PM gets it right about Auckland, mostly

Prime Minister John Key is dead right when he said:

First home buyers in Auckland might have to consider an apartment in order to get onto the property ladder, Prime Minister John Key says.

After all, the locational efficiencies of well placed apartments can mean great savings in transport expenses, and the smaller size of these dwellings also leads to savings in operational costs such as energy and maintenance. Apartments do offer a great option for getting onto the property ladder in the more central locations that many desire, and in fact in many cases will be the only option.

And he is doubly right when he added:

“If you’re a young person buying your first place in Sydney or Melbourne or Brisbane, in most instances you’ll be going into an apartment.”

Doubly right? Right in the first instance because that’s true, but secondly right because he is implying that Auckland is becoming more similar to these cities in its functioning. Yes, Auckland is increasingly exhibiting the well known economic patterns of cities; high value placed on proximity, increases in productivity with density, the power of spatially efficient transport modes.

He’s kinda right when he then says:

“The real magic here is what’s driving those [price] increases – it’s land.”

Kinda right? Yes because of course it’s land, the cost of land, but he is only telling part of the storey, because he neglects to say that where that land is is the principal determinant of its value: Location, Location, Location. A 300m² site with a problem on it in Ponsonby recently made the news because of the price it sold for and of course it only reached that sum because of its locational value. No one is spending that kind of money on similarly tiny plots with rotting old shacks on them at the fringes of the city. Only by delivering more dwellings on locationally valuable sites can the demand for city proximate living be met and at attainable prices.

Several Densities

Several Densities

But then he was rather curious about the City Rail Link, that project that more than any other, will facilitate Auckland’s urban spatial reset by improving efficient connectivity and extending locational value to more currently underdeveloped parts of the existing city:

“And that’s one of the reasons why we’re not looking to rush to bring forward the rail, in terms of the CBD rail link, because if we do, the other portion of that has to be borne by the rate payers.”

Curious? Yes because he says he doesn’t want to use our taxes to fund half the project because he wants to save us from spending our rates on the other half. Well Mr Key there’s an even better way out of that, and that is to recognise that the CRL’s value to the Auckland economy and therefore the national one too, means that it should be funded entirely from the National Land Transport Fund like other nationally significant land transport projects.

Every project is somewhere, the CRL is no more local than a Highway in Tauranga, nor the coming one that almost no one will use out of Wellington. Aucklanders help fund those roads. The CRL will unlock a network from Swanson to Pukekohe, and points in between, helping shift a great many more people than a State Highway around Te Puke, and freeing up roads for many more freight movements. Therefore it is no less important for the national economy.

But anyway the City’s share of the CRL is already budgeted for in capital works programme so withholding the taxpayers share is not saving the Auckland ratepayer anything.

And this is significant because there are two issues that are vitally important to the success of apartment living that PM understands we now need; the location of the apartments and the quality of their connectivity. It is important that they are well placed in as much walking distance of amenity and employment as possible, but then that they are also well connected to the rest of the city through spatially efficient transport systems. After all the best trip is the one not needed to be taken, or that is shortened or otherwise has less impact on other city users and places [reducing the negatives of  traffic congestion, space consumption, and pollution].

Auto-dependent apartments on greenfields sites at the end of the motorway will only achieve the worst of both worlds: dense sprawl. And this kind of distant and disconnected living supplies none of the agglomeration economies that make cities successful. Furthermore they are unlikely to succeed as they satisfy no one: They provide neither the scale nor gardens that detached house lovers want, nor the city proximity that city dwellers value.

So the successful growing city economy isn’t just about Land, or Dwelling Type, but about Location, Dwelling Type, and Connectivity.

Gotta have all three.

*Adendum. In case anyone is thinking that increasing sprawl doesn’t increase transport demand and therefore pressure on all systems here is an up to date chart derived from the 2013 census Journey To Work data that shows a very clear match for distance from centre and length of journey to work. This is not just about the concentration of jobs in the centre, but also about people working in all sorts of places throughout the city and travelling across  town to get there:

Trip Length residential 2013

So with the interesting addition of that area on the south of the Tamaki River, and a developing one on the mid North Shore, the most efficient journeys to work on a distance basis are all in the City Centre and the older heart of the Isthmus. In other words the further out you live the longer your schlep to and for work is likely to be, by whatever mode.

Source: http://infocouncil.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/Open/2014/10/INF_20141021_MAT_4791.PDF

Improving AT’s Patronage Reports

This week we should learn about the patronage results for September and with this post I want to explore whether Auckland Transport are delivering the results to the public in the best way that they can.

Currently we get patronage results a couple of reports that go to the AT board each month. There is the Public Transport Monthly Patronage Report, the Monthly Transport Indicators, the Statistics Report and even some details about HOP usage in the Chief Executive’s Report. Each offers the same high level information but there are variations between them. I tend to use the Statistics Report as that generally has the more detailed information than the other reports. The fact there are multiple reports to begin with is odd and at the very least the Public Transport Monthly Patronage Report, the Statistics Report and the HOP reporting from the CEO’s report should be combined together in a single report.

Other than the number of them, there are a couple of other issues I have with the reports. The primary one is that they are only available as a PDF report. That means each month I have to go through the report and pull out all of the details manually if I want to keep track of them (which I do and I know some others do too). This opens up the chance of data entry errors with the information or incorrect numbers if a figure is revised which happens from time to time and happened recently with the ferries. You also have to know that the patronage results are included in the board reports and where those reports are buried on the AT website. Other issues relate to what information is available compared with what other cities provide.

So with that in mind here are some examples of what some similar organisations provide to the public.

