Lots more Double Deckers on the way

Some good news today with AT and some of Auckland’s bus companies all confirming there will be 53 new double decker buses on the roads soon.

Northern Express IMG_4447

A fleet of 53 double-decker buses will be hitting Auckland roads from October. The announcement was made today by Auckland Transport Chairman Dr Lester Levy at Kiwi Bus Builders Ltd in Tauranga, where some of the buses will be manufactured.

At the same time, Transport Minister, Simon Bridges outlined new regulations which will allow the vehicles to operate on New Zealand roads.

The new buses are being introduced by three of the main operators in Auckland – NZ Bus (23 buses), Howick & Eastern (15 buses), and Ritchies (15 buses). Each can carry more than 100 passengers; conventional buses carry between 45 and 70.

With the exception of two “proto-type” vehicles built in the United Kingdom, the Howick and Eastern and NZ Bus fleets will be manufactured in Tauranga. The Ritchies Buses will be built in China and will be delivered and operational in January 2016.

Double-deckers have already been pressed into service, with great success, on the Northern Busway (between the North Shore and the CBD).

Dr Levy says an unprecedented increase in public transport patronage looks set to continue and the investment in the new fleet by companies such as these reinforces that confidence. This is one of the single biggest private investments in public transport infrastructure in Auckland ever, he says.

“There is only so much road widening we can do in some areas so we have to look at more innovative and different ways of utilising what is a limited space. Double-deckers, along with increased frequency and reliability on buses and trains are key to reducing the city’s number one problem, which is congestion.”

A separate press release from NZ Bus says that will be buying Enviro500 double decker buses from Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) and I assume Howick and Eastern will be doing the same (seeing as Brian Souter, the owner H&E also owns part of ADL). They also say:

NZ Bus has agreed with Auckland Transport for fifteen of the buses to be introduced on Mt Eden Road, and eight buses on the 881 service on the North Shore. With both of these corridors experiencing passenger growth, due to significantly improved service performance, the introduction of double decker buses and an additional 30 percent capacity is expected to help generate even more growth.

The new buses will be assembled at the Kiwi Bus Builders plant in Tauranga and are expected to be introduced into service between April and July 2016.

This is good news for PT in Auckland – although a shame it seems that they’ll just miss the annual March Madness. Routes such as Mt Eden Rd are frequently full and I’ve heard of people waiting at stops watching up to 12 buses go past completely full. Double Deckers are also a useful interim step before considering more expensive ways to increase capacity – such as with light rail.

I’m looking forward to seeing more of these on the road.

Taxis on Grafton Bridge from Monday

From Monday bikes and buses will have another road user to share with on Grafton Bridge with Auckland Transport starting a one year trial to allow Taxis to use the bridge.

Grafton Bridge Taxi Trial 2

Taxis are getting access to Grafton Bridge on a trial basis to make it easier for people to get to Auckland City Hospital and Starship Children’s Hospital.

The year-long trial will allow taxis to use the bridge 24 hours a day giving them the same access as buses, motorcyles and bikes.

Auckland Transport’s Network Operations and Safety Manager Randhir Karma says the trial is being run to see if adding taxis affects other users of the bridge.

“We will be reporting back on driver behaviour, bus travel times and intersection queuing every three months.”

Mr Karma says Auckland Transport will carry out CCTV monitoring of Grafton Bridge throughout the trial.

“The bridge is a major link to the hospitals and allowing taxis to use it at all hours should improve access for patients and visitors.”

The existing bus lanes operate 7am to 7pm, Monday to Friday, at other times the bridge is open to general traffic.

“We will be converting the existing bus lanes to ‘bus and taxi’ lanes and the signs and road markings will be updated.”

Mr Karma says there will be rules around taxis using the bridge. “There will be no overtaking of cyclists and the taxis must give bikes space when following them. They won’t be allowed to pick-up or drop-off passengers and u-turns are banned.”

He also says the taxis cannot use the special vehicle lane when they are not in service.

Auckland Transport will be using video cameras to enforce the rules during the year-long trial which starts on 31 August.

I have a few big concerns with this.

  1. Taxis using the bridge and queuing at the lights at either end will reduce the number of buses that get through intersections. This will obviously make public transport slower so a case of a few taxi’s holding up buses that could be carrying more than 100 passengers.
  2. That this will be just the tip of the iceberg and following the trial there will be a greater push to allow taxis to use more bus lanes around the city.
  3. Some taxi drivers already struggle to follow the road rules so it wouldn’t surprise me to see ATs rules regularly flaunted unless they have near constant enforcement.

Just to reiterate, here are the rules for Taxis

  • Can only use the bridge if carrying passengers
  • Must be a branded taxi i.e. no services such as Uber
  • No stopping on the bridge to pick up or drop off passengers.
  • No u-turn manoeuvres on the bridge.
  • Give cyclists space when following them across the bridge – unfortunately there is no definition of how much space should be given
  • No overtaking cyclists on the bridge.

Given the general behavour of some taxi drivers – definitely not all – I suspect that AT are going to need a lot of enforcement for this. Wonder how long it is till we first hear of a taxi following a bike to closely or overtaking? If you do experience it also make sure you provide feedback to Auckland Transport.

Grafton Bridge Taxi Trial

On monitoring AT say

The trial will assess the impact that taxis have on pedestrians, buses, cycles and motorcycles along with any potential influence on general traffic.

  • Interim analysis of driver behaviour, bus travel times and intersection queuing will be carried out every 3 months.
  • Specific public or bus driver feedback will be reviewed as it is received.
  • Auckland Transport Operation Centre (ATOC) will undertake CCTV monitoring throughout the trial period.
  • A final review will be done once the trial has been completed.

