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Hibiscus Coast New Network confirmed

Back in July and August, Auckland Transport consulted on changes to the bus network on the Hibiscus Coast as part of the region wide new network. The main driver for consulting on the changes now is that AT want to extend some Northern Express services to the future Hibiscus Coast busway station before the middle of next year and so it makes sense to reorganise the rest of the network in the area at the same time to take advantage of it.

The results of that consultation are now available and the final proposed network is going to the AT board today for approval. All up AT received 874 responses with 71% supporting or strongly supporting what was proposed. That’s quite a bit better than the 56% combined support for the changes to the network in South Auckland. One interesting aspect I noticed from the demographic information of submitters that stated their gender was that 59% were female. I think this is good as often transport discussions tend to be far too male dominated. The feedback has resulted in a number of changes with 10 of the original 11 routes being modified. The key issues raised and the changes as a response to them are below

Hibiscus Coast Final - Issues

I personally thought extending the NEX to Orewa itself would have been a useful anchor point rather than having it terminate at the Hibiscus Coast Station which is only accessible by car or local bus however AT say that to take the NEX through congested local roads would affect its reliability and therefore the quality of the service. In addition AT say some people wanted the new NEX services to bypass Albany busway station or in some cases all busway stations to ensure there was capacity for those going to the Hibiscus Coast. In response AT say they believe that there are greater benefits of access, simplicity, and legibility to be gained from keeping all NEX services running the same route at all times of day and serving all the busway stations. Further the buses to the Hibiscus Coast will be in addition to the existing NEX buses providing additional capacity and will be timed to leave at the same time as buses going just to Albany to help spread the load out. The proposed frequency for the NEX hasn’t changed from the consultation and will be every 15 minutes at peak (6am-9:30am city bound & 3pm-6:30pm outbound) and 30 minutes off peak.

Hibiscus Coast Final - NEX Serivces

One other aspect that AT will pulse buses at the busway station. That means for connecting buses there will only be around a 5 minute wait between services. The same thing will happen with the Gulf Harbour ferry.

Hibiscus Coast Final - Pulsed services

I won’t go through all the details in this post however the consultation report goes all of the issues as well as the investigations and considerations AT undertook before coming to their final decision. One change I will cover though is that buses won’t use the Hibiscus Coast Highway like proposed and will instead use Centreway Rd. In addition all services except the express will loop around the town centre.

Hibiscus Coast Final - Orewa Loop

So here is what the proposed map looked like for the consultation.

Hibiscus Coast Consultation - Map Combined

And here it is with the changes that have been made (click to enlarge however unfortunately it isn’t super high quality).

Hibiscus Coast Final - Map

While the AT board are expected to approve the changes today, staff note there are a number of risks associated with the changes that will need to be addressed.

  • Hibiscus Coast Station won’t be built by the time the New Network is implemented, due to ongoing legal disputes (refer Attachment 1), which will mean the customers’ experience when making connections will be sub-optimal. It is important that high quality temporary facilities are in place. Four new shelters have recently been installed adjacent to the current park and ride facility for this purpose. Temporary toilets will also be provided.
  • Because the full park and ride facility will not be built by the time the NEX is extended to Hibiscus Coast Station, there is likely to be dissatisfaction with the amount of carparking, although this will maximise the potential market for the feeder bus services.
  • The cost of providing these recommended services is to be negotiated with the incumbent operators for implementation in mid-2015. Should the cost of providing the new services exceed expectations we may have to reduce the level of service from what is recommended in the consultation summary and decisions report.
  • These service changes are proposed to be implemented before integrated fares are in place across the network. While customers with a monthly pass or a SuperGold Card will not be affected, all other passengers who make a connection under the New Network, will pay more than they do currently if required to transfer. This is likely to generate some negative publicity. An interim solution may be possible, however, service improvements are considered to outweigh this interim disbenefit.
  • Feedback suggests that some people have a poor understanding of how connections will work or are concerned that they will be reliable. We will need to work with operators to ensure connections are reliable, and to clearly communicate how connections will work under the New Network.

On the busway station itself AT have given some more details about the environment court challenge it is facing.

Resource consent for the Busway Station (Silverdale Park and Ride), which was granted on 10 July, has been appealed against by two submitters who own adjacent parcels of land. Their principal area of contention is the traffic capacity on Hibiscus Coast Highway for future developments in the Plan Change 123 (Silverdale South) area. The appellants are arguing that the Busway Station affects the amount of traffic that can be generated in the Plan Change area, thereby placing potential restrictions on their developments.

