AT’s interactive bus shelter screens

One aspect I didn’t cover off yesterday in my post about the AT board meeting was a small comment about trialling digital screens.

Trial of digital screens in new modular bus shelters will commence in August

The digital screens are actually large touch screens and so the trial actually represents quite an interesting use of technology by Auckland Transport, one which has the potential to improve the user experience – although it has some issues too. I went to have a look at the screens which have been installed at two of the trial shelters on Symonds St. Unfortunately the glare from the beautifully sunny day we had on Sunday bouncing off the glass made it difficult to get good photo’s however I can say that in person they were easily readable.

From what I could tell there were two different interfaces that AT seem to be trialling – one at each shelter.

Screen 1

As you can see this is basically a mashing together of different elements into a single interface. There are three main parts to the screen.

  • At the top is PT information which includes a journey planner, real time stop board and live map showing bus locations.
  • In the middle there’s a combination of other potentially useful info such as news and weather along with advertising. In some cases the entire middle section was devoted to a single ad.
  • At the bottom is a game which was when I looked at it was an old school sliding puzzle for promoting the Lantern Festival, output from a security camera plus accessibility and feedback buttons.

 

Bus Shelter Interactive Screens - Screen 1 - 1

Here’s a closer look at the map which is just a standard google map. You can see where the stop is and where the next bus is which is similar to their Track My Bus app. Given the app is sometimes a bit hit and miss for accuracy I hope these are better. For some reason it defaulted the location about the intersection of Mayoral Dr and Vincent St so I had to scroll to show the stop I was at and it returned there later. As you can see it also allows you to select check boxes for various overlays.

Bus Shelter Interactive Screens - Screen 1 - 2

I didn’t try it but one issue seems to be that you might be able to get into the settings, that doesn’t seem like a great setup.

Screen 2

Screen 2 was in even more direct sunlight so much harder to get a photo of sorry. It also seemed like more effort had gone into the overall design and less of just mashing a whole heap of stuff together. It featured a real time board permanently at the top of the screen along with a scrolling news ticker with other features including routes and journey planner behind buttons. Overall it felt much more like an app I’d expect on a phone and each of the features made use of the entire screen below the real time board.

On the real time board it also seems to show quite clearly shows which buses are accessible by those with disabilities and even how full the bus is. These features are on the version above but aren’t as clear due to trying to cram a lot of information into a smaller area. You can see this and the Approaching Buses screen which also feels quite different to the version above.

Bus Shelter Interactive Screens - Screen 2 - 1

Here’s and example what it would look like without the glare

Bus Shelter Interactive Screens - Screen 2 - Example

The routes button shows where buses from this stop travel to along with the ability filter out the ones you don’t want.

Bus Shelter Interactive Screens - Screen 2 - 2

The journey planner, I didn’t try it out though.

Bus Shelter Interactive Screens - Screen 2 - 3

The Local info screen

Bus Shelter Interactive Screens - Screen 2 - 4

When not in use the screen defaulted to an AT ad which disappeared as soon as you tapped the screen.

I personally liked the look and feel of the second screen but it also raises some questions.

  • How many people just turn up at a bus stop and then want to use a journey planner, I’d have thought most would check out their journey before getting to the bus stop
  • Why isn’t this information like the real time location of buses and the routes easily available on the AT website.
  • Why haven’t AT turned the second version into a mobile app. Their current apps are appalling.
  • Like their current mobile apps will this only be mode specific or will they also integrate trains and ferries into them and install them at rail stations/ferry terminals

Have you used them, what are your thoughts on these new screens and should they be rolled out across more of Auckland?

Northern Busway Extension is back

We were rightly dismayed when the previous Transport Minister vetoed the desperately needed extension of the famously successful Northern Busway as part of the big spend up on SH1 on the North Shore. We suspect NZTA were too, as they know that the Busway the single most effective tool for reducing congestion and increasing access and human happiness for the travelling public on this route. And is a vital part of the booming Rapid Transit Network. Additionally this extension surely also helps streamline the general traffic lane design through the SH1/SH18 intersection and beyond. NZTA must be keen to not have to factor in growing numbers of merging buses from shoulder lanes etc.

So we are very pleased to find that the agency has found a way to return this logical part of the project to the programme and out of the shadow of ministerial whim [presumably the change of Minister helped?]:

Northern Corridor

Here is the full document.

Bus users report that their journeys between Constellation and Albany Stations can currently take up a disproportionately large amount of the total trip because of the absence of any Transit right of way; the buses of course are not only themselves delayed but are also delaying other road users here.

The extension will not be a minor structure but as it adjacent to commercial properties it is hard to see how the usual forces of compliant will be able get much traction against it, but it will still need public support at the consultation phase, so Busway users, let yourselves be heard.

