implementation from the new network.
HOP use is down a little on recent months but it’s positive to see it’s use on buses continue to grow.
Parking occupancy continues to remain high. This is interesting because as you can see both on-street and off-street usage is near the top of their respective target ranges and so based on AT’s policy, suggests prices will need to go up in the future.
Auckland Transport have finally fixed what was perhaps the biggest issue with HOP, the blacklisting of cards when an auto top-up fails. Below is the email they sent to users of auto top-up on Friday
Great News: We’ve made some changes to improve the Auto Top Up service.
You asked, we listened!
Following customer feedback about the Auto Top Up service, from today, 11 November 2016, the following changes are happening:
1. You’ll still be notified when your Auto Top Up triggers but you’ll also be notified if we’re unable to collect the payment.
2. We’ll try up to 3 times to collect the payment and keep you posted throughout.
3. If we’re unable to collect the payment, your Auto Top Up will be cancelled and the top-up amount (that hasn’t been paid for) will be removed from your AT HOP card, however we will no longer cancel your AT HOP card.
4. If the removal of the unsuccessful top-up amount puts your card into negative balance, the card will need to be topped up to a positive balance again before you can use it for travel. A negative balance can be cleared by topping up your card by $5 (minimum top up) or by the value of the negative balance, whichever is greater.
5. You then have the option to update your payment details and set up a new Auto Top Up.
We hope these changes will enhance your AT HOP experience.
Cancelling the cards of probably some of your most loyal customers, potentially leaving them stranded and forcing them to shell out $10 for a new one had to be one of the worst customer experiences an organisation could come up with. As such this is a huge improvement, it’s just a shame it’s taking this long.
Now let’s hope they can fix some the other user unfriendly features.
The current cycleway revolution in Auckland has a serendipitous feature for one of Auckland’s most cherished but badly treated areas: All routes lead to Karangahape Rd. Both the recent city by-passes: Grafton Gully and the Pink Path, have one end in the K Rd precinct, our only current cycling ‘superhighway’, the NorthWestern, is about to get its city termination moved forward from Newton Rd to the K, and the coming real on-road separated cycle lanes on Great North Rd also lead straight to the K. Oh and the cycle friendly ridge level link of our very own Pont Neuf, Grafton Bridge, leads bike riders there from the other end.
Yes Karangahape Rd is the ground zero of Auckland’s bike riding revival which surely offers a real opportunity for the area to at last both thrive and remain true to its very specific identity. It would be a shame for K Rd to either slide back into decline or to try to keep up with its glossier rivals by seeking to become something its not. And as Ponsonby Rd becomes ever more upmarket and seemingly determined to drown itself in more and more parking and therefore driving, this offers K Rd a great opportunity to brand itself as a street and people place and not a car place. This happy confluence of street culture and improving bike infrastructure is already having an effect on the numbers that access businesses on the street by bike, as can be seen below:
And in the data:
But this is despite the lack of any safe cycle routes on K Rd itself, nor clearly enough parking places. But happily our Transport Agency is on it:
The plan is to add cycle lanes each side with temporary barriers, or at least without expensive excavations of the existing curb line and stormwater systems. And improved bus priority which is already clearly vital to the area. It is wise to start with a changeable pattern as there is a longer term opportunity to further tune down through traffic once the CRL station opens way off in 2023. Then this important section, between Pitt and Queen Sts should become one lane each way for buses (and emergency) and otherwise be for people on foot and bikes only. For more on the plan and links to make a submission go here.
To this end I think the K Rd business association should push for a regular traffic closure of this short section between Pitt and Queen every Sunday. This won’t be particularly disruptive, except to through traffic, and that should be the desired outcome; an assertion over place through movement. And of course a way to brand the area as street not arterial, and uniquely street.
So the whole upgrade is clearly a great opportunity for the businesses in the area to market themselves as being at the leading edge of the new city with the bike as the symbol of all the current new urban changes underway: The rise in city centre living, the ongoing revolution in Rapid Transit ridership, in short the return of the City.
The wider point is that the driving era destroyed this place and the walking/biking/transit age we are now in is its best chance at redemption. Go the K.
This is a guest post from reader and friend of the blog, Shan L
Although most southern commuters’ first experience of the New Network for South Auckland was on Monday morning, the go-live was on the day before – Sunday – when travel demand is much lower and any issues can be ironed out before the masses crowd on. To see what it was like, I decided to take a transit journey down south and experience first-hand the sort of the change the network might (or might not!) bring.
I took a look at the network map online, and decided to start my journey at Britomart, travelling to Mangere, Otahuhu Town Centre and finally Sylvia Park before returning to Britomart.
