If your interested in history then a useful resource is Papers past which is part of the National Libraries. They describe it as;
Papers Past contains more than two million pages of digitised New Zealand newspapers and periodicals. The collection covers the years 1839 to 1945 and includes 77 publications from all regions of New Zealand.
Because all of the resources are fully searchable it makes extremely useful and is where I was able find this newspaper page. This week they added the editions of the NZ Herald from 1885 to 1924. While having a very quick look search through I came across what appears to have been a letter to the editor from 1924.
The Morningside Deviation that is referred to is what is now known as the City Rail Link. What I found interesting is that while some of the terminology and language used highlights that this is old, many of the arguments are the same we hear today. In particular the suggestions that we don’t need rail as buses can do the job and that we should instead focus on a harbour crossing.
Many of those that oppose the CRL like to use very similar arguments to what was presented here in 1924. It seems some things never change, we instead need to just get on with the task and finally get this project built.
Note: the first reference to the Morningside Deviation in the Herald appears to have been in 1918. That means that even if we get the CRL opened to the timetable that the council is hoping for (2021) it would have over 100 years since the project was first proposed.
There has been a lot of talk about the new bus network that was first proposed in the Regional Public Transport Plan. Thankfully it received extremely strong support from those that made submissions allowing Auckland Transport to start working towards implementing it. While the overall concept has been accepted, there is still a long way to go yet as the specific routes that make up the network will need to be consulted on. Today Auckland Transport have formally started that process with the release of a video to explain the new network. Here is the press release:
Transforming Auckland’s Public Transport Network
Auckland Transport will shortly hit the streets to consult over the New Network for public transport services in Auckland.
The New Network is a region wide public transport network which is proposed to deliver bus services at least every 15 minutes throughout the day, seven days a week on major routes between the hours of 7am to 7pm. Services will connect better with train services for those customers who require connections.
The New Network will be rolled out by Auckland Transport over the next three years starting with bus services in South Auckland in 2014/15.
To help people understand what the New Network will mean for them, prior to consultation, Auckland Transport has released a video guide today. It can be viewed at: http://www.aucklandtransport.govt.nz/newnetwork
Auckland Transport’s Chief Executive David Warburton says; “We are in a period of transformational transport change in Auckland. Any change is challenging. Significant changes in the transport area in Auckland includes the completion over the coming months of Auckland’s integrated smartcard for public transport, the final step in the introduction of the AT HOP card on bus services following the roll-out last year on trains and ferries, the arrival of the first of Auckland’s fleet of new trains and our New Network for public transport services. These are large-scale transport projects for a city undergoing transformation.
“If Auckland is to cope with expected growth in population, public transport must become a very real transport choice for more Aucklanders. But in order to encourage greater uptake, we need to make bold changes to provide a better level of service, respond to public demand and expectation and provide better connections to the places people want to go.
“Due to the sheer scale of the changes we are proposing, consultation and implementation for the New Network will be broken up into several phases. Consultation on the New Network begins in June in South Auckland. Other parts of Auckland will be consulted on in the coming years”.
Dr Warburton says, “The changes will not happen immediately. Any significant transformation requires disruption which is part of change. Implementation of the New Network for public transport will be challenging for a period.
“The video released today demonstrates the scale of the changes the New Network will bring to Auckland.
“In June and July, Auckland Transport will have people in the markets, shopping centres, transport hubs and on the streets in South Auckland talking to customers about these changes and getting their views”.
Dr Warburton says, “ The public will be invited to fill out feedback forms at the Open Days and can also provide feedback at our consultation webpage www.aucklandtransport.govt.nz/newnetwork, or by filling out our freepost feedback form”.
I must say, this is probably the best press release I think that AT have done. I love how they have talked about how transformational this will be and how all of the key PT projects, integrated ticketing, electrification and the new bus network tie in together. But the good news doesn’t stop there. The video they have produced is superb and easily the best they have done to explain any project. It excellently explains why we need the new network, the logic behind it and even some of the finer details about the proposal.
On the page AT have set up for the new network, they also have a new and very pretty version of the frequent network map that we have seen before.
All up I am very happy, not just with the new network but with how AT have started to communicate it. If they carry on in this same vein for both the network and other projects like the CRL then it will really help in getting the public to understand why these projects are needed.
Good work AT, give yourselves a pat on the back.
Auckland Transport have released some new photos of the first of our new electric trains being built in Spain. Here is the press release:
The countdown is on for new electric trains to commence passenger service in Auckland.
The first train is about to roll off the production line at Construcciones y Auxillair Ferrocarriles (CAF) in Spain. CAF is building a fleet of 57 three-car high-speed train sets to carry passengers on the Auckland suburban rail network. These new state of the art trains have been designed to meet the specific needs of Aucklanders and feature the latest in terms of safety, comfort and reliability.
