Update on new downtown public spaces

As part of the works for the City Rail Link, Queen Elizabeth Square will be completely dug up however as we know it won’t be replaced, instead the square has been sold to Precinct Properties and will be developed. In its place the current road area of Queen St between Customs and Quay Streets – with the exception of a small access to Galway St and from Tyler St – will be created.

Lower Queen St Event Space

The council have also said the proceeds of the sale of QE Square would be used to go towards at least two of three new public spaces proposed along the waterfront and that the spaces should be delivered by 2018. An update to the council’s Auckland City Centre Advisory Board a few weeks ago gives an update on that with some useful information about what we’ll get. The three potential public spaces are

  1. new/improved space west of Queens Wharf on the water’s edge at the foot of Lower Albert Street
  2. improved space around the historic ferry building and at the base of Queens Wharf
  3. new/improved space east of Queens Wharf in the Admiralty Steps area.

Proposed Downtown Public Spaces


Of the spaces the third is tied up in what is currently the operational area for the port so relies on the outcome of study into the ports future. That means the two spaces being focused on are 1 and 2. The report says that within the ferry basin the plan will deliver a total public space of 4,700m² of which 2,100m² will be brand new space. To put that in comparison the area being lost from QE Square is about 1,800m². As you can see that will obviously require some changes to the current ferry piers.

Proposed Downtown Public Spaces - new space

The report highlights a few major issues related to budgets.

  • The council won’t receive the money from Precinct for QE Square till at least February 2018 which is about 6 months later than when they estimate they need to start construction and of course money is needed immediately for design, planning and consenting works.
  • A pre-requisite for the works is the seismic upgrade to the Quay St seawall however that isn’t budgeted to occur till after 2020.
  • It requires redevelopment of the downtown ferry terminal however that isn’t currently budgeted for in the 10 year Long Term Plan.

The minutes aren’t available to confirm what was agreed however the City Centre Integration team were looking for an agreement in principle to use funding from the CBD targeted rate to progress the investigation and design of project.


How important is public transport for reducing congestion?

In July, I started taking a look at the economics of public transport fare policies. In the first part of the series, I took a look at how traffic congestion can be a rationale for public transport fare subsidies. (Parts 2 and 3 dealt with different issues.) I observed that:

In the absence of congestion pricing (and in the presence of other subsidies for driving, such as minimum parking requirements), higher public transport fares can result in a perverse outcome – additional congestion and delays for existing road drivers. This is shown in the following diagram:

PT fares and congestion diagram

Effectively, a failure to price roads efficiently means that we have to provide subsidies for public transport to prevent car commutes from being even more painful than they currently are.

But how much congestion reduction can we attribute to public transport? How much slower would car commutes be if some people weren’t travelling by PT instead of clogging up the roads? And how much is that worth to us?

It’s not possible to test this experimentally – we can’t exactly build a bunch of cities that are identical except for their PT systems and see what happens. (Transport research budgets are not nearly large enough.) However, we can observe the outcomes from various “natural experiments” that disrupt public transport systems while leaving everything else unchanged, such as natural disasters and public transport strikes.

Stu Donovan pointed me towards a recent research paper that analysed traffic speeds during public transport strikes in the Dutch city of Rotterdam. The authors, Martin Adler and Jos van Ommeren, use detailed traffic flow and speed data to model how 13 PT strikes that occurred from 2001 to 2011 affected traffic speeds. Because strikes prevent people from using PT without impeding road traffic, the outcomes observed during strikes give us some indication of what would happen to congestion in the absence of PT.

If you’re interested in knowing a bit more about the topic or the methodology, I highly recommend you read the paper. (It’s an excellent paper!) Here, I’d like to focus on a few key findings from the analysis.

First, the authors found that PT helps to speed up car journeys by reducing the number of people driving:

We demonstrate that during a citywide strike, car speed within the city decreases by about 10%. For highways, strikes exhibit a much smaller speed reduction of about 3%. During rush hours, the reduction in speed is more pronounced. These results imply that during rush hours, public transit provision reduces car travel time on inner city roads by about 0.2 minutes per kilometer travelled, whereas it reduces car travel time on highways by 0.02 minutes per kilometer. Hence, for cities such as Rotterdam, travelers on inner city roads benefit much more from public transit provision than highway travelers.

Intuitively, these results make sense. The benefits of PT for drivers are much higher in busier areas, such as Rotterdam’s inner city roads. However, Rotterdam’s ring road highways still derive some benefits.