Then I added a few constraints to make it interesting:
- No smartphone or otherwise computerised trip planning allowed – given that the New Network is designed to be legible, I should be able to plan my trip entirely with a paper map
- No smartphone real-time tracking of trains or buses allowed – the New Network should be frequent and reliable enough that this is a nicety, not a necessity
- At each destination I’d do a brief bit of shopping – just to make things a bit more realistic
- Leave in the morning, and be back by lunch.
(Note: I’m aware this is a fairly unusual set of trips and not something people would do often. I wanted to see how the network would cope more than I wanted to simulate a reasonable journey)
Although I’m a pretty experienced user of PT in Auckland, most of my regular trips are within the isthmus, so on the surface this could be a quite a challenge, especially since just the day before the transit “network” looked like this:
Spaghetti, yes: and the chef was quite possibly drunk and suffering from anger issues.
That map is convoluted enough to make me give up and not even try – how are you meant to figure out which one of those maroon coloured lines to take, for instance?
But the New Network simplifies this to:
My plan would be:
Otahuhu Station is greyed out to indicate that it’s purely a transfer: I don’t care about shopping there, I’m only getting off the train to take a connecting bus to Mangere.
Now… to pretty much anyone who uses PT regularly in Auckland: this plan is clearly lunacy. You’d only ever try it:
- with a smartphone and spare battery;
- real-time tracking and route planning;
- not on a Sunday or in fact a weekday except during peak hours – you’d spend all day waiting for infrequent services to turn up.
But the New Network says this should now be possible in reasonable time and minimal frustration, so why not see if it holds up?
Leg 1: Britomart to Otahuhu Station
Wait for onward service to arrive: 8 minutes
Starting outside Britomart, the first task was to find a paper map and timetable. This was easy enough, and once obtained I looked for the first train that’d take me to Otahuhu Station. Luckily Otahuhu is served by both the Southern and Eastern lines, so the individual (entirely inadequate) half-hourly frequencies combine to give a train on average every 15 minutes – which while not exactly great – is serviceable.
After waiting at the platform for 4 minutes, I took the 9.58 service (on time), and arrived at Otahuhu at 10.24.
Leg 2: Transfer at Otahuhu Station to Mangere
Wait for onward service to arrive: 5 minutes
The new Otahuhu Station is fantastic. Somehow, It even smells like transit. Maybe ozone from the overhead lines is seeping into the building.
There’s quality wayfinding in place, much like you’d see in better stations in cities overseas, with exits and platforms clearly marked.
There is real time information in the concourse as you transfer, but unfortunately it wasn’t showing the platform for each service. Instead of looking around I took the easy option and asked an AT person with a clipboard where to get my connecting bus.
Note the nice single digit numbers in the “due” column
It’s great they’re using what look like fairly standard sized and reasonably large LCDs. But in my opinion they don’t show quite enough services at once before they resort to paging: waiting for it to scroll around to the screen that interests you can be at best annoying and at worst bus-miss-inducing. On a normal trip I’d use my phone to get this info instead.
The primary job of an interchange is to get passengers from one service to another with maximum speed and minimum anxiety, and given that the entire network just got replaced and everything is brand new, it did this with reasonable competence. A bit of tweaking to the wayfinding and it could be excellent.
I found my platform and a 325 turned up after 5 minutes. I had the option of a 32, 324, 325 or even 326 here, which combine to give average 6 minute frequency. The bus trip was on a brand-new vehicle, with USB at every second seat (in fact all buses I rode were similar). There were unfinished bits though – like missing screens which I’m hoping at some point will display your position on the route.
Leg 3: Mangere to Otahuhu Town Centre
Wait for onward service to arrive: 5 minutes
The bus arrived at the Mangere bus station after a short trip. Since Mangere was a shopping stop, I wandered off to look around for a while. The station clearly isn’t quite finished yet: it’s basically a cone farm.
I didn’t see any obvious sign of any cycleways yet either, but I did see a child on a BMX trying to wend his way through the construction. Hopefully it gets finished soon.
Mangere is home to one of the new bus shelter designs that were trialled on Symonds St. This one felt a bit more robust than the one that was demoed and was pretty comfortable to be in, at least on a good day. I’m still a bit doubtful about how well it will hold up to wind and rain, though.
Despite there being some pretty decent maps and timetables displayed in the stops, practically every passenger who came through asked AT staff for help. My impression is that they’ll need staff on hand at all the major stops for quite a bit after launch. I overheard a few conversations, and while many were understanding of the changes and the need to transfer, one person neatly summed up their concerns with, “but nothing ever works properly in Auckland”.
When I got sick of shopping I started looking for my next bus, which was a 32, and turned up after 5 minutes.
So far I’d managed to do all this without looking at an actual timetable at all – only maps – something which would’ve been inconceivable on Sunday, only a week before.
Leg 4: Otahuhu Town Centre to Sylvia Park
Wait for onward service to arrive: ~30 minutes
This is where things got a bit dubious. The trip to Otahuhu went fine, and from looking at the map I thought I was going to be stopping at a proper bus station:
But unfortunately it isn’t completed yet so it’s less clear when to get off. Thankfully the bus driver saved me and let me off at the right place.