Wellington

Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) through Metlink recently improved the level of information they provide and importantly do so in an easy format for anyone wanting to look at it. They provide a range of graphs showing the monthly results for the current financial year or the annual results as far back as 1999/2000 and most of the data is available in a spreadsheet that can be downloaded. The data provided includes many of the same types of areas that AT provide but there are some important additions. In particular

  • Annual peak and off-peak patronage – this shows how much patronage occurred during the peak and off peak and in the spreadsheet is also available by mode.
  • Annual passenger kilometres by year and mode – This shows how far people have actually travelled on each PT mode which is useful for seeing how commuting trends are changing. As an example on average bus trips are getting longer while rail trips are getting shorter.

The one downside to how GWRC produce their PT information is there is no context able to be given, for example patronage that is impacted by special events or holidays etc. The results are updated approximately 1-2 months after they occur.

Wellington Patronage Spreadsheet

Perth

The Public Transport Authority runs PT in the Perth through their Transperth brand. The authority provides monthly and annual patronage information via an online interactive table by mode and for trains by line. It’s not clear how frequently the information is updated however as the image below shows, it’s not as frequent as Auckland or Wellington. There are no graphs or any contextual information however. There’s also no information on other metrics

Perth Patronage Tool

Portland

PT in Portland is run by TriMet and they provide a number of ways for the public to get patronage information. Firstly there is a Performance Dashboard which shows graphs about the average weekly boardings per month (instead of total patronage) but most interestingly they also provide financial information including the average cost per trip and revenue. Reporting revenue monthly is particularly interesting as in most cities you have to delve through dull Annual Reports to find the information hidden in the financials – although even this isn’t possible with Auckland Transport as it isn’t specified in their annual report.

In addition to the Performance Dashboard also publish monthly reports which includes all of the figures from the dashboard plus a few others and to top it off the data is also available back to mid-2008 in one file.

One of the more interesting aspects about all of the TriMet data is how they break the bus data down by whether the bus is a frequent route (at least 15 minutes all day) or a local connector route. In Portland frequent buses carry over 50% of all bus patronage. As Auckland Transport roll out frequent buses as part of the new network here I hope they differentiate between the frequent and non-frequent services too.

Portland Operating Cost per Ride

It would be great if AT could also provide operating cost information regularly

 

San Francisco (BART)

San Francisco is unusual in that the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system is run completely separately from the rest of the PT services in the Bay area. The patronage information BART release doesn’t show the total number of trips, instead it shows the average daily ridership for a weekday, Saturday or Sunday. One of the advantages of using an average weekday result is it more easily accounts for the variations of the calendar and is something Auckland Transport have recently started doing. Instead of just showing the overall result the monthly data goes a step further by using an Entry/Exit Matrix which shows the average daily ridership from each station to each other station on the network. The image below is from last month and as an example it shows that on average for a weekday 852 people catch a train from El Cerrito Plaza (EP) to Berkeley (BK). This is a level of detail is likely to only be practical to provide for a rapid transit system and something I think AT should definitely do for both the rail network and the Northern Busway.

San Fran patronage matrix

In addition to the level of detail the files are updated quickly and are usually available by the 5th of the next month (compared to almost one month later in Auckland). Lastly one extra feature is that a spreadsheet is available with the annual patronage information back to when the system opened in 1973

Conclusion

So what could AT learn from these cities to improve how it provides information on patronage to the public.

  • At the very least:
    • consolidate the various reports into a single report that contains all the relevant information
    • a page on the AT website with links to each of the monthly patronage reports to the board.
  • Should have:
    • A page on the AT website with some graphs explaining the key PT results
    • Provide a downloadable file with historical patronage results
  • Would be nice to have:
    • An Entry/Exit Matrix for the Rapid Transit network (rail and busway)
    • Data updated automatically earlier in the month
    • Operating Cost and Revenue information
  • Would be ideal but won’t hold my breath for:
    • An Entry/Exit Matrix for the entire PT network that the data wizards out there can use to create new insights into our system.

Is there anything else you would like to see?

AT’s Get on Board with Jerome Campaign

Auckland Transport recently launched a new campaign featuring Jerome Kaino encouraging people to use PT and HOP. It seems to be primarily an online campaign focused on the videos below however I’ve also seen a few ads on the backs of buses too. Overall I think the campaign is pretty well done and Jerome seems like a good choice to front it.

I’m not sure I agree that the journey planner is as great as Jerome suggests. I find it often ignores the most logical or sometimes even the fastest options. For example to get from Takapuna to New Lynn on a Monday afternoon it only suggests catching the horrid 130 bus for almost two hours but ignores the much faster option of catching a bus to town and then transferring to either another bus or a train.

It’s good to see AT talking about what’s coming up and importantly highlight that the changes are helping to give Auckland a system like found in many other cities around the world.

Overall I think AT have done a decent job with this

Although it doesn’t have quite as many cool points as this 1980’s style video that L.A. Metro has just released.

A Tamaki TOD?

Potential good news in the Commercial property section of the Herald on Saturday:

Town centre could rise around new rail station

Tamaki Site

Colin Taylor writes:

One of the biggest remaining parcels of development land in metropolitan Auckland is being promoted for sale as offering a chance to master-plan and develop a big mixed-use project around a major suburban transport hub.

The 5.8ha block of Mt Wellington land is on 14 titles at 81-107 Jellicoe Rd, 127-131 and 143 Pilkington Rd.

Located 9km south-east of the Auckland CBD, the land is zoned Business 4 and has a zoning of Mixed Use Tamaki Sub Precinct A under the proposed Auckland Unitary Plan.

“The property is located within the Tamaki Edge Precinct, which has been given the thumbs-up for commercial, transportation and residential redevelopment by the central government and Auckland Council,” says Peter Herdson of Colliers International who, with colleagues John Goddard and Jason Seymour, is marketing it for sale by private treaty closing at 4pm on November 6 unless it sells beforehand by negotiation.

The site is bounded on its western edge by the disused Tamaki Station on the Eastern Line, roughly equidistant from Panmure and Glen Innes Stations which are 2.2km apart. A new station here could be worth building so long as the new development is big enough to warrant it. Ideally this would mean working with more than this holding alone, especially taking the development across the rail line to the container storage yard and the go-cart track and perhaps more properties fronting Tainui Rd.