The second interesting finding is that the popularity and ease of cycling in Rotterdam – even though it’s not exactly leading by Dutch standards – cushioned against some of the negative impacts of PT strikes:

a full-day citywide strike increases bicycle flow by 24% implying that a large share of travelers switch to bicycle use (rather than car use), which presumably reduces the car flow increase and therefore the speed reduction of a strike. Bicycle ownership and use is much higher in the Netherlands than in other countries in the world, so this result is likely specific to the Netherlands.

In other words, the availability of multiple congestion-free networks – public transport and cycling – meant that the roads didn’t have to accommodate all of the people who couldn’t get on the bus on strike days. In other words, the availability of multiple transport choices enhanced network resilience.

Third, the authors calculated the value of congestion reduction benefits attributable to public transport in Rotterdam. Based on some plausible assumptions about journey lengths and the value of time, they estimate that:

The annual public transit congestion relief benefit is then about €95 million (assuming 252 working days), so about €79 per inhabitant. This excludes any benefits of public transit provision on weekends that we assume to be negligible, so this is likely an underestimate. Given 721 million public transit passenger kilometers (OVPRO, 2014), the congestion reduction benefit per public transit kilometer is €0.13. This benefit is substantial given that the cost per public transit kilometer is €0.46.

In addition to congestion welfare losses there are rescheduling costs to car travelers. [Note: only 55% of the reduction in PT trips on strike days was balanced out by the increase in car and bicycle trips, meaning that a large share of people chose not to travel.] We do not include these costs, nor do we include the loss to public transit ticket holders or any other external cost of car driving that are likely an order of magnitude smaller than the effect through congestion.

The costs of providing public transit in Rotterdam are partially covered by subsidies, about €0.28 per public transit kilometer. So, the congestion relief benefit is about 47% of subsidies.

This is a really interesting finding! It puts a monetary figure on the congestion relief delivered by PT. (For Rotterdam, at least.) And, interestingly, it’s a large enough figure to justify a good proportion of PT fare subsidies. There are also other rationales for fare subsidies that I haven’t discussed here, such as social equity for people without cars and various types of network effects in PT provision.

But even if we leave those aside, this finding suggests that drivers should be happy to spend some fuel tax revenues to subsidise public transport.

What do you think about congestion and public transport?

July-15 Patronage

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

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

2015-07 - Total Annual Patronage

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

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

2015-07 - Patronage Table

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

2015-07 - Rail Patronage

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

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

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


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

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



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

2015-07 - Farebox recovery

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

2015-07 - Subsidy per PAX km


June-15 Patronage

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

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

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

2015-06 - Total Patronage Chart

2015-06 - Patronage Table

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

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

2015-06 - Patronage vs targets

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

2015-06 - Rail Patronage vs Govt Target


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

2015-06 - Subsidy per PAX KM

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

2015-06 - AKL - Rail Punctuality


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

2015-06 - Bus Reliability

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

May 2015 Patronage

The patronage results for May are out and again the numbers are increasing – although not quite to the same level as recent months. This is in part due to there being one less business day in the month compared to May last year. Here are the results.

2015-05 - Patronage Table

2015-05 - Total Patronage Chart

Once again the rail network is leading the growth with an over 12% increase in patronage compared to May last year although AT say if that is normalised to account for the reduced business day it increase is actually 17%. That’s fairly impressive considering just how poor the performance of services has been – more on that soon. The primary driver for patronage growth continues to appear to be on weekdays with AT saying there are now around ~48,000 trips on a weekday on the rail network which is up from ~41,000 a day in May last year.

The other normalised results are:

  • Total – 6.2%
  • Northern Express – 13.3%
  • Other Bus – 3.3%
  • Ferry – 8.3%

With the continued strong growth in the busway it once again highlights that focusing on rapid transit services is the right approach. Combined rail and the NEX services know make up 21% of all patronage across the network and that figure is growing fast. While many areas of the PT system are obviously in need of improvement, the strong growth in the RTN is a message I really do hope is getting to the Minister as RTN’s are the PT equivalent of motorways and really the kind of infrastructure the government (and of course AT) should be investing in.

With the Other Bus patronage a bit lower than the other modes, I wonder if that was impacted by the decision by AT to start charging for the City Link Bus (previously free with a HOP card).

