More homes at Hobsonville

If you’ve been near Hobsonville Point recently you’ll have seen it’s going off and is currently a hive of building activity.

Hobsonville Point - new homes advertising

There was some very positive news this week about that would now be developed with twice as many homes as originally intended, especially some of the reasons as to why this has happened, which I’ve emphasised below.

 

The scale of one of Auckland’s newest big housing developments has now doubled, with Hobsonville Point dwelling dwelling numbers now rising from 2500 to 5000.

Demand for residences at the housing estate in Auckland’s northwest has been so strong that the numbers planned to be built there have been up-scaled.

Chris Aiken, Hobsonville Land Company chief executive, said instead of 2500 dwellings, around 5000 residences would now be built.

More land on the Waitemata Harbour had become available, the area had been prepared for greater density and demand was so strong that it was not only appropriate but also possible to vastly upscale numbers, Aiken indicated.

“Building 2500 [dwellings] was first planned about 10 years ago and there was a view of the market – Waitakere City Council and the Government said ‘we will allow for more density’ and they put in place ferry services, roads and employment zones and the market was there. The market came screaming along five years ago,” he said.

“The doubling is driven by market demand for smaller product and the capability of the master planning and infrastructure to deal with it. It was a visionary, enabling master plan,” Aiken said.

Decisions about rising numbers had been taken over a number of years, due to a combination of factors, he explained.

“The land was always capable of carrying that higher number. Five years ago, it was scaled up [from 2500] to 3000 when it became clear people would buy terraced housing. When we introduced affordable housing, it went to 3500 planned. It made sense to build more. And then with the advent of apartment typologies, that pushed it closer to 4000.”

It’s not the first and definitely won’t be the last but Hobsonville Point is a great example that many Aucklanders are quite happy to buy different types of homes, especially if they’re built and designed well. The old myth that “everyone wants a stand alone house and big section” is once again shown to be completely false.

Another big source of housing is new land that was planned to become a marine industry and then a film studio but for which neither eventuated.

However, an extra 1000 dwellings were added to the plans when a further 20ha became available due to a bureaucratic back-peddling.

After being lobbied heavily by the marine industry, a large slice of 20ha was ear-marked for those services, which failed to arrive. That land is now re-zoned for housing, which further contributed to the increasing dwelling numbers, Aiken said.

“Land which Auckland Council ear-marked for the boating industry – now we can built on it,” Aiken said.

Across most of the site, more apartments and terraced-housing would replace original plans for stand-alone housing.

This land is shown below along with the high level plan for how it will be developed.

Hobsonville Point ACPL Plan

With more houses going in, Auckland Transport are going to need to do a lot better with providing alternative options for transport in and out of the area. The ferry to the city is a good start but only runs a couple of times at the peaks on a weekday so is completely useless for anyone not working very specific hours. As an alternative, as currently planned in the new network, the main bus route through the area will link up Hobsonville Point with Westgate and Constellation Dr Busway station at which people could transfer for a bus to the city but the route is only planned to run every half hour. Further either direction is likely to have locations where the bus is subject to congestion until other projects built, such as the Northwest busway.

 

 

May-16 Patronage

The public transport results for May are now available and once again there are some very impressive results on the Rapid Transit network with busway and rail network combined up 25% compared to May last year – although an extra business day in the month helped too. Ferries have also continued a good run with the only disappointment continuing to be buses (other than those on the busway) which were only up 0.1% and would’ve been down were it not for the extra day.

2016-05 - Patronage Table

During May Auckland Transport finally increased the peak frequency on the Western Line and early indications are promising. It will be good to see how things go over the coming months. Also important is AT say that punctuality remains high which is good as one of the fears I’d heard was that the additional services would make the network less reliable.

It turns out that May now holds the record for the highest single month for rail after eclipsing even the March result thanks to the impact of Easter. March is shown with the orange bars. That’s seen the 12 month rolling result now surpasses 16.5 million.

2016-05 - Rail monthly Patronage

While the new trains and service improvements have undoubtedly played a key role in the improvements, so too have punctuality and reliability. We now start to regularly see more than 95% of trains arriving at their destination within 5 minutes of their scheduled time which is up dramatically from about 74% about a year ago. From memory, prior to electrification we peaked at just over 90% – but then the current timetable has been padded out in part to deal with the terribly slow dwell times we currently have.