So the argument is over how much traffic the park and ride may generate and who should be able to clog up the roads more. This is perhaps a good example of one of the main issues with park and ride in general that people often don’t think think about. The other being the cost of it at around $10,000 per space for an at grade carpark. As part of the consultation AT received a number of comments wanting to see the proposed 500 spaces expanded including buying some of the neighbouring land for it. They say there is no plans to do that.

Do you live on the Hibiscus Coast, what do you think of the changes?

Stuart’s 100 #58: Four Seasons in One Year

58: Four Seasons in One Year


What if we made more of seasonal change in Auckland?

Auckland does not, despite what many of us say, have a tropical, or sub-tropical climate, but a temperate maritime one. All the palm trees in the world could not fool permanent residents of Auckland that this city is winterless. We may have four seasons in one day, but we also have four seasons in one year. It is just that you wouldn’t often know it as you watch our gardens, parks, streets, and cityscape through the seasons.

The largely evergreen-ness of Auckland reflects our native flora and that is an important defining characteristic of the New Zealand landscape. But at a finer grain, in our city parks, residential streets, and private gardens, we are sometimes missing out on some of the small delights of life with an insistence on nothing but greenery all year round.

Current dogma dictates that is pretty much impossible for the public sector to plant exotic flowering trees and plants in Auckland.  So perhaps it is up to residents, in front and back gardens and balconies everywhere, to embrace a new blossoming of Auckland life?! We often hear calls for more colour in Auckland, more flowering plants would go a long way to answering that call.

Stuart Houghton 2014

Was Auckland’s motorway network built on “strategic misrepresentations”?

Last week, I took an empirical look at construction cost overruns for recent road projects in New Zealand, concluding that NZTA and regional transport agencies systematically underestimated the costs to build roads by an average of 34%. These findings are in line with Oxford professor Bent Flyvbjerg’s international work on infrastructure cost overruns. They obviously pose a challenge for people writing business cases – how can you be sure that you’re choosing a good project?

However, Flyvbjerg’s thesis has considerably broader implications. He suggests that infrastructure costs are low-balled (and benefits are overestimated) due in large part to “strategic misrepresentation”. Or, in plain English, when planners and politicians lie about a pet project to ensure that it gets built.

Coincidentally, I happened to be reading Paul Mees’ brilliant book Transport for Suburbia when thinking about this issue. Mees, who died last year at far too young an age, does a fantastic job communicating the theory and practice of high-quality public transport networks. The book is based on case studies of a number of cities, including Auckland.

In chapter two, Mees takes a look at the fateful decision that Auckland made, in 1954, to scrap its comprehensive public transport system, fail to invest in a regional rail network (as had been promised for over two decades), and build an urban motorway network. Interestingly – or disturbingly – the decision seems to have been made on the basis of two big “strategic misrepresentations”.

The first strategic misrepresentation was that Auckland wasn’t dense enough for good public transport. As this was easy to disprove by looking at the facts on the ground – which showed that 58% of motorised trips in Auckland were taken by public transport (and only 42% by car), and that the average Aucklander took 290 PT trips a year – it was necessary to lie with statistics.

In an MRCagney working paper on population-weighted densities that I published in September, I showed that Auckland is a relatively high-density city by New World standards – certainly dense enough to sustain high-quality public transport. My colleague Nick Reid used the same data to demonstrate how pro-sprawl think tank Demographia is still using misleading statistics to make its case. But Mees shows that the misuse and abuse of population density was even more rampant in the 1954 decision:

The Committee carefully sifted the Fooks table, deleting all the anomalous cities, such as Vienna and Zurich, that might have alerted readers to its real purpose. The Committee then added its own density estimate for Auckland, calculated using the very same methodology Fooks wrote his book to debunk, namely dividing the population of the region by the gross area under the jurisdiction of the Auckland Regional Planning Authority. This was not an inadvertent error either, as the same Technical Committee (with much the same membership) had only four years earlier estimated the urbanized area of the region at 30,000 acres, instead of the 113,000 used for the Master Plan’s calculations. This gave a density of 15 residents per acre not 4 (37 per hectare not 10), double the figures for Australian cities cited in the Master Plan and triple the figure given for Los Angeles.