We understand the current Busway is built to a standard to enable upgrading to rail systems, we would expect this standard to be continued on this extension, as this does look like the most logical way to next cross the Waitemata Harbour.

Finally, because this is a) spending on the Shore b) not ratepayers funds, and c) not spending on a train or a bike, even the venerable George Wood will be in favour of the proposed extension.

July-15 Patronage

It’s a good thing the government might be moving on the City Rail Link because Auckland Transport’s latest patronage report for July shows that there has been no slowdown in the staggering growth of the rail system – or the rest of the PT system for that matter.

Overall the annual patronage across the entire PT rose to 79.7 million trips, an increase of 9.6% on the previous year. Assuming things carry on – and I see no reason why they shouldn’t – then we should pass 80 million trips any day now if we haven’t already. That’s a significant increase from the 50 million trips a decade ago with the last 10 million coming in just 18 months. AT have a target for this year of 84.47 million trips and at current rates that will be considerably exceeded.

2015-07 - Total Annual Patronage

New financial years tend to bring a few changes to the way AT reports on patronage – both in what is covered and in presentation – and this year is no different. The good news is that they are now providing more detail about patronage, the downside being we don’t have any history to compare to. The new information is broken down a few ways:

  • Bus patronage is broken down by the Busway, Frequent buses and Connector/Local and Targeted buses. Splitting out the patronage this way matches the classifications of the new bus network and therefore this reporting structure will give a better indication as to whether the flagship frequent services are performing as expected. This also responds to a new target in AT’s Statement of Intent that patronage on the Rapid and Frequent networks will increase at a faster rate than the network as a whole. Unfortunately at this stage I’m not sure just what routes are counted in the frequent routes.
  • It splits out ferry patronage in into commercial and exempt services. The exempt services are to Devonport, Stanley Bay and Waiheke.
  • The Monthly Indicators report now also gives more info about a variety of stats including Farebox Recovery

2015-07 - Patronage Table

Once again the rail network has been the star performer with the annual result up 14.2 million trips, up 22.5% over the previous year. With the electric trains running on all lines for just over a week of that I’m really looking forward to seeing how August patronage stacks up as I think it will be huge. What will also help August’s result is that reliability and punctuality have noticeably improved in recent weeks which will help encourage more people to use trains. Auckland Transport have an annual rail patronage target to the end of June next year of 16 million trips, at current rates we’ll blow that figure out of the water.

2015-07 - Rail Patronage

Another area that continues to have very good results is the Northern Busway combined with rail forms our rapid transit routes. One interesting aspect about this result is that the annual figure of 3.5 million which is much higher than we had last month. I can only guess that they are now including patronage from some of the other buses that use the busway.

While we don’t have anything in the way of history, for the rapid buses one thing we can tell from the information table is that patronage on those services are rising fast and the increase percentage is not far off the busway. As expected the connector and local buses aren’t seen as attractive and therefore aren’t growing at the same rate.

Like the other modes ferries are also growing fast at nearly 10% and leading the charge are the contracted services. I wonder if part of this is due to the issues that have occurred with some of their vessels such as the Kea.

Performance

Looking at performance there was significant improvement on the rail network following the introduction of all EMU service on 20 July which AT says justifies their decision to pull the date forward. After falling to a low of just 73.6% of trains arriving at their destination on time in June, July jumped up to 83.7%. In addition AT say for 1-16 August that is up further to 89.3% and some days have exceeded 95%. The eastern line remains the poorest performer at just 73% punctuality.

Since AT stopped relying on operators self-reporting performance and instead using tools like GPS tracking they’ve seen bus performance also improve. It is now approaching 95% after being around 90% last year.

 

Funding

Apart from just moving more people, one other reason the rise in patronage is good is that it should also be helping to reduce subsidies thanks to more fares being collected. The good news is that’s exactly what’s happening as the Monthly indicators report shows that over the last year farebox recovery (how much of the costs are covered by passenger fares) has improved quite a bit going from 45.4% last year to 47.2% this year. That might not sound like much but is a significant improvement. Note: the data is only till June

2015-07 - Farebox recovery

Farebox recovery is only one part of the story though and the next chart shows the amount of subsidy per passenger km. As you can see the cost per passenger kilometre travelled for rail are falling dramatically and seeing as this report is a month behind, as such we should see quite significant improvements once the July data is made available.

2015-07 - Subsidy per PAX km

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AT’s new bus tender requirements

Buses equipped with WiFi, USB ports and internal screens to display messages such as route information will become standard in Auckland in the future. All three features and much more are requirements of Auckland Transports PTOM contracts which were revealed on Monday in the finally released tender documents for the new bus network in South Auckland. The routes were confirmed all the way back at the end 2013 which seems like a long time ago now.

New Network - South Auckland

Back then AT said that the bus routes would be implemented mid 2015 however now they’ve reached the tender stage AT say the routes themselves won’t change till October 2016. It appears that there were a number of issues that have held up this stage of the process such as the delays in the Otahuhu Interchange, getting the new PTOM contracts signed off.