The first train is expected to leave Spain in June, arriving here in early September. Between September and April the new trains will be thoroughly tested and used for driver training before going into operation once there is a sufficient number to run a commercial service.
And for the first time we can reveal the seating layout for the trains. This comes after Auckland Transport consulted with user groups (including the mobility impaired and cyclists) on what they need from the trains.
Auckland Transport Chief Executive David Warburton says, “The input of various interest groups has helped with the final layout. These trains are designed specifically for the needs of Aucklanders.
The three-car trains carry up to 375 passengers, around 100 more than the current trains or an increase of over 35 per cent.
All cars will have a variety of seating arrangements. The longitudinal seating will be Priority Seating for people with mobility issues, seniors and parents with children as well as those travelling with large items like bikes and cases. There will be four sets of flip up Priority Seats inside the middle (or trailer) car where bicycles and wheelchairs can be secured for travel.
Dr Warburton says, “Passengers will be able to walk the full length of a three car train via the connection between the motor cars and central trailer car, making it easier to find a seat and meaning increased safety.”
And here are the images. The first shows what appears to be an almost completed motor car (there are two in each three car set)
While the second image shows the interior which is still being fitted out however is already looking very nice
I can’t wait till these are on the tracks and carrying passengers.
The deal between the government and Sky City for a new convention centre has been announced this morning.
Details of the controversial SkyCity convention centre deal with the Government have been announced this morning – and the listed casino operator will pay $402m for the new centre.
The centre is expected to generate $90m of revenue each year. SkyCity will meet the full cost of the centre and be allowed to have 230 extra poker machines. Its exclusive license will be extended to 2048.
It will cost $315 million to build and fit-out, while the land will be worth $87m.
Construction on the centre is expected to begin in 2014 and open in 2017.
Now I’m not going to comment on the moral debate surrounding this agreement, that can be left to other sites. What I am more interested in is looking at are the potential benefits to some of the transport projects that we strongly believe in.
Sky City is surely one of the biggest beneficiaries of the CRL with its properties either right next to the proposed Aotea station which is expected to become the busiest station on the network. In fact it wouldn’t surprise me if they have already been considering ways to tap into it and funnel passengers from the station through to their premises. The proposed convention centre is less than 200m from the station meaning that will be very easy to access for locals visiting or working at the site.
However if we believe the claims of Steven Joyce (and I don’t tend to believe them) many of the visitors will come from overseas. Those visitors will need to get from the airport to the city. While a good deal are likely to do so via taxis, another project could change that.
Rail to the Airport
We keep getting told that even with massive investment in new roads, congestion is only going to get worse. Even today getting from the airport to the city can take more than an hour outside of the peak. The rail network can avoid that congestion and deliver reliable journey times. Connecting rail to the airport, combined with the CRL means that visitors could be whisked from the terminal straight to the heart of town in around 35 minutes. Further if they are staying in one of the Sky City hotels then it would be super easy for them to reach straight from the station.
Of course a rail connection to the airport isn’t just about people travelling but actually helps to connect the entire south west of the city.
Hobson and Nelson St
Hobson and Nelson Sts currently seem to just be giant traffic sewers whose sole purpose is to funnel as many vehicles as possible to/from the motorways. This has meant that the area has become a pretty horrid place for anyone not in a car. This blog has long called for this to be addressed with our preferred solution being to once again make these streets two way. We first raised the issue a few years ago and the idea quickly caught on, even making it into the councils City Centre Master Plan however it is something we haven’t heard about for a while. With the announcement of the convention centre perhaps it is time for this idea to float back to the surface.
Not only would it help in making these streets nicer places, I believe it could also assist in improving the flow of traffic as currently Hobson St especially gets clogged up in the afternoons as people end up blocking lanes as they try to get into the get into the lanes for the motorway they want to access.
In saying all of this, SkyCity don’t seem to care about any of this with the herald reporting.
The company said as well as the convention and exhibition space, there will be at least 780 carpark and a new linkway bridge over Hobson St.
This is on top of their almost 2000 carparks. Perhaps they are expecting all of these promised international visitors to drive their cars to New Zealand? Adding so many extra carparks certainly isn’t going to help in the councils aims to reduce the number of vehicles in the CBD or to improve the the quality of our streets for pedestrians. This is further reinforced by the building of an airbridge to keep people away from the area. That doesn’t bode well level of interaction we can expect the building to have with the street meaning we will potentially see more gaping holes dedicated to moving cars into underground parking buildings, like the current casino building does (above).
While the integrated ticketing project seems to have been an ongoing saga for some time now, it might not be the only public transport project that is running into trouble at the moment. Lately I have been hearing from a wide range of people about another high project that could be in trouble, electrification. Just to ensure there is no confusion it is probably worth reminding everyone that the electrification project I am referring to relates to the physical infrastructure being installed, this part of the project is being managed by Kiwirail. As far as I am aware, the electric trains and depot, which are managed by Auckland Transport, are on track with the first unit well into the construction phase and due to arrive most likely in September.
