Time to give some feedback

There are a number of consultations which end soon that if you haven’t already, you may want to put a few minutes aside this weekend to have your say on

West Auckland New Network

Auckland Transport are consulting on the new network for West Auckland which will streamline the current spaghetti like group of bus routes into a more streamlined and legible network. The new proposed network is below.

West Auckland Proposed Routes 1

The main issue with the proposal is the lack of interchanges at Lincoln Rd and Te Atatu like was initially planned. It turns out they had to be dropped off due to a lack of funding with AT saying:

AT is redesigning the bus network across all of Auckland. Within each area, there are opportunities to improve public transport. However, the reality is that all changes will take time to implement, especially where major new infrastructure needs to be built, or where the cost of operating services will increase substantially. Both will require more ratepayer (Auckland Council) and taxpayer (New Zealand Transport Agency) funding than is currently budgeted.

For West Auckland, AT has taken the view that it is better to make as many improvements as we can afford to make in the next 2 years, to take advantage of the benefits electric trains will bring, rather than wait until all of the desirable infrastructure is in place.

The current proposal which is out for consultation is shown on the left-hand diagram below. On the right-hand diagram is the network we want to implement as soon as we have the necessary funding and consents to build interchanges at Te Atatu and Lincoln Rd, in anticipation of the long-term proposal to build a Northwestern Busway. We hope this clearly illustrates the benefits of the more frequent and better connected network that will be possible once the required infrastructure is funded and built.

West Auckland With and Without Interchanges

If you make a submission I would suggest you comment on the urgent need for these interchanges to be built (and in advance of the NW Busway) so a more legible and useful network can be put in place.

Northern Corridor Concepts

The NZTA are consulting on a number of potential options for super sizing the motorway from Upper Harbour to Greville Rd.  The NZTA say consultation is only open till the end of November so get your submissions as some of the options are horrific looking – although I’m not sure if that is a ploy to get people to accept the lesser options. Option 3 is perhaps the worst creating a mini spaghetti junction on the North Shore.

Northern Corridor Improvements Concept 3

The NZTA is also working out where a future busway extension will go. It seems that busway Concept 2 would only happen if motorway Concept 2 or 3 was chosen. The presence of the busway in the consultation plans seems to have had some thinking that the busway is once again going ahead after the government cut it from the funding package. However my understanding is the NZTA are just working out where they will put it and that it will remain unfunded.

In my submission I’ll be saying that regardless of what option is chosen the NZTA should build the busway first to see what impact that has and to give people a proper alternative.

Northern Corridor Improvements Busway

Shaping the Downtown public spaces

We’ve talked before about the Downtown Framework which is a document that is meant to bridge the various higher level plans and strategies the council have dreamed up and looks at what projects are needed to enable those along with how they could actually be implemented. The Downtown area covers the map below which has been divided up into 8 areas of opportunity.

Downtown Framework - Areas of Opportunity

The framework would see a number of new public spaces created or redeveloped and the council are wanting feedback on how that may happen and what features the spaces should provide.

You are invited to have your say on what you want from public spaces in Auckland’s downtown.

Lower Queen Street, outside the Britomart building, is earmarked for a new civic space, which will be created as part of early work on the City Rail Link. New downtown bus interchanges will make it possible to remove traffic from most of this area.

Two public spaces will also be developed on the waterfront near the ferry building. They will be funded by the sale of Queen Elizabeth Square, which means they will not draw on ratepayer funding.

Although these public spaces are still some years away, this is your chance to shape planning and tell Auckland Council what you want to see in them and what services you want them to provide.

“Aucklanders want and deserve world-class design, with places designed for people,” says Auckland Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse.

“Quality space is essential for residents, businesses, employees, visitors, shoppers and students.”

Lower Queen St

Feedback closes December 12

AT seems to want people driving to the Santa Parade

The annual Farmers Santa Parade is tomorrow. A few weeks ago Luke put together a great post highlighting primarily the issue of AT and the police rushing to re-open Queen St to traffic – which has absolutely zero need to be there – straight after the parade, he also briefly touched on the transport arrangements from last year. Auckland Transport have now published information about how to get there and it pretty much tells you that you should drive.