In a milestone for the city’s transport services, Auckland Transport will soon be calling for tenders to operate its New Network bus services in south Auckland (including Pukekohe and Waiuku).

These will be the first tenders called under the new Public Transport Operating Model (PTOM) system and the first PTOM tenders called to create the long awaited New Network. This will mean major improvements to the way people travel on bus, train and ferry.

With the southern tender process leading the way, invitations will be called progressively for bus operators to tender in other sectors; west Auckland will be next later this year.

The tenders for Auckland’s south bus services will open on 17 August and close on 28 September. The successful tenderers will be named early in 2016 and should be operating the New Network Services by October 2016.

While I’m disappointed it’s taken this long to even get to the tender stage, it’s good to finally see something happening. In South Auckland the routes have been divided up in to nine separate tenders (units), each of which contains one or more routes – including school routes. Each route has a full timetable attached so bus companies know just how many services they’ll need to run.

What I’m particularly interested in isn’t so much the tender itself but what AT requires from bus operators as that sets the benchmark for what kind of quality we can expect the services to be outside of the main one of frequency. To get this I’ve gone through the PTOM contract to see what AT have included. As you would expect, some of the requirements differ depending on the size of the bus while other requirements are universal across all bus types. First some of the non-technical ones are listed below.

Bedding in process – Once the contracts go live operators will have a three month to bedding in process to get performance right before financial penalties apply – although AT will review non performing routes before that happens.

Timetables – there are Monday to Friday timetables and separate Saturday and Sunday timetables. With a few exceptions public holidays will use Sunday timetables.

Advertising – The operators have to give control of internal and external advertising to Auckland Transport, this includes advertising on buses. AT say that internal advertising will primarily be for things like service information (e.g. route info), disruptions, PT promotions and event promotions however they don’t rule out commercial advertising. For any commercial advertising – such as on the back of the bus – AT will take 80% of the net revenue and the operator will get 20%. Another bug bear of many users is advertising along the sides of buses. AT’s guidelines suggest that this generally won’t be used but of course they leave the door open to it occurring some times.

Sustainability – Each operator has to pro-actively demonstrate to AT how they are working to support the Auckland Plan and RPTP sustainability principles. These include

(a) greenhouse gas emission reduction;
(b) reduction in emissions to air, water and soil;
(c) energy efficiency (on site, in Vehicles, and infrastructure facilities);
(d) training/up-skilling of staff in sustainability principles
(e) enhancement of the public transport experience; and
(f) support of behavioural shift towards increased levels of public transport patronage, walking and cycling.

Cleaning – cleaned as a minimum;

Daily:

(A) seat cleaning as necessary;
(B) floor swept and or mopped;
(C) rubbish removed;
(D) all gums and other substances removed;
(E) graffiti removed;
(F) livery and stickers checked,

Every second day:

(A) exterior bus wash;
(B) internal passenger window wipe, including sills,

Monthly:

(A) clean roofline;
(B) valet drivers area;
(C) valet walls and all interior glass;
(D) valet seating area;
(E) clean and disinfect passenger hand holds;
(F) wheelchair ramp checked and cleaned;

6 monthly:

(A) fumigate bus,

Annually:

(A) full interior steam clean or equivalent;
(B) shampoo seats (A and B are to take place 6 months apart);
(C) external polish,

Mid-life update – Operators have to give all buses a mid-life update at 8-10 years of age unless AT agree that the bus is still in good condition – if it is then it gets reassessed annually. The minimum update required is below but more could be needed depending on the state of the bus.

(a) new flooring;
(b) new upholstery on seats;
(c) new wall lining and ceiling panels as required; and
(d) new lighting.

Vehicle Quality Standards – There are a number of specific and mandatory standards that AT have set – some of which are in addition to the NZTA’s Requirements for urban buses. These standards relate to the age, quality of design, manufacture and componentry of the Vehicle chassis and body. The list below is just some of the requirements for new buses.

Vehicle Age – No individual bus is allowed to be more than 20 years old – I guess that means the current bendy buses will definitely be allowed. In addition as from 1 January 2017 the average age of cannot be more than 10 years old.

Engines – have to be capable of accelerating from 0-20 km/h in ≤ 4 seconds and 0-50 km/h ≤ 30 seconds. They need to have a range without refuelling of ≥ 350 km or 15 hours. Be compliant to Euro 5, US 2007, Japan 05, or equivalent Opacity level and not omit noise greater than 80 decibels when first introduced or 84 decibels at any time during its life – even when under acceleration.

Bus Sizes – AT specify four different sizes of bus – small (≥40 passengers, ≥25 – 30 seats), standard (≥54 passengers, ≥45 seats), extra-large (≥78 passengers, ≥45 seats) and Large bus Double Deck (≥100 passengers, ≥25 – 80 seats).

