Issues to repeat for Santa Parade

It’s that time of year again where tens of thousands of people embark on an annual pilgrimage to Auckland’s city centre to watch the Santa Parade. The parade this year is being held on Sunday 29th at 1pm (it’s been at 2pm in the past).


In the past we’ve criticised Auckland Transport for how they’ve handled various aspects of the parade. In particular this has been the transport arrangements they create for getting to the parade and how they deal with Queen St and people afterwards. So what are they doing this year?

First on the transport arrangements AT have published information about this and while a slight improvement over last year, once again I’m left disappointed.

The good thing is that on many routes extra buses, trains and ferries have been put on and AT are being clear about where these are. Last year AT made it clear about the extra trains and ferries didn’t say anything about extra buses despite actually putting them on – putting extra services on for events and not communicating it has been a common issue for AT. The website lists all the bus routes which will have extra services and the times they will run so well that’s a good thing.

There are extra trains being run too however if you want to catch one keep an eye on the timetables. On many of the lines the extra services are only doing a short run, for example on the Western Line they will only run from New Lynn which means if you live further out you only have the normal half hourly services. When it comes time to head home things may be a little crowded too, out west there’s only one extra train on each of the three main lines to take people home

The downside of it all is that normal fares still apply. Given the $24 family pass can only be purchased from a few train stations it cab makes travel very expensive for many families. For example a family of four travelling from Papatoetoe would have to pay almost $31 for their journey to and from the city and that’s only if they all had HOP cards. If they didn’t have HOP cards that cost goes up to $42.

Note: Stations that you can buy a family pass from are Britomart, New Lynn, Newmarket, Panmure, Manukau, Papakura and Pukekohe.

With prices like those many families will likely opt to drive, especially considering that once again Auckland Transport are offering free carparking in their city centre buildings

If you are planning to drive to the parade, please be aware that road closures and parking restrictions will be in place.

Public parking is free at the Downtown, Victoria Street and Civic (parking will be limited at Civic) car parks for vehicles exiting between 1pm and 6pm.

Given those buildings combined only have capacity for about 2,000 vehicles it’s amazing that AT once again offered this.

The other main issue we’ve had in the past is a rush by AT and the likes of the Police to shuffle families on just so that they can reopen Queen St as fast as possible to a handful of drivers.


AT haven’t yet stated what time they’ll reopen Queen St to traffic however in my view they should leave it closed for the day, helping encourage people linger in the city. The numbers in Queen St at this time easily eclipse most other days. This can easily be seen from the excellent data Heart of the City collect through a network of automated pedestrian counters and which they publish online.

As you can see below, pedestrian volumes at 210 and 261 Queen St on the day of the Santa Parade were considerably higher than the year before and well above normal (volumes are just for one side of the road)

Santa Parade Ped Volumes

It will be interesting to see what they do about the Santa Parade next year seeing as a key part of the route – up Albert St – is going to be in the midst of construction of the CRL and many other buildings.

AT November Board Meeting

Tomorrow the Auckland Transport Board meet and as usual I’ve picked through the main reports looking for any bits of information that I find interesting. First up the items in the closed session

Items for Approval/Decision

  • Tamaki Ngapipi – AT say this will be publicly released soon and my guess is it will be a decision as to whether to proceed with a signalised intersection like AT staff want or a roundabout like the local board want.
Tamaki -Ngapipi Signalised Option

The signalised intersection AT want to build Tamaki Dr & Ngapipi Rd

  • Real Estate Inventory Optimisation
  • Assignment of Lease to Ferry Building Limited

Items for Noting

  • Deep Dive – EMU post implementation review – Hopefully this is something that will soon be made public but it almost seems a bit soon to be doing a post implementation review giving they’ve only just rolled out and AT are still meant to be fixing issues like dwell times.
  • AT Metro subsidy – this could be another fascinating paper, especially in light of the fact farebox recovery has been improving rapidly of late thanks to the roll out of the EMUs and surging patronage.
  • CRL update

On to the main business report – comments are based on the order the items they refer to appear in the report

AT have been saying for a few months that some of the options for renewing their rolling stock insurance. They’ve now done that and the saving ended up at $130,000 which is more than they had been saying. The news on the sale of the old trains seems to be about the same as it was last month.

AT signed off their Regional Land Transport Programme (RLTP) in July however occasionally things come up that require them to add a variation. They say they can add minor changes themselves but major ones need to be consulted on and as such they’ve added two projects to the current RLTP. One is the Auckland Transport Alignment Project which meant to be about coming up with a transport programme that can be agreed on by both the council and the government. The other one they’ve added is from the NZTA and is SH20B to the Airport for which the NZTA say they need to undertake an overarching strategy for the corridor. Perhaps they’re lining this up as a project to fill the void when the current tranche of projects finish.

Project updates

The upgrade of the northern part of Albany Highway is on track for completion late next year which AT say is well ahead of schedule. They say significant sections of off road cycle and footpaths are now open for people to use with more to come before Christmas.