If significant adverse effects on safety, compliance or lane productivity occur, the trial may be stopped early.

Another case for Yellow Paint?

With the government is now seemingly on-board with the need for safe urban cycling and Auckland Transport are about to embark on some great new cycling projects. Unfortunately it seems a shadowy group within AT are working to make the few cycle facilities we already have decidedly less safe. This issue has been really highlighted to me with some new cycle lanes I use.

I ride to/from work once a week and my route takes me via Upper Harbour Dr, the road that was formerly a semi-rural state highway until the SH18 motorway opened less than a decade ago. The road still has a speed limit that is a hang-over from its former status of 70km/h and provided little in the way of facilities for walking or cycling. In fact much of the road didn’t even have a footpath requiring people (including school children walking to bus stops) to walk on the road. In short it wasn’t great for any one not in a car but at least the road was fairly wide and importantly yellow lines along its length meant there were never any cars parked. As such it was easy for (most) drivers to give plenty of space. Here’s an example of what the road looked like.

Upper Harbour Before

Given its lack of facilities for walking and cycling and that it is the only route cyclists can use to ride between the North Shore and anywhere else in the region – without taking a ferry, bring on Skypath – AT decided to do something about it. The project was to add a new footpath on one side of the road and cycle lanes on both sides. Due to the speed of vehicles they also proposed those cycle lanes have an extra buffer zone.

https://at.govt.nz/projects-roadworks/upper-harbour-drive-walking-cycling-improvements/

The project has been underway for some months and is almost at completion with seemingly the only thing left to do is add a few bike symbols on one side. All good so far but ….

As part the process to install the painted cycle lanes the existing yellow no parking lines were removed. In probably no surprise to anyone pretty quickly the local residents took advantage of this change and cars started appearing parked on the street. At this time the markings for the cycle lane were still going in so I was told by AT to wait till this process was complete.

Fast forward to this week and as mentioned above the project is nearly completed with one side fully marked and the other not far off. Below are just a few examples that of what I’ve encountered on my ride, forcing me and other cyclists out in to the general traffic lane with vehicles going 70km/h – many much faster.

Upper Harbour Cars Parked - 3

Upper Harbour Cars Parked - 4

Upper Harbour Cars Parked - 5

Upper Harbour Cars Parked - 6

There’s something seriously wrong when the process of installing cycle infrastructure leads to a reduction in safety for people on bikes. The problem all stems not from the lanes themselves but the fact that the yellow lines were removed. Like parking on footpaths I suspect many drivers have either forgotten or don’t realise that parking in a cycle lane is illegal. By comparison compliance of yellow lines is very high.

So I asked Auckland Transport for a few comments on why they removed the yellow lines here (and in other cases that I’m aware of), especially seeing as some cycle lanes do also include yellow lines. I’d also heard that the decision not to include yellow lines was made by a group within called the Traffic Control Committee who I understand have to sign off road designs. Here’s their response.

Motorists are not allowed to stop, stand or park in a cycle lane, relevant section is 6.6 of the Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004.

The requirements for marking cycle lanes are outlined in section 11.2 of the Land Transport Rule: Traffic Control Devices 2004. A road controlling authority is not required to install broken yellow line markings to indicate that motorists should not park in cycle lanes. However, Section 12.1 (3) of the Land Transport Rule: Traffic Control Devices 2004 does allow a road controlling authority to install broken yellow lines if it deems it necessary.

Some of the legacy Council’s choose to install broken yellow line markings in addition to the cycle lane markings and some did not. This resulted in inconsistencies across the region, in some cases customers believed that if the broken yellow lines were not present they were allowed to park in the cycle lane.

In order to address this issue the Traffic Control Committee issued a directive in December 2014 advising that broken yellow lines should no longer be installed in cycle lanes. Existing broken yellow lines would be allowed to fade and would not be remarked. The purposes of this directive was to try to move the region towards a consistent approach that customers could easily understand.

The Traffic Control Committee consists of the Manager Road Corridor Access, Manager Parking and Enforcement, and Manager Road Corridor Operations. Authority for passing resolutions under bylaws was delegated by the Auckland Transport Board of Directors to the Traffic Control Committee at its meeting of 26 October 2010.

In my view this is group have been negligent and as a result created unsafe environments – ones that will do nothing to encourage more people to ride a bike. It also seems completely at odds with how we treat road safety elsewhere such as actively designing roads to reduce hazards. What’s it all for, saving a little bit on the cost of yellow paint?

Of course AT could always go out and actively enforce the no parking rules however we we’ve seen that is only likely to drivers feeling like they’re being victimised. It also has the potential to create animosity between locals and those on bikes.

Lastly who thinks those buffers would be the perfect place for a few flexi poles or perhaps

An Update on Mangere and Airport Rail

Last week I highlighted an update from AT on Light Rail. In addition to that they also gave an update on rail to Mangere and the airport including their consideration of using light or heavy rail for the project. Once again I wasn’t at the presentation personally so can only go off the slides shown.

Firstly one thing I do think is good is that AT on their website are calling Airport and Mangere Rail. To me that’s a much better description of the project than just airport rail as this project will serve a much wider community than just the airport which is one of the reasons it’s worthwhile doing.

As for where the project is at. The strategic assessment already undertaken has shown that rail is the most effective long term solution and a scheme assessment has determined a rough footprint which would require the purchase of 218 residential and 17 commercial properties. They estimate the project would cost around $1.4 billion to get to the airport from Onehunga. The engineers have been looking at ways to cut the cost of the project and two points are noted.