Doors – Small buses can have just a single door while all other buses need double doors. In all situations there are size requirements e.g. on a large bus double doors are needed at the front and with a width of greater than or equal to 1,000mm.

Seats – Forward facing seats have to be a minimum of 690mm apart with leg room of at least 300mm (as measured from the front of the squab to the back of the seat). Singles seats need to be ≥ 425mm wide and double bench seats a minimum of 750mm wide.

CCTV – for small buses there will be a minimum of two cameras in the bus while on double deckers large double decker buses could see 10 or more cameras

Aircon – Buses should be between 18-22 degrees, have a humidity of 50% and all windows should remain mist free.

Electronic displays & announcements – small buses will need at least one screen and large buses up to four to provide “route and journey information and announcements” to those on board. AT say ideally they’ll be 20″-22″ in size. Up to eight pairs of speakers are also needed to support this.

WiFi – All buses should have WiFi.

USB sockets – Buses should have USB charging sockets. At a minimum AT say they should be on every second row on each side of the bus.

There are a number of other aspects listed in the document however I’ll stop here as the post is long enough. For existing buses some of the standards are a little bit lower.

Overall I suspect all of this means we won’t see radically different buses however those last three aspects listed above suggest a slight improvement in attractiveness and usability. I’d expect screens will be very similar to what’s on the inner link but without the ads and that is great for new users of the route/system. The USB ports in particular are likely to be popular and it’s a shame we don’t have them on our new trains – I wonder if AT are thinking of retrofitting them?

Is there anything you think AT have missed out from a customer experience perspective?

 

East-West Link and North Shore New Network consultation updates

Yesterday both Auckland Transport and the NZTA made announcements on some recent consultations. They were discussing just some high level results rather than any detailed analysis – which will now begin.

East West Link

AT and the NZTA received quite a bit of feedback about the project with around 1,700 responses. Their summary of some of  the key points shows that they’ve noted some of the concerns we and others have raised – such as the land-locking of the cycleway and access for rail to the airport from Onehunga to remain feasible – they’ve also had pressure on the other side from the trucking lobby who want even fewer intersections which would make it even more motorway like.

East-West Preferred Option

Fabulous feedback for one of Auckland’s priority projects

A wide range of feedback has been received on the preferred approach for the East West Connections transport project, from suggestions about providing cycling on the seaward side of the new foreshore road to design ideas to improve transport performance.

The NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport would like to thank everyone who gave feedback on the preferred approach to improve transport connections into and out of Onehunga-Penrose and the reliability of bus services between Māngere, Ōtāhuhu and Sylvia Park.

About 1,700 feedback responses were received and approximately 250 people came to the open days. All the information is still being analysed. A summary of feedback, and how it has been used, will be released later in the year. In the interim, these are some of the key themes that have been noted:

  • Suggestions regarding the design of the route with the aim of improving transport performance. Key points include the desire to reduce the number of traffic lights and intersections (particularly to assist with heavy vehicles movements), changes to the design of the Neilson Street Interchange and also the interchange at SH1
  • The East West Connections project continues to maintain opportunities for achieving future rail connections in the area, including rail to the airport.
  • That the project should improve access to the harbour and Onehunga Wharf
  • Walking and cycling facilities should be provided along the seaward side of the new foreshore road (with connections back into Onehunga). Opportunities for improved walking and cycling connections should also continue to be explored. For example connections to Māngere Bridge, Onehunga Mall, Mutukaroa-Hamlins Hill and Orpheus Drive.
  • Natural features such as Anns Creek and the Hopua Tuff ring should be protected and that potential impacts from the project on water quality, air quality, and noise need to be carefully considered and managed.
  • Support for proposed bus and cycle lanes between Māngere, Ōtāhuhu and Sylvia Park, but some concerns that the bus lanes would be shared with freight vehicles.

The NZ Transport Agency’s State Highways Manager, Brett Gliddon says the responses will help refine the agencies understanding of what needs to be considered as the project progresses.

“We are still in the early stages with the concept design for the preferred approach. The feedback will be used to help us make decisions as we move from concept through to detailed design. For example identifying where cycle lanes should be located, things we need to consider when designing intersections and how we can improve access to the harbour.”

Auckland Transport Key Strategic Initiatives Project Director Theunis Van Schalkwyk says the feedback is part of an on-going conversation with the community the Transport Agency and Auckland Transport will continue as designs are further developed.

“We’re very pleased with the level of support we’ve received around the proposed improvements to speed up bus journeys between Māngere, Ōtāhuhu and Sylvia Park. The feedback will be used to help develop the designs for the bus priority lanes and cycle improvements.”

