City Centre Investment Map

The last five years have seen Auckland change dramatically for the better. If you were in the city then you wouldn’t have found any of the shared spaces, much of the area surrounding Britomart was still run down and unused and Wynyard Quarter as a people place didn’t exist. While we’ve already seen a lot of change the next 10 years promises even more and much of it – such as the CRL – will fundamentally alter Auckland for the better.

In fact there is so much going on in Auckland’s City Centre right now that it’s starting to resemble a sand pit. There are a huge number of publicly and privately funded improvements happening. Importantly they are leveraging off each other to make Auckland a more liveable and attractive place. That’s good for Auckland’s economy which in turn is good for the entire nation. It also bears reminding that the changes and growth that’s occurred in recent years hasn’t spelt doom on the regions roads as all the growth in travel to the centre has happened not on in cars but via PT and active modes.

To highlight all of the known changes that are planned or desired for the next decade the council have created a map showing all the ones they know about (there are bound to be more appear over that time – especially private developments). Note: not all of these projects have funding confirmed yet so not all might happen. Click to enlarge the images or go here for the PDF version (2.6MB).

City Centre Projects April 2015

City Centre Projects April 2015 Legend

There are of course a few things missing from this map. A few I noticed quickly are AT’s Light Rail plans, Cycle lanes on Pitt St as part of the Nelson St Cycleway and cyclelanes on Karangahape Rd as part of the city centre priority routes.

The major criticism I can see in all of this is that the map is focused on the city centre. That’s understandable seeing as it’s come from the city centre integration group however perhaps the council should create an interactive version for the entire region. It could show what’s going on and how projects like the CRL benefit the entire region.

I’m looking forward to the changes that planned. It should make the city centre a much more vibrant and interesting and liveable place.

Massive March Patronage

We were expecting public transport in March to be mad and throughout the month we certainly saw it living up to that expectation with daily reports of full services. Some people watched up to 12 full buses go past their stop before one with enough space arrived for them to squeeze on. On the parts of the rail network not yet served by electric trains services were also overflowing – and that was when they weren’t being cancelled or severely delayed.

Auckland Transport have today released the patronage results showing just how busy the month was and the results are astonishing. Across all modes there were an extra 1.1 million trip taken compared to March last year which at 15% is a huge increase. The annual result increased by 10% in comparison to the year to March 14. The results were helped by there being one extra business day plus events such as the Cricket World Cup, Volvo Ocean race and the Auckland Arts Festival.

2015-03 - AKL - Total Patronage

Once again the star performer was the rail network which increased by a massive 33%. At 1.56 million trips in the month we finally surpassed the one month record of October 2011 which was from during the Rugby World Cup (although we got very close in February). Patronage for the last year is now at 13.4 million (up 21%) and at this rate we could see it top 14 million by the end of the financial year in June.

2015-03 - AKL - Rail Patronage

Of course with rail patronage growth accelerating it continues to reinforce our view that we’ll likely hit the CRL patronage targets well in advance of the 2020 date set by the government. At this stage it’s still looking like it could be in 2017 that we cross the 20 million mark. I wonder what the Ministry of Transport will say about it in their next report due August which will use those June numbers.

2015-03 - AKL - Rail Patronage vs Govt Target-1

The other modes aren’t standing still either, bus patronage is also growing strongly. Patronage on the Northern Express is up over 14% and on other buses it is up over 11% compared to March last year. The 12 month figures are up 16.8% and 8.4% respectively. On ferries there was strong growth however the 12 month figure is still below its peak of mid-2012.

2015-03 - AKL - Bus Patronage

Lastly Auckland has now passed the milestone of 50 trips per capita per year (this accounts for population growth each month). That’s a good improvement from where we were a decade ago but well short of other cities. As a comparison Wellington has around 74 trips per capita while Perth has 80-90 per capita and Sydney about 130 per capita. Where do you think we’ll be in 10 years’ time? If the current growth can be continued – and with all the improvements planned then it should be possible – then around 80 trips per capita is not beyond the realms of possibility.

