In Christchurch, CERA have released plans for the new central city bus interchange and it looks like it will be a nightmare. They say
From the second quarter of 2015, Christchurch bus users will enjoy a state-of-the-art Bus Interchange in the heart of the city.
Bounded by Tuam, Colombo and Lichfield streets and SOL Square, it has been designed to meet the needs of customers – both now and in the future – and to integrate with its urban location and the existing public transport network.
On opening, the Bus Interchange will handle up to 115 bus movements per hour and by 2041 it will be used by about 7,500 people per hour.
It will cost $53 million and they also say it will include other development opportunities, provide easy access to the ‘slow core’ of the CBD that is being prioritised for pedestrians, includes cycle storage but also carparking (which is odd as they say the bus interchange is about trying to encourage PT use to get to the city.
The interchange is being designed by Warren and Mahoney along with Aurecon but I can’t help be feeling that the design is focused too much on how the interchange looks and not how it will actually operate.
And here’s the top down view.
The design seems incredibly impractical for a bus interchange, it looks more like an intercity terminus. Here are some of the issues with it.
- Due to the internal roundabout it uses an incredible amount of space for what is only 16 platforms. Some island platforms could probably cut down the land requirement substantially which would have left more land available for development.
- Due to how deep the sawtooth platforms are, buses will need to be reversing quite far to be able to get on to roundabout. That presents two major problems.
- There’s a pedestrian crossing to the island (not sure what’s on it) but it’s squeezed between the sawtooth platforms – which will probably be busy with passengers. Even worse is it will require buses to reverse over the crossing. Let’s just say that’s far from ideal and quite a safety hazard.
- On the South-western side it will mean reversing buses will block the entrance to the interchange, again another potential safety hazard.
This design gets even stupider seeing as ECANs proposed bus network in their 2012 Regional Public Transport Plan has buses through routed through the CBD, not terminating in it.
I much prefer this concept shown a while ago
It’s also worth highlighting this video from then the plans were launched a few days ago. Skip to 11:50 to here Gerry Brownlee saying such things as
“The concept of discrete shops, laneways and open space is very much a winner with the Canterbury public” (Gerry it’s not just those in Canterbury who like that).
“Public transport is very very important, people will know that in the CBD we’re looking at some slower speed restrictions, but part of that is to encourage public transport as much as possible”
Life under the Victoria Park Viaduct
Photo is credited to oh.yes.melbourne
Warning, this is seriously addictive.
Dinosaur Polo Club - a couple of Wellington based of developers – have created an amazingly simple and yet highly addictive game based on transit maps called Mini Metro.
Mini Metro is an upcoming minimalistic subway layout game. Your small city starts with only three unconnected stations. Your task is to draw routes between the stations to connect them with subway lines. Everything but the line layout is handled automatically; trains run along the lines as quickly as they can, and the commuters decide which trains to board and where to make transfers.
However the city is constantly growing, along with the transport needs of its population. How long can you keep the subway system running before it grinds to a halt?
The game is still in alpha but is already highly playable and fun. The different station symbols represent different destinations while the smaller version of symbols stacked up next to them represent the desired destination of the passengers waiting at the station. My best score was 470 a second or so after this screenshot was taken.
I don’t know whether it was conscious or not but there are a few really important PT network planning principle that play out in this game.
- The trains (the coloured squares on the line) move at a set speed. That means the longer the line the longer it takes to complete each run and therefore the lower the frequency. It’s tempting to run really long routes for coverage but doing so sees frequency drop and can be a quick way to lose the game.
- A connected grid of intersecting routes is the only real way to make a long lasting network as anything else results in excessively long routes and therefore low frequency.
- There’s always the situation where you wish you had just one more route and/or tunnel available.
- With the stations popping up at random and often annoying to serve locations you’re always wondering who the hell decided to do land use planning independently of transport planning
All up a very cool game and the developers are working on a full game that will also work on tablets. It will also feature maps from other cities (the river in the map above appears to suggest this is London) and the developers may even get an Auckland map in there.
What score can you get?
An article on Planetizen a few months back highlights an issue often missed in the debates over roads versus public transport or sprawl versus intensification – the fact that for the last century most government spending and policy has supported car use and lower density development. Yet this is seemingly often ignored by those moaning about how planners are supposedly ’forcing’ people into dense living environments while transport planners are supposedly ‘forcing’ people onto public transport.