Join the fun and take the family by bus, train or ferry to the annual Farmers Santa Parade on Sunday 30 November at 2pm.

The parade is one of Auckland’s most popular Christmas events so public transport and roads in and out of the city will be busier than usual.

To manage the parade and public safety, roads around the parade route will be closed and there will be parking restrictions.

There is a range of transport options to get you and your family to and from the city so you should plan your journey in advance and set-off early.

Check services by using this link: https://at.govt.nz/bus-train-ferry/events/farmers-santa-parade/

Travel to the parade by bus:

Buses will operate to a Sunday timetable and normal fares/passes will apply. Due to road closures a number of city centre bus stops will be relocated and some route diversions will be in place. Auckland Transport Ambassadors will be on site to assist passengers.

Travel to the parade by train:

Trains will be operating to a special timetable with services approximately every 20 to 30 minutes on most lines into the city from 10.30. There will also be special services from Pukekohe.

Western Line

Rail buses will depart Waitakere between 10.05am and 1.35pm. These services will transfer to trains at Swanson Train Station.

After the parade, passengers can board trains at Britomart to Swanson and transfer back to rail buses operating between 4.30pm and 7pm to Waitakere.

Britomart Station will be busy, ensure you use the Eastern Entrance in Takutai Square and be there early to board prior to departure time.

Southern Line

Event trains will depart Pukekohe Train Station at 10.30am, 10.58am, 11:30am, 11.58am, 12.30pm.

Return services to Pukekohe depart at 3.45pm, 4.15pm, 4.45pm, 5.13pm, 5.50pm and 6.20pm. Use the Concourse Entrance to Britomart in Queen Elizabeth Square.

Travel to the parade by ferry:

The Downtown Ferry Terminal is located on Quay St, normal fares/passes apply for ferry services. Fullers will be operating additional sailings between Downtown and Bayswater, Birkenhead/Northcote Point, Half Moon Bay and Stanley Bay.

Driving to the parade:

If you are planning to drive, please be aware that road closures parking restrictions will be in place. https://at.govt.nz/projects-roadworks/road-works-disruptions/christmas-event-road-closures/

Public parking is free at the Downtown and Victoria St car parks for vehicles exiting between midday and 6pm.

So let me get this right, AT want you to join the fun and take PT to the parade however:

  • buses only run to a normal Sunday timetable – which means hourly or worse in some places – and pay for the privilege.
  • trains do run more frequently which is good but I note AT don’t make it clear either way as to whether you will pay to use them.
  • ferries will have some additional sailings than a normal Sunday but like buses you will have to pay to use them.

Alternatively you can drive and get free parking. I wonder which option most families will choose?

The one major downside to the driving option is that parking is only free at AT’s Downtown and Victoria St carparks which have 890 and 850 spaces respectively. A total of 1740 spaces isn’t going to serve very many families compared to how many people go to the event and is likely to lead to them quickly filling up and families having to find alternative and much more expensive places to park. That will likely help create congestion and unhappy parents. In short what the hell are AT thinking offering free parking in the CBD, this isn’t the 1960’s any more.

What AT should be doing instead is putting on heaps more buses, trains and ferries – perhaps even close to weekday peak levels – and marketing the hell out of them. On top of that make the PT options free and charge for the carparking to further encourage people to shift modes.

The charging option also highlights another failing of our current ticketing system, no family passes. These are currently only available from Britomart, New Lynn, Newmarket, Papakura and Pukekohe and they only for trains so they’re useless for many people. The table below shows what a family of four (2 parents, 2 kids) would pay for a return trip to the city depending on how many stages away they are (I’ve limited the number of stages to 6).

HOP family fares

AT Beating Patronage Targets

Auckland’s public transport patronage has been on a tear as of late and patronage is not only at its highest point in over 50 years but is currently up 7% on the same time last year. Included in that figure is the Rapid Transit Network (RTN) – which comprised of the rail network and the Northern Express – is up a massive 17%. The fact that patronage is growing so strongly got me thinking about how it compared to the targets that have been set. This is also important as the council will today be debating PT targets as part of their long term plan discussions.

