Are we ready for March Madness

We’re now in March and for public transport that means one thing – March Madness. It’s called that because a number of factors combine to see usage of buses, trains surge. Those factors include but are not limited to:

  • It’s a 31 day month with normally no public holidays – next year will be a big exception with Easter falling entirely within March.
  • Decent weather still so people are less likely to be put off walking/waiting for services.
  • Universities are back and students are often keen to start the year well so attendance is likely higher.
  • There are normally no school holidays.
  • I suspect there are less people taking leave in March due to no school holidays and many having taken leave over Christmas/New Year or in January or February.
  • There are likely to be less people taking sick leave
  • More people trying out PT as a way to avoid congestion also caused by the previous points.

The surge normally starts in late Feb and runs through to at least Easter before people start settling down into more established travel patterns – which may include travelling earlier or later to avoid the worst of the peak.

From a patronage perspective March is almost always the month with the highest patronage in any given year – and May is usually second. This is shown on the graph below where March has been highlighted in red.

AKL March Madness Patronage

There are a couple of exceptions to this, on the rail network the last couple of years has seen patronage in May slightly higher than March while on the ferries January is usually the highest month as a result of more people visiting places like Devonport and Waiheke Island.

One of the problems Auckland Transport and the operators face with March Madness is that a lot of the extra trips occur at the height of the peak which is exactly where it is the hardest and most expensive to add new services. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important that AT put a lot of effort into making the buses we have go faster by:

  • Reducing dwell times:
    • getting more people on HOP – it’s not uncommon to see 5 or more people be able to board with HOP in the same time it takes someone paying by cash.
    • in some places possibly allowing rear door boarding – currently the only place I’m aware that this happens on the NEX at Britomart in the afternoons.
    • encouraging bus operators to buy buses with larger doors – and bigger buses in general.
  • Getting buses out of congestion and therefore moving quicker with more bus lanes and other bus priority measures.

Speeding up buses means that the same number of them can deliver more services for no extra cost. That’s good for passengers and for city as it means we’re spending money more efficiently and getting better outcomes.

I personally think we’re in for a huge month for patronage. The last few weeks in particular have been extremely busy on almost all services I’ve caught – much more so than I can remember seeing before. For example even the buses I use which travel opposite to the peak direction have been standing room only while on some parts of the rail network the new electric trains are driving huge growth.

On top of the factors driving growth in PT, just due to the way the calendar falls this year it means there’s an extra business day means the total results should be even better. Below are a couple of images hopefully highlighting just how busy services have been of late.

This Northern Express bus heading to the city in the afternoon was so full that a number of people (myself included) couldn’t get on. Another one two minutes later was almost as full.

NEX Full

A frequent sight on morning buses to Takapuna and afternoon buses to the city

Takapuna Bus full

A regular sight in the afternoons with the queue for the Northern Express to the North Shore. It extends behind where I took the photo too.

NEX Queues Britomart

A different day and different angle but there were two queues, one back to Customs St and the other around to the right

NEX Queues Britomart 2

Trains leaving Britomart on the Western line are packed before even reaching Newmarket and Grafton where a large number of additional passengers try to get on.

Packed Train Leaving Britomart

And another one from twitter

From Patrick yesterday, the Airport Express was standing room only after only one terminal meaning a long trip to town for those on their feet.

So anyone want to take some guesses on how many PT trips there’ll be this month? As a comparison in 2014 there were just over 7.3 million with it broken down as per below.

  • Rail – 1,174,588
  • Northern Express – 262,431
  • Other Bus – 5,374,783
  • Ferry – 494,123

Given the growth we’ve been seeing in recent months a 10% increase seems entirely possible and that could see us reach over 8 million trips in the month.

Panmure Station Revisited

Train Bus Interchange. Looked to me like was working pretty sweetly. Quite a bit of Kiss’n’Ride going on on the northern side, car drop off, as you’d expect for a reasonably far enough out station in such an auto-dependent city. And, rather like New Lynn, this station feels somewhat stranded by roads and not anything like the intensity of land use we all expect to see develop over time.