Michael Lewyn, the post’s author, asks an interesting hypothetical question to set up his argument that really public investment and policy (essentially public sector intervention) has for an incredibly long time been tilted towards urban form and transport outcomes epitomised by car dependent urban sprawl:
After reading yet more blather about the “war on cars” or “density-pushing planners” I recently had a thought: what if government really did favor transit and compact development as aggressively as they had favored sprawl in the 20th century? How different would planning and transportation rules be?…
For example, in the first half of the 20th century, government at all levels spent public money on roads for automobiles, while giving limited or no support to streetcars (which at first were private). As transit providers began to lose money, government took them over, and the federal government started to support public transit in the 1960s. Today, the federal government spends about four times as much on highways as on public transit. As a result of these policies, many cities have weak public transit systems, while many people and jobs have moved to suburbs served by highways.
This cartoon from Andy Singer springs to mind (he has a heap of other great cartoons on many of the issues we talk about on the blog)
Some examples are then outlined to give us a bit of an idea about how extremely pro public transport and urban intensification policies would need to go in order to truly counter-balance what has existed for around a century in the USA (and in New Zealand). For transport funding:
So if government completely reversed course in the 21st century, it would reverse funding ratios: that is, spend half a century spending several times as much on public transit as on highways, and then spent another half century completely defunding highways (much as it ignored transit in the early and mid-20th century).
For how mortgages for greenfield development were subsidised:
In the 1950s, government heavily subsidized suburbia, through Federal Housing Administration (FHA) lending criteria that favored suburbs. For example, FHA refused to subsidize mortgages in racially diverse urban neighborhoods, and favored new single-family homes (which tended to be in suburbs) over renovating existing homes- a policy that encouraged middle-class homeowners to move to suburbs. So to completely reverse course, the FHA would have to spend a couple of decades refusing to insure mortgages in any neighborhood built after the New Deal, while subsidizing mortgages in older neighborhoods.
For density controls:
Since the 1920s, most American zoning codes have mandated that huge swaths of land be limited to low-density residential use, ensuring that many Americans do not live within walking distance of public transit. To truly reverse this policy, government would have to spend the 21st century mandating that new development be at densities sufficient to support transit, and would require a mix of residential and commercial uses to the extent possible.
And how about parking?
Since the 1950s, most zoning codes have also required that commercial landowners and multifamily dwellings provide visitors with parking lots and garages, thus effectively subsidizing driving by making parking more abundant. And because zoning codes also required buildings to be set back from the street, these parking lots were usually in front of buildings, thus ensuring that pedestrians must waste time walking through ugly parking lots in order to reach their destinations. To reverse this policy over the next 60 years, government would have to establish maximum parking requirements (as a few cities have in fact done) and require buildings to be in front of sidewalks so pedestrians could reach them more easily.
Of course this is just a series of hypothetical questions, which highlight that many of the changes to land-use and transport planning that we promote on this blog: things like removing parking minimums, removing/lessening controls that limit development density and promoting a better balance between public transport and road spending are really pretty mild and attempt to shift planning policy and transport spending back much more towards a ‘neutral’ situation. If we really were promoting bias towards intensification instead of sprawl, public transport instead of road spending, that was to the same extent (but opposite direction of course) as what has happened in the past century – we’d have to be WAY more extreme.
The herald today picked up on an important trend that’s been happening without trains in recent months, much improved on time performance.
Becoming ruthless with their whistles and no longer waiting for last-minute “runners” at railway stations has helped Auckland train crews to achieve record punctuality.
Although his trains still have some way to go to catch up with buses and ferries for time-keeping, Transdev managing director Terry Scott is delighted that 91.7 per cent of the rail company’s services hit their destinations within five minutes of scheduled arrival times in January.
That was the first time they exceeded 90 per cent, setting the stage for more improvements once electric trains start running between Britomart and Onehunga in two months, with far greater acceleration and braking power than the existing diesels.
Transdev’s client Auckland Transport is also relieved after struggling to see figures rising above 80 per cent in the long years of trying to keep the city’s elderly trains running to schedule during track upgrades.
“If we can do that with 60-year-old trains, imagine what we can do with the EMUs [electric trains],” says the council body’s chairman, Lester Levy, of the latest result.
It’s great to see that the clunky of diesel trains are more reliable and that’s something that the current management team can be rightly given credit for. Of course in the past there have been all sorts of excuses as to why it wasn’t being achieved so now that it’s been done it does beg the question of why it’s taken so long to get above 90%. As Lester says, if this is possible with our current trains then what can we expect with brand new electric trains.
