Focus to get Auckland Moving

One segment of Auckland Transports latest business report highlights AT’s latest Pedestrian Safety Shaming campaign.

Between 2009 and 2013 there were over 50 fatal and serious pedestrian related crashes in Auckland City Centre. Most crashes are on Queen Street and Karangahape Road, but also Quay Street, Symonds Street, Mayoral Drive, Victoria Street and most recently on Fanshawe Street.

Two campaigns will be launched in June/July, as part of the ‘Regional Pedestrian Safety behaviour change programme’ to encourage behaviour change in pedestrians.

Cross Safely With the Green Man

Will focus on Queen Street and Karangaphape Road. Final creative approach is shown below, based on the fact that there are ample safe green man pedestrian crossings along these roads.

Media will be situ’ and include Adshels, outdoor posters, wall murals/shop windows and themed ‘urban walkers’.

2015-06 Ped Safety Campaign green man

I love the description that there are ample pedestrian crossings in the city. Having a light and having one that phases frequently enough e.g. like with the double phasing on Queen St are two different things. Many of the crossings are not friendly to pedestrians at all. Also if there are crashes on Queen St then what on earth are the drivers doing as the street has a 30kph speed limit. The second campaign:

Switch Your Focus

The other Auckland streets which have high pedestrian crash statistics don’t have the number of green man intersections Queen Street has. Pedestrians are most often distracted by thought (daydreaming), food, mobile phones and just a lack of focus on the danger. The campaign will inform pedestrians that they need to focus when they cross the road.

Messages will again be distributed primarily through outdoor media, making use of existing infrastructure for message delivery (Adshels) and targeted ‘Urban Walkers’ dressed suitably to the campaign style, who will engage with pedestrians and provide helpful advice.

2015-06 Ped Safety Campaign Focus

What are urban walkers dressed suitably in campaign style who’ll engage with pedestrians, its cringe worthy. And before some of you start blaming all the pedestrians remember that if you’re a driver and the car ahead of you suddenly stops, it’s your responsibility to be driving in a way that you too can stop in time.

Seeing the images on Twitter, Andy Baird thinks the images above deserves a meme so has created this fantastic image that might be more appropriate for AT to focus on.

AT Rail Focus campaign idea

What’s being done to fix rail reliability and speed

Last week I wrote about the issue of dwell times on the new electric trains and how they combined with other factors mean the EMUs that are meant to be much faster are have instead actually ended up being slower. Rail users will also be acutely aware that the performance of trains has been appalling in recent months – on that it’s been reported that while the withdrawal of the old diesel trains will remove one of the causes of unreliability, the new trains are having teething problems and will need 6-12 months of bedding in.

That very same afternoon as my dwell time post the AT board papers were published online and an attachment at the end of the business report deals directly with the issue of train/rail performance by showing what is planned to improve it over the next year. The initiatives are broken down by month and in to four key categories – Operations, ETCS (the signalling system), Rail Infrastructure and EMU Reliability Plan.

All the initiatives are shown in the images below – although they can be hard to read so click to enlarge or open the AT report (1.03MB) and scroll to the last three pages – however here are the things that most stood out to me.

  • A range of fixes for the new trains over the next few months which should improve their reliability.
  • Improvements to signalling could provide significant savings including
    • potentially 30 seconds per train from addressing how the signalling system deals with level crossings (from August)
    • faster line speeds on the Onehunga line saving 15 seconds (September)
    • faster line speeds on Southern Line to Penrose saving 20-25 seconds (September)
    • faster speeds around the curves behind Vector Arena saving up to 30 seconds per train (October)
    • faster speeds on the curves on the rest of the network, this most affects the western line where savings could be 15-30 seconds (November)
    • additional balise to speed up dwell times at some stations and improve timekeeping between Britomart and Newmarket
  • Reviewing door opening and closing procedures to reduce dwell times (September), prior to that they are considering having doors opened and closed automatically at peak times.
  • Changes to rules for drivers which could save 20 seconds per train (October)
  • Hiring platform supervisors for Newmarket to improve punctuality (November) and extra drivers to reduce the need for some drivers to change ends on Western Line trains saving up to 2 minutes (December)
  • Closing Westfield Station saving 2 minutes per train
  • A new timetable in May next year that will provide a minimum of 15 minute frequencies between 7am and 7pm, 7 days per week. This will be to tie in with the roll out of the new bus network in South Auckland.
  • New platforms at Henderson and Otahuhu to be able to turn back trains running late – this may be good for train operations but not necessarily good for passengers if you’re travelling to a station past Henderson or Otahuhu.

