Auckland Transport Flattery

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery so we were extremely flattered to see Auckland Transport today start using the images below to advertise some of the benefits of the City Rail Link.

CRL - Western Line saving

CRL - Southern Line saving

CRL - Eastern Line saving

CRL - Onehunga Line saving

I guess my biggest criticism is I think the colours are too washed out and dull, they could do with being brighter. I’d also like to see a version showing the whole network in one image and versions showing some of the new trips more easily possible with the CRL e.g. Glen Innes to Newmarket. In showing some of those new options it would be good to include the NEX too to show some of the ways the project benefits the North Shore.

At the start I mentioned thatn this was an imitation of what we’ve done before. Below is the version we and Generation Zero created last year. We had planned to do the other lines too but haven’t for lack of time.

CRL Times Western Line

Overall well done AT and let’s hope they start putting more information out about how it benefits the whole region.

Are we ready for March Madness

We’re now in March and for public transport that means one thing – March Madness. It’s called that because a number of factors combine to see usage of buses, trains surge. Those factors include but are not limited to:

  • It’s a 31 day month with normally no public holidays – next year will be a big exception with Easter falling entirely within March.
  • Decent weather still so people are less likely to be put off walking/waiting for services.
  • Universities are back and students are often keen to start the year well so attendance is likely higher.
  • There are normally no school holidays.
  • I suspect there are less people taking leave in March due to no school holidays and many having taken leave over Christmas/New Year or in January or February.
  • There are likely to be less people taking sick leave
  • More people trying out PT as a way to avoid congestion also caused by the previous points.

The surge normally starts in late Feb and runs through to at least Easter before people start settling down into more established travel patterns – which may include travelling earlier or later to avoid the worst of the peak.

From a patronage perspective March is almost always the month with the highest patronage in any given year – and May is usually second. This is shown on the graph below where March has been highlighted in red.

AKL March Madness Patronage

There are a couple of exceptions to this, on the rail network the last couple of years has seen patronage in May slightly higher than March while on the ferries January is usually the highest month as a result of more people visiting places like Devonport and Waiheke Island.

One of the problems Auckland Transport and the operators face with March Madness is that a lot of the extra trips occur at the height of the peak which is exactly where it is the hardest and most expensive to add new services. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important that AT put a lot of effort into making the buses we have go faster by:

  • Reducing dwell times:
    • getting more people on HOP – it’s not uncommon to see 5 or more people be able to board with HOP in the same time it takes someone paying by cash.
    • in some places possibly allowing rear door boarding – currently the only place I’m aware that this happens on the NEX at Britomart in the afternoons.
    • encouraging bus operators to buy buses with larger doors – and bigger buses in general.
  • Getting buses out of congestion and therefore moving quicker with more bus lanes and other bus priority measures.

Speeding up buses means that the same number of them can deliver more services for no extra cost. That’s good for passengers and for city as it means we’re spending money more efficiently and getting better outcomes.

I personally think we’re in for a huge month for patronage. The last few weeks in particular have been extremely busy on almost all services I’ve caught – much more so than I can remember seeing before. For example even the buses I use which travel opposite to the peak direction have been standing room only while on some parts of the rail network the new electric trains are driving huge growth.

On top of the factors driving growth in PT, just due to the way the calendar falls this year it means there’s an extra business day means the total results should be even better. Below are a couple of images hopefully highlighting just how busy services have been of late.

This Northern Express bus heading to the city in the afternoon was so full that a number of people (myself included) couldn’t get on. Another one two minutes later was almost as full.

NEX Full

A frequent sight on morning buses to Takapuna and afternoon buses to the city

Takapuna Bus full

A regular sight in the afternoons with the queue for the Northern Express to the North Shore. It extends behind where I took the photo too.

NEX Queues Britomart

A different day and different angle but there were two queues, one back to Customs St and the other around to the right

NEX Queues Britomart 2

Trains leaving Britomart on the Western line are packed before even reaching Newmarket and Grafton where a large number of additional passengers try to get on.

Packed Train Leaving Britomart

And another one from twitter

From Patrick yesterday, the Airport Express was standing room only after only one terminal meaning a long trip to town for those on their feet.

