The next revolution of public transport in Auckland now has a date, August 14. That’s the day that the city will finally shed its clumsy and expensive fare system with Auckland Transport finally implementing what they call Simplified Fares, also known as integrated fares, which will be smarter and in many cases cheaper.
Currently Auckland has a stage based system where you pay for every bus, train you use based on how many stages you pass, with only a small transfer discount for those that use multiple services. With Simplified Fares it will shift to paying one fare for your total trip based on how many zones you travel within and that includes using up to five services to get to your destination over a four-hour period. Even better is the cost for most trips is set to get significantly cheaper for a lot of people thanks to the new fare structure.
The confirmed fare map is below and AT say this about it.
Zone overlap areas (grey coloured areas on the new fare zones map) at some zone boundaries allow for travelling to the edge of the zone borders without crossing into another zone.
The zone overlaps are much more defined than they were in the consultation which is good and there are a few new/bigger ones too, such as at Westgate and Otahuhu
And here is the fare table
With an AT HOP card, you will pay for one entire journey from A to B, instead of paying the fare on each bus or train separately.
During your journey:
- You can use up to 5 buses or trains within 4 hours, just ensure you transfer between each trip within a maximum of 30 minutes.
- Tag on and off each bus and train as you do now and simply count the number of zones you travel through to find out your fare.
As mentioned for many fares will get cheaper or at least not get more expensive, in fact AT advised me that they calculated 99% of all trips taken will fall into that category which is great news. As an example of just how much cheaper this makes trips, here are a few personal examples. They don’t entirely reflect the costs I pay as I usually use a monthly pass simply due to how expensive it can be but that also makes it a good example.
I live not far from the Sturges Rd train station and travel to Takapuna. This usually involves me catching a train to town and since the bus changes for the CRL transferring to up to two buses, a Northern Express to get me to the Victoria St bus stop where I transfer again to a bus going direct to Takapuna (as an alternative I sometimes catch the NEX to Akoranga and transfer to a local bus or walk). If I was to use normal HOP fares that would be:
- 5-stage train to Britomart = $6.00
- 1-stage bus to Victoria Park = $1.30 ($1.80-50c transfer discount) – I could reduce this to $0 if I used the City Link or walked up to Wellesley St but both are less convenient.
- 2-stage bus to Takapuna = $2.60 ($3.10-50c transfer discount)
- Total = $9.90
Instead with Simplified Fares I would pay for 4-zones, Waitakere, Isthmus, City and Lower North Shore and all up that would be $6.00. That’s a saving of $3.90. Even if I was just going to the city, for 3-zones I would be paying $4.90, a saving of $1.10 over the current HOP price.
If you don’t use HOP – why wouldn’t you and now over 80% of trips are by HOP – cash fares are changing too. The fares have been rounded to a dollar amount which should help make it easier for drivers needing to give change. See AT’s website for those details.
In addition to the zonal fares, AT have introduced a new child weekend fare which looks good with a maximum trip cost of 99c for using HOP with a child concession.
A new AT HOP child weekend fare will be the most you pay for weekend and public holiday bus and train journeys when paying with an AT HOP card with a child concession applied (excluding SkyBus services).
You can take up to 5 bus or train trips over a 4 hour period with a maximum transfer time of 30 minutes between each trip and pay a maximum 1 zone fare (99 cents from 14 August 2016) regardless of how many zones you cross.
Like the monthly pass, AT are also moving to a single Daily Pass which will cover all zones. It also comes with a price change and will be $18 as opposed to the two passes it replaces being $16 and $22. I can’t imagine too many would buy this. AT have said in the past, and reconfirmed to me recently that they want to eventually move to having daily and weekly fare caps which would solve this issue.
At this stage the new fares only cover buses and trains. I’m aware that AT plan to integrate ferries into the mix although that doesn’t necessarily mean there will be fare parity. We’ll have to wait to hear more about this from AT.
Overall this is going to be great for Auckland and I can’t wait for it to be implemented.
In May the government announced a package to try and increase the number of electric vehicles in New Zealand as a way of reducing emissions – a laudable goal but some of the government’s proposed some measures missed the mark. At or at least near the top of the list was the idea to allow for electric cars to use bus lanes and the Northern Busway.