Coming back to the issue of trains, as mentioned growth has been very strong despite an appalling service standard lately. Out of just over 12,000 trains that were meant to run in May, 650 – (or just over 5%) of them were cancelled – or at least didn’t reach their final destination for some reason. On the Western Line around 10% of all services didn’t reach their destination although I suspect many of these were cases of trains terminated at Swanson. Of those that did run around 20% ended up late. That’s a slight improvement on the month before but still dismal. I guess it proves that passengers will put up with a lot of disruption but likely only for so long.

2015-05 - Rail Performance

AT say that five services across the rail network exceeded their planned standing/sitting ratio. This has commonly been reported however interesting one Eastern line service is mentioned which highlights just how very popular there the electrics are in driving up patronage.

Bus performance isn’t quite as bad – although it too could always be better. This sis shown in the table below

2015-05 - Bus Performance

One good thing AT has recently done in is start publishing patronage data in on their website in .xlsx or .csv format without people having to trawl through years of documents. I’m told this is just the first step and that more data other than patronage will be coming over time. This is nice to see.

As well as patronage, HOP usage continues to increase and AT say that 72.4% of all trips were made with HOP which is up from 67.8% in April. I’m guessing the fare changes helped with that boost.

2015-05 - HOP Usage

Lastly the data for May available yet however here is the results from Wellington up to April. Bus patronage continues to bob around the 24 million trips per year mark however rail patronage is numbers are increasing with April seeing annual growth of 5.5%.

2015-05 - Wellington Total Patronage Chart

The LTP Patronage Targets

Over the years there have been a wide range of patronage targets for public transport. There are high level targets in the 30 year Auckland Plan, 10 years of annual targets in the Long Term plan which are updated every three years and three years of annual targets updated annually in both the council’s Annual Plan and Auckland Transport’s Statement of Intent. Of course there is also the government’s target to start construction of the CRL earlier than 2020.

The targets are important as they are used to monitor how AT are performing – not that I’m sure anything happens if the targets aren’t met. We’ve talked before about patronage targets. In particular how following the drop in patronage in the 2012/13 year AT pushed for the targets to be lowered which the council agreed to in 2014. That left the ridiculous situation where the rail target to the end of June this year was only 12.1 million trips, an increase of just 700k over the year before despite the roll out of electric trains happening. As it happens patronage is currently at 13.5 million trips and predicted to reach 13.8 million by the end of June.

AT pushing to have the targets reduced has also been used by the Ministry of Transport to justify their position that Auckland won’t meet the CRL targets of 20 million trips prior to 2020. A bit of an own goal really.

On to the point of the post. Just over a week ago the council agreed on new patronage targets that would go into their Long Term Plan which were revised from the earlier drafts. You can see the figures that were agreed by the councillors which are slightly different from those originally on the agenda.

2015-25 LTP agreed patronage targets

As you can see, by 2025 the target is for patronage to be 110.7 million trips which is a bit short of the 140 million trips by 2022 the Auckland Plan envisioned – although to be a little bit fair some projects like the CRL were expected sooner. Given the time-frame and PT growth I think we can expect in Auckland through all the changes planned I think that 110 million tips is a bit light. Based on current population projections it would represent a per capita usage of less than 60 trips per year (currently we’re just over 50).  As an example over the next few years the last of the electric trains will roll out along with the New Network and integrated fares. Those alone should see big boosts to patronage numbers and as the charts below show. The problem is only the rail network seems to have any step change factored in.

Of course around 2022 or 2023 we should also see the City Rail Link open and again we should see significant boosts in numbers, especially on the rail network. One of the reasons for this might be because while the LTP’s are a 10 year document, the focus is only really on the first three years till the next revision.

So here are the charts showing the changes and how they compare to the previous targets from the 2012-22 LTP plus the 2013 and 2014 versions of Auckland Transport’s Statement of Intent. As mentioned only the rail network sees any significant change from figures previously expected and if we meet the new target the CRL patronage target will be achieved some time around 2018.

2015-25 LTP agreed patronage targets - Charts

And below is an indication of the how much change is expected in each year. I find it odd that patronage would drop off just as the new network is likely being completed as that alone should provide a big boost from more people transferring from bus to train.

2015-25 LTP Targets - annual change

Slightly related, a presentation I saw recently contained a version of this next chart showing what level patronage could be at over the next 30 years out to 2046. I think it shows quite well the impact the CRL and light rail – even though buses will still dominate the modes.

