AMETI busway notified

A newsletter update from Auckland Transport yesterday finally provided some news on the next stage of AMETI which will see significant improvements to public transport and active modes. This includes a busway between Panmure and Pakuranga and much improved walking and cycling facilities. AT say they’ve lodged the Notice of Requirement which means the process is finally moving forward again, a year after they announced the final design for the busway. The bad news is that while they’re now going through the NoR process, at this stage there will be no funding for the project till 2021 despite it being one of Auckland’s top transport priorities.

Significant progress has been made on the plans for major transport improvements between Panmure and Pakuranga.

We have lodged a Notice of Requirement (NoR) application to designate the route for the proposed Panmure to Pakuranga busway and other transport improvements.

The project includes the first section of New Zealand’s first urban busway, so buses can travel on congestion free lanes between Panmure and Pakuranga. It will allow quicker, more frequent and reliable buses on lanes separate to traffic, increasing public transport use.

The NoR process provides the opportunity for any member of the public to make a submission and be heard at an official hearing in front of independent commissioners. Based on current funding construction will begin in 2021, subject to approval of the NoR.

We are protecting the route to be ready for earlier construction if funding becomes available earlier.

There are four key areas to the Panmure to Pakuranga project

New Panmure intersection

One of the key reasons for building the new Te Horeta Rd in the first stage of AMETI (the road in the tunnel parallel to the train station) was to reduce the amount of traffic using the Panmure Roundabout. That is so the roundabout can be removed and replaced with a signalised intersection which better caters for buses and pedestrians. I imagine there are a lot of drivers who would be happy to see the back of that roundabout. On the northern side of the new busway there is a 4.3m shared path

AMETI - Panmure Intersection plan - 2015

Lagoon Drive

The busway that starts at the train station will continue all the way down Lagoon Dr on the northern side, as does the shared path. The general traffic lanes will be reduced to one each way but AT say these will flow better thanks to the new intersection at Panumre.

AMETI - Lagoon Dr - 2015

New Panmure busway bridge

A new bridge will be built over the Tamaki River to the north of the current bridge and dedicated to buses and walking/cycling. That will leave the existing bridge for general traffic. The walking and cycling part of the bridge will be also be 4.3m wide and also have some viewing platforms.

AMETI - Panmure Bridge - 2015

Pakuranga Road

The busway will continue on the northern side of the road all the way to Pakuranga with some of the local roads closed

AMETI Buslane - Pakuranga Rd

For walking and cycling, on this side they will be separated out with 3m cycleway separated from the busway by a berm and 2m footpaths separated from the cycleway.

AMETI - Pakuranga cross section - 2015

The full route is shown below.

AMETI - Route 1

AMETI - Route 2

Over the years AMETI has turned into a fairly good project and it’s good to see it progressing. East Auckland really could do with some much better PT. AT could also help in this regard by getting some bus lanes on Pakuranga Rd north of the town centre.

It would obviously also be good if the government were to provide funding to get the project going. This is a much more important project (in my view) than others being funded such as the East-West Link.

While the NoR has been lodged I’m not sure when it will be publicly notified. I imagine it won’t be too far away.

East Auckland State Highways?

In the latest saga that the issue of transport in East Auckland, the local MPs are calling for some of the roads to be turned into State Highways.

Pakuranga MP Maurice Williamson is pushing for Pakuranga Rd and Ti Rakau Drive to become state highways.

Together with Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross, Williamson says he is “putting all [his] efforts” into convincing Transport Minister Simon Bridges to bring the two roads under the New Zealand Transport Agency’s authority.

Auckland Transport currently looks after the two streets.

It appears to me that the primary reasons they are pushing for the roads to be State Highways are related to them trying to find ways to circumvent the current process so they can get the projects they personally want built – such as the Reeves Rd Flyover.

reeves-rd-flyover

Speaking at a public meeting on transport, Williamson expressed his belief that more roading options are needed for East Aucklanders.

“I want to make it clear I am supportive of public transport, but it’s such a small part of what people in this area use when getting to work compared to the private motor car.

“We don’t have any state highways, busways, double tracking trains or electrification, It’s now time for proper transport options.”

His comments about the lack of public transport in the east echoed those made by Auckland Transport chief executive Dr David Warburton at a public meeting last year.

He told those present that public transport passengers from South-East Auckland are among the most poorly served in Auckland.

Williamson showed an image of Pakuranga Rd taken from his electorate office showing traffic at a stand-still on a weekday morning.