That stellar rise in rail usage has also seen another milestone eclipsed. Now 20% of all public transport trips are by train which is up from just 5% when Britomart opened and with the speed that usage of trains is increasing, that figure could hit 25% before the City Rail Link even opens. The busway currently accounts for around 5% of all trips. To me that’s important as it highlights that rapid transit is doing an increasing share of the heavy lifting – and we’d expect that given the investment.

As I’ve liked to highlight in recent months, the farebox recovery results continue to improve. These results are always an extra month behind with the latest results being to the end of April, so on the rail network we might see a bit of a reversal once the impact of the extra western line services is felt. Still it’s worth celebrating that farebox recovery has passed the NZTA’s 2018 target of 50% and is the highest it’s been in more than a decade. It really shows just how important it has been to have electrification to simultaneously drive up patronage and reduce operational costs.

2016-05 - Farebox

I was concerned at the results last month that HOP use was a little stagnant. I spoke a little too soon as May has recorded the highest result yet. In the business report, AT say that HOP use has risen and on 23 May it passed 85% for the first time. With all of the SuperGold card holders now having swapped or hopefully in the process of swapping to HOP, that result is likely to go higher still. As AT point out, the results are similar to Brisbane and South Australia who have had similar systems for much longer

South Queensland Go Card has 86% trip penetration after 10 years and the Adelaide Metro Card 87% after 4 years.

2016-05 - HOP Uptake

While talking about HOP, the business paper also says this. As yet I’ve had no indication of what this new monthly pass is.

Development of a product transition plan will result in the new monthly pass being marketed in June 2016 for 1 July 2016 launch. A discounted introduction price will be available during July.

Hopefully we’ll find out soon.

Parking Shuttle flop

Back in March, Auckland Transport announced a special shuttle to link a Park n Ride at Lloyd Elsmore Park to the Half Moon Bay Ferry Terminal. At the time it was announced I thought it was a silly idea but said that at least AT were trying things.

Half Moon Bay P&R shuttle route

A  LGOIMA request from reader Felix Lee has discovered just how silly the idea is.

He asked:

  1. For the 5 trips being operated each day, can you tell me the average passenger number for each trip?
  2. Can you tell me the cost to operate this service?

The response from AT is below. It covers the period from 21 March when the service started to 21 May, a total of 42 working days (which is only when the service runs).

Half Moon Bay park n ride shuttle patronage

So a grand total of just 23 trips and it would seem that about 9 people didn’t even make the return journey. That seems like an abysmal failure to me.

But then we also need to consider the cost. AT say:

Half Moon Bay park n ride shuttle Cost

So over the 42 days covered above it cost about $7650 to run services on which just 23 trips were made so just over $330 per trip. Based on a quick search, at $175 for a 12 minute flight, it would have been almost half the cost to helicopter them directly to the city.

As I’ve said a number of times before, I believe that park n rides are often over-rated and clearly this example shows that parking then taking a shuttle to catch another PT service just isn’t attractive.

As I also said when this was announced, I think using the park as a park n ride is not a terrible idea but it should really be linked to bus services along Pakuranga Rd which AT have confirmed needs bus lanes in the recent information released about the Reeves Rd Flyover.

One other thing this episode highlights is the arguments over the bus colours recently. If you recall, those opposing the changes baulked at the suggestion that it might cost $9,000 to paint a bus and claimed that money could be better spent on new services instead. Here we have a service that runs just five times a day over ~2.6km for two months costing almost the same amount. This suggests that any meaningful addition to services on other routes will cost a lot more in a year than painting a few buses, the cost of which can be spread out over multi-year contract.

Coming back to the shuttle, the whole thing seems to have been a thoroughly predictable outcome. I guess the only real question is how much longer will AT keep the service running before they finally pull the plug on it?

April-16 Patronage

Public Transport patronage results for April are now available and even taking into account that there was an extra weekday, the results were pretty good. This is a good to see after fewer work days in March dragged down the results a little bit.

