Issues to repeat for Santa Parade

It’s that time of year again where tens of thousands of people embark on an annual pilgrimage to Auckland’s city centre to watch the Santa Parade. The parade this year is being held on Sunday 29th at 1pm (it’s been at 2pm in the past).


In the past we’ve criticised Auckland Transport for how they’ve handled various aspects of the parade. In particular this has been the transport arrangements they create for getting to the parade and how they deal with Queen St and people afterwards. So what are they doing this year?

First on the transport arrangements AT have published information about this and while a slight improvement over last year, once again I’m left disappointed.

The good thing is that on many routes extra buses, trains and ferries have been put on and AT are being clear about where these are. Last year AT made it clear about the extra trains and ferries didn’t say anything about extra buses despite actually putting them on – putting extra services on for events and not communicating it has been a common issue for AT. The website lists all the bus routes which will have extra services and the times they will run so well that’s a good thing.

There are extra trains being run too however if you want to catch one keep an eye on the timetables. On many of the lines the extra services are only doing a short run, for example on the Western Line they will only run from New Lynn which means if you live further out you only have the normal half hourly services. When it comes time to head home things may be a little crowded too, out west there’s only one extra train on each of the three main lines to take people home

The downside of it all is that normal fares still apply. Given the $24 family pass can only be purchased from a few train stations it cab makes travel very expensive for many families. For example a family of four travelling from Papatoetoe would have to pay almost $31 for their journey to and from the city and that’s only if they all had HOP cards. If they didn’t have HOP cards that cost goes up to $42.

Note: Stations that you can buy a family pass from are Britomart, New Lynn, Newmarket, Panmure, Manukau, Papakura and Pukekohe.

With prices like those many families will likely opt to drive, especially considering that once again Auckland Transport are offering free carparking in their city centre buildings

If you are planning to drive to the parade, please be aware that road closures and parking restrictions will be in place.

Public parking is free at the Downtown, Victoria Street and Civic (parking will be limited at Civic) car parks for vehicles exiting between 1pm and 6pm.

Given those buildings combined only have capacity for about 2,000 vehicles it’s amazing that AT once again offered this.

The other main issue we’ve had in the past is a rush by AT and the likes of the Police to shuffle families on just so that they can reopen Queen St as fast as possible to a handful of drivers.


AT haven’t yet stated what time they’ll reopen Queen St to traffic however in my view they should leave it closed for the day, helping encourage people linger in the city. The numbers in Queen St at this time easily eclipse most other days. This can easily be seen from the excellent data Heart of the City collect through a network of automated pedestrian counters and which they publish online.

As you can see below, pedestrian volumes at 210 and 261 Queen St on the day of the Santa Parade were considerably higher than the year before and well above normal (volumes are just for one side of the road)

Santa Parade Ped Volumes

It will be interesting to see what they do about the Santa Parade next year seeing as a key part of the route – up Albert St – is going to be in the midst of construction of the CRL and many other buildings.

AT November Board Meeting

Tomorrow the Auckland Transport Board meet and as usual I’ve picked through the main reports looking for any bits of information that I find interesting. First up the items in the closed session

Items for Approval/Decision

  • Tamaki Ngapipi – AT say this will be publicly released soon and my guess is it will be a decision as to whether to proceed with a signalised intersection like AT staff want or a roundabout like the local board want.
Tamaki -Ngapipi Signalised Option

The signalised intersection AT want to build Tamaki Dr & Ngapipi Rd

  • Real Estate Inventory Optimisation
  • Assignment of Lease to Ferry Building Limited

Items for Noting

  • Deep Dive – EMU post implementation review – Hopefully this is something that will soon be made public but it almost seems a bit soon to be doing a post implementation review giving they’ve only just rolled out and AT are still meant to be fixing issues like dwell times.
  • AT Metro subsidy – this could be another fascinating paper, especially in light of the fact farebox recovery has been improving rapidly of late thanks to the roll out of the EMUs and surging patronage.
  • CRL update

On to the main business report – comments are based on the order the items they refer to appear in the report

AT have been saying for a few months that some of the options for renewing their rolling stock insurance. They’ve now done that and the saving ended up at $130,000 which is more than they had been saying. The news on the sale of the old trains seems to be about the same as it was last month.

AT signed off their Regional Land Transport Programme (RLTP) in July however occasionally things come up that require them to add a variation. They say they can add minor changes themselves but major ones need to be consulted on and as such they’ve added two projects to the current RLTP. One is the Auckland Transport Alignment Project which meant to be about coming up with a transport programme that can be agreed on by both the council and the government. The other one they’ve added is from the NZTA and is SH20B to the Airport for which the NZTA say they need to undertake an overarching strategy for the corridor. Perhaps they’re lining this up as a project to fill the void when the current tranche of projects finish.