He also presented data which showed the busy arterial route had the third-highest daily use of any road in New Zealand.

Auckland Transport has two main solutions in the pipeline to unclog traffic on Pakuranga Rd – the Southeastern Busway and Reeves Rd flyover.

Williamson is supportive of the flyover but has some concerns with the proposed busway.

“The plan to drop two lanes in some places will just take space away from other road users.

“Something is wrong here, space is being taken from cars and given to public transport.”

So Williamson’s logic seems to be that because public transport to the east is currently crap not many people use it and therefore the solution is not to improve public transport but build more roads. That’s akin to giving a two year old going crazy on a sugar rush a lollies in the hope they’ll calm down.

It is absolutely correct that East Auckland has some of the lowest public transport use in Auckland and is tied directly to the lack of quality options that exist. The lack of any form of bus priority mean that the buses that buses will always be a slower option than driving. Combine that with not enough frequency and it’s no surprise people don’t use PT much. But that is exactly what AMETI is trying and address by building a busway from Panmure through to Pakuranga and eventually Botany. The first stage of AMETI – the upgraded Panmure Station and the new Te Horeta Rd – are now complete and AT are getting ready to lodge the Notice of Requirement for Stage 2 which will see a busway extend from Panmure all the way to Botany. That will allow buses to bypass congestion and feed passengers on to trains for a very fast journey to town – we already hear anecdotal reports of large numbers of bus passengers from the east transferring to trains at Panmure

AMETI Buslane - Pakuranga Rd

AT are also talking of extending bus lanes up Pakuranga Rd as far as Highland Park – the road is six lanes wide to that point. Combining the bus lanes, the busway and expected higher frequencies from the new bus network – for which consultation is due out in October – those bus lanes will almost certainly be moving more people than are possibly if the lane was left as a general traffic lane.

In the end it seems that Williamson like many other politicians on the right of politics these days are classic concern trolls. They all claim to support public transport as they know that’s what their constituencies want them to say but they oppose any actual public transport that comes to life and never actually provide any alternative options. They also only want public transport after they’ve built the roads they personally want.

 

Perhaps the only thing in favour of making these roads state highways is I’m aware the NZTA are strongly supportive of the busway plans and want it built faster than is currently planned. We also know that the NZTA don’t seem to muck around as much with getting routes designated like AT seem to. There would be a great irony if Williamson and co succeeded in getting NZTA to take over the project only to see the busway get built faster.

Reeves Rd back down?

Auckland Transport appears to be backing down on one of their best and boldest decisions – to defer the Reeves Rd flyover and use the money to bring forward the construction of the AMETI busway. This is after what I’m aware has been intense lobbying directly to the government and minister from politicians like Dick Quax and the local MPs. I understand they’ve even been pushing to try and have it declared a State Highway so the NZTA can pay for it.

reeves-rd-flyover

Here’s AT’s press release:

Chairman, Dr Lester Levy, wishes to clarify the Auckland Transport Board’s position on the Reeves Road flyover, part of the Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI).

An AT media release dated 12 February 2015 implied that a Board decision had been made to accept a new delivery strategy, which included deferring the flyover and opening the full South Eastern Busway (to Botany) earlier. Dr Levy says the board of Auckland Transport has not made any decision to accept the proposed new delivery strategy including the deferral of the flyover. Rather the board simply noted a report presented to its December meeting which suggested a delay in the timing of the flyover, subject to further technical and funding feasibility work.

“That work to assess the feasibility of busway route options through Pakuranga town centre and how funding can be secured for Reeves Road flyover to be delivered earlier continues,” he says.

“The Board has not agreed to the proposed new delivery strategy at this point in time, as it still awaits the technical and funding feasibility. When that work has been completed the Board will be able to give this matter further consideration.

“It is regrettable that this AT media release resulted in stakeholders and the community receiving a mixed message, but I want to be very clear that no firm decisions have been made at this time” Dr Levy says.

As a comparison here is the press release they now say was wrong which clearly talks about using the money to bring forward the busway, the challenges of consenting the project and the extra cost to fix more bottlenecks created by the flyover. I’ve added some emphasis of these points but perhaps I too have read it wrong. What do you think?

Major new public transport improvements will arrive earlier for people in Auckland’s south east.

Auckland Transport is aiming to open the full Southeastern Busway to Botany sooner than the 2028 completion date earlier proposed, and AT is investigating extending bus lanes to Highland Park.