2016-04 - Total Patronage

Once again the most impressive results are coming from the Rapid Transit network consisting of the rail network and the busway. Both of those saw growth of over 30% compared to April last year and even taking one working day off the growth for rail was still over 25% (the adjusted figure isn’t available for the busway). We learnt in early April that rail patronage passed 16 million but from the results we can see it has now soared passed 16.2 million. Combined with the busway which has also passed the milestone of 4 million trips means that rapid transit is now carrying over 20 million trips annually or just under 25% of all PT trips. That’s up 5 million trips in just 18 months, not bad considering a decade ago our rapid transit network carried fewer than 5 million trips and accounted for less than 10% of all PT trips.

2016-04 - Patronage Table

One of the results that strikes me the most from the results is the Western Line which is up 35.6% on April last year. This is impressive as other than some added capacity that came with the new trains, there hasn’t been a weekday timetable change for years and the frequency during the peak hasn’t changed since at least 2008. With the change earlier this month giving a 50% increase in frequencies at peak – now every 10 minutes – and improved inter-peak frequencies it will be interesting to see what impact they have. In the business report AT say the initial two weeks are already showing an over 30% increase on the same time last year.

One aspect that will also be having an impact on train results is that punctuality has considerably improved. In April it reached its highest result ever with 96.4% of all services arriving at their destination within 5 minutes of what is on the timetable.

Of course the Busway is also doing extremely well which will be in part due to the increased capacity from the Double Deckers now a regular sight on the busway and the extension to Silverdale which less than 6-months after starting has seen high growth resulting it having “insufficient capacity”. AT are planning on increasing capacity and peak frequencies to Silverdale in late June. It’s also worth noting that the Northern Express performs better than other buses on punctuality too.

Both the busway and the rail network continue to perform ahead of projections made when the various projects were justified. One of the best examples of this is with Britomart where the business case for building the station assumed that by 2021 about 22,000 train trips would start or end there. Data provided to me by AT last week shows that already almost twice that is happening with the number at around 42,000 a day.

Daily Britomart Passengers - Actual vs Projected 2016

As expected farebox recovery – which is always reported a month behind – continues to improve. It is now tantalisingly close to the 50% magical mark which is the level it has to reach by the end of June 2018 to meet the NZTA’s farebox recovery policy. If current trends continue it should mean that AT will have additional funding with which to either improve services or reduce fares. The improvements to rail primarily as a result of electrification continue to be impressive.

2016-04 - Farebox

 

One area that isn’t seeing much change in recent times is HOP usage which seems fairly stubbornly stuck in the low-mid 70% range. Perhaps changing all SuperGold card users to HOP will help boost that up a little bit but I hope AT have some plans to improve utilisation above that. One thing area that may help for trains at least is that they say they’re working on designs for gates at Manurewa, Papatoetoe, Middlemore, Glen Innes, Henderson and Papakura Stations.

2016-04 - HOP Usage

Overall some good results from April and I’d expect those to continue in the coming months. Changes such as the improvement in timetable on the western line are bound to drive passengers. As is the roll out of double deckers to Mt Eden Rd yesterday – although it could be a little while before we see just what impact this has.

We’ll also see double deckers on the 881 route by the end of June and at the end of July we’re due to finally get integrated fares which I think could have a significantly positive impact on PT use.

SuperGold on HOP

In just over a month those over 65 will no longer be able to just wave their SuperGold card to get free public transport. Instead, following changes made by the government, they will be required to have an AT HOP card with a concession loaded. There are currently about 180,000 people in Auckland with a SuperGold card and that is growing by about 7,000 a year and AT say almost 42,000 already have a HOP card with the SuperGold concession loaded. That also means that potentially around 140,000 people won’t be able to travel unless they make the change over the next month.

Auckland Transport have launched a campaign to get those with SuperGold cards on to HOP including introducing a new SuperGold specific HOP card – although those with blue HOP cards can keep using those.

Gold AT HOP

Switching SuperGold public transport use to the AT HOP card will also reduce improper use of the SuperGold concession and permit improved planning of public transport services making the scheme more sustainable, reducing taxpayer and ratepayer costs.

Mr Lambert says seniors using public transport in Auckland who do not yet have an AT HOP card will need to purchase one by 30 June, at a cost of $15 (the AT HOP card costs $10 and it must have a minimum of $5 credit loaded onto it at the time of purchase) The $10 card purchase price is non-refundable.