This would make the new station centred on a catchment of scale rather than being liminal to the site like the station down the line at Sylvia Park. Naturally this scale of development could be staged as sites became available, but it is important to plan at scale from the beginning. Any new development on the western side would offer the opportunity to improve access from the new and poorly connected Stonefields to the new Station, especially for walking and cycling.

Indicative plans for Tamaki Station show ground floor retail and hospitality premises, with apartment-styled dwellings on upper levels. Townhouses and multi-level apartments arranged around parks and green spaces are envisaged over the balance of the site. There have also been preliminary discussions around the development of a new Tamaki railway station to further boost the site’s connections to the wider Auckland region.

“It is envisaged to become a major transport hub with supporting retail, cafes, restaurants, key services and around 2000 higher-density homes,” Herdson says.

“The impetus for this came from the owner’s aspiration to enable the development of a mixed-use neighbourhood hub around a new station,” he says.

“This would provide a further transport link to the Auckland CBD, while benefiting from Auckland Council’s plan to significantly improve the bus and roading network immediately around the site.”

Goddard says proposed zoning changes under the Unitary Plan make the site a most compelling opportunity for developers.

“The current owners have worked with Auckland Council to put in place proposed zoning changes that have effectively repositioned the property to a much higher-value end use than it can provide under its current zoning.”

However, the proposed zoning under the Unitary Plan enables intensive mixed commercial and residential development on the land, retail of up to 4500sq m in combined gross floor area and height up to 16.5m.

“This increased planning flexibility afforded to the property opens up its potential uses significantly – handing the new owner multiple options to create a new, staged, mixed-use precinct that will become an attractive and convenient place to live near to shops, cafes and a vastly-improved transport infrastructure.”

This area is one of the best opportunities for real mixed used urban development on the existing Rapid Transit network within the city. This line will be running the new electric trains at ten minute frequencies from the the end of the year. Because of existing landuse constraints only really New Lynn, Morningside, and Onehunga offer similar upzoning potential for future TODs [Transit Oriented Development].

But it has to be done well. And much better than recent examples, like Stonefields, which is not mixed use nor well connected, nor like the big-box centres going up on the fringes of the city now to the north and north-west. And Auckland Transport’s traffic engineers will have to restrained from insisting on swamping the area with over-scaled place ruining roading, as they did in New Lynn.

So how to do it? There are a number of ways this could be structured to expedite a high quality outcome at this location.

  • A private developer working closely with Council through the Unitary Plan. But only very big players could take this on.
  • A private development with Housing NZ buying or leasing a proportion of dwellings from the outset. Say 20-30%, this gives some certainty to the developer and funders. Also best practice for social housing is to distribute dwellings throughout the whole city rather than to build or manage concentrations in clumps and government has announced it is rebalancing HNZ’s property portfolio.
  • A PPP with Council Properties CCO. Wouldn’t it be great to get a more active property department at Council? But then would likely be undercapitalised so would probably need to work closely with the private sector, which would probably be a good thing.
  • A de-aggregatted development like Vinegar Lane in Ponsonby where a big redevelopment is masterplaned but then sites are sold to individual holders to build but within the intensively structure conditions. This spreads the funding burden and increases building variation within a controlled plan. I wrote about this last year. And as buildings are now about to start going up there I will do new post on it soon.

With a well scaled development here then an additional station on the line would almost certainly be good thing but it is important to consider the impact this would have on the network. All network design seeks to strike a balance between speed, which means making as few stops as possible, and connectivity, which favours more. So yes another stop would slow the journeys of other users, especially poor for those from further out commuting into the city.

Well happily soon this line will only be operating as far as Manukau City, as Pukekohe and Papakura trains will all be travelling via Newmarket from later this year. But also increasingly we are seeing the rail system in general change both in use and design from a soley Commuter Rail style system to more of a Metro one. This means becoming less focussed on peak commutes from dormitory suburbs to the city centre and, while still serving this core task, also offering all day high frequencies across all lines in both directions for many other types of journeys.

However those longer journeys are still among the most valuable services that the rail network provide as they substitute long car trips so perhaps the best way to manage the speed/connectivity balance is to skip an underused station elsewhere on the network like Westfield, so the net speed cost for longer journeys is zero, and the connectivity and access benefits of the new station are without a network time burden for most.

Potentially this is a very good opportunity for the whole city as it should spark regeneration in a area ready for it and with potential for more, while also offering more variety to our dwelling stock both in terms of location [not ex-urban], connectivity [a Rapid Transit TOD], and price point [not in Ponsonby or Orakei, so the land cost must be lower].

And therefore housing and movement more choice for more people.

The Great Auckland Transit Revival: Theory and Practice

Einstein

2011 saw the release of a study led by Ian Wallis Associates into Auckland’s public transport performance. It is a sober and restrained report that simply sets out to describe the performance of Auckland’s PT systems on comparative terms with a range of not dissimilar cities around the region. A very useful exercise, because while no two cities are identical, all cities face similar tradeoffs and pressures and much can be learned by studying the successes and failures of other places. The whole document is here.

The cities selected for the study are all in anglophone nations around the Pacific from Australia, the US, Canada, and New Zealand, with Auckland right in the middle in terms of size. And as summarised by Mathew Dearnaley in the Herald at the time, it showed Auckland to be the dunce of the class by pretty much every metric. Although the article is called Auckland in last place for public transport use it’s clear that the headline it would have reflected the report’s findings more accurately if the paper had simply said; Auckland in last place for public transport. Because it showed that the low uptake of public transport in Auckland cannot be separated from the low quality, slow, infrequent, and expensive services available.

