September 14 Patronage

Auckland’s Transport’s patronage results for September are now out and they show that the city is experiencing spectacular PT growth, growth which is also setting a number of records. The big news was earlier in the week was that when it was announced that over the last year there had been more than 12 million rail trips on the rail network and that for the first time more trips than the rail network in Wellington. As it turns out the 12 million trips milestone has actually occurred some-time in October rather than in September. Here are the highlights according to AT.

Auckland public transport patronage totalled 73,957,488 passenger trips for the 12 months to Sep-2014, an increase of +1.1% on the 12 months to Aug-2014 and +7.6% on the 12 months to Sep-2013. September monthly patronage was 6,612,702, an increase of 782,718 boardings or +13.4%on Sep-2013, normalised to ~ +11.0% accounting for special event patronage, one more businessand one less weekend day in Sep-2014 compared to Sep-2013. Financial year to date patronage has grown by + 8.5%.

Rail patronage totalled 11,923,347 passenger trips for the 12 months to Sep-2014, an increase of +1.7% on the 12 months to Aug-2014 and +16.7% on the 12 months to Sep-2013. Patronage for
Sep-2014 was 1,119,230, an increase of 194,217 boardings or +21.0% on Sep-2013, normalised to ~ +21.2%. Financial year to date rail patronage has grown by +16.8%.

The Northern Express bus service carried 2,540,018 passenger trips for the 12 months to Sep-2014, an increase of +1.6% on the 12 months to Aug-2014 and + 11.1% on the 12 months to Sep-2013.Northern Express bus service patronage for Sep-2014 was 234,282, an increase of 40,686 boardings or +21.0% on Sep-2013, normalised to ~ +20.8%. Financial year to date Northern Express patronage has grown by +18.6%.

Bus services excluding Northern Express carried 54,387,408 passenger trips for the 12 months to an increase of +1.0% on the 12 months to Aug-2014 and +6.2% on the 12 months to Sep-2013. Bus services excluding Northern Express patronage for Sep-2014 was 4,887,764, anincrease of 516,418 boardings or +11.8% on Sep-2013, normalised to ~ +8.8%. Financial year to date bus services excluding Northern Express patronage has grown by +7.1%.

Ferry services carried 5,106,715 passenger trips for the 12 months to Sep-2014, an increase of +0.6% on the 12 months to Aug-2014 and an increase +2.0% on the 12 months to Sep-2013. Ferry services patronage for Sep-2014 was 371,426, an increase of 31,397 boardings or +9.2% on Sep-2013, normalised to ~ +8.1%. Financial year to date ferry patronage has decreased by -0.3%.

14 - Sep AK Patronage table

14 - Sep AK Annual Patronage

At 73.96 million trips to the end of September represents a massive jump in usage compared to last year and even from last month when the total was 73.14 million trips. Importantly it’s not just from the growth of rail but increased bus patronage too that’s causing this surge. The Northern Express along is up 21% on the same month last year. It definitely appears that AT’s major projects such as integrated ticketing and electrification are starting to pay off and with so much positive change to go the tend is only likely to accelerate. One little milestone that did occur is that per capita we crossed 48 trips per person which is the first time that’s happened since 1989.

The rail patronage growth has been stunning for months and is really highlighted on the Onehunga and Manukau lines – the only two running electric trains so far – which respectively saw a 32.6% and a 50.6% increase for the month compared to the same time last year. I’ve personally really been noticing of late that both buses and trains have been getting very full, even if travelling against the peak flow such as from the North Shore to the city in the afternoon suggesting that we’re likely to see this strong patronage growth continue in October and be hopefully beyond.

14 - Sep AK Rail Patronage

Crucially the growth of PT is also happening faster than the population growth in Auckland with the latest results showing Auckland increasing at 2.3% per annum. With PT having grown as 7.6% over the last year it shows the growth is coming from many existing Aucklanders.

Moving on to other modes, for Ferries one thing that did catch my attention was this patronage graph. Significantly they have split out ferry patronage by whether the service is subsidised (contracted) or not. As I understand it only the Devonport and Waiheke runs are exempt and the graph shows how significant the patronage from those two locations compared to the rest of the ferry destinations.

14 - Sep AK Ferry Patronage

Lastly after a few lower months (possibly due to a faulty counter) cycling numbers are up 6.3% on September last year and 11% on a 12m basis (despite what the Monthly Cycle Monitoring Report says). Partly because we’re now in spring but it certainly feels like in seeing a lot more people out and about on bikes, even compared to previous years.