After wandering the town centre for a bit I finally found my unique-to-the-region produce and went looking for the bus to Sylvia Park.
In hindsight, it’s obvious that I should’ve just got back on the same service at the same stop I got off on… but being an idiot, I instead headed directly for where the old Otahuhu bus station used to be, where I found a large number of very confused people. The AT staff were pretty busy helping people who genuinely needed it but when I started trying to clamber through the construction site across the road someone showed me where I actually wanted to go.
But to be fair on me, the wayfinding here was pretty poor: if you’re going to require people to go to an unexpected place to catch their bus, then you need big signs with giant arrows all the way to the destination, not the little bits of A4 they had taped to the bus shelter. Having people to help is great (and they were great – watched one guy manage to get a couple with zero English on the right bus), but never underestimate the value of giant arrows in times like this.
Due to the combination of me screwing up and lack of good temporary wayfinding I missed my bus, so had to wait 15 minutes for the next. Which would’ve been fine, had it turned up. In reality, and in true Auckland fashion, it didn’t. So I waited about half an hour until one did, which was the 32 to Sylvia Park.
Leg 5: Sylvia Park Station to Britomart
Wait for onward service to arrive: 0 minutes
As I wandered from the bus stop through the mall to the Japan Mart (source of all the instant ramen you could possibly want) to do my final bit of shopping, the real-time train info handily displayed in the mall let me know that the next service to Britomart would be leaving in 7 minutes.
This was simultaneously useful and disappointing: useful because I now knew I only had 7 minutes to get to my train, which isn’t much time; disappointing because now I had a choice between either cutting my shopping short (I genuinely wanted to spend more time there) or shopping a bit longer and waiting almost half an hour for the next train.
I opted to cut it short and return. The train turned up as I stepped on the platform, then arrived at…
Total duration: 2 hours 50 minutes
Total cost: $8.00
Possibly the most interesting thing about this journey was that I could do it at all. It’s was little extreme, and you’re not likely to want to do such a thing often, but until Sunday it was impossible or at least wildly impractical to do with public transport – and now it isn’t. We’re taking a big step forward.
But how about the details? How did the network stack up against the constraints I set at the beginning?
Legibility: No smartphone or otherwise computerised trip planning allowed
I didn’t use a phone at all for planning, nor did I choose my start time based on timetables, it was just when I happened to get up. I was surprised how legible the network was; I never really missed having my phone – in fact it was freeing not having to constantly ask Google how to get somewhere. Planning the trip felt similar to planning a journey on a reasonably decent transit network somewhere in Europe.
Frequency and reliability: No smartphone real-time tracking of trains or buses allowed
I did miss having on-demand real time tracking a bit – it helps make you feel more in charge of your journey (do I bail and call a taxi, or stick it out?) – but the only time I really felt I needed it was when the 32 bus from Otahuhu Town Centre didn’t turn up for half an hour. When services are frequent and reliably so, you don’t really need real time. Sadly, I don’t think we’re quite there yet in Auckland, even on our frequent routes, so this will probably remain essential for quite a while.
Suitability for shopping / spontaneous lifestyles
This is a derivative of frequency and reliability: are things good enough that I can ride somewhere, wander off and not worry about when I have to leave to catch a service? Despite the hiccup with the 32 I felt I could – but only if the journey didn’t involve rail.
It seems to me that the biggest weakness with the network will be the poor off-peak rail frequencies. AT need to look into getting them to serviceable levels as soon as possible. To me, that means every 10 minutes, but no doubt others have different opinions. I’d just like something that’d allow me to get my noodles, and not be forced to hang around in a mall for ages if I decide on a whim to buy cake as well.
Leave in the morning, and be back by lunch.
I eat at 1pm.
Addendum: Travel Times
(Approximate, for huge nerds only)
Over the last few years Auckland has ticked off some major public transport milestones. The roll out of HOP integrated ticketing (albeit with the black-listing issue), electric trains (albeit with the long dwell-times ), double-deckers (albeit with stubby bus lanes on Mt Eden Rd), and integrated fares (albeit only on train and buses at this stage) are all giant leaps towards the type of public transport network Auckland will need if it is to continue to grow and prosper.
On Sunday, Auckland will reach another major PT milestone: The roll-out of the New Network (NN) in South Auckland. While some smaller areas such as Green Bay and Titirangi have already been implemented, this is the first major sub-region to see the NN. For those who have been asleep for the last few years, the NN was first proposed in 2012 when Auckland Transport consulted on the Draft Regional Public Transport Plan (RPTP). In this document, AT argued for a complete redesign of Auckland’s PT network, with a new emphasis on the development of a connected, frequent network of bus services that operated all-day, every-day — thus catering for a wide-range of journeys.