Consultation on stages 2 and 3 of the shared path between Glen Innes and Tamaki Dr will happen in early 2016. That will see the path extend as far as the Orakei Train station

Early 2016 will also see the consultation of quite a few walking/cycling projects including

  • Stages 2 and 3 of the shared path between Glen Innes and Tamaki Dr will happen in early 2016. These are the stages that will see the path extend as far as the Orakei Train station
  • Waitemata Safe Routes which will involve three separate routes, one from Westmere Shops to Grey Lynn, one from Coxs Bay Reserve to the NW Cycleway and one on Richmond Rd to link the two together.
  • New Lynn to Waterview Shared Path which will take place in late January.

All Electric trains have been provisionally accepted into the fleet and had software updates over Labour Weekend to address a number of performance issues with the traction control and passenger information systems.

A council decision on the Newmarket crossing project (closing Sarawia St) is likely to happen in May 4 months earlier than expected. AT say that at the time of writing the report only two submissions had been received on it, one in support and one neutral. Submissions would still have been open at the time of writing that though.

At Parnell AT say the platforms should be complete by the end of November but won’t recommence on the station till next year once Kiwirail do their part of the work on the station (they need consent to bring in the old Newmarket Station building and refurbish it). AT are seeing whether they can get some funding to build a link from the station to the developments in Carlaw Park – something that should have been core part of the project. They also say the new owner of the old Mainline Depot site (Summerset, who will build a retirement village) have made requests to amend the station access which AT is reviewing. All of the station works aren’t due to be completed till June next year.

Other updates

Over the years I’ve seen a lot of complaints about the traffic lights in New Lynn in the local papers. AT say that after a review and incorporating feedback they’re going to make some changes to them to “improve flow of traffic through the town centre” which will apparently enhance “public transport reliability and pedestrian accessibility”. I find it odd how much the report talks about it all being about pedestrians when the real reason is about driving – pedestrian washing if you will. They will

  • Removal of signals to the access way at McCrae Way and Great North Road
  • Trial camera detection on a pedestrian crossing at Memorial Dr to “optimise the use of the intersection for pedestrian movement and traffic flow” in other words to stop people crossing the road from holding up cars.
  • Trial removing signals at one of the intersections of Ward St (not sure which one).

AT are now using Bluetooth to monitor travel time data in real time across six city centre routes. The NZTA also use this technology to monitor travel times on the route to the airport and explain it a bit in this press release.

Bluetooth Monitored City Routes

One interesting bit of information that normally stays behind the scenes appears in this board report. It is an explanation about ATs traffic counting programme. They say it costs them $678k annually to count traffic and have 1882 programmed for this financial year with 643 completed by the end of September.

Public Transport

Integrated Fares are now not due till July 2016.

AT are still evaluating the tenders for the new bus network in South Auckland

AT say they’re consulting with schools who have school bus routes that duplicate existing rail or bus routes. The intention is to remove the school bus routes with children obviously catching a normal bus or train instead.

The Puhinui station upgrade is due to be completed by the end of the month.

The Park Rd bus lane between the Hospital and Carlton Gore Rd is due to be completed in December – I hope they have some enforcement lined up so that people will stop parking in it

Apparently there is new journey planner software being implemented today that will finally allow for multi-modal and multi trip journey planning.

Forward Planner

Something I haven’t really covered in the board paper posts before is the boards forward programme. This highlights the subject of papers going to the upcoming board committees and next full board meeting. Like the closed session there are some very interesting topics. For example

CFC on 3 December – Customer Focus Committee

  • ATAP update
  • Car Sharing Policy Framework*
  • Draft Statement of Intent
  • Berm Planting Policy Update
  • Station Gating*
  • Security & Fare Enforcement*
  • Annual Fare Price Review*

CRC on 3 December – Not sure what this stands for

  • Potential Purewa Station
  • Joint review of AMETI Delivery Strategy – update and key next steps
  • East West*
  • Penlink – Confirmation of Notice of Requirement*
  • LRT Strategic Case*
  • CRL – Albert Street ramps

The items with a * are also due to appear in the next closed session of full board meeting. That also includes a few other papers too such as

  • Northern Busway Station Preferred Option – although it appears this may be moved to next year.
  • PwC – Value for Money Report – As I understand it, this is looking at AT is delivering value for money in how it operates so could be very interesting.
  • NZTTL Briefing Paper – NZTTL is the NZTA organisation which owns and controls the back end systems that HOP uses.


Oct-15 Patronage and Rail to 15 million

Rail patronage continues to soar to new heights and yesterday passed 15 million trips within a year for the first time. That marks also the third million trip milestone we’ve seen this year after passing 13 million trips in March and 14 million trips in July. This is a fantastic result and continues to show that when given a decent option that Aucklanders will use it.

General Manager AT Metro, Mark Lambert says rail patronage in Auckland has grown by 22% over the past year. “Just four months ago we marked 14 million passenger trips. And if we go back 10 years we had just 4 million trips a year.”