Recent work on the Auckland Manukau Transport Initiative (AMETI) has identified that the busway can operate through Pakuranga town centre without the need to build Reeves Road flyover first.

This allows funding to be used to deliver more public transport improvements sooner by deferring the $170 million flyover until next decade. Targeted traffic improvements will also be made to relieve congestion at the intersections of Ti Rakau Drive/Pakuranga Road and Ti Rakau Drive/Pakuranga Highway.

Auckland Transport AMETI Programme Director Peter King says the change means better transport choices for people in the area sooner and supports the roll out of the new public transport network in 2016.

“The recent decision on the Basin Reserve flyover in Wellington shows the challenges of consenting a flyover that has impacts on an urban area and the potential for long delays. This decision allows us to extend the AMETI transport improvements made in Panmure to Pakuranga and Botany as soon as possible while continuing to build the case for the flyover.

“Large numbers of passengers are expected to be attracted by quicker, frequent and more reliable bus journeys on lanes separate to traffic. About 7.4 million trips a year are expected on the busway.

“There are time savings from opening the busway between Panmure and Pakuranga, however they are much greater when the full busway to Botany is open. For example catching the bus and train between Botany and Britomart will take 38 minutes, 17 minutes quicker.

“The change to timing reflects Auckland Transport’s prioritisation of rapid, high frequency public transport and will not require extra funding.”

Work to develop the flyover showed its congestion benefits would be limited until further significant investment along the South Eastern Highway. It also indicated a likely increase in costs with the need to create a quality urban environment beneath it.

Auckland Transport will update the community in early March on the new delivery plan for AMETI and a potential change to the busway route through Pakuranga town centre. Following further feasibility work there will be consultation on any change to the busway route.

Consultation will be carried out on the latest design for the next construction stage between Panmure and Pakuranga, before a Notice of Requirement is lodged in April.

The Panmure to Pakuranga projects include:

  • Replacing Panmure roundabout with an intersection with traffic lights and more direct pedestrian crossings.
  • Panmure to Pakuranga busway on lanes separate to traffic congestion.
  • Panmure to Pakuranga shared cycle/foot path separate to traffic.
  • Second Panmure Bridge for busway and shared path.

More on the Reeves Rd Flyover Decision

Auckland Transport held the first of their community nights yesterday to discuss with locals the AMETI works. They’ve also released a copy of the information boards they’re using online. Crucially the documents give a hint in to the reason behind the recently announced decision to delay the Reeves Rd Flyover.

The plan for years has been for the busway to turn right off Pakuranga Rd into Te Rakau Dr. After stopping at the bus interchange the busway would then carry on towards Botany and would do so by shifting to a busway in the centre of the road. That shift would occur at the intersection with Reeves Rd and would need it’s own phasing. The issue – as explained to me – was that because of the other demands on the intersection the but phase wouldn’t be frequent enough and would have created huge delays. The flyover was to get some of that traffic out of the way.

AMETI Pakuranga

The image above suggests that AT is looking at alternative routes for the busway with one of them going around the back of the mall. In many ways this is quite an elegant solution. Going around the mall doesn’t add to much to the time it would take for buses but gets them out of that Te Rakau/Reeves intersection thereby negating the need for the flyover. Where the busway crosses Reeves Rd it could be via a very simple intersection that phases quickly as there would be no turning movements and the shift to the centre busway would just occur a bit further south.

It’s innovative thinking like this that AT should be applauded for as it gets the outcomes for much less money. Of course not everyone is happy with the decision. MPs Jamie Lee-Ross and  Maurice Williamson along with Councillor Dick Quak have been very vocal in condemning it and I understand have been lobbying the Minister to intervene and get the flyover back on the agenda. I certainly hope AT do a good job of explaining their reasoning.

AMETI busway closer

Auckland Transport have announced that they are close to a final design for the Panmure to Pakuranga Busway and that there will be community consultation about it this week.

AMETI Buslane - Pakuranga Rd

Busway for east Auckland a step closer

Quicker, frequent and more reliable bus services for the east are a step closer with Panmure to Pakuranga busway design plans near finalisation.

Public information days and neighbourhood meetings are being held next week and information has been sent to people in the project area to get feedback before consents are lodged in late April.

The key project is the Panmure Station to Pakuranga town centre section of the South Eastern Busway. Construction is likely to start in 2017, with the busway due to open by 2021.