The Transport Agency’s Brett Gliddon says the next steps for the project will be to undertake further investigations on the preferred approach and confirm the land needed to protect the route. If people have feedback, thoughts or ideas at any time we would encourage them to contact the project team on eastwest@nzta.govt.nz”.

 

North Shore New Network Consultation

AT received massive feedback for the new network on the North Shore with over 3,150 responses or comments. To put that in perspective both the South Auckland and West Auckland consultations had just over 1,000 responses each. Give the level of feedback I suspect that means it’s likely to take much longer to get any results and final decisions about the network.

North Shore Proposed New Bus Network

Local feedback will make a better bus network for the North Shore, AT says

Auckland Transport has begun analysing more than 3150 submissions received from the North Shore New Network consultation.

  • Over 2,400 formal submissions (including 26 in Chinese).
  • More than 750 comments on the online discussion forum, which will also be counted as feedback and analysed.
  • 5 petitions were received.
  • More than 32 events were held over the six week consultation period, where more than 3,400 people were engaged with.

“There was a high level of public participation on the North Shore, almost double than previous New Network consultations, and we want to thank everyone for their feedback,” says Anthony Cross, Public Transport Network Manager.

“The more local knowledge and opinion we get, the more informed our decisions will be, and the better the final Network we can deliver.”

The next stage is analysis, which entails evaluating feedback and investigating issues raised.

“When a concern is raised by the community, we look into it in detail,” says Anthony. “This can include exploring different options and the operational and financial implications, such as where bus stops would be or where a bus could turn around.”

“Ultimately we aim to make the best decision for the largest number of people, within the constraints we are given.”

Early results show a range of support and opposition. One resident supported the “better connections to alleviate the demand for parking at the park and rides,” and another commented that “more frequent weekend trips will make public transport a more viable option when travelling with family.”

Once confirmed, the final decisions and service design will be available at www.AT.govt.nz/NewNetwork or people can sign up to an email newsletter to be kept up to date.

Implementation is planned for 2017, a timeframe which is required so that any infrastructure changes can be made, and a competitive tender process can be carried out to decide which bus company will operate each route, on certain parts of the network.

Tenders will be released following service design completion in the first half of 2016. A comprehensive information campaign will be held prior to implementation to make people aware of the changes.

“Many people we spoke to during consultation were eager to see the new bus network happen earlier than 2017, but there’s a lot involved in making changes of this scale, so we’re doing it in phases by area.

“Over the next two years we will have delivered a New Network for the whole of Auckland, starting with the Hibiscus Coast this October.”

Consultation on the new bus network for the North Shore ran from 2 June to 13 July 2015. The changes proposed would provide a number of benefits, including new frequent bus services on key routes across the North Shore running every 15 minutes, 7am – 7pm, 7 days a week, and a more connected, and easier to understand bus network overall.

Past consultations for the New Network have included: Hibiscus Coast, West Auckland, South Auckland and Pukekohe and Waiuku.

More information is available at www.AT.govt.nz/NewNetwork.

 

When is Bus Rapid Transit not Bus Rapid Transit?

This is a guest post from Andy C – a long time Wellington public transport user…

Well when it is Wellington of course…

Some of you may remember that back in 2013, the Wellington City Council undertook its ‘public transport spine’ study, which looked at options for the highly used public transport spine from the Wellington railway station to the Hospital in Newtown. The problem definition from the study was quite clear:

  • In future years, too many vehicles and modes will share a constrained corridor resulting in longer and unreliable transport journey times which will worsen over time
  • There will be increased traffic congestion in the strategic and local road network and additional environmental impacts as a result of less mode share for public transport.

Furthermore, the report noted that there is a clear problem with the current public transport network: “It is difficult to increase PT patronage and mode share under the current circumstances. Buses are not segregated from general traffic. Wellington’s bus services are perceived by the public as being less attractive and less reliable than private vehicle journeys.”

Therefore the study looked at three options to solve or reduce these problems; bus priority, bus rapid transit (BRT) and light rail.

Wellington BRT route

As you all know, Wellington is a city defined by its geography. Lots of hills, with traffic funneled through a small number of key routes (either in the valleys, or along the hill tops). If you are traveling from the south (Island Bay), you have to either go past the Basin Reserve, or through Mt Cook, just a few hundred metres away. The same is true for traveling from the east of the city (Kilbirnie, Miramar etc); you either go past the Basin Reserve or around the bays. If you’re coming from the north (hill suburbs and the Hutt) you’re actually lucky in having the option of trains, buses and the motorway, while the west (Karori) is probably the most challenging with only one major route in or out.

To my mind, this actually gives us good options for some sort of dedicated public transport spine, because so many of these routes have been identified by the local Council as being high on the list for intensification of housing and public amenities. Therefore with good planning, we could see increased public transport use simply from all the new people living along the high use routes.