Auckland Transport chairman Dr Lester Levy says when he became AT chairman in November 2012 rail patronage was just 10 million. “What Aucklanders have wanted for decades is reliable, frequent and safe public transport options and we have a very clear focus on delivering to those wants and needs.”

Mayor Len Brown says this is another outstanding achievement for public transport in Auckland. “At this rate we will pass the next big milestone – 20 million – at the start of 2017. Aucklanders love their trains and compared to this time last year, they’re taking around 10,000 extra trips every day across the suburban network.”

Since the rail network went all-electric in July, from Papakura to Swanson, there has been a marked improvement in reliability and on-time performance. In October 93% of services arrived at their destination within five minutes of their scheduled time and the previous month 94.9% of services arrived on time, a new record for Auckland trains.

Mr Lambert says “Our customers are liking the improved level of service and the comfort and convenience of the new trains. We’re also working on a timetable improvement which will see services on the Western Line go to six trains an hour at peak like the Southern and Eastern Lines.”

Overall public transport patronage in Auckland across rail, bus and ferries now exceeds 80 million passenger trips a year.

The result also marks us being halfway to the government’s patronage target for the CRL of 20 million trips by 2020 just over two years after it was set.

2015-10 - Rail vs Govt Target

If current trends continue we will hit 20 million trips in mid 2017 however the Ministry of Transport have continued to claim that patronage growth will taper off. There’s no sign of that happening yet and in fact patronage has continued to grow at increasing rates with it currently increasing by over 22%. There are also a lot of improvements still to come. As AT say in the press release above they are working on increasing frequency of trains on the western line which last I heard was expected to occur around April. That will both help address capacity constraints and make the service much more useful at the same time. In the middle of next year we will also get integrated fares which will make most journeys cheaper and in the South the new bus network will be rolled out which should see more people transferring to trains. The changes to will happen after that. All of this means that patronage is likely to continue to grow strongly for some time yet.

One aspect I will be watching is to see how it takes us to reach the next million milestone. We’ve seen the last two taking just four months. There’s been a distinct downward trend although I’d be surprised if it went lower. One aspect likely to help keep the current trend up is that this year will see the shortest rail closure over Christmas so we should see some decent increases in patronage in the December and January months.

Time between Rail Millions

The patronage results for October have also been released ahead of the AT board meeting next week. Other than rail which reached 14.8m to the end of October both bus and ferries also saw patronage increase despite there being one less business day this October compared to the last one. Buses were up 0.5% for the month while ferries have continued strong growth over the last six months or so up 8.2% for the month.

2015-10 - Total Patronage

2015-10 - Patronage Table

Cheap weekend buses in Wellington

In an interesting move Wellington City Council is paying $200,000 to subsidise bus fares on Go Wellington buses on weekends in the lead up to Christmas.

As Wellington bus users look forward to low weekend fares in the run-up to Christmas, their Auckland counterparts face a doubling of the price of new Hop cards.

Wellington City Council yesterday announced it was contributing $200,000 to subsidise bus fares, to as little as $1 for one-stage rides, for four weeks from November 28 to encourage more people to use public transport.

“This initiative will provide a welcome boost for retail sales,” said Mayor Celia Wade-Brown.

The fares, on yellow Go Wellington buses, will also include $2 for an adult two-stage ride and $1.50 for children travelling across two or three zones.

Auckland Transport is not jumping to match that, saying only that it will “watch the Wellington trial with interest”.

There are a couple of thoughts I have about this.

In effect this is the council trying to encourage people to use PT to shop in the city rather than them driving to a mall which most likely has free parking. In my view there are both positives and negatives to this. On the positive side it’s certainly better to encourage people to catch a bus to go shopping – which in most cases isn’t for going to be large bulky items – rather than lowering prices for limited numbers of council carparks.

At the same time though I wonder there are other reasons why more people aren’t already choosing to use the bus for shopping. The biggest of these is likely to be that that buses simply aren’t fast or frequent enough on weekends. Lowering the price might get a couple of people to change their behaviour but improving the level of service will likely have been much more effective – although possibly more costly.

In saying this I do think that in Wellington and in Auckland more use should be made of off peak fares to encourage more people to use PT at times when there is often an excess of capacity. For Auckland at least this isn’t currently possible with HOP so I very much hope AT are including it as part their integrated ticketing work.

It will be interesting to see if this has any impact on patronage. Currently growth on PT in the region is basically non-existent and for the 12 months to the end of September patronage was only up 0.6% however that was only due to rail with bus patronage down 0.2%. Hopefully the regional council release information about the impact of the campaign so we can see just how successful (or not) the idea is.

Wellington Patronage 2015-09

What do you think of the idea?

First H&E Double Decker now on the streets

Some good news today with the first Howick & Eastern double decker operating from today.

double decker3

East Aucklanders are the first to get the benefit of a new fleet of double decker buses, being rolled out from today.

Until now their use has been restricted to the Northern Busway, but this morning the first double decker bus has gone into service in the Botany area.