“We’re working with the Ministry of Transport and directly with seniors’ advocacy groups to make the process as easy as possible for seniors,” he says.

Auckland Transport is making an information pack available to all SuperGold cardholders, advising seniors of the changes and explaining how to purchase an AT HOP card and load a SuperGold concession.

“We have worked directly with seniors in focus groups to ensure the information provided is clear and easy to understand,” Mr Lambert says.

SuperGold card users purchasing an AT HOP card from 9 May will be issued with a specially designed, distinctive gold AT HOP card. However, blue AT HOP cards loaded with a SuperGold concession will continue to be accepted after 1 July 2016. Auckland Transport will be in contact with individuals who have a blue AT HOP card loaded with a SuperGold concession regarding the process to swap out their blue AT HOP card for a gold AT HOP card free of charge after 1 July 2016.

Having a specific SuperGold card is a good idea but oddly though it’s not a replacement for the SuperGold card so those eligible will have to carry both cards. Similarly, the Ministry of Social Development appear to have refused to help AT in the change over. I understand this isn’t the first time the MSD has done this and it appears to me that they want to operate in a silo over the whole thing.

At the same time Grey Power is calling the requirement to buy a HOP card cruel. While I understand why they’re saying it, I personally thing that’s a bit rough given that Auckland Council/Transport go beyond the SuperGold benefits and also cover evening peak travel too. Paying $15 for essentially unlimited free travel is still a very good deal.

I would expect most people who read this blog are likely to already have a HOP card with the concession loaded but

With the discussion on SuperGold I thought I’d also take a quick look at some of the figures around SuperGold which can be found on this NZTA site. It has annual data up to the end of June last year

In total there were 12.6 million trips via SuperGold across NZ in the 2014/15 year and that was worth just over $26 million in fares.

SuperGold trips in Auckland accounted for about 56% of that national total although only 54% of value of fares. For 2015 the breakdown of trips by mode and the percentage of total trips by that mode were:

  • Bus – 5.9m (9.9%)
  • Train – 680k (4.9%)
  • Ferry – 445k (8.0%)
  • Total – 7.1m (8.9%)

Auckland SuperGold patronage

The costs are quite different though due to the high cost of ferries. In the brackets is the cost per trip

  • Bus – $9.8m ($1.66)
  • Train – $1.5m ($2.27)
  • Ferry – $2.8m ($6.24)
  • Total – $14.1m ($2.01)

Auckland SuperGold costs

New Half Moon Bay Ferry Pier gets underway

Good news for commuters in East Auckland with construction starting yesterday on the new ferry pier at Half Moon Bay.

Half Moon Bay Wharf impression

Construction has begun today on the new Half Moon Bay ferry pier, which when complete will provide a new, modern and safer ferry experience for its users.

It will be an important part of the new public transport network for east Auckland, due to be in place in late 2017.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges, Mayor Len Brown and Howick Local Board Chair David Collings marked the start of construction by turning the first sods at the end of Ara-Tai in Half Moon Bay. It is due to open by late 2016.

The $5.9 million project is funded by the Government through the NZ Transport Agency, the Howick Local Board through its Transport Capital Fund and Auckland Council.

During the last five years, patronage of the Half Moon Bay ferry has increased by over 50 percent to reach 372,141 total passengers in the 12 months to April 2016.

Patronage at Half Moon Bay growing by 50% over 5 years is decent and about twice the rate of overall ferry patronage growth over that time period. Yet even with that growth, it still only makes up a small portion of overall ferry use (6.5%). That kind of highlights the massive role Devonport and Waiheke play in passenger numbers.

AT list the features and benefits of the project as

  • Safer and accessible for everyone and designed to provide a greater level of shelter against the elements for passengers using the pier
  • Design will reflect the history of the local area
  • It will be located at the end of Ara-Tai, separated from leisure boat users
  • A sheltered cycle storage facility which has been recently built near the dinghy lockers will be relocated to within the new pier area

Of the total cost, $2.5 million is coming from the local board with Auckland Transport and the NZTA paying for the rest.

I’m sure ferry users out east will look forward to using it

 

Explore No More

Some sad news late yesterday with Explore ferries announcing that they will be stopping their service to Waiheke, once again leaving Fullers with a monopoly on the route.