Here’s the uptake overview:

Comparator cities

So it’s clear that population alone is no determinant of PT uptake. If it isn’t the size of the city what is it? Various people have their pet theories, some like to claim various unfixable emotional factors are at work, like our apparently ‘car-loving’ culture, though is it credible that we have a more intense passion for cars than Americans or Australians? The homes of Bathurst and the Indy 500? Others claim that the geography of this quite long and harbour constrained city somehow suits road building and driving over bus, train, and ferry use. A quixotic claim especially when compared to the flat and sprawling cities of the American West which much more easily allow space for both wide roads and endless dispersal in every direction. Another popular claim is that Auckland isn’t dense enough to support much Transit use. Yet it is considerably denser than all but the biggest cities on the list.

So what does the study say is the reason for Auckland’s outlying performance?

It considers service quantity [PT kms per capita], quality [including speed, reliability, comfort, safety, etc] and cost both for the passenger and society, and easy of use [payment systems]. Along with other issues such as mode interoperability, and land-use/transit integration. And all at considerable depth. The report found that Auckland’s PT services are poor, often with the very worst performance by all of these factors and this is the main driver of our low uptake.

And happily some of the things that stand out in the report are well on the way to being addressed. Here, for example is what it says about fares:

Fares and ticketting Benchmark Study

The HOP card is no doubt a huge improvement and has enabled some fare cost improvement. And we can expect more to be done in this area soon, we are told, especially for off peak fares. Additionally the integration of fares is still to come [zone charging].

Here’s what it says about service quantity and quality:

Service qual. Benchmark Study

Oh dear.

Yet there is one thing that the report returns to on a number of occasions that perhaps best captures what’s wrong with Auckland, and offers a fast track to improvement. And, even at this early stage, gives us a way of checking the theory against results in the real world:

Rapid Transit benchmark study

Right, so perhaps the biggest problem with Auckland’s PT system is simply the lack of enough true Rapid Transit routes and services. To qualify as true Rapid Transit it is generally accepted that along with the definition above, a separate right of way, the services must also offer a ‘turn up and go’ frequency, at least at the busiest sections of the lines. And that this is generally considered to mean a service at least every ten minutes, but ideally even more frequent than that.

In Auckland we only have the Rail Network and the Northern Busway that qualify as using separate right of ways, and the busway for only 41% of its route. At least the frequencies on the Busway are often very high, where as on the Rail Network they only make it to ten minute frequencies for the busiest few hours of the day. So to say that Auckland has any real high quality Rapid Transit services even now is a bit of a stretch. However these services have been improving in the three years since the report was released, and will continue to do so in the near future with the roll out of the new trains and higher frequencies on the Rail Network, and more Bus lanes on the North Shore routes especially at the city end of their runs.

Here is a map with a fairly generous description of our current or at least improving Rapid Transit Network:

CFN 2015

Even though it is only three years since the report was released, and there is much more to come, there have been improvements, so we can ask; how have the public responded to the improvements to date?

Below are the latest Ridership numbers from Auckland Transport, for August 2014:

August 2014 Ridership

SOI: Statement Of Intent, AT’s expectations or hopes. NEX: Northern Express.

So the chart above, showing our most ‘Rapid’ services, Rail and the NEX, are clearly attracting more and more users out of all proportion with the rest, and way above Auckland Transport’s expectations or hopes as expressed by the SOI, is a pretty good indication that both the report authors were right, Auckland is crying out for more Rapid Transit services and routes, and, at least in this case, Einstein was wrong: Practice does indeed seem to be baring out the Theory.

And from here we can clearly expect this rise in uptake to continue, if not actually increase, as the few Rapid Transit routes we have now are going to continue to get service improvements. And 19% increases, if sustained, amount to a doubling in only four years! Rail ridership was around 10 million a year ago, so it could be approaching 20 mil by mid 2017, if this rate of growth is sustained.

But this also means we can clearly expect any well planned investment in extensions to the Rail Network [eg CRL] or additional busways [eg North Western] to also be rewarded with over the odds increases in use. Aucklanders love quality, and give them high quality PT and they will use it.

Furthermore, given that these numbers are in response to only partial improvements even extending on-street bus lanes for regular bus services looks highly likely to be meet with accelerated ridership growth. I think it is pretty clear that Auckland Transport, NZTA, MoT, and Auckland Council can be confident that any substantive quality, frequency, and right-of-way improvement to PT in Auckland will be rewarded with uptake.

Given that Auckland’s PT use is advancing ahead of population growth [unlike the driving stats] I believe we have already improved that poor number up top to 47 trips per person per year. So there’s still plenty of room for growth even to catch up with the next city on the list. So perhaps it’s time to formally update that report too?

Imagine just how well a full city wide network of Rapid Transit would be used? Clearly Auckland is ready for it:

CFN 2030 South-Grafton

 

 

Orakei Bay Village – To P&R or not to P&R?

Some of you who have been living in Auckland over the last decade might recall the long-running saga that is the Orakei Bay Village.

When the project was first mooted around a decade ago, it was met with furious local opposition. Thankfully the proposal has now progressed to a “point” where new houses may actually be delivered. Stage 1 is illustrated below (sourced from here); as you can see it’s a reasonably pleasant spot to develop some houses, shops, and some new recreational facilities.

Orakei_Hero_with_no_labels

Not only is the development situated on the edge of Hobson Bay, it is also accessible to Orakei Station in the Eastern Line, which is barely 8 minutes by train to Britomart, something the developers are keen to point out. The merits of the development itself, however, are not the topic of this post.

Instead, in this post I want to explore the merits of providing park and ride at Orakei Station. Some of you may also know that Orakei Station currently provides about 178 park and ride spaces. In the above photo you can see the park and ride spaces shown in the bottom right hand corner. Their presence in close proximity to medium to high density housing looked to me to be somewhat anomalous.

In this previous post I explored some of the merits of P&R and discussed the conditions where P&R might work well. Since that post was written AT has released a draft parking discussion document, which provides more specific criteria to guide future investment in park and ride. The key section is illustrated below (p. 44).