  • They’ve estimated the cost of double tracking the Onehunga branch line at $400-$600 million. For that price it sounds like they’re effectively suggesting trenching the whole line – presumably to remove all of the level crossings.
  • Put the rail alignment down the centre of the motorway. I don’t know what the original alignment was but I wonder if it crossed the motorway a few times to give better coverage of the community.

By building the route as light rail they believe it could be done cheaper for similar benefits and so they’re comparing the two modes.

They appear to be looking primarily at how to provide a single seat journey from the airport the city centre with the two options shown below along with a comparison between the two.

Rail to Airport - July 15 - LRT vs HRT routes

Rail to Airport - July 15 - LRT vs HRT figures

I have some serious concerns about this analysis as AT seem infatuated by light rail at the moment so it seems to me they’ve in effect stacked the deck against heavy rail. Here’s why

  • The light rail option is an extension of line that doesn’t even exist yet and there’s no guarantee it ever will.
  • I also wonder how practical that alignment alongside SH20 is. I know Light Rail can climb hills better than Heavy rail can but that route would be one long, steep and slow climb if it’s even possible.
  • When the measurement of success seems to be based on how many people could walk to a station and catch a train then having the heavy rail option with fewer stations it’s no surprise it has a lower result. It seems to me silly not to at least have a heavy rail station around the Montgomerie Rd area which is only about 2km from Mangere and 2.5km from the airport. Other stations may be able to be justified.
  • It’s no surprise that the Light Rail option has more people within walking distance of a station as it travels right through the densest residential area in Auckland – the CBD. I’m not sure if AT’s heard but there’s a heavy rail project which does that too – it’s called the City Rail Link. What’s more AT’s planned operating pattern will see trains from the western line pass through the CRL before heading towards Onehunga. It seems like there’s a bit of gerrymandering going on this. If AT are talking about delivering single seat rides then they should also include all the people next to the western line, even just the people near the inner west and CRL stations add almost an extra 60k to the walking catchment.

CRL Outline-Train-Plan-31July2014

  • With a dedicated corridor between Onehunga and the airport the travel time of light and heavy rail is not likely to be all that different. The issue comes in north of Onehunga. AT say above the extension just from Dominion Rd will have 1.9km of slow on street running, what’s not also mentioned is the on street running on the Dominion Rd corridor through to the city. The next slide looks at exactly this issue and it is perhaps the biggest argument against light rail. A 35-38 minute travel time is very competitive with all other modes at all times of the day whereas light rail is barely faster than the existing airport bus. It’s also worth contrasting this approach to what happens elsewhere in transport. As a society seem to be prepared to fork out billions with few questions to obtain a few minutes of travel time saving on roads the same but for rail it’s all about how we can do things on the cheap.

Rail to Airport - July 15 - LRT vs HRT Travel times

Next we have a bit of a matrix comparing many of the things mentioned above including what I consider to be flaws in many of them. One thing I haven’t mentioned is the frequency of service. This is something completely within AT’s control of how they run the rail network.

Rail to Airport - July 15 - LRT vs HRT matrix

The next few images show cross sections the proposed rail alignment down the centre of the motorway and through the Kirkbride trench. The car lanes would be pushed out to create enough space.

Rail to Airport - July 15 - Trench cross section

Rail to Airport - July 15 - LRT vs HRT motorway alignment

Lastly this image shows an elevated section soaring above the Kirikbride interchange. My understanding is that both options of through or over the trench are possible and are both still being considered.the chosen mode will go over or through the trench so both options are being considered.

Rail to Airport - July 15 - LRT vs HRT elevated alignment

It’s good to see some details on this even though I’m not convinced by the analysis done to date.

Get out the Yellow Paint

I’ve been getting thoroughly fed up of inconsiderate drivers parking cars on footpaths and readers may remember a post I wrote about this less than a month ago. In the last few days the issue has become front page news at the herald who are encouraging outrage that some people were ticketed for the practice. I wish the media would show the same outrage when a person in a wheelchair or pushing a pram can’t get past a car parked on a kerb

The Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance is backing furious residents of the two Orakei streets after the Weekend Herald revealed that Auckland Council parking wardens fined 27 residents in the early morning sting on cars with two wheels on the kerb.

Residents on Orakei’s Apihai and Tautari streets woke on Thursday to find $40 fines on their windscreens.

“The trouble with Auckland Council is its choice to apply blanket rules rather than common sense,” said Carmel Claridge, a spokesperson for the Ratepayers’ Alliance.

“Here a community have done the right thing by parking on the kerb to allow unimpeded access and reduce the hazard. Rather than let them be, the Council swans in with its ‘we know best’ attitude.”

Claridge said her son lives on the affected Tautari Street and believed if residents followed the rules the space left would make it impossible for emergency service vehicles to pass.

Auckland Transport is sticking by the decision, saying the road is not considered narrow and road markings are not needed to prescribe correct parking.

And you can listen to Carmel on Radio live talking about it here.

I can imagine in other situations where a ratepayers group would be furious if council/AT employed people who then didn’t do their job, a ‘what are we paying them for’ type argument. There can also be an issue – particularly in older suburbs – that vehicles can damage infrastructure just below the service, in particular water pipes. When that happens that can result in significant costs to ratepayers to fix.

Interestingly even on Google Streetview you can see the practice is pretty common.