One of the reasons likely behind the improved performance is that the quality of the rail network has improved. The major physical works have been completed and the new signalling system has now been in place for a few years so is bedded in. As an example, in the 12 months to March 2012 there were a massive 454 signal faults on the Auckland network, by comparison from January 2013 to October 2013 there were only 84
Here’s the last 18 months or so of performance history.
I also have much greater confidence in the rail punctuality stats than I do the bus ones the herald notes which are based on when the bus starts it’s run and are self-reported by the operators.
Let’s hope the rail figures can continue above 90 for some many months to come.
Another of Auckland’s long standing empty holes is going to be developed after resource consent was issued by a council commissioner. But unlike the massive tower planned for Elliott/Victoria/Albert Streets this one will be a lot smaller and dedicated to one thing, parking. The site is 28 Shortland St which is the former home to the Auckland Start building and also backs on to Fort St where the access to the current at grade carpark is located.
You can read the resource consent decision here. The proposal is listed as:
Land use consent to construct a new three level car parking building that will include both non-ancillary commuter parking and short-term visitor parking. There will be a café/coffee shop constructed within the site’s south-eastern corner fronting onto Shortland Street, while the ground level units along Fort Street will be utilised for retail purposes and provide vehicular access to the parking building. A walkway will run through the middle of the site and will provide a pedestrian link between Shortland Street and Fort Street.
I’m not sure what’s planned for the Fort St retail side but my understanding is the café/coffee shop in the south-eastern corner is basically the coffee shack that is already on the site. The rest of the Shortland St side will basically be a blank façade which will likely block off any views of the harbour. From memory with previous proposals the council was keen on retaining a view shaft through the site
At three storeys it’s definitely not on the scale of other carparks and is only expected to have 147 spaces (by comparison the Downtown carpark has 1,890). Of the 147 spaces the consent only allows 18 to be used for commuter parking. The remaining 129 are required to be short term parking only. This is one of the reasons it was approved with the commissioner saying
The intensity and scale of the car parking operation is considered appropriate given the location of the site with frontages to collector roads and the clear sightlines that are evident to the east and west as vehicles leave the site. The car park is designed primarily for short-term visitor parking, where high demand will be outside the morning and evening peak hours. As a result, the parking arrangement will have a reduced impact on traffic congestion in the central city and the surrounding road network.
Perhaps there is a small silver lining though, those short term parks are obviously intended as a way for people to be able to drive to the city in the middle of the day for the likes of shopping so the creation of those carparks could allow the council to be bolder in simultaneously removing them from High St. In fact it would probably be worthwhile the council looking at other areas where on street parking in the area could be scaled back as a result in return for better pedestrian amenity.
It’s surprising that the owners of the site haven’t been able to (or don’t want to) justify a commercial tower on the site. My understanding is that high quality office space is in short supply in Auckland at the moment and the site is big enough to be able to provide a building on similar scale to the likes of the Vero Centre or even the recent Deloitte building.
The Auckland Star building was demolished in May 1989. Here’s what it used to look like from Shortland St in 1910
Auckland Star building, Shortland Street, Auckland. Auckland Star :Negatives. Ref: 1/1-002917-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23200225
We’ve discussed Warkworth’s notorious Hill St intersection previously, but it seems timely to revisit again with the Board of Inquiry underway on the Puhoi – Warkworth toll road and NZTA’s recent press release on the subject:
The NZ Transport Agency says its priority to improve traffic flows in the Warkworth area is to first construct a new highway between Puhoi and Warkworth before it upgrades the community’s Hill Street intersection.
“I acknowledge that many in the community want Hill Street upgraded as soon as possible, but it is important that we have a reliable alternative route in place first for people before we tackle Hill Street,” says the Transport Agency’s State Highway Manager, Tommy Parker.
Mr Parker says upgrading the intersection and the state highway and five local roads that feed into it will be a complex task that will take some time to complete.
“There’s not a lot of room at the intersection and we will need to keep all those roads open during the upgrade. We estimate construction could take two summers to complete and that will mean considerable disruption for everyone – children from the nearby school, residents, local businesses and road users.
“Upgrading Hill Street, either in isolation or ahead of the new highway, will not provide substantial relief from congestion. It makes sense to construct the highway first to help us manage the disruption from that work and divert traffic away from the intersection.”