Enabling electric vehicles to access bus and high occupancy vehicle lanes
Access by electric vehicles to bus and high occupancy vehicle lanes (lanes where a vehicle must have more than a certain number of occupants) will be of value to households and businesses. Access to such lanes will mean electric vehicles will be able to travel more quickly than vehicles otherwise held up in traffic.
At the same time, the changes will also empower road controlling authorities to allow electric vehicles into special vehicle lanes (such as bus lanes) on their local roading networks.
The Government will make changes to the Land Transport Act and Rules to allow electric vehicles to drive in bus and high occupancy vehicle lanes on the State Highway network, which it controls. One example is the Northern Busway in Auckland.
As I said at the time, the idea is madness and defeats the whole purpose of having bus lanes which is to make buses:
- faster, making them more attractive to use and can also make them time competitive with driving.
- more efficient, because buses are faster they can run more services can be run for the same cost or alternatively fewer vehicles and drivers may be needed
- more convenient as if they allow more services to be run it means higher frequencies so less time waiting at bus stops.
- more reliable as they’re more likely to arrive at stops and the final destination on time.
It’s now been revealed by the Herald that the government ignored advice to at least consult with councils first before announcing the idea and highlighting that at least one council is ruling it out.
Andy Foster of the Wellington City Council said his city had the country’s highest rate of public transport use “by far” and did not foresee it opting for the change.
“Traffic getting in the buses’ way is not conducive to maintaining reliable timetables.”
Foster, who chairs the council’s transport and urban development committee, said he saw “no chance” that electric vehicles would be allowed to use the city’s bus-only lanes.
“Bus lanes are generally very well respected by motorists. If some vehicles start using bus lanes because they are [electric] there is a greater risk that others which are not [electric] will do so too.”
They also say Auckland Transport and the Christchurch City Council seem cool on the idea although the NZTA say they have begun initial discussions with Auckland Transport to investigate the potential of permitting electric vehicles on the Northern Busway
Back when this policy was announced I sent an Official Information Act request to the Ministry asking for details relating to the idea. I received back some excepts from a report looking at options for promoting EVs but it had been sitting in my inbox for a while. It includes the suggestion that the Minister consult councils on the idea first as well as a few other interesting comments. For example, not only did they recommend talking to road controlling authorities (RCAs) first, they say the NZTA expects none of the major RCAs would implement it.
I find the point that the NZTA highlighted that such and idea was unlikely to work as the RCAs wouldn’t want to implement it as much more damning than the fact he didn’t consult with them
They expand a bit on the efficiency impact portion below highlighting that it will likely impact PT and general traffic congestion. Even more so bottom paragraph below confirms the bus lanes will be full soon but that people will still want to drive in them.
As a way of implementing the idea, it was suggested to either use legislation to declare EVs as allowed in all bus or transit lanes or give RCA’s the power to decide on what lanes to allow EVs to use. Thankfully the Minister at least chose the second option but given the responses above, it seems unlikely to they’ll approve having EVs in bus lanes. That raises the prospect despite the government suggesting it, it won’t actually be possible anywhere. That in turns means the whole point of the policy would be a flop and will have wasted precious resource from the ministry. I wonder if the government will quietly drop it.
Of course if they really want to get more use out of bus lanes one idea would be to provide more funding to put more buses on which would have the added benefit of making PT much more useful.
With implementation of the new bus network in South Auckland coming up in October, Auckland Transport are consulting on the designs for the bus station in Mangere Town Centre and the bus stops in the Otahuhu Town Centre. Both of these improvements are also being classed as part of the East-West
Link Connections project. Both upgrades are due to start in August and be finished in October.
The two stations have been major advocacy projects for the Māngere-Otahuhu Local Board says Māngere –Ōtāhuhu Local Board Chair, Lemauga Lydia Sosene.
“Both projects are significant milestones for the community and it is great to see them getting underway.”
“These high quality projects will help deliver safer, more practical and connected local bus services and complement other works underway in both centres to improve and rejuvenate the local communities.”
“The new station in Māngere will be extended to accommodate seven parked buses (two more than currently), new shelters to extend the covered passenger area and a covered connection to Māngere Town Centre. It will also include a toilet adjacent to the bus shelter, new cycle racks, an additional westbound lane for traffic and paving and landscaping of the area around the bus station.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the area, here’s where the town centre is and the area affected is shown in yellow.
