An 8-bit Subway Delay Story

A great 8-bit video from New York’s MTA showing how incidents on PT can quickly lead to long delays plus what can be done to mitigate them. Of course we don’t quite have the same frequencies as the New York subway but the same principles apply. Warning, the music is quite catchy.

The video comes from this post which also has more information on how the subway performs and what is being done to reduce delays

h/t Mike George

Auckland Transport May Board Meeting

The AT board meet today and as I do every month, I’ve gone through the papers to pull out anything I’ve found new or interesting.

First up the closed session which normally contains the most interesting papers and for which we only see the agenda. In the items for Approval/Decision we have

  • AIFS Contract – I assume this will be the contract to develop integrated fares.
  • Draft SOI – This is AT’s Statement of Intent which is basically what they say they will achieve for the next year and it needs to be signed off by the council. It will be interesting to see just what targets are set for areas like Public Transport as last year they lowered them but have now significantly exceeded most of them.
  • AMETI NoR – I guess this means we’ll soon see the Notice of Requirement for the Panmure to Pakuranga busway.
  • Rail Operators Contract Commercial Framework
  • Light Rail – timing implications 
  • Advertising Media Services Agreement

In the regular business report we have

Walking and Cycling

  • The hearing for the Notice of Requirement for the Waterview shared path has taken place and AT have provided additional information to the commissioners hearing it. Presumably they should have approval fairly soon.
  • They expect to award the contract for the construction of first stage of the Glen Innes to Tamaki Dr cycleway between Merton Rd and St John Rd in June.
  • The contract to construct the Nelson St cycleway is expected to be announced by the end of this month with construction starting in July.
  • At Carlton Gore Rd they say the majority of works will be completed by late June with lighting being finished in July.

Devonport Marine Square – The improvements should be finished by June and they say AT and Council are currently planning opening events tentatively scheduled for 5 and 7 June.

Otahuhu Bus-Train Interchange – AT say the detailed design is nearly finished however they say the delay in confirming funding (was reliant on the council providing more in the Long Term Plan) has pushed out completion to May/June next year and that will impact on the roll out of the new network in the South.

Electric Trains – At the time of writing the report there were 51 in Auckland with 46 having provisional acceptance and 36 in operational service. They say the final three vehicles are due to be shipped from Spain in Mid-June. Additional weekday services from Papakura will begin 8 June. They are still targeting the end of July for full introduction of EMUs which is a few months earlier than earlier plans. They are also looking at adding onboard digital information and advertising screens to add to the EMUs.

Newmarket Crossing (Sarawia St) – AT say they are progressing the project and will be seeking approval to lodge a notice of requirement in early July.

Parnell Station – Works are continuing on the station platforms as can regular train users along this section may have noticed. AT say it is likely the old Newmarket Station Building will be brought to Parnell and refurbished by the end of this year.

Bus – Negotiations have been completed with Ritchies to buy 18 double decker buses to use on the Northern Express. NZ Bus will also buy 23 double deckers to use on the 881 and Mt Eden Rd services subject to formal signoff and NZTA agreement. They say the single deck buses freed up will be used to respond to capacity limitations elsewhere on the network.

Parking – AT say they’ve started a communication programme to a variety of stakeholders to outline the details of the new Parking Strategy that they were seeking feedback on last year. They also say occupancy at off-street parking facilities is over target occupancy levels so they are reviewing pricing and they expect to implement any changes in July.

Lastly a separate paper covers off Auckland Transport’s presentation to the Council’s Finance and Performance Committee. Much of it isn’t going to be new to regular readers however there are a couple of slides that address the issue of where money is being spent. They include a series to bust some of the common myths that have come up over transport spending and one in particular addresses the question of whether the plans are too City Centric. I think it’s good that AT are actively trying to ensure the right information is out there and suggest they probably need to do it to the wider public too.

2015 LTP City Centre vs rest

April-15 Patronage

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

 

2015-04 - Patronage Table

2015-04 - Total Patronage Chart

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

 

2015-04 - Rail vs CRL target

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

2015-04 - Rail Performance

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

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

2015-04 - Ferry

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

PT Subsidy per Passenger km

Comparing Capacity

It seems Auckland Transport is slowing getting better with simple advertising. First we saw the nice, simple and effective Bus Lane poster. Now it’s the rail network and City Rail Link’s turn. On AT’s Facebook Page for the CRL this image has appeared highlighting the capacity of our new trains.