PANMURE_8614

But of course those roads bring the buses right to the front door; quite a lot of people seem to be transferring to the trains rather than staying on the bus all the way to the city centre, and Howick and Eastern looked to be doing a good trade to and from the station. It is interesting that H&E have just announced they are buying 15 new double deckers, all with wifi and charging points. It looks like the quality of the new trains has started an quality of service race among providers, along with providing the core of the lift in ridership enabling this sort of investment and upgrade; win win win.

PANMURE_8719

Looking forward to the next Interchanges at Otahuhu and Manukau that are funded to start this year. However the really spectacular upgrade for SE Auckland will be the Bus Rapid Transit part of AMETI which will connect this station with Botany, Pakuranga, and hopefully Highland Park with bus priority [construction start 2017]. Won’t be too long before we have new and much better options for getting around our city.

PANMURE_8584

 

New and improved bus services for Stonefields and Glenfield/Beach Haven

This week Auckland Transport have made a number of changes to bus routes including introducing a new service.

The major changes are on the North Shore with Birkenhead Bus services where the changes came into effect on Sunday. Key changes include additional trips and changed timetables that mean there will be services down Onewa Rd at least every 15 minutes all day, seven days a week. During most of the day on weekdays, frequencies would be even higher. After the Highbury shops where the Glenfield Rd and Beach Haven services diverge there are at least 30 minute services all day every day. In addition to the frequency improvements some services from the city also now operate later into the night.

These changes are good as it means a large part of the North Shore should see significantly improved services and effectively can be seen as a precursor to the New Network. We’ve seen in other places where frequencies have been improved – even if just through fixing existing timetables – that patronage often jumps considerably.

Beach Haven Bus Changes

The bus routes serving Beach Haven

 

 

Perhaps unsurprisingly there appeared to be a few hiccups yesterday however I would hope they should settle down – although full buses are likely to be an ongoing issue (and not just on these routes).

The other key change was a new service serving the Stonefields Area. The 632 Stonefields Loop bus travels between Glen Innes and Stonefields every 20 minutes from 6am to 7pm, Monday to Friday. That frequency ties in nicely with the current train timetable which runs every 10 minutes during the morning and afternoon peaks and every 20 minutes off peak.

It will start at Taniwha St before going anti-clockwise along Merton Rd, College Rd, Bluegrey Ave, Tephra Boulevard, Stonefields Ave and Morrin Rd before getting back to the train station on Apirana Ave

Stonefields Loop

It’s good to see Auckland Transport trying connecting services like this one who’s only real goal is to feed the rail network. One surprising aspect about it though is that it will be run by Howick and Eastern who obviously had the better tender. The reason it’s odd is that NZ Bus runs most – if not all bus services in the area and has a bus depot very close by (just at bottom of the image).

Hopefully both of these services will be a success. We’ll try and keep a close eye on what impacts the changes have.

Too High a Cost.

AT are doing some very very good things at the moment, they are showing leadership and courage to make rational but bold decisions.  Like dropping the Reeves Rd fly-over in favour of a BRT solution, creatively investigating ways to bring modern light rail to over-crowded bus routes, and quickly rolling out long overdue bus lanes on arterials. These are all fantastic and are signs of a nimble and lively institution, one that is responding to a changing world with a changed response. One that is resisting the natural tendency of public agencies to just roll on doing the same as before and not risk trouble. I applaud this and the hard working and dedicated individuals who are carrying out.

But at the same time, at least at the time of writing, AT has lost its way on Great North Road. So why have they got it so wrong here?

Looking at that first list we can see what all these issues have in common; they are all discretely transport issues; as you’d expect this is AT’s core competency. BRT versus a traffic flyover in Pakuranga? This is a debate between competing transport projects, each can be costed and outcomes evaluated. Analysing whether more buses will be able to deal with the demand on Isthmus and City routes or whether a higher capacity technology may be needed? Again this is problem of spatial geometry, vehicle size, route speed, likely passenger volumes, boarding times, vehicle dimensions etc. All the kinds of things a transport organisation ought to excel in, and that AT increasingly shows it does.

