Fanshawe St Bus Stop improvements

Occasionally it is small projects that can have a lot of impact on people’s PT experience. With the ever growing number of people working near Victoria Park, an upgrade to the bus stops on Fanshawe St along with improvements to the Daldy St intersection is very welcome and should improve safety too.

In the afternoons the existing bus stops are often overflowing with both buses and with people and without making any changes that’s only going to get worse. As this image from march shows, the number of people waiting to catch a bus cab spill over in to the park.

Construction is already under way to lengthen the bus stop by around 15m and AT say the shelters will be extended as well as pushed further back on the footpath which should make it easier for the often large number of people walking to or from work each day along here.

Fanshawe St Bus Shelters Impression

In addition AT are adding an entrance to Victoria Park from the bus stop, making improvements to the existing pedestrian crossing and also adding a formal pedestrian crossing to the wide mouth of Daldy St. A plan of which is shown below and AT have already installed red road markings for citybound traffic like the ones under trial in Remuera.

Fanshawe St Bus Shelters Plan
Improving the Daldy St crossing is a good thing as crossing that road can be a gauntlet at times and I imagine those less able bodied than myself could really struggle.

While it may only be a small project, if it hopefully improves things for people who live or work in the area.

Animals on PT

An article from Wellington yesterday that caught my attention.

A Wellington vet is suggesting the city council allow dogs on the city’s public transport network, to help make dogs more sociable, and people more comfortable around them.

Allan Probert told councillors on Monday, as he made an oral submission on the council’s Dog Policy review, that he would like to see the law around dogs liberalised, and dogs allowed on public transport as they are in Europe.

“It would help the awareness and the familiarity with dogs, as part of general everyday life.”

Probert agreed on Tuesday people who are afraid of dogs might not like coming across them on a busy bus or train, but said much of that fear relates to people not being familiar with dogs.

There could be a requirement to have dogs on a leash, but said muzzling all dogs in public was going over the top.

This raises the interesting question about whether dogs should be allowed on PT. As I see it there are both good and bad arguments for allowing animals on PT services.

Oddly enough the passengers on my bus yesterday afternoon included this guy who was in training.

Dogs on Buses

On the positive side it could help by remove one small barrier to urban living. As the city continues to develop more and more people will be living in denser urban dwellings while improving transport options will make it more viable for people to live without a car should they wish. But many people also consider pets an important part of their lives and currently cars can be the only option for important trips – such as to the vet. Allowing animals on PT services might just remove that barrier.

As mentioned in the article referenced, many cities do allow animals on PT services. One such city is London which has the following conditions of carriage.

16.1 You can bring an assistance dog with you without charge. You can also bring with you without charge any other dog or inoffensive animal, unless there is a good reason for us to refuse it (such as if the animal seems dangerous). You must keep it under control on a lead or in a suitable container, and must not allow it on a seat. Staff are not allowed to take charge of any animal.

16.2 If you bring an animal with you, for safety reasons you must carry it through automatic ticket gates. If you have an assistance dog, at stations where there is no wide automatic gate, you must ask a member of staff to open the manual gate to allow you to enter or leave a station.

16.3 If you bring an animal with you, you must use a staircase or lift where provided. If there is no staircase or lift and you need to use a moving escalator, you must carry your animal unless you have an assistance dog that has been trained to walk on moving escalators. If your animal is too large to carry, a member of staff will stop the escalator to allow it to travel on it when it is safe to do so (generally outside the rush hours and when the station is not busy).

 

Essentially animals are allowed but staff are allowed to refuse them if they want (except assistance dogs). That seems like a fairly reasonably stance and as the vet in the article points out, is one taken by many other cities in Europe. In some cases specific breeds are banned while others also require dogs to have a muzzle.

If we were ever to seriously consider such an idea I could also understand if there were rules around certain times they might be allowed i.e. not during the peaks – or in the case of trains, only to be allowed in the middle trailer carriage of a 3-car set.