The second strategic misrepresentation, which would be familiar to Flybjerg, was that motorways would be relatively cheap. While both rail investment and road investment carried a substantial price-tag, the decision to choose roads was made on the basis of the fact that they wouldn’t be that much more expensive than rail. But Mees finds that was simply not true:

The Auckland Technical Committee’s cost estimates proved to be no more robust than its density calculations. It had claimed that the rail scheme would cost £11 million [according to the RBNZ's inflation calculator, this is equivalent to $560 million in today's dollars], almost as much as the £15 million price tag [$760 million] for the motorways. In 1962, an engineer named Joseph Wright claimed that both figures has been distorted to favour motorways. Motorway costs had been underestimated, with the true figure closer to £40 million [$2 billion today], while rail costs had been inexplicably inflated from the [1950] Halcrow estimate of £7.25 million [$370 million]. ‘Where did the figure of £11 million come from?’ he asked. ‘I understand that the committee which produced the Master Transport Plan had 26 members, only three of whom had any experience of handling public transport… The whole Master Transport Plan has a motor car complex’… Wright was no car-hating train-spotter: he was the Ministry of Works engineer in charge of the Auckland motorway project.

In short, Auckland was sold its motorways on the premise that they would be quite cheap. But within a few years, it was apparent that the true cost would be much, much higher. Even Wright’s estimate of £40 million, or $2 billion in today’s dollars, to complete Auckland’s road network now seems laughably optimistic. These days, transport agencies can easily spend $2 billion on motorway expansions in a few short years.

When the government announced, at the last budget, that it would be spending an additional $800 million on a package of Auckland motorway projects, few people batted an eye. It’s evident at this point that a mere $800 million isn’t enough to complete the network, or even do anything more than provide a temporary fix. But remember: the designers of Auckland’s motorway network claimed that it would be finished for that sum.

Cock-up or conspiracy: What do you think happened here?

New Bus Priority coming

Auckland Transport want to roll out 40km of new bus priority measures over the next 3 years to speed up buses, make them more efficient and support the new bus network being rolled out across the region. This is fantastic news as the lack of progress AT have made to date on rolling out bus lanes has been a regular cause for concern for us and since AT was formed in late 2010 only bus lane added across the region has was on Fanshawe St earlier this year – something we campaigned on.

FANSHAWE ST red and green

AT say they are targeting for 15km to be added this financial year and the remaining 25km over the following two years adding to the 88km of existing bus and transit lanes around the region. The works won’t all be bus lanes, in some cases they will be improvements to stops, kerb realignments or pocket lanes at intersections. Many of the improvements are also about making the existing bus lanes work better by addressing the missing gaps in them. The focus so far has been on the routes that make up the Frequent Transit Network which are the routes that will have buses running at a minimum of every 15 minutes from 7am to 7pm, seven days a week (below). As part of the new network AT are also rolling out a new contracting model (PTOM) for which stringent KPIs have been set in the areas of punctuality and reliability and these new priority measures play a critical role in operators being able to meet those KPIs.

New Network

And here are the list of the key projects bus priority projects over the next three years. AT say a road on the list doesn’t mean there will be a bus lane along the entire corridor but that these are the corridors that have high levels of congestion for buses and have priority measures identified that will increase the operational efficiency and customer experience.

Bus Priority works

The cost to roll out these bus priority measures is $12-15 million over the next 3 years which seems like fantastic value when compared to many other transport projects. That cost is made up of $2.2 million of capital expenditure (CAPEX) in this financial year and $5-6 million in the following two years as well an additional $500,000 in operational spending in those years for investigation and review. The big issue though is that currently following two years projects are not included in the base transport programme and so will need funding to be made available.

One thing that does help is they say recent stakeholder engagement internally and with NZTA, Local Board, business associations, emergency services and local residents has been positive. These are also not the end of bus priority measures and AT are conducting a systematic investigation of all future RTN routes.

It’s great to see AT finally getting on to this. I don’t know if any economic evaluation has been done but the benefits from freeing up trips for thousands of bus users per day must be huge, especially when you consider it will cost just 10% of some motorway interchange projects. It’s also about the same cost as the NZTA are about to spend on adding one lane to the motorway northbound at Ellerslie.

Sunday music: Talking Heads on cities

A blast from the past: the Talking Heads’ ode to urbanity, “Cities”. This is from the band’s fantastic concert film Stop Making Sense:

The Talking Heads emerged from 1970s New York. The city itself wasn’t doing so well at the time – like many other large American cities, it was struggling with deindustrialisation, white flight, and a crime wave. But it was a fantastic time and place to make music. Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa were originating hip-hop; Television, the New York Dolls, Patti Smith, and the Ramones were putting together punk rock.

People were swapping ideas and innovating. Things were happening. That’s what happens in cities.