So anyone want to take some guesses on how many PT trips there’ll be this month? As a comparison in 2014 there were just over 7.3 million with it broken down as per below.

  • Rail – 1,174,588
  • Northern Express – 262,431
  • Other Bus – 5,374,783
  • Ferry – 494,123

Given the growth we’ve been seeing in recent months a 10% increase seems entirely possible and that could see us reach over 8 million trips in the month.

Panmure Station Revisited

Train Bus Interchange. Looked to me like was working pretty sweetly. Quite a bit of Kiss’n’Ride going on on the northern side, car drop off, as you’d expect for a reasonably far enough out station in such an auto-dependent city. And, rather like New Lynn, this station feels somewhat stranded by roads and not anything like the intensity of land use we all expect to see develop over time.

PANMURE_8614

But of course those roads bring the buses right to the front door; quite a lot of people seem to be transferring to the trains rather than staying on the bus all the way to the city centre, and Howick and Eastern looked to be doing a good trade to and from the station. It is interesting that H&E have just announced they are buying 15 new double deckers, all with wifi and charging points. It looks like the quality of the new trains has started an quality of service race among providers, along with providing the core of the lift in ridership enabling this sort of investment and upgrade; win win win.

PANMURE_8719

Looking forward to the next Interchanges at Otahuhu and Manukau that are funded to start this year. However the really spectacular upgrade for SE Auckland will be the Bus Rapid Transit part of AMETI which will connect this station with Botany, Pakuranga, and hopefully Highland Park with bus priority [construction start 2017]. Won’t be too long before we have new and much better options for getting around our city.

PANMURE_8584

 

Downtown Agreement sorted

The council and Precinct Properties have announced that they’ve come to an agreement for the sale of Queen Elizabeth Square and the costs for the City Rail Link to go through the site.

An agreement between Auckland Council and Precinct Properties announced this morning will enable the construction of the City Rail Link (CRL) to get underway through the company’s Downtown Development project at the bottom of Queen Street.

Mayor Len Brown is heralding the milestone as an historic moment for Auckland: “This is the first step towards the construction of the CRL. It will lead to an exciting transformation of the public spaces around the Britomart train station area. And it’s an example of how a partnership with the private sector can deliver economic transformation and more jobs in Auckland.”

The alignment of the CRL requires new rail tunnels to be constructed through the site presently occupied by the Downtown Shopping Centre, which is owned by Precinct Properties along with two adjacent commercial office towers, HSBC Tower at 1 Queen Street and Zurich House at 21 Queen Street.

The deal between the two parties enables the rail tunnels to be built as part of the Downtown Development Project.

Elements include:

  • The sale to Precinct of Queen Elizabeth Square for $27.2 million
  • Payment to Precinct of $9 million for provision of an East-West pedestrian laneway between Queen Street and Albert Street and compensation for tunnels volume
  • Payment of $10.7 million for additional costs of office tower construction due to CRL tunnels
  • Creation of a new downtown civic space between the project and Britomart

The sale of Queen Elizabeth Square was approved by Auckland Council’s Development Committee on 11 September 2014 after a report to council by staff pointed out the proceeds of this underutilised and poorly performing city space would enable the creation of new public spaces that better meet the needs of the area.

Len Brown says: “The agreement demonstrates the council’s positive business-friendly approach to city centre development while securing a great result for the ratepayer as it means cost savings for both parties.

“It ensures a coordinated approach to the construction work – with Auckland Transport building the CRL tunnels either side of the Precinct downtown shopping centre site from Britomart to Wyndham Street and Precinct Properties building the tunnels below its site.

“The Downtown Development Project will help create jobs giving the potential for 12,000 more people to be working close to public transport at Britomart.

“It is also the key to a number of projects that will kick-off the creation of a world-class downtown area including improvements to public space, transport facilities and urban design.”