@akltransport – Please fill in a form

Social media has become an important tool for many organisations in how they engage with their customers. It’s become a tool for both marketing and customer service, and there are a number of examples organisations who do it right. Some good local ones include Air New Zealand, most of the major banks such as ASB and even the NZTA do a good job of engaging with the public. Most importantly these organisations don’t just use social media for a one way conversation. Below is an example of Air NZ’s twitter feed where you’ll notice a bit of everything, some engagement with the community, a marketing promotion and at the bottom some customer service.

Air NZ Twitter Feed

Auckland Transport’s social media presence is limited to twitter and it used to be decent, similar in many ways to the examples above. Issues affecting roads or public transport were communicated and were generally far more accurate and timely than most other channels AT have. More than once it saved me from running to catch a train that had been cancelled anyway. Importantly customer service did take place and if someone had an issue the details would be passed on to the relevant teams and followed up.

Unfortunately the person who ran the twitter feed left and since then the AT’s engagement with the public through social media has been absolute crap and an unmitigated disaster. In my opinion they are now doing serious damage to their reputation with their poor management of it. The key issue is that there is simply no responsibility being taken to manage customer queries or issues or provide vital information on services to the public. Questions or even complaints get met with an almost stock standard “Please fill in a form” response, that’s if you get anything at all. A few of the many examples are below.

If you’re lucky there’s occasionally a variations such as “Call us to report it”

Of course even if you fill in a form as they want you to, it doesn’t mean they will do anything.

It feels like whoever is running the account at Auckland Transport simply doesn’t care about the customers and is simply pushing out a stock response as that’s the easiest and laziest option for them – if they respond at all. But it’s not just replying to questions or comments that has been substandard, there is now often no information given network issues such as congestion affecting buses or rail issues such as a signal failure. It seems the NZTA have had to pick up some of the slack and it’s not uncommon to see them discuss issues seen as being out of their remit such as on the rail network. Here’s the NZTA even suggesting to use PT.

The whole situation kind of reminds me of this.

My understanding is that a large part of the issue is that the role of managing twitter keeps getting passed around to different departments with little accountability for what’s happening. What I do know is that Auckland Transport are rapidly becoming a very unfunny joke and an example of exactly what not to do when engaging with the public. They need to change this and change it fast.

West Auckland new network consultation

Consultation for the West Auckland portion of the new network is now underway. This follows the consultations for Pukekohe/Waiuku, Warkworth, Hibiscus Coast and South Auckland. The consultation runs from today till Monday 1st December. It’s a consultation I’ll be following very closely seeing as I line in West Auckland.

Like much of Auckland the current bus network in West Auckland is an absolute mess. It consists of a myriad of routes, some as slight variations that focus on providing coverage at the expense of directness or frequency. As such many buses trundle around the suburbs largely empty. Some routes also mimic the rail network which is a hangover from the days when rail services were virtually non-existent. A map of the existing network is below and you almost need a degree to properly interpret it. In fact I believe this isn’t even all routes.

West Auckland Existing Routes

Like with the other consultations the new network shifts the thinking about how we could run our buses and instead focuses on transfers to increase mobility.

The map for the proposed new network is below.

West Auckland Proposed Routes 1

 

There are a few thoughts I have about the network for West Auckland. I’ll list them below in no particular order.

The immediate thing I noticed was the lack of frequent services. There’s just two of them, the 4 which travels between the CBD and New Lynn and the W3 which travels between New Lynn SH16 via Henderson before branching (more on that service soon). This is less than was signed off in the RPTP just let year. The key frequent routes missing are from Te Atatu Peninsula to Henderson and a route on SH16 with interchanges at Lincoln/Triangle Rd and at Te Atatu interchange. I can only assume these interchange upgrades are held up NZTA and AT not being able to come to an agreement/location for them. The lack of a frequent on seems to being SH16 is also disappointing considering the growth that is about to occur there.

RPTP New West Frequent Network

I’m a little surprised that they’ve branched the W3 frequent route as one of the outcomes from the South Auckland consultation was to keep the frequents as a single route. Again this is possibly to do with the fact there appears to be no bus interchanges at the Te Atatu Interchange or the Triangle Rd/Lincoln Rd interchange.

There are some notable areas both gaining and losing service. The most noticeable of these is the buses to more rural areas such as Oratia and Waiatarua (a service I used to use in my teenage years) as well as Henderson Valley.

West Auckland Proposed Routes service changes

In September an update to the Council’s development committee talked about the the future NW Busway and indicated that bus shoulder lanes would be built on the motorway between Lincoln and Westgate by 2018 however in this consultation AT are now saying it won’t be till 2021.

NW Bus lanes

There will be these specific open days to discuss the proposal.