And here’s what’s planned for the town centre
The shelter and other station amenity upgrades are good however there are a few things that appear to be changing that AT haven’t mentioned. Most notable is that there now appears to be two westbound lanes rather than just the one that currently exists. In addition, the cycle lane appears to have moved to the outside of the bus station and is just a line of paint. It’s crazy that in this day we still have AT staff proposing crap, even more so that AT currently have an active project trying to improve walking and cycling connections to the town centre, including using protected cycleways. Our friends at Bike Auckland have more to say on this too.
Here’s what it currently looks like from Google Street View.
In Ōtāhuhu the existing bus station on Avenue Road will close. It will be replaced by new bus stops and bus shelters installed on both sides of Avenue Road, retaining a familiar bus stop location for existing passengers.
In October, many south Auckland buses will travel between the town centre and the new bus station at Ōtāhuhu train station.
Once again, the area affected is shown in yellow
And here’s what’s planned
It’s not clear what’s happening with the old Otahuhu Bus Station but I believe it is privately own by Infratil so I’m guessing it will be developed or sold. These new stops are likely to be fairly busy with a couple of frequents and other services passing through on their wait to or from the Otahuhu Bus/Train interchange. In some ways it’s a little suprising that AT didn’t just turn this short section of road into a transit mall given there are a number of other nearby streets that can handle general traffic. That would have also allowed for cycle lanes on this street for people to use to access the station
Auckland Transport are going to hold two information days about the upgrades:
11am to 2 pm, Thursday, 14 July 2016 and Saturday, 16 July 2016 – Toia, (Community Centre), Mason Ave, Ōtāhuhu
11 am to 2 pm, Tuesday, 19 July 2016 and Friday, 22 July 2016 – Māngere Town Centre
On Friday while we were basking in the glow of the opening of another great cycling project, the government were busy turning the sod of the next motorway widening project to get underway, something with decidedly less fanfare – to the point there hasn’t even been a press release about it. This was for the Lincoln Rd to Westgate section of SH16 with the most prominent thing I’ve seen being this tweet from Prime Minister John Key
The NZTA also published this video which includes Transport Minister Simon Bridges praising the project.
As mentioned, this $100 million project is widening SH16 between Lincoln Rd and Westgate includes: adding more motorway lanes, some bus lanes, a cycleway as well as upgrading the Royal Rd interchange. Some of the work was originally meant to have been done as part of that the over budget Lincoln Rd interchange project.
While there are a few useful things coming as part of the project, like all non-motorway features, they generally appear to be half arsed and incomplete. This includes:
- The cycleway will be a useful addition, mainly because it will be at a nicer grade than the local road alternatives. I currently ride through this area when going to/from work on the North Shore and the local network options drop below the motorway before rising up above it creating some very steep streets to navigate. But while the cycleway will be useful, the NZTA will force cyclists off at Royal Rd interchange, up a steep section of Makora Rd and through the intersection with Royal Rd. Given the grades, a simple underpass of the off-ramp seems like it should have been easy as well as presenting an easier grade for cyclists.
- Bus shoulder lanes are being added to the motorway. While this is definitely an improvement it’s not the dedicated NW Busway that we need and buses heading further west will be forced to merge out of the bus lane at the Royal Rd interchange. That means to get a proper busway in the future we’re going to have to go back and widen the motorway further, likely taking homes and probably rebuilding the cycleway again when it could have all be integrated at the same time. I recall that back when the NZTA were consenting Waterview and the causeway, they used the excuse that the former ARC plans didn’t list that section of SH16 as a rapid transit route as to why they weren’t including a busway. But those same plans did list Henderson to Constellation via the motorway as a future RTN route as one so it seems the NZTA pick and choose which of the plans it listens too.
There’s another feature of this project the NZTA have not said a single word about, that they’re taking 7547m² of land from a local reserve under the public works act plus another 1666m² as an easement for access, all of which is hidden under the brief bullet point above of Stormwater treatment. Information on the NZTA’s plans for Lowtherhurst Reserve are detailed in the agenda to the Henderson-Massey Local board at the beginning of April and the land they want for a stormwater pond is shown below in pink. The land in question is also what can be seen in the background of the video above.
The reserve is almost 44,000m² but most of that is steep and covered in bush. Only about 14,500m² is flat and grassed so the NZTA want to take half of that. I know somewhat well as I ride through it as part of my commute.