Those improvements include:

  • The replacement of an aging 40 year old shopping centre with the Downtown Development Project enhancing retail in the area with a three-level retail laneway development while the commercial office tower will deliver much-needed office space
  • The creation of a pedestrian laneway, which re-instates a north-south link from Customs Street to Quay Street once existing as Little Queen Street. This link was lost during the large-scale demolition in the area in the 1970s
  • Moving towards the establishment of a Lower Albert Street bus interchange which would enable a pedestrianised civic space to be created in front of Britomart presently existing as a road occupied by buses
  • The protection of key views to important adjacent heritage buildings including the ferry building, Customhouse and the Dilworth building

The Mayor says: “Aucklanders have made it clear the CRL is their number one transport priority and this brings us closer to enabling a start to construction in about a year’s time.”

Construction of the Downtown section of the CRL is due to begin mid-year with completion by 2019. Tenders are due to go out later this year.

It’s great that we’re seeing some progress on the CRL and $19.7 million for it through this section is probably quite cheap compared to what it would have been had Auckland Transport been forced to buy the site had Precinct not been willing to work out a deal. That we’ll also get North-South and East-West lanes is good (more on that soon).

The issue that might cause some people concern is bound to be the sale of QE Square. Months ago when the suggestion came up we were told it could be worth up to $60 million so the council selling it for $27 million is obviously quite a bit less than that. One thing worth pointing out though is that based on the surrounding land values which are up over 9,500 per m2 this doesn’t seem such a low price.

Also this morning Precinct Properties have released a few images of what the development on the downtown site will look like. The main feature will be a 36 storey office tower which will have quite an impact on the skyline.

Precinct Tower 1

Precinct Tower 2

They’ve also released this image of the East-West laneway which will be surrounded by three storeys of retail. The big concern I have with this is that it appears to be enclosed with a roof giving it more of a mall feel than an open air lane.

Downtown Lane

Overall it’s great to see progress being made and I’m definitely looking forward to the first stages of the CRL starting in the middle of the year.

A Look inside the CRL stations

A presentation from Auckland Transport to the council gives us an update on the CRL glimpse inside the stations – along with more information on AT’s Light Rail plans which I’ll discuss tomorrow.

As a quick update it notes that nearly 50 out of 70 properties needed have been purchased and that AT will start subterranean purchases this year. The already purchased properties has meant about 30,000m² are now under active management. They are also in mediation to deal with the 6 appeals to the designation that was issued early last year. Below is a timeline for what we may see – although the main works are likely pushed out now due to the council decision late last year.

CRL Timeline Feb 2015

Aotea Station

I like lots of exits from the platform are shown, I just hope the same is seen with the station itself.

Autea Station Cut Away

And this is an earlier image of the station we saw.

Grimshaw Aotea Station - changed version

Karangahape Station

The first image comes from another document recently (can’t remember which one off the top of my head). It shows how people would access the station which will be a long way down.

K Rd Station

The second image shows a cut away of the proposed entrance from Mercury Lane.

K Rd - Mercury Lane Entrance Cut Away

It would be great to see some more detailed images of just what’s planned for these stations.

Progress on CRL targets

My post the other day highlighting the spectacular patronage growth we’re seeing once again raised questions about the government’s target to start construction of the main part of the CRL before 2020. The target that has been set is: rail patronage is on track to hit 20 million trips a year well before 2020. The question is how we’re tracking towards that target.

Before I go into that it’s also worth remembering that the Ministry of Transport are producing roughly six monthly monitoring reports on how we’re tracking towards the target. The last one was in August which means one is probably due fairly shortly (although it could be a while before we see it). In the last report they said.

Auckland Transport’s Public Transport Monthly Patronage Report for June 2014 shows rail patronage of 11.4 million trips for the year to June 2014, compared to 10 million trips for the
previous year. This is an increase of 1.4 million trips or 13.9 percent.

Assessment
Growth of 1.4 million trips for the year to June 2014 is the highest annual growth in Auckland rail patronage achieved to date. If growth continues at 1.4 million trips per year, annual patronage would hit 20 million trips around 2019/20. We expect patronage growth to continue at a similar rate as for the year to June 2014 until around 2017/18, as the full electric train fleet comes into service and the new bus network is rolled out. After 2017/18, we expect the rate of patronage growth to slow and at this stage do not anticipate it is likely that the threshold of 20 million trips well before 2020 will be met.