Of course the downside to the idea is that there are a lot of people out there with either phobias or even allergies to certain animals. As such and depending on the severity, allowing animals on to PT services might result in those people being put off using PT. Although given that guide dogs are already allowed it’s not like you can guarantee your bus or train would never have an animal on board.

So what do you think, allow animals on PT or not and would allowing them change your view on using PT? Personally even if it were allowed I can’t see myself taking my dogs on the train or a bus.

Submit on Transport Networks for Auckland’s Future Urban Areas

Today is the last day to submit on the consultation by Auckland Transport and the NZTA on what the call Transport for Future Urban Growth. Around two Hamilton’s worth of people/homes are expected to be added to Auckland’s fringes in the North, Northwest and South over the next 30 years as part of the council’s Future Urban Land Supply Strategy. To accommodate that there will need to be significant public investment all forms of infrastructure and the two transport agencies say they are trying to work out what high level transport infrastructure will be needed now so it can be used as part of their planning and funding processes.

If you haven’t already I’d suggest putting a submission in. At a high level my views

  1. It’s good that the networks generally have strong PT components in the three main areas of North, Northwest and South. The place shaping role of rapid transit is critical in these areas and early investment must go on rapid transit. If we don’t we’ll be encouraging these areas to develop in ways that make it much harder to retrofit good quality PT later and this new growth will be very auto-centric as a result.
  2. The roading networks are over the top and unnecessarily excessive. Peripheral areas are never going to have perfect transport conditions but it seems like the networks are aiming for that.

One thing this process does is highlight just how expensive greenfield development can be. Suggestions are that just these high level projects could cost around $8 billion all up or about $70,000 per dwelling and that doesn’t take into account the cost of local roads or other infrastructure that is needed to support development.

 

Below is a copy of my earlier post on the consultation (although the videos are new)

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

South

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

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

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

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

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

TFUG - Draft Preferred Plan - South

North

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

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

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

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

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

TFUG - Draft Preferred Plan - North

Northwest

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

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

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

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

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

TFUG - Draft Preferred Plan - Northwest

Consultation closes at 4pm today.

Transport system more like Vancouver, Vienna or Zurich, Yes Please

One of the aspects I thought odd about the NZCID report released the other day was the revival of the 1965 De Leuw Cather motorway network plan and a comparison of Auckland’s motorway network to the motorway networks of “other liveable cities”. Here’s what they say:

The comparative decline of Auckland’s once ambitious motorway system, which for half a century has enabled the city to function in spite of deferred investment and poor public transport, can be seen in comparison to other liveable cities. Figure 31 superimposes to scale the motorway networks of various comparable metropolitan areas with populations between Auckland’s existing 1.5 million and its 2045 future of up to 2.5 million (Brisbane, Portland, Vienna and Vancouver each have urban populations of around 2.3 million, Zurich around 1.8 million). In all cases, the motorway networks today are more comprehensive than Auckland’s is projected to be in 2045

The limited reach of Auckland’s strategic road network in comparison to the city’s international competitors is not the only problem. Disproportionate dependency upon several key parts of the network where capacity is constrained has ripple effects across the entire transport system. Pinch points around the CBD, Mt Wellington and Greville Rd compress traffic, stymieing movement many kilometres away throughout busier periods. Although Greville Rd is now being addressed, there are no plans in the next thirty years to address capacity issues at either Mt Wellington or around the CBD.

Similar efficiency improvements to capacity-constrained parts of the strategic network appear less problematic in most liveable cities. While Vancouver has enforced a moratorium on motorway improvements near its congested urban core (but has expanded the network elsewhere), other cities address bottlenecks. Vienna’s Prater Interchange, for example, is currently undergoing a major renewal and capacity improvement to meet demand.

NZCID - ATAP response - cities motorways

Superimposing other cities motorway networks over Auckland in is just plain silly, for a few reasons.