EMU + Rail improvement action plan 1 - Jun - Sep

EMU + Rail improvement action plan 2 - Oct - Jan

EMU + Rail improvement action plan 3 - Feb - Jun

It’s nice to finally see laid out just what is planned to be done to improve services for customers both in terms of reliability and journey times as many of the issues listed are ones that have been raised numerous times already. It seems that for the Western line in particular the combined time savings could stack up to be a decent amount

While I understand many of the specifics won’t be known until the initiatives are rolled out, perhaps AT could try and pre-empt customer any frustration from slower trains by publishing some of the key points from the document above in a general public focused way on their website and at stations around the network.

May 2015 Patronage

The patronage results for May are out and again the numbers are increasing – although not quite to the same level as recent months. This is in part due to there being one less business day in the month compared to May last year. Here are the results.

2015-05 - Patronage Table

2015-05 - Total Patronage Chart

Once again the rail network is leading the growth with an over 12% increase in patronage compared to May last year although AT say if that is normalised to account for the reduced business day it increase is actually 17%. That’s fairly impressive considering just how poor the performance of services has been – more on that soon. The primary driver for patronage growth continues to appear to be on weekdays with AT saying there are now around ~48,000 trips on a weekday on the rail network which is up from ~41,000 a day in May last year.

The other normalised results are:

  • Total – 6.2%
  • Northern Express – 13.3%
  • Other Bus – 3.3%
  • Ferry – 8.3%

With the continued strong growth in the busway it once again highlights that focusing on rapid transit services is the right approach. Combined rail and the NEX services know make up 21% of all patronage across the network and that figure is growing fast. While many areas of the PT system are obviously in need of improvement, the strong growth in the RTN is a message I really do hope is getting to the Minister as RTN’s are the PT equivalent of motorways and really the kind of infrastructure the government (and of course AT) should be investing in.

With the Other Bus patronage a bit lower than the other modes, I wonder if that was impacted by the decision by AT to start charging for the City Link Bus (previously free with a HOP card).

Coming back to the issue of trains, as mentioned growth has been very strong despite an appalling service standard lately. Out of just over 12,000 trains that were meant to run in May, 650 – (or just over 5%) of them were cancelled – or at least didn’t reach their final destination for some reason. On the Western Line around 10% of all services didn’t reach their destination although I suspect many of these were cases of trains terminated at Swanson. Of those that did run around 20% ended up late. That’s a slight improvement on the month before but still dismal. I guess it proves that passengers will put up with a lot of disruption but likely only for so long.

2015-05 - Rail Performance

AT say that five services across the rail network exceeded their planned standing/sitting ratio. This has commonly been reported however interesting one Eastern line service is mentioned which highlights just how very popular there the electrics are in driving up patronage.

Bus performance isn’t quite as bad – although it too could always be better. This sis shown in the table below

2015-05 - Bus Performance

One good thing AT has recently done in is start publishing patronage data in on their website in .xlsx or .csv format without people having to trawl through years of documents. I’m told this is just the first step and that more data other than patronage will be coming over time. This is nice to see.

As well as patronage, HOP usage continues to increase and AT say that 72.4% of all trips were made with HOP which is up from 67.8% in April. I’m guessing the fare changes helped with that boost.

2015-05 - HOP Usage

Lastly the data for May available yet however here is the results from Wellington up to April. Bus patronage continues to bob around the 24 million trips per year mark however rail patronage is numbers are increasing with April seeing annual growth of 5.5%.