Targets for public transport come from a number of places and don’t always line up with each other. We have:

  • The Auckland Plan (AP) agreed to in 2012 set an aspirational target of doubling patronage to 140 million by 2022.
  • The Long Term Plan (LTP) which sets targets over a 10 year period (updated 3-yearly). The current LTP was set in 2012 and the council will soon be consulting on the 2015 LTP
  • The Annual Plan set targets for a single year based factors such as recent performance and funding available (which is often different to what was originally predicted in the LTP).
  • Auckland Transport’s Statement of Intent (SOI) which is an annual document outlining the councils expectations of AT and lists three year’s worth of targets.

The SOI targets are arguably the most important as the SOI “sets out Auckland Transport’s strategic approach and priorities for the next three-years and how they contribute to the longer-term outcomes Auckland Council seeks to achieve“. In other words the SOI targets the ones that AT care about achieving (although generally they will match the council’s targets anyway although oddly not for this financial year). The targets are initially suggested by AT based on that they think is achievable based on current trends, projects and funding that is available. Council have a chance to change them before signing them off but generally what is suggested is what goes ahead.

Earlier this year we were quite critical of AT for suggesting, and at the Councillors for signing off the targets in this year’s SOI. The reason for this is AT wanted to reduce their PT targets compared to what had been set for this financial year in the 2013 SOI. The justification for doing so seemed to be that AT didn’t think it would meet its 2013/14 targets and extrapolated that forward to this financial year. This was despite the fact that patronage results had already started turning positive again and there are major changes that were about to flow through the PT system that would drive patronage such as electrification.

One example is rail patronage which had flat lined in 2012/13 (it looks like a decline due to impacts of the RWC and the HOP rollout) had it’s target for this year slashed from 13 million to 12.1 million despite the imminent arrival of electric trains. The predictions which fed those lowered targets had been created a few months prior to year end when it appeared we would miss the 2013/14 target by a wide margin however the surge in patronage meant AT was just 5,000 (0.04%) trips short. The fact that rail targets had been dropped the year before was also used by the Ministry of Transport as part of their justification for delaying the start of the CRL till 2020, suggesting that if AT don’t think rail use will grow as strongly as previously predicted then the CRL isn’t needed as soon either.

Fast forward to now and we’ve seen both bus and train numbers rising rapidly so how do they compare with the targets that have been set. With the exception of ferries all of the patronage targets for this financial year have already been met and are even on track to meet the 2013 SOI targets. On top of this every few months AT update their predictions for where patronage will end up for the year. The last predictions were in September so that doesn’t take into account Octobers strong growth and I’ll highlight those predictions below too.

Total

Total patronage has already passed this year’s target thanks to the patronage growth that we’re experiencing. I’ve also included the draft 2015 LTP targets as from now on they only apply to the total patronage. More on the LTP targets at the end of the post.

Oct - 14 - Total Patronage vs target

Rail

Has continued to increase strongly. The current SOI target of 12.1 million trips was passed in October with patronage reaching 12.124 million. The last projection suggested that by the end of June patronage would reach over 12.9 million trips however it will now potentially be over 13 million which happened to be the figure from the 2013 SOI.

Oct - 14 - Rail Patronage vs target

Busway (Northern Express)

Based on its performance against its target the NEX is doing the best having not only already beaten the 2014/15 target of but is only 8,000 trips off passing the 2013/14 target too. Further at it’s current rate it will hit the 2012 target as well and it has even surpassed it’ end of year forecast made just last month.

Oct - 14 - NEX Patronage vs target

Other Bus

Like the busway, the rest of the bus services have showing decent growth with patronage likely to hit (or get very close to hitting) the target set for 2012

Oct - 14 - Other Bus Patronage vs target

Ferry

While buses and trains are doing well, as mentioned Ferries aren’t. Here’s the ferry graph.

Oct - 14 - Ferry Patronage vs target

So overall we’ve met almost all of the patronage targets already and for some modes it looks like they may hit the 2013 or even 2012 versions of their targets which is fantastic news. However it also highlights that the council need to do a better job of setting targets rather than being dictated to on them by AT.