The first trip departed Botany Shopping Centre travelling to Britomart along the 500 Route. The service is being operated for Auckland Transport by Howick & Eastern Buses Ltd.

Sheryll Otway from Howick & Eastern says the company is very proud of this new addition to its fleet. “We are investing in 15 double deckers and it’s great to see this first one hitting the road.”

She says residents in the east are going to notice a big difference. “These buses have improved seating, USB charging points and in time will have on-board WiFi and infotainment systems.”

Auckland Transport General Manager AT Metro Mark Lambert says over the next few months double deckers will become a regular sight in Auckland. “Howick & Eastern will have their 15 running to the east, Ritchies will eventually have 15 crossing the harbour bridge and NZ Bus has plans for 23 buses. It’s an exciting time for bus users in Auckland.”

Sheryll Otway says the first Howick & Eastern double decker will be on the Mission Heights to Britomart return trip. “Thirteen of the buses are being built by Kiwi Bus Builders Ltd in Tauranga so we’re pleased to support a New Zealand manufacturer.”

Mayor Len Brown says today’s launch is part of an exciting transport transformation across Auckland’s east. “The introduction of double deckers is another sign of the phenomenal growth in public transport patronage in Auckland requiring innovative solutions to cope with demand.

“Other investment in Auckland’s east includes the Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative or AMETI – a $1.5 billion investment to keep that part of Auckland moving. The first stage of AMETI has already been rolled out and includes the Panmure bus and train station. That will be followed a second stage between Panmure and Pakuranga providing a busway, cycle lanes and better roads. Eventually the busway will extend all the way to Botany along Te Rakau Drive and will carry more passengers than the Northern Busway on the North Shore.”

Bus services in Auckland totalled 60.2million passenger boardings for the 12 months to September, an annual increase of 5.7%.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make the inaugural trip however I have seen the bus before and even had a brief look inside. The quality seemed very high and probably better than the double deckers used on the NEX services.

One interesting aspect is that there are no steps on the ground level instead the floor slowly ramps up all the way to the back of the bus. Due to this it has created an interesting setup with the seating which is to deal with the rear wheels. In effect second and forth to last rows of seats face backwards.

The biggest thing I wasn’t so keen on was that a screen has been in the middle of the upstairs windscreen which kind of hampers the view forward for anyone not in the first row.

double decker 1

Overall this and the buses to follow will be welcome and much needed additions to Auckland as people on some routes having to watch multiple buses go past their stop completely full.

H&E Double Decker

What next for HOP

Change is afoot for Auckland Transport’s HOP card with them increasing the price of it but also looking to expand the use of the card.

On the first point, they will increase the cost of buying a card from $5 back to $10 on December 17. This seems like a backwards step given AT need to be encouraging as many people to use HOP as possible. While the vast majority of current PT users are already using HOP a large number of people are still using cash and on buses in particular that can really slow trips down. Figures from AT’s board report show that around 74% of all trips use HOP. There is a bit of variation in HOP use by mode, it is used for around 80% of rail trips, 76% of bus trips but only 27% of ferry trips. There is also likely some variation in use of HOP between weekdays and on weekends and AT have said HOP use on weekdays is more than 80%.

2015-09 - HOP Use

AT also say they think that at $10 the card represents “excellent value” and that a regular customer will pay off the $10 cost in just over a week. This is based on research they’ve done suggesting most customers take about 6 trips per week and travels just two stages per trip. In such a scenario they would save $9 per week and more frequent users or those travelling further would obviously save more.

They also say they think $10 is about right based on the cost of similar cars overseas. As examples they point to Snapper card in Wellington which costs $10, Octopus in Hong Kong at ~NZ$10 (deposit). Outside of transport they cite the example a lost EFTPOS card being around $15, lost credit card around $10.

Another and reason for the change in price is the cost of making the cards. AT say every single card costs them $8.54 to produce and that they have been making up the difference for some time. All up 20,000 new cards are sold each month and in total they’ve sold 680,000. They say the cost of the card covers

  • the card cost and distribution of the cards
  • the cost of sales, including retail agents commission, and the cost of ticketing offices selling the cards
  • back office costs

In response to a few other questions of mine they said:

  • They are investigating the idea of having the purchase price loaded on the card if you register it
  • It is not legally possible under the conditions of carriage to give a HOP card as change for cash payers i.e. if someone hands a driver a $20 note that he gives them a HOP car with $10 loaded and tells them to tag on.
  • They are still investigating the idea of having an NFC option for HOP cards so people can use their phones. This is a shame as they first said they were trialling it over 3 years ago.


The other HOP news is that AT are thinking about extending the use of HOP to access other council services such as the libraries, swimming pools and the zoo. We’ve also known for some time they want to extend it to enable people to pay for parking and I’m aware the NZTA would like to link it in to the toll system – both of which need to happen.

Auckland Transport is considering extending the reach of its $100 million Hop ticketing system to council services such as libraries and swimming pools.

It is also sounding out Aucklanders over whether they would be prepared for information the system collects about them to be shared among council organisations.