Auckland Transport recently announced it is aiming to open the full busway to Botany by 2024, four years earlier than previously planned, and extend bus lanes to Highland Park.

The Panmure to Pakuranga projects include:

  • Replacing Panmure roundabout with an intersection with traffic lights and more direct pedestrian crossings
  • Panmure to Pakuranga busway on lanes separate to traffic congestion
  • Panmure to Pakuranga cycle and foot paths separate to traffic
  • Second Panmure Bridge for busway and shared cycle/foot path.

Auckland Transport AMETI Programme Director Peter King says large numbers of new passengers will be attracted by buses travelling on congestion free lanes every 5 to 10 minutes between Panmure and Pakuranga.

“Buses currently get caught in the same congestion as cars, meaning people have limited choice. Providing a quicker, frequent and more reliable option is expected to shift large numbers out of cars to ease pressure on the roads for journeys that can’t be made by public transport.

“The recent experience with the new Panmure Station and electric trains shows significant growth comes with higher quality public transport.

“Another major feature is separated cycle and foot paths which will make it possible to cycle between Panmure, Pakuranga, and on to Farm Cove and Pigeon Mountain by connecting with the Rotary Walkway along the coast.

“We encourage people to come to the information sessions, return written feedback forms or give feedback online. This will help us finalise plans and reports as we intend to lodge consent applications in late April,” Mr King says.

The consents process will provide the opportunity to make a formal submission to Auckland Council on the projects and be heard at an official hearing.

The open days are:

Pakuranga open day
When: 12 March 2015 from 5pm to 9pm.
Where: Pakuranga Plaza Centre, Aylesbury Street.

Panmure
When: 14 March 2015 from 10am to 1pm.
Where: Panmure Bridge School, 76 Kings Road, Panmure.

You can also give your feedback online below until 29 March.

Lagoon Drive cycling and busway image

It will be good when this finally gets underway. East Auckland desperately needs some good quality PT improvements and given what we’ve seen in other areas of the city this is likely to be very popular. This also comes just a few weeks after AT announced that they were delaying the Reeves Rd flyover which has allowed them to bring forward the completion of the busway.

Reeves Rd Flyover dies

For the second time in less than a month Auckland Transport have been able to surprise and delight us with fantastic news. The first was the announcement they are seriously looking at light rail for the isthmus and now the wonderful news that they’ve killed the Reeves Rd Flyover. Not only that, they are putting the $170 million they save by not building the flyover into getting the AMETI busway built sooner plus are looking at putting bus lanes up Pakuranga as far as Highland Park.

reeves-rd-flyover

Major new public transport improvements will arrive earlier for people in Auckland’s south east.

Auckland Transport is aiming to open the full Southeastern Busway to Botany sooner than the 2028 completion date proposed earlier AT is also investigating extending bus lanes to Highland Park.

Recent work on the Auckland Manukau Transport Initiative (AMETI) has identified that the busway can operate through Pakuranga town centre without the need to build Reeves Road flyover first.

This allows funding to be used to deliver more public transport improvements sooner by deferring the $170 million flyover until next decade. Targeted traffic improvements will also be made to relieve congestion at the intersections of Ti Rakau Drive/Pakuranga Road and Ti Rakau Drive/Pakuranga Highway.

Auckland Transport AMETI Programme Director Peter King says the change means better transport choices for people in the area sooner and supports the roll out of the new public transport network in 2016.

They say the project is deferred but I understand it’s effectively over and that is pretty much confirmed by the comments in the rest of the press release – which I’ll cover shortly. This is a great outcome and we’ve suggested it a number of times, especially when talking about the how we can cut unnecessary costs from the transport budget. A few of the reasons why it’s good include:

  • It means there’s no longer going to be a hulking flyover cutting a swathe through the town centre, an area ripe for intensification – including some decent zoning provided for in the Unitary Plan.
  • Saving $170 million is a huge boost when the cities budgets are already tight.
  • Getting the busway sooner means the benefits from it start to flow sooner and these are likely to be huge. This is especially important in East Auckland which has the worst PT in Auckland and consequently the lowest PT use.
  • AT are now looking at including bus lanes up Pakuranga Rd as far as Highland Park providing even more benefits to PT in the area.
  • Along with the busway, AT’s plans also include high quality cycle lanes which will also be completed sooner.