  1. it ignores the unique geographical conditions of each city which severely affect how their transport system has developed.
  2. it ignores the urban of these cities. Some such as Vancouver, Vienna and Zurich have quite dense cores and no motorways running through them
  3. it ignores the other transport networks that help to complement the motorway networks

So let’s have a look at some of the factors for these other cities (maps not to scale)

Vancouver

Vancouver was one of the few Anglophone new world cities to not build motorways in its city centre – which came about as locals rejected the plans to do so. To mimic Vancouver for motorways we’d be pulling out the central motorway junction and motorways would just be in outer suburbs.

Vancouver Map with motorways

In the 1980’s Vancouver decided to start building their fantastic Skytrain system. Now over 30 years later and with a number of additions and extensions the network has over 117 million boardings as of 2013. That’s out of a total of over 350 million boardings for the entire PT system. The city has also been improving its cycling facilities and seeing good growth. As of 2015 for trips to work it is estimated that 10% of people cycle, 24% walk, 24% catch PT and only 41% drive. Below is Vancouver’s rapid transit network and that is also supported by a large number frequent bus routes – much like Auckland Transport are starting to introduce later this year.

Vancouver Rapid Transit Network

To be more like Vancouver is we’d need to invest in our PT and active networks and not new motorways to and through the city.

Vienna

Vienna is a great city with a lot of history and no motorways through the middle of it. Like Vancouver the motorways stop short of the city centre with one passing to the side of it.

Vienna Map with motorways

Of course within Vienna there is also a fantastic PT network consisting of extensive U-Bahn, S-Bahntram and bus networks. The U-Bahn was opened in the mid 70’s and that alone carries over 1.3 million trips a day. The map below shows just the U and S Bahn

Vienna U + S Bahn map

Zurich

With Zurich, again there are no motorways blasted through town with them stopping short or going around the city and most of them through the countryside rather than through an urban area like the NZCID propose.

Zurich Map with motorways

Despite the motorways, it is estimated that about half of all trips within Zurich take place on their extensive train, tram and bus networks. The map below is just a small sample of their tram network

Zurich tram-map

 

Of course as I mentioned yesterday, at the time of the De Leuw Cather road network that the NZCID lament was never fully implemented, they also produced a rapid transit plan even saying it was needed first to avoid many of the issues we’re now facing.

 

If the NZCID want us to have transport more like some of the cities they mention then we’ll fully support that, but that would mean focusing on getting PT and active modes sorted first so their Eastern Ring Route would have to stay on ice for a while.

Government Neuter Bus Lanes

The government want to increase the currently dismal uptake of electric vehicles, increasing the numbers on our roads from about 1,200 to 64,000 in just 5 years. To do that yesterday they announced a package to encourage more people to buy an electric car. Most of the initiatives, such as extending the Road User Charges exemption on light vehicles and introducing an exception for heavy vehicles, are probably fine but one of the initiatives is completely nuts – letting electric vehicles us bus lanes and busways.

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.

This is madness. The whole point of busways, bus lanes and to a lesser extend transit lanes is to make buses, which are much more spatially efficient, more viable and work better. They can 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.

The introduction of bus lanes meant that far more people have been able to be moved along many key corridors than they would have otherwise. For example, the Northern Busway carries about 40% of all traffic crossing the Harbour Bridge during the morning peak – five lanes of traffic and 40% of the people are in fewer than 200 vehicles. On other corridors like Dominion Rd more than 50% of people are on the bus yet in both situations the lanes can look empty. But a bus lane that looks empty normally means it’s actually doing its job and allowing buses to flow, uninterrupted by congestion.

Adding electric vehicles to this, which will mostly be carrying only a single occupant, will undo some of the benefits and make buses less efficient. That’s because there’s a greater chance that buses will be held up or miss lights etc. It means a double decker carrying 100 people have the same level of priority as a single person in an electric car. And this isn’t just theoretical, back in 2010 the old Auckland City Council trialled changing the then Tamaki Dr bus lanes to T2. As the results of that showed, it actually had the effect of slowing other road users, especially the general traffic. One of the reasons for this is the T2/3 drivers would push back in to the general traffic queue to get around buses at bus stops..

tamaki-person

table5-1

table5-2

I believe the same situation would apply to electric vehicles allowed in bus lanes.