Kerb Parking Herald

Although a quick check of streetview shows it’s not just cars blocking footpaths. For example there’s this on Apihai St showing little regard for those using the footpath

Kerb Parking Herald 2

The article contains a number of other comments blended in with what appears to be a healthy dose of entitlement.

“The people who live on this street, no one complains about it because everyone has to do it and has done it for years.”

One resident who received a ticket, Lyzadie Renault, said it was safer and more courteous to park half on the footpath.

Her home has no driveway and the family’s Range Rover does not fit inside their old, small garage that sits at street level.

“It’s common sense, it just means that people can get through easily and the whole street does it for that exact reason – nobody is trying to break the rules or is fully blocking the sidewalk, it’s being considerate for people using the road.

“When two cars are parked fully on the road, even if you have a normal-sized car, you have to go really slow, let alone for emergency vehicles or all the construction trucks and vans in this neighbourhood, plus rubbish trucks on Thursdays.”

So we’ve got ‘we’ve always parked illegally so why should we stop now’, ‘I brought a vehicle too big for my garage so should be able to park illegally’ and ‘if people didn’t do this I might have to slow down a little’.

And as you might expect, certain people/groups are jumping in to support the parkers.

Cameron Brewer thinks residents should be able to do what they want because they live in expensive houses.

Orakei councillor Cameron Brewer condemned the blitz as ridiculous. “These people pay huge rates and mean no malice but are being picked on because they’re most likely to stump up the cash to help fill Auckland Transport’s coffers.

“It’s completely unfair and uncalled for. These tickets should be waived forthwith.”

Local board chair Desley Simpson is oddly blaming intensification on something the residents say they’ve done for years

Orakei Local Board chairwoman Desley Simpson said Auckland Transport needed to address the growing issues associated with narrow streets.

“Intensification and narrow streets are causing problems in our older inner-city suburbs,” she said. “Sadly, AT haven’t stepped up to look at options to address this.”

And the AA says people should be able to break rules.

But AA’s senior policy analyst, Mark Stockdale, backs the residents and said the agency should be looking for solutions.

“The public have been ticketed out of the blue for trying to do the right thing by leaving the road clear and not blocking the footpath,” he said.

“It’s the stick instead of the carrot. Yes, the rules are the rules but sometimes the rules don’t make sense – just fining people is not a solution.”

If fining people isn’t the solution and the residents continue to claim that the road is too narrow then it seems there is a quick, cheap and simple solution for Auckland Transport. They should get out the yellow paint and put some dashed lines down at least one side of the road. That’ll solve the problem but somehow I don’t think the residents like the outcome.

AT’s interactive bus shelter screens

One aspect I didn’t cover off yesterday in my post about the AT board meeting was a small comment about trialling digital screens.

Trial of digital screens in new modular bus shelters will commence in August

The digital screens are actually large touch screens and so the trial actually represents quite an interesting use of technology by Auckland Transport, one which has the potential to improve the user experience – although it has some issues too. I went to have a look at the screens which have been installed at two of the trial shelters on Symonds St. Unfortunately the glare from the beautifully sunny day we had on Sunday bouncing off the glass made it difficult to get good photo’s however I can say that in person they were easily readable.

From what I could tell there were two different interfaces that AT seem to be trialling – one at each shelter.

Screen 1

As you can see this is basically a mashing together of different elements into a single interface. There are three main parts to the screen.

  • At the top is PT information which includes a journey planner, real time stop board and live map showing bus locations.
  • In the middle there’s a combination of other potentially useful info such as news and weather along with advertising. In some cases the entire middle section was devoted to a single ad.
  • At the bottom is a game which was when I looked at it was an old school sliding puzzle for promoting the Lantern Festival, output from a security camera plus accessibility and feedback buttons.

 

Bus Shelter Interactive Screens - Screen 1 - 1

Here’s a closer look at the map which is just a standard google map. You can see where the stop is and where the next bus is which is similar to their Track My Bus app. Given the app is sometimes a bit hit and miss for accuracy I hope these are better. For some reason it defaulted the location about the intersection of Mayoral Dr and Vincent St so I had to scroll to show the stop I was at and it returned there later. As you can see it also allows you to select check boxes for various overlays.

Bus Shelter Interactive Screens - Screen 1 - 2

I didn’t try it but one issue seems to be that you might be able to get into the settings, that doesn’t seem like a great setup.

Screen 2

Screen 2 was in even more direct sunlight so much harder to get a photo of sorry. It also seemed like more effort had gone into the overall design and less of just mashing a whole heap of stuff together. It featured a real time board permanently at the top of the screen along with a scrolling news ticker with other features including routes and journey planner behind buttons. Overall it felt much more like an app I’d expect on a phone and each of the features made use of the entire screen below the real time board.

On the real time board it also seems to show quite clearly shows which buses are accessible by those with disabilities and even how full the bus is. These features are on the version above but aren’t as clear due to trying to cram a lot of information into a smaller area. You can see this and the Approaching Buses screen which also feels quite different to the version above.

Bus Shelter Interactive Screens - Screen 2 - 1

Here’s and example what it would look like without the glare

Bus Shelter Interactive Screens - Screen 2 - Example

The routes button shows where buses from this stop travel to along with the ability filter out the ones you don’t want.

Bus Shelter Interactive Screens - Screen 2 - 2

The journey planner, I didn’t try it out though.

Bus Shelter Interactive Screens - Screen 2 - 3

The Local info screen

Bus Shelter Interactive Screens - Screen 2 - 4

When not in use the screen defaulted to an AT ad which disappeared as soon as you tapped the screen.