St Lukes Interchange Plan

But in examining the widening of Great North Road as if it only has transport outcomes they are showing the limits of this competency. That ‘place value’ just doesn’t compute is shown by the bewildering array of excuses being rolled out by AT to justify an act they clearly consider trivial: The removal of the six 80 year old Pohutukawa. First was an attempt to blame the need for killing these trees on improved cycling and public transport amenity in order to ‘bring long-term environmental benefits':

We regret that the trees will be lost but a major benefit is that they will make way for cycle lanes to the motorway overbridge and for an extended bus lane and bus priority measures in Great North Road.

Making travel by cycle and bus more efficient and convenient is consistent with Auckland Transport’s drive to encourage the use of public transport. This will bring long-term environmental benefits as more people choose alternative modes of transport, to the car.

This is to draw an extraordinarily long bow. There are no ‘cycle lanes to the motorway overbridge’ in the proposed plan. There is absolutely no more cycling amenity on Great North Rd than there is currently, ie a wide footpath, except the new one will have no shade nor glory from the grand Pohutukawa. There is proposed to be a slightly longer but still intermittent bus lane. And as all this takes place as part of a massive increase in traffic lanes, including a double slip lane, to say that this project is designed to ‘bring long term environmental benefits as more people choose alternative modes of transport, to the car’ is frankly, an untruth.
That statement would be justified if fully separated cycle lanes and proper Rapid Transit was at the core of the project. They are not.
Now we have a new justification, signed by the same high level AT executive, published in Metro Magazine: Cost.
Both AT and NZTA spend public money and it is our legal and moral responsibility to deliver the most objective cost-efficient solutions to the ratepayers and taxpayers that planning and engineering can devise, for the least possible cost.
Absolutely right. Cost, and value, is exactly the issue here. We all certainly want our money spent wisely by our public servants. But there are obvious problems with this assertion, first the cost is only relevant in the context of the value; a cheap thing is a waste if it is not very good. And the people of Auckland see losing the trees as too high a cost for what they propose. That AT don’t see they value of the trees how and where they are, or so discount it so, is essentially the heart of the disagreement. We understand that they have a low transport value, but AT cannot ignore values outside of their core discipline, particularly place values, as their actions have huge effects on the quality of life and place that are not captured by driver time savings, traffic flow, or PT ridership numbers. Neither AT nor NZTA can just ignore these issues and simply hide within their speciality. And nor can they claim that a couple of new trees are the same as magnificent ones that have witnessed the last 80 years at this spot.
Additionally, there is no evidence that the preferred option is less expensive in direct financial cost than say Option Six, which the peer review found to have no significantly different traffic outcomes. In fact Option Six must surely be cheaper to construct as it is one lane narrower and doesn’t involve removing the trees:
Pohutukawa Option 6
There are other issues that could be raised with this text like the bold claim the whole purpose of the Super City is to reduce congestion:
The founding premise of the Auckland super city was that the city’s congestion was costing $1 billion a year in lost productivity and this had to change.
Both this idea of the centrality of congestion busting to the whole purpose of the city and the quoting of a $1billion annual congestion cost figure show how blind AT have become to other issues of value. Other costs. Especially perhaps things that are hard to quantify. But then congestion cost itself is a very hard thing to quantify. The most recent attempt in New Zealand, published by NZTA itself [Wallis and Lupton 2013] find that the figure for Auckland is more likely in the realm of $250 million.
Wallis and Lupton 2013
But regardless of this supposed quantum it has long been understood that congestion is not solved by building more roads, that in fact while temporarily easing one route, overall this only encourages more driving and auto-dependency for a place, and ultimately worse congestion everywhere. It is, quite literally, the loosening of the belt as a ‘cure’ for obesity. It is also understood that the best outcome for all road users, the best way to combat congestion, is to invest in the alternative Rapid Transit route, particularly where none currently exists:
This relationship is one of the key mechanisms that make city systems tick. It is basic microeconomics, people shifting between two different options until there is no advantage in shifting and equilibrium is found. We can see this relationship in data sets that make comparisons between international cities. Cities with faster public transport speeds generally have faster road speeds.
So again the heavy cost of this work, both financially and in the loss of the trees, a massive reduction in place value, is too high for this outcome.
As some levels of AT seem to admit they place no value on the trees, or indeed anything that isn’t directly transport related, the best outcome would be for the Board to give them direction to find a solution that both keeps the trees and meets reasonable near term traffic demand and in fact meaningfully incentivises the mode shift that AT correctly values:
Urban roads and state highways working together to keep the traffic flowing and fast, efficient road, rail and ferry passenger services that — together with walking and cycling — entice Aucklanders out of their cars.
 -Auckland Transport Metro Magazine
This is an issue of cost, and value. The people of Auckland, Auckland Transport’s ultimate customers and employers, find the cost to place-value too high, and the value of the proposed outcome too low, to justify this action. The public may have been slow to realise what was planned here but have now made their views clear. Recently we have come to expect bold and innovative solutions from AT for all sorts of difficult problems. So it would be very unfortunate if the Board were to miss an opportunity to call a halt to this irreversible action and to seek a smarter solution.
And because work has begun the most efficient and cost effective solution is probably to make the small but significant change to Option Six, leaving the trees, adding the additional slip lane, but settling at least for now, for the two east bound lanes away from the motorway overbridge instead of three. It would be good to see the real effects are after the opening of the Waterview connection before rash actions are taken. If a third lane is deemed necessary here [even though only two lead into it] it is clear that could be added in a few years as MOTAT as planning to restructure their whole relationship with this corner. AT can save some cost and some grief now and revisit the issue with more information and without the pressure from a NZTA deadline. It could be that they find that an east facing buslane and separated cycle way is of higher value through here…?
Pohutukawa Blossom, Elsewhere