Capture

Below I’ve undertaken a brief evaluation of Orakei Point’s suitability for park and ride compared to the most pertinent policy points outlined in AT’s parking discussion document:

  • Wider PT accessibility. This location will be well-served by all-day bus connections. The all-day network released with AT’s Regional Public Transport Plan shows how both Orakei and the adjacent Meadowbank station will be accessible from local bus services. Indeed, to access Orakei you have to drive past these bus stops. For this reason, providing park and ride at Orakei is likely to undermine local bus services.
  • Local congestion around the station. Traffic congestion was frequently put forward by local residents as a reason to decline the proposed plan change for Orakei Point. Their opposition suggests the local area does experience traffic congestion, which is of course likely to be exacerbated by the provision of park and ride.
  • Congestion upstream of the station. While there is congestion upstream of the station, the city centre is so close that the resulting congestion relief provided by a park and ride at Orakei would appear to be fairly small, at least compared to other potential park and ride locations located further away from the city centre (where land is also cheaper).
  • Land use controls of the area surrounding the station. The recent plan change means that this location is now suitable for high-density development, as evident from the above image. This suggests that park and ride might not be the highest and best use of this land.
  • Public transport fare zones. Orakei is only one stage to Britomart. This in turn means that providing park and ride in this location may encourage people drive to the train at Orakei as a way of avoiding paying a higher fare for travelling from further out. In this way, park and ride at Orakei might undermine revenue (although of course the zone structure may change in the future).

When evaluated against AT’s five main park and ride investment criteria, Orakei Point does not appear to be a suitable location for park and ride. Perhaps the only criteria where there is doubt relates to the potential congestion relief benefits of the P&R. We can, however, do some quick calculations to quantify whether this argument has any merit.

Auckland Council’s GIS viewer suggests land at Orakei Point is valued at approximately $900 per sqm. If we use this land value and assume 30 sqm per car-park, then we get $25,000 per car-park. Let’s round that up to $30k per car-park to allow for some capital depreciation/operating costs. Using this figure within a standard discounted cash-flow model (i.e. 8% discount rate; 30 year lifetime) then we can calculate that a benefit stream of approximately $2,500 per car-park p.a. is required to yield a benefit cost ratio of 1, i.e. to reach economic break-even point.

Now we need to asses the congestion reduction that might follow from providing park and ride in this location.

If we assume vehicles using the Orakei park and ride would otherwise travel to the city centre (i.e. somewhere in the vicinity of Britomart) via Kepa Road and Orakei Drive, then each avoided vehicle trip will save about 5km of driving, or 10km per return trip. If we then annualise this distance by assuming 220 days p.a., then we find that each vehicle diverted to using the park and ride as opposed to driving to the city centre would save about 2,200 vehicle km p.a.

This previous post, however, presented evidence on some of the diversion effects of park and ride. Research in the Netherlands found that only 25% of park and ride users would otherwise drive for their entire journey in the in the absence of park and ride. Instead, many park and ride users were “diverted” from alternative options, such that park and rides caused a net increase in driving in many locations. Post-opening surveys of the Northern Express also found large diversion rates, with only 50% of park and ride users responding that they previously drove to the city centre.

This diversion effect can be incorporated into our calculations by factoring down the vehicle kilometre savings down, by say 50%. This suggests that 1,100 vehicle kilometres p.a. are removed from the road network for every park and ride space provided. If we divide the annual cost ($2,500) by the annual benefit (1,100km), then we find that the cost of removing this travel from the road network is $2.26 per vehicle kilometre. This means that each kilometre removed from the road network by providing park and ride at Orakei has to generate $2.26 in congestion reduction benefits to make the investment worthwhile.

Personally, this seems like an implausibly high congestion reduction benefit to attribute to removing vehicle travel from the road network.

To put it in context, the average journey to work trip by car in Auckland is approximately 10km. Using this per kilometre rate, removing the average journey to work trip by car would generate approximately $23 in congestion savings. And even this relatively high congestion reduction benefit would result in a benefit-cost ratio of only 1.0, i.e. an extremely marginal investment from NZTA’s perspective.

Of course, there may be other benefits from providing park and ride. However, there’s also additional costs.

Remember that some of the people diverted to using the P&R would have otherwise used park and ride elsewhere and/or used a connecting bus. Providing park and ride at Orakei therefore might be expected to increase the congestion generated by these journeys compared to an alternative scenario in which park and ride was not provided at Orakei Point.

Finally, there’s also the longer term land use displacement effect. This reflects how choosing to provide park and ride in this location would tend to reduce the intensity of residential development that could be accommodated at the site. Some of the residents displaced by providing park and ride will likely choose to live further out from the city, in locations where they are even more likely to drive.

In conclusion, based on this back of the envelope assessment Orakei Point does not seem to be a suitable location for park and ride.

That’s not to say, however, that park and ride in other locations might not be worthwhile. Indeed, if we consider our simple benefit-cost analysis then investment in park and ride would seem to make the most sense where: 1) land values are low; 2) vehicle trip distances and long; and 3) it does not compete with non-car access modes.

The Next Decade

Yesterday I had a look some of the changes Auckland has seen over the last decade and as mentioned, here are some predictions for the next decade. To start off I’m going to address the projections made in the Herald by Victoria University Associate Professor Ian Yeoman.

We might not be flying around on jetpacks but we will definitely be using driverless cars, Yeoman says. “By 2024, we won’t need a test because all the cars will be self-drive.”

That will benefit those new to the country and the ageing, more frail population, he says. “Driverless cars will become more important and more mainsteam.”

He expects the electronic car will be more common than the combustion engine. “Electric cars and battery technology have come so far – electric cars are even sexy now… Porsche is doing an electric vehicle.”

Yeoman says the country’s cycleways will be populated by people on electric bikes rather than operating under pedal power. And although jetpacks will probably still be just a fun innovation and not something you’d consider relying on for your daily commute, Yeoman sees potential in the Terraflugia, a car that is licensed for road and flight.