Ports of Auckland Moving More Freight By Rail

Ports of Auckland did a press release back in September that didn’t really get picked up on:

Working with KiwiRail, Ports of Auckland has doubled the rail services between its Waitematā seaport and Wiri Intermodal Freight Hub.

The increased service starts this week and will bring the port to the doorstep of importers and exporters in South Auckland, potentially reducing the number of trucks coming into the seaport and opening up more space to handle growing volumes.

Ports of Auckland General Manager Commercial Relationships Craig Sain said, “This is just the beginning. With our developments in Palmerston North and Wiri, we’re on our way to make more effective and increased use of rail to improve our service offering.”

“Containers moved by rail was up by 64% in 2013/14, but it is still a small percentage of the total containers coming through the port. We’d like to see this number grow over the coming years,” he said.

In 2010, with the opening of the Wiri Intermodal Freight Hub, KiwiRail ran four services of 23 wagons a week in each direction. Over time, this number increased to eight services and starting today there will be sixteen services a week.

“There is ample capacity on the line to the Port to increase services further and we will continue to work with KiwiRail to get the most out of the line,” Mr Sain said.

KiwiRail General Manager Sales – Freight Alan Piper said, “Ports of Auckland’s drive to increasingly move freight by rail to its Wiri inland port has seen a rapid increase in growth of daily services this year. This is a great example of KiwiRail working closely with its customers and provide flexible growth capacity to enable more use of rail to transport goods around the country.”

Now sixteen services a week may still not sound significant, but each train can haul about 70 twenty foot equivalent containers. Each train is at least 35 trucks off the road.   Take a look at this video – it’s been sped up 4x, since the train is so long:

 

With freight volumes increasing though, the need for a third track on the Eastern Line (in particular between Wiri and Southdown, with an estimated capital cost of between $50m – $70m) becomes more apparent as passenger services are increasing too. Kiwirail might argue that Auckland Transport should contribute to the cost, but I’ve heard that Kiwirail charge Auckland Transport a track access fee in excess of $18m annually .

As the owner and landlord of the Auckland rail network, it would be fit the current charging model for Kiwirail to invest more in the network, and recover the costs through an increased charge in exchange for higher passenger rail frequencies.  This needs to happen before the opening of the CRL if Kiwirail wants to continue to grow its freight operations.  Would it be too much to ask that the Goverrnment’s contribution to the CRL be in the form of a capital injection to Kiwirail, so that not only the CRL track could be built, but the third main as well?

On the other hand, $50m – $70m is at the bottom end of NZTA’s project expenditure, so perhaps it could be included as a line item in the freight focussed East-West connection project.

Auckland Transport November Board Meeting

Every month I comb through the reports to the AT board looking at what the organisation is up to (that they’ll say in public). I’ve already covered the separate reports on additional bus priority and the New Network for the Hibiscus Coast so this post covers the rest of the reports for the meeting held yesterday. As such this post is a combination of a lot of little items

Once again all of the most interesting papers appear to be in the closed session which means we only have the agenda items to go off. The items being discussed are:

Items for Approval/Decision

  • Budget Realignment
  • Development Proposals
  • CRL Update
  • Parnell Station Update
  • Wynyard Quarter Roading
  • PT Security & Fare Evasion
  • Ferry Downtown Access
  • Ferry Services Strategy
  • Off Street Parking

Items for Noting

  • Deep Dive – Wharves
  • Heavy Rail Strategy Update
  • Customer First Strategy

Most seem fairly self-explanatory however two items draw a bit more attention for me. They are the vaguely titled Development Proposals – what are AT thinking of developing? – and the Heavy Rail Strategy update. The latter is interesting as it’s the first time I’ve seen AT refer to heavy rail as opposed to just rail and comes just after the herald suggested AT were looking at light rail to the airport.