The NZTA offered the council/local board one of two options:
A. base option is financial compensation for the land only. Boundary fenced off from the reserve
B. the development and use of a wetland walkway and multi-activity use area for the local community with Auckland Council maintaining the footpath and multi-activity area at an ongoing cost of $500 a year (this will be cost neutral as there is a cost saving of $555 from reduced mowing on the reserve resulting from the divestment of land).
More detail on each of them is provided in the report but the minutes show the local board supported selling the land and chose option B. They’ve also requested the money received by the council for the sale of the land go to other open space priorities in the local board area.
According to the NZTA website, the project is due to be finished in February 2019.
Auckland is in the midst of the most transformational change to public transport the city has seen since the trams were ripped out in the 1950’s – and I’m not even talking about the City Rail Link. Much of the change is the result of strategies set a decade or more ago but which have only really started to be implemented in the last few years. Once complete they represent the laying of foundations upon which we can build public transport to a level Aucklanders expect and can start to be proud of and with this, projects like the CRL will never be as successful as they could be. The changes are both public facing and behind the scenes with some of the main ones being:
- Integrated Ticketing
- Integrated Fares
- Rail network improvements
- Double tracking the western line
- Reopening the Onehunga Line
- Building the Manukau line
- Station upgrades
- New contracting model (PTOM)
- New Bus Network
Some of these are already completed while others are due to start rolling out soon, for example integrated ticketing first started rolling out in 2011 while integrated fares are due to go live on 31 July. The results from the initiatives that have rolled out so far have been impressive. Overall, annual patronage in the last decade has increased by nearly 32 million trips a year from around 51 million in 2006 to nearly 83 million as of the end of May. Despite rapid population growth, per capita usage has increased by around 14 trips per person per year up to nearly 52 – although that is still low by international standards.
The biggest aspect yet to be implemented is the new network with the first part in the South due to roll out in October. The West was tendered for recently and AT are currently evaluating the responses at the moment but the other parts of the network aren’t due to roll out till next year or even early 2018. The timings below come from AT’s latest Board Report.
Oct 2015: Hibiscus Coast bus service design implemented
Oct-2016: South bus service design implemented
May-2017: West bus service design implemented
Aug-2017 to Feb-18: North, Central and East bus service design implemented
Getting to the point of the post, I feel Auckland Transport need to impose upon themselves a deadline of around 14 months to get all of these changes implemented.
There are few reasons for this. First and foremost, the sooner we get the new network rolled out, the sooner we can start to reap the benefits from it but there’s now another reason too. Last week the government announced the date for the next census as Tuesday 06 March 2018.
The census is important as the results are used heavily in many analyses’ for projects and policies as it’s the only to get detailed journey and mode data across the entire (working) population. With Auckland in particular changing so rapidly, being able to show that through the census results is important. As one example, the last census in 2013 revealed that as a change in modal share, PT and active modes in Auckland were all improving and given the results we’ve seen I’d expect that to continue from the 2018 results.
The data has also been used to create interactive results like the commuter view, allowing you to click on an area unit and and see where people are coming from or going to for work.
Maximising the outcome for PT and active modes represents a great opportunity for AT to show how the city is changing and it’s one I think they should be looking to take which is why I think they need to set a deadline to get as many PT improvements in place prior to that time.
But why only allow 14 months, that only takes us to about September 2017. The main reason for choosing that date is that it’s about 6 months prior to census day. Having everything implemented by then would therefore allow users to adjust and get used to the changes and new ones to start to take advantage of them. We know from overseas that these types network changes often result in an initial reduction in patronage but they achieve stronger growth over time as new users try the changes and adapt to them. Conversely, holding off changes till after the census is also not a great idea as it will mean the network isn’t operating as well as it should be and patronage growth wouldn’t be as strong as a result. AT need to find the goldilocks zone.
On top of just rolling out the new network by that point there are a couple of other things they need to have sorted by then.
The census takes place in March which we know is traditionally the busiest month of the year for the transport system. In the last few years we’ve seen repeated issues with buses being overcrowded resulting in people sometimes needing to wait for up to 12 to go past before one with enough space turns up. While the new network will address some of that, on top of setting that up they’ll need to be working with operators to have extra capacity provided during that time. Unfortunately given the lead in times it will be too late to do anything to get extra trains in so there are likely to be some busy trains by that point.
AT will also need to get moving on getting more physical infrastructure rolled out to support the new network, this includes upgraded bus lanes or other bus priority, improved stops and signage etc. In essence they need work on ensuring there are significant improvements to the customer experience.