Those ideas have been raised with a research panel of Auckland residents, offering them chances to be in the draw for Christmas gift cards for participating in a survey.

A panel member told the Herald the questionnaire had asked “if we’d be happy to use our Hop card to access other Auckland Council services like pools, libraries, rec centres.”

She said panellists were also asked if they would agree to their data being shared across council organisations.

“As a person who refuses to register my Hop card because I hate sharing data, I wasn’t wildly positive about this,” she said.

An Auckland Transport spokesman said the survey, which was supposed to be confidential, was part of “a very high-level, early investigation into the possible use of the Hop card for other council services”.

“This is just at a conceptual level at the moment and may not go anywhere,” he said.

He promised if the proposal were to go further, a full investigation would cover matters including the privacy of Hop card holders, and “opt out” provisions for those not wanting to use it other than for public transport trips.

The spokesman said it was no secret that Auckland Transport was also considering extending Hop card coverage to parking services, although no decisions had been made about that.

I personally think it would be great if AT decided to go ahead with these ideas as it would turn the HOP card from just being a PT card into a ticket to the city. Other than just the convenience of having easier access to places, it would also encourage a lot more people to get HOP cards and thereby reduce one of the barriers to entry for PT.

Of course I’m not holding my breath for any major changes like those suggested to happen soon. Especially given how long it’s taking AT to get integrated fares sorted. Still at least they’re thinking of these options.

Manukau Bus Interchange

The new bus network for South Auckland will significantly improve public transport options for many people in the area. A key feature of the network is about making it easier to transfer between services and one of the main places that will happen is in Manukau – one of Auckland’s most important regional centres. All up 15 different routes will stop at or pass through Manukau making it one of the busiest locations for buses outside the City Centre. Added to those numbers will also be inter-regional buses. To handle those buses Auckland Transport have long talked about building a bus interchange opposite the train station and now they’ve finally released details about it.

The proposed Manukau Bus Station is a key part of the roll out of a new public transport network across south Auckland. It will provide Aucklanders with a new network of buses and trains that will get them to their destination faster and more efficiently.

The Manukau train station sees an average of 1037 daily week day passenger trips and is currently the 13th busiest station in Auckland.

What’s missing is a bus station to create a bus and train transport hub for the south.

Auckland Transport (AT) has now developed concept design plans for the proposed new high quality bus station, aimed at making it easy to transfer between trains and buses, as well as between bus services. It will be designed to have sufficient capacity for long distance coach services. The facility will also feature a large enclosed waiting area similar to an airport lounge.

AT seeks feedback on the concept design to help make an informed decision to provide a high quality bus station and customer experience.

Located right next to Manukau train station, the Manukau civic offices car park on Putney Way (between Davies Avenue and Osterley Way) will be transformed to a 23-bay bus station. The train and bus stations will be linked by a covered walkway.

The AT project, in partnership with the NZ Transport Agency, is expected to cost approximately $26 million.

They say the interchange will have the following features:

  • 23-bay bus station (21 saw-tooth bays and 2 parallel bays) right next to the existing Manukau train station.
  • The new station will be built on the site of the Civic Building car park, on Putney Way (between Davies Avenue and Osterley Way).
  • Bike parking racks, taxi parking and drop-and-ride area.
  • Waiting lounge.
  • Real time passenger information.
  • 24-hour security, help points and CCTV.
  • Universally accessible.
  • Supporting the increased volume and movement of buses to and from Manukau and the wider network.
  • Designed for use by regional coach services, eg those currently using Leyton Way at Westfield.

And here’s what it is proposed to look like. The MIT campus and Manukau Train station are in the background.

Concept Design - Manukau Bus Interchange - 1

The building is said to have the following design features.

  • A high-quality building with an architectural look and feel incorporating local and cultural history.
  • Saw-tooth layout, similar to the Hamilton Transport Centre and Hamburg Central Bus Station in Germany, to provide higher operational efficiency.
  • Roof planes running in north-south direction, designed to provide maximum amount of natural light.
  • Promoting intuitive orientation and way-finding.
  • Designed to enhance the sense of space.
  • Stormwater runoff from the bus bays and bus manoeuvring area will be treated through rain-gardens located within the station area, prior to discharge to the wetlands in Hayman Park.
  • Bus station access will be via Putney Way to provide easy access to the train station.
Concept Design - Manukau Bus Interchange - 2

Looking at the bus interchange from next to the Train Station

For all the impressive talk from Auckland Transport I have some serious concerns about what they’re proposing.

We absolutely need good facilities for passengers but this design seems like complete overkill. It seems like they’re trying to build both a bus interchange and bus layover into one design. Yes some of those facilities may be needed for long haul buses but for the most part they are likely to be a fairly minor part of the interchange. If the new network is successful then over time many of the urban bus routes should become increasingly frequent meaning buses will need to be turning around quickly and therefore will keep wait times short. For many the structure will be something they just pass through quickly on their journey rather than a place to linger.