The general concepts underpinning the NN is explained in this video, and illustrated in the following diagram. Both the video and the figure contrast the design principles underpinning the NN with the existing bus network, which runs many different services in a chaotic fashion and at low frequency.
The same design principles can be seen in most successful public transport networks overseas, such as London’s Underground and Barcelona’s “sober” bus network. Edinburgh’s network of (primarily) frequent bus routes, for example, carries approximately 110 million journeys per annum at close to 100% cost-recovery, and all this occurs in a city that is smaller than Auckland (albeit much denser). Evidence suggests well-designed frequent public transport networks — where services operate all-day, all-week — are extremely effective, both in terms of patronage and efficiency. Of course, once you have a core frequent network you can always overlay direct additional services as and when justified by demand.
Auckland Transport have defined a frequent service as one that runs services at a minimum of every 15 minutes, 7am-7pm and 7-days a week (NB: Some routes will operate frequently outside of these hours). In the current network only a handful of routes achieve this standard, as illustrated below (the left-hand map). One of the key reasons is because Auckland’s current network has a lot of duplication, where routes run in parallel with other services, such as the rail lines. This duplication results in a relatively high cost per net passenger carried, and relatively low vehicle utilization. The word “net” is deliberate and important. In a network where there is duplication, removing a route will often not lead to much loss of patronage, because a large fraction of passengers divert onto other services.
And if you then reinvest the savings into running more service on another route, then you will often generate more patronage. This is indeed what AT have sought to achieve with the NN. In a nutshell: The NN is designed to deliver frequent, connected bus services, leveraging the benefits of past investments in the Rapid Transit Network (rail and busway), integrated ticketing/fares, and interchanges, such as New Lynn, Panmure, and Otahuhu. The result? Well, a vast expansion in frequent bus service to large parts of Auckland. The difference is illustrated by the maps below. Note that the original time-frame of 2016 has turned out overly optimistic, which is a point I’ll return to later.
NB: In the wake of consultation, not all routes are the same as shown below either. While some of the changes have improved the network, many of the changes — especially in the Isthmus — appear to have compromised the effectiveness of the NN by reducing the frequency of cross-town routes. Again, this is a point to which I return later.
Beneath the frequent network are, of course, additional secondary and local networks that connect with the RTN, local centres, and other key destinations – expanding the reach of the RTN network. What is often not appreciated is that many secondary routes run at frequent levels of service during week-day peaks, so as to enable connections to other rapid/frequent services. Moreover, some secondary routes are prime candidates for future frequent routes, as and when patronage warrants and/or operating budgets allow. The secondary route running from Westgate to Constellation, for example, could well blaze the trail for a frequent route connecting a (soon-to-be-born) North-western Busway and the (jumped-up adolescent) Northern Busway. We look forward to that day!
The NN concept was adopted in 2013. Later that year AT went out to detailed consultation on the South Auckland network. Following some changes the network below was accepted. In 2014 they also consulted on and confirmed the Pukekohe and Waiuku changes, which also go live on Sunday.
As mentioned above, a key part of the New Network is its focus on using connections to increase frequency, span, and coverage. The need to embrace connections reflects the fact that no single route can, on its own, meet the wide variety of travel demands that exists in a bustling metropolis. Instead, what is required is a network of routes that work together to cover the urban areas. In such a network, some passengers may need to connect to reach their destination, but the pay-off (for everyone) is more frequency. The need for connections does, however, create the need for interchanges. Such as the $28 million bus interchange at Otahuhu train station, which is formally opened to the public tomorrow.
A high-quality bus interchange is also planned at Manukau. Work on the $35 million Manukau Bus station started this week, and is expected to be finished circa mid-2017.
While signature interchanges are important for enabling connections and network legibility for new users, many journeys will not start or end there. For this reason, as part of the NN AT are also rolling out improvements to local bus stop infrastructure. Following consultation on some concept designs, AT come up with new standards for bus shelters, which will be progressively installed around the region.
And the changes don’t stop with the physical infrastructure. The implementation of the NN is proceeding in tandem with a whole new bus contracting regime, known as PTOM. For decades Auckland has been lumbering under the current contracting regime, which is a throwback to the Thatcherite hey-day of the early 90’s and was weighted heavily in favour of the ***incumbent*** private bus companies, stifling competition. For about 5 years, a combination of central government ambivalence and differences held-up progress towards a new contracting regime, until the explosion in contracting costs jolted the hamsters into action. We’re not sad to see the back of the current contracting regime, and it’s something that should make life much easier going forward. Specifically, the new PTOM contracts tilt the power back in AT’s favour while increasing competitive pressure at the same time. The tendering of bus contracts for the NN in South Auckland, for example, saved $3 million annually — while achieving a 21 percent increase in hours of operation and a 15 percent increase in kilometres covered. New operators will often be introducing brand new buses branded in the standard AT livery. The new contracts also put in place stricter rules around the quality of buses.