The electrification project itself has consisted of a number of smaller projects:
- Signalling – The overhead wires had the potential to interfere with the existing signals we had so the entire network needed to be re signalled to prevent that from happening. Regardless Auckland’s previous signalling system was fairly ancient so needed replacing anyway. I believe that with the completion of track works at Papakura this is now completed.
- Clearances – Many of the bridges that crossed the rail network didn’t have enough height to allow the wires to run under them. This has been resolved by either lowering the tracks or replacing the bridges. This has now been completed although work is still going on for the new Ellerslie Panmure Highway bridge as part of AMETI.
- Traction – This is the actual masts and wires.
Completed wires out near Swanson (thanks Geoff)
As mentioned the signalling and clearance works have been completed or are very close to being so, the problem is with the traction side of things. The traction contract was signed in mid January 2010 just before the new Newmarket station opened however even in the announcement I can’t find any information as to just when it was due to be completed. It has actually been surprisingly hard to find out exactly when the project was due to be completed but these.
Mr Quinn gave an assurance that with the news today of the consortium winning the tender, the work will be completed in 2013 in time for the first delivery of new electric trains
- This was from just over a month after the traction contract was signed.
”The infrastructure has to be completed before the rolling stock arrives in 2013,” he says.
The last section to be electrified will be the eastern line with all the infrastructure completed by the end of 2013
How long will it take to electrify the entire network?
KiwiRail is working to a deadline of 2013 to complete the infrastructure for electrification. The first masts started appearing on the Western Line in 2011, and the work is being completed in phases.
- There was also this slide in a presentation to the councils Transport Committee in October last year confirming that the wires would be completed by August. Note they also state that the section of Newmarket to Swanson would be energised in March yet currently there are no wires between Newmarket and Mt Albert
KiwiRail is using its last big summer shutdown of the region’s rail network to rearrange tracks at Britomart and two other locations before spinning the final segments of an electrical web which by August will cover about 85km of lines from central Auckland to Papakura in the south and Swanson in the northwest.
Basically everything I can find points to the wires being completed later this year but unfortunately that doesn’t match what I have been hearing recently so I went directly to Kiwirail to find out what they say. Here is their response:
The project is on course for completion in first quarter 2014. As you may know the sections of overheads on the Onehunga branch and the NAL between Penrose and Newmarket have been commissioned. The next section to be commissioned will be Penrose to the Wiri EMU depot, which will be in the third quarter of this year. Beyond that we are working closely with Auckland Transport to ensure we align commissioning further of sections of OLE with their programme for delivery and commissioning of EMUs.
It’s obviously quite clear right from the get go that the project won’t be completed this year and first quarter 2014 could mean the wires aren’t finished till almost April, up to 7 months late. Reading between the lines there is more concerning news with revelation that by the time the first train arrives, it is likely that the only section of wires fully completed and commissioned will be the section between the Wiri depot and Newmarket. I also suspect it means we are unlikely to see any wires up in Britomart until next year. That means it is unlikely that there will any electric train services till later in 2014 as there would still be quite a bit of time needed for testing and driver training, after all we don’t want our drivers misjudging things and ploughing into the end of the platforms.
Here is Kiwirail’s latest update from the 18th of March. Since that time I believe that the work has primarily focused on the section around the Westfield Junction.
All up this is very disappointing and given the current slow progress, I fear that even the completion date of first quarter 2014 could slip further. Further motorway projects these days always seem to come in both ahead of time and within budget, why is it we can’t do the same for PT projects?
The long running saga of Auckland’s Integrated Ticketing project continues, with this story in the Sunday Star Times today:
Auckland Transport’s accounts indicate the city’s integrated ticketing system is $27 million over budget and behind schedule, but the council-owned agency refused to comment on or clarify its numbers last week.
The Sunday Star-Times has been requesting an update on the project for two weeks, but last week spokeswoman Sharon Hunter said no-one was available for an interview.
After saying the project was on schedule, Hunter said Auckland Transport would be holding a media briefing around the start of the AT HOP bus rollout programme “shortly”.
As well as the apparent budget blowout, the article also points out that the legal dispute with Snapper remains unresolved.
Earlier this week, Auckland Council approved only $2m of a $9m request for additional funding for the project from Auckland Transport. It isn’t clear what impact this will have on the rollout.
It is very hard to know how the AIFS project is tracking, with Auckland Transport being so circumspect about what the plan is for the bus rollout. We certainly don’t seem to be any closer to a decision on what the final zone fare structure will be and how transfers will work, let alone family and other types of monthly passes.
The most recent official information we have is from the March Auckland Council Transport Committee meeting, with the following points highlighted for each mode.