Before analysing NZTA’s announcement in more detail, here is a map of the current intersection:
And the GIS view:
As you can imagine, the intersection turns into a real bottleneck at peak times, particularly in the summer months.
Traffic from Warkworth village heading to Matakana must turn right at a give way sign, across a lane of queued traffic, giving way to traffic from a number of directions concurrently. Traffic queues across the intersection can often block other traffic movements in other directions. In summary, it is a real mess.
Further down in their press release, NZTA mention a couple of other projects:
Mr Parker says the Transport Agency is working with Auckland Transport – Auckland Council’s transport body – to progress other options including the Matakana Link, which will connect with the new highway and bypass Hill Street to the region’s eastern beaches, the Western Collector in the town and the SH1/McKinney Road intersection south of the township.
Firstly, looking at the Western Collector:
This is an AT sponsored project which is a complete bypass around Hill Street and central Warkworth. It starts at opposite McKinney Road in the south and ends at Hudson Road north of Hill Street. Anyone heading to or from the north on the existing SH1 will certainly use this, reducing pressure on Hill St. A number of intersections that make up the bypass have already been completed, but I can’t find any information via Google on when the missing links will be completed. It is supposed to happen before the Puhoi – Warkworth toll road, however.
Secondly, the Matakana Link is mentioned, crudely highlighted in blue on the map below. At this stage this is unfunded and does not form part of the Puhoi – Warkworth toll road project. However, without it the toll road will be useless for people wanting to travel to or from the Matakana area.
As currently scoped, the toll road will join 1.8 km north of the Hill Street intersection. Anyone travelling to Matakana on the new toll road will have to cover an extra 3 km at least to get to Hill Street, compared to using the existing SH1.
So are NZTA right in delaying Hill Street by at least another 10 years? On the one hand, the scale of any new intersection could be reduced because of the Western Collector and the possibility of the Matakana link.
On the other hand, for Warkworth residents this is a long time to wait, so why not start now? Remember also that Warkworth residents won’t directly benefit from the new toll road either, as the fastest route south will still be the existing SH1, so they seem to be getting a rough deal from the announcement.
This year Capitol Cinema has been kind to arrange a special screening of the new movie Her on 12 March at 8PM (doors). Her has been getting a rave reviews around town and recently picked up a gong at the Oscars for Best Original Screenplay.
Like last time, we’ll arrange a place to meet up before the event (suggestions welcome). Here are a couple photos from the event by @bythemotorway. In addition to supporting the blog this is a great event to meet others in the interesting milieu that is Dominion Road.
Capitol Cinema, Auckland.
You can order tickets here. Group tickets and physical tickets (cash) can be arranged. Big thanks to Isthmus for joining our growing list of sponsors.
A final decision on the future Wellington’s PT Spine has finally been made and it’s one that might upset a few people.
Faster, bigger buses have been officially chosen as the future of public transport in Wellington, snuffing out any chance of having light rail in the capital for the foreseeable future.
The Regional Transport Committee – a collective of Wellington’s mayors and the NZ Transport Agency – voted today to push ahead with plans to build a $268 million bus rapid transit network between the Wellington CBD and southern suburbs.
Detailed plans are yet to be drawn up, but it will involve hi-tech articulated or double-decker buses running along a dedicated busway between Wellington Railway Station and the suburbs of Newtown and Kilbirnie.
The route forms the southern part of Wellington’s public transport “spine”.
Today’s decision brings down the curtain on the Wellington Public Transport Spine Study, which began in 2011.
The Spine Study had looked at a number of different options for improving PT in Wellington from simple bus lanes all the way up to extending the existing heavy rail network through the CBD and beyond. The options were narrowed down to three:
- Bus priority – $59 million, which involves more peak period bus lanes and priority traffic signals for buses, along the Golden Mile and Kent Terrace, through the Basin Reserve and along Adelaide Road to Newtown and through the Hataitai bus tunnel to Kilbirnie.
- Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) – $209 million, which involves a dedicated busway, for modern, higher capacity buses separated from other traffic as much as possible, along the Golden Mile and Kent/Cambridge Terrace then around the Basin Reserve and along Adelaide Road to Newtown and through the (duplicated) Mt Victoria tunnel to Kilbirnie.