After lots of debate, the result of the spine study was that BRT (defined as ‘dedicated bus lanes for new high capacity vehicles’) had the highest benefit to cost ratio and thus would be investigated further. The initial spine would run from the railway station to the hospital and Kilbirnie.

Well on Friday 31 July the Wellington City Council released its indicative business case for BRT (you can read it here), based on a report written by PWC. And sadly for users of public transport in Wellington, the key recommendation looks nothing like a BRT.

The indicative business case finds that actually, it would be too expensive to even think about BRT as defined above. Instead it provides two simpler options; bus lanes in targeted locations, with limited intersection priority with a Benefit Cost Ratio of 2.3, or bus lanes along the whole route 24/7, with full intersection priority with a Benefit Cost Ratio of 1.5.

Now call me a cynic, but neither of those things sound like ‘dedicated bus lanes for new high capacity vehicles’, although the Mayor insists on calling it that in the Council press release which you can read here. And what is even worse, the document notes that both options are predicated on there being ‘a grade separated Basin Reserve’ (which will have to be a topic of a future post).

A couple of days ago the local paper the Dominion Post even got in on the cynical act, which is something of a surprise, with a scathing editorial about current public transport plans that included this summary:

Recall that Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown came to office pushing a light rail system, only to see it lose out to the souped-up bus plan. That was supposed to see “high capacity and high quality buses running on dedicated bus lanes with priority at signals”.

But consultants in a new report blanch at the cost of doing that properly and recommend two watered-down alternatives. The cheaper one offers “bus lanes in targeted locations” with “limited priority” at intersections. Bus passengers can be forgiven for asking how that differs from the status quo.

Well I have to say, that after all the studies and recommendations over the years, if all we need to improve public transport along this route in Wellington is a few painted bus lanes (and enforcement of them please!) and some reprogrammed traffic signals, then let’s get it started tomorrow.

But in the meantime, please don’t call either of these preferred options Bus Rapid Transit. Because no matter how you look at them, they’re not. And what’s even worse, you’d be hard pressed to say they actually solve either of the problems identified back in 2013.

Otahuhu Bus-Train Interchange design

In my post about the AT board meeting last week I highlighted that construction of the Otahuhu Bus-Train Interchange station is currently out for tender. This interchange is crucial to enabling the new network for South Auckland to be rolled out

The AT website contains a few new images of what’s proposed for the site and which are different to what we’ve seen before.

First up the overall layout

Otahuhu Interchange plan diagram

I agree with some of the comments from the AT Board Meeting post that said having a single entrance meaning buses travelling though the station have to loop around isn’t ideal. I guess the only counter to that is that having another entrance/exit adds an additional intersection which may not be idea.

Here’s what the interchange may actually look like. First up an aerial overview of interchange.

Otahuhu Interchange aerial overview

The main entrance

Otahuhu interchange plaza area in front of entrance

Walking along Walmsley Rd from the North

Otahuhu Interchange from Walmsely Road

Overall it looks like a very nice station and a great addition to the network. Currently the station is not highly used however once complete the bus interchange should see a lot of people flowing through every day.

Of course it also needs to be supported by improved walking and cycle connections. There are plans to improve the connections to the Otahuhu Town Centre but these don’t seem to include improvements such as along Walmsley Rd into the nearby residential areas.

AT July Board Meeting

On Monday the Auckland Transport board hold their next board meeting and as I normally do, I’ve gone through the reports to see what’s being discussed. Starting with the closed session we have a number of topics that could be quite interesting. These include:

Items for Approval/Decision

  • Regional Passenger Transport Plan (RPTP) –  I assume discussing the changes based on the updated RPTP consultation they conducted recently
  • Media Advertising – Given it’s coming from the PT team it seems to be about how AT advertise PT in the media.
  • CRL Business Case Summary – This should be interesting. I wonder if it is something new that will soon be released to the public or is a rehash of the old business cases.

Items for Noting

  • Infringement Revenue – I assume this will be discussing what happens with infringement revenue
  • LRT Stakeholder Engagement Plans – AT are continuing to progress their LRT plans (and a tender closes today for a Technical Advisor for the project) and so engagement with stakeholders is bound to increase. This appears to be information on how they’ll do that engagement.

On to the main report and first up are the project updates.

Te Atatu Road Upgrade – It appears that since the report was written the contract for this $30 million project has been awarded to Higgens Contractors and work starts 4 August. The project effectively widened to provide a flush median and sporadic on road unprotected cycle lanes and shared paths as well as replaces the roundabout at the intersection with Edmonton and Flanshaw Roads with signals.

K Road Cycleway – Around a year after we last heard anything there’s finally a mention in the board paper. Unfortunately it doesn’t give us info on when it might actually start being built.

K Rd Cycleway

An artist impression from last year. I believe the design has evolved a lot since this

Eastern Rail Cycleway (Glen Innes to Tamaki Drive) – The report says the NZTA should be awarding the contract to construct the first stage from Glen Innes to St Johns Rd by the end of this month while design and consent works continue on the rest of the project.