- 49,000 plus users
- Cash fares higher than forecast
- System fully operational
- On-line top-up behind forecast
- VRD performance
- Revenue management issues
- Manukau gating
- System fully operational
- Very low number of users
- Fare challenges to migrate to HOP
- Downtown Ferry Terminal upgrade
- Thales programme of works on schedule
- Bus cabling and installations commenced this month
- Pilot for Northern Express scheduled to begin on 21 April
- Bus rollout commences from June
- Complex bus roll-out due to multiple fare products and individual operator cards
The low uptake for ferry users should not be surprising – using an AT Hop on the ferries is more expensive than a 10 trip ticket.
The obvious thing to do would be to make the fare for AT Hop card users the same as the 10 trip ticket price, and do away with 10 trip tickets altogether, but who knows what “Fare challenges to migrate to HOP” actually means.
As for the bus rollout, clearly we are running behind time with the Northern Express pilot still continuing. The chances of a June bus rollout seem remote.
The Auckland Integrated Fares programme has been dragging on now since the end of 2009. A brief summary:
Auckland Regional Transport Authority signs a $47m contract with Thales to provide integrated electronic ticketing for buses, trains and ferries. The initial contract was for the core system capable of being a nationwide clearing house, and the set up in Auckland of the rail and ferry hardware. Despite not being awarded the contract, Snapper announce they will be rolling out their ticketing solution on to Auckland NZ Bus services.
Auckland Transport announce that “Supplementing the contract already in place with Thales, a Participation Agreement has now been signed between Auckland Transport, NZ Bus and Snapper for the introduction of a single smartcard for use on NZ Bus services as part of the Auckland Integrated Ticketing program. Other bus operators were said to be at “different stages of understanding”.
The decision is somewhat surprising as, at the time of the announcement, the Snapper card is not compatible with the Thales Desfire technology.
It is later revealed in Parliament that Snapper met with Steven Joyce on 3rd March of 2010. Soon after the meeting Snapper confirmed in a letter to the NZTA that “NZBus should be free to proceed on its current plan to implement Snapper equipment … in Auckland.” Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee responds saying that ”it is incorrect to say that the New Zealand Transport Agency was instructed by the Minister to include Snapper.”
In a presentation to the newly formed Auckland Transport Committee, Auckland Transport project the following timeline for the AIFS programme:
The “purple” Hop card is rolled out on the NZ Bus fleet, starting with North Star services.
It is alleged that Snapper cannot make its card compatible with the Thales solution by November 2012, claims refuted by Snapper at the time. Earlier, Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee says that Snapper would be “off the run” if they fail to meet the deadline.
Snapper vows “all necessary steps will be taken to recover losses arising from the wrongful termination”, warning that “Auckland ratepayers would be the casualties, saying the ultimate cost of the decision by the council transport organisation’s board … was likely to the significant”
Auckland Transport announces that non-NZ Bus operators will install Thales hardware on their bus fleets.
Andrew Ritchie, Chief Executive of Ritchie’s, says, “The bus consortium previously chose Parkeon as its hardware supplier and they have proven themselves to be professional and responsive in their approach to the project. However, in the interests of a seamless approach we have now elected to move to the AT Thales solution which will also be used on trains and ferries”.
AT Hop is rolled out on trains. The introduction of the AT Hop card causes confusion over branding that continues to exist, with “purple hop” continuing to be used on NZ Bus services, while AT Hop is used on ferries and trains.
AT Hop rolled out to ferry users. Greg Edmonds quoted as saying “AT HOP for ferries will begin with single ticket fares with at least a 10% discount off the equivalent single cash fare. Auckland Transport and ferry operators are working closely together to enable products such as ferry monthly and other passes, to be available on the AT HOP card in the near future”.
Today is a bit of a history day. Despite the running down and removal of our PT system over the decades we know that new life is currently being breathed into it so I believe it is important to remember just how far we have come in a relatively short space of time. One of the areas to see the most dramatic change has been to the rail network around Newmarket which was changed from a run-down station into a fairly amazing looking interchange (although we need the station square fixed up). These photos hopefully reflect that (and thanks to Craig for them).
There have also been some massive changes to the area around Grafton. Previously a single track snuck through an area that is now home to one of the busier stations on the network.
Grafton Station Before
Looking up the hill towards Grafton
Some comments the other day raised the question about what led to patronage dropping so much in the late 1950′s. Was it the removal of the tram network or was it the opening of the Harbour bridge, the motorways and the introduction of cheaper cars. In a way it is kind of a chicken or egg debate. It was sparked by this graph from Auckland Transport and thankfully they had previously provided me with the data behind it allowing us to look at the info in more detail.