All these changes go a long way to explaining some of the delays to the roll-out of the NN. For example, following the conclusion of consultation for South Auckland, AT announced the network would be rolled out from mid-2015. That has kept slipping back until now, so it is rolling out over a year later than originally intended. I understand a large part of the slippage has to do with the delays building the Otahuhu interchange.
There are some other lingering issues with the NN that AT really do need to address, and which I’ll briefly mention here:
- AT’s rail service planning appears to have fallen off the tracks. This means the frequency of the rail timetable has not been improved to match the new bus network. This is technically somewhat interesting, because I understand the lack of frequent rail services contravenes the RPTP, which has some statutory weight. Anyway, the upshot is that while bus routes will operate frequently all day, they will connect to trains that do not (depending on the station). The updated train timetable isn’t due till March, i.e. 6 months after the NN rolls-out. Hopefully someone can rouse AT’s rail service planning team into action before the NN rolls-out to the next sub-region.
- In the south, a combination of consultation and budget savings saw an expansion of the frequent network from what was originally proposed. In contrast, the recently announced changes to the Isthmus network back-pedaled on NN design principles, and saw the retention of many duplicative existing routes, the Outer Link being the prime example. This necessitated a reduction in the coverage of the frequent network, especially on crosstown services, some of which have been downgraded and/or dropped altogether. It’s a shame AT’s NN nerve wavered in the Isthmus, which is the very part of Auckland where a frequent connective network is most beneficial.
So, what can we expect when it comes to patronage? Change always causes disruption, and it is likely that the NN will disadvantage some existing users. While unfortunate, this is unavoidable with major network changes of this nature. You can’t make a bus omelette without breaking some eggs. As disaffected passengers will stop using PT almost immediately, while new users take a while to attract, it may be that patronage decreases initially. I’d personally prepare for angry newspaper articles and photos of unhappy people going to the wrong bus stop and ending up in Waitakere (NB: Of course it’s all AT’s fault for even running buses to Waitakere in the first place. If only it’d been a train, then nobody would have been inconvenienced. Stupid AT).
More seriously, notwithstanding the initial resistance to change, the general experience is that patronage usually ends up higher than it would have otherwise within about 3-6 months of the network changes, and that growth thereafter is more rapid. As mentioned earlier, AT have already rolled out changes to the Greenbay/Titirangi area based on similar network principles, which experienced patronage growth of 35% in the last single year — and that was without any frequent services too.
Despite the delays, and minor quibbles like an infrequent rail network, it’s fantastic we’re finally seeing the NN rolled out in South Auckland. It should make travel using public transport much easier for a lot more people which is a great outcome. It also provides the bones of a frequent network around which infrastructure investment and land use development can progressively occur. It’s important that frequent bus routes become a much-loved and semi-permanent feature of Auckland’s urban-scape, as indeed they are in all major cities. (Incidentally, the need for permanence is one reason why we go on and on about bus lanes on Mt Eden Rd: That route is not going to go away, it’s been there since the year dot, and it’s now busier than ever. That’s a good thing, and that’s why AT should throw some resources into making those bus lanes run for more than an hour.)
While AT may not get everything right first time around, at least the “bones” of a decent bus network are in place, and it is something that can be progressively improved, as and when justified by demand and/or enabled by budgets. This point is important to keep in mind: The NN represents the start of a long-term project whereby Auckland’s bus network becomes more frequent, more connected, and easier to use. I would hope that we’re back here in 5 years time quarreling over how to best respond to the growth that results. The answer, I hope consists mainly of more frequency, more connectivity, and less complexity.
P.s.The other main areas to be rolled out are West Auckland, expected in June 2017 with the North shore, Central Auckland and East Auckland rolled out between August 2017 and April 2018.
P.P.s. If you want to attend the opening of the new Otahuhu Station, the details are below.
Ōtāhuhu Station opening
- Date and time: Saturday 29 October, from 10am to 3pm.
- Getting there:
- By train: Both the Eastern and Southern lines trains stop at Ōtāhuhu Station.
- By bus: A free shuttle bus will run between Ōtāhuhu town centre (existing bus depot) and Kaka Street. The bus will operate every 15 minutes from 10am to 4pm. Passengers will need to climb the steps of the Kaka Street overbridge to get to the event.
- By bike: Lock your bike at the station’s cycle rack.
- There is no public parking at the event.
Auckland public transport patronage for September is now available and sitting on a Shinkansen racing across Japan seems like the perfect time to write about it.