Talking Heads frontman David Byrne realised how important urban places are to creativity. A few years ago, he wrote a great book about cities and streets, drawn from his experience touring all over the world and riding around cities on his folding bike – it’s called Bicycle Diaries.

More details on the Glen Innes to Tamaki Dr path

Auckland Transport have released more details about the route for the Glen Innes to Tamaki Dr shared path that they and the NZTA are going to build over the next few years. The $30 million path will be built between 2015 and 2018 in four stages (down from five initially). The stages are shown below and previously section 2 was two separate stages.

Sections of the Glen Innes to Tamaki Drive shared path 1

AT say the project features are

  • The path will be around four metres wide and constructed mostly in concrete. Timber boardwalks will be used for short water crossings such as Orakei Basin and concrete for longer structures such as the proposed Hobson Bay crossing.
  • The path will be safe and convenient for use by people on foot or on bike.
  • Good lighting will extend hours of access, particularly during winter months.
  • The route’s geography is hilly in places, but the design of the path will keep gradients as low as possible.
  • The path design will link into local communities and the project will identify future links that could be built at a later date.
  • The path will connect communities with public transport along the route.


AT have put out this video showing the route.

And here are the

I think the thing that surprised me the most was that the path will travel down the northern side of the railway line till around Purewa Cemetery before crossing over to the southern side. I had previously thought they would squeeze it in on the southern side. Being on the northern side might in future open up the opportunity for some of the areas on the northern side of the tracks to have access to Meadowbank station which would be useful, although it might also increase calls from the local board to have another station in the vicinity.

I also wonder what the longer term plans are for the section of land between the path and the railway line south of St Johns Rd. We know it’s now not going to be used for an Eastern Motorway.

And here are a couple of images of what the path may look like.

Eastern Path Section 1

Eastern Path Section 2 - 2

Eastern Path Section 2 - 1

Eastern Path Section 4

My biggest concern with the path is that there won’t be enough done to build cycle facilities on roads that lead to/from the path. That includes both in the eastern suburbs and of course Tamaki Dr. Overall though I think the path will be very popular and busy with people walking and on bikes, especially across Hobson bay on a nice day.

New Wynyard Hotel disappointing

More details were released yesterday surrounding a new luxury hotel – to be known as Park Hyatt Auckland – that is going to be built on the waterfront, on the site that currently houses the Team New Zealand headquarters.


The design of the new $200 million Auckland waterfront hotel and the announcement of the luxury Park Hyatt brand as its manager were unveiled today at the state luncheon for the visiting Chinese President.

The hotel is being built by the Beijing-based Fu Wah International Group, in partnership with Waterfront Auckland. The Hyatt Group will manage the hotel under its luxury Park Hyatt brand, adding to that brand’s network of hotels in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, and throughout Asia, Europe, the United States, and Africa.

The hotel, to be known as the Park Hyatt Auckland, will be located on the current Team New Zealand site on Halsey St, looking out on the Viaduct Harbour and Te Wero Bridge. The six storey hotel will have a total floor area of 25,000 square metres with 190 rooms, a ball room, multifunction room and business centres, entertainment facilities including a rooftop restaurant, and a gym/health centre and day spa.

Mr Chiu Yung, President for Fu Wah International Group, said the new hotel will be a landmark property on the waterfront, and is being built to very high environmental standards. The Group will invest around $200million in the project, with $2.5 million committed to the development of a public space and art display in the area around the hotel in Wynyard Quarter, to give people access to the marina and water.

“The site of the hotel is special – right on the water of one of the world’s finest harbour settings – so we feel a responsibility to build a landmark hotel. The design is one which meets high environmental standards with an emphasis on unique New Zealand features developed in collaboration with the one of New Zealand’s most highly regarded architects. We are thrilled to be involved in a building and hotel of this scale and quality.

Waterfront Auckland CEO, John Dalzell says the five star international quality hotel is an exemplar project of what the Wynyard Quarter revitalisation is all about.

“The bar was set high with this project: an exceptional design to complement the award winning designs of other buildings and public spaces delivered to date; an investor that was willing to look long term; and an appreciation of the importance of building sustainably.

“Fu Wah has stepped up on all accounts and the result will be a true international standard hotel that, over time, will become a key catalyst for economic activity on the waterfront and the Auckland region as a whole.”

It is expected to open in 2017 and on the design Waterfront Auckland also say

The design team for the project consists of collaboration of local architectural firm, Bossley Architects, Singapore based AR+D, and interior design by world renowned Conran + Partners.

The design will meet Waterfront Auckland’s own high environmental standards with an emphasis on unique New Zealand and Maori architectural features.