Yeoman tells people: “Everything you saw on Star Trek has come true, except for teletransportation.”

Many many companies are now putting a lot of work into driverless cars yet they still appear to be years away from the market and even if they were available within 5 years, it’s unlikely they will be available or affordable for the mainstream market for considerably longer. What’s more even if they are available within a decade New Zealanders are keeping their cars for longer with the average age of vehicles increasing to 13.5 years old last year. In Auckland the average age is slightly less but also showing the same upward trend. It’s also for this reason that electric cars are likely to remain only a small proportion of the fleet in a decade

Average Vehicle Age

If driverless cars do start to be seen the first and probably biggest impact they will have will be on the taxi industry. Public Transport is the other area that could really benefit from driverless technology, it’s obviously used on some rail networks already although we probably need a more secure network before it’s possible here. Like taxi’s buses represent a huge opportunity as the labour costs are a huge portion of the operational costs.

Johnny Cab Total Recall

Johnny Cab from Total Recall

As for the Terraflugia, that’s still really pie in the sky territory.

Cycling

The one area I do agree with Yeoman on electric bikes which offer the potential to effectively flatten out Auckland’s hills and see a lot more people out on bikes – that is if Auckland Transport pick up their game and build a lot more cycling infrastructure. Getting additional funding for more cycling infrastructure is something I think we will see happening, particularly towards the end of the decade as the number of people on bikes and public and political support for more cycling infrastructure continues to increase.

After being dragged through the environment court Skypath will be built and will be incredibly popular not just for commuters but for tourists too. By the end of the decade most people will be wondering why it wasn’t built sooner and why it wasn’t funded by the government.

Skypath

Public Transport

Public transport is where I think we’ll see the biggest change over the next decade. As mentioned we’re already seeing PT usage increasing faster than Auckland’s population is increasing thanks to the investment that’s already been made however it’s not till the next few years we’ll really see the fruition of many years work become a reality. By 2017 we will have electric trains rolled out across the network and running at good all day frequencies. On top of that will be the dramatically better new bus network along with additional bus priority further improving choice and mobility for many people. Add in ferries and linking everything up with be integrated fares allowing people with HOP substantially easier (and possibly cheaper) trips around the region.

These improvements are of course not new with many cities having made them before however not many would have done them all at the same time. The effects of each project will combine to revolutionise PT in Auckland and I think will see patronage soar ahead of predictions and by 2024 be sitting somewhere between 120 and 140 million trips. On a per capita basis that would likely put Auckland at a similar level that Wellington is at now but which is still below many peer cities.

2024 Future patronage

During the next decade I do think the CRL will be built and completed. The section from Britomart to Wyndham St will start sometime next year as part of the Downtown Shopping Centre redevelopment. My guess is the government will give the green light for funding the rest of the project in 2016 and actual construction will start in 2017 finishing around 2021/22.

As with cycling, I think the growing usage of PT along with the ever increasing public and political appetite for more PT infrastructure will see other major projects be substantially advanced. This includes

  • The Northwest Busway
  • The AMETI Busway
  • Electrification to Pukekohe
  • Designation and perhaps even an extension of the Onehunga line to Mangere as part of a longer term goal of getting the line to the airport.

In short I think the next decade is going to be a fantastic one for public transport.

Roads

There’s a huge amount of construction activity going on at the moment or is just about to start as part of the governments roading binge. All things going to plan in 2017 the Waterview Connection will be completed as well as the widening of SH16 and associated interchange upgrades. Associated with this is the governments $800 million for widening and upgrading other motorways around Auckland. This is likely to have the effect of sucking many more trips on to the motorway, some from alternative routes and some from induced demand. While it will see more people being able to drive around Auckland I suspect the queues on the roads will be just the same as they are now.

I suspect a big challenge for Simon Bridges over the next 3-4 years will be thinking through what the government will do next with transport in Auckland. The reality is almost all state highway projects in Auckland will have been done or nearing completion within half a decade. Further as these projects are completed it is likely to free up substantial sums of money (some of which will likely be used by the NZTA in other parts of the country. I do think we’ll see another couple of major motorway projects in Auckland in the form of widening SH16 between Lincoln Rd and Westgate (something that seems to have dropped off the radar) and from extending the SH16 motorway to Kumeu (the section from Brigham Creek Rd to Kumeu is one of the busier single lane roads in the region with well over 20,000 vehicles per day.

On the metrics I think we’ll continue to see per capita vehicle Kilometres Travelled (VKT) remain flat although the total number of km travelled will increase slightly.

Governance and Funding

I’m not going to make any predictions about what will happen with governance but I do suspect Len Brown will stand again in 2016. Once again transport is likely to be the hot topic issue. I don’t think we’ll see any mayoral candidates oppose the CRL although some candidates for councillor will do. What happens further out than that is way too hard to predict.

Over the next half decade or so the issues around transport funding are likely to become more obvious and while they have been reluctant too so far, I think the government will start looking at how they can raise additional money to pay for transport projects and supplement fuel taxes which won’t be growing as people continue shifting to more fuel efficient vehicles and people don’t drive as much as predicted.

Urban Spaces and development

Auckland has seen some impressive change over the last few years and I expect that will continue in the coming decade. We’ll see huge changes in the CBD in particular as projects included in the Downtown Framework (and the other frameworks start to be delivered. These projects will continue to transform Auckland into a more people friendly place and I suspect it will have an effect not just on the liveability of the city but in attracting visitors to check out Auckland.

I think we’ll also see some of the strongest opposition to intensification and change reduce as people start to see better and better examples of good design. This isn’t to say there’ll be no opposition to development but just not quite the level of fear that currently exists.

Overall I think Auckland in 10 years time is going to be a very interesting place, one that has started to make huge inroads to fixing its scars from the second half of the 20th century. There’s a lot to be positive about.