On to the board report and there are number of brief updates on a range of projects. Many we’ve talked about separately or there hasn’t been much change in the report from last month but the ones that stand out are:

Onewa Rd – AT say they are going to be creating an additional westbound general traffic lane after the intersection with Lake Rd. It’s not clear why they are creating a general traffic lane and not a bus or transit lane seeing as westbound bus priority has been needed (and promised) on the road for a long time.

Electric Trains – As of the time of writing the report there were 31 of the 57 on order now in the country with 28 given provisional acceptance. From December four trains a month start arriving which means they should all be in the country by the middle of the year. They also say they have successfully tested modified software to control traction on the EMUs fixing issues from the overhead feed which was presumably the issue behind the problems earlier in the year.  The report also talks about six car EMUs being in operation from mid-November however I suspect that’s been held off till the new timetable.

City Rail Link – There are a number of comments related to the recent briefings to the incoming minister about the CRL however perhaps most significantly they say:

The City Rail Link has recently been subject to an intense period of public scrutiny due to the Council’s deliberations on the Long Term Plan (LTP). Extensive media coverage on the project led to a significant amount of feedback, including positive endorsement of the CRL by a variety of proponents. This was a timely reminder of the need to continue to “tell the story” of the CRL and its benefits, especially across the entire region. For example rail-users (and potential new rail users) will see their journey times substantially reduced as well as a much more frequent service. More effort will go into promoting these and other benefits of the CRL story from now on, particularly in the lead-up to the beginning of the enabling works in the second half of 2015

AT telling the story of the projects benefits across the region has been something we’ve talked about numerous times. It will be interesting to see what they come up with this time.

Northcote Cycle Route – AT say that as a result of the consultation they are making changes to what they initially proposed, particularly in Queen St. I suspect this will mean AT are watering down the proposal to retain more car parking

Newmarket Crossing (aka Sarawia St) – was approved last month after an in dependant review looked at the options again. I’m sure some of the Cowie St residents will continue to fight the proposal though.

Pukekohe Bus Rail Interchange – AT say they have $1.5m in funding for this financial year to upgrade the station which I’m sure is something that will get the locals will be pleased about. AT will also be moving the facilities to refill diesel trains from Papakura to Pukekohe

Puhinui Station – The station will be getting an upgrade to the standard Auckland design to improve customer experience. It is expected to be finished by June 2015.

Grafton Bridge – From early next year AT will be allowing taxi’s to use Grafton Bridge as part of a one year trial. While they say they will review the impacts in 3 months. Overall this seems like it could be quite a bad outcome for those on bikes but we’ll have to wait and see.

Integrated Fares – The AT board signed off the business case for integrated fares last month although we’re still waiting to hear just what that will entail. What we do know from the report to the board is that integrated fares won’t go live till the end of next year. This is due to AT needing to re-program much of the system to handle proper integrated fares. As for HOP as it is now, once again the board report¹ says that the percentage of trips on the PT network using HOP has remained the same as last month, AT say they think the ” Get onboard with Jerome” campaign will improve results over the coming months.

HOP ticketing usage October 2014

 

“We should be a working on the railroads…”

Yesterday Peter asked if the Auckland’s motorway network built on “strategic misrepresentations”?. In it he briefly mentioned engineer Joseph Wright who questioned how much the motorways would cost. In response I put this image in the comments however it probably justifies it’s own post (we’ve posted it before many years ago). It was from July 1962.

One of the things I find very frustrating about Auckland’s transport history is that even when we were repeatedly told by many different sources that the motorway system alone wouldn’t solve our problems (and make many of them worse) that we failed to listen. Even worse is despite the outstanding success of the high quality rapid transit investments we’ve still acting like an addict and telling ourselves that just one more motorway will solve our problems and then we’ll stop.

newspaper-article

The City Unbound

The current Metro Magazine has has an article by me on Auckland, its new urban nature, and surprise!: Why we need a change in transport infrastructure investment to unlock its true value.