 A Waiheke Island ferry service has been axed after two years because it was not getting enough passengers.

Explore Group announced on Tuesday it would cease its ferry to Auckland’s Waiheke Island after a thorough review of the service.

The decision was being rued by Waiheke islanders, who had enjoyed the competition against Fullers Ferries, main operators on the route.

Infrastructure problems that prevented a comfortable experience for passengers – especially throughout winter months – was one of a number of contributing factors, Explore Managing director William Goodfellow said.

The decision was not easy to make, he said, because of the support the company received from passengers and the “considerable investment” made.

“We’ve thrown everything we could at the Waiheke service and we greatly appreciate the support of Waiheke and Auckland travellers, however the initial strong support from commuters was not sustained and ultimately the numbers did not stack up,” he said.

“We entered into the service with the specific aim of providing ferry commuters with a superior level of service and on-board travel experience. We achieved this and as a result we believe the ferry services to Waiheke are in better shape, both in terms of the standard on offer and the frequency of service, than it was two years ago.”

I think it needs to be remembered that the services to Waiheke are operated fully commercially and will continue to be well into the future as they were ensrined in leglislation (which I believe AT objected to).

Explore’s service had some things were working against it from day one such as not being eligible for any SuperGold funding until recently, not being able to accept HOP, issues with access to wharves, timetable issues for connections to Waiheke buses etc.

 

Most indications had pointed to Fullers lifting their game since the introduction of Explore and they’re even having new boats built to provide better service. It will be interesting to see if any improvements slip away once Fullers are plying the waters by themselves again.

March-16 Patronage

March was definitely mad for many bus and train users with the annual surge in usage resulting in many reporting full services – which in the case of buses often resulting in having to wait for a number to go past before one with enough space to squeeze on came along. Infact it was so mad AT even roped in other operators like Party Bus to help provide extra capacity. However, a number of factors – such as having Easter in March – meant that for buses at least, the month won’t go down in the record books. There were however still some good results on the city’s trains and ferries.

2016-03 - Total Patronage

In total patronage was down slightly by 2.8% however taking Easter and special events like the Cricket World Cup last year in to account it would have been up 1.6%. What isn’t mentioned anywhere in the AT reports is any impact the fare changes at the end of February may have had.

2016-03 - Patronage Table

The fall in patronage was led by buses which in March were down 5.8% compared to March last year, a fairly substantial change. When AT normalise the usage to take into account the unique factors they say it would still have been down 2.2%. But in addition to the normal factors, they say changes to bus stops late last year as part of the first stage of City Rail Link changes also had an impact on usage and had they not occurred, patronage would have been slightly up. They also say they expect to see some recovery in these figures in April. I certainly hope that happens as March is the third consecutive month that patronage has fallen compared to the same time last year.

Despite the factors that negatively impacted on patronage, the solid growth in train use in the past few years has continued – although those factors tempered it a bit. For the month train trips were up 4.7% but AT say taking the other factors into account would have seen it up 13.8%. The underlying growth has remained solid with the average number of trips each business day rising by around 10,000 per day or 17.3%. Given the pattern seen last year with weekday usage, this suggests we should continue to see strong rail growth this year too. As we already know, we passed 16 million trips in early April.

2016-03 - Rail Weekday

One thing that will definitely be helping rail usage is the significant improvement in performance since going all electric in July last year. In March 98.9% arrived at their final destination and of those 95.1% did so within 5 minutes of the timetable.

Ferries are also doing well with the number of trips up 9.2% compared to last March and it would have been up 11.2% without the likes of Easter.

 

In addition to the overall patronage, there are some other interesting metrics in the monthly stats report.

  • The latest quarterly satisfaction results are available and show a mixed bag with trains up, buses flat and ferries down compared when last measured in December. Buses and ferries are also down compared to March last year.

2016-03 - PT Satisfaction

  • There is a two-month lag on the financial metrics but they show PT and especially rail continuing to improve. Farebox recovery which is mandated by the NZTA to reach 50% by June 2018 reached 49.6% and that is primarily being driven by a relatively rapid improvement in rail performance. As this month’s result won’t be seen till we get the April figures, it will be interesting to see what impact the falling bus patronage and change in fares at the end of February has had.