Concept Design - Manukau Bus Interchange - 3

The interchange is predicted to be hugely expensive at $26 million – which is a huge chunk of our PT budgets. Perhaps some of that cost is simply due to big the structure is with the building appearing to be about 150m long. Given the council wants Manukau City Centre to become a dense urban area – and therefore one with fairly significant land costs – it is absurd to so big and land hungry.

It probably would be cheaper and better for passengers to have had a smaller interchange that buses pass through and have layover facilities somewhere else close by in one of the industrial areas. In such a scenario buses terminating buses would drop off their passengers then drive out to the layover facility just a minute or two around the corner. Of course the reverse would happen for buses starting out. The image below is an example of what I am thinking of.

Christchurch bus interchange early concept

One of the advantages of such an idea is it would open up more space on the site for commercial or residential development which seems to be one of the key goals for the area.


Manukau - Future Development 2

Looking at the proposal from the NorthWest

Even as proposed there seem to have been some odd decisions made.

The sawtooth design seems all about squeezing as many buses in as possible. The down side to this is it will make for more complex manoeuvring of buses entering and exiting the interchange. In addition there are two bus bays outside of the sawtooth design on the southern side of the interchange. They seem very isolated from the rest of the interchange and it’s facilities.

Another option that may have been overlooked is to have facilities on the streets. The images show they plan to temporarily have buses stop directly outside the MIT campus so I wonder why they didn’t consider making those more permanent and also having some on Putney Way

Concept Design - Layout

There are probably lots of other issues too but another one you may noticed from the images and text is the talk of bike parking. it is of course essential to have that although the plan seems to have it quite isolated outside. With such a massive development it seems a lot more effort should have gone in here to integrate bikes better – like has been done in Christchurch. Perhaps even worse that than is there appears to be no way for less confident cyclists to get to the station, especially from the east. The plans for Putney Way include a wide footpath which is appropriate in a centre but no cycle facilities – not to worry of course because on street parking has been retained.

Concept Design - Manukau Bus Interchange - Putney Way

Who knows, perhaps my thoughts are off on this but either way you can have your own say. Consultation is open till 20 November and there are three information days.

  • Tuesday, 10 November 2015 – 12 to 2 pm – Centre Court, Westfield – Manukau
  • Thursday, 12 November 2015 – 5 to 8 pm – Centre Court, Westfield – Manukau
  • Saturday, 14 November 2015 – 10 am to 1 pm – Ground level, Manukau Institute of Technology, entrance to Manukau Station


Airbus Express becomes SkyBus

Auckland’s city to airport bus has new owners bringing with them a new name, a new livery and promising a higher quality service. The Airbus Express service has been bought by SkyBus who operate Melbourne’s airport bus service.

Free on-board Wi-Fi and ground hosts to welcome intrepid travellers to Auckland are just the beginning of big plans by new owners to expand – and smarten – the 24-hour airport bus service.

The former Airbus fleet has already had its name changed to that of Melbourne’s 38-year-old SkyBus, which is taking it under its wing.

It will be repainted from light blue to red as more buses are added between the fast-growing airport precinct and downtown Auckland to widen the span of departures, which already run every 10 minutes during week days.

That follows a change of ownership from Johnston’s Coachlines to a consortium majority-owned by Canada’s Ontario Pension Trust, in a deal worth about $20 million.

Melbourne-based directors Michael Sewards and Adam Begg have hit the ground running in Auckland, adding two buses in their first couple of weeks here and installing free Wi-Fi across what is now a 15-strong shuttle fleet – with seven more due by May.

The service has long been popular, running 24/7 and with great frequency. On weekdays they run every  10 minutes between 7:30am and 8:10pm and on weekends they run every 15 minutes during the day. In the middle of the route the frequency splits in two with services alternating between Dominion Rd and Mt Eden Rd. The addition of more buses suggests frequency will improve even further making the service even more useful.


AirBus Timetable

One aspect that is interesting is the move to a red livery like is used on their buses in Melbourne. Queen St already has the red City Link buses so users will have to pay more attention if catching either one. Once they change I wonder how long it will be till someone accidentally gets on a red SkyBus to a short distance up Queen St only to be charged $16 (the one way fare).

SkyBus and CityLink

The old livery with the new name. Photo by Luke C

One of the reasons the cost for SkyBus is $16 is that the service is and has always been fully commercial meaning it isn’t subsided by Auckland Transport, siting to the side of the normal public transport system. As such the company can charge whatever they like. As such there is also no discount for using HOP and there is no indication that would change with the new operators and it seems they will continue to retain a separate ticketing system

Telecommunications company Spark is meanwhile developing a sophisticated ticket-buying app which it hopes to roll out in Auckland before Christmas and then back-load to Melbourne.

Mr Sewards said during a tag-team visit by the pair to Auckland this week that technological solutions encountered here had been “incredible.”

He is similarly impressed by Auckland Transport’s $100 million integrated Hop ticketing system, into which his fleet was plugged by its former owners, although SkyBus will remain fully commercial with none of the subsidies received by most other city bus operators.