Reeves Rd Flyover

I been told in the past the key driver was for the flyover was so that buses didn’t get held up at the large intersection of Te Rakau Dr/Pakuranga Highway/Reeves Rd. This location was also where they planned to move the busway from the side of the road to the centre of it. To address the intersection this AT say they are looking at a potential change or route through the Pakuranga Town Centre which would allow buses to bypass that intersection entirely. With buses no longer affected by the intersection the need for the flyover disappeared. I wonder if it means it will also help save some of the homes on and around William Roberts Rd. I think a potentially slightly longer journey for buses through or around the back of the Pakuranga Town Centre is probably a reasonable compromise if it means we don’t have to build the flyover.

Reeves Rd Flyover - Pakuranga Rd end

Some of the other justifications for the change in approach are also particularly telling:

“The recent decision on the Basin Reserve flyover in Wellington shows the challenges of consenting a flyover that has impacts on an urban area and the potential for long delays. This decision allows us to extend the AMETI transport improvements made in Panmure to Pakuranga and Botany as soon as possible while continuing to build the case for the flyover.

“Large numbers of passengers are expected to be attracted by quicker, frequent and more reliable bus journeys on lanes separate to traffic. About 7.4 million trips a year are expected on the busway.

“There are time savings from opening the busway between Panmure and Pakuranga, however they are much greater when the full busway to Botany is open. For example catching the bus and train between Botany and Britomart will take 38 minutes, 17 minutes quicker.

“The change to timing reflects Auckland Transport’s prioritisation of rapid, high frequency public transport and will not require extra funding.”
Work to develop the flyover showed its congestion benefits would be limited until further significant investment along the South Eastern Highway. It also indicated a likely increase in costs with the need to create a quality urban environment beneath it.

So AT have learnt from the outcome of the Basin Reserve Flyover which is great to see and it’s this reason why I suspect the project has actually been killed rather than just deferred. I think it’s also telling that they note the flyover would have just shifted the congestion further along South Eastern Highway, a point that many projects seem to forget.

Ti Rakau Dr central busway

 

A few other thoughts have struck me about this decision

  • For years AT’s engineers have been saying that the flyover is the only solution but now they’ve found another way. Will the same thing happen with the St Lukes Pohutukawa?
  • AMETI started out life as a road fest designed to try and replicate as much of the Eastern Motorway proposal as possible. Over the years it’s slowly morphed into almost exclusively a PT project which is what was needed. I think AT deserves a lot of credit for this as it was only really once they came into existence that things really started changing. I suspect that 38 minutes from Botany to Britomart will be quite compelling, especially in the peak and that time could get faster still with the CRL which would see trains running at higher frequencies which means reduced transfer times.

2014 – A Year in Review Part 3 – Roads

In the third in my series of posts wrapping up the year I will look at what’s happened with roads this year.

Roads of National Significance

The RoNS have continued as they did last year with one notable exception.

Western Ring Route

The Western Ring Route works are in full flight now as will be evidenced to anyone who drives along SH16 with roadworks in place from east of Western Springs all the way through Northwest of Lincoln Rd from 5 separate projects.

  • St Lukes Interchange
  • Waterview Connection
  • Causeway upgrade
  • Te Atatu Interchange
  • Lincoln Rd Interchange

The TBM working on the Waterview connection has broken through with the first tunnel and in December made a start on the second one. At the same time the most visible part of the project has been the large yellow gantry has been building towering ramps that will connect the tunnels to SH16 in each direction.

Over the next year we should finally see the Lincoln Rd section completed and I imagine significant progress on the other projects – although they are still a few years from completion.

Puhoi to Wellsford

In 2014 the NZTA were issued with consent to build the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway – a road even the NZTA’s analysis says is only really busy during holiday periods. Amazingly we’re still yet to see any real economic analysis for the project which is likely because it’s terrible based on the work we saw before the government named it a priority. The government of course continue to claim it’s all about the economic development of Northland despite the existing toll road – which saved more time than this motorway will – not making any difference.

Confirmed route

Over 2015 we’re likely to see the NZTA working towards a PPP to get this project built however it’s not likely we’ll see any construction start.

Basin Reserve Flyover

Perhaps the biggest surprise of 2014 was the Board of Inquiry declining the NZTA’s application to build a flyover around the edge of the Basin Reserve. In the end the commissioners hearing the case concluded the impact on the local community from having a massive flyover was just too much after it was able to be shown that most of the benefits the NZTA claimed the road would provide were actually attributable to other projects.  The decision was embarrassing for the NZTA and the government seeing as it was using the governments new fast track process which means the decision can only be appealed on points of law – which the NZTA are doing.