2015-05 - Wellington Total Patronage Chart

Dropping the Dwell

On Monday July 20 – less than a month away –  for the first time all services on Auckland’s rail network¹ will be fully electric as the roll-out of EMUs reaches its next milestone. Having all trains being electric should at least remove the issue of increasingly unreliable diesel trains from the network however it will also present it’s own problems. One of the biggest of these is travel times.

Coming to the western line soon

Coming to the western line soon

One of the most absurd situations we find ourselves in is that despite the new trains capable of much faster acceleration, deceleration and top speeds, they’ve actually been slower than the lumbering diesel trains they’re replacing. There appear are a couple of key causes for this.

  • Long dwell times at stations
  • An overly restrictive signalling system – particularly around level crossings

Both of these issues have a greater impact on the Western Line than the rest of the network as the frequent level crossings and closely spaced stations combine to prevent the EMUs from using their speed advantages to make up much time. Things are bad enough that at the end of March AT added three minutes to western line timetables so the stats didn’t look as bad to more accurately represent what customers can expect. I wanted to see just how bad the dwell times are and so over the last few weeks I’ve managed to have a few EMU journeys on the Western Line so I’ve taken the opportunity to conduct some tests.

Firstly here are some points worth noting about my testing.

  • The times are only for stations between Henderson and Grafton and a couple of trips on an EMU were only to Kingsland.
  • I took the time from as soon as I saw and felt the train stop to the time it started moving again.
  • Some trips were on a weekend when trains aren’t as busy. This is useful as it gives a more baseline comparison that isn’t affected by high passenger loads

So how do they compare?

The performance of electric trains seems to vary quite a bit. On a weekday morning the train averaged just over 1 minute per stop with the longest being at New Lynn. Things were a little better on weekends with an average of around 50 seconds per stop. No matter what way you look at it those are crazy numbers and there’s no way it should take that long compared to how international systems perform – or even compared to the diesel trains. Even on busy morning the trains the diesels averaged around 40 seconds per stop, considerably quicker than their electric counterparts – providing they weren’t overloaded.

So what’s changed to increase dwell times so much. As part of recording the times I hadn’t intended to do so but I started noticing some trends around how long things took. A rough example of what I saw is below using some of the faster times I witnessed.

EMU vs Diesel Dwell Time

Straight away you can probably see a few notable things going on.

  • With the diesels a good train manager will have the doors opening almost immediately as soon as the train stops and within 1-2 seconds passengers will be boarding the train. With the EMU’s there’s a 2-3 second delay before the button even lights up to allow the door to be opened. .
  • Once a door button is pushed it also takes longer for the doors to open and close, this is especially the case for the middle trailer carriage which has to wait for the little platform to extend. .
  • Another quirk is that some TM’s will signal to the driver as their door is halfway closed. It seems with the EMU’s this may not be possible and that they may have to wait for the doors to be closed before alerting the driver. .
  • With the diesels the driver is free to leave as soon as the signal is given to depart – although there is usually a slight lag as the engine powers up. With the electrics there is a long till the EMU can move. I’ve been told by staff the onboard systems have a minimum 5 second delay before the traction system will engage.

As you can see it appears a lot of the issues are primarily technical ones with the design of the trains themselves, the five second delay before the train can leave is particularly absurd.

With the roll-out of EMUs across the entire network almost complete AT, CAF and Transdev need to turn their attention to addressing these issues with urgency. This is because dwell times can have a huge impact on on-time performance. At say 16 seconds per station that equates to an extra four minutes per journey.

While a lot of the issues are technical I think some potential quick solutions could be implemented by changing how staff manage trains. One is to start encouraging faster boarding/alighting by leaving the doors open for a shorter period of time. Currently people can be quite pedestrian in getting on/off trains and TM’s don’t like to hurry people up.

Another potential solution is to shift the TMs out of the trains themselves and have them stationed in the rear cab of the train. This is quite common on many overseas systems. They could then close all the doors at once while checking out the cab door. This would save the time of them closing their door separately while still allowing them to check the doors are clear. This would mean they aren’t roaming the carriages but considering they don’t ever do anything to provide customer service anyway then it’s no great loss i.e. most won’t even ask someone to take feet off seats or turn loud music down.