AT Rail Capacity Image

I think AT are on the right track with this by highlighting the capacity however a couple of quick thoughts it would be good for them to consider.

  • Why not just talk about 375 people per EMU being moved free of congestion.
  • Using the car comparison a car occupancy rate of 1.3 seems a little high, a rate of 1.2 is probably more realistic and would mean ~312 cars off the road.
  • There’s no mention that at peak times many (not all) trains will consist of two EMUs. Based on ATs figures that means 576 cars off the road.
  • Why not highlight what that means at peak times. We know that if AT run the network to the full capacity they plan which is a train every 10 minutes on the Eastern, Southern and Western line plus half hourly on the Onehunga line that would equate to 20 trains per hour at Britomart. Most of those at the height of the peak will be 6-car trains. Based on ATs figures that works out to around 10k-15k vehicles of the roads over the 2-hour morning peak.
  • Taking the line of thinking above further, the CRL is said to allow for up to 24 trains per hour per direction or a total of 48 trains an hour. Assuming by then all trains would be 6-cars in length that’s a total capacity of almost 28,000 people who could be moved free of congestion and with much better frequency than we have today.

Overall a good effort from AT though it also opens up a lot of opportunity for expansion.

Deluge

This is a Guest post by Wellington Architect Guy Marriage

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

brollies

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

WellingtonThursday

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

NZTA WGTN flooding

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

NZTA WGTN

Wellington train_4740

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

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

WellingtonTransmission

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

Why is Auckland’s rail system so expensive to operate?

On Monday the NZ Herald ran an article about the cost comparisons between operating Auckland and Wellington’s rail services. Based on the numbers in the article, it doesn’t tell a particularly pretty story:

Aucklanders facing a new transport rate are paying far too much to subsidise the city’s trains, says councillor Mike Lee, a long-time champion of rail.

Mr Lee, the council’s infrastructure chairman, has calculated that Auckland trains are costing ratepayers and the Government four times more to run than those in Wellington for each kilometre travelled by passengers.

He has worked out from figures published for each rail operation that the subsidy paid for every “passenger kilometre” travelled on Auckland trains last financial year was 65c, compared with just 16c in the capital…

…He said subsidies covered $107.2 million of Auckland’s total rail operating costs of $139.3 million last year, when 11.4 million passenger trips were made on trains.

That compared with just $42.7 million of subsidies towards the $85.09 million cost of providing 11.6 million passenger trips in Wellington.

Although the Government covered $63.92 million of Auckland’s bill, ratepayers forked out $43.3 million.

Auckland rail passengers also paid more for each kilometre they travelled, 18.5c against 16c in Wellington.

An Auckland Transport spokesman queried Mr Lee’s finding that fares covered only 22 per cent of rail operating costs, and sent the Herald a report prepared for the council by the organisation’s chief financial officer, Richard Morris.

But the report, despite pointing to difficulties in comparing the Auckland and Wellington rail operations, did not directly challenge Mr Lee’s figures.

A year ago Auckland Transport staff wrote a report breaking down the costs for each system which is the one referenced above. It split out the costs for the 2011/12 and 2012/13 years for each system. I haven’t seen 2013/14 figures and we are still in the 2014/15 year.

Overall it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact differences and while not definitive AT have identified some of reasons why they think Auckland’s system is more expensive to operate. This includes:

  • Auckland is running a mixed fleet with expensive to fuel and maintain diesel trains. The locomotives that haul the SA sets are also leased from Kiwirail. I’ve been told in the past that fuel and maintenance costs will roughly halve once all services are electric.
  • The mixed fleet reduces driver roster flexibility (more overtime to cover issues) and increases training costs. This should improve once all fleet electric
  • Auckland’s trains are slower for a variety of reasons. This increases the time it takes for each trip and therefore staffing costs for similar length journeys. We’re yet to see if electrification will improve this.
  • Auckland costs include all of Transdev’s wages and salary’s while in Wellington it’s believed some of Kiwirail’s overheads are likely shared or covered by the fact those roles exist for the rest of the business – both Auckland and Wellington are currently tendering for rail services as they moving to the same contract model this should hopefully see costs move closer together.
  • Auckland has a number of stations which are more expensive to run – e.g. it appears that Britomart alone costs more to operate than all the Wellington stations combined. Auckland also supposedly has more security monitoring. Auckland’s costs will remain higher in this area.
  • I believe that overall Auckland now runs more services than Wellington does – and this will have increased even further since December.