- Light Rail Transit (LRT) – $940 million, which involves new tram vehicles running on dedicated tracks along the Golden Mile, Kent and Cambridge Terraces then around the Basin Reserve along Adelaide Road to Newtown and through a separate Mt Victoria tunnel to Kilbirnie
One of the big problems with the spine study is it made some odd assumptions like that light rail would require its own dedicated new tunnel under Mt Victoria while BRT wouldn’t, instead using a second Mt Victoria tunnel the NZTA plan to build as part of the RoNS work.
However even putting that aside I do feel that the BRT option is probably the right one. One of the reasons for that is that the BRT option wouldn’t just benefit the dedicated buses that might run on routes above but that other buses from the wider area would also benefit. This is as what we currently see in Auckland on the Northern Busway where the Northern Express services only run on the busway route however a large number of other bus routes like the popular 881 use the busway for part of their journey. This appears to have been a key factor in the decision.
Committee chairwoman Fran Wilde said the ability of rapid transit buses to go beyond the dedicated spine and continue to suburbs like Island Bay and Karori made it a winner.
“With some of the bus technology that’s now on the books, the difference between what people consider light rail and bus rapid transit to be is getting smaller and smaller.”
Building a light rail network through the middle of Wellington would have also caused severe disruption to those living and working in the city for a number of years, she said.
Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown, who was first elected in 2010 on the back of campaign promises to push for light rail, said today she had also been swayed by the ability of buses to go further than trams.
She welcomed the decision to proceed but cautioned that Wellington’s topography and road layout would make it impossible to build the type of busways seen oversees, which were generally isolated from all other traffic by concrete barriers.
“This is not going to be the highest quality bus rapid transit network in the known universe because that just wouldn’t work.”
Ms Wade-Brown said all options had been thoroughly considered as part of the spine study. The $380m cost of a rail tunnel was not the critical element holding back light rail, she said.
There are a couple of key comments in here that are worth expanding on. As Fran Wilde notes the differences between buses and light rail are getting smaller and smaller and that is likely to continue. Wellington already has some trolley buses however with other electric bus options being developed it doesn’t have to mean that BRT is any worse environmentally than light rail. Even more traditional looking diesel buses don’t seem to have been a problem in attracting passengers for Northern Busway services.
The other key comment is from Celia Wade-Brown where she says that Wellington won’t have the highest quality fully separated BRT. The reality is that any light rail system would suffer exactly the same constraints as the bus option. Even so I’m sure they will be able to significantly improve bus priority along the route. This is also recognised in the spine study in that the estimated travel times for both BRT and LRT come out almost identical.
In addition to all of this another advantage of the BRT option is simply that it can be built over time and in doing so each section can provide immediate benefits to existing services. Under a light rail scheme it isn’t until an entire route is really in place that the infrastructure becomes usable. That staging ability combined with the fact that buses from outside of the immediate area of the spine can also benefit from the infrastructure then I think it becomes quite clear that the BRT option was the better one.
But all of this doesn’t mean that light rail couldn’t happen at some point in the future, in fact most of the works needed to secure the right of way to implement a BRT system would also apply to a LRT system so that work would already have been done and it would just come down to the cost of laying tracks. BRT could be seen as means of building patronage numbers faster than possible otherwise which might help better justify light rail in the future. For those pushing for light rail it could be a case where sometimes the best way to achieve your goal is not always to go straight to the final solution.
Now that a final decision has been made hopefully those supporting PT in Wellington will focus on pushing to get the BRT infrastructure needed in place as soon as possible.
The CRL has been approved by the planning commissioners hearing the notice of requirement. I haven’t had a chance to look through the documents about the decision and won’t fit a little while yet so let me know if there’s anything interesting in them.
Auckland Transport has today welcomed a unanimous recommendation by independent planning commissioners that the land required to build, operate and maintain the City Rail Link (CRL) be set aside for the project.
The five commissioners, who heard AT’s planning application for the CRL, have recommended that the designation for the land be confirmed, subject to conditions that address issues raised by submitters.
The commissioners say they accepted the CRL would result in significant overall benefits to the people and economy of Auckland. “There was no evidence to challenge the benefits of the project and most submitters in opposition accepted the merits of the project.”
AT Chief Executive, David Warburton, says the recommendation and related conditions would now be considered by Auckland Transport. AT has 30 working days to confirm, amend or withdraw the notices.
There was overwhelming support for the CRL and many of those who submitted in opposition to ensure their particular interests were addressed, also voiced their support for the project.
David Warburton says when a decision is made, all affected landowners and submitters will be informed of the result. Submitters will have 15 working days to appeal the decision to the Environment Court.
The documents are here.