2015-03 - AKL - PT per capita

Here’s AT’s press release.

There’s been another big jump in the numbers using public transport in Auckland.

Annual patronage now exceeds 78 million boardings, an increase of 10%. In March there were 8.4 million boardings, a jump of more than 1 million on March 2014.

Auckland Transport chairman, Dr Lester Levy says it’s been a big year with increased services across rail and bus and the gradual replacement of the diesel trains with new electric models.

The big performer was rail which reached 13.4 million passenger trips for the year, an annual increase of 21%. March saw a monthly record high of 1.56 million train trips, an increase of 29% on March last year.

The growth is put down to the enhanced travel experience and additional capacity provided by the new electric trains and greater service frequency introduced over recent years.

Dr Levy says, “We’re moving to speed up the roll-out of the electric trains because we know Aucklanders want the extra capacity and the improved service that they provide.”

Auckland Transport is aiming to have a full electric network by the end of July except for the link between Papakura and Pukekohe which will continue to use diesel trains. These will be refurbished over time to provide an enhanced experience. The electric trains will provide improved travel experience and more capacity on the Southern and Western Lines.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown says the figures are good news for the City Rail Link.

“At this rate, Auckland will meet the Government’s threshold for financial support for the CRL three years early in 2017, three years earlier than predicted. Growth has been accelerating since late 2013.”

March was also a record breaking month on the Northern Express with patronage up almost 17% on the same month last year, the 12 month total reached 2.8 million.

It was also a record for other bus services as patronage rose 8% to 56.6 million. Ferry numbers for the year totalled 5.4 million trips, up 5% on an annual basis.

General Manager AT Metro, Mark Lambert, says growth on bus services is attributed to increased services and frequency, improving travel times from new bus priority lanes and a significant improvement in service punctuality being achieved by bus operators through new timetables. Further service level increases and punctuality improvements are planned for later this year along with the introduction of double decker buses on a number of routes. New network designs will also be introduced from later this year.

Meanwhile, Auckland Transport apologises for recent disruptions on the rail network including track and signal failures (operated by KiwiRail), mechanical breakdowns with the old diesel trains and staffing issues.

Mr Lambert says, “The new timetable from December 2014 introduced a 20% plus increase in services across the constrained Auckland rail network making it difficult to recover when there is an issue. We are working with the rail operator Transdev to speed-up the recovery time when unfortunately inevitable failures occur.”

Easter Works

This is just a quick reminder that there’s heaps of transport works on this Easter Weekend that could impact your travel

For PT 

Bus

  • On Good Friday and Easter Monday, buses will run to public holiday (Sunday) timetables.
  • There will be no Good Friday NiteRider services. (NiteRider will run as normal on Saturday night/Sunday morning).
  • Airbus Express and the Airporter 380 service will operate to a public holiday (Saturday/Sunday) timetable Good Friday and Easter Monday.

Train

Ferry

  • On Good Friday and Easter Monday ferries will be running to public holiday (Sunday) timetables.
  • There will be no services for West Harbour, Pine Harbour, Gulf Harbour, Hobsonville and Beach Haven.
For Roads

Easter 2015 coincides with the start of the school holidays and the NZ Transport Agency is warning motorists to plan ahead with traffic expected to be heavy on Auckland and Northland’s highways and roads.

“We expect the highways and roads throughout the region will be much busier than usual as people take one of the last opportunities to enjoy a long break away before winter,” says the Transport Agency’s Auckland and Northland Highway Manager Brett Gliddon.

“Everyone needs to think about their Easter journey and take extra care on our roads. If everyone takes time to plan their journey, it will help ease any stress and reduce the need to hurry, making for a safer and more enjoyable journey for everyone.”

In the Auckland region there were 32 injury crashes last Easter, resulting in two deaths, six serious injuries and 28 minor injuries. This was the highest Easter crash rate in the region in the last three years.