Most here won’t be unfamiliar with the arguments but the discipline of writing for print and the general reader called for a rethink of the arguments and evidence. Also the photos aren’t bad either:

Metro- The City Unbound_800

Coincidentally I came across this brilliantly accessible piece by NSW transport academic Michelle Zeibots on the relationship between different urban transport systems and their outcomes for city efficiency:

Most people will take whichever transport option is fastest. They don’t care about the mode. If public transport is quicker they’ll catch a train or a bus, freeing up road space. If driving is quicker, they’ll jump in their car, adding to road congestion. In this way, public transport speeds determine road speeds. The upshot is that increasing public transport speeds is one of the best options available to governments and communities wanting to reduce road traffic congestion.

Emphasis added. This supports my assertion that the biggest winners from the new uptake in ridership on Auckland’s Rapid Transit Network are truck and car users.

This relationship is one of the key mechanisms that make city systems tick. It is basic microeconomics, people shifting between two different options until there is no advantage in shifting and equilibrium is found. We can see this relationship in data sets that make comparisons between international cities. Cities with faster public transport speeds generally have faster road speeds.

Yet parts of the highway complex in NSW are now talking about ‘solving congestion’ by building a third road crossing instead: required because of the traffic to be generated by the massive $11billion and more WestConnex project, proving, if ever proof were needed, that all motorways lead to are more motorways. And missed opportunities to invest in higher speeds on all modes through the spatial efficiency of Rapid Transit systems.

This paradoxical phenomenon is understood under various names as this Wiki page shows [Hat Tip to Nick], but perhaps this is as helpful for the average citizen as the Duckworth Lewis system is to the average cricket fan. Which is why I so like the way Zeibots has simplified it in the Sydney Morning Herald article above.

Anyway go out and grab a copy of the new Metro with the Jafa flavoured cover to see my version:

Metro cover_800

October 14 Patronage

October’s patronage results show Aucklanders are continuing to flock to buses and trains. It’s especially true for the rapid transit network which is seeing staggering growth, up over 20% compared to the same month last year. It’s showing that the public really value and are responding to services that have a decent priority so are less affected by congestion. Here are the results

14 - Oct AK Patronage table

14 - Oct AK Annual Patronage

We already knew that rail had passed the 12 million trips in a 12 month period mark earlier in October however it seems the growth continued on strongly with the October figure over 12.1 million trips, an increase of over 200,000 trips compared to the 12 months to the end of September. It’s also the second month in a row and the third month out of the last five months that patronage is up over 20% compared to the same month last year. The real stand outs are the Manukau and Onehunga services which of course are the only two lines so far that have the new electric trains on them. I suspect some of their growth is from existing users at stations served by both old and new trains changing their travel patterns so they can get electric services however there is also likely to be a lot of new users too. Of course the non electric lines are also showing strong growth too.

14 - Oct AK Rail Patronage

AT’s figures show that on weekdays, the average number of trips on the rail network has risen from around 38,000 to around 44,000. If you assume two trips per person that means an extra 3,000 people are catching the train a day.

The Northern express is also seeing staggering growth and as I talked about in this post, even counter peak is leaving people behind due to being so busy (it happened to me last night).

14 - Oct AK NEX Patronage

Considering there hasn’t been much in the way of additional services put on in the last year this patronage boost must good for farebox recovery.

And it’s not just the Northern Express that’s busy, other buses which provide the bulk of patronage in Auckland are up significantly too even off peak and on weekends.

Not everything is going up though unfortunately, patronage on ferries is down and AT attribute it to “the poor weather conditions throughout October, decreasing the number of noncommuter/tourism related passenger trips“. They say the trips on the contracted services (services except Devonport and Waiheke) were actually up however as the Devonport and Waiheke patronage makes up the bulk of the ferry numbers, decreases from them dragged the result down. Going forward I wonder how much the launch of the new Explore ferry service to Waiheke will affect things – and if they’re included in the patronage figures.

The other disappointment is that cycling numbers were down again too. I wonder if that’s also weather related as the morning peak numbers continue to show an increase in people cycling

Rapid transit has passed the acid test

I recently ran across a New Zealand Herald article from 2000 on the region’s plans to start building good rapid transit infrastructure. (Which, as Patrick highlighted in a recent post, is exactly what is holding Auckland back relative to its peer cities.) I noticed three things from the article:

  • We’re still having to scrimp and save and struggle to get good public transport projects built
  • This is in spite of the fact that the projects that have been built (against the odds) have been runaway successes
  • Many of the people who were urging caution back then are still around, but they haven’t acknowledged the evidence and changed their position.