The owners also talk about improving journey times. I imagine the biggest improvements would likely come from having more bus lanes and with better operating hours however the new owners also single out Waterview as helping. Unless they’re planning on running buses all the way to the city via the motorway then I can’t see how that will make a lot of difference.

Mr Sewards acknowledged room for improvement in journey times, now varying from about 45 minutes to an hour for the 12km trip between downtown Auckland and the airport.

That compares with about 20 minutes over the 23km between Melbourne’s CBD and its airport.

But he said Melbourne’s route was far more direct, along a single motorway, and is looking forward to faster bus trips in Auckland once the Waterview tunnels open in early 2017.

Lastly it’s an interesting time for the change in ownership as there are a number of interesting developments on the horizon.

From a PT perspective the competition to SkyBus is a combination of a train and what is currently the 380 bus (will be called the 30 in the new network). Next year Auckland Transport will roll out integrated fares which will make transferring between bus and train services cheaper and easier for most journeys. From the city it would be only three zones for which AT have indicated the cost would be $4.80-$5.00. The trade-off though is likely a longer journey time. Trains between Britomart and Papatoetoe every 5 minutes during the day and from there the 30 bus runs fairly direct to the airport however it only runs half hourly during the day and based on the current timetable even with an almost perfect connection it would take around an hour.


Longer term there is also the prospect of rail the airport. If Auckland Transport build it as an extension of the existing rail system like they should (either between Onehunga or from Otahuhu like suggested here) then travel times could be slashed quite substantially. If instead they go for the option of extending one of the proposed light rail routes travel times aren’t likely to be significantly different to what exists today.

Rail to Airport - July 15 - LRT vs HRT Travel times

Either rail implementation would have significant impacts on the SkyBus service who I can’t see just lying down and letting it happen. Given SkyBus is already successful and not subsidised they are able to put forward a strong case not to build rail – especially in the current political climate. Yet the service is only really successful on a commercial basis which may not be the best outcome for the city/country due to the higher cost meaning many will still prefer to drive. Based on the current airport arrivals and departures of around 15.5 million people annually the reported SkyBus figures of around 650,000 trips represents just over 4% of travellers. I can’t help but wonder just how much higher patronage would be if you combined both the much faster journeys of heavy rail with the proposed HOP pricing and that’s before you add in making PT more viable for many airport workers.

Impact of last weeks bus changes

Last week saw two big changes to buses in Auckland. In the city bus routes changed avoid the area where the first of the CRL enabling works will happen and on the Hibiscus Coast the new network was launched. At the end of last week Auckland Transport provided some information on the changes.

On the Hibiscus Coast they say there was some initial issues with connections between buses but they believe those are now sorted. In even better news they say patronage is already up 10% on what it was prior to the new network. That’s not bad for the first week of a completely new network as I’ve heard that places like Brisbane the changes in the western suburbs initially saw a 20% drop before recovering and ending up 20% higher. While we will see a unique trend on the Hibiscus Coast the initial results are promising and I’d say there are much bigger increases to come as people get used to the network.

One aspect that will definitely be helping is the extension of the Northern Express to Silverdale. Unsurprisingly the park n ride is already full and I suspect many of those users are people who in the past have driven to Albany to park. There are currently only around 100 formal carparks (seems a lot are parking on the grass) however AT eventually plan to extend that to 500 spaces but were delayed in doing so due to their consent being challenged in the environment court. The photo below is from reader Bryce P.

Hibiscus Coast PnR

The other change saw bus routes mainly from the North Shore and West Auckland change in the city centre along with the introduction of new 24/7 bus lanes. AT say the changes affected around 10,000 customers and involve over 3,000 trips per day. They are claiming the changes have been a success with only a handful of inquiries from people – mainly about North Shore routes. They also claim the bus lanes are successful and that drivers have adapted to them quickly.

I’m not quite so sure the changes have been as gone as well as claimed and I suspect many people have accepted the changes but are frustrated by them. My personal experience has been mixed. Last week I tried what I described as the third of my options for getting between Britomart and Takapuna. In the mornings this meant jumping on a Northern Express bus, taking a trip along Fanshawe St before getting off at Victoria Park and catching a Takapuna direct bus. Of the three times in the morning I tried it last week one time it worked well, another the NEX was held up by someone taking an age to pay cash and I watched as the bus I needed to catch got the light ahead of us at Halsey St meaning I missed the connection and a third time the Takapuna bus was 15 minutes late. There were similar results on the return journey in the afternoons.

One thing that would be useful to improve the situation would be to increase the frequency of buses to Takapuna, of the connection that did work well the bus was packed (which is common for these services). This was likely impacted by the fact that in the past a bus going to the Hibiscus Coast via Takapuna was a few minutes ahead. Now one bus is doing the role two did with the following results. Some extra buses would both make connections easier and address the frequent crowding these services experience.

Full Takapuna Bus

It will be fascinating to see the impact the city changes have on patronage.

AT October Board Meeting

The AT board meet next week and here are what I think are the highlights from the reports.