Future patronage projection


What do you think of the targets, are they ambitious enough?

Last chance for a say of Simplified Fares

If you haven’t already make sure you submit of AT’s simplified fare proposal. It’s a nice, quick and easy form to fill in so doesn’t take long. I’ve talked about it here and in general I think the changes are good although there are a few little improvements I think are needed.

I think the boundaries suggested are good although the overlap areas need to be larger to help address the issue of short trips over a boundary being very expensive. Another option – although one that is likely to be more complex to explain is a short distance fare.

RPTP Integrated Fares Zones Map

I think the standard HOP fares proposed are good and will see prices reduce for most people which is a pleasant surprise. Public Transport getting cheaper and more useful is bound to see huge increases in usage.

Simplifed Fares Prices

I think more work is needed on the pass options for which AT say one will be available. This is ok for the likes of myself who travels on PT a lot and over long distances but the changes work against those who only do shorter trips. In addition I’m disappointed that the monthly pass is going up in price when almost all other fare options are decreasing.

I like how AT have said that in the future they will move to daily and weekly caps however again I’m concerned the same issue will exist of the cap being very high and only benefiting a few people. AT say they are also planning a Family Weekend pass which is good.

I would also like to see more done to integrate ferries into the fare structure. I realise AT are a bit hamstrung in this due to Fullers running the Devonport, Stanley Bay and Waiheke services commercially however as a monthly pass user I find it absurd that I can take unlimited trips on buses and trains but that it doesn’t cover me if I want to use a ferry – which is the option I have if I want to go home via the city with my bike.

So if you haven’t already go to the AT site and fill in the form to give your feedback. It closes at 4pm today.

April-15 Patronage

Another month and another good patronage result from Auckland Transport – particularly for rail. Patronage in April is naturally down on the madness that is March due to the combination of a 30 day month, ANZAC day, Easter and School Holidays/Uni holidays. This year was no different although there ended up being the same number of working days as April 2014. Overall patronage for the month edged up 3.7% compared to April 2014 however there is quite some variation between the modes.


2015-04 - Patronage Table

2015-04 - Total Patronage Chart

The real focal point – as it has been for many months now – has been the stellar growth in rail patronage. In April it hasn’t disappointed, up almost 16% compared to April 2014 and up 22% annually and even more for both measures if normalised to take account of the differences e.g. events. To put things in perspective, 12 months ago the annual patronage on the rail network was just under 11.1 million trips, now it’s over 13.5 million. That means it remains well on track to exceed the government’s patronage targets for the CRL some time during 2017/18. It’s also worth noting that AT have now upped their projection for this financial year (end of June) to suggest that we’ll reach 13.8 million trips


2015-04 - Rail vs CRL target

In some ways I think AT are lucky that achieved the results they did given that operational performance was so bad achieving just 68.4% of services arriving within 5 minutes of schedule.

2015-04 - Rail Performance

With buses the Northern Express continues to perform well and was up over 8.5% for the month and 17% for the year once again showing it’s the Rapid Transport Network is where the most growth is happening. Other buses were actually down slightly although a reason for this isn’t given.

Ferries have had surprisingly strong growth of late and were up almost 15% for the month. AT suggest that a large part of the growth has some from the new Explore ferries.

2015-04 - Ferry

Lastly a quick update to my post last week about train costs. In it I included a chart showing that subsidies per passenger km were starting to decline on the rail network which is a good thing.  The stats for this month show once again subsidies are reducing which will be the result of more and more electric trains coming in to service. In a few months I’d expect that line to be even lower too.

PT Subsidy per Passenger km


This is a Guest post by Wellington Architect Guy Marriage

Wellingtonians get a hard press in the Auckland papers sometimes, but last Thursday we thoroughly deserved it. We are normally a fairly resilient lot, and put up with more than our fair share of howling wind and torrential rain at times, but regularly battle through with trains and buses all performing admirably. Even our regular rush hour traffic jams only just live up to their name, and are normally well over within the hour. We know about Auckland’s horrific traffic, and sympathies, we really do. But last Thursday, we suffered a total melt-down, and for a supposedly heavily resilient city, that was a pretty big fall from grace. So what happened?