Project updates

The upgrade of the northern part of Albany Highway is on track for completion late next year which AT say is well ahead of schedule. They say significant sections of off road cycle and footpaths are now open for people to use with more to come before Christmas.

Consultation on stages 2 and 3 of the shared path between Glen Innes and Tamaki Dr will happen in early 2016. That will see the path extend as far as the Orakei Train station

Early 2016 will also see the consultation of quite a few walking/cycling projects including

  • Stages 2 and 3 of the shared path between Glen Innes and Tamaki Dr will happen in early 2016. These are the stages that will see the path extend as far as the Orakei Train station
  • Waitemata Safe Routes which will involve three separate routes, one from Westmere Shops to Grey Lynn, one from Coxs Bay Reserve to the NW Cycleway and one on Richmond Rd to link the two together.
  • New Lynn to Waterview Shared Path which will take place in late January.

All Electric trains have been provisionally accepted into the fleet and had software updates over Labour Weekend to address a number of performance issues with the traction control and passenger information systems.

A council decision on the Newmarket crossing project (closing Sarawia St) is likely to happen in May 4 months earlier than expected. AT say that at the time of writing the report only two submissions had been received on it, one in support and one neutral. Submissions would still have been open at the time of writing that though.

At Parnell AT say the platforms should be complete by the end of November but won’t recommence on the station till next year once Kiwirail do their part of the work on the station (they need consent to bring in the old Newmarket Station building and refurbish it). AT are seeing whether they can get some funding to build a link from the station to the developments in Carlaw Park – something that should have been core part of the project. They also say the new owner of the old Mainline Depot site (Summerset, who will build a retirement village) have made requests to amend the station access which AT is reviewing. All of the station works aren’t due to be completed till June next year.

Other updates

Over the years I’ve seen a lot of complaints about the traffic lights in New Lynn in the local papers. AT say that after a review and incorporating feedback they’re going to make some changes to them to “improve flow of traffic through the town centre” which will apparently enhance “public transport reliability and pedestrian accessibility”. I find it odd how much the report talks about it all being about pedestrians when the real reason is about driving – pedestrian washing if you will. They will

  • Removal of signals to the access way at McCrae Way and Great North Road
  • Trial camera detection on a pedestrian crossing at Memorial Dr to “optimise the use of the intersection for pedestrian movement and traffic flow” in other words to stop people crossing the road from holding up cars.
  • Trial removing signals at one of the intersections of Ward St (not sure which one).

AT are now using Bluetooth to monitor travel time data in real time across six city centre routes. The NZTA also use this technology to monitor travel times on the route to the airport and explain it a bit in this press release.

Bluetooth Monitored City Routes

One interesting bit of information that normally stays behind the scenes appears in this board report. It is an explanation about ATs traffic counting programme. They say it costs them $678k annually to count traffic and have 1882 programmed for this financial year with 643 completed by the end of September.

Public Transport

Integrated Fares are now not due till July 2016.

AT are still evaluating the tenders for the new bus network in South Auckland

AT say they’re consulting with schools who have school bus routes that duplicate existing rail or bus routes. The intention is to remove the school bus routes with children obviously catching a normal bus or train instead.

The Puhinui station upgrade is due to be completed by the end of the month.

The Park Rd bus lane between the Hospital and Carlton Gore Rd is due to be completed in December – I hope they have some enforcement lined up so that people will stop parking in it

Apparently there is new journey planner software being implemented today that will finally allow for multi-modal and multi trip journey planning.

Forward Planner

Something I haven’t really covered in the board paper posts before is the boards forward programme. This highlights the subject of papers going to the upcoming board committees and next full board meeting. Like the closed session there are some very interesting topics. For example

CFC on 3 December – Customer Focus Committee

  • ATAP update
  • Car Sharing Policy Framework*
  • Draft Statement of Intent
  • Berm Planting Policy Update
  • Station Gating*
  • Security & Fare Enforcement*
  • Annual Fare Price Review*

CRC on 3 December – Not sure what this stands for

  • Potential Purewa Station
  • Joint review of AMETI Delivery Strategy – update and key next steps
  • East West*
  • Penlink – Confirmation of Notice of Requirement*
  • LRT Strategic Case*
  • CRL – Albert Street ramps

The items with a * are also due to appear in the next closed session of full board meeting. That also includes a few other papers too such as

  • Northern Busway Station Preferred Option – although it appears this may be moved to next year.
  • PwC – Value for Money Report – As I understand it, this is looking at AT is delivering value for money in how it operates so could be very interesting.
  • NZTTL Briefing Paper – NZTTL is the NZTA organisation which owns and controls the back end systems that HOP uses.