Pohutukawa Blossom, elsewhere

AT Board Report Feb-15

Auckland Transport’s board meet tomorrow and I’ve scoured the board reports for any interesting information. Here’s what caught my attention.

Projects

East West Link Connections

A detailed business case for the project is being worked on and will go to the board in April. AT still haven’t officially said which option they’ve chosen from their consultation back in October however this image – from a draft version of the RLTP (page 57) in the December Board meeting and which includes a note saying the map is not to be released to public prior to January 2015 – suggests it’s either option C or D.

East-West Priorities Dec-14

South-Western Multi-Modal Airport Rapid Transit (SMART)

AT say work on the design of the Kirkbride interchange includes future proofing for either light or heavy rail. The RLTP notes that this future proofing is costing AT $30 million which seems extremely high considering the rest of the interchange costs $140 million. One reason it could be so high is I understand the the NZTA team working on the project didn’t originally include rail in their designs despite rail to the airport having been on plans for decades along with other parts of the NZTA working with AT on the route.

Wynyard Quarter – Integrated Road Programme

We should start seeing more roadworks in the Wynyard Quarter in April with AT expecting to issue a contract mid Feb. Works for stage one are Halsey Street South and Gaunt Street between Daldy and Halsey. I’m not quite sure just what changes we’re going to see yet though.

Franklin Road

AT say they will feed back analysis of the submissions in March and I’ve heard rumours the current thinking greatly improved on what we saw earlier. An email update a few weeks ago suggested they were looking at whether parking between the trees could be retained in some situations.

Westgate

AT say the new mall being built as part of the new town centre is due to open in October this year and that new bus services to the area (new network) are due in October 2016. Those bus services will also need an interchange constructed and AT are trying to work out just how they will do that. They say resource consent will be needed and almost certainly will be publicly notified for which any submission will delay the project. A temporary interchange is being planned

Penlink

Work is still going on to update and amend the designation for Penlink and consent will be notified in early 2015 however a recent press release states that due to funding constraints, construction of Penlink is not anticipated until 2025. There are two open days about it, one this afternoon.