Onehunga Mall Streetscape – Construction starts mid-August on an upgrade of Onehunga Mall. The first improvements will be to the footpaths.

Onehunga Mall Streetscape Upgrade Concept

Onehunga Mall Streetscape Upgrade Concept impression

Mission Bay Street Upgrade – An upgrade of Tamaki Dr in front of the block of shops to the east of Patterson Ave in Mission Bay is also planned. The report just says they will be widening of a section of Mission Bay’s town centre and I can only assume they mean of the footpaths. Consultation will happen this year but construction won’t start till next year after the Christmas season. This is what a local board report says

The proposal is to widen the footpath, by removing the car parks along that stretch of Tamaki Drive. There will be a new mobility park installed in Patterson Ave, as a result of removing the existing mobility car park. Parking on Patterson Ave will remain as it is, with exception of the allocation of the mobility park. This will require the use of two existing car parks.

Ōtāhuhu Bus-Train Interchange – The detailed design is complete. There is currently a tender out for construction which closes mid-August and be awarded in September. Completion is now not till June 2016 and the new network for South Auckland continues to be on hold till this project is finished.

Otahuhu interchange

AMETI – Movement appears to be happening with the extension of the busway from Panmure to Pakuranga along with discussions of how it travels through Pakuranga

Lodgement of the Stage 2A NoR for the busway from Panmure to Pakuranga (Ti Rakau Drive) is pending resolution of the cultural mitigation process; this is expected by late July to permit on-going dialogue between lead iwi Ngati Paoa and other relevant iwi.

A joint review of the AMETI delivery strategy with regards to the timing of the Reeves Road flyover and Stage 2B (busway between Pakuranga and Botany) components has been carried out between AT, Council and the NZ Transport Agency, with final dialogue scheduled for July.

Newmarket Crossing (Sarawia St Level Crossing) – AT say in August they will be seeking approval to lodge a notice of requirement for the project however that means it will still have to go through a considerable process before it is built. This is important as AT claim it’s the one thing that’s stopping them from being able to increase the frequency on the Western Line.

Newmarket Crossing May 2015

On to other areas

Some new ads for the benefits of bus lanes. This is an area I think AT have been doing very well in lately.

Bus Lane Ads 2015-07

Moving on to the projects and initiates that make up AT’s key strategic priorities.

Ticketing and Fares – AT have giving some a high level summary of the response to the integrated fares consultation a few months ago. All up 1556 submissions were received and the broad results are below.

  • Do you think the proposed zone boundaries are about right? Yes 60% No 20%
  • Do you think the proposed products are about right? Yes 51% No 37%

We won’t know the final outcome and any changes that would be made till later this year.

Electric trains – In total 54 trains are in the country and of those 47 have been accepted for carrying passengers. The last three sets arrive early August and all trains will be on the network by the end of the year

New Network – at the time of writing the report there were over 1000 submissions on the network for the North Shore. Consultation for the Isthmus and East Auckland is being targeted for September/October. The first area to go live will be Hibiscus Coas in October this year.

Capacity – The first two of Howick & Eastern’s 15 double deckers have come off the production line in Scotland. They will arrive for testing in October and then the remaining ones will be built in Tauranga. Ritchies have 18 double deckers on order and I’m aware one is already on the network.

Infrastructure – There are a number of bus priority improvements that are due to start or be completed this month

  • Onewa Road T3 lane (city bound) – construction progressing and due to be completed in July
  • Park Road bus lane (hospital to Carlton Gore Road) – consultation completed; construction due to commence in July
  • Parnell Road bus lane (St Stephens to Sarawia Street – outbound) – consultation completed; construction due to commence in July
  • Manukau Road/Pah Road transit lanes – internal consultation completed – external consultation commenced
  • Great North Road bus lanes (New Lynn to Ash Street) – final concept plans completed – consultation underway
  • Totara Avenue signal removal – improvements to New Lynn bus interchange; construction due to be completed in July
  • Esmonde Road bus lane – construction to commence July

Customer Experience – Some more things for bus users not to look forward to

AT’s partner for bus shelters, Adshel, are launching 35 digital screens at prominent Auckland bus shelter locations, in a move that will offer advertisers unrivalled impact and targeting opportunities and in line with global leaders like London, San Francisco and Stockholm, where roadside digital advertising has seen large demand. Spanning sites across the Auckland CBD and key fringe suburbs such as Ponsonby and Mission Bay, the new format provide more opportunities for advertisers, and this will increase the revenue share available for AT.

June-15 Patronage

We learned the other day the patronage results for rail in June, now we have them for all modes and once again they are extremely good – helped a little bit by there being an extra business day compared to June last year. The results are also significant as June is the end of the financial year so the results are what are compared against targets and compared against other metrics.