  • Sunday 26 October, 8am – 12 noon, Avondale Markets.
  • Tuesday 28 October, 2.30pm – 6pm, New Lynn Interchange.
  • Thursday 30 October, 2.30pm – 6pm, Henderson Interchange, Council airbridge.
  • Sunday 9 November, 7.30am – 12 noon, Te Atatu Peninsula Markets.
  • Tuesday 18 November, 2.30pm – 6pm, Westgate Bus Interchange.
  • Sunday 23 November, 9am – 1pm, Hobsonville Point Markets.

Improving AT’s Patronage Reports

This week we should learn about the patronage results for September and with this post I want to explore whether Auckland Transport are delivering the results to the public in the best way that they can.

Currently we get patronage results a couple of reports that go to the AT board each month. There is the Public Transport Monthly Patronage Report, the Monthly Transport Indicators, the Statistics Report and even some details about HOP usage in the Chief Executive’s Report. Each offers the same high level information but there are variations between them. I tend to use the Statistics Report as that generally has the more detailed information than the other reports. The fact there are multiple reports to begin with is odd and at the very least the Public Transport Monthly Patronage Report, the Statistics Report and the HOP reporting from the CEO’s report should be combined together in a single report.

Other than the number of them, there are a couple of other issues I have with the reports. The primary one is that they are only available as a PDF report. That means each month I have to go through the report and pull out all of the details manually if I want to keep track of them (which I do and I know some others do too). This opens up the chance of data entry errors with the information or incorrect numbers if a figure is revised which happens from time to time and happened recently with the ferries. You also have to know that the patronage results are included in the board reports and where those reports are buried on the AT website. Other issues relate to what information is available compared with what other cities provide.

So with that in mind here are some examples of what some similar organisations provide to the public.

Wellington

Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) through Metlink recently improved the level of information they provide and importantly do so in an easy format for anyone wanting to look at it. They provide a range of graphs showing the monthly results for the current financial year or the annual results as far back as 1999/2000 and most of the data is available in a spreadsheet that can be downloaded. The data provided includes many of the same types of areas that AT provide but there are some important additions. In particular

  • Annual peak and off-peak patronage – this shows how much patronage occurred during the peak and off peak and in the spreadsheet is also available by mode.
  • Annual passenger kilometres by year and mode – This shows how far people have actually travelled on each PT mode which is useful for seeing how commuting trends are changing. As an example on average bus trips are getting longer while rail trips are getting shorter.

The one downside to how GWRC produce their PT information is there is no context able to be given, for example patronage that is impacted by special events or holidays etc. The results are updated approximately 1-2 months after they occur.

Wellington Patronage Spreadsheet

Perth

The Public Transport Authority runs PT in the Perth through their Transperth brand. The authority provides monthly and annual patronage information via an online interactive table by mode and for trains by line. It’s not clear how frequently the information is updated however as the image below shows, it’s not as frequent as Auckland or Wellington. There are no graphs or any contextual information however. There’s also no information on other metrics

Perth Patronage Tool

Portland

PT in Portland is run by TriMet and they provide a number of ways for the public to get patronage information. Firstly there is a Performance Dashboard which shows graphs about the average weekly boardings per month (instead of total patronage) but most interestingly they also provide financial information including the average cost per trip and revenue. Reporting revenue monthly is particularly interesting as in most cities you have to delve through dull Annual Reports to find the information hidden in the financials – although even this isn’t possible with Auckland Transport as it isn’t specified in their annual report.

In addition to the Performance Dashboard also publish monthly reports which includes all of the figures from the dashboard plus a few others and to top it off the data is also available back to mid-2008 in one file.

One of the more interesting aspects about all of the TriMet data is how they break the bus data down by whether the bus is a frequent route (at least 15 minutes all day) or a local connector route. In Portland frequent buses carry over 50% of all bus patronage. As Auckland Transport roll out frequent buses as part of the new network here I hope they differentiate between the frequent and non-frequent services too.

Portland Operating Cost per Ride

It would be great if AT could also provide operating cost information regularly

 

San Francisco (BART)

San Francisco is unusual in that the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system is run completely separately from the rest of the PT services in the Bay area. The patronage information BART release doesn’t show the total number of trips, instead it shows the average daily ridership for a weekday, Saturday or Sunday. One of the advantages of using an average weekday result is it more easily accounts for the variations of the calendar and is something Auckland Transport have recently started doing. Instead of just showing the overall result the monthly data goes a step further by using an Entry/Exit Matrix which shows the average daily ridership from each station to each other station on the network. The image below is from last month and as an example it shows that on average for a weekday 852 people catch a train from El Cerrito Plaza (EP) to Berkeley (BK). This is a