Since June we’ve seen patronage on the rail network increase massively going from 11.4 million trips to 12.8 million trips in January. In the last 12 months rail patronage has risen by an astonishing 20% or 2.1 million trips per year. That means not only is our patronage numbers increasing but the growth rate has been accelerating. While I do expect the growth rate to calm down a little bit in coming months – as January was boosted significantly by events like shorter shutdowns – it feels that by June we’re still in for an overall growth figure around the 2 million trip mark. Of course that’s still quite a bit ahead of the MoTs result. Here’s how we’re tracking.

Patronage vs John Key Target 1

What we can see is that the strong growth is now really nudging the Blue line (Actual) above the Yellow one (the governments target) meaning if the trend continues we’ll

The current strong growth isn’t all that surprising. There are a number of reasons for it but one of the primary ones is that we’re in the middle of rolling out new electric trains and running them at improved peak and off peak frequencies. That roll out will continue through the first half of this year with the busy Southern Line followed by the Western line by July.

It’s also expected that the other major improvements that AT is currently working on, integrated fares (early next year) and the new bus network (now pushed back to Mid 2016) will deliver significant growth that should help deliver another strong wave of rail patronage.

To consider when we might hid the 20 million target – or at least be on track for it – the graph below looks at three scenario’s.

  1. Patronage will grow by 2.5 million trips to for the year to June, by 2 million trips in June 2016 & 2017, by 1.5 million trips in June 2018 and then 1 million trips a year after that.
  2. Patronage will keep growing by year on year percentage will fall by 2.5% each year. Under this scenario then by this time next year we’ll still be seeing around 17.5% YoY growth.
  3. The MoTs view which is highlighted at the start of the post

Patronage Projections 1

At least for a couple of years the high growth figures we’re seeing are likely to continue. We’ll obviously have to wait to see just what happens but I’m almost certain the patronage target is one we’ll achieve. If there is one thing that makes me nervous about the future it is that we might not have the capacity in the system at least at peak times. The new electric trains are said to add around 40% capacity but with the growth we’re seeing that won’t last long and scenes of packed trains week return again soon.

Train Capacity 2

I’m picking we’ll have a decision on when the CRL starts by the next national election at the latest and possibly sooner depending on who stands for mayor next year.

AT Board Report Feb-15

Auckland Transport’s board meet tomorrow and I’ve scoured the board reports for any interesting information. Here’s what caught my attention.

Projects

East West Link Connections

A detailed business case for the project is being worked on and will go to the board in April. AT still haven’t officially said which option they’ve chosen from their consultation back in October however this image – from a draft version of the RLTP (page 57) in the December Board meeting and which includes a note saying the map is not to be released to public prior to January 2015 – suggests it’s either option C or D.

East-West Priorities Dec-14

South-Western Multi-Modal Airport Rapid Transit (SMART)

AT say work on the design of the Kirkbride interchange includes future proofing for either light or heavy rail. The RLTP notes that this future proofing is costing AT $30 million which seems extremely high considering the rest of the interchange costs $140 million. One reason it could be so high is I understand the the NZTA team working on the project didn’t originally include rail in their designs despite rail to the airport having been on plans for decades along with other parts of the NZTA working with AT on the route.

Wynyard Quarter – Integrated Road Programme

We should start seeing more roadworks in the Wynyard Quarter in April with AT expecting to issue a contract mid Feb. Works for stage one are Halsey Street South and Gaunt Street between Daldy and Halsey. I’m not quite sure just what changes we’re going to see yet though.

Franklin Road

AT say they will feed back analysis of the submissions in March and I’ve heard rumours the current thinking greatly improved on what we saw earlier. An email update a few weeks ago suggested they were looking at whether parking between the trees could be retained in some situations.

Westgate

AT say the new mall being built as part of the new town centre is due to open in October this year and that new bus services to the area (new network) are due in October 2016. Those bus services will also need an interchange constructed and AT are trying to work out just how they will do that. They say resource consent will be needed and almost certainly will be publicly notified for which any submission will delay the project. A temporary interchange is being planned

Penlink

Work is still going on to update and amend the designation for Penlink and consent will be notified in early 2015 however a recent press release states that due to funding constraints, construction of Penlink is not anticipated until 2025. There are two open days about it, one this afternoon.