These two measures along could easily shave up to 10 seconds off dwell times.

In addition to dwell times I also particularly noticed the issue around signals. This is especially the case when there is a level crossing next to a station – like there are in at so many stations on the Western Line.

Without getting too technical, signals are red if the barriers are up to stop trains from going through the crossing. To not inconvenience cars too much in case drivers get impatient and go around barriers, they aren’t set to close till the train is on the platform. The issue is that because the signal is red the new train control system means trains can’t approach a red signal at speed. As a result when there’s a level crossing next to a station trains have to basically crawl up to it – again making trains slower than they need to be. This isn’t an issue with the diesel trains.

The ultimate solution is that we need to get these level crossings removed either by closing roads or grade separating them. In the short term perhaps other solutions need to be investigated such as closing the barriers sooner and having booms that cover the entire crossing rather than just half the crossing like they do now.

Regardless of the solutions, all those involved in the rail system need to work on solutions to speeding up these new trains with urgency.

¹ with the exception of Papakura to Pukekohe

New bus lanes for CRL disruption

Auckland Transport announced yesterday (interestingly only on social media) that there have been no appeals against their consent to start works for the City Rail Link in Albert St. That has cleared the way for work to start in November on moving stormwater pipes – the first physical works needed to deliver the project. As the Herald reported yesterday the actual process of digging the tunnels will start in May next year and will also involve closing the Chief Post Office building down for a few years while the foundations are moved to accommodate the future rail lines.

Changes to Britomart

The works will necessitate a new entrance being created at the rear of the CPO. Here is a concept image of what it will look like

3D view of temporary Briotmart station CRL2

The works will also see a number of streets affected by the construction works – especially Albert St. AT say this will affect more than 5,000 bus trips per day and as such a number of bus routes will have to be changed. Importantly they say they’re prioritising PT in the city during this time saying it is “to provide an effective and efficient way to move the most people in, out and around the city.” It’s good to see AT making this clear.

To prioritise these routes it means AT will be adding in a number of new bus lanes in the city centre as well as temporarily removing on-street car parking from some locations. An overview of the on street changes expected are shown in the image below.

On Street changes for CRL works

There are more detailed maps about just where the changes will occur here.

In total around 77 carparks are affected and given the amount of off street parking generally available I doubt this should have too much impact. Of course people will likely quickly adapt to it being gone so in a few years perhaps those parking changes could become permanent. There are also changes to six loading zones.

 

These works will undoubtedly be disruptive for the city centre however the end result will be transformative for all of Auckland. It enables a huge increase in frequency and capacity of the entire rail network making it more viable to a wider range of people. It also frees up space on city streets so that more buses from areas not served by rail – and in future light rail – can be run, again benefiting not just those going to the city centre. It is also the catalyst for massive growth and it’s no surprise that so many major projects have been announced along the CRL route.

CRL Growth Corridor

And provides a large redevelopment opportunity at Eden Terrace

Mt Eden TOD

In addition to all of this it also opens the way for a whole host of projects to further improve the city centre. Projects such as improved footpaths on Albert St, the Victoria St linear park, the new public space outside the CPO.

Of course the biggest question that remains is when the government will come to the party and fund their share of the project.

Mangere/Airport Rail 2.0

Below is AT’s proposed post CRL rail running pattern. Quite complicated, with some peak only services and an infrequent 3tph [trains per hour] Henderson-Grafton-Otahuhu crosstown service. One feature of this design is that the 6 tph Swanson-CRL-Onehunga service [core Western line service] has every second train stopping at Newmarket, so it becomes 3tph from there to Onehunga. This is because the branch line from Penrose to Onehunga isn’t able to take any higher frequency, but also because there probably won’t be the demand on this little line to balance that of the whole of the western line, unless it is to be extended. And at 12tph there is plenty of action south of Newmarket- a train every 5 minutes each way.