On to the article:

The North Shore busway, allowing buses to travel faster than cars, will be the acid test for Auckland’s grand public transport schemes.

Planners are pinning their hopes on around $1 billion of rapid transit services running every five minutes along dedicated corridors as one answer to congestion.

The $130 million busway, a carriageway alongside the Northern Motorway, is likely to be first out of the blocks. It is being eyed to see how it fares for funding in about three months – and how many people it will coax out of their cars when it starts picking up passengers in three to five years.

Of course, the Northern Busway wasn’t actually completed until 2008, and the rest of the plan is still a glimmer in Auckland Transport’s eye.

Stephen Selwood, then of AA and now heading the NZ Council for Infrastructure Development, was quoted extensively in the story:

The region’s Passenger Transport Action Plan set targets of doubling and tripling public transport numbers in several key areas by 2011.

Yet the Automobile Association’s northern regional manager, Stephen Selwood, is not convinced they will be reached.

“The key test will be the busway, because that is the one where we know there’s congestion and thousands of people go over the bridge. If we can’t make that one work, nothing will.”

What actually happened? Although the busway was constructed late, it worked like crazy. By 2012, actual patronage on the busway was almost double what the patronage forecasts indicated:

Busway Patronage vs projections Graph

More prognostications from Mr Selwood:

The Passenger Transport Action Plan’s market-share goals for the number of commuters headed towards the central business district range from 15 to 45 per cent, and Mr Selwood claims this shows an improved public transport system would cater only for a minority.

By 2012, public transport accounted for 44% of all motorised travel to the city centre during the morning peak. (Walking and cycling weren’t included in the data, unfortunately, but they account for a significant share of overall trips.) Since then the PT mode share has increased even further. Public transport, including the successful Northern Busway, has accounted for all of the net growth in city centre access since the 1990s:

CCFAS Modeshare 1990-2012

One last comment from Mr Selwood:

Auckland, with its traffic growing at 5 per cent a year, cannot ignore the motoring majority and a need for more roads, he says.

That might have been true back then. But it’s not true now. The most recent Census data shows that road traffic is growing at an anemic pace while all other modes are booming:

Census Auckland marginal transport user analysis

In short, Auckland has faced the public transport “acid test”, and it has passed, with flying colours. This is even more impressive in light of the fact that:

  • The key projects that have been undertaken, such as the Northern Busway and rail electrification, have often been finished far behind schedule. Rail electrification was supposed to be done in 2011, for crying out loud!
  • The successful Northern Busway hasn’t been followed with investment in other essential rapid transit projects, such as the (planned but not yet built) AMETI busway to the eastern suburbs and the Northwestern Busway on SH16.
  • Successive governments have spent billions on Auckland’s motorway network even after it became apparent that demand was flatlining.

In light of the results, I look forward to hearing the NZCID’s strong advocacy to stop building motorways and put the funding towards good public transport projects.

New Auckland Rail Timetables

Auckland Transport have announced new train timetables that will come in to effect on 8 December and in my view they represent what could be a significant change in focus for how rail is run in Auckland. Many of the changes have hinted at over the last few months in the AT board meetings and have been talked about for years so aren’t a major surprise however it’s great to finally see them start to be implemented. The new timetables are here

Here are the key changes.

Eastern Line

  • Increased capacity including double electric trains (six cars) at peak times.
  • A quicker journey time between Manukau and Britomart.
  • All services heading south terminate at Manukau, customers will need to transfer to the Southern Line if they want to travel to stations south of Puhinui.
  • More frequent services for Manukau: six trains an hour during peak, three trains each hour during the day and a half-hourly service at night and on the weekend.

Onehunga Line

  • Half-hourly service all day/every day including extended Friday night and weekend hours.

Southern Line

  • All services will go through Newmarket so passengers south of Puhinui will need to transfer to the Eastern Line if they want to go to Sylvia Park, Panmure, Glen Innes, Meadowbank or Orakei.
  • The Southern Line is next to get electric trains in early 2015.