  • Thursday 19 Feb, 2pm-7pm, The Peninsula Retirement Village (441 Whangaparapoa Road, Whangaparaoa)
  • Saturday 21 Feb, 10am-2pm, Stillwater Boat Club (70 Duck Creek Road, Stillwater)

Otahuhu Interchange

The demolition of the old foot bridge and piling for the new station happened over the Christmas shutdown and AT say the construction for the interchange itself will begin in June. It’s due to be completed in February 2016 at which time the New Network for South Auckland can finally be rolled out.

Manukau Interchange

Consent is currently being sought for the enabling works for the interchange and AT are hoping to have the project completed in the first quarter of next year.

EMUs

At the time of writing the report AT say there were 42 of the 57 trains in the country and 32 of them had provisional acceptance. They also say that services in December were affected by issues with the signalling system and there had been some door closing issues. The door issues were upgraded over the break but the signalling ones are still being worked on.

Newmarket Crossing (Sarawia St level Crossing)

AT have created three concept designs and have taken feedback from residents and Manu Whenua into them. AT are wanting to lodge resource consent for the project in February and in the past have said that this project is required before they can deliver 10 minute frequencies on the Western Line. Given the stage it’s at and that some of the residents of Cowie St are bound to go to the environment court over it, it could be years before we see any peak frequency improvements out west.

Puhinui

AT are planning to upgrade Puhinui station with most of the works completed in March and April and with a new canopy installed in June

Swanson Station Park and Ride

The extended park & ride is expected to be completed by the end of April.

Onewa Rd

Also to be completed by the end of April are the works to deliver the westbound transit lane and shared path.

Other stuff

Parking

One piece of good news is that parking officers are experiencing the lowest recorded volumes of aggression towards them and there have been no serious harm injuries since October

AT also say the removal of earlybird parking has meant lease revenue is ahead of forecast and in addition casual occupancy and revenue in the downtown carpark is increasing. The latter part is particularly good as it means the carpark is being used by more people throughout the day which was exactly one of the aims of removing the earlybird prices.

Taxi’s on Grafton Bridge

A 12 month trial allowing taxi’s on to Grafton Bridge will start in late March and AT will be monitoring bus travel times, cyclist safety and amenity along with how many infringements get issued. If any significant issues arise during the trial it can be stopped. AT say the Taxi Federation and Cycle Action Auckland have been involved in the development of the proposal.

Personally I don’t think AT should have even entertained the idea of allowing Taxi’s on the bridge and should have actually gone the other way and making it bus only 24/7.

Double Decker Bus Mitigation Project

To get double deckers on the streets AT need to complete a whole lot of mitigation works to ensure the buses don’t damage things or get damaged themselves. This includes moving power poles, veranda modifications, kerb build-outs and tree pruning. They plan to have this work done by June to enable double deckers from Howick and Eastern to start running. Mt Eden is the next route planned for mitigation works which is meant to happen in the next financial year however AT are awaiting the outcome of the LRT proposal before making any changes.

On the Howick and Eastern Double Deckers, a press release yesterday announced the company was spending $12 million on buying 15 double deckers – most of which would be built in Tauranga. They will operate between Botany and the City Centre. The most interesting aspect of these buses is that they will also include free WiFi, power points and USB ports. Those are great additions and hopefully something we start to see become standard on all PT vehicles and I certainly think they should be on our new trains. The buses are from Alexander Dennis – the same maker as the small NZ Bus buses.

December 14 and January 15 Patronage

Due to the summer break it’s been a while since we’ve seen any public transport patronage for Auckland with the last results being for November last year. That finally changed yesterday as Auckland Transport published them ahead of their board meeting on Friday and the results are stunning.

Firstly December where we saw a major change for rail with a new timetable that saw the Southern and Eastern lines split and both move to 10 minute frequencies at peak and 20 minute frequency off peak.

2014-12 - Patronage Table

There are some fairly solid results in there, especially on the Rapid Transit Network which was up over 29% on December last year.

Moving on to January and the results for rail in particular are incredible. This is primarily due the summer shutdown being shorter than in previous years with the Southern, Eastern and Onehunga lines back in action on 5th January and the Western Line a week Later on the 12th. In addition there was no shutdown during Auckland Anniversary. There were a few events that also impacted on patronage. Even taking all of those changes out the patronage growth in January was impressive across all modes.