The Last Decade

The Herald on Sunday are celebrating their 10th birthday by looking at how things were 10 years ago so I thought I’d do the same by from a transport/urban slant.

Population

Just over 1.3 million people lived in Auckland compared to today which is pushing towards 1.6 million. The area with the strongest population growth over the last decade has been in the CBD with last year’s census showing that over 29,000 are now living in the area, up by approximately 14,000 people and which is ahead of earlier estimates.

Governance

We’ve seen huge changes in the governance is Auckland with the 8 former councils (7 territorial councils and the regional council) merged into a single body. This has also seen the creation of Auckland Transport to manage all transport across the region. On the whole I think both the council and AT have been relatively successful and will be more so now that they’re really starting to get through the issues of combining and prioritising the multitude of legacy plans and ideas.

Public Transport

A decade ago Britomart had only been opened for a year and there was no Northern Busway and even projects like double tracking the western line or electrification of the rail network were just pipe dreams. Bus frequencies even on the busiest routes left a lot to be desired, especially off peak. Overall Aucklanders made around 52 million trips on PT (approx 39 trips per person).

Today the usage PT has seen significant growth now up to 73 million trips (47 trips per person) and we are on the cusp of even greater growth thanks to a handful of projects that vastly improve services (electrification, new network, integrated fares etc.).

Aug - 14 - Total by mode

PT RESOLUTION EMU_6484

Electric Trains for Auckland were just a pipe dream a decade ago – Photo by Patrick Reynolds

Private Transport

While there has been investment in PT over the last decade it pales in comparison to the investment in the roading network. On the state highway network alone we’ve had the following projects completed.

  • Central Motorway Junction Upgrade
  • SH18 Upper harbour Highway and duplicated upper harbour bridge
  • SH20 Mt Roskill extension
  • SH20 Manukau Harbour Crossing
  • SH20 Manukau connection
  • SH18 Hobsonville Deviation
  • Significant progress on the Waterview Connection and the widening and upgrade of SH16 and its interchanges.
  • Strengthening of the Harbour Bridge clip-ons

On top of that there has been numerous local road upgrades. All up more than $5 billion has been spent on new or upgraded roads in the region and that doesn’t maintenance or operations costs. Since 2004 the number of kilometres travelled (VKT) on Auckland’s roads has increased from close to 11.1 billion km to just over 12.7 billion km in 2013, an increase of about 15% however crucially that’s about the same as population growth and so on a per capita basis vehicle travel has remained virtually flat.

Auckland VKT - 2013

Data from the NZTA shows that the areas where vehicle volumes are growing strongly are typically the areas that have recently been upgraded, inducing additional trips. In many other areas traffic volumes have been flat or even declined. For example on average fewer vehicles cross the Harbour Bridge now than they did in 2004.

AHB 1960-2013

Wynyard Quarter

This and many of the other changes could fit into a didn’t exist 5 years ago category if I had one. North Wharf which represents the first stage in the redevelopment of the Wynyard Quarter was only opened 3 years ago just before the Rugby World Cup. The area has seen a colossal amount of change from an area dedicated to the storage of bulk liquids and servicing the marine industry into a successful people space that people want to visit. The redevelopment has been so successful it’s won numerous international awards including two just a few weeks ago.

Shared Spaces

Like the Wynyard Quarter the shared spaces opened just before the RWC but they already feel like they’ve been part of Auckland’s fabric for much longer. We now have shared spaces on Elliot St, Federal St, Fort St (and surrounds), Lorne St outside the library and O’Connell St. Not only do these shared spaces look much better, they’ve also been incredibly successful in other ways. For example as of 2012, spending on hospitality in Fort St had increased by a staggering 400% compared with before the upgrade. Shared spaces have also started to be seen in other locations outside the CBD.

O'Connell Opening

EYELIGHT LANE_9158

Fort Lane – Photo by Patrick Reynolds

Improved Built Environment

The improvements to the city haven’t just been to the streets but we’re also starting to see improvements to the built environment. The internationally award winning renovation and extension to the Auckland Art Gallery is a fantastic example

auckland-art-gallery-best-shot

Auckland Art Gallery – Photo by Patrick Reynolds

This is of course far from an exhaustive list of the changes that have occurred in Auckland over the last decade but hopefully it serves to remind that the city has change substantially and for the better. This improvement has been despite constant opposition from many quarters. We are definitely on a path to becoming a much more people focused city and it’s been shown that when we put our mind to it we can achieve significant change.

Tomorrow I’m going to look at what the next 10 years may hold.

Photo of the Day: Hobson Bay

HOBSON BAY_3329

I recently had the privilege of spending a day on a cliff top above Hobson Bay. As a student I lived for a year over the Parnell end of the bay so this was both a reminder of that for me and the experience of a different angle onto the view. And how lovely it is, no wonder properties on these cliffs command such high prices. And, at least for me, the view is considerably enhanced by the constant activity across the bay both on land and water. The crossings that cut off the seaward end of the bay are far enough away to be interesting activity rather than invasive neighbour [cf St Mary's Bay]. A six lane freeway on the landward side of the rail line, however, would be a hideous intrusion. And will never happen. The planned walking and cycling boardwalk will be a fantastic addition and well used.

A few observations:

Of the four kinds of trains running on the line at the moment the loudest and by far the least mellifluous are the loco hauled passenger services, then the DMUs, I was surprised with how little noise the freighters made, perhaps this is because they seemed to be going fairly slowly. The EMUs are a flashing delight. The movement of the tide adds visual interest and changes the reflection of the sound considerably. A jetskier in the bay below at high tide was the worst intrusion on the day.