I personally liked the look and feel of the second screen but it also raises some questions.

  • How many people just turn up at a bus stop and then want to use a journey planner, I’d have thought most would check out their journey before getting to the bus stop
  • Why isn’t this information like the real time location of buses and the routes easily available on the AT website.
  • Why haven’t AT turned the second version into a mobile app. Their current apps are appalling.
  • Like their current mobile apps will this only be mode specific or will they also integrate trains and ferries into them and install them at rail stations/ferry terminals

Have you used them, what are your thoughts on these new screens and should they be rolled out across more of Auckland?

AT August Board Meeting

Tomorrow is the next Auckland Transport board meeting and as usual I’ve been through the board papers to pick out the parts that were interesting to me.

The most interesting details appear to be in the closed session and that appears no different this month. Some of the topics are:

  • Newmarket Level Crossing Project – I assume this will be seeking approval to lodge the Notice of Requirement
  • LRT Alignment
  • Deep Dive – Bus
  • K’Road Value Engineering Outcomes – My guess is this is about the K Rd station for the CRL. AT’s project page now says they’re now only going to build one entrance initially and I’ve heard some rumours that it’s the Beresford Square entrance that will not be built. It seems to me this is incredibly short sighted and a classic case of ‘value engineering‘ engineering all of the value out of the project.

K Rd station Beresford Entrance

  • CRL Communication Strategies update – This is likely to be about communication to manage the disruption caused by the CRL construction.
  • Britomart Development update – presumably the bid by Cooper & Co to develop the site behind Britomart

On to the main business report.

  • Te Atatu Rd – Construction has now begun and will is due to be completed in February 2017
  • K Rd Cycleway – AT say ‘ concept design for stakeholder input is planned for the end of 2015.’ I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with.
  • Nelson St Cycleway – According to the report consultation is due to start any day now on phase 2 which for Pitt St and north of Victoria St. The main issues is whether it uses Nelson St or Hobson St to get to Fanshawe St and down to Quay St. I personally think they should do both options.
  • Beach Rd Cycleway Stage 2 – Construction is due to be completed by the end of this month with a public opening ceremony for 18 September.
  • Otahuhu Bus-Train Interchange – Construction is due to start in mid-September and due to be completed in June next year before the rollout of the new bus network in October.
  • Manukau Bus-Train Interchange – AT are increasing the capacity of the interchange from 16 to 25 bays although two will be for bus layover. They say the key reason for the change is that the various inter-city bus operators will move from the CBD operate from there. Presumably this means that inter-city bus users going to/from the CBD will have to transfer to a train at Manukau. Particularly at peak times this might actually end up a faster outcome.
  • Parnell Station – Works on the platform are due to be completed in October but there is no date yet for when it will come in to use. Also of note is the old Mainline steam sheds are currently being demolished as the site was recently sold to a retirement village company. There’s a bit of an irony in that we will end up with a retirement village on one side of the tracks and Student accommodation on the other.
  • AMETI (Reeves Rd Flyover) – AT say a joint review between them, the council and the NZTA of the timing of Flyover and the busway from Pakuranga to Botany has been  happening with final discussions around funding options due to happen in August/September. The recommendations from the review will go to the AT and NZTA boards in October and the Council Infrastructure committee in November. I wonder how much they’ve taken in to account the Basin Reserve Flyover decision, in particular as they’ve said the Reeves Rd Flyover won’t improve things unless they also replicate similar solutions at Waipuna Rd and Carbine Rd.
  • Mill Rd – The hearings for the Notice of Requirement start at the end of the month. They say there were 286 submissions of which 216 were pro-forma ones in opposition.
  • WiFi on PT – AT will extend WiFi to all PT modes and vehicles – we saw WiFi as a requirement for new buses last week. AT are already trialling it on trains and it was available on the special service they put on for the EMU celebration just over a week ago. A trial will also begin on Gulf Harbour ferries and the Northern Express soon.
  • Active Modes Survey – AT say they’ve surveyed 1,600 Aucklander’s about walking and cycling along with their motivations and barriers for doing so. The high level results are completely unsurprising with concerns over safety from sharing lanes with cars continuing to be the largest barrier to more people cycling.
  • Rail Service Performance – there is a fairly lengthy comment about the performance of the rail system.

Service delivery (or reliability) is the proportion of trains not cancelled in full or part and arrive at their final destination. Punctuality is the proportion of trains that were not cancelled in full or part and that arrived at their final destination within five minutes of the scheduled time. Presented below are the services scheduled (blue bars), total services operated on-time (yellow line) and punctuality percentage (red line) trends.

There was a significant improvement in performance recorded during the month, partly reflecting the changes implemented from 20 July which saw the replacement of diesel trains with EMUs on all lines except on the non-electrified section between Papakura and Pukekohe. The operation of a single common fleet type removed many of the restrictions that previously existed that had complicated service recovery by allowing trains and crews to be swapped between lines thereby limiting the adverse impacts following service disruption.

For Jul-2015 service delivery (reliability) was 96.6% and punctuality was 83.7% compared to the 12 month average of 96.0% (94.9% last 6 months average and low of of 92.9% in April) and 83.1% (79.2% last 6 months average and low of 73.6% in June).

For the period 1-9 August, performance improved further with reliability at 98% and punctuality at 89% across 3,766 services.

A number of days in mid-August have seen performance at more than 99% service delivery and 90-95% punctuality.