For one more reason why it’s important, previously the census has only asked about journey to work which excluded a lot of trips, especially PT trips by students. Following consultation it’s appears quite likely that Stats NZ will add to the census a question about journey to education which should give a much more relevant picture of transport use.
What do you think, is it time for AT to put some harder deadlines in place in advance of the census?
Auckland has no shortage of big road projects on the go at the moment but one of them that has at least improved a bit over the last few years has been the Northern Corridor Improvements project. This plans to convert the last remaining part of SH18 to full motorway standard with some direct motorway to motorway ramps to the north along with extra lanes. The improvement has come in the form of the NZTA now confirming that an extension of the Northern Busway will be part of the project. This a significant change as it had been specifically excluded by the government when the project was accelerated by the government in 2013 – which we understand was against the advice of the NZTA at the time.
The NZTA say the next stage of the project has now been approved which means they’ll be working towards getting consents before starting construction in 2018. As part of this they’ve now come out with an “Approved Draft Plan” which they say includes:
- A new direct motorway to motorway connection between SH18 and SH1, separating motorway traffic from local road traffic.
- Additional motorway lanes in both directions on the Northern Motorway (SH1) between Greville Road and Constellation Drive.
- Extension of the Northern Busway from Constellation Bus Station to Albany Bus Station. Auckland Transport is investigating a new bus station along the extension in the Rosedale area.
- A 5km dedicated shared walking and cycling path on the eastern side of the Northern Motorway (SH1), built alongside the new Busway extension and alongside Upper Harbour Highway (SH18) all the way to Albany Highway. A proposed new walking and cycling bridge across SH1 in Albany will connect Pinehill and East Coast Bays residents with Albany’s shopping, employment and university areas.
- Local road improvements through the Constellation Drive and Caribbean Drive intersections, and a new Paul Matthews Road bridge.
- Further investigation of a proposed bridge over SH18 to improve connections for the Unsworth Heights community
Here is the latest plan which also includes a few changes from the last time we saw the project almost a year ago. The main changes I can see compared to then are:
- They’ve now clarified the connections around Paul Matthews Rd
- They’ve dropped a big swooping on-ramp providing a direct connection from Albany Expressway to the motorway southbound.
- Previously buses would use the bridge at McClymonts Rd to access the busway station before looping back to the motorway via Oteha Valley Rd. Now a new busway bridge will be built directly across the motorway to the station.
- They’ve dropped a potential walking and cycling underpass from SH18 and seem to plan to include a connection as part of a new bridge extending Unsworth Dr
- Previously there was a ‘potential path still under investigation’ showing along SH18 including west of Albany Highway. They’ve confirmed the walking and cycling path as far as Albany Highway but not west of there. This is a shame as the motorway has a much nicer grade than using Upper Harbour Highway
On the busway they say in more detail
It’s now confirmed that the project will include an extension of the popular Northern Busway from Constellation Bus Station to Albany Bus Station. This means buses will be able to travel on a dedicated busway all the way to Albany, reducing travel times and improving public transport options. Auckland Transport is also investigating a new bus station and Park & Ride options in Rosedale along the new busway extension. As part of this, Auckland Transport will look at local road improvements and additional feeder services that could help transport people in and out of the station from the East Coast Bays, North Harbour, and Rosedale. Similar to Smales Farm, it is expected that this station will be a destination station for the many people who work, go to schools or attend sporting activities in the area. It will also provide another station to catch the Northern Express service to and from the city
As part of this final step before going to consenting they are giving people another chance to have a say on the project. Unfortunately, this post is too late for any of the open days but you can still email them or fill in their survey which is focused on a few specific issues like urban design, the new busway station, walking and cycling options and some other local road changes like the potential Unsworth Rd Bridge.
I’d like to see is the busway built first as it would have an added benefit of giving people options during the inevitable disruption that will occur during the construction of the motorway.
One aspect that the NZTA hasn’t talked about since the project was announced is the cost. Back then it was estimated at $450 million but that was without the busway.
On Monday, the Auckland Transport Board are expected to rubber stamp the outcome of the final and biggest of the major consultations for the new bus network, Central and East Auckland. The consultation was held at the end of last year and AT say they received over 3,700 pieces of feedback for the Central network and almost 1,200 pieces of feedback for the East Auckland network. For the Central network 60% of people were in support or not opposed to the proposed changes while in East Auckland that number was 64%.