So let’s have a look at things in more detail. I think that there are four distinct periods in the history of PT patronage in Auckland and with the exception of the one we are in now, they conveniently each lasted about 25 years. I characterise these four periods as:
- The Rise – 1920 to 1945
- The Fall – 1946 to 1970
- The Bounce – 1971 to 1995
- The Revival – 1996 to Now
By 1920 electric trams had been plying Auckland for almost two decades (having replaced Horse drawn trams) and they had enabled the city to spread out across large portions of the central isthmus. Effectively where the trams went, development followed and the suburbs were designed to make trams easy to use. This is most noticeable in the western side of the isthmus where most houses were within 400m walking distance of a tram route. Further looking at aerial images from 1940 on the councils GIS viewer, it doesn’t appear that there were very many houses outside of the areas covered in the map below
400m catchment from the former tram lines. (thanks to Kent)
Patronage during this time was clearly affected by the great depression however rebounded afterwards then surged during the war thanks to the rationing of fuel and rubber as well as the increase participation in the workforce to support the war. The graph below shows patronage by mode up for this period. As you can see the trams carried the vast majority of passengers with over 80% of all trips occurring on them. Auckland’s population during this time went from around 150,000 to just under 300,000 however even at the lowest point, there were an average of over 240 trips per person per year. During the war patronage peaked at over 420 trips per person per year.
As you would expect, after the war patronage decreased however it didn’t fall back to pre-war levels and instead stayed above 100 million trips per year. All up by 1950 patronage had only decreased by ~11% from its wartime peak. While the total number of cars in NZ had definitely increased over time, annual new car registrations were still below levels seen during the depression, so much so that between 1945 and 1950 the total vehicle fleet in NZ had only increased by 12%. Per capita usage in 1950 was around 330 trips per person.
A tram in Queen St 1949 – Queen Street, Auckland city. New Zealand Free Lance : Photographic prints and negatives. Ref: PAColl-7171-06. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23214342
Unfortunately our city leaders fell hook line and sinker for the utopian dream spreading out from the US that cars and buses powered by petrol and diesel were the future. It was decreed that buses were to replace the trams and in typical Auckland fashion, we not only proceeded to do this but extremely rapidly – and likely very expensively – pulled out the entire tram network over roughly a 6 year period. What was likely an initial optimism about the future of Public Transport seemed to be wiped away once people actually tried the new bus services and by the time the last tram was removed from the city in 1956, patronage had plummeted from over 105.5 million in 1950 to around 66.5 million in 1957.
During this time period the first motorways also started to be completed and by 1957 sections on the Northwestern were open between Lincoln Rd and Pt Chev while the Southern motorway was open between Ellerslie -Panmure Highway and Redoubt Rd. It’s interesting to question how much impact they would have had on PT patronage initially as both ended outside of furthermost extent of the former tram network. Car ownership throughout NZ also increased during this time which I suspect is partly due to more being available and partly people not happy with the bus options being provided.
After the sharp fall caused by the removal of the tram network, patronage then went into a steady decline as the car culture became further entrenched and more and more motorway extensions were opened. Despite what one person has suggested, the only noticeable impact of the harbour bridge opening seems to have to the ferries which is understandable.
By 1972 public transport patronage had reached a low of just 42 million trips per year and then the oil crisis hit. Almost instant it seems as though patronage bounced back with it increasing by over 10 million trips in a year. From there it bounced around between 50 and 60 million trips a year for around 15 years. I don’t know the history behind it but it also seems odd that just as oil prices spike, we obviously started pulling out the trolley buses and replaced them with diesel ones. Both trains and ferries had little to no impact on patronage during this time period.
I have also called it the bounce because the increases experienced didn’t last. By the late 80s petrol prices started to decline once again in real terms. Around the same time (or early 90′s) reforms made it much easier and therefore cheaper to import cars which saw PT patronage fall away again to new lows. In 1994 we reached the lowest point ever with just over 33 million trips in the year.
Bus patronage started to see a revival in the late 90′s spurred on primarily on buses. I’m not entirely sure what started it so perhaps some readers can fill me in. In 2003 Britomart opened which was really the turning point for the rail network, it initially saw some impact to bus patronage however both have grown and it has seen patronage climb back above 70 million trips. Incidentally the last time it was that high was the year the last of the tram lines were pulled out.
So did greater availability of cars turn people off PT or were people put off PT by the removal of the tram network and pushed into using cars? I think it is a bit of both. Had the trams not been removed I suspect that patronage would still have dropped as car use became more prevalent however I doubt it would have fallen by as much as it did. Of course we can’t know for sure but I think we can say with certainty that Auckland would be quite a different city if we still had those tracks in place today.
For a total comparison, here is the total change experienced by mode since 1920.
And here you can see the impacts that at a per capita level. A rapidly increasing population has meant that despite recent gains in patronage are still not using PT anywhere as much as even a few decades ago.