For the 12 months to the end of June, patronage was 79.25 million trips which is up 9.5% on the 2014 result. That’s an increase in almost 7 million trips over the course of a year and given the strong weekday growth probably represents around an extra 30,000 trips being taken each working day. When you think of it this way it’s not surprising that so many trains and buses have been full to the point of leaving people behind.  The changes for individual modes were:

  • Bus (excluding Northern Express) – 57 million trips, up 6.6%
  • Northern Express – 2.8 million trips, up 17.2%
  • Rail – 13.9 million trips, up 21.7%
  • Ferry – 5.5 million trips, up 8.3%

2015-06 - Total Patronage Chart

2015-06 - Patronage Table

As you can see from the numbers above the Rapid Transport Network (rail and busway) continue to shine with stunning levels of growth once again highlighting that investing in frequent and high quality services is really pays off. And of course the growth is likely to continue strongly following the roll-out of the electric trains on Monday – which should really help drive up patronage – and the Northern Busway which is about to get a capacity and free advertising) upgrade in the form of new double-decker buses which should improve (the new network for most parts of Auckland doesn’t start rolling out till next year).

The results meant that AT smashed it’s patronage targets for the year – although in fairness the Council had agreed to lower them to stupidly low levels. The Long Term Plan sees some much rougher targets

2015-06 - Patronage vs targets

And here’s an update as to how rail patronage is tracking vs the 20 million trip target the government set back in 2013

2015-06 - Rail Patronage vs Govt Target

 

The patronage increases along with the roll-out of the electric trains on the rail network are clearly having an impact on subsidies with the per passenger kilometre figures continuing to fall.

2015-06 - Subsidy per PAX KM

Not everything is good news though. On the rail network the key stats of punctuality and reliability are some of the worst I can remember seeing. If such poor outcomes continue it must surely start having an impact on patronage at some point.

2015-06 - AKL - Rail Punctuality

 

Things are a bit brighter for buses with results improving since AT started using actual data to monitor where buses where – as opposed to AT being provided data from the operators. While they might be much smaller than the other companies, Urban Express are out performing them on these stats.

2015-06 - Bus Reliability

Overall it’s been a pretty good year for patronage growth in Auckland. Let’s hope that the same thing happens again this new financial year and that AT and the bus companies have the ability to respond to the capacity needed

Submit on the East West Connections

Post from Ryan Mearns of Generation Zero

In June NZTA and Auckland Transport finally came out with a new proposed route for the East-West Connections, which is a new road route long pushed by business groups that would link SH1 and SH20 either north or south of the Manukau Harbour. An earlier proposed route that cut through the heart of Mangere was dropped in January 2014 after a huge public outcry, and an excellent local campaign. This new route effectively involved joining SH1 at Syliva Park with SH20 at Onehunga, with a direct connection that looks a lot like a motorway.

East-West Preferred Option

This area does suffer from traffic congestion, and does have a large amount of truck traffic, much of it leading to the major Kiwirail terminal and inland port along Neilson Street. So this is one area where we would support some investment to reduce congestion hotspots. However NZTA admitted that it would cost over $1 billion dollars. This is a huge amount of money, and for example is roughly equivalent to the government contribution of the CRL. There is already severe strain on the transport budget from the government spend-up on RONS and the Auckland accelerated motorway projects, so this is bad news for those of us that want the government to progress projects such as the Northern Busway extensions and North-Western busway.

 

The primary concerns we have for the project are that;

  1. The design of the proposed new motorway makes it even more difficult to build rail to the airport. To ensure either light or heavy rail can one day go to the airport, any designs for the motorway should preserve the rail corridor.
  2. The only public transport upgrades proposed are discontinuous shared bus and truck lanes which are poor quality and potentially unsafe. The project should focus on improving public transport in the area to reduce congestion with a network of high frequency bus services with continuous bus lanes.
  3. Current bike infrastructure in the area is disconnected and of low quality. The solution is to provide high quality bike connections linking Onehunga, Penrose, Mangere, Mangere Bridge and Otahuhu.
  4. The new motorway proposes to block off the limited public access there is to the Manukau east of Onehunga, with the cycleway on the land side of the motorway. The project should not have to reclaim the Manukau Harbour and should ensure any works near the harbour improve public access, rather than separate the community from the harbour.
  5. Congestion is an issue in the area, but a billion dollar motorway is not the way to go. The Government should focus any road spending on cheap upgrades to fix localised congestion spots.

NZTA are taking feedback on the East West Connections until the end of Friday. They do have an online form, however it bizarrely focusses on the bus-truck lanes, which are effectively an entirely different project. To help people get the key points across Generation Zero have created a quick submit form, which will send your feedback straight to NZTA.

Click here to go to the form to submit your feedback to NZTA.

More information on the project is available on the NZTA and Auckland Transport websites.