AKL vs WLG rail costs

Since the data that report patronage has gone crazy and is up about 3.5 million trips. We’ve also started to see electric trains on parts of the network and the remaining lines are due to go electric soon. We’ll have to wait to find the final costs for this year however this chart from AT’s monthly indicators in March shows the subsidy per passenger km and it does appear that things are starting to head in the right direction.

AKL Subsidy per PAX km

The minutes for last week’s Budget Committee meeting aren’t yet online, but it seems like the Committee passed a resolution to request an investigation into the issue and report back on options for cost savings in the next round of annual planning. This seems like a pretty sensible approach as we wouldn’t want savings to be achieved by cutting (or not increasing) service levels, but rather through a better rail contract and continued patronage (and therefore revenue) growth.

A closer look at Simplified Fares

On Monday Auckland Transport launched consultation for an amended Regional Public Transport Plan and that included a large section on integrated fares – or Simplified Fares as AT call them. Since writing the post AT have released a lot more information about their Simplified fares proposal so I thought I was worth while addressing the topic in more detail.

A key point on simplified fares is that you are charged based on your journey, not what services you use – with the exception of ferries. They define a journey as

  • up to 3 trips on buses or trains,
  • up to two transfers, as long as you tag on within 30 minutes of tagging off your previous service,
  • complete your travel within 2 hours.

Simplifed Fares Journey description

And example they give is someone who might travel from Albany to Newmarket taking a bus and a train. Currently it would be treated as two trips and be charged two sets of fares – albeit with a 50c transfer discount. Under Simplified Fares it would be a single journey and only charged a single fare.

Following the introduction of Simplified Fares it will be interesting to see is how they report on patronage and if they change to reporting journeys or if they just keep reporting boardings – preferably they’ll report both.

The zones AT are proposed are as I showed the other day.

RPTP Integrated Fares Zones Map

As mentioned at the time I think a little more work is needed on the zone boundaries, perhaps having all of them them overlap by 1-1.5km on all boundary lines to help address the issue of short journeys across a boundary being penalised heavily. As an example (below) the 195 and 209 services currently travel down Godley Rd in Green bay and then on and through Blockhouse Bay. If someone was to get on the bus on Godley Rd and travel to Blockhouse Bay they would have to pay a two zone fare.

Simplifed Fares Isthmus-West boundary

Another alternative would be for AT to introduce a short journey fare which is how the issue is dealt with in some other cities – such as Perth.

There’s one other feature on the map that’s bound to cause some concern and complaint and that is the boundary of the city zone compared to the current stage one zone. This appears to affect just south of Mt Eden and Orakei train station and is indicated on the map below with a black dotted circle. It means trips from those locations to the city will now pay a two zone fare whereas they current pay just a single stage fare. Depending on the fare levels AT set that could see costs for those users almost double.

Simplifed Fares Isthmus - Mt Eden&Orakei

One aspect of the information that has surprised me is that AT have given an indication as to the prices they’ll charge for the zones. The indicative fare table is below.

Simplifed Fares Prices

It seems most passengers will be better off with the changes – or at least pay roughly the same as they do now which is a good result from AT. They describe the main impact of the changes as:

  • Commuters to and from the city to pay similar fares
  • Longer distance trips to be cheaper
  • Trips across zones to be substantially cheaper
  • A small increase for short trips

For me a trip to town using HOP would drop from 5-stages for $6 to 3-zones for $5. Many other journeys I randomly checked – other than those mentioned above – seem to be in similar situation of becoming cheaper than they are today providing the person is using HOP. Those savings also get much larger compared to today if your trip involves a transfer. AT have a couple of example journeys here including the Albany to Newmarket one mentioned earlier.

It’s a different story if cash is being used and so as I’ve mentioned before, it will be critical that AT look for more ways to get HOP into peoples hands. One suggestion I’ve made in the past would be having bus drivers keep a stash of cards pre-loaded with regular the regular note denominations. If a note is presented they quickly hand over the pre-loaded card and tell the person to tag on and their change will be on the card.

AT have given some more detail about their plans for other fare products such as daily/monthly passes. There will be a single daily and monthly pass priced at $18 and $200 respectively. By comparison currently those passes have a zone based element to them which means there are some lower priced monthly pass options if you aren’t travelling as far. It would be a shame to see those lower priced monthly passes disappear so perhaps AT should look at something like a two-zone pass which as the name suggests is restricted to travelling through two zones.