I live in a parallel transport universe. A universe where zombies make uninformed statements about Auckland’s transport issues, which are subsequently published by well-meaning but clueless mainstream media. The zombies’ strategy is to hypnotise people with absurdity and then proceed to eat a few parts of their brains, after which their haplessly brainless victims stumble out into the world spouting transport nonsense.
Yesterday threw up two delicious brain-eating examples.
The first came courtesy of this rather interesting hour-long series of interview on RadioLive. First off the mark was Patrick (cue Irish accent), who took 10 minutes to deconstruct a few of the myths about Auckland’s transport problems in somewhat humorous fashion.
Hot on Patrick’s dainty little high heels was an almost comical, but unfortunately serious, interview with Simon Lambourne, who apparently is the transport spokesperson from the AA (OMG he gets paid?). In response to a question about whether hovercrafts were the solution to Auckland’s transport problems, Simon replied by saying:
“Yeah well I think this person’s actually onto something. If you look at public transport in Auckland, and we desperately need to look at investing more in public transport than we already do, there’s a lot of attention on buses and trains, but hardly anything on actual ferries. Now if you look at somewhere like Sydney, where they really unleash the potential of their harbour through a great ferry network …”
Let’s follow Simon’s advice and “look” at Sydney’s public transport system. A quick internet search reveals the following (approximate) annual public transport patronage statistics by mode:
- Ferry ~13 million p.a.
- Bus ~200 million p.a.
- Rail ~250 million p.a.
Has Sydney really “unleashed the potential of their harbour through a great ferry network”? Perhaps – if you consider a ferry network that carries approximately 2% of total annual public transport patronage as being “unleashed” (NB: Ferries currently carry about 5% of Auckland’s PT patronage). But this has not been achieved without monumental investment in bus and rail, the very same type of investment that Lambourne is lamenting.
That “boom” you just heard was Simon Lambourne blowing up his own credibility. Seriously though, someone needs to tell Simon that it does not matter how reasonable you try and sound when you’re talking about public transport; if you’re working from blatantly incorrect information then you will always be, well, conspicuously wrong.
Now don’t get me wrong, I quite like ferries. In terms of overall deliciousness they rank just below chocolate ice-cream and puppies. Mmm … delicious.
But as previously discussed in this post, the potential of ferries in Auckland has largely already been tapped; there simply aren’t many craggy peninsulas like Devonport left. In other places where they have been considered, such as Te Atatu, the general conclusion (for good reason) is that ferries will struggle to compete with cars and buses in terms of speed and accessibility and therefor would be an expensive way to grow PT patronage.
And even putting these physical realities to one side does not alter the fact that the maximum potential share of total travel demands that could possibly be met by ferries is really, really small in the scheme of a large city like Auckland. So please don’t let Simon (or Cameron Brewer or Phil Twyford) eat your brain: Ferries are not going to solve Auckland’s transport problems (as the evidence from Sydney demonstrates).
Yesterday was the transport zombie gift that kept on giving. Another example came by way of this op-ed entitled “Strategic car parks part of gridlock solution“. The op-ed itself is not too bad, at least compared to Simon’s effort. The author (Neil Binnie) starts off by making the following claim (emphasis added):
Traffic congestion in Auckland is chronic and deteriorating fast. The comments that follow relate to the North Shore and the Northern Busway but the principles may be applied across the city. One issue that has had little promotion is park and ride.
Little promotion? Well, my 2 seconds of internet searching threw up this AT website, which identifies P&R sites across Auckland. These can be summarised as follows:
- Northern Busway – 1,100 car-parks
- Southern line – ~1,000 car-parks
- Western line – 300 car-parks
- And various ferry P&R sites.
We’ve also discussed P&R at length in this earlier post. One such ferry P&R is at Devonport, which is illustrated below. Here we see some of the most valuable land in New Zealand being occupied solely for P&R. How is this not a scandal? And how can an article on P&R not even mention the value of land?
Let’s look at the example of the Northern Busway in more detail. Here we have 1,100 P&R car-parks. Now if we assume that all these car-parks are occupied by cars that carry 1.2 people each, then these P&R spaces might be expected to generate approximately 1,100 x 1.2 x 2 = 2,750 boardings per day (2.5 boardings per car-park).
At last count the Northern Busway was carrying something like 2.25 million people per year, which is an average of 187,500 people per month or 6,160 per day (it’s likely to be much higher on weekdays). So on the average weekday P&R is able to contribute, at most, 45% (2,750/6,160) of the patronage on the Northern Express. Don’t forget, however, that the NEX is only about one-third of the bus services using the busway. When we consider all the other services using the busway, and their likely patronage, then P&R would seem to generate ~20% of total bus patronage in the corridor.
P&R is not even close to being the most important mode of access.