Oct-15 Patronage and Rail to 15 million

Rail patronage continues to soar to new heights and yesterday passed 15 million trips within a year for the first time. That marks also the third million trip milestone we’ve seen this year after passing 13 million trips in March and 14 million trips in July. This is a fantastic result and continues to show that when given a decent option that Aucklanders will use it.

General Manager AT Metro, Mark Lambert says rail patronage in Auckland has grown by 22% over the past year. “Just four months ago we marked 14 million passenger trips. And if we go back 10 years we had just 4 million trips a year.”

Auckland Transport chairman Dr Lester Levy says when he became AT chairman in November 2012 rail patronage was just 10 million. “What Aucklanders have wanted for decades is reliable, frequent and safe public transport options and we have a very clear focus on delivering to those wants and needs.”

Mayor Len Brown says this is another outstanding achievement for public transport in Auckland. “At this rate we will pass the next big milestone – 20 million – at the start of 2017. Aucklanders love their trains and compared to this time last year, they’re taking around 10,000 extra trips every day across the suburban network.”

Since the rail network went all-electric in July, from Papakura to Swanson, there has been a marked improvement in reliability and on-time performance. In October 93% of services arrived at their destination within five minutes of their scheduled time and the previous month 94.9% of services arrived on time, a new record for Auckland trains.

Mr Lambert says “Our customers are liking the improved level of service and the comfort and convenience of the new trains. We’re also working on a timetable improvement which will see services on the Western Line go to six trains an hour at peak like the Southern and Eastern Lines.”

Overall public transport patronage in Auckland across rail, bus and ferries now exceeds 80 million passenger trips a year.

The result also marks us being halfway to the government’s patronage target for the CRL of 20 million trips by 2020 just over two years after it was set.

2015-10 - Rail vs Govt Target

If current trends continue we will hit 20 million trips in mid 2017 however the Ministry of Transport have continued to claim that patronage growth will taper off. There’s no sign of that happening yet and in fact patronage has continued to grow at increasing rates with it currently increasing by over 22%. There are also a lot of improvements still to come. As AT say in the press release above they are working on increasing frequency of trains on the western line which last I heard was expected to occur around April. That will both help address capacity constraints and make the service much more useful at the same time. In the middle of next year we will also get integrated fares which will make most journeys cheaper and in the South the new bus network will be rolled out which should see more people transferring to trains. The changes to will happen after that. All of this means that patronage is likely to continue to grow strongly for some time yet.

One aspect I will be watching is to see how it takes us to reach the next million milestone. We’ve seen the last two taking just four months. There’s been a distinct downward trend although I’d be surprised if it went lower. One aspect likely to help keep the current trend up is that this year will see the shortest rail closure over Christmas so we should see some decent increases in patronage in the December and January months.

Time between Rail Millions

The patronage results for October have also been released ahead of the AT board meeting next week. Other than rail which reached 14.8m to the end of October both bus and ferries also saw patronage increase despite there being one less business day this October compared to the last one. Buses were up 0.5% for the month while ferries have continued strong growth over the last six months or so up 8.2% for the month.

2015-10 - Total Patronage

2015-10 - Patronage Table

New AT Station Signs

As part of Auckland Transport’s trial around platform markings they are also updating other signage at stations. I need to get out and have a look at them in more detail but one of the most obvious changes is in the station name signs. Below you can see what it looks like at Fruitvale Rd.

Station Name Signs - New - Fruitvale Rd

There’s a couple of interesting features:

I like that they seem to using W in a green circle to indicate the line. Although Western Line is listed in the top left corner under the AT Metro logo, perhaps the prominence of the W suggests AT are thinking of moving to a single letter system for the train or Rapid Transit lines. This would likely tie in with new route numbering that is being rolled out as part of the new network which sees frequent bus routes have one or two digit numbers with less frequent routes having three digit numbers. If I’m correct it will be interesting to see how they’ll treat stations served by multiple lines e.g. Otahuhu.

I also like that they’ve added the next and previous station information on them, it’s little things like this that add to usability. At Fruitvale at least they’ve taken this further with a list of upcoming stations printed on to the screen stuff that covers the glass to prevent damage (don’t have a photo sorry).