“We urge everyone to make their journey part of their long weekend away, taking time to stop for coffee or visit attractions if traffic is heavy to avoid frustrations and most importantly, to be patient and courteous.”

Traffic is expected to be heavy from 3.30pm on Thursday 2 April and particularly on the Northern Gateway Toll Road (SH1), north of Auckland. Last year, there were 18,500 toll road trips on the Thursday immediately before the start of Easter – 4000 more than normal on a Thursday.

“We expect numbers to be similar this Easter and to remain high throughout the holiday period.”

Mr Gliddon says drivers heading north are encouraged to pre-pay their Northern Gateway toll online – www.tollroad.govt.nz – before they leave on their journey. “Not only will there be no need to stop to pay the toll, there will be no bills when you get back home either.

“To help plan your journey, the Transport Agency has produced a congestion map for both the North and South Islands. If heading north from Auckland on Thursday, SH1 at Wellsford will be busy from 3.30pm to 8.30pm and again from 8am to 4pm on Friday. If heading south, SH2 at Waihi will be busy from 2.30pm to 7.30pm on Thursday and 11am to 2pm on Good Friday.

“Traffic heading back into Auckland will be heaviest on SH1 at Wellsford on Easter Sunday from 3.30pm to 5pm and noon to 2pm on Easter Monday, while from the south on SH2 at Waihi, the heaviest traffic flows will be on Monday from 10am to 3pm.”

For more details on traffic flows on SH1 and SH2 for the Easter period and the days and times when motorists may like to consider alternative travel, visit http://www.nzta.govt.nz/traffic/current-conditions/index.html

In Auckland, the quieter Easter period will be used to complete major works, on the SH1 Ellerslie widening project and Northwestern Motorway. This work will involve on-ramp and overbridge closures.

  • The Ellerslie-Panmure Highway citybound on-ramp will be closed, along with the left-lane citybound between the Ellerslie-Panmure Highway to Main Highway overbridge, from 8pm to 6am each night, from Thursday 2 to Tuesday 6 April.
  • The St Lukes Road overbridge will be closed to all vehicles from 8pm Thursday 2 April to 5am Tuesday 7 April. Contractors will work around the clock to safely build up the existing road levels and construct the approaches to the new, higher overbridge. Pedestrian access across the bridge, as well as the cycleway, motorway, local roads and public transport links in the area, along with local attractions such as Auckland Zoo and MOTAT will remain open throughout the weekend.
  • At the Te Atatu interchange both of the citybound onramps will be closed from 10pm Thursday 2 April to 5am Tuesday 7 April. In addition, the citybound motorway at Te Atatu will be reduced to one lane during the day (5am to 10pm) and closed each night (10pm to 5am). These closures are necessary to lower the Te Atatu citybound motorway on-ramp and raise a portion of the motorway, near the bridge. Pedestrian access across the bridge, the cycleway and westbound motorway will be unaffected.

Mr Gliddon says while road works sites throughout Northland will shut down at noon on Thursday to reduce delays and make it safer for everyone, motorists will still need to be aware of major construction projects underway on the north side of the Brynderwyns and at Akerama, 30km north of Whangarei.

“There will also be temporary speed limits in place and some unsealed sections of highway on SH1, 3km north of Kawakawa and on SH10 north of Zidich Road will need motorists to take extra care.”

Check the Transport Agency’s website: www.nzta.govt.nz for the latest highway information or sign up to www.onthemove.govt.nz for up-to-date information on what is happening on the route you plan to travel; freephone 0800 4 HIGHWAYS for national and regional travel updates.

“Don’t forget, you can also follow us on twitter and facebook to get the latest updates,” he says.

February 2015 Patronage

We’d already heard about the spectacular rail patronage results of passing 13 million trips, an increase of 1 million in just 5 months. Now we’ve got the full patronage information for February and it’s looking good.