Basin Bridge Image 1

I’m not aware if a date has yet been set for the appeal but it is likely to be later next year.

Transmission Gully

Also in Wellington, the first transport PPP was signed in July for the construction and operation of Transmission Gully, another project with a horrific business case. Initial works should have started by now however won’t really ramp up till next year. The PPP will see the NZTA paying $125 million a year for 25 years once the project has been completed. Unlike many PPPs that failed overseas, for the consortium building the road there is little risk as all the demand risk sits with the NZTA, in other words we pay providing the road is open – and if it is damaged from a something like an earthquake we have to pay at least some of the costs of that too.

Other RoNS

The other RoNS projects in the Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Christchurch have continued along. I’m not sure of the progress of all of them however the Tauranga Eastern Link is meant to be completed in 2015.

Auckland Motorway Projects

In 2013 the government announced a series of additional motorway projects for Auckland. The widening of the Northern Motorway between Upper Harbour and Greville Dr has just been completed and in November started consultation on ideas for further changes to that section including a motorway to motorway interchange between SH1 and SH18. Some of the ideas are absolutely massive in scale such as concept 3.

Northern Corridor Improvements Concept 3

Of the other projects, works to grade separate Kirkbride Rd moved ahead and earlier this month the NZTA announced the contract had been signed with construction starting in January

We haven’t heard much about the other accelerated project which will see the southern motorway from Manukau to Papakura widened but I would expect we will do in 2015.

In addition to the accelerated projects the NZTA has now made a start on widening SH1 Northbound between Ellerslie-Panmure Highway and Greenlane – a project that’s been on the cards for a while and for which the Ellerslie Station platform was narrowed a few years ago to accommodate.

Accelerated Regional Roads

In addition to the RoNS, and to shore up their support from some rural communities, this year the government announced a spend up of over $200 million on a number of regional state highway projects that can’t get funding due to it being sucked up by the RoNS. The Funding for these projects is coming from the proceeds of asset sales the government has undertaken. Some of the projects appear to be of low value however not all are.

Govt Accelerated Rural Road Package

AMETI

Auckland Transport started the year with the opening of the new Panmure station and in November they opened Te Horeta Rd which is the new road running alongside the rail line and Panmure station from Mt Wellington Highway to Morrin Rd.

East West Link Connections

In October both AT and the NZTA launched consultation on ideas for the East West Link after calling off a proposal for a motorway through Mangere right at the beginning of the year. They haven’t announced the results yet but I’m fairly certain either option C or D has been picked as the option they are proceeding with.

EW Option - Option D

Mill Rd

In November AT announced they have come up with a route for the Mill Rd corridor and will be working towards securing a designation for it. The most disappointing aspect for me about the project – other than some of the case for it has likely been destroyed by the fast tracking of the SH1 widening – is that even with a brand new corridor, AT are still designing a crap outcome with features like unprotected cycle lanes or shared paths and pedestrian/cycle unfriendly roundabouts.

We’re still driving less

One positive trend I have started to notice is our transport institutions are starting to take notice of is that we’re driving less. In the last few months in particular it’s started to be mentioned in publications such as the Briefing to the Incoming Minister and in research papers.

ResizedImage600304-FutureDemand-Diagram1

What have I missed?

2014 – A Year in Review Part 1 – PT

With the year fast coming to a close this is the first in a series of posts wrapping up what happened this year. In this post I’m just going to look at the changes we’ve seen with Public Transport.

While 2013 was very much a lull year while many projects ticked on in the background, 2014 has arguably been one of the biggest years for PT in Auckland for some time. This has largely been thanks to two major projects seeing significant milestones.

Electrification

The first trains arrived in 2013 but this year saw them carrying paying passengers for the first time starting with the Onehunga line at the end of April. Electric trains then started running to Manukau in August before a full timetable upgrade earlier this month that saw improved frequencies – especially off peak. We don’t yet know the impact the most recent change have made however the earlier changes have shown the sparks effect in action in Auckland with those two lines seeing massive growth compared to last year – in the case of Manukau patronage is up 50% on the same time last year.

The fantastic news about the electrification story is that the biggest impact is yet to come which will happen the Southern and Western lines go electric by the middle of next year.