  • Thursday 19 Feb, 2pm-7pm, The Peninsula Retirement Village (441 Whangaparapoa Road, Whangaparaoa)
  • Saturday 21 Feb, 10am-2pm, Stillwater Boat Club (70 Duck Creek Road, Stillwater)

Otahuhu Interchange

The demolition of the old foot bridge and piling for the new station happened over the Christmas shutdown and AT say the construction for the interchange itself will begin in June. It’s due to be completed in February 2016 at which time the New Network for South Auckland can finally be rolled out.

Manukau Interchange

Consent is currently being sought for the enabling works for the interchange and AT are hoping to have the project completed in the first quarter of next year.

EMUs

At the time of writing the report AT say there were 42 of the 57 trains in the country and 32 of them had provisional acceptance. They also say that services in December were affected by issues with the signalling system and there had been some door closing issues. The door issues were upgraded over the break but the signalling ones are still being worked on.

Newmarket Crossing (Sarawia St level Crossing)

AT have created three concept designs and have taken feedback from residents and Manu Whenua into them. AT are wanting to lodge resource consent for the project in February and in the past have said that this project is required before they can deliver 10 minute frequencies on the Western Line. Given the stage it’s at and that some of the residents of Cowie St are bound to go to the environment court over it, it could be years before we see any peak frequency improvements out west.

Puhinui

AT are planning to upgrade Puhinui station with most of the works completed in March and April and with a new canopy installed in June

Swanson Station Park and Ride

The extended park & ride is expected to be completed by the end of April.

Onewa Rd

Also to be completed by the end of April are the works to deliver the westbound transit lane and shared path.

Other stuff

Parking

One piece of good news is that parking officers are experiencing the lowest recorded volumes of aggression towards them and there have been no serious harm injuries since October

AT also say the removal of earlybird parking has meant lease revenue is ahead of forecast and in addition casual occupancy and revenue in the downtown carpark is increasing. The latter part is particularly good as it means the carpark is being used by more people throughout the day which was exactly one of the aims of removing the earlybird prices.

Taxi’s on Grafton Bridge

A 12 month trial allowing taxi’s on to Grafton Bridge will start in late March and AT will be monitoring bus travel times, cyclist safety and amenity along with how many infringements get issued. If any significant issues arise during the trial it can be stopped. AT say the Taxi Federation and Cycle Action Auckland have been involved in the development of the proposal.

Personally I don’t think AT should have even entertained the idea of allowing Taxi’s on the bridge and should have actually gone the other way and making it bus only 24/7.

Double Decker Bus Mitigation Project

To get double deckers on the streets AT need to complete a whole lot of mitigation works to ensure the buses don’t damage things or get damaged themselves. This includes moving power poles, veranda modifications, kerb build-outs and tree pruning. They plan to have this work done by June to enable double deckers from Howick and Eastern to start running. Mt Eden is the next route planned for mitigation works which is meant to happen in the next financial year however AT are awaiting the outcome of the LRT proposal before making any changes.

On the Howick and Eastern Double Deckers, a press release yesterday announced the company was spending $12 million on buying 15 double deckers – most of which would be built in Tauranga. They will operate between Botany and the City Centre. The most interesting aspect of these buses is that they will also include free WiFi, power points and USB ports. Those are great additions and hopefully something we start to see become standard on all PT vehicles and I certainly think they should be on our new trains. The buses are from Alexander Dennis – the same maker as the small NZ Bus buses.

December 14 and January 15 Patronage

Due to the summer break it’s been a while since we’ve seen any public transport patronage for Auckland with the last results being for November last year. That finally changed yesterday as Auckland Transport published them ahead of their board meeting on Friday and the results are stunning.

Firstly December where we saw a major change for rail with a new timetable that saw the Southern and Eastern lines split and both move to 10 minute frequencies at peak and 20 minute frequency off peak.

2014-12 - Patronage Table

There are some fairly solid results in there, especially on the Rapid Transit Network which was up over 29% on December last year.