2015-02 - Patronage Table

One of the aspects I noticed in the table above is the Western line appears to have dropped however AT say that is just because of the timing of events last year and so if removing special event tickets from the numbers of each year shows patronage growth for the month of 9.8%.

One impressive aspect about the rail growth is that the total patronage in February was higher than any single month last year despite being only 28 days and including a public holiday. Only one month – October 2011 which was the peak thank to the RWC – has higher and the difference is only around 2,000 trips.

The total patronage growth is shown below.

2014-02 - AKL - Total Patronage

Other than the rail results it’s also pleasing to see buses growing so strongly. The Northern Express (NEX) is obviously still up strongly but other buses which carry the bulk of patronage are increasing too. For the 12 months to the end of Feb patronage was 7.6% (around 4 million trips) compared to the same time last year.

2014-02 - AKL - Bus Patronage

With results so strong I’m really looking forward to seeing just how big the numbers are for March. Given what I’ve been seeing and hearing about how full trains, buses and ferries are the results could be absolutely massive. Of course we’ve also been hearing a lot about buses and trains being so full that it’s putting people off using them, especially on the rail network where issues and delays have become an almost daily occurrence.

On issues, this is showing through in the train punctuality stats which have shown a decline in recent months and it can also in part be attributed to services being too full increasing dwell times. I suspect the 78% the western line managed to achieve could go much lower in March.

2014-02 - AKL - Train Performance

We also have Wellington’s patronage results for Feb which have remained flat. The monthly figures for buses and trains were down 0.2% and up 0.1% respectively. Due to growth over the last year they were both up on the 12 month figure though.

2014-02 - WLG - Total Patronage

Tomorrow is transit driver appreciation day

Tomorrow is “Transit driver appreciation day“:

“Consider this… For hours on end, transit drivers manage to keep a schedule, check fares, give directions, announce stops, remember stop requests and more, all while safely maneuvering an extra-large vehicle through unpredictable traffic, adverse weather conditions and some really tight spaces! The fact is, transit drivers don’t have an easy job, they just make it look that way. On March 18th, join us in celebrating the contributions of our hard-working bus drivers and rail operators! That could be as simple as a smile and a wave when you board the bus or train, and a “thank you” when you leave. You can also print out and personalize any of the thank-you cards below to show your appreciation in person, and you can help spread the word using the sharing links provided. And, don’t forget to submit an official commendation for a job well done, so your drivers can be formally recognized for their efforts.”

At times, I find the discourse around public transport can be rather negative.

This is somewhat understandable in a city such as Auckland, where many people are aspire for better service. Most of the issues with our current system, however, reflect decades of neglect and under-investment by central, regional, and local councils (representatives and public servants). Many of these representatives and public servants got inculcated in the cult of motordom, and subsequently “strategically misrepresented” the benefits/costs of private vehicles versus public transport.

None of this, however, is the fault of our drivers.

Nor are they usually at fault for running late (who would want to run late?), or for their bus being full, or for running out of change because too many people by cash.

Indeed, my personal experience is that drivers are almost universally decent people, if not downright pleasant. One Ritchies driver I was talking to told me that the best part of his job was driving over the Harbour Bridge with a bus load of people in the morning peak. He said it gave him immense pleasure to know that he’d made a positive contribution to so many people’s lives. Many of whom he recognised as being regular customers.

Yes there’s the odd bad experience, e.g. I have been left flailing at a stop as a bus drives past in the middle of the night. But in my experience these are the exception not the rule.

They also seem more likely to result in a bus system characterised by inaccurate timetables operating in mixed traffic. In our current system, drivers tend to be the people left carrying the can for systematic issues arising from the aforementioned neglect and under-investment.

For these reasons, if you’re using transit today then please spare a thought for your driver. Try employing your kiwi accent to its fullest by bellowing a “thanx drivah!” as you exit the bus. Or if you feel so inclined, then consider going to this website to print one of these cards to give to them when you board.

Thanks to all the drivers out there.