That’s not all, however. One of the often-overlooked issues with P&R is the degree to which it diverts existing PT passengers. When the Northern Busway, first opened, for example, surveys showed that approximately half of the people using the P&R had previously been catching a local bus from their street. Why is this relevant? Well, it indicates that approximately half of the people using P&R were not new to the PT system. That in turn means that half of the P&R provided on the Northern Busway did not contribute to a net increase in PT patronage.
None of this is mentioned in the article, which prefers to argue that “Passenger numbers on the Northern Expressway [sic] have plateaued because parking options are exhausted.“ The article also ignores that just over a year ago Auckland Transport spent $5.5 million to expand the Albany P&R by 550 spaces. Expanding park and ride in many locations is enormously expensive, because land is expensive. So the question Auckland Transport must try to answer is: Where is it cost-effective to do so? Places like Constellation and Albany generally are not cost effective. Silverdale maybe.
Despite all of these omissions the article then finishes with the following comment:
We are told to use shuttle busses rather than parking at a bus station or dropping family off. In practice the buses are so infrequent that it is not an option. For example, there is a bus every half hour from Albany bus station to Torbay shops. .
A bus every half an hour? That to me sounds like an argument for increasing the frequency of bus connections to busway stations, which indeed is what the draft RPTP has proposed to do. Again, these proposals, their potential costs (the proposed network is broadly cost neutral), and their subsequent effects on PT patronage (and the demand for P&R) does not even warrant a mention in the article.
Some of you may think that likening these people to “brain-eating zombies” is a little harsh on my part. Perhaps.
On the other hand, the people responsible for these pearls of wisdom, namely Simon Lambourne and Neil Binnie, have had the temerity to approach mainstream media offering their personal opinions on potential solutions to Auckland’s transport issues; opinions which can be shown to be demonstrably incorrect, or at least highly uninformed, with just 2 seconds of internet research. That, I’d suggest, is deserving of a lampooning.
It’s nothing personal, but I think it’s important to point out that these zombies don’t know what they’re talking about. Simon definitely should know better – after all he’s paid to know stuff about transport.
Of course ferries and P&R should be part of Auckland’s integrated transport system, but they’re relatively small parts – with the potential to contribute, at a guess, a maximum of 10-15% of total public transport patronage. The bulk of Auckland’s patronage will still occur the way it always has – walk-up passengers to bus and rail services It is these people that we need to focus on – they’re the bulk of our passengers and will be for the foreseeable future.
Indeed, the solutions to Auckland’s public transport issues are quite simple. We just need to 1) build the CRL so we can run higher train frequencies across the whole network; 2) establish a more legible, connected, high-frequency bus network ; and 3) implement a simple and “fair” integrated fare system. These three initiatives will provide quite a lot of “pull”. There’s also a need for a few policy reforms, such as the removal of minimum parking requirements, although these initiatives can bubble quietly along in the background providing a gradual “push” for people to drive less and use alternatives more.
I’m convinced that if we focus on implementing these initiatives, and ignore the noisy zombies with all their absurd ideas about how Auckland would somehow be saved if the city was awash with ferries or P&R or whatever, then we will get quite far, quite fast. We just need to stay the course and get the basics right. I realise that’s not a particularly glamorous message, but I think it’s the right one.
There’s seemingly a lot of confusion around about the impacts of the City Rail Link project – heck the transport minister still thinks that it’s a loop going around in circles under the CBD (surely the ultimate indictment of Auckland Transport’s CRL communications?) In this post I’m going to try to explain – area by area – how the CRL may benefit different bits of Auckland. Of course there are a number of benefits that will come out of the CRL which aren’t area specific, but relate to the whole of Auckland – and even the whole of New Zealand. Let’s tackle those first.
Benefits for all of Auckland (and New Zealand):
We generally don’t invest in transport just for a transport outcome, but because we want an improved transport situation to lead to other, wider, benefits – in particular economic growth and productivity. The CRL will enable the Auckland City Centre to grow much larger than would be feasibly possible without it – the City Centre Future Access Study highlighted the massive transport issues that we’ll face in the not too distant future unless we build the link.
Enabling a larger and more vibrant city centre (amenity of the place isn’t going to be great with thousands upon thousands of buses trawling through it) is shown internationally to significantly boost economic productivity – as city centre workers are generally more productive than those elsewhere. This chart is from the 2010 business case:
There are two distinct elements which make up this difference:
- Some particularly productive jobs tend to exclusively or near exclusively locate in the CBD
- The same job done in the CBD is generally able to be performed more productively than elsewhere
Ultimately a more productive and successful economy should benefit everyone, through an increased standard of living, an increased tax take that can be spend on social services etc. Compared to cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, Auckland has a relatively small city centre as a proportion of total employment – which the economic research above tends to indicate could well be a reason behind Auckland’s relatively poor economic performance.