Moving on to January and the results for rail in particular are incredible. This is primarily due the summer shutdown being shorter than in previous years with the Southern, Eastern and Onehunga lines back in action on 5th January and the Western Line a week Later on the 12th. In addition there was no shutdown during Auckland Anniversary. There were a few events that also impacted on patronage. Even taking all of those changes out the patronage growth in January was impressive across all modes.

2015-01 - Patronage Table

While it would have been affected by some of issues mentioned earlier, I wonder if the 166.9% increase on the Eastern Line is a record of some kind. That’s a staggering increase. Putting aside the percentages, the actual growth in number terms is also impressive. Compared to January last year, for the previous 12 months there have been over 6.5 million extra PT trips, an average of around 18,000 extra per day (will be higher on weekdays and lower on weekends).  Included in that is an extra 4.3 million bus trips and 2.1 million extra train trips. If rail growth continues the way it has for the past year it will be putting huge pressure on the Government’s target for an earlier start to the CRL.

What’s also impressive about both December and January is that buses and ferries are showing some great growth too. In the case of the jump in ferry usage, AT say it is partly attributed to the patronage coming from the new Explore Group services that started a few months ago between the city and Waiheke Island. The timetable means there is now a 30 minute service throughout the day which offers a vast improvement in utility on what existed before so it’s not really surprising to see that having an impact. That also helps to highlight that the new bus network should help drive very good patronage growth.

The graphs below highlight some of the changes in patronage.

2015-01 - Total Patronage

The last time total patronage was as high as it is now was prior to 1958

The most impressive growth is occurring on the Rapid Transit Network which comprises of the Northern Express (NEX) and the rail network. Both rail and the NEX have shown great numbers recently.

2015-01 - Rail Patronage

2015-01 - NEX Patronage

Another thing that’s really impressive about the patronage results is that they’ve occurred at a time when petrol prices have been at their lowest point in years. Even though fuel has been cheap it seems many simply don’t want to sit in the congestion.

Petrol Prices to 13 Feb 15

Looking forward, February has already been feeling very busy and I expect the strong patronage growth will likely continue all the way through March Madness and beyond.

Update: some people noticed an issue with the change compared to the sane month last year figure for the Onehunga line. AT have corrected it below however it doesn’t affect the overall result

image004

Aucklands Newest Bus Lane

The hits just keep coming from Auckland Transport this week with their latest announcement that as of Monday the city has a new bus lane.

Travelling in the fast lane

Auckland Transport’s (AT’s) drive to improve the speed and reliability of journey times across its frequent service network, takes another step on Monday morning with a new bus lane coming into operation in Symonds Street, shaving up to four minutes off the morning commute (20 minutes a week) of some 6000 passengers.

Symonds Street is Auckland’s second busiest bus corridor with an average of 70% of people travelling along the route choosing to use public transport.

The new bus lane will operate between Charlotte Street on New North Road to Alex Evans Street on Symonds Street between 7am and 9am.

Mark Lambert, Auckland Transport’s Public Transport Group Manager, says: “during the morning peak we have 181 buses feeding into Symonds Street from Mt Eden Road and New North Road competing for space with other road users.

“The new bus lane will vastly improve the travel times and transport options for people travelling into the city from these suburbs.”

Mr Lambert says bus lanes help manage competing interests for limited road space at peak times of the day – allowing a more efficient and effective bus service.

“In Auckland buses make up 2.5% of vehicles but carry nearly a third of commuters into the city. They are key to using our road space more efficiently, providing more capacity and getting people to where they want to go faster.”

The Symonds St bus lane is a component in a frequent service network encompassing 38 routes, mainly on arterial and collector roads. Routes in the network will receive a range of bus priority measures designed to enable high frequency bus services to operate reliably, efficiently and to timetable at peak times. The aim is to make bus transport an attractive alternative to private vehicles. This will reduce road congestion to the benefit of all road users.

And it is working. Monitoring shows that the newly installed outbound bus lane in Fanshawe Street has yielded travel time savings and improved reliability.