Pukekohe

  • There will be an additional evening service leaving Britomart at 8.58pm and arriving in Pukekohe at 10.07pm.
  • New hourly weekend services to Papakura to connect to trains to Britomart.

Western Line

  • Extra half-hourly services on Friday night between 10pm and 12.30am.
  • All weekend services will now run half-hourly but will terminate at Swanson, a new hourly scheduled bus service will operate between Swanson station and Waitakere.

To me what makes these timetables changes so important is that they seem to take a new approach to how the timetable is put together. Up to now the timetables put together by AT and its predecessor have had a very kludgy feel to them. By that I mean it seems as though the foundation of the timetable was the same from when rail was hardly used and AT then just kept piling on services wherever they could fit them – including having to fit them around freight trains. An example of this is below with services on the eastern and southern line heading to the same destination leaving 5 minutes apart then having a 14 minute gap.

Dec 14 Timetable Change - old southern line

While the old timetable was a kludge, it feels like with this change AT have taken the opportunity to rebuild the timetable from scratch and in doing so it will result in a far superior customer experience. That can only be good for ongoing patronage growth. There are a few significant changes worth highlighting – note: these primarily only apply to the Southern and Eastern lines.

Firstly as had been mentioned in the board reports AT have really simplified the service patterns on the network. No longer will someone going from Britomart to Middlemore have the option of a service to

  • Manukau via Glen Innes
  • Papakura via Glen Innes
  • Pukekohe via Glen Innes
  • Papakura via Newmarket
  • Pukekohe via Newmarket

Now it’s just an Eastern Line or Southern line train. That’s much simpler and in my opinion considerably better from a customer perspective.

Secondly it seems that now AT have built the timetable around the idea of having 10 minute frequencies all day and then dropped services when they’ve wanted to reduce frequency off peak or in the evenings. You can see this most clearly below where on the eastern line timetable (highlighted in red below) between 9am and 4pm every second service has been dropped – the same thing can be seen on the southern line.

Dec 14 Timetable Change - New Manukau

There are a couple of reasons why this change is so important. Firstly the clock face times make it so much simpler and easier for customers to know when a train will be at their station. Secondly the Regional Public Transport Plan (RPTP) that AT adopted last year says that the intention is for the three main lines to run at 10 minute frequencies during the day and 15 minute frequencies during the evening. For the Southern and Eastern lines to get from this new timetable to that level is simply a case of adding in the missing services without AT needing to rejig everything else.

RPTP rail frequencies

RPTP rail services

 

The third major change is that AT have moved to a minimum frequency across the electrified network (Swanson to Papakura) and across the week of a train every 30 minutes. While most services across the network were already at that level this change primarily impacts evening and weekend services making them much more usable. The current situation is absurd with trains only hourly in the weekend evenings making it all but impossible to use PT, say if going to meet up with friends in town on a Saturday night. It also fixes one of the odd little quirks in the timetable that saw a few trains on the Western line terminate at Henderson which saw me on more than one occasion with a longer walk home.

Lastly we’re finally seeing some time savings from the electric trains. Services from Manukau currently take 42 minutes to reach Britomart however with this new timetable will see EMUs exclusively on the eastern line, travel times are now 4-6 minutes quicker. That’s might not sound like much but it’s a 10-14% saving. Presumably other lines will be able to see savings once they too are all (or mostly) served by electric trains.

I guess for me the only real disappointment with this change is that the western line is still stuck at the same 15 minute peak frequency it’s had since at least 2008. While the trains servicing the line are now larger, those too are at capacity. It’s especially annoying as it was promised 10 minute frequencies would be delivered once double tracking was complete in 2010.

Still putting that one point the side, overall I think this is perhaps the most significant change to the timetable in many many years. It seems the first stage of what will eventually be a mature and high frequency timetable.  As part of its press release, AT say patronage is currently at 12.1 million trips (an increase on Septembers 11.9 million trips to the end of September. Rail is growing at 17% and with the electric trains plus these changes I expect that kind of growth will continue for some time yet.