2015-01 - Patronage Table

While it would have been affected by some of issues mentioned earlier, I wonder if the 166.9% increase on the Eastern Line is a record of some kind. That’s a staggering increase. Putting aside the percentages, the actual growth in number terms is also impressive. Compared to January last year, for the previous 12 months there have been over 6.5 million extra PT trips, an average of around 18,000 extra per day (will be higher on weekdays and lower on weekends).  Included in that is an extra 4.3 million bus trips and 2.1 million extra train trips. If rail growth continues the way it has for the past year it will be putting huge pressure on the Government’s target for an earlier start to the CRL.

What’s also impressive about both December and January is that buses and ferries are showing some great growth too. In the case of the jump in ferry usage, AT say it is partly attributed to the patronage coming from the new Explore Group services that started a few months ago between the city and Waiheke Island. The timetable means there is now a 30 minute service throughout the day which offers a vast improvement in utility on what existed before so it’s not really surprising to see that having an impact. That also helps to highlight that the new bus network should help drive very good patronage growth.

The graphs below highlight some of the changes in patronage.

2015-01 - Total Patronage

The last time total patronage was as high as it is now was prior to 1958

The most impressive growth is occurring on the Rapid Transit Network which comprises of the Northern Express (NEX) and the rail network. Both rail and the NEX have shown great numbers recently.

2015-01 - Rail Patronage

2015-01 - NEX Patronage

Another thing that’s really impressive about the patronage results is that they’ve occurred at a time when petrol prices have been at their lowest point in years. Even though fuel has been cheap it seems many simply don’t want to sit in the congestion.

Petrol Prices to 13 Feb 15

Looking forward, February has already been feeling very busy and I expect the strong patronage growth will likely continue all the way through March Madness and beyond.

Update: some people noticed an issue with the change compared to the sane month last year figure for the Onehunga line. AT have corrected it below however it doesn’t affect the overall result

image004

NRL Nines a PT success

The NRL Nines has undoubtedly been a fantastic event for Auckland that is quickly becoming one of Auckland’s best. News from Auckland Transport today has highlighted another area where the event is succeeding, in PT use.

The NRL Nines, held at Eden Park, was a huge success, both on the field and for public transport.

Over the two days of league matches a record 67% of the crowd (41,964) used special event buses or trains to get and from the stadium.

That is an increase of around 13% on last year’s numbers and far surpasses other events held at the park, says Auckland Transport’s operations manager for special events, Logan Christian.

Ten years ago virtually no one used public transport to get to and from major events, he says. “That all changed with the provision of special services for Rugby World Cup (2011) and other big matches, but until now we have not cracked the 60% mark.”

He says public transport patronage is usually between 50-55%.

“Clearly Nines fans got the message that buses and trains are the fastest and most hassle-free way to go.”

On the Sunday there were some train delays on the western line due to a car accident at a level crossing near New Lynn and a signalling issue at Kingsland but these were dealt with quickly by Auckland Transport’s Operations Centre (ATOC).

The next major event at Eden Park is the ICC Cricket World Cup match between New Zealand and Australia on February 28.

“We are hopeful that we will see even better numbers for that game and throughout the major events season of 2015”, Mr Christian says.

A great result so well done AT and all those who attended

CRL moves a step closer

Auckland Transport has applied for resource consent to start digging the first section of the City Rail link from Britomart to Wyndham. This is needed so that construction can begin before the end of the year.

Brtiomart to Wyndham enabling works

This section is being built as a cut and cover tunnel due to it’s proximity to the surface and as such going to cause huge disruptions while it’s being built, especially to the many buses that use Albert St. We are yet to hear just what AT plan to do to address that particular issue although I understand it is something they are working on right now.

But it’s not just vehicles that will be affected. The images show that significant works need to be done at Britomart itself and that will almost certainly affect how people use the station.

Britomart CRL works

Britomart 3 Dimensional illustration

AT say a second resource consent application will happen for the section from Wyndham St to Mt Eden at a later date.

It’s good to see AT taking another step forward with the CRL.