Many of the old MAXX signs these replace had been scratched and vandalised – as far as I’m aware the signs only appeared on Tuesday and had already been vandalised by that night. Hopefully these signs are cheaper and easier to replace when that happens. Speaking of the old signs, I personally think these new ones look much better than the signs they replaced, an example of which is below.

Station Name Signs - Old - Glen Eden

What do you think, an improvement or what would you have done differently?

Auckland Rapid Transit Network

This is AT’s official future vision for  the Rapid Transit Network in Auckland. I feel the need to show this again in the context of a number of uninformed views about the CRL popping up again, as one of the chief misunderstandings is to treat the City Rail Link as a single route outside of the network it serves.

All successful transport systems are designed through network thinking and not just as a bunch of individual routes, this is true of our existing and extensive motorway network just as it is true for our rapidly growing Rapid Transit one. The Waterview tunnel is not being built just so people can drive from Mt Roskill to Pt Chev, and nor is the CRL just to connect Mt Eden to downtown.

The CRL is but one project on the way to a whole city-wide network, as is clearly shown below, and as such it doesn’t do everything on its own.

But then having said that because it is at the heart of  the current and future city-wide network it is the most crucial and valuable point of the whole system. That is true today and will continue to true for as long as there is a city on this Isthmus. In fact it is hard to overstate the value of the CRL as by through-routing the current rail system it is as if it gives Auckland a full 100km Metro system for the cost of a pair of 3.4km tunnels and a couple of stations. This is simply the best bargain going in infrastructure in probably any city of Auckland’s size anywhere in the world and is certainly the best value transport project of scale in New Zealand. Because it is transformational* for the city and complementary to all our existing systems, especially the near complete urban motorway network.

Additionally the capacity it adds to the region’s whole travel supply is immense: taking up to 48 trains an hour this can move the equivalent of 12 motorway lanes of car traffic. All without flattening any place nor need to park or circulate those vehicles on local roads and streets. And all powered by our own renewably generated electricity. This is how the city grows both in scale and quality without also growing traffic congestion.

AT Rapid Transit Network - 2041

This map will evolve over time as each addition is examined in detail. For example I expect the cost-effectiveness and efficiency a rail system over the harbour, up the busway and to Takapuna to become increasingly apparent well before this time period. In fact as the next harbour crossing, so we are likely to see that in the next decade, otherwise this is that pattern that both the physical and social geography of Auckland calls for. Additionally Light Rail on high quality right-of-ways, although not true Rapid Transit, will also likely be added in the near term.

Welcome to Auckland: City.

* = transformational because it substantially changes not only our movement options, the quality of accessibility between places throughout the city and without the use of a car, but also Auckland’s very idea of itself; we have not been a Metro city before: It is doing things differently.


Matt suggested adding this more recent version. I agree this is a good idea, it shows just how quickly ideas are changing in Auckland right now. This is a very fluid and exciting time for the city as the new possibilities are becoming acknowledged by all sorts of significant players. It remains my view that extending our existing rail system is better for Mangere and the Airport, but that taking AT’s proposed LR across the harbour in its own new crossing is a really good option:

RPTP potential LRT + RTN Map

And just this morning we get wind of these very big changes for those making plans for Auckland. It looks like the funding roadblocks [pun intended] for the necessary urban infrastructure that the growing and shifting Auckland needs may be melting away….?

Treasury Tweets


No White Elephants to be found here

There was a quite angry editorial in the Sunday Star Times (SST) yesterday about Len Brown’s mayoralty which included this stunningly bad comment on transport.

He did manage to slip through one win, the city rail link, just before details of his sex antics became public. Unfortunately, this $2.5 billion project will do nothing to address Auckland’s transport problems; 99 per cent of Aucklanders will never use it.

This is a vain egotistic folly that will serve only to shuttle the ladies-who-lunch between the leafy suburbs of Mt Eden and the trendy restaurant precincts of Federal St and Britomart, and to deliver more sad-eyed gamblers right to the doors of SkyCity casino – the same powerful constituent that donated generously to Brown’s election campaign and greased his palm with free hotel rooms.

One of Auckland most ineffectual leaders, Brown would be quickly forgotten – but for this white elephant in the room. The city’s ratepayers and, indeed, the nation’s taxpayers will still be picking up the bill for his rail project decades into the future.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen comments like these about the City Rail Link from a mainstream media outlet, with the anti-CRL vitriol now normally the domain of the rabid anti-PT types.

Work is now happening to shift services on Albert St and in May the diggers will get started on the project itself. Due to that it’s been a while since we last did a bit of a recap of why the CRL is needed, so I thought perhaps it was time for a new one.