As you may have heard, broadcast all over the evening news, we had a bit of excess rain. About 8 times more rain in an hour than we get in a month, or some such unbelievably wet statistic like that. And then the big wet went on and on, and eventually we had some slips, where our glorious hills decided they didn’t want to be vertical any more, and so they poured out over the flat bits along the edge of the water. Unfortunately for Wellington, all of our escape routes out of the city run along the same flat stretch of road to the Hutt, and so a small slip on the Hutt Road blocked off a route north along State Highway 2, diverting all the SH2 traffic to SH1. Doubly unfortunate really, because on the other side of the hills, SH1 was also blocked off, and that meant they had to send all the traffic back to SH2, over SH58. There is only one other road, the Paekakariki Hill Road, which is narrow and windy, and is frequently blocked by slips anyway, so inevitably that blocked up too. No way in, no way out. The capital was blocked off from the rest of New Zealand. Did you miss us?


The road was therefore bumper to bumper traffic jam from Wellington all the way to Porirua, and also at a standstill over the hills back to the Hutt Valley on the other side. If you’re not from Wellington, then none of that will make sense, and the nearest I can give you as an example is if the Harbour Bridge was closed, and the NorthWestern motorway was closed as well, and all the traffic between Manukau and Auckland was diverted via Puhoi, and then all the cars stopped moving. Yes, exactly, a stuff-up in traffic terms of monumental proportions, one considerably worse than the average Friday night jam in Auckland, and we will inevitably face calls for yet more roads to be built, just in case this happens again.

NZTA WGTN flooding

But wait, there’s more. Surely none of those road closures matter, as Wellington is the most public-transport oriented city in the nation, is it not? Well, yes, but on Thursday even that let us down as well. Every single train to every single destination was cut, and the central Wellington Railway Station was closed down. That’s a station that normally is about 3 times busier than Britomart, and we have shiny new trains too for the most part. But that accursed rain had deluged rocks and washed out gravel over every set of tracks. Replacement buses normally suffice when there is a traffic setback, but with all the roads and all the rail out, there was no way that the few remaining charter buses could keep up with the demand. The city actually took the unheard of step of telling all commuters from out of town to stay in town, spend the night with friends, to rent a room or borrow a couch, and give up entirely on moving anywhere. I’m not sure if that has happened to any city in living memory before, outside of a war zone. Even when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, or when Super-Storm Sandy hit New York, they were still able to move people in and out of the city. But not Wellington, not last week. The only methods of transport still working were the planes (if you wanted to fly to Auckland and drive back down to Upper Hutt) and the ferries, which gave you a choice of sailing through the storm to Picton, or in a much smaller ferry, riding the waves up to Petone beach. Except of course that Petone beach has a damaged pier, and one of the small East-West Ferry boats was out of action, so that left just one small catamaran sailing back and forth to Petone all evening. I was fully expecting my floor to be full of refugees from the storm, but it was, miraculously, fugee-free.


Wellington train_4740

Not that it really made the slightest bit of difference to Wellingtonians however. Within the city itself, there was a fair bit of wetness, more than usual, but nothing was broken. Everything still worked, everyone got home. Buses still ran, taxis still taxied, and cyclist continued to ride on their non-existent cycle network. We haven’t got a cycle network yet, because some pathetic councillors went feral, and have slowed everything down for reasons known only to themselves. We are, it seems, the only city in New Zealand with a pro-Green, fervently cycling Mayor, and yet we have not a single functioning separated cycle lane anywhere of any use on any major traffic route, which seems just a little bit odd. While the usual dips and hollows were fuller of water than usual, it seemed to me that the city performed admirably well, and lived up to its resilient reputation. You could have even thrown in a moderate earthquake or two, and the city would have shrugged them off as well, due to the steady stream of strengthening projects that have been going on. We’re a city that is like a brand new iPhone 6, already with a sturdy waterproof, shockproof rubber case on, and you could drop us from the upstairs balcony and we wouldn’t break, at least not completely. But we might bend a little if you sat on us.

But what this points to is that while Wellington City might be tough enough in parts, its the Regional Council and NZTA that were shown up as monumentally unprepared for disaster. I think we have just seen the biggest case for abolition of the Regional Council, right there. What if it had been a real, serious disaster, not just a few hours of torrential rain? The Civil Defence motto down here is “Get Through.” Clearly, that is not something that we yet can do.