While only a few weeks into the full EMU operations, service performance improvement is encouraging and supports the decision to introduce earlier the full EMU services. A joint team of AT, Transdev, KiwiRail and CAF are now focused on delivering the planned improvements

Rail Service Performance - July 15

  • Some other PT comments:
    • The first Howick & Eastern double decker arrives in the first week of September.
    • The first of the new bus shelters have started has been installed. It appears that the focus is on getting a number rolled out on the Hibiscus coast in preparation of the new network which rolls out in October
    • AT have asked Transdev and Kiwirail to review the timetables for the Pukekohe shuttle after complains the transfer time between services was too short.
    • On the roll-out of more bus priority they say that over the last month:
      • Onewa Road T3 lane (city bound) – went live in July
      • Park Road bus lane (hospital to Carlton Gore Road) – consultation completed; construction due to commence in September
      • Parnell Road bus lane (St Stephens to Sarawia Street – outbound) – consultation completed; construction due for completion in August
      • Manukau Road/Pah Road transit lanes – internal consultation completed – consultation underway
      • Great North Road bus lanes (New Lynn to Ash Street) – final concept plans completed – consultation completed
      • Totara Avenue signal removal – improvements to New Lynn bus interchange; construction completed and live
      • Esmonde Road bus lane – construction to commence September.

 

AT’s new bus tender requirements

Buses equipped with WiFi, USB ports and internal screens to display messages such as route information will become standard in Auckland in the future. All three features and much more are requirements of Auckland Transports PTOM contracts which were revealed on Monday in the finally released tender documents for the new bus network in South Auckland. The routes were confirmed all the way back at the end 2013 which seems like a long time ago now.

New Network - South Auckland

Back then AT said that the bus routes would be implemented mid 2015 however now they’ve reached the tender stage AT say the routes themselves won’t change till October 2016. It appears that there were a number of issues that have held up this stage of the process such as the delays in the Otahuhu Interchange, getting the new PTOM contracts signed off.

In a milestone for the city’s transport services, Auckland Transport will soon be calling for tenders to operate its New Network bus services in south Auckland (including Pukekohe and Waiuku).

These will be the first tenders called under the new Public Transport Operating Model (PTOM) system and the first PTOM tenders called to create the long awaited New Network. This will mean major improvements to the way people travel on bus, train and ferry.

With the southern tender process leading the way, invitations will be called progressively for bus operators to tender in other sectors; west Auckland will be next later this year.

The tenders for Auckland’s south bus services will open on 17 August and close on 28 September. The successful tenderers will be named early in 2016 and should be operating the New Network Services by October 2016.

While I’m disappointed it’s taken this long to even get to the tender stage, it’s good to finally see something happening. In South Auckland the routes have been divided up in to nine separate tenders (units), each of which contains one or more routes – including school routes. Each route has a full timetable attached so bus companies know just how many services they’ll need to run.

What I’m particularly interested in isn’t so much the tender itself but what AT requires from bus operators as that sets the benchmark for what kind of quality we can expect the services to be outside of the main one of frequency. To get this I’ve gone through the PTOM contract to see what AT have included. As you would expect, some of the requirements differ depending on the size of the bus while other requirements are universal across all bus types. First some of the non-technical ones are listed below.

Bedding in process – Once the contracts go live operators will have a three month to bedding in process to get performance right before financial penalties apply – although AT will review non performing routes before that happens.

Timetables – there are Monday to Friday timetables and separate Saturday and Sunday timetables. With a few exceptions public holidays will use Sunday timetables.

Advertising – The operators have to give control of internal and external advertising to Auckland Transport, this includes advertising on buses. AT say that internal advertising will primarily be for things like service information (e.g. route info), disruptions, PT promotions and event promotions however they don’t rule out commercial advertising. For any commercial advertising – such as on the back of the bus – AT will take 80% of the net revenue and the operator will get 20%. Another bug bear of many users is advertising along the sides of buses. AT’s guidelines suggest that this generally won’t be used but of course they leave the door open to it occurring some times.

Sustainability – Each operator has to pro-actively demonstrate to AT how they are working to support the Auckland Plan and RPTP sustainability principles. These include

(a) greenhouse gas emission reduction;
(b) reduction in emissions to air, water and soil;
(c) energy efficiency (on site, in Vehicles, and infrastructure facilities);
(d) training/up-skilling of staff in sustainability principles
(e) enhancement of the public transport experience; and
(f) support of behavioural shift towards increased levels of public transport patronage, walking and cycling.

Cleaning – cleaned as a minimum;

Daily:

(A) seat cleaning as necessary;
(B) floor swept and or mopped;
(C) rubbish removed;
(D) all gums and other substances removed;
(E) graffiti removed;
(F) livery and stickers checked,

Every second day:

(A) exterior bus wash;
(B) internal passenger window wipe, including sills,

Monthly:

(A) clean roofline;
(B) valet drivers area;
(C) valet walls and all interior glass;
(D) valet seating area;
(E) clean and disinfect passenger hand holds;
(F) wheelchair ramp checked and cleaned;

6 monthly:

(A) fumigate bus,

Annually:

(A) full interior steam clean or equivalent;
(B) shampoo seats (A and B are to take place 6 months apart);
(C) external polish,

Mid-life update – Operators have to give all buses a mid-life update at 8-10 years of age unless AT agree that the bus is still in good condition – if it is then it gets reassessed annually. The minimum update required is below but more could be needed depending on the state of the bus.

(a) new flooring;
(b) new upholstery on seats;
(c) new wall lining and ceiling panels as required; and
(d) new lighting.