As a result of the feedback AT say they they have made changes to 29 out of the 52 routes in the central area while in the east 10 out of the 15 routes had changes to them and timetable changes for 8 of them. That’s a lot of changes and not all of them appear to be good, in fact some effectively break the principles behind the new network which I think will undermine the success of it. The biggest concern is in the central area where there now appears to be much weaker cross town services thanks to most of them rerouted, downgraded, truncated or removed entirely. In the end it feels much more like an extension of the status quo than the revolutionary connected network we were promised.
Next I’ll step through the central and east networks separately. Perhaps it’s just the way the image looks in the board paper but one immediate observation of both central and east is the maps feel more cluttered and harder to read compared to those used in the consultation. This seems to be in part due to some of the changes that were made.
Some of the major changes include:
- The outer Link has been retained – although on a modified route between Mt Eden and Newmarket.
- As a result of the Outer Link, the Crosstown 6 route along St Lukes/Balmoral Rd/Greenlane West has been had it’s frequency downgraded and at it’s eastern end, it no longer connects to the Orakei Train Station meaning there is no longer a frequent all day service service there.
- The Crosstown 5 route which also served Orakei as well as proving a connection between Ponsonby, Kingsland, Valley Rd, Mt Eden and Remuera and Mission Bay town centres has been removed. Both this and the Crosstown 6 are suggested to be in part the result of people from Orakei not wanting to transfer to get to the city centre.
- There are a number of new peak only services to the city centre
- The frequent service along Tamaki Dr and a new route through the eastern suburbs will be branded the Blue Link
There are many other many other changes but it is hard to list them all here.
Here’s the final network
As a comparison, here’s the network that was consulted on
To clarify which roads have at least one frequent service to the city all day, AT have the map below. They also say
The final New Network will mean that the arterial routes listed below will continue to have all-day frequent service to and from the City Centre, with enhanced capacity and levels of service (including in most cases 15 minute or better frequencies in the evenings and on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays), to support the increasing level of economic and social activity in the city centre outside normal business hours. Most of these routes will also operate every 30 or 60 minutes between midnight and 3.00 am on Saturday and Sunday evenings to replace the Nite Rider services. Routes anticipated to utilise double-decker buses within the next 2 – 3 years are underlined:
- Jervois Rd (Outer Link)
- Ponsonby Rd (Inner Link)
- Great North Rd as far as New Lynn
- New North Rd
- Sandringham Rd
- Dominion Rd
- Mt Eden Rd
- Manukau Rd
- Ellerslie Panmure Highway and Ti Rakau Drive
- Remuera Rd
- Parnell Rd (Inner and Outer Links)
- Tamaki Drive
As mentioned earlier, there have been a number of changes in the east, the two big ones are:
- They’ve swapped the frequent service that will go all the way to the city from being the service from Howick (route 55) to the service from Botany (route 53). It will be interesting to see how the latter route performs in the future given that it could make services on the busway AT want to build less reliable.
- The route down Te Irirangi Dr (35) has been upgraded to a frequent.
Here’s the final network
As a comparison, here’s the network that was consulted on
As part of the new network networks AT will need to roll out around 100-150 new bus shelters across both central and east. That’s not all that much more than just the South Auckland network which I guess is in part due to many of the main routes on the Isthmus not needing to be changed.
There is also talk of bus priority being added over the next 2-3 financial years. Where bus lanes are or are expected are shown below. AT Also say this which is promising.
bus lanes will be added on Pakuranga Rd and a start will be made on the South-eastern Busway between Panmure, Pakuranga and Botany
I know there has been pressure from a number of sources to roll the network out sooner and positively the document says they plan to roll out the networks in two separate stages in the second half of 2017 which is promising as previously they had been saying early 2018.
I hope that AT are able to revisit some of the poor decisions they’ve made around the new network in a couple of years’ time, perhaps when the CRL opens and that they don’t just assume this is complete and doesn’t need changing.
The public transport results for May are now available and once again there are some very impressive results on the Rapid Transit network with busway and rail network combined up 25% compared to May last year – although an extra business day in the month helped too. Ferries have also continued a good run with the only disappointment continuing to be buses (other than those on the busway) which were only up 0.1% and would’ve been down were it not for the extra day.