At this point its worth noting that when the Northern Busway was first designed and approved it was it was done so with the idea that high occupancy vehicles (HOV) could potentially also be allowed to use it. This was because at the time they were worried not enough people would catch a bus and is why for example that there’s a blocked off access at the Constellation Station. Of course as we know not a single HOV has used the busway because it’s performed above expectations.

There are other reasons this is a bad idea too. This includes:

  • Bus lanes are also often considered cycle lanes too. Allowing electric vehicles into those lanes could increase the risk for people on bikes. We also know from the recent Grafton Bridge trial (that has now ended) that many drivers simply don’t follow the rules. This would be no different with electric cars.
  • Getting single occupant vehicles back out of bus lanes in the future will be difficult. It’s also worth noting that other parts of the announcement had sunset clauses on them of either time or a once a percentage vehicles went electric. There was nothing mentioned for access to bus lanes.
  • Enforcement will be much harder as it is difficult to tell which vehicles are electric and which ones aren’t. In addition, many drivers seem to exhibit a bit of a herd mentality and if they see a couple of drivers getting an advantage they’ll start to copy. This would exacerbate the issues of cars in bus lanes.
  • Currently electric vehicles are more expensive than their fossil fuelled counterparts and the biggest buyers of them seem to businesses for fleet cars. It means the benefit of driving in bus lanes will likely be exclusive to a small(ish) group of early adopters.

 

Perhaps to help address this issue, Auckland Transport now more than ever need to fast-track the conversion of key bus routes to Light Rail. Perhaps they should also consider building it where they can with a grassed track.

Light Rail grassed track

In seriousness, a key reason for looking at light rail on the isthmus is about trying to relieve bus congestion on some corridors. Allowing electric vehicles to this mix will likely only mean Light Rail will have to happen sooner.

Overall this is a terrible idea, unless of course you drive an electric car already or are planning on getting one. The busway is owned by the NZTA but most of the other bus lanes let’s hope that Auckland Transport are able to say no to his idea on local roads at least. If they can’t then the government have managed to neuter bus lanes and possibly set them back years.

Better Buses needed

Every year for many years now March has been mad for public transport use and every year that madness has been entirely predictable.  It’s happens due to a combination of many factors such as high numbers of people being at work, schools and universities all back in action and generally decent weather. But predictability doesn’t mean AT do anything all that much about it and this year, AT’s solution publicly was just to tough it out

Mark Hannan, Auckland Transport spokesman, said it was too early to say if complaints had increased this year as tertiary students had only just started back.

“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 we know they did a little more than that, for example getting bus operators like Party Bus to run services but that was far from enough. While I accept that some of the factors will change over the year, one that AT seem to not even consider is that people are so put off by the poor and crowded services that they simply go back to driving.

As well as the ‘tough it out’ stance of AT, I’ve noticed over the year’s people increasingly fed up with how AT handle complaints, often feeling that no one has even cared about the issues raised and that’s if they hear back from AT at all.

This year our friends at Generation Zero ran a campaign asking for people to provide on poor bus experiences they’ve had and they’ve now released the some of the results of their survey. Overall they say they had over 1,000 responses which is impressive as by comparison it appears AT had about 1,900 complaints. The complains came from primarily along the isthmus and Mt Eden Rd is very noticeable.

Generation Zero - Better Buses - Location of complaint

Unsurprisingly the big issues related to buses being late and full/overcrowded.

Generation Zero - Better Buses - Types of complaint

 

There’s a lot more in the report breaking down the results in various ways however the key takeaways for me are that AT need to do better to improve capacity through more frequent/bigger buses as well as get the bus lanes sorted so they’re more useful to buses and therefore the city.