The other main ‘region wide’ benefit is how having a vastly improved rail system will take pressure off Auckland’s already stressed roading network as the population grows. The price of planned motorway upgrades (e.g. $5 billion Harbour Crossing) highlights that expanding the motorway network to match population growth is just impossible – whereas the rail system has huge unused capacity that the CRL will enable. It also tends to be the car trips which can easily be replaced by rail (longer peak time trips to the city centre) which create the most significant congestion for everyone else – so getting those people off the road could well help your commute, no matter where you live and where you’re heading to.
Benefits for the North
Although the rail system in Auckland does not (yet) extend to the North Shore there are ways in which the CRL still benefits those on the North Shore. Let’s just run through a few:
- The CRL means that fewer buses need to be run into the city centre from the south, west and east – which frees up space in the city centre for buses from the North Shore.
- A future North Shore railway line would link up to the existing rail network at Aotea Station, therefore the CRL is essential to enable that future line to connect up to the rest of the rail network. A North Shore connection at the existing Britomart Station would place too much pressure on the Quay Park junction and basically negate the ability to ever build CRL.
- A large number of buses from the North Shore in the future will travel along Wellesley Street, meaning that Aotea Station will be really handy if passengers from the North Shore wish to transfer onto a train to travel elsewhere in Auckland.
Benefits for the West
For people outside the realistic catchment of the Western Railway Line, the benefits are quite similar to people living on the North Shore. The northwest’s future busway along State Highway 16 will inevitably feed a lot of buses into a city from a corridor that’s not likely to be replaced with rail – and those buses will need to go somewhere and will operate much better if they’re not competing with buses from rail served areas for streetspace.
For those within the Western Line catchment, you are some of the biggest beneficiaries of the CRL as you trips will be significantly quicker if you’re travelling to the CBD, but also you’ll be able to enjoy significantly more trains as a result of CRL unlocking the capacity of the whole rail system – creating a huge benefit even if you’re not travelling into the city centre. Here’s a useful before and after in terms of travel time from key stations to the city centre – note the vastly quicker times from the West:Benefits for the Isthmus Area:
As detailed earlier, areas in the isthmus along the Western Line will benefit hugely from the CRL in terms of travel time and also increased frequency. The city centre will benefit enormously from improved access – meaning that most places will be within a short walk of the rail network – rather than just a few areas around Britomart.In other parts of the isthmus, areas near the inner southern line and the eastern line will benefit from faster trips to a greater proportion of the city centre and also increased train frequencies (meaning shorter waits at stations). Areas outside the existing rail network will enjoy similar benefits to the North Shore in terms of their buses not getting stuck in as much bus congestion in the city centre. But also the CRL enables other extensions to the rail system, such as the Mt Roskill branch line – which would be pretty cheap to build and extends the rail network into a part of Auckland with heaps of development potential, along with taking some pressure off Dominion and Sandringham Road buses.
Benefits for the South:
The new bus network in the south revolves around better bus routes for cross-town journeys and feeding a lot more buses into the rail network at key locations like Panmure and Manukau. The City Rail Link will enable higher frequencies along the rail network, meaning less overcrowding on services and shorter waits for trains. It also means faster trips from the south to parts of the city centre beyond the immediate surrounds of Britomart.
The CRL is also a prerequisite for rail to the airport, as without CRL it’s not possible to run trains on the Airport Line at a frequency of greater than half-hourly (and you wouldn’t spend $700m or more on a line that can only run half-hourly). The Airport Line potentially has massive benefits for the south – improving access to the airport itself for employees, acting as a catalyst for the redevelopment of areas around new stations at Mangere Bridge, Mangere Town Centre (and perhaps elsewhere?) and providing a rapid transit quality link between Manukau and the Airport. But none of that can happen until CRL happens.
Benefits for the Southeast:
As part of the AMETI project, a busway will be built between Botany and Panmure. This will provide a really high quality public transport option for a part of Auckland that has historically been incredibly neglected when it comes to public transport. However for trips between Panmure and the city centre, the rail network will still be the rapid transit option and the CRL provides both the additional capacity of extra trains along what will become a very busy section of the rail network, as well as direct trains from Panmure to not only Britomart but also onto Aotea, K Road and Newton stations – providing far better access from the southeast to the wider city centre and its surrounds.
As you can see the CRL benefits all different parts of Auckland – whether they’re on the rail network or not. I think the two areas that will benefit the most are the city centre itself and the west: due to the improvements in coverage of the rail network and the “cutting the corner” between Mt Eden and the city centre respectively. However parts of Auckland which aren’t even on the rail network will benefit: either through the CRL making possible future expansion of the network (i.e. Airport Rail, North Shore rail and the Mt Roskill Branch) or CRL removing many buses from the network and therefore allowing the bus system to operate more effectively – such as for the North Shore and the Northwest.
In addition to these specific benefits the economic growth and the significant capacity expansion of Auckland’s transport network that the CRL will provide have the potential to benefit the whole city, and in fact the entire country.