During May Auckland Transport finally increased the peak frequency on the Western Line and early indications are promising. It will be good to see how things go over the coming months. Also important is AT say that punctuality remains high which is good as one of the fears I’d heard was that the additional services would make the network less reliable.
It turns out that May now holds the record for the highest single month for rail after eclipsing even the March result thanks to the impact of Easter. March is shown with the orange bars. That’s seen the 12 month rolling result now surpasses 16.5 million.
While the new trains and service improvements have undoubtedly played a key role in the improvements, so too have punctuality and reliability. We now start to regularly see more than 95% of trains arriving at their destination within 5 minutes of their scheduled time which is up dramatically from about 74% about a year ago. From memory, prior to electrification we peaked at just over 90% – but then the current timetable has been padded out in part to deal with the terribly slow dwell times we currently have.
That stellar rise in rail usage has also seen another milestone eclipsed. Now 20% of all public transport trips are by train which is up from just 5% when Britomart opened and with the speed that usage of trains is increasing, that figure could hit 25% before the City Rail Link even opens. The busway currently accounts for around 5% of all trips. To me that’s important as it highlights that rapid transit is doing an increasing share of the heavy lifting – and we’d expect that given the investment.
As I’ve liked to highlight in recent months, the farebox recovery results continue to improve. These results are always an extra month behind with the latest results being to the end of April, so on the rail network we might see a bit of a reversal once the impact of the extra western line services is felt. Still it’s worth celebrating that farebox recovery has passed the NZTA’s 2018 target of 50% and is the highest it’s been in more than a decade. It really shows just how important it has been to have electrification to simultaneously drive up patronage and reduce operational costs.
I was concerned at the results last month that HOP use was a little stagnant. I spoke a little too soon as May has recorded the highest result yet. In the business report, AT say that HOP use has risen and on 23 May it passed 85% for the first time. With all of the SuperGold card holders now having swapped or hopefully in the process of swapping to HOP, that result is likely to go higher still. As AT point out, the results are similar to Brisbane and South Australia who have had similar systems for much longer
South Queensland Go Card has 86% trip penetration after 10 years and the Adelaide Metro Card 87% after 4 years.
While talking about HOP, the business paper also says this. As yet I’ve had no indication of what this new monthly pass is.
Development of a product transition plan will result in the new monthly pass being marketed in June 2016 for 1 July 2016 launch. A discounted introduction price will be available during July.
Hopefully we’ll find out soon.
Sometimes it’s little things that can have a big impact on public transport and a bus full of people, stuck in bus stop because cars won’t let the bus out is a great example of one of those little things. It’s something that manages to tick mist of the boxes on the wrong side of the ledger and is frustrating while wasting both time and money. Some examples of why are:
- For passengers it makes buses slower and therefore less competitive compared to driving and therefore less attractive to use
- For operators and transport agencies like Auckland Transport slower buses mean they cost more to run because either more buses are needed to provide the same level of service or alternatively services need to be reduced.
- For private vehicle drivers, others pushing past buses can slow the entire road down, this was seen following the conversion of the Tamaki Dr bus lanes to T2.
Yet changing our rules to make it easier for buses to get of bus stops has to be one of the easiest things we could fix. And that’s something that NZ Bus have now raised.
New Zealand’s biggest bus company is calling for a new traffic law to give commuter buses right of way over cars.
NZ Bus says some buses are waiting minutes at each stop in for cars to let them into the stream of peak traffic.
Two minutes might not sound like much, but when it’s added to every stop on a busy route, it means buses are constantly running late.
“We think letting the bus go first is actually going to be not only good for the bus, but it’s going to have less people in cars and more people on public transport, and that’s hopefully going to be a win-win for all,” chief operating officer Shane McMahon says.
NZ Bus says on average a peak-time bus in Auckland carries 35-40 people. But on busy routes like Mt Eden Road, Sandringham Rd, Dominion Rd, Remuera Rd there’s up to 70 people on board.
A lot of Auckland’s main arterial roads have bus lanes, but not all the way into the city.
As mentioned in the article, many countries require divers to give way to buses pulling out of bus stops
Drivers in Australia, Singapore, and most of the UK must give buses the right of way. But with bigger traffic problems to fix, the Ministry of Transport says it’s not even on its agenda.