Post CRL running pattern

Another notable feature is just how important Otahuhu is becoming. It’ll have 18tph both directions at the peaks; a train every few minutes each way [correction: actually 21 tph in the peak direction]. A frequency only matched by the Centre-City underground CRL stations. So it will be a great place to connect; that frequency kills wait times and connection anxiety, but also it offers a one-seat ride to everywhere on the network bar the last three Western Line stations and, unlike Newmarket, there is space for an expanded track layout for all these train movements [plus dedicated freight lines]. Add the fact that as you read this, thanks to the Council’s Transport Levy, a bus interchange station is being built there too, it’s becoming a real busy hub.

So picture this; How about adding the heart of Mangere and the Airport to the list of direct Otahuhu rail connections?

MANGERE-AIRPORT LINE

The Line

Here’s how it could go, there are a couple of options at the northern end, but otherwise around 9km of track over flat terrain pretty direct to the Airport. And, importantly some very good points along the way to serve the local community and add catchment to the service. On the map above I am proposing new stations at:

Robertson Rd

Mangere Town Centre/Bader Drive

Montgomerie Rd

Airport Terminals

The first two are close together but serve communities separated by SH20, and both are on good perpendicular bus and bike routes to expand that catchment. Mongomerie is also at a junction for good bus connection and is in the middle of the growing employment area north of the Airport. So residential, employment, and the community, education, and retail of the Mangere Town Centre too. Importantly this would act as a way to reconnect the community flung apart by the motorway severance. More on local impacts below.

Otahuhu is 25 minutes from Britomart, a number that should come down when AT and their operator sort out their currently overlong dwell times, and would be around 10 or so minutes from the Airport Terminals. 35mins from the heart of the city? Even cabinet ministers from the provinces would see the point of that congestion free journey when [say] going to meet us at the Ministry of Transport or NZTA in the city. But also such a fast and direct service would make taking it by connection from the North Shore viable, improving options for what is currently an expensive and congestion prone journey by any mode.

And in terms of running pattern it’s already sorted: send all 6tph of the western line on to through the CRL, Otahuhu, Mangere and the Airport. An immediate 10min all day frequency, through the busy Ellerslie and Newmarket hubs, direct to Remuera and Parnell, all the city CRL stations and every point on the Western line. Easy transfer at Otahuhu for every other station and connection point on the network. Uber to any station on the network with your bags, and you’re on your way in comfort and at speed right to the Terminal, and out of the vagaries of Auckland traffic and cost and hassle of parking. Personally I would prefer that transfer to the one people make now in their thousands at Airport Park’n’Rides.

Or if it’s preferred the 3tph currently intended to stop at Newmarket plus the 3tph of the crosstown service on from Otahuhu to make up the frequency. That looks overly fiddly and illegible to me, but that’s not important for this argument; the point is that Otahuhu in fact looks like a better point to connect Mangere and the Airport to the rest of the city than Onehunga, for both speed of service, and onward connections. And the added bonus of improving network efficiency by simply extending existing services.

Local Community

Of course the route is not free. the section between the SH20 interchange and Otahuhu station goes down a highway designation that NZTA still probably want and that the locals recently fought to keep as it is. Here:

Mangere Central

It is possible that the local community, if treated fairly and with respect, may see the advantages for them in having to this line in their midst. It is substantially different from a highway in terms of width, noise, pollution and benefit. The current residents would need to be rehoused to their advantage and the line would have to come with high quality and numerous crossing points and increased community access to the new stations and other destinations. It could be a catalyst for a whole lot of improvements in the area. But I can’t speak for them.

Otherwise it just faces the same route issues that the one sourced from Onehunga has. The refusal by previous decision makers, especially Manukau City Council, but also NZTA, and ARTA, to future proof adequately in their plans here means more expensive elevated solutions will be required over SH20A. However we are assured that the current Kirkbride Rd works allow for that and that the Airport company is similarly preparing for such a line. Otherwise it doesn’t look to face any unusual engineering challenge. Only the standard political and financial ones.