Firstly, where things are at so far.

Rail is becoming an increasingly important mode in Auckland, and while it may only be a small percentage of all trips in the region, the impact it has is far wider. To the end of September rail patronage for the prior 12 months was 14.6 million and growing rapidly: up almost 23% (2.7 million) in just a year, and up 65% (5.8 million) over the last 5 years. Further, that growth hasn’t come at the expense of other modes with bus patronage up 6% over the last year and 24% over the last five years. Based on the growth we’ve been seeing I expect we’re likely to reach 15 million trips sometime this week, and patronage is on track to reach 20 million trips some time in 2017.

2015-09 - Rail Patronage

At 14.6 million that equates to 40,000 trips per day across the year. However, most trips take place on a weekday, with people commuting to work or school. Auckland Transport include the average weekday patronage in their monthly stats reports and the most recent showed the weekday average had increased to over 51,000 trips per day – but that also includes times when not many people use trains, such as in January. As you can see from the chart below, since about February/March it has averaged about 55,000 trips per day.

2015-09 - Weekday Rail Use

Auckland Transport say that every day, around 35,000 people pass through Britomart on their way to or from a train. That is considerably more than the 21,000 in 2021 forecast when the business case was written and is only set to grow – this is shown below. Patronage is also on track to exceed the predictions of modelling done to support projects such as electrification despite implementation of it occurring two years later than expected (prediction was 15.6 million trips by 2016 – we’re on track for about 16.1 million trips by then).

Daily Britomart Passengers - Actual vs Projected 2

During the two-hour morning peak (7am-9am), around 8,500 train passengers  arrive at Britomart (probably more now as that figure is some months old). This highlights a couple of key points.

  1. Imagine the impact on the roads and the overall economy if 8,500+ people had to shift how or when they travel because the rail network wasn’t invested in on the basis of “not a high percentage use it”. Imagine the impact if we took the same approach to roads.
  2. This is only a small amount of total 55k daily trips across the network.
  3. It also represents only about half of all patronage arriving at Britomart every day with the other half arriving off peak or counter peak in the afternoon. Add in the trips leaving Britomart, and the morning peak accounts for only about 25% of all trips to or from the city.
  4. The busiest single road entry to the city is Nelson St which is fed by two motorways, but during the morning peak it only carries around 6,000 people.

There are of course many other roads that lead to the city for cars (and buses, walking and cycling). The screenline surveys that produced some of these numbers are no longer conducted due to the cost and because much of the data is now available from systems like HOP. The last one was in 2014, and at that time just 47% of people entering the city during the peak did so in a car. Interestingly the car figures have remained static or declined slightly for more than a decade, so all growth in travel has happened on PT.

But why is the CRL needed? The simple answer is growth. Auckland, and especially the city centre, is growing rapidly. It is predicted that by 2041:

  • Auckland is expected to have another 700,000 people
  • The number of people living in the city centre and the city fringe will double to 140,000
  • Employment in the city centre and the city fringe is expected to increase to more than 200,000
  • Tertiary Student numbers in the city centre are expected to grow by 30% to 72,000

Catering for that growth isn’t easy. The roads are already busy, which is starting to limit the ability to increase bus capacity, and Britomart is also approaching its capacity – at a rapid rate, as pointed out above. The figures from the past seem to suggest that without the CRL, patronage on the current network will top out at somewhere between 20 and 25 million trips in the early 2020’s.

The CRL may only be a short 3.4km piece of track, but by busting through the cul-de-sac that is Britomart it enables significantly more trains to run, so it is an upgrade to the entire rail network – turning it into a higher frequency, 100km metro-like system. By through routing many services, AT’s suggested future operating pattern would see up to 36 trains per hour passing through the city during peak times, each carrying up to 750 people. That’s almost double what is possible without the CRL, although some of those will be counter peak so won’t be as full.

Post CRL running pattern

The last figures we saw were in the City Centre Future Access Study a few years ago – it looked at over 30 different options to address the expected growth in the city centre. It was modelled then (integrated CRL + Surface Bus) that around 30,000 per day would come in to the city on the rail network in the morning peak.

CCFAS 2041 results 3

If we use the assumption that the morning peak only accounts for around one quarter of all patronage to the city and extrapolate that out to the numbers above, it suggests that by 2041 the CRL enables about 120,000 trips per day. That’s over three times what we have now and doesn’t include any trip destinations outside of the city centre. Train trips to other destinations would also become more attractive, since for most of them frequencies will increase as a result of the CRL. For example, if you want to get from Henderson to New Lynn, currently there is only a service every 15 minutes at peak (eventually to be every 10), but the CRL enables a train between those destinations every four minutes. Total annual patronage on the rail network is likely to rise to close to 50 million trips per year.