PT RESOLUTION EMU_6484

Integrated Ticketing

After years of delays and issues, integrated ticketing was finally rolled out to all PT services meaning you can now use a single card to pay for any trip across Auckland, regardless of who operates it. That is especially useful for anyone who has multiple options for which service they catch or those who catch transfer between services. It’s hard to say for sure but integrated ticketing is likely to behind some of the spectacular growth we’ve seen this year as from memory, internationally it’s been credited with patronage increases of around 7%.

As with electrification the best is yet to come and in 2015 we will hear more about the real game changer of Integrated Fares. That should simplify the fare structure significantly and mean you pay a single fare for your trip regardless of how many services you catch to get to your destination. It makes transferring much much easier and is needed for the New Network to work. From what I understand Integrated Fares requires some significant changes the HOP system and as such is not likely to roll out till around this time next year so it won’t really start having an impact till 2016. In the meantime Auckland Transport have already started making some positive changes including increasing the HOP discount in July that meant if you were using a HOP card then for most trips (except ferries) fares actually got cheaper.

Hop Card

 

Other than the two key projects above there’s been a lot of improvement in the PT space. Here are some of the other things we’ve seen this year.

Patronage

Patronage has grown very strongly this year and has been one of the best years we’ve seen. We’re obviously still waiting for the results for December however for the 12 months to the end of November patronage has increased by 5.685 million (8.2%) to be over 75 million trips. Within that the star performers have been the Rapid Transit Network which is made up of the rail network and the Northern Express which combined have grown by 17% (2.166 million) compared to the same time last year. 2.166 million trips. On the rail network Auckland achieved two milestones at the same time with patronage surpassing Wellington for the first time and also passing the 12 million trips mark. That occurred only occurred in September however growth has been so strong it’s possible we will pass 12.5 million in December. However the regular bus network hasn’t been standing still either with that seeing a 7% increase (3.485 million). By mode the changes are:

  • Bus – 3.817 million (7.1%)
  • Train – 1.835 million (17.8%)
  • Ferry – 32,900 (0.6%)

AK Total Patronage Nov 14

Down in Wellington patronage has had a spurt of growth for the first time in a while with the total number of trips rising above 36 million for the first time.

WG Total Patronage Nov 14 Bus Lanes

This year for the first time in Auckland Transport’s four year history we saw them implement a new bus lane. It occurred on Fanshawe St after a great post from Luke highlighting why it was needed and while small has made a big difference to buses leaving the city towards the North Shore.

In November we learned of a lot more bus lanes that Auckland is planning over the next three years which should really help improve the customer experience for bus users and improve operational efficiency.

City Rail Link

It feels like news has been relatively quiet on the CRL this year although the project has definitely moved forward. Earlier this year the project received approval from the independent commissioners which means for the first time in the projects 90+ year history there is a designation in place. Some groups are challenging that aspects consent and they should be heard by the environment court in the first half of 2015 however that is unlikely to stop the whole project.

In the meantime Auckland Transport have been moving forward with the project and the first section – the enabling works which will see the tunnel dug from Britomart to Wyndham St – should kick off by the end of 2015. AT have already put out a tender for the works and that should be awarded in the next few months. Positively, while the council and government still debate over when to provide funding, it seems everyone is in agreement that the enabling works should kick off now as they are needed for Precinct Properties to build their redevelopment of the Downtown Mall site.

Perhaps the biggest news about the CRL was that AT have dropped the Newton station in favour of an upgraded Mt Eden station.

AT Metro

Just a few weeks ago AT launched a new brand for PT called AT Metro and to accompany it all buses will eventually have a unified livery rather than each operator having their own brand.

Double Decker

New Network

Three more consultations for the New Network occurred in 2014 following the South Auckland network in 2013. This year there were Hibiscus Coast/Warkworth, Pukekohe and Waiuku and West Auckland. One major issue that has emerged with the new network though is the lack of progress on interchanges with the West Auckland network suffering the most from this.

West Auckland With and Without Interchanges

AMETI

The first stage of AMETI which will eventually see a busway from Panmure all the way to Pakuranga and then Botany was completed at the beginning of the year with the opening of the new Panmure station and interchange. It is already having a significant impact with patronage at the station up as much as 100% in some months compared to 2013 and that is only likely to continue as more improvements are made.

Panmure Station 1

MIT/Manukau Station

The Manukau station opened back in 2012 however since then it has been a bit hidden away thanks to the construction of the MIT campus that sits above it – which was subject to delays thanks to the collapse of the construction company building it. Those issues are now over and in June the MIT campus opened providing a spectacular entrance to the station.