Interestingly here is report by BECA for ARTA from 2008 that features this route, with exactly the same station placements [can’t be too illogical then]. That found that Route 2B, as they called it, scored well:

BECA @B

BECA Airport Rail

But the report is complicated by the inclusion of the Avondale-Westfield line. One I never seen the point of in passenger terms and can not picture an efficient rail running pattern for, and that is only there because of an ancient freight designation. Also I find it odd that the report doesn’t analyse routes it terms of how services would use them.

Avondale-Onehunga-Penrose, and further, looks like it could be a more useful Light Rail service, once AT have their ‘four finger’ routes all ending along this line. The rest of the report is very dated and I’m sure would use very different ridership projections now.

I am confident about the utility and therefore the appeal of such a fast and direct line for Airport customers and employees, especially with such good onward connections and a turn up and go frequency. So long as the Sydney pitfall of putting a punitive fare on the Airport Station is not applied. Add the local residential, employment, and student catchments and bus connections, and this looks like a strong option without either the slow winding route from Onehunga, or the cost of crossing the Mangere inlet.

There is still the problem of the conditions that the Airport company are demanding; in particular a more expensive undergound route to future proof for a second runway to the north and to keep it out of the way of their new terminal plans. However AIAL also predict huge rises in passenger and associated business volumes at and around the Airport which means that they are going to find other more valuable uses for land than just car parking. And, despite the heroic showering of money on State Highways if this growth is still to only be served by single occupant vehicles and buses stuck with them then these roads and the local ones in the area are not going to work. A really effective Rapid Transit route and service is only going to be needed here with increasing urgency, and nothing will give the capacity and time competitiveness like hooking into the existing rail network that is already much of the way there.

Yes the capital investment will not be minor, but the outcome is both a permanent and extremely valuable for both the city’s efficiency and resilience. It will also add efficiency to the operations of the rail network, increasing utility and cost effectiveness by working those existing assets harder. The always senseless claim that ‘Aucklanders won’t use rail’ or other forms of public transport, has been proven wrong beyond any doubt since recent improvements and booming ridership numbers.  It really is time for certain groups to drop their blinkered knee-jerk rejection of this mode, as it is based on historic conditions and experiences that no longer apply in the new Auckland, and as it really is the best tool for this important job.

Like the Rail Network the Airport appears to be on a trajectory for 20mil passenger movements a year by 2020: It is long overdue that we get these two critical systems linked together for their- and the city and nation’s- mutual benefit.

image

 

 

Roughan confirms LRT Success

On Saturday we learned that Auckland Transport’s light rail plans will be an outstanding success. We learned this not from anything Auckland Transport has told us but from a column written by the Herald’s John Roughan. He ended the piece with:

An underground link to give Auckland’s lines a central turning loop is said to be the key to unlocking their potential for urban commuters. It’s not. It would remove just one of several reasons the trains are too slow.

Light rail in the streets with traffic and stoplights is even slower. Yet the fascination remains. Something about iron tracks makes them hard to let go. They may be a solid line to other places and to the past, but they’ve had their day.

Roughan rubbishing LRT is great as he’s proven to be one of the best reverse barometers we have for public transport so if he thinks a PT investment will flop it means it will be fantastic. Just take a look at some of his previous predictions

In July 2001 he lamented the then plans for Britomart and the then ARCs plans for rail and bus upgrades, more deregulation and shuttle buses were the solution he said.

This is all about what the council wants, not what is most likely to work. If they opened their eyes they would notice that a little bit of deregulation worked a treat 10 years ago.

Take the airport shuttles, as many now do. When minivans where allowed to compete with taxis and buses to Auckland Airport, they found immediate demand.

They were soon getting calls for other destinations, too, but were not allowed to provide them. Imagine if they could. An untapped dimension of public transport is right there.

Later in October that year there was this masterpiece where he urged people to vote for candidates who would oppose PT. He also promoted the group named “Roads before Rail” – now only found on the wayback machine

There will come a time, maybe in 10 or 20 years, when it will be apparent this election was the last chance to prevent a minor disaster and we might wonder what we were thinking of in 2001 that we didn’t stop it.