Vehicle Quality Standards – There are a number of specific and mandatory standards that AT have set – some of which are in addition to the NZTA’s Requirements for urban buses. These standards relate to the age, quality of design, manufacture and componentry of the Vehicle chassis and body. The list below is just some of the requirements for new buses.

Vehicle Age – No individual bus is allowed to be more than 20 years old – I guess that means the current bendy buses will definitely be allowed. In addition as from 1 January 2017 the average age of cannot be more than 10 years old.

Engines – have to be capable of accelerating from 0-20 km/h in ≤ 4 seconds and 0-50 km/h ≤ 30 seconds. They need to have a range without refuelling of ≥ 350 km or 15 hours. Be compliant to Euro 5, US 2007, Japan 05, or equivalent Opacity level and not omit noise greater than 80 decibels when first introduced or 84 decibels at any time during its life – even when under acceleration.

Bus Sizes – AT specify four different sizes of bus – small (≥40 passengers, ≥25 – 30 seats), standard (≥54 passengers, ≥45 seats), extra-large (≥78 passengers, ≥45 seats) and Large bus Double Deck (≥100 passengers, ≥25 – 80 seats).

Doors – Small buses can have just a single door while all other buses need double doors. In all situations there are size requirements e.g. on a large bus double doors are needed at the front and with a width of greater than or equal to 1,000mm.

Seats – Forward facing seats have to be a minimum of 690mm apart with leg room of at least 300mm (as measured from the front of the squab to the back of the seat). Singles seats need to be ≥ 425mm wide and double bench seats a minimum of 750mm wide.

CCTV – for small buses there will be a minimum of two cameras in the bus while on double deckers large double decker buses could see 10 or more cameras

Aircon – Buses should be between 18-22 degrees, have a humidity of 50% and all windows should remain mist free.

Electronic displays & announcements – small buses will need at least one screen and large buses up to four to provide “route and journey information and announcements” to those on board. AT say ideally they’ll be 20″-22″ in size. Up to eight pairs of speakers are also needed to support this.

WiFi – All buses should have WiFi.

USB sockets – Buses should have USB charging sockets. At a minimum AT say they should be on every second row on each side of the bus.

There are a number of other aspects listed in the document however I’ll stop here as the post is long enough. For existing buses some of the standards are a little bit lower.

Overall I suspect all of this means we won’t see radically different buses however those last three aspects listed above suggest a slight improvement in attractiveness and usability. I’d expect screens will be very similar to what’s on the inner link but without the ads and that is great for new users of the route/system. The USB ports in particular are likely to be popular and it’s a shame we don’t have them on our new trains – I wonder if AT are thinking of retrofitting them?

Is there anything you think AT have missed out from a customer experience perspective?

 

An update on Light Rail

Around a month ago Auckland Transport gave a presentation to the Campaign for Better Transport on their Light Rail plans. I wasn’t there however I was provided with a copy of the presentation and it contains some new information not shown before – and not all about light rail.

As a reminder of the background, AT say that even with all the improvements planned – including the CRL – the number of buses on many city centre corridors will need to be greatly increased however many of those routes are already at, or near capacity in terms of actual bus numbers. To handle the number of buses (including double deckers) they will need significant extra land for more bus lanes and infrastructure to handle the number of buses that would be required, an example would be at Wynyard where a lot of buses would need to turn around. The map below shows the bus routes through the city with the new network. Most of those bus lines will be running in the peak at least every 15 minutes with some routes such as Dominion Rd much higher resulting in over 180 buses an hour on Symonds and Wellesley Streets.

City Access - Do Minimum

By 2046 the number of buses needed would be around double the desired capacity of bus lanes and as such buses will likely be very unreliable. Improved PT speed and reliability has been a big part in the fact that now around 50% of all people arriving in the city centre in the morning peak do so on PT. Some of the improved reliability is highlighted in these two charts showing the variability of travel times by mode at different times of the day. As you can see roads suffer from wide variability while the Northern Busway and rail lines – which have accounted for most of the PT growth to the city over the last 15 years – have fairly reliable times. The Panmure result will partly explain why patronage has grown at that station by a massive 71% in the last year.

Travel time Reliability

AT say they’ve looked at a number of options and that Light Rail on the southern isthmus routes – which are some of the busiest bus routes in Auckland – allows them to significantly reduce the number of buses in the city which will be critical in achieving goals such as making the city centre more people friendly. That would change the map above to what you see below. Some parts of Symonds St would go from 180 buses an hour down to just 16 Light Rail vehicles. This is because AT are looking at large 66m long light rail vehicles capable of carrying 450 people each. Interestingly the map below also seems to suggest light rail across the viaduct whereas previous versions had it going via Fanshawe St. I remember a few board meetings ago an item in the closed session was titled LRT Fanshawe/Customs St Alignment so presumably a lot more work is happening in this area.

City Access - LRT

The presentation also included a number of new images along with some we’ve already seen. The new ones suggest some other significant aspects to the proposal. We know that stage one is to effectively replace the current City Link bus by getting light rail to Ian McKinnon Dr where there would be an initial depot. That was highlighted back in June within this document which AT have now published is now online. The presentation gives this as a view of what the depot which I assume this is on the patch of land between Ian McKinnon Dr and the motorway. I’m not sure where the NW Cycleway connects through here – let’s hope AT don’t forget that in their planning.

Ian McKinnon Depot

Just around the corner they show that at least in that section they haven’t forgotten the cycleway as part of very multi-modal street.

Ian McKinnon LRT

Where things get even more interesting is just a bit further north. The image below shows the intersection of Queen St and K Rd.