Compared to September 2015 there is once again a marked difference between the modes with AT reporting the following high level results for the month:
- Total – up 3.4%
- Bus – up 0.4%
- Train – up 13.8%
- Ferry – up 6.7%
The more detailed breakdown is shown below
Once again you can see that with bus, it’s the busway that continues to be pull up the numbers up with stellar growth. With Ritchies now running all but two buses in the peak as double deckers, hopefully we’ll see this fantastic growth continue. AT also report that they’ll be adding more NEX services to the peak in January and February head of March Madness to help cope with expected demand and ongoing growth.
But the growth on then NEX also means that the results on other bus services remains poor. AT have said in the past this is partially due to a range of issues such the CityLink buses no longer being free, buses from the west not being as attractive due to the changes with the CRL works and poor overall performance on buses in the south, something we should hopefully see some improvement on as a result of the new network.
On trains there are continues to be strong growth but the percentages in recent months do appear to be starting to reduce from the regular 20%+ we were seeing for a couple of years. But we did expect this to happen eventually and in reality it’s odd to be seeing 20% growth as a normal thing. What’s worth pointing out though is that even though growth as a percentage is slowing down a bit, it’s primarily due to being compared against a higher base. In total numbers it remains high and on an annualised basis we’re continuing to add over 2.7 million trips a year as you can see in the graph below.
What’s also worth noting is the results for the different lines. Following the long awaited increase in frequency on the Western Line it continues to grow well and on an annualised basis has now passed 6 million trips. It’s worth noting that just 9 years ago the entire rail network had fewer trips on it that.
At the same time the Southern Line only had 4% more trips than September 2015. I wonder if what’s driving this is the same as affecting buses or if there are other issues such as capacity constraints. AT do say they’ll me making some slight changes to how they run trains from this month which will see another 3-car set freed up which can be used to help increase capacity.
There is planned to be a new timetable in March which will see services sped up and which will free up two more 3-car sets to increase capacity. AT say the March timetable will finally see the electric trains on the Southern and Eastern line running faster than the diesels that they replaced. On the Western Line speeds will be about the same as they were and can’t be faster due to the safety measures needed around the way too numerous level crossings.
For rail, on an 12m rolling basis there are now over 60,000 trips being taken on weekdays.
Ferries continue what has been some solid growth and while most of it is on the except services (Devonport, Waiheke and to be soon to be formerly Stanley Bay), as a percentage growth is strongest on the contracted services which is an area AT have been improving services. With some recent improvements to Half Moon Bay and Pine Harbour, and the new Half Moon Bay ferry terminal under construction, we’ll hopefully see these results continue to improve.
On to some of the other PT metrics, punctuality seems to be a mixed bag. Overall it is improving but has been declining on ferries. Over the last year or so, AT have standardised all of their punctuality metrics to focus on the time the service departed its origin destination. I don’t agree with this way of recording results as it feels like a convenient way to make the results look better than what most people experience, especially for buses which often get caught in congestion. As a comparison, for rail AT still show the percentage of trains that arrive at their final destination within 5 minutes and that shows 96.3% of trains on time vs the 98.6% based on departure time.
Since the introduction of integrated fares, farebox recovery has fallen a bit. This was to be expected but is still will within AT’s target range for this financial year. NZTA’s farebox recovery policy means it needs to reach 50% by June 2018 so at 49% it’s still looking pretty good. One positive thanks to the increasing patronage is that the subsidy per passenger km for rail continues to improve. We should also start to see it improve for buses from November with the New Network in South Auckland saving AT around $3 million annually.
HOP usage continues to improve, with 84.5% of all trips in September being via HOP. What is interesting is the steady increase in HOP use on ferries. I wonder if this is mainly due to the increase in contracted services.
Overall we’re continuing to see some positive results. Now back to the rest of my Shinkansen trip.
We often talk about the big projects, networks, as well as game changing best practice regulations. However what about the small things, low hanging fruit where for cheaply i.e. not for 100s of millions of dollars we can achieve with a “Small Step” a “Great Leap” for the people the project & area it effects, part 3 is about the difficultly of transfers in the off peak.
During the peak, transfers are not to bad, lots of bus routes have 10-15 frequencies, as well as the trains. However during the offpeak transfers become difficult, because of timings. Here are 3 examples
- The Southbound Southern Line service on the Weekend departs Newmarket the same time the Westbound Western Line is scheduled to come into Newmarket, meaning a 30 min transfer wait is required as you always miss the transfer.
- The Eastbound service from Britomart leaves 1 min after the Western Line arrives on the Weekend, if you know this, putting yourself strategically in right carriage, and know to run, you can just make it if Eastern TM is onto it, however if not you will usually miss the service which means 30min transfer wait.
- A person I knew wanted to head to the Airport from Avondale, the original plan was they would catch 008 to Onehunga & then 380 to Airport, however the 380 left one min they said before 008 was timetabled to arrive. Again 30min transfer wait.