The issues with ferry fares sitting outside of the rest of the fare system are not new however as happens now AT say ferry travel will be included in the future daily pass. That’s good but it seems that at the at the very least AT should also include ferry travel in the monthly passes. AT have also said they want to introduce ferry monthly passes and family passes.

Overall I think the changes are positive and for most will be cheaper and easier than what exists today. That should be useful for further growing patronage. It’s just a shame they we won’t see them implemented till mid-2016.

Electrics out west

It seems we’ve hit a tipping point with the roll out of electric trains in which they are now sometimes being used to cover for services that have broken down. Presumably this means the pendulum is starting to swing positively for the number of drivers who have been trained to drive them. So far I’ve heard of a few isolated services on the Western line having been run by EMUs and last Friday morning my regular morning service to Britomart was replaced by a 6-car one. I believe it was the first time one has been run out west in the morning peak and I made a number observations I thought would be worth sharing.

Passengers

I’ve been on the EMUs plenty of times before and know they are far superior pieces of kit compared to what they’re replacing however most regular passengers on the Western Line have probably only seen them at Newmarket or Britomart. In the past I’ve overheard conversations on the train and at the platform by passengers looking forward to them.

Friday was a wet and miserable day and most of the 80 odd passengers at my local station were huddled under the single small shelter the station has. Perhaps because of this most people on the platform didn’t realise the service was an EMU until it was almost at the platform. It was when they did realise that was notable. There was an audible gasp and flurry of happy small talk. Suddenly everyone I saw had smiles on their faces. What’s more this wasn’t an isolated incident as I’ve heard similar stories from people on platforms at other stations too.

It didn’t end there. Upon entering the train passengers would basically stop in amazement looking up and down the carriages. I heard the words like ‘wow’ and ‘isn’t this nice’ many times on the trip to Britomart. The smiles continued all the way to town.

The reason I mention all this is that it was a remarkable reaction considering the actual service provided was no different to the ones these regular passengers have used for years. People were excited to be using the train and it was the piece of kit that transformed their experience. Perhaps it was just because it was something new or perhaps it signified that that the years of disruption, delays and frustration are coming to an end – that Auckland is finally growing up and delivering a modern transport solution. When was the last time these passengers were this excited about PT in Auckland.

Reactions such as those that I witnessed are priceless for Auckland Transport, something no advertising can buy. They are also bound to be repeated across the rail network as more and more services become electric over the coming months. People sharing their positive experiences with friends, family and co-workers will help fuel future patronage growth. This is of course likely to be a large contributor to what is known as the Sparks Effect (strong patronage growth after electrification).

Coming to the western line soon

Coming to the western line soon

Electrics on the Western Line

Other than seeing people reactions I was also very keen to see just how the trains performed on the western line given AT had already slowed down the timetable prior to their introduction. Overall the train was 5 minutes late into Britomart but that was after being held up at a few signals and in the Britomart tunnel for a few minutes to wait for a platform. Without those hold ups the train would have been fairly close to being on time.

The issues with dwell times are known and obviously need to be worked through. This includes a new one I’ve heard about in which there is a built in 5 second delay between the doors being closed the driver being able to move the train (one the western line that adds alone adds over 1 minute to trips to/from Swanson).

Perhaps most positively I got the distinct impression that if the restrictive signalling system can be addressed – something that should be much easier once all services are electric – that considerable time savings could be achieved. Unlike the diesel locomotive’s which sometimes feel like they are struggling on the hills and curves the EMUs feel like they take them in their stride. I almost got the impression that the frequent restrictions for things like level crossings would have made driving the train feel a bit like driving a high powered sports car in rush hour.

All of this gives me hope that over time AT, Kiwirail and whoever operates the trains can get them faster and faster.

EMU Rollout

In related news, I’ve heard that from now onwards all weekend services on all lines – where there are wires – will be run by electric trains.

RPTP update: Integrated Fares, LRT and more

In 2013 Auckland Transport adopted the current Regional Public Transport Plan (RPTP) – a document required by legislation and which sets out how the regions public transport system will be developed and operated. The 2013 RPTP was significant as among other things it officially added the New Network to Auckland’s plans. There were however a number of issues left unresolved and in the last 18 months there have been other developments in AT’s thinking on PT in Auckland. As such AT are now consulting on a variation to the RPTP to include all of this. The consultation will cover and be limited to only four specific areas:

  • The proposed introduction of simplified zone fares
  • Proposals for a new light rail transit (LRT) network on some major arterial routes
  • Service and infrastructure changes arising from the Ferry Development Plan which was approved by the AT Board in December 2014
  • Revised service descriptions arising from community consultation on the new bus network

Submissions on the RPTP variation open from today to 05 June and AT hope to have the variation adopted in July. Below is a bit more detail about each of four areas mentioned above.

Simplified zone fares

This is another name for integrated fares and AT are setting out how they think the system should run. This includes both the fare zones themselves and future fare products.

For HOP card users, fares will be based on the number of zones travelled in as part of a journey. A journey may involve travel on up to three different services, provided the transfer between services is made within the prescribed transfer time limit.

The zonal fare structure will apply across all bus, train and future light rail services. For ferries, the existing point-to-point fares will be retained, subject to further investigation of how they should be incorporated into the integrated zonal structure in future. The different approach to ferry fares reflects the fact that some ferry services are deemed exempt services, and not subject to the policies in this Plan. It also reflects the higher operating costs and premium quality of ferry travel.

The fact that ferry services will sit outside the rest of the fare structure seems to once again highlight the stupidity of the government’s decision to bow to the lobbying of fullers and allow some of the ferry routes (Devonport, Stanley Bay, Waiheke) to sit outside of the rest of the PT system. The zone boundaries are based on approximately 10km intervals from the city centre. We saw a low res version of the proposed zones around a month ago.

RPTP Integrated Fares Zones Map

I still think there needs to be some larger zone overlaps, particularly between the Isthmus to Manukau North/Waitakere zones and Waitakere to Upper North Shore. As an example it seems like the Upper North Shore zone should extend to cover Hobsonville Point.

Looking to the future AT say they hope to replace the monthly passes with weekly caps that will automatically limit the amount that customers will be charged for travel in any calendar week. They also say that in future that using stored value on a HOP card will be a minimum of 33% off the cash fare to encourage HOP use. As a comparison currently all fares 3 stages and over are just 20-26% of cash fares. AT also mention wanting to look at ways of using fares to grow patronage – especially in the off peak where there growth doesn’t affect operational costs. This includes wanting to:

  • Investigate and implement off-peak fare discount options to spread peak demand and encourage off-peak trips
  • Introduce 24/72 hour pass options to encourage off-peak travel by residents and visitors
  • Provide fare incentives for weekend family travel

All of these things are aspects we and many readers have suggested for a long time so it’s great to see AT pursuing them. One thing that is important to note is that it’s not likely all new fare products will be introduced at once and instead AT are likely to stage implementation over a period of time.

Light rail

PT services can’t be implemented if they aren’t in the RPTP and so AT are adding in the references to light rail now so that it’s possible for them to proceed with the project in the future should they wish to. We’ve already covered off AT’s light rail proposals quite a bit already and the proposed variation focuses most attention on the changes that would be needed to implement light rail on Queen St and Dominion Rd. There isn’t a huge amount of new information in the document with one notable exception – mention of light rail to the airport.

Subject to the outcome of these investigations, approval to proceed and funding, AT proposes a staged implementation of light rail, with completion of the initial stages (Queen Street and Dominion Road, with a possible link to Wynyard Quarter) within the 10-year planning horizon of this Plan. A possible extension of this route to the airport is also under investigation, along with metro rail options

The potential extension to the airport is also shown in the map below. I still believe that duplicating and extending the Onehunga line would be a better option due to a speed advantage compared with going via Dominion Rd- although it would possibly be a more expensive option.

RPTP potential LRT + RTN Map

Ferry development plan

Ferries are often touted as an area Auckland should focus on more and frequent suggestions included adding ferries to places like Browns Bay, Takapuna and Te Atatu. The RPTP suggested a review of the role of ferries and so last year AT created a Ferry Development Plan that was approved by the board in December. The outcomes from the development plan are included in the proposed variation. While I haven’t seen the full plan it appears from the variation information that AT’s have taken a sensible approach.

The Ferry Development Plan focuses on improving existing services and infrastructure and on greater integration of the current ferry network with local bus routes and supporting feeder services. It calls for service level improvements on existing ferry services to reach the minimum levels specified in the RPTP, with further increases to be implemented in response to demand. It also identifies a number of ferry infrastructure improvements and renewals that are needed to address capacity and customer amenity and safety issues at key ferry wharves.

The Plan also evaluated proposals for extensions to the existing ferry network, including new services to Browns Bay, Takapuna and Te Atatu. It concluded that due to the high infrastructure costs involved with new services, the priority for additional resources should be on improving the frequency and capacity of existing ferry routes, rather than network expansion.

The reality is the immediately viable ferry routes have already been developed and with the bus infrastructure that exists (or will shortly) it will be very hard for ferries to compete on speed, frequency, coverage and operating costs with some of the other locations mentioned. Getting service on existing routes up to regular all day every day frequencies will help make them a much more viable form of PT and useful not just for commuting.

New Network service descriptions

As mentioned at the start the RPTP sets out how the PT system will run and that includes exact and minimum frequencies. Since the RPTP was adopted AT have consulted on the new network for Hibiscus Coast, Pukekohe, South Auckland, West Auckland. The variation will update the RPTP with the changes that have already been consulted on.

There are also some changes to the network categories and maps with the new ones shown below.

RPTP Network Categories

As our network exists now, as you can see not much of the network meets the frequent definition being just a few bus services and the Southern line north of Penrose although arguably it should also be considered frequent between Westfield and Puhinui. You will also notice many of the ferry routes don’t exist on the map as they don’t have all day frequency.

RPTP Current Network

By 2018 with the new network implemented and all electric trains rolled out this is what we should have.

RPTP Proposed 2018 Network

And by 2025 with the CRL and even more bus improvements this is where the city will be.

RPTP Proposed 2025 Network

Western Line Cancellation Reasons

As regular readers or train users will know, the service offered recently hasn’t exactly been great with many cancellations and delays. When it comes to cancellations the Western Line has been hit the hardest and in March 6% of all services on the line failed to reach their destination (reliability) – that’s 181 services all up. Note, this is a different measure from whether they arrived on time (punctuality) and of the services that did reach their destination only 73% were within the 5 minute requirement. The other lines weren’t too much better with them combined averaging just 95.5% punctuality and 81.4% reliability.

Radio NZ has picked up on the issues with the Western Line and managed to obtain a list of all 181 reasons that trains were cancelled for.

Radio New Zealand has obtained from Auckland Transport, a “raw” list of reasons for March’s cancellations on the most troubled line, to the west. There’s a wide variety of human and technical reasons in this selection from the 181 :

  • Driver got sick at work
  • Late running train due to passenger loadings (previous train cancelled)
  • Driver late for train
  • Service terminated at Avondale due to door fault
  • Roster planning – shift not covered
  • Heavy tagging of service while waiting at signal
  • Trespasser in Britomart tunnel delayed departure
  • Delayed due to loading wheelchair-bound passenger – cancelled to recover timetable
  • Roster planning – no driver
  • Trespasser riding on outside of train
  • Faulty driver seat
  • Unfilled shift – compassionate leave
  • Rolling stock short supply, unable to cover service
  • Train fault – headlight not working

The agency’s general manager, Mark Lambert, said Auckland Transport knew it had to do better.

“The performance in the last few weeks and months has been unacceptable,” he said. “We don’t want to be there, and we’re looking at everything we can in terms of immediate improvements, but also how we can bring forward initiatives to improve things.”

Mr Lambert said rail services had been hit by the phasing out of the old, unreliable diesel trains. As the maintenance contract at KiwiRail wound down, staff had begun leaving, and the standard of maintenance had fallen.

The progressive introduction of the new Spanish-built electric trains had also been affected by minor bedding-in problems, all of which were being sorted, he said.

This is only a snapshot of the full 181 cancellations but the thing that really stands out to me are the number of mentioned which are due not to technical issues but roster ones such as no driver being available to drive the train. That could be from drivers being delayed on one service missing their next one but it’s not the only reason with the number of drivers available to run services also being impacted by the roll out of the electric trains. It’s this reason why AT have also stated they want to get all services converted to electric operations by the end of July.

There’s also this report on the issue from Radio NZ which includes some vox pops from train users. One thing that surprised me was how positive most seemed to be with comments like issues happen in any transport system, that they are looking forward to the electrics and how good it is that so many people are using PT. I’m not sure what the reason for this is but perhaps most users are much more forgiving in these issues than we and most readers have expressed recently.

Or listen here