The 2014/15 financial year targets approximately 15km of bus/transit lane implementation across the network. Another 25 km is programmed for next two financial years.

This is great news and definitely a welcome addition. I wonder how good the economic evaluation must look for saving 6,000 people four minutes per day all for a a bit of paint. We’re often prepared to spend hundreds of millions to get those kind of savings for drivers.

I look forward to seeing more added over the course of the next few months and years.

New North - Symonds Bus Lane

and here are a few other images I’ve seen on Twitter

And just as it had been installed.

Reeves Rd Flyover dies

For the second time in less than a month Auckland Transport have been able to surprise and delight us with fantastic news. The first was the announcement they are seriously looking at light rail for the isthmus and now the wonderful news that they’ve killed the Reeves Rd Flyover. Not only that, they are putting the $170 million they save by not building the flyover into getting the AMETI busway built sooner plus are looking at putting bus lanes up Pakuranga as far as Highland Park.

reeves-rd-flyover

Major new public transport improvements will arrive earlier for people in Auckland’s south east.

Auckland Transport is aiming to open the full Southeastern Busway to Botany sooner than the 2028 completion date proposed earlier AT is also investigating extending bus lanes to Highland Park.

Recent work on the Auckland Manukau Transport Initiative (AMETI) has identified that the busway can operate through Pakuranga town centre without the need to build Reeves Road flyover first.

This allows funding to be used to deliver more public transport improvements sooner by deferring the $170 million flyover until next decade. Targeted traffic improvements will also be made to relieve congestion at the intersections of Ti Rakau Drive/Pakuranga Road and Ti Rakau Drive/Pakuranga Highway.

Auckland Transport AMETI Programme Director Peter King says the change means better transport choices for people in the area sooner and supports the roll out of the new public transport network in 2016.

They say the project is deferred but I understand it’s effectively over and that is pretty much confirmed by the comments in the rest of the press release – which I’ll cover shortly. This is a great outcome and we’ve suggested it a number of times, especially when talking about the how we can cut unnecessary costs from the transport budget. A few of the reasons why it’s good include:

  • It means there’s no longer going to be a hulking flyover cutting a swathe through the town centre, an area ripe for intensification – including some decent zoning provided for in the Unitary Plan.
  • Saving $170 million is a huge boost when the cities budgets are already tight.
  • Getting the busway sooner means the benefits from it start to flow sooner and these are likely to be huge. This is especially important in East Auckland which has the worst PT in Auckland and consequently the lowest PT use.
  • AT are now looking at including bus lanes up Pakuranga Rd as far as Highland Park providing even more benefits to PT in the area.
  • Along with the busway, AT’s plans also include high quality cycle lanes which will also be completed sooner.

Reeves Rd Flyover

I been told in the past the key driver was for the flyover was so that buses didn’t get held up at the large intersection of Te Rakau Dr/Pakuranga Highway/Reeves Rd. This location was also where they planned to move the busway from the side of the road to the centre of it. To address the intersection this AT say they are looking at a potential change or route through the Pakuranga Town Centre which would allow buses to bypass that intersection entirely. With buses no longer affected by the intersection the need for the flyover disappeared. I wonder if it means it will also help save some of the homes on and around William Roberts Rd. I think a potentially slightly longer journey for buses through or around the back of the Pakuranga Town Centre is probably a reasonable compromise if it means we don’t have to build the flyover.

Reeves Rd Flyover - Pakuranga Rd end

Some of the other justifications for the change in approach are also particularly telling:

“The recent decision on the Basin Reserve flyover in Wellington shows the challenges of consenting a flyover that has impacts on an urban area and the potential for long delays. This decision allows us to extend the AMETI transport improvements made in Panmure to Pakuranga and Botany as soon as possible while continuing to build the case for the flyover.

“Large numbers of passengers are expected to be attracted by quicker, frequent and more reliable bus journeys on lanes separate to traffic. About 7.4 million trips a year are expected on the busway.