K Rd intersection LRT

You may notice there is an absence of tracks and some odd things on the side of the road. That’s because it appears Auckland Transport are planning on sending light rail tracks through an underpass which is probably about easing the steep grade coming up Queen St. You can see the underpass emerging in this next image.

K Rd LRT Underpass

From there light rail would carry on down Queen St like in the images we’ve seen so far. Below are a few more images showing light rail past the front of Britomart, on Quay St and Lower Hobson St.

LRT - Britomart

LRT - Quay St

LRT - Lower Hobson St

Lastly this next image shows what Fanshawe St could look like – obviously from a different version of the plan to the earlier map. It shows light rail in on a dedicated route on the northern side of the road. If it was installed on Fanshawe St I presume it would share that with buses from the North Shore that travel to Britomart.

LRT - Fanshawe St

Overall some interesting aspects, especially around K Rd. The last information about the project was that AT was looking to appoint a technical adviser to support further investigation of light rail. Of course there’s also the matter of how exactly it will be paid for which AT remain quiet about.

Celebrating the 57th electric train

Today Auckland Transport celebrated the arrival of the last electric train – of this first batch. The celebration also included a visit by Prime Minister John Key

EMU Celebration - 1

Auckland Transport has officially marked the arrival of the last of the city’s 57 electric trains with a function at the Wiri Train Depot attended by the Prime Minister.

The last three trains from Spanish manufacturer CAF landed on the wharf last week and are now going through final checks at the depot prior to certification.

Auckland Transport chairman Dr Lester Levy says it’s been a swift journey since the contract for the trains was signed in October 2011. “In less than four years we have seen 57 three-car trains roll-off the production line in Spain, they’re all here now and they’ve been delivered on time and on budget.”

Dr Levy says more than 14 million trips are now being made on the Auckland rail network each year. “That’s fantastic considering that in 2003 when Britomart opened less than three million trips were being taken each year.”

He says this project has had excellent support from the Government including a $500 million loan to fund the electric trains and the Wiri depot. “There has also been a government grant of $90 million and one of $40 million from Auckland Council, we would like to thank them for their support.”

Transport Minister Simon Bridges says the Government is committed to working with Auckland Council to see Auckland succeed. “The arrival of these trains marks the culmination of the Government’s $1.6 billion, decade-long investment in three Auckland metro rail projects.

“Over the next three years, $4.2 billion will be invested to build a robust, future-proofed transport system for Auckland.”

Dr Levy says Auckland now has trains that are of international standard. “The quality trains, along with a boost in the number of services means more people are seeing rail as an option.”

The first electric trains began operating on the Onehunga line in April 2014 and the network from Papakura in the south to Swanson in the west went all-electric just a few weeks ago on 20 July.

“We know many of the trains are already full at peak time but now that all 57 trains are here we will get more double trains operating to help ease the situation.”

Mayor Len Brown says “We’ve busted the myth that you can’t get Aucklanders out of their cars and the electric trains are fuelling the success. But their popularity means we’re becoming the victims of our own success. At the existing rate of growth, we will reach train service capacity by 2016. This emphasises the urgent need to get cracking on building the CRL.”

Each train has seating for 232 passengers and standing room for more. The trains have wider doors making it easier for passengers.

The central carriage is at platform level for wheelchairs, prams or bikes and automatic ramps mean a seamless transition between the platform and the train.

Open gangways between cars mean passengers can move from one end of the train to the other.

Some facts and figures:

  • The supplier, CAF used equipment from Japan, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Spain – taking the best from the world to create trains specifically for Auckland.
  • It takes more than 15,000 hours to fabricate and assemble one electric train unit, there is 110km of wiring in each unit.
  • Each train is tested for 1000 hours on the tracks.
  • The maximum operating speed is 110km/hr, however, the average operating speed will be less than this.
  • To provide improvements to efficiency each train has regenerative braking, allowing braking energy to be fed back into the 25kv supply – a recovery of up to 20% of the energy used.
  • Noise reduction: the 25kV power supply means that the trains are very quiet both externally and internally – a very important consideration for people living and working near the rail network.
  • There’s no air pollution from the trains because they are electric and there are no exhaust fumes.
  • Rail patronage in Auckland grew 21.7% in the year to the end of June, that’s two and a half million more passengers than in June last year.
  • The number using all public transport in Auckland reached 79 million in the year to June, an increase of 9.5% or on average 19,000 extra boardings per day.

I was secretly hoping that John Key might announce the government were bringing forward the City Rail Link, electrification to Pukekohe or even just the ordering of more trains but sadly that didn’t happen. Below are the speeches from Lester Levy, John Key and Len Brown (sorry audio quality isn’t the best)

Lester Levy

John Key – I particularly liked his comments that he doesn’t think Aucklanders are any different to people in the rest of the world and will use PT if good quality options are provided. Now if only the government will follow up that with appropriate funding to enable that to happen.

Len Brown

It is fantastic that all trains are now here – although it will be a few months before all are on the tracks. One thing mentioned in Lester’s speech was that the EMUs were seeing much improved reliability and punctuality. To highlight that yesterday saw 99% reliability i.e. only three services from over 500 failed to run and 95% punctuality meaning that only 5% of services were later than 5 minutes to their destination. That’s a dramatic improvement on what we’ve had in the past.

Of course the next thing we will need is more trains. As mentioned sadly there was no announcement of that because as I understand it, it will take about 2 years to get new units built and delivered. Given the rapid growth in patronage that means we will probably need to be ordering those very soon. On patronage I don’t have July figures yet but I’ve been told they are very good and in addition August is looking good so far too.