There were, we will remember, one or two greater disasters happening at the time, so possibly the voters of 2001 will be forgiven. But every time we drive past one of those light rail things we will wonder at our capacity for collective folly.

If, 20 years hence, our children can track down Mrs Fletcher or Mr Harvey and ask why they are lumbered with this little-used railway, they will hear a remarkable story of what was supposed to happen.

They are wasting their time and our money. And they are neglecting – wilfully one suspects – the need for more and wider motorways.

Auckland is a car city and always will be. Its people much prefer their own cars to any form of public transport and, contrary to the claims of the rail lobby, there is plenty of room for more roading.

History shows us that Fletcher’s decision to push ahead with Britomart was inspired and the station has been successful beyond all expectations – as we know from the chart below showing actual daily passengers compared to what was predicted in the business case.

Daily Britomart Passengers - Actual vs Projected

In 2002 he again claimed Britomart and investment in rail would be a financial disaster that will hurt not just Auckland but the nation’s economy

He will not stop the rail scheme. For better or worse, as with corporate regulation, he will probably get it done. It may be merely a financial disaster but it will hurt the economy of Auckland and the country badly enough when the costs hit.

In 2003 he said no-one would use park and ride and said the solution to traffic problems was walking school buses.

Driving to work these mornings, I pass a brilliant bit of traffic engineering. It is not the “park and ride” bus station they are building down at Barry’s Pt, although I pass that too.

Somehow I can’t believe Auckland commuters are going to drive to a suburban transfer station to make the rest of their journey by bus or train. Ask yourself, honestly, would you? Will you?

In 2006 it was that Britomart was built too big for the city – of course we now know it’s too small and will soon run out of capacity

It went ahead and built the Britomart railway station regardless of the scale of rail the region was likely to afford. Britomart, which will shortly farewell the last intercity railcar, is a magnificent terminal for a train that might never come.

In 2007 we have him claiming the busway wouldn’t work

The public transport entrepreneurs intend that we forsake the car entirely and take a bus to the busway. I hope they are right but I really don’t think so.

While not directly related to a Roughan piece, this image was in the herald when the busway opened and it wouldn’t surprise me if he had a hand in it.

Northern Busway White Elephant

 

 

This of course is just a small sample and there are a lot more columns from him talking about transport, complaining about spending on PT and calling for more motorways. As I said, if he’s rubbishing it then it will probably be good.

Coming back to his column on Saturday perhaps my favourite part is where just after saying that he caught a poorly implemented tram once we therefore shouldn’t build light rail in Auckland (or the CRL), he says this:

The Government doesn’t take much interest in AT’s operational decisions for Auckland’s buses and trains and when the Government contemplates the city’s congestion it prefers the advice of the NZ Transport Agency.

Thanks to the national transport planners, the part of Auckland that is probably best served by public transport is the one part that has no railway. The North Shore’s busway is probably the fastest flowing artery in the region and it is about to get better. AT has posted out a plan to Shore households this month that simplified all bus routes into loops between busway stations. It looks ideal.

So now not only is the busway good but he likes the new bus network AT is proposing. I’d agree with him on both those points but the thing I find quite funny is his inability to consider that the same people who developed the new network he praises are also behind the plans for light rail. How is it they can be both so right and so wrong in the space of a few paragraphs.

Just to note, there are a few other areas where Roughan can occasionally be right such as the examples below but they tend to be few and far between:

  • Two years ago he claimed that an Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing isn’t something we need as the issue is the capacity on either side (he also praises the busway).
  • A month prior he urged the government to support the general direction the council have been pushing saying that above all else it is a vision and no one is presenting an alternative – interesting as we later learned the business groups were saying the same thing behind closed doors.
  • He has also noted a few times that we should consider road pricing as a way to get better use out of our existing road infrastructure such as this one.

 

The future of Eden Terrace?