These types of events really put people off, and make people not want to use PT on off peak except for direct to destination services. While in the long run Auckland Transport should fix these issues through the introduction of the New Network with many routes including the trains having a service every 15mins 7-7, Monday to Sunday. However the New Network won’t go live until later next year for Central, East & the North Shore, the 380 also is still only has a 30 min frequency service in the New Network. I also can’t see how they can run a train every 15 mins Monday-Sunday 7-7 due to the Eastern & Southern Lines sharing the tracks between Westfield to Wiri, this would mean in this section 8TPH would be running each way, now this is fine for passenger services we run 12TPH each way during weekday peaks on that section, but the question would be when & how easily would KiwiRail fit in it’s freight services without a third main in that section?
While it was good to see the Westfield-Wiri third main in the indicative projects lists in the first decade, we still have no idea if this means it will funded tomorrow, 2018, or even 2028, it is an ATAP ASAP for me, but whether it is for AT & Government I am not sure.
In the meantime, we could make peoples lives easier if in the next timetable adjustments, we tweaked a few off peak services to better connect to each other like the examples above.
So what do you think?
In July Auckland Transport stealthily uploaded a 97 page Programme Business Case on the Light Rail page of the AT website. Due to ATAP (Auckland Transport Alignment Project), the Unitary Plan and City Rail Link (CRL) has gone a little bit under the radar.
So what is it? Technically while Light Rail is one part of the business case, the document is called the Central Access Plan (CAP) & deals issues identified in City Centre Future Access Study, which was even with the CRL CBD bus corridors would reach breaking point due to bus congestion/numbers on Wellesley & Symonds Streets.
Bus Numbers with CRL 2041
It looks to be part of a wider scope of studies/works about providing transport access to Central Auckland, they being the CRL which provides good access for the West/South/Inner East, the North Shore Rapid Transit study, which I assume is looking at a need for future rapid transit options either standalone or as part of AWHC project in the foreseeable future, and the Northwest Rapid Transit Project which one would assume is the Northwest Busway report due April 2017 prepared by Aurecon.
Access to Central Auckland
The area the Central Access Plan looks as if it trying to address is Void, which has been mentioned on this blog before, the isthmus area between the Western & Southern lines. This area consists of some of Auckland’s major arterials & bus routes – Mt Eden Road, Sandringham Road, Manukau Road and Dominion Road.
The study identified 3 major problems
- The inability to meet current and projected transport demand on key corridors will sustain unreliable travel and poor access to productive central city jobs
- Blockages and delays in central bus services worsen travel times and customer experience for those using public transport
- High and increasing traffic volumes on residential and inner city streets create adverse urban amenity and environmental effects.
The study also notes that “There is already a substantial problem now with buses frequently late and full, resulting in passengers being left behind. Projects and initiatives such as the City Rail Link (CRL) and the New Network, largely with double-decker buses, will provide substantial additional capacity, but the underlying growth in projected demand is so great that most bus routes and the associated terminals and bus stops will have reached capacity by the early 2020s. The stress on the system at that time will be such that only the introduction of a mode that can move more people in fewer vehicles and that can use the sole under-used City Centre corridor – Queen Street – will provide more than very marginal relief. While measures to optimise the use of the bus services and reduce demand through promoting active travel are integral components of the proposed programme, they only ‘buy time’ before the extra corridor must be brought into use with a higher capacity mode. They will help to make conditions more tolerable as demand continues to grow and before a step-change can be introduced.”
CBD Street Capacity
The below graphs show the buses per hour needed on each street, the Orange shows unmet demand due to over the realistic capacity of buses on the corridor.
Wellesley St Bus Numbers
Symonds St Bus Numbers
The below map shows the Business as Usual scenario, with the red areas no longer within the 45min PT Commute of the City if speeds decrease by 31% (This was a KPI in ATAP)
Areas within 45 CBD PT Commute
To try & mitigate the 3 problems above they first tested 6 options against the Do Minimum Network (The Do Minimum Network included CRL/AMETI/Busway to Albany, Puhoi-Walkworth, as well as Southern/Northern Corridor Improvements.), the options were (Please note these are the Plan’s Pros/Cons, I don’t necessary agree with all)
Option 1 – Do Regardless which includes: Auckland Cycle Network – $200m, More Double Deckers – $80m, City Centre Street Improvements – $30m, Footpath improvements – $15m, Bringing forward Te Atatu and Lincoln Rd stations – $10m, Implementing off board collections, traffic signal changes, more cycle parking and bus shelter improvements – $2m
Pro: Buys Time & minor increase of capacity.
Option 1 – Do Regardless
Option 2 – Non-Financial Demand Management which included reducing parking supply in CBD, all lanes on Symonds (Past K’ Road) & Wellesley during peak would be bus lanes, more aggressive cycle/walking upgrades due to removal of parking.
Pros: Improves Bus Efficiency, more space for Active Modes, does not preclude further options & reduction in pollution.