Spot the yellow and blue caterpillar:

HOBSON BAY_3301

HOBSON BAY_3309

Two EMUs crossing:

HOBSON BAY_3442

lovely at low tide too:

HOBSON BAY_3449

old v new, not for much longer:

HOBSON BAY_3536

Reflections on Melbourne and Sydney

2014 was an auspicious year. Whether by cosmic alignment or fickle chance, Easter Monday and Anzac Day fell in the same week, and I was able to shoot off to Melbourne and Sydney for ten days with only three days off from work. We talk about these larger cities a fair bit on the blog – they’re both almost three times the population – but I think there’s still some interesting points left to make.

Getting by with fewer cars

In Melbourne, I stayed with a friend in the outskirts of the city, 35 km away from the CBD. Despite living this far out, he and his partner get by with a single car. They commute to the CBD by bus and train, and only really use the car in the weekends. With car licensing at $700 a year, and the other costs of car ownership that go with it, they don’t see the need for a second vehicle.

I also caught up with a couple of friends who live more centrally in Melbourne, and who work centrally as well, and neither of them own a car. Likewise, the friends I saw in Sydney were a couple with just one car between them. The people I’m talking about are all professionals, but they manage to get by with fewer cars then they would in Auckland. There’s a real cost saving there.

This observation also comes through in the census data. The average Auckland household has 1.7 cars, compared with 1.6 in Melbourne and 1.5 in Sydney (actually, the figures will be slightly higher than that… I’ve assumed that all households with “three or more” motor vehicles only have three).

Better transport options – public, active modes and so on – make all the difference. Auckland is very well placed to make some big changes on that front, a point Peter made very well here. We just need to take advantage of those opportunities.

P1000031 small

Don’t forget to publicise the shiny new things. Not that this tram was particularly shiny, but you get the idea.

Metro Rail Networks/ City Rail Link equivalents

Of course, and as we’ve discussed previously on the blog, Melbourne and Sydney both have much more extensive train networks than Auckland. They’re also adding new lines as we speak – the Sydney routes map below shows two new lines currently under construction. The Melbourne map doesn’t show what’s currently being built, but the Regional Rail Link is underway and due for completion in 2016.

Also visible from these two maps, of course, is that both Melbourne and Sydney have their own version of the City Rail Link – looped track through the city centre. Brisbane and Perth do as well, for that matter… more on those in another post.

Smart card bundling

Melbourne has recently stopped accepting cash or paper tickets on all public transport services. You’ve got to have a smart card, called “myki”.

A myki costs AUD $6, and you can also buy a “myki Visitor Value Pack” for $14 – it’s preloaded with a day’s worth of unlimited Zone 1 travel (covering the CBD and most of the inner suburbs where tourists would want to go). However, the thing I really like about this pack is that it bundles the myki card with discounts for 15 of Melbourne’s major attractions, including the aquarium and Eureka Skydeck. The discounts are pretty good in some cases, up to around 20% off admission.

This is a great way of getting myki cards into the hands of tourists who might otherwise be put off by the fact that they can’t pay with cash when they’re only in town for a short visit. It shows a pretty good understanding of consumer behaviour, and it’d be good to see something similar here – how about it, Auckland Transport/ council? For starters, there are the council-run attractions such as the zoo and museum… Or for that matter, why don’t the private sector guys – Kelly Tarlton’s, Skytower, and so on – get the ball rolling on this?

*Update – as Matt wrote this morning, it turns out that AT are already working on this: “concept development for 1/3/7 day and customized HOP cards for visitor / tourist PT and tourist attraction discounted access is nearing completion”, and AT are hoping to release something for January 2015 to tie in with the next Auckland Nines. Good stuff!

Variable quality cycling infrastructure

Melbourne has some pretty good quality infrastructure, with a number of separated cycle paths and trails, and a large network of bike lanes. However, the city is let down by the Australian laws which require cyclists to wear helmets – as for New Zealand. According to cycle-helmets.com, which has a wide range of resources on the topic:

In Melbourne, surveys at the same 64 observation sites (PDF 535kb) in May 1990 and May 1991 [before and after the introduction of compulsory helmet legislation] found there were 29% fewer adults and 42% fewer child cyclists (36% overall). Each site was observed for two 5 hour periods chosen from the four time blocks of weekday morning, weekend morning, weekday afternoon and weekend afternoon, representing a total of 640 hours of observation. The weather was broadly similar for both surveys. Victoria introduced compulsory bike helmet legislation in late 1990.

In the first year of compulsory helmet legislation in Victoria, child cycling went down by 36% and child head injuries went down by 32%. Surveys taken in May/June 1990, 1991 and 1992, reported by Cameron et al. (1992), indicated that total children’s bicycling activity in Victoria had reduced by 36% in the first year of the helmet law, and by a total of 45% in the second year.

There’s some more on this topic here – written, funnily enough, by a libertarian think tank. It was good to see the ACT party picking up on this earlier this year, and saying their policy would be to scrap the helmet law.

P1000030 small

A bike hire scheme run by a hotel called The Olsen – not sure if it’s available to the general public

Stuff happening

There seemed to be cranes everywhere in the Melbourne and Sydney CBDs – reflecting a country which didn’t have the same slowdown we had here in New Zealand. Of course, and as reported by the Herald, we’re starting to get things going again in Auckland as well. Construction activity is picking up in many parts of the city and in most sectors.

 

White elephants

As many will know, the Sydney monorail was decommissioned last year, after just 25 years of operation. I’m no expert on monorails, but according to a newspaper article from the time, light rail would have cost 33% less, and could have carried 60% more passengers per hour. And now the monorail’s been torn down, so the government can put in light rail after all. Go figure.

P1000269 small

There’s probably a couple of lessons that can be taken out of this. Firstly, monorails tend to be a waste of money. Secondly, and more importantly, it’s important for public (or private, for that matter) transport infrastructure to be well thought out, and provide value. This is why our Congestion Free Network delays investment in some public transport projects which we don’t think give good value for money, and brings forward others which do. It’s also why we advocate different solutions for different corridors – heavy rail for some, light rail (potentially) for others, busways for others.