It would be interesting for one of our agencies to do an economic evaluation of the lost time caused by bus delays. A single bus with around 40 people on it delayed by just five minutes per trip equates to around 200 minutes which is over 3 hours, and that’s just for one bus on one trip. Multiply the delays across all buses across an entire year and the amount of lost time would be simply huge. My guess is the BCR would for fixing this would be off the charts and as a bonus, faster buses mean they’re cheaper to run and likely to attract even more passengers.
Now I must also say how good it was to see the media not just talking about the idea but showing just how much more efficient buses are by counting how long it took for the same number of people in cars to pass the bus stop, 1 minute 20 seconds. It’s why a bus lane that looks empty is actually doing its job and why filling those lanes up with electric vehicles is a really dumb idea.
As former (and now once again) Mayor of Bogotá Enrique Peñalosa once said “a bus with 100 people has a right to 100 times more road space than a car”. If you haven’t watched his Ted Talk on Why buses represent democracy in action then you should, and if you have watched it, it’s always good to watch again.
This seems like one of those no-brainer changes, it’s insane that this isn’t even on the MoTs agenda.
Is Auckland Transport doing enough to improve public transport or is it resting on its laurels basking in the glow of the spectacular increases being seen on the rail network and busway. That’s a question asked by Radio NZ the other day in highlighting that patronage on the bus network outside of the busway has actually fallen recently and will mean that AT misses its PT targets for the year.
The number of trips being taken on Auckland’s public transport network looks set to miss targets this year, and a new survey shows public perception of the services is worsening.
There has been strong growth on trains and the dedicated Northern Busway but fewer people are using the general bus network, which carries 75 percent of the city’s public transport users.
With two months to go, patronage is down slightly – despite population growth – and overall bus trips are expected to fall short of the annual target of 51.5 million, by more than 4 percent.
I’m not quite sure where the 51.5 million comes from as buses already carry well more than that so it might be a year to date target but that doesn’t change the fact that patronage has dipped in recent months. The four graphs below show how we’re performing across each of the modes and the targets are based on information from the Council’s Long Term Plan debate last year. As you can see both trains and ferries have already exceeded targets but bus use has tailed off and that’s dragged the overall total down.
So what’s causing this drop. AT attribute to a number of factors such as charging for the City Link which they say has seen the biggest change and resulted of around 700,000 fewer trips, something AT seem fairly nonchalant about. But seeing as they’ve been doing a lot of advertising recently including large ads in Britomart and people walking around with the modern day version of a sandwich board it’s obviously trips they want back on the buses.
“If you’re transferring from another bus or another train using the AT HOP card, the service is still free,” AT Metro general manager Mark Lambert said.
“But I guess some of those people who were using the City Link for relatively short distances would rather walk a few hundred metres than pay a 50 cent fare. That’s completely understandable and that’s probably a good thing.”
Other factors likely include that people are being put off some buses as a result of the bus stop and route changes made to accommodate the construction of the CRL and possibly even lingering effects of people put off by the bus strike and March Madness a few months ago. But I suspect there are additional factors too.
Over the 18 months or so, AT plan to roll out some of the biggest changes we’ve seen for PT in the form of Integrated Fares (next month) the new bus network (South Auckland in October and the rest of Auckland some-time between then and early 2018). Both of these changes will undoubtedly be positive when they arrive and be the result of countless hours and effort put in by AT staff. Yet at the same time I also wonder if they’re hiding a little behind those projects or perhaps that they’ve just got so much resource tied up in getting those projects over the line that other improvements suffer.
AT said the bus network had suffered years of neglect, but new fares and a redesign of routes over the next 18 months were expected to provide a boost.
“As we change the bus network there may be a localised stagnation, as people get used to the changes, but we certainly expect to see strong growth as a result of those service re-designs,” Mr Lambert said.
One such example which is seemingly languishing on AT’s list of projects includes the roll out of bus lanes on which their latest report says they have under spent for this year.
Bus Priorities and Bus Lanes
Whilst we have received a number of requests from AT Metro in the last few weeks, we are still forecasting to underspend by $1.5m as undertaking any physical works this FY related to those requests will not be possible.
Just one example are the proposed transit lanes along Manukau Rd which would cut journey times for bus users and thereby making the buses along the route much more attractive and efficient. Other routes they’re looking at are shown below from their latest report but it seems the roll out of them is going far too slow.
What do you think, are AT doing enough to keep patronage on buses growing or should we just hang around till October when the new network starts rolling out? If you were in charge what would you do to get that growth happening again?