After Generation Zero released the report, AT responded and continued continuing the line that people just need to tough it out.

Auckland Transport welcomes the Generation Zero: Better Bus Report but General Manager AT Metro Mark Lambert says it highlights some of the key initiatives already underway that will improve bus services in Auckland further.

“We would generally support the report and its findings and note we are already working on much of what it recommends.”

Mr Lambert says the Generation Zero report highlights the increased travel demand in March but doesn’t consider the fact that Auckland Transport has to plan for all 12 months of the year.

“March Madness is an annual phenomenon which isn’t unique to Auckland. During the month we carried 5.9 million bus passenger trips. March is the month each year with the highest demand on transport and other services. With the end of February it includes the start of the tertiary year, schools are back and more people are in the city following summer holidays.

“With significant public funding provided for public transport, it would be financially irresponsible to plan for the least possible wait time for a bus during the busiest period of the year, otherwise we would have empty buses on the network for the rest of the year. But we do need to ensure that average wait times for buses are acceptable and improved. On some corridors, especially Mt Eden Road, wait times were too long in March.”

In the 12 months to the end of March public transport use has increased by 4.1% and now exceeds 81.4 million passengers trips a year with record bus, rail and ferry passenger levels. In January, Auckland Transport recorded its best ever month for bus punctuality and in March punctuality was down slightly to 90% of bus services operating within 5 minutes of schedule.

In the past year Auckland Transport added 53,000 extra seats on public transport with 30,000 of those on buses. “We are also part way through a programme to roll-out more than 60 double decker buses to the Auckland network and in the year to the end of June we will add another 17 kilometres of bus lanes.”

He also says Auckland Transport is planning more services, more often with the public transport New Network which starts in the south later this year. The New Network reviews every bus route in Auckland and is implementing from October a hub-and-spoke system of feeding local bus services into a connected network of higher frequency services that will operate on key corridors, either rail or high frequency bus routes, operating 7 days a week between 7am and 7pm.

Mr Lambert says a simpler and more logical public transport fares structure is planned to be launched in the coming months to encourage further public transport use.

“With all these changes we are in a much better position to handle the growing demand for bus services in Auckland but we have to work within current budgets.“

The problem with the theory that it’s all just a one off month and that things will soon return to normal is that it hasn’t. Even in May we’re still hearing/seeing people commenting about full buses. One such example was yesterday by Journalist Kim Baker-Wilson but there have been plenty of others.

Perhaps we need a name for each month to describe the overcrowding. This month could be May Mayhem while next month could Jammed Up June.

AT also make mention of some of the projects they’re working on like integrated fares – which ironically could encourage more people to use PT, possibly making it worse. Double deckers on additional routes and the New Network are also mentioned. All of these changes are good of course but they’re taking an age to complete. AT need to get these changes rolled out faster.

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

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

This was published in the NZ Herald on 24 June 1975

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

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

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

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

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

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

STATIONS

There would four underground stations in the city:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CAPITAL COSTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DIVERSION

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

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

1974-4

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

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

And for the roads

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

 

The next is titled Question of who pays the operating costs

North Shore New Bus Network to be confirmed

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

At a high level:

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

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

North Shore New Network Final

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

North Shore Current Buses

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

Principles of the New Network model

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

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

North Shore New Network Final - City

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

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

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

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

North Shore New Network Final - with comments

April AT Board Meeting

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

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

Decisions for Approval/Decision

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

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

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

Items for Noting

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

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

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

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

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

Project Updates

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

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

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

2016-04 PT Infrastructure spend

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

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

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

2016-04 City Centre Parkting Zone changes

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

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

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

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

2016-04 PT Complaints

Thoughts on CBD Bus Changes

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

Train to Bus

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

CRL Bus changes map departure

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

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

Downtown Lane

Bus to Train

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

CRL Bus changes map arrival

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

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

Queen St Bus Lane enforcement

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

Other observations

A few other related observations.

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

Temporary Activation outside Britomart

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