As always the items in the closed session. This time there isn’t too much interesting on the agenda with only the following items (non bold are my comments)

  • LRT – Approval to appoint technical advisor – Hopefully this means we’re going to start seeing some more progress on this project soon
  • CRL update – not cutting any more station entrances I hope
  • Deep Dive – Major BT Infrastructure – This is just an item for noting to do with Business Technology.

On to the main report. Items are in the order they appear in the report.

AT have a prospective purchaser for the old diesel trains and have sent them a Heads of Agreement. All of the old diesel stock has been moved to Taumaranui to reduce vandalism incidents and they’ve containerised all of the spare parts. There is no information about how much they will sell them for although NZ First claim they’ve being sold to Mozambique for just $5 million.

AT worked with Environment Canterbury on a training video for bus operators on how to better serve those with disabilities with different sections focusing on different disabilities. They say they’re also going to produce another corporate video to promote other areas they’re working on to improve the PT experience for those with disabilities.

AT and the NZTA are working together to work out what transport infrastructure will be needed over the next 30 years to support the greenfield development planned. This includes new/upgraded roads, PT and cycling infrastructure and all sounds suspiciously like forward planning – something that has been missing more often than not over many decades. Interestingly they also say that work on a business case for the Northwestern Busway and assessment for a new Northern Busway station as part of the busway extension to Albany has started. Both of these are good news.

On specific projects

  • Waterview Shared Path – Site investigations for the bridges have begun and construction is expected to begin in January 2016. This will see a shared path added through the current green space near Unitec.
  • Newmarket Crossing – The council have told AT that a decision is due in May 2016 which is roughly 4 months sooner than anticipated.
  • Parnell Station – The works on the platforms are nearly complete – as many train users may have seen. Kiwirail are working to get the old station restored and all up they anticipate the station will be open in June 2016.

AT are trying to improve their journey planning programme and as part of that they’re doing analysis so they can target areas that will enable them to be more successful. They want to focus on the areas where people are most likely to use PT which is showing in the image below. As you can see those in the inner west are far more likely to use PT – which isn’t a great surprise.

Most likely to use PT

There’s a chart and discussion in the report about rail punctuality which as I mentioned yesterday in the patronage post achieved an Auckland record 94.9% of trains arriving on time. One interesting fact to emerge from the business report is that more trains turned up on time in September than were run across the entire network prior to July. Later in the report it also mentions that the best ever day was on Monday 7 September when they had only 4 services cancelled out of 500 that were scheduled and of those that ran, 97.6% were on time.

2015-09 - Rail punctuality - board report

An update on some of the PT initiatives underway.

  • Integrated fares development continues and is due to roll out in July next year.
  • AT are still evaluating the tenders for the new bus network in South Auckland. They also say the tender will go out for West Auckland services by the end of the year and the other areas early to mid next year. Implementation of the South Auckland network will be mid-2016 with the rest in either late 2016 or in 2017.
  • The last of the new electric trains has completed its routine testing and they say it will be ready to carry passengers this month.
  • The new platform canopy’s in Ellerslie and the upgrade to Puhinui station are both due to finish this month.
  • A concept design for the Manukau bus station has been completed.
  • On the plans to improve the performance of the rail network (the increase in frequency to the Western line can’t come soon enough).
  • Resilience initiatives have been agreed with KiwiRail and Transdev and are currently undergoing assessment for time and cost benefits, however, some resilience
    initiatives may take longer to implement to align to scheduling of track works and to minimise rail closures. The Middlemore extension (freight relief road) was
    commissioned on 31 August and is operational. A review on whether this is electrified in preference to Tamaki and Southdown sidings is now being assessed.
  • Roster optimisation was conducted for 20 July timetable which resulted in 10 less drivers being required than originally planned. Driver availability for a service increase
    subject to timetable modelling of the Western Line to 6 trains per hour peak and 3 trains per hour inter-peak will follow driver school completion in April / May 2016.
  • Run time reviews are currently being conducted for the Western and Southern Lines and any benefits targeted for an optimised timetable that may be delivered early
    March 2016 or as part of any service level increase in April/May 2016.
  • ETCS reliability improvements have been progressed with ETCS filters now fitted to 14 EMU Units, with further Units to be fitted in October.
  • AT are investigating a number of ideas to improve the first and last leg of PT journeys, this includes car sharing and retail development at Metro stations (I assume this means the large stations like New Lynn).
  • A New Lynn wayfinding trial will start in November and include a trial of “enhanced Metro information for stations and stops” – whatever that means. They say it will help inform their strategy for rolling out information as part of the deployment of the New Network.
  • Also as part of the wayfinding project platform markers are being trialled at four stations (New Lynn, Fruitvale Rd, Avondale and Sylvia Park) and includes markings to show where the low floor carriages will be.
  • The road travel signs on the motorway at Oteha Valley Rd now also show a comparison with the Northern Express. They’ve also been doing this on twitter

If anyone is interested there’s also a paper in the open session on ATs IT Security Risks and Mitigation Strategies.