As for who will use the CRL, yes there may be some ladies from leafy suburbs using it, just as there may be gamblers, but many others will too – and the vast majority of people who will use trains in the future will do so because it offers the most rational choice for them.


Lastly along with the editorial and accompanying article the SST ran a survey asking a few questions. Among them was one on what the next mayor should focus on. It may only be an internet poll and it doesn’t say how many voted, but at the time of writing this post there was a pretty clear winner. Results like these are in line with many other surveys we’ve seen over the years from a range of organisations using a number of different methodologies. Interestingly in the same survey is a question about who people would like to see in the running for mayor and Phil Goff is the clear favourite with 41% ahead of John Banks on 12%.

Stuff Survey - 2015-11-14 - Auckland Priorities

I’m not sure about you but I would personally put the CRL in the improving public transport category.

If the editor of the SST is looking for White Elephants to slay then he’s looking in the wrong place with the CRL.

Otahuhu Interchange gets under way

Good news yesterday with the Otahuhu Interchange officially getting under way. The interchange is the key to enabling the new bus network in South Auckland to be implemented

Otahuhu Interchange aerial overview

Work is beginning today on a major upgrade of Otahuhu Station to make it easy to connect between high frequency buses and trains.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges, Mayor Len Brown and Mangere-Otahuhu Local Board Deputy Chair Carrol Elliott have marked the start of main construction works by turning the first sods at the station construction site.

Otahuhu Station is an important part of the new, simpler and more connected south Auckland public transport network. It is designed to provide Aucklanders with a new network of buses that better connect to the trains at Ōtāhuhu.

The $28m project is funded by the Government through the NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Council. The fully integrated bus and train station is expected to open in the second half of 2016.

In the first five years of a united Auckland, Mayor Len Brown says growth has been dramatic across all public transport modes. “This station and the simpler and more connected new South Auckland public transport network will see patronage on the southside leap even more.”

“Otahuhu is a part of the new Auckland that we as a united council have been heavily investing in to make life better. It’s wonderful to see how Tōia, Otahuhu’s new recreational precinct, has so quickly become the vibrant heart of the community reflecting the character of the area. The transport station will provide another big boost to Otahuhu.”

Local Board Deputy Chair Carrol Elliott says, “Otahuhu has been waiting a long time for a modern, clean and safe public transport facility. This one should serve the people who live in Otahuhu and those who come to Otahuhu to work.”

The NZ Transport Agency’s Director for Auckland, Ernst Zöllner says the development of the Otahuhu Station will help contribute to the development of a rapid transit network to provide the future backbone of Auckland’s transport network and better choices for getting around the city.

“The Government has contributed significantly to the renaissance of rail in Auckland through investment in network, station and rolling stock upgrades. It’s investment in the Otahuhu Station upgrade continues this commitment to growing public transport as one of the solutions to addressing Auckland’s transport challenges.

Auckland Transport Chief Infrastructure Officer Greg Edmonds says the upgraded station will make it easier to connect between trains and frequent bus services being introduced with the new public transport network.

“It will be linked with two new bus platforms and a terminal building via an elevated concourse. It’s pedestrian friendly and will have improved accessibility.”

The new Ōtāhuhu station will offer the following benefits:

  • A high quality accessible modern facility
  • The design and architecture will reflect local and historical stories for mana whenua (portage site for waka)
  • Clear separation of buses, trains and a shared pedestrian and cycle pathway (including cycle storage racks), separated cycle crossing at the adjacent signalised intersection
  • Passenger drop off zone
  • Covered bus platforms for passengers moving between bus and train services
  • More frequent bus services from the second half of 2016
  • Better connections between bus and rail networks
Otahuhu Station Sod Turning - Simon Bridges Len Brown

Simon I know of a place in the central city where we would welcome you getting the digger out

AT Trialing New Platform Markings

Starting from next week Auckland Transport are trialling new markings at a few train stations in a bid to make it easier for those with disabilities, pushing prams or with bikes. They say “concerns have been raised about how difficult it is to know where to stand on the platform to be in the best position to locate the doors (visually impaired passengers) or the ramps (mobility impaired) and be able to board the trains before they depart.”