Those environmental standards the developer and operator will be required to:

  • Be energy and water efficient
  • Promote sustainable transport
  • Minimise waste to landfill
  • Maximise solar access, natural ventilation and natural light
  • Minimise need for heating, cooling and artificial lighting
  • Optimise the amount of roof space available for solar panels and make it available for installation of solar panels

All that sounds fantastic however the images released so far leave me feeling extremely under-whelmed. They seem far from the idea of a landmark with exceptional design – unless exceptional design means a bland and boring box.



Is this the best we can do for our Waterfront?


Update: this is the design that won a competition for the project in 2011

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

Stuart’s 100 #57: Grow your own

57: Grow your own


What if supermarkets could grow their own?

Supermarkets, like service stations, are in that category of activities that are of such necessity and ubiquity to our daily life that they cumulatively have a very large footprint and influence across our cities and suburbs.

In denser parts of the world, where space is valued at a higher premium, it goes without saying that supermarkets need to be accommodated on sites with other uses. In New Zealand we are only gradually cottoning on to this idea, with a handful of metro supermarkets in central Wellington and Auckland, and soon, the vertical mixed use scheme of commercial office space above a Countdown supermarket in Ponsonby’s Vinegar Lane.

But wouldn’t it be good if supermarkets right across our suburbs, could find additional uses for their large footprint stores? It might be dreaming perhaps, but imagine if each one of those hangar-type stores had glasshouses on the roof growing fresh salad greens, herbs, fruits and vegetables picked daily and served up in the produce aisles downstairs? Short of growing your own, local food couldn’t get much more local than that!

Pie in the sky perhaps but it does highlight the current wastefulness of many of these buildings and land holdings that could be put to more intensive uses. Many parts of Auckland could benefit from our supermarkets’ taking a more progressive and broader remit towards urban revitalisation when re-investing in stores. Changing the way we do the everyday things everywhere – in ways that are scaleable – that is a sure-fire way to change Auckland for the better.

Stuart Houghton 2014

A century of changing transport spending

Via Donal Curtin, I got wind of a fantastic Statistics NZ visualisation of changes to the Consumer Price Index over the last century. The Consumer Price Index, or CPI, is a tool that statistics agencies use to track inflation over time. It tracks changes in prices in the goods and services that households purchase.

This is not as simple as it seems at first, because people’s consumption habits and choices change over time. For example, one hundred years ago New Zealanders weren’t eating many avocados (not cultivated here until the 1920s), buying many laptops (not invented yet), or getting their legs waxed (not even considered at that time). So Statistics NZ has to periodically update the CPI by introducing new products to the “basket” and removing others.

As a result, CPI basket changes are a good way of looking at our changing consumption habits over time. Some of the changes are amusingly bizarre – for example, what was happening during the five year period from 1988 to 1993 when waterbeds and wine coolers were briefly a part of the CPI basket? (Younger readers might not want to think too hard about that one.)

Here’s are the transport goods and services that have been added and removed over the last century. They tell us quite a bit about how our travel behaviours have changed:

CPI basket changes transport

A few things strike me as notable:

  • Compared with other CPI areas such as leisure, home, and food, which can be seen on Statistics NZ’s website, transport has experienced relatively little change over the last century. The number of products introduced and removed is relatively small. The technologies that were available a century ago – trains, buses, cars, bicycles – are still useful today.
  • Tram fares were introduced to the CPI in 1924, as cities grew rapidly around tramlines, and removed in 1965 following the ripping-out of the tram lines.
  • However, other public transport technologies have stayed relevant – train fares were added 1924 and bus fares in 1949. Urban ferry fares are the newest addition in 2014, reflecting rising patronage in the largest cities.
  • The 1950s were a big decade of change, with motor vehicles and associated goods (petrol, driver licences) added to the CPI. Bicycles were also added!
  • Kiwis took to the air in large numbers in the 1970s, with domestic and international air fares added in 1974 and 1980, respectively.
  • The 1970s oil shocks led to a few changes to the CPI. 1974 saw the introduction of motorcycles, a fuel efficient option for many young New Zealanders. It also led to some short-lived changes in the fuel consumption of the car fleet – in 1988, diesel, LPG and CNG were added. But LPG and CNG were removed before too long, as lower petrol prices in the 1990s reduced the need for alternative fuels.
  • Technological changes and a return of high oil prices resulted in the introduction of hybrid vehicles in 2011.

Who said statistics is boring? There’s an awful lot of social history compacted into a dry figure like the CPI!