Cons: Effectiveness Short Lived
Cost: $540M (Not sure if Do Regardless Cost is Part of each Options Cost or Not)
Option 2 – Demand Management
Option 3 – Extended Bus Network which turns Queen Street into a surface busway for Dominion & Sandringham Road bus services as well as changes to other routes.
Pros: Increase of Capacity & Bus Efficiency, Removal of General Traffic from Queen, Buys a number of years before further intervention.
Cons: Lots of Buses on Queen Street, effective short lived without bus terminal capacity, restricts future interventions, high cost.
Option 3 – Extended Bus Network
Option 4 – A Mt Roskill Spur using the Avondale Southdown Corridor with two stations at Owairaka & Mt Roskill.
Pros: Low Impact due to using rail designation, provides extra capacity on inner west stations, buys time before further intervention, some reduction in buses, does not affect further intervention.
Cons: Short lived, low train frequencies adds to travel times, longer distance for Dominion Road.
Option 4 – Mt Roskill Spur
Option 5 – An LRT Network which consists of 5 stages. Stage 1: Mt Roskill via Queen Street & Dominion Road, Stage 2: An extension to Wynyard Quarter, Stage 3: A Sandringham Road LRT Line via Queen Street, Stage 4 & 5: Three Kings via Symonds & Mt Eden Road LRT, Onehunga via Symonds & Manukau Road LRT.
Pros: Provides necessary capacity, travel time improvements, removes high level of buses from CBD, removes traffic from Queen Street, increase of public space.
Cons: Cost & potential impact on general traffic in isthmus.
Option 5 – LRT
Option 6 – The introduction of a Bus Rapid Transit System with a CBD Bus Tunnel.
Pros: Provides necessary capacity, travel time improvements, removes buses from CBD surface, increase of public space, North Shore services can use tunnel.
Cons: Extremely high cost, large tunnel portals & potential impact on general traffic in isthmus.
Option 6 – BRT Tunnel
AT then put each option against criteria with a ranking of 1-5 for each, the total was the average score with LRT coming on top as best option with a average of 4.4/5 compared to the next highest option the BRT tunnel at 3.7/5.
Cap Option Evaluation
After concluding that LRT was possibly the best way forward, they looked deeper into the option, the first observation they made from the models was that “a second light rail service pattern using Symonds Street, Manukau Road and Mt Eden Road may be required towards the very end of the 30 year period. Allowance has not been made for this service pattern in the IP owing to the level of uncertainty in forecasting so far out as noted in ATAP.” So in the time frame they would only be looking at Cost/Benefits of two of the LRT Lines, Dominion Rd & Sandringham Road
Dominion Rd LRT had a Cost Benefit Ratio (CBR) of 0.7 – 1.9 if land value uplift was included, this allowed the potential of a Mt Roskill Spur to be potentially added to the package. The Cost of Dominion Rd LRT including Wynyard Quarter was $1,367m.
Dominion Rd & Sandringham Rd LRT had a CBR of 0.5 – 1.1. However they say this should improve due to it being able to be staged. The cost of Sandringham LRT they have estimated at $500m.
AT says there is issues with the modelling however for the following reasons which do not allow a proper case to be made
- The constraint of requiring a fixed land use for the evaluation is a flawed assumption, as without additional capacity for travel to the City Centre, the ability to deliver the land use is compromised.
- Similarly, for the people that are ‘crowded off’ the public transport services, there is likely to be a second order effect on general traffic as some of them would be forced back to car travel, making it even less efficient in the process. The performance of the road network would also be expected to degrade over time so potential benefits further in the future are likely to be under represented.
- Large public transport projects where a step change is being made represent a significant investment up front, but offer comparatively modest benefits in the early years. However, for a number of reasons there is a need to make that investment at that point in as there are no feasible options to allow continued functionality without the investment.
- The reliability improvements that come with almost completely segregated travel need to be explored further, particularly as the EEM currently caps them at the same value as the travel time savings.
- The non-transport benefits, such as increased tourism activity in the City Centre would further contribute to the overall economic benefit of the IP.
- Land use value uplift has not been estimated in detail but based on overseas examples is potentially large. Further assessment will confirm the magnitude of these benefits.
These are now the same graphs as before but with the Programme Interventions
Wellesley St Bus Numbers with Intervention
Symonds St Bus Numbers with Intervention
With ATAP released the other day, it should be noted they in the Indicative Projects List have said that Bus Improvements may be able to last until the 2nd Decade 2028-38 period before a Mass Transit system may need to be introduced, I am not sure ATAP & CAP are on the same page regarding this, and this issue may potentially need more investigation.
So what do you think?
Auckland Transport have released a fly-through video of the Manukau Bus Station that is expected to start construction soon. They are also saying it will be complete in the second half of 2017 which is at odds with the board report a few days ago.