The trial markings are being installed at Sylvia Park, New Lynn, Avondale and Fruitvale Road Stations for use starting Monday. One of the impacts is that some 3-car trains will stop at different locations on the platform to provide consistency and that may mean doors to the low floor section are further away from the shelter – which AT need to provide more of at most stations. AT also hope that by improving access for those who need to use the middle carriage they can improve dwell times of trains.

The trial will be monitored over a number of months for effectiveness and compliance. Some of the measures being monitored include:

  • Mobility Group feedback
  • General feedback through all customer channels
  • Dwell time analysis
  • LE & train Manger feedback
  • AT staff general feedback
  • Transdev staff general feedback

They say that if the trial is deemed successful then the Platform and Door Markers may be rolled-out across the rail network. Here are what some of the trials look like.

Train platform layout 1

Train platform layout 2

Train platform layout 3

Overall I think this is a good idea and one that should help however I suspect it will need more than just some markings on the platform. Often I people with disabilities, bikes or prams who don’t even realise that the middle low floor car exists and who then struggle up the stairs and in the case of the latter two groups can potentially block doors and aisles.

I’d also like to see AT include information about what train is going to turn up on the platform displays – of which we need more. Showing the length of the approaching train is quite common overseas.

What next for HOP

Change is afoot for Auckland Transport’s HOP card with them increasing the price of it but also looking to expand the use of the card.

On the first point, they will increase the cost of buying a card from $5 back to $10 on December 17. This seems like a backwards step given AT need to be encouraging as many people to use HOP as possible. While the vast majority of current PT users are already using HOP a large number of people are still using cash and on buses in particular that can really slow trips down. Figures from AT’s board report show that around 74% of all trips use HOP. There is a bit of variation in HOP use by mode, it is used for around 80% of rail trips, 76% of bus trips but only 27% of ferry trips. There is also likely some variation in use of HOP between weekdays and on weekends and AT have said HOP use on weekdays is more than 80%.

2015-09 - HOP Use

AT also say they think that at $10 the card represents “excellent value” and that a regular customer will pay off the $10 cost in just over a week. This is based on research they’ve done suggesting most customers take about 6 trips per week and travels just two stages per trip. In such a scenario they would save $9 per week and more frequent users or those travelling further would obviously save more.

They also say they think $10 is about right based on the cost of similar cars overseas. As examples they point to Snapper card in Wellington which costs $10, Octopus in Hong Kong at ~NZ$10 (deposit). Outside of transport they cite the example a lost EFTPOS card being around $15, lost credit card around $10.

Another and reason for the change in price is the cost of making the cards. AT say every single card costs them $8.54 to produce and that they have been making up the difference for some time. All up 20,000 new cards are sold each month and in total they’ve sold 680,000. They say the cost of the card covers

  • the card cost and distribution of the cards
  • the cost of sales, including retail agents commission, and the cost of ticketing offices selling the cards
  • back office costs

In response to a few other questions of mine they said:

  • They are investigating the idea of having the purchase price loaded on the card if you register it
  • It is not legally possible under the conditions of carriage to give a HOP card as change for cash payers i.e. if someone hands a driver a $20 note that he gives them a HOP car with $10 loaded and tells them to tag on.
  • They are still investigating the idea of having an NFC option for HOP cards so people can use their phones. This is a shame as they first said they were trialling it over 3 years ago.


The other HOP news is that AT are thinking about extending the use of HOP to access other council services such as the libraries, swimming pools and the zoo. We’ve also known for some time they want to extend it to enable people to pay for parking and I’m aware the NZTA would like to link it in to the toll system – both of which need to happen.

Auckland Transport is considering extending the reach of its $100 million Hop ticketing system to council services such as libraries and swimming pools.

It is also sounding out Aucklanders over whether they would be prepared for information the system collects about them to be shared among council organisations.

Those ideas have been raised with a research panel of Auckland residents, offering them chances to be in the draw for Christmas gift cards for participating in a survey.

A panel member told the Herald the questionnaire had asked “if we’d be happy to use our Hop card to access other Auckland Council services like pools, libraries, rec centres.”

She said panellists were also asked if they would agree to their data being shared across council organisations.

“As a person who refuses to register my Hop card because I hate sharing data, I wasn’t wildly positive about this,” she said.

An Auckland Transport spokesman said the survey, which was supposed to be confidential, was part of “a very high-level, early investigation into the possible use of the Hop card for other council services”.

“This is just at a conceptual level at the moment and may not go anywhere,” he said.

He promised if the proposal were to go further, a full investigation would cover matters including the privacy of Hop card holders, and “opt out” provisions for those not wanting to use it other than for public transport trips.