Cards

Auckland PT fare changes for 2015

Auckland Transport have announced the results of their latest review of public transport fares which should be the last before integrated fares are introduced early next year. They have said that some of the changes are being made now in advance of integrated fares to make that transition easier later on. The changes really depend on how you pay, how far you travel and whether you use ferries or not.

Auckland Transport says the focus of this year’s public transport fare review is to better align short and long distance fares in preparation for a change to a simpler zone based system (integrated fares) next year.

Auckland Transport’s General Manager Public Transport, Mark Lambert, says, “As we continue to pick up the pace of transport changes in the city, improving the fare structure with integrated fares will allow the introduction of the New Network which will see more frequent services on key routes at a minimum average of every 15 minutes, 7am to 7pm, seven days a week.

“This is along with the introduction of the AT HOP card, electric trains on the rail network, the first step towards the construction of the City Rail Link and an investigation of the benefits of light rail. All of these initiatives are designed to give Aucklanders choices that will offer them the freedom to most effectively use that valuable commodity, time”.

The changes to public transport fares through the 2015 review will see:

  • Small increases of between 5 and 10 cents for short distance (stage one and stage two trips) for those using the AT HOP card
  • No increases on longer AT HOP trips on buses and trains, other than for stage five journeys which receive a tertiary concession
  • Stage six and seven child fares, using AT HOP, reduce by 5c and 16c per trip respectively.
  • Some cash fares will increase by 50 cents to increase the incentive for passengers to take advantage of fare discounts that AT HOP provides
  • Some fares on Hobsonville and West Harbour ferry services decrease by between 24c and 50c a trip.
  • Tertiary and child concession fares will now be available on the InnerLink bus service

There will also be some changes to pricing for the CityLink bus service. This service had received funding from the Heart of the City business organisation and Waterfront Auckland however that subsidy has now ended. Auckland Transport therefore, reluctantly, has introduced a 50 cent (adult single trip), 40 cent (tertiary student single trip) and 30 cent (child single trip) fare for a AT HOP card users. Single trip cash fares will be $1 for adults, 50 cents for tertiary students and 40 cents for a child.

Mr Lambert says that on average fares contribute 47% to the total cost of providing public transport services – the remainder is provided through government (NZTA) contributions and rates subsidies. He says while petrol and diesel prices have fallen over recent months, and fluctuated in recent weeks, fuel prices make up only a small percentage of operator costs and by far the largest expense is wages.

Public transport patronage growth has continued strongly during recent fuel price reductions showing that customers are choosing to use improved services rather than sit in traffic congestion, he says.

Latest figures show that public transport patronage is at an all-time high. Public transport patronage totalled 76,480,955 passenger trips for the 12 months to January 2015, an annual increase of 9.4%.
Rail patronage alone totalled 13,000,000 passenger trips for the 12 months to January, an annual rise of 20.0% a rise of two million journeys in one year.

For more: https://at.govt.nz/farechange

Overall the changes don’t seem too bad and for most people probably won’t have any impact – or at least not too much. For a commuter in the inner suburbs it represents about $1 extra per week. AT say that one of the reasons for the shorter stages going up is that compared to other cities our shorter stage fares are quite cheap but our longer stage fares are expensive so this is a way of helping align those better.

Those that will be impacted the most will be those still paying by cash and hopefully these changes will see even more people move across to using HOP.

For ferries the changes are dictated in part by the commercial services to Devonport, Stanley Bay and Waiheke. For the rest of the services the price changes are also about aligning fares hence the increases to Half Moon Bay but decreases to West Harbour and Hobsonville as they are a similar distance.

The changes are below.

image001-3

image002-1

Lastly because it’s often raised I questioned about Fare Evasion. AT say that on average it’s at 6-8% across the network but as high as 40% at some individual stations with some of the worst being Fruitvale Rd and Henderson. They say every 1% of evasion is equivalent to about $300k in revenue so any actions to improve it needs to take that into account. They did say New Lynn will be gated in June which they think will help address some of it. Also any new stations – such as the new Otahuhu station – will be designed to have gates.