“There are time savings from opening the busway between Panmure and Pakuranga, however they are much greater when the full busway to Botany is open. For example catching the bus and train between Botany and Britomart will take 38 minutes, 17 minutes quicker.

“The change to timing reflects Auckland Transport’s prioritisation of rapid, high frequency public transport and will not require extra funding.”
Work to develop the flyover showed its congestion benefits would be limited until further significant investment along the South Eastern Highway. It also indicated a likely increase in costs with the need to create a quality urban environment beneath it.

So AT have learnt from the outcome of the Basin Reserve Flyover which is great to see and it’s this reason why I suspect the project has actually been killed rather than just deferred. I think it’s also telling that they note the flyover would have just shifted the congestion further along South Eastern Highway, a point that many projects seem to forget.

Ti Rakau Dr central busway

 

A few other thoughts have struck me about this decision

  • For years AT’s engineers have been saying that the flyover is the only solution but now they’ve found another way. Will the same thing happen with the St Lukes Pohutukawa?
  • AMETI started out life as a road fest designed to try and replicate as much of the Eastern Motorway proposal as possible. Over the years it’s slowly morphed into almost exclusively a PT project which is what was needed. I think AT deserves a lot of credit for this as it was only really once they came into existence that things really started changing. I suspect that 38 minutes from Botany to Britomart will be quite compelling, especially in the peak and that time could get faster still with the CRL which would see trains running at higher frequencies which means reduced transfer times.

Heavily tinted windows on buses …

… are a pet hate of mine.

Why? Well, it’s rather straight-forward really: Heavily tinted windows make the outside world appear dark all the time. I find this to be rather gloomy, especially at night.

Indeed, the Airbus Express from the Airport to the City provides a very convenient ghost tour every time I return to Auckland from my new abode in Brisbane (image source).

haunted_auckland

Let’s get one thing straight: The look/feel of buses should be designed, first and foremost, to meet the needs of people who are actually riding the buses.

Not people outside the buses.

Logic suggests bus passengers who are sensitive to light will carry sunglasses. Why? Well, these passengers will tend to walk to and from the bus stop. In the sunlight. Hmm.

I happen to be one of these blue-eyed, fair-skinned, scottish-distilled, light-sensitive, bus-riding people. And I hate heavily tinted bus windows (I can tolerate light tinting).

There’s also a passive surveillance safety issue to consider. So much so that heavily tinted bus windows have actually been banned in some jurisdictions.

While this is thankfully not a major issue in Auckland, I would tend to eschew features that reduced public transport users’ perceived if not actual levels of safety.

What do others think? Are heavily tinted windows the bane of your existence? Or am I just an overly sensitive button?

 

 

 

NRL Nines a PT success

The NRL Nines has undoubtedly been a fantastic event for Auckland that is quickly becoming one of Auckland’s best. News from Auckland Transport today has highlighted another area where the event is succeeding, in PT use.

The NRL Nines, held at Eden Park, was a huge success, both on the field and for public transport.

Over the two days of league matches a record 67% of the crowd (41,964) used special event buses or trains to get and from the stadium.

That is an increase of around 13% on last year’s numbers and far surpasses other events held at the park, says Auckland Transport’s operations manager for special events, Logan Christian.

Ten years ago virtually no one used public transport to get to and from major events, he says. “That all changed with the provision of special services for Rugby World Cup (2011) and other big matches, but until now we have not cracked the 60% mark.”

He says public transport patronage is usually between 50-55%.

“Clearly Nines fans got the message that buses and trains are the fastest and most hassle-free way to go.”

On the Sunday there were some train delays on the western line due to a car accident at a level crossing near New Lynn and a signalling issue at Kingsland but these were dealt with quickly by Auckland Transport’s Operations Centre (ATOC).

The next major event at Eden Park is the ICC Cricket World Cup match between New Zealand and Australia on February 28.

“We are hopeful that we will see even better numbers for that game and throughout the major events season of 2015”, Mr Christian says.

A great result so well done AT and all those who attended