The spokesman said it was no secret that Auckland Transport was also considering extending Hop card coverage to parking services, although no decisions had been made about that.

I personally think it would be great if AT decided to go ahead with these ideas as it would turn the HOP card from just being a PT card into a ticket to the city. Other than just the convenience of having easier access to places, it would also encourage a lot more people to get HOP cards and thereby reduce one of the barriers to entry for PT.

Of course I’m not holding my breath for any major changes like those suggested to happen soon. Especially given how long it’s taking AT to get integrated fares sorted. Still at least they’re thinking of these options.

Funding Kiwirail and Trucks

Yesterday Kiwirail released their annual results and once again they lost a significant amount of money – $167 million for the year. The shortfall obviously has to come from the Government. They were also keen to point out that the main reason for the loss was the cost of maintaining the rail network which includes 4,000 kilometres of track, 1500 bridges and 150 tunnels.

As sure as night follows day the truck lobby were quick to complain about Kiwirail getting government support.

The argument put forward by KiwiRail won little sympathy from the main trucking lobby group.

Ken Shirley of the Road Transport Forum accused KiwiRail of seeking special treatment, and he said the company should stand on its own feet.

“No business can say that they can only conduct themselves if they have an input from the taxpayer,” Mr Shirley said.

“They have to look at their whole pricing methods, they have to look at their management of their assets and they have to organise their business.”

That’s quite a bit rich coming from the trucking industry which is heavily subsidised by tax and ratepayers. But just how much support do they get. Below is some information from the NZTA and Ministry of Transport on his.

The three year National Land Transport Programme identifies where funding comes from and where it is spent. It predicts that over the 2015-18 period of the current NLTF over $2.7 billion in funding for transport will come from local council rates which goes towards paying their share of non-state highway projects. These are of course the roads that most trucks need to use on their journeys to get to the doors of their customers

Then we have the National Land Transport Fund – the place where fuel excise duty (FED), road user charges (RUC) and vehicle registration fees go. As the graphic shows road user charges – of which the largest contributor will likely be trucks – are expected to contribute about $4.3 billion in funding while other road users contribute $5.5 billion. Lastly there are other sources of funding which go towards projects such as the government’s regional State Highway programme which is funding a number of projects directly from general taxes.

NLTP 2015-18 revenue and investment flows

The Ministry of Transport also have information on who pays for what and where it goes. Helpfully it also breaks RUC by heavy and light vehicles (less than 3.5 tonnes). It shows that heavy vehicles make up about 4% of the NZ vehicle fleet but pay about 26% of the taxes raised. The reason for this disparity is that heavy vehicles cause significantly more road wear.

As the charts below show taxes from Heavy RUC pay for about 23% of State Highways and 25% of local roads.

Fuel Taxes

With those numbers in mind let’s turn attention to one of the biggest projects coming down the pipe – The East-West Link. As we know a near motorway quality road is proposed along the northern side of the Mangere Inlet. Auckland Transport and the NZTA say the early indicative costs are $1 billion however I believe they’re now pushing up around $1.5 billion. The reason this project is getting so much attention is primarily due to the strong lobbying from the Truck and Business lobbies. They argue that the new almost-motorway is needed to free up truck movements making it quick and easier for them to operate.

Given the truck lobby are so adamant Kiwirail shouldn’t get any help from the government and the East-West Link is primarily being built to improve freight movements I look forward to the announcement that the trucking companies are paying the full cost of this new mega road.

Of course we know not all trucking companies share the view that Kiwirail shouldn’t get any help. Mainfreight has long been a supporter of having a stronger of rail network. Richard Prebble – the former leader of the ACT party and a person with an infamous history in the history of rail in NZ – has called for it to have more investment. That is in part from him seeing the value in it as a director of Mainfreight.

Just to be clear I’m not saying we should go and start charging truckies for all projects but surely it’s about time they dropped the “we’re not subsidised” act.

One positive to come out of all of this news about Kiwirail is it appears the government are coming around to the idea of having the NZTA manage the freight network

State-owned KiwiRail is pressing the NZ Transport Authority to take over funding the national railway network and believes it has Transport Minister Simon Bridges onside in a way not true of his predecessors, Gerry Brownlee and Steven Joyce.

In comments at KiwiRail’s annual public meeting, chairman John Spencer and chief executive Peter Reidy highlighted the inclusion of a new top priority in the NZTA 2015-2019 statement of corporate intent to “integrate road and rail to improve freight network productivity” as a sign the government is coming round to the need for an integrated approach to road and rail network investment.

This is positive to hear as it’s a position that seems to be almost unanimous across a broad spectrum.