MIT dyptych

 

So what did I miss?

The sticky mess of the transport budget

The big news that the Council will be pushing back its preferred start date for the main part of the City Rail Link was not a huge surprise – aside from the enabling works the project’s probably not practically ready to start so quickly, even if funding support was available from Central Government (which it’s not). However, this is hardly a “win” on any account, as reduced spending on CRL in the next few years doesn’t free up money for other projects – as we stressed last month. This is because CRL doesn’t have an impact on rates until it opens, and it apparently is the level of rates income that constrains the transport budget.

So what does the rest of the transport budget look like? Looking at the details, the result is quite a mess, particularly during the first five years. This will become a core part of the big LTP question around whether the public wants a much larger transport programme and if so, how we’d prefer to pay for it (rates & fuel tax increases or a motorway toll). Hidden away at page 252 and 253 of the November Budget Committee agenda (27MB PDF) is the 10 year transport programme (although this is from before yesterday’s decision to delay the CRL):

2015draftltp-capex-list

This reflects the list of projects “above the line” in Auckland Transport’s ranking of all projects and reflect’s what’s possible in the “Basic Transport Network”. I don’t have a huge concern about the project list itself, although there are a few pretty low value things in there like Mill Road. The issue is more about the timing and sequencing of the programme – especially in the first few years.

You’ll see a number of important projects in there that are based around supporting the new public transport network that Auckland Transport are implementing over the next few years. Projects like the Otahuhu, Te Atatu and Manukau interchanges. Or the necessary improvements to Wellesley Street so it can cope with becoming the main east-west bus route across the city centre. The big problem is that these projects don’t appear to be funded until 2021 or in some cases (like Wellesley Street) even later:

2015draftltp-newptnetwork

This is a pretty insane situation, especially for projects like the Otahuhu interchange which is utterly fundamental to any implementation of the new PT network in the south. AT have started on the project but it seems they only have enough money for early works and design. The other big issue is the walking and cycling programme – which appears to be the line item “W+C Programme Risk Management”, that doesn’t have any funding at all for the first five years of the budget period.

The numbers at the bottom of the table above tell a rather strange and difficult to understand story about the total amount of funding available for transport over each of the next 10 years, jumping all over the place from a low of $453 million in the 15/16 year up to a whopping $978 million in 20/21 before dropping back down again significantly. The CRL numbers will change a bit, but remember not the rest of the programme.

But even within the funding envelope available, it seems that Auckland Transport has made some strange decisions around the timing of projects. Why is Albany Highway such an extremely high priority that it sucks up nearly $40 million in the first couple of years? Why is there no funding for AMETI, then one year of funding, then no funding again? Some of the project costs raise questions too – how does a Te Atatu bus interchange cost $46 million? How can a Wynyard interchange cost $25 million and a Downtown one $24 million when a Learning Quarter interchange only costs $8 million? Should we really be spending $171 million on the Reeves Road flyover?

There seems to be an expectation that the “Basic Transport Network” is just an academic exercise, with the public supposedly hugely in favour of the motorway tolls scheme (or higher rates and fuel taxes) that will “save the day”. I’m a bit sceptical about this – the government has not greeted the tolls scheme warmly and the public seem to be screaming even about the proposed 3.5% rates increase. We could very well be stuck with the Basic Transport Network for the foreseeable future, which means it needs a hell of a lot of work to ensure the new public transport network doesn’t fail, to ensure momentum on the walking and cycling programme is not lost and to finally make some tough decisions around whether we should be spending $143 million on Mill Road, $171 million on the Reeves Road flyover or $135 million on the East West Connections project.

The currently proposed budget is just a sticky mess that seems almost designed to fail.

AT’s good AMETI video

Auckland Transport have released this new video for AMETI

I really think AT have got the messaging and tone right with this video which is nice to see. Also I really like that they talk about the poor situation currently for buses meaning they aren’t a good option and how that is a key reason for low use of public transport in the East. Even better is AT picking up on the terminology of providing congestion free choices when talking about the busway improvements that will eventually link Panmure to Botany.

As far as I understand, one part that isn’t quite right is the suggestion that the South-eastern busway will carry more people than the Northern Busway. It is true when comparing patronage on the Northern Express however the Northern Busway also carries a large number of other buses that boost patronage on it substantially. Still the South-eastern busway will be a very good addition once built.