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.

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

Sharing SuperGold Subsidies

The issue of SuperGold subsidies has arisen once again, this time in relation to which operators should receive them.

Waiheke Island’s new ferry operator says it cannot keep offering pensioners free passage without sharing a subsidy the Government pays its competitors.

The Explore Group says it will serve notice next week of an intention to charge fares for holders of SuperGold cards, most of whose travel at weekends and after 9am on weekdays on the rival Fullers passenger and Sealink car-ferry operations is reimbursed by the Government.

Explore chief executive William Goodfellow said older passengers, who had received free trips on his vessels since they started on the Auckland-Waiheke run in late October, would receive a grace period “of weeks rather than days” before having to buy tickets.

But after that, they would have to pay $16 for a one-way fare or $29 for return passage.

“The reason we have accepted them to date is that we believed we’d get a fair outcome from the Ministry of Transport for the whole SuperGold Card scheme,” Mr Goodfellow told the Herald.

“We’re doing it simply out of goodwill, because we thought fairness would prevail, but it obviously hasn’t.”

He was referring to a moratorium the Government has imposed against new services joining the SuperGold travel concession scheme while it is being reviewed to ensure its costs “remain sustainable.”

His company had initially expected the review to be completed by the end of last year, but had since heard that would not happen until at least June, and could not wait that long for subsidy relief.

Not only was it letting seniors travel free, but it was also paying a wharf tax of more than $1 each way for each one carried.

The scheme’s annual cost of $18 million after Labour and New Zealand First introduced it just before National swept to power in 2008 has since risen to $26 million, of which Fullers receives a capped payment of $1.5 million.

I’ve never been a fan of how SuperGold works however given it exists I do believe that the subsidy for trips between the City and Waiheke should be shared equally between operators based on the patronage each one carries. This is especially the case seeing as a return fare on the services cost the same and off peak the services are staggered to providing a 30 minute all day service to and from the island. Maintaining a moratorium on new services is absurd when both offerings are competing commercially.

The herald notes that SuperGold payments for trips to the island are capped at $1.5 million, that’s currently around 12% of all SuperGold costs for Auckland which in the last financial year totalled just under $12.3 million. That is made up of $8.6 million for buses, $1.2 million for trains and $2.5 million for ferries.

SuperGold Costs - 2014

Just how many trips on SuperGold trips are to and from Waiheke specifically is unclear however I’ve been able to find how many trips there are by each mode – although only up to the 2012/13 financial year. As expected buses made up the majority of patronage however the thing that surprised me the most was that comparatively SuperGold trips only made up a comparatively low 5.5% of all rail patronage.

SuperGold Patronage - 2013

The Central Wharves Strategy

The council’s City Centre Integration Group (CCIG) – the team charged with turning all of the various visions and plans for the city centre into a reality – are wanting the council to endorse their strategy for the city’s Central Wharves which will see some significant changes to how the wharves are used. The central wharves are essentially the finger wharves that jut out into the harbour and include Princes Wharf, Queens Wharf, Captain Cook Wharf and Marsden Wharf.

It was first signalled that CCIG were looking at the wharves in the Downtown Framework in September last year and at the time they said more work needed to be done to make the best use of the space.

Before going into the proposal some background. The core issue the strategy is trying to address is growth that’s expected to occur in ferries, cruise ships, public space/events and freight. All of those cause congestion not just on land but also on the water too. More specifically on each:

  • Ferries – They say ferry patronage and the number of ferries plying the harbour are expected to grow by around 50% over the next decade. That means more space is needed for ferries and even if the location is left where it is will also need to be reconfigured to handle those extra volumes.
  • Cruise Ships – The number of cruise ships visiting keeps increasing and along with that the cruise ships themselves are getting bigger. They say there’s now a need to be able to accommodate 350m long vessels (Queen Mary 2 which has visited a few times is 345m long and has had to tie up at the freight wharves). That means to keep cruise ships here one or more of the finger wharves need to be extended. This is also apparently not just important for Auckland but for NZ as a whole as if ships can’t stop in Auckland they won’t visit elsewhere in NZ either. It’s also not just the cruise ships themselves but also all of the provisioning that goes along with that. As an example they say one ship carrying 3,000 people on a 7-day cruise needs 6,500kg of fish, 26,500kg of meat, 27,500 of fruit & vegetables and 17,000 litres of milk that all need to be loaded aboard. To add one more issue the cruise ships generally like to leave port right in the afternoon peak when the ferries are at their busiest putting added pressure on that water space.
  • Public Space – All of the council’s plans call for the waterfront to become more accessible and friendly to the public. Queens Wharf was brought from the ports ($40 million) for exactly this reason. Of course because Queens Wharf is also used for cruise ships it becomes anything but publicly accessible during many days in summer – just when people most want to use it. The image below highlights one of the problems with much of the wharf effectively closed off to the public.

Queens Wharf Cruise Ships

  • Freight – Captain Cook and Marsden wharves are currently used by the port for the storage of bulk goods and primarily imported cars – many of which eventually head out of Auckland. The ports obviously want to continue and grow that. I’m not convinced that the storage of large bulk items like cars is necessarily the best use such prime waterfront land.
  • Other – In addition to the uses above there’s also increasing demand for use of various wharves by tourist operators and by the marine sector in relation to super yacht visits.

Moving back to the Downtown Framework, the document suggested four possible future scenarios for the uses of the central wharves. As part of the strategy that was expanded to six options. All options involve the extension of Halsey Wharf at Wynyard and the need to retain the ability for cruise ships at Princes wharf for when there are three in town at once. Further all but one involve the removal of Marsden Wharf. The six options that were evaluated were:

  1. An extension to Queens Wharf, operationally it would be the same as what we have now.
  2. Shifting the Ferry terminal to Captain Cook Wharf which would see Queens Wharf dedicated to cruise ships and still be the public space too.
  3. Extending Bledisloe Wharf substantially with enough space for two large cruise ships end to end.
  4. Extending Captain Cook Wharf and shifting all cruise operations there. They say it would also require some wharf extension and reclamation for Bledisloe Wharf which the port claim is needed to compensate for almost 3ha lost from no longer having access to Captain Cook and Marsden Wharves.
  5. A shorter extension of Bledisloe Wharf with cruise ships shared between there and Queens Wharf
  6. An extension of Princes Wharf to handle longer ships and retaining the use of Queens Wharf.

This list was then narrowed down to options 1, 3 and 4. The remaining options were then evaluated on a range of criteria and compared in a matrix. Unfortunately I currently only have a low quality paper copy of this until the presentation goes online however it is clear from it that option 1 was by far the worst with option 4 the best.

Central Wharves Evaluation Matrix

Option 4 is shown below.

Central Wharves Option 4 - Captain Cook Extension

CCIG say the benefits of this option is it enables two new public spaces either side of Queens Wharf (the breastworks between Princes and Queens would be extended). These areas would be the replacement for public space lost from the sale of QE2 square. Queens Wharf would become dedicated to people use or for events along with a reconfigured ferry terminal with 12 end loading berths. The downside in my view is the extension of Bledisloe Wharf. I get the feeling that the Ports of Auckland are trying to use whatever methods they can to get extensions happening.

Admiralty Basin

An idea of what Admiralty Basin could look like

 

Incidentally I and many others have been saying that Captain Cook is the best location for the cruise ship terminal for some time. The last time it came up it was suddenly shot down by Len Brown before it could be investigated.

The one big unknown in all of this is just what it will cost. I can’t see the extension of Captain Cook wharf being cheap nor the works to improve the waterfront for more people space. I also can’t see the councillors being all that supportive of a strategy that endorses the extension of Bledisloe Wharf but we’ll have to wait to see till Thursday.