NZTA have started work on the billion dollar highway known as Transmission Gully, an ironic name as they could only start work there when they had removed all the transmission lines, in case they fell over while they were digging out the gully road. One day, after an inevitable cost inflation to (probably) nearly two billion dollars, there will be a new road north, two lanes each way, all the way, and a new Petone to Granada link road – and you know what? If both of those roads had been built already, those other traffic snafu may well have happened just the same. The Petone to Grenada route will have to involve the moving / removal of some eight million cubic metres of rock, which wont be an easy task. The Transmission Gully route still relies on sending all the traffic along the waterfront and up the Ngauranga Gorge, both of which were heavily affected by last weeks rain, with several small slips/rockfalls and a lane taken out of action in the Gorge. Transmission Gully is also sitting firmly on an earthquake fault line and highly susceptible to slips as well, so there is a lot of work to be done securing hillsides before that route will ever be “safe”. We need NZTA to try a whole lot harder to battle-harden the existing network and we need Kiwirail and GWRC to make sure that public transport is a whole lot more resilient down here. 

AT’s Ferry Development Plan

This week Auckland Transport announced they were looking to update the Regional Public Transport Plan (RPTP) with a number of developments and one of those was to include the outcomes of the Ferry Development Plan. AT have now published the development plan which provides some more information into to their thinking around ferries.

First up, how ferries perform today. The map below shows where current ferry services run to.

Ferry Development Plan - Current routes

In the year to the end of March 5.4 million trips were taken on ferries which is up 5% on the year before and close to a peak reached in mid-2012. That patronage makes up around 7% of all public transport trips.

2015-03 Ferry Patronage

Around 77% of all ferry patronage comes from just two routes – Devonport and Waiheke -however AT also say that in the morning peak around 49% of trips are coming from other services. That indicates that the Devonport and Waiheke services do well off peak – probably due to tourism. The number of passengers arriving in the city in the current morning peak are shown below.

Ferry Development Plan - Current AP patronage

The Development Plan is focused on how AT will develop ferries over the next 10 years and covers both infrastructure and services. The modelling for it also considers the impacts over a 30 year period.

The overall takeaway outcome is that there are not any viable opportunities for new ferry routes and that the focus should be on improving the routes we already have. That means increasing capacity and services so that they can handle the predicted demand and provide regular all day service – just like what is being done with the bus and rail networks (note: regular service is different from frequent service so might only be hourly off peak). The additional daily services AT expects to add to each route are shown below and there is a more detailed version on page 21 of the development plan.

Ferry Development Plan - Increased Services

It is expected that between now and 2026 ferry patronage will increase from 5.4 million to around 7.5 million. Much of the growth is expected from just a few of the routes and the growth in AM peak trips is shown below and is based on integrated fares and no surcharge (more on that soon)

Ferry Development Plan - Modelled Growth

To accommodate that growth more vessels and improvements to existing ferry terminals will be needed – such as the recently announced new terminal at Half Moon Bay. In addition to the terminals, AT want to expand the Park n Ride at a few stations. The capital costs for all of this development is around $34.2 million and almost half of it is for the redevelopment of the downtown ferry terminal. The Benefit Cost Ratio of the terminal improvements are shown below and as you can see the result for Half Moon Bay is crazy high.

Ferry Development Plan - Ferry BCR's

You’ll notice the table has ‘with surcharge’ and ‘no surcharge’ and as mentioned earlier the modelling is based on no surcharge. AT say they want ferries to have integrated fares but that it isn’t possible just yet.

Potential patronage has been modelled assuming integrated fares with and without a ferry surcharge. A surcharge is necessary initially to maintain the affordability of ferry services and to avoid demand for unavailable capacity. In time, as patronage and capacity increase and costs are reduced, the surcharge will be reduced and eliminated.

Included in the development plan is analysis of the current park n ride users which I found quite interesting. As you can see most people make fairly short trips to the ferry but there are some quite long ones, especially to Half Moon Bay. Some seem quite odd such as driving from Albany next to the busway station to Devonport or Bayswater to catch a ferry or from Remuera to Half Moon Bay (perhaps they were going to Waiheke though).

Ferry Development Plan - Park n Ride

Lastly AT did look at the options for expanding ferry services including to Browns Bay, Takapuna and Te Atatu. If they were implemented the map below which also includes the SHA areas is how the ferry network would look however the all have BCR’s of less than 1 and as there’s little time savings compared to road-based modes it’s not expected they would attract enough patronage.

Ferry Development Plan - Proposed routes

Overall I’d say that the outcome is right, focus on get the existing services working well