2016-03 - Farebox

  • HOP usage also improved in March hitting 80% for the first time on trains and buses not far behind on 78%

2016-03 - HOP Usage

There are a number of things that will boost patronage in coming months.

  • According to AT’s journey planner, the Western Line will go to 10 minute peak and 20 minute inter-peak frequencies – matching the southern and eastern line – on May 9
  • At the end of July AT will introduce integrated fares which along with making multiple trips using PT easier, is also likely reduce the cost for many people. AT staff are seeking board approval for the prices in the closed session of the board meeting later this week.
  • HOP usage should continue to improve as all SuperGold card trips will have to be made by HOP card from July onwards (via a concession)
  • AT are also planning to improve the frequency of the Northern Express from Silverdale in late June, shifting from 15 to 10 minute peak frequencies which they say is in response to high patronage growth and insufficient capacity.
  • The new bus network for South Auckland along with the Otahuhu bus/train interchange is still on track to go live in October.

Park and Ride Shuttle

Auckland Transport started a unique park & ride and shuttle today in East Auckland. It’s something we first learned about in the board report last month. Auckland Transport will use the parking in Lloyd Elsmore Park for commuter parking with a shuttle to the Half Moon Bay ferry terminal for users to connect to ferries.

In a first for Auckland, a local park is being used as a park and ride to service public transport in the eastern suburbs.

The free park and ride at Lloyd Elsmore Park in Pakuranga will have a shuttle bus running to and from Half Moon Bay Marina on weekdays. The six month trial begins on Monday (21 March), providing a safe and convenient place for people to park for the day.

AT is providing the service at the request of the Howick Local Board in an attempt to mitigate a lack of parking at the marina.

There will be two trips in the morning and three trips in the afternoon to meet the 8:15am and 10:15am departing ferries and the 5:45pm, 6:20pm and 7:05pm arriving ferries.

Howick Local Board Chairman David Collings says it will provides people living in Pakuranga, Howick and surrounding suburbs with a great option for getting into the city.

“This initiative provides additional parking for ferry users, but simply at a different location. Ideally long term I’d like to see commuters consider walking, cycling or even car-pooling to the ferry.”

“Driving into the city centre from this part of Auckland is time-consuming and costly by the time you take into account car parking. Catching a ferry is a great way to travel and with AT providing this park and ride, it makes it even easier,” he says.

The park and ride is a point-to-point service with no stops along the way and is dedicated which means it will wait for ferries if required. It is free of charge until Zonal Fares are introduced in late July. Trip durations are expected to be 10-20 minutes depending on traffic conditions.

Mark Lambert, General Manager at AT Metro, says the service adds to the numerous successful park and ride services around the city.

“The park and rides at bus, train and ferry interchanges have proved incredibly popular especially the Northern Express. This trial is a slightly novel approach in that we are providing a shuttle service to a ferry terminal.”

Half Moon Bay P&R shuttle route

And here are the shuttle times – for some reason there is no shuttle to the earlier sailings or the midday ones.

Half Moon Bay P&R shuttle timetable

Regular readers will likely be aware that we’re not a huge fan of park & ride as they can be very expensive and not deliver all that much patronage. But I think the idea of using infrastructure that may have otherwise been sitting idle is a good one – although that changes again when it requires a dedicated shuttle to operate. In many ways it’s good that AT are at least trying stuff.

In saying that the situation also highlights one absurdity with the East Auckland situation. Pakuranga Rd at this point is a 6 lane road plus median – there are no bus or bike lanes. As part of AMETI, Auckland Transport have suggested putting bus lanes on Pakuranga Rd as far as Highland Park. If they did that it would probably be faster to catch a bus to Panmure and then transfer to a train than it would to catch a bus to the ferry and then ferry to town.

ATs Transport Journey Video

Auckland Transport have released a new video with quite a neat visual style talking about many of the projects they’re working on to make public transport and active modes better.

One aspect I quite like is that they talk about the capacity limitations of the traffic lanes as a reason why we need to invest in alternatives that can carry more people. Yes you may want to drive but when everyone else does too it just doesn’t work.

Good work AT, this is definitely one of your better efforts.