Last year Auckland Transport announced it was dropping the Newton station from the City Rail Link in favour of a redeveloped Mt Eden station. Some of the key reasons cited included:

  • That heritage and view shaft restrictions severely limited the redevelopment potential around the station. Also much of the redevelopable land probably has easier access to the K Rd station with the entrance to Mercury Lane.
  • It allowed them to build a grade separated junction instead of a flat one (like all the other Auckland ones are) which is better for reliability.
  • It saved around $120 million

On the first point they noted the restrictions around Newton aren’t present around the Mt Eden station so there’s the potential for a lot of development. This is especially the case seeing as a huge chunk of the area will be dug up to build the tunnels leaving lots of vacant land available.

An image in a recent presentation shows how much the area could be developed once the CRL has been completed

Mt Eden TOD

That could represent a substantial number of dwellings. It would be interesting to know how much money raised from the redevelopment and sale of that land could contribute towards the cost of the overall project – something I don’t think is able to be included in the business case.

This is image if the potential street pattern that was shown when the change as announced

Mt Eden Station Plan

And an idea of what the redeveloped station might look like.

Mt Eden Station Artistic Impression

CRL Stage One construction details emerge

Contractor Magazine have run an article on the CRL early works, here.

Britomart Axio

Here is an update on projects underway or planned to start soon on the northern part of the route.

The LTP Patronage Targets

Over the years there have been a wide range of patronage targets for public transport. There are high level targets in the 30 year Auckland Plan, 10 years of annual targets in the Long Term plan which are updated every three years and three years of annual targets updated annually in both the council’s Annual Plan and Auckland Transport’s Statement of Intent. Of course there is also the government’s target to start construction of the CRL earlier than 2020.

The targets are important as they are used to monitor how AT are performing – not that I’m sure anything happens if the targets aren’t met. We’ve talked before about patronage targets. In particular how following the drop in patronage in the 2012/13 year AT pushed for the targets to be lowered which the council agreed to in 2014. That left the ridiculous situation where the rail target to the end of June this year was only 12.1 million trips, an increase of just 700k over the year before despite the roll out of electric trains happening. As it happens patronage is currently at 13.5 million trips and predicted to reach 13.8 million by the end of June.

AT pushing to have the targets reduced has also been used by the Ministry of Transport to justify their position that Auckland won’t meet the CRL targets of 20 million trips prior to 2020. A bit of an own goal really.

On to the point of the post. Just over a week ago the council agreed on new patronage targets that would go into their Long Term Plan which were revised from the earlier drafts. You can see the figures that were agreed by the councillors which are slightly different from those originally on the agenda.

2015-25 LTP agreed patronage targets

As you can see, by 2025 the target is for patronage to be 110.7 million trips which is a bit short of the 140 million trips by 2022 the Auckland Plan envisioned – although to be a little bit fair some projects like the CRL were expected sooner. Given the time-frame and PT growth I think we can expect in Auckland through all the changes planned I think that 110 million tips is a bit light. Based on current population projections it would represent a per capita usage of less than 60 trips per year (currently we’re just over 50).  As an example over the next few years the last of the electric trains will roll out along with the New Network and integrated fares. Those alone should see big boosts to patronage numbers and as the charts below show. The problem is only the rail network seems to have any step change factored in.

Of course around 2022 or 2023 we should also see the City Rail Link open and again we should see significant boosts in numbers, especially on the rail network. One of the reasons for this might be because while the LTP’s are a 10 year document, the focus is only really on the first three years till the next revision.

So here are the charts showing the changes and how they compare to the previous targets from the 2012-22 LTP plus the 2013 and 2014 versions of Auckland Transport’s Statement of Intent. As mentioned only the rail network sees any significant change from figures previously expected and if we meet the new target the CRL patronage target will be achieved some time around 2018.

2015-25 LTP agreed patronage targets - Charts

And below is an indication of the how much change is expected in each year. I find it odd that patronage would drop off just as the new network is likely being completed as that alone should provide a big boost from more people transferring from bus to train.

2015-25 LTP Targets - annual change

Slightly related, a presentation I saw recently contained a version of this next chart showing what level patronage could be at over the next 30 years out to 2046. I think it shows quite well the impact the CRL and light rail – even though buses will still dominate the modes.

Future patronage projection

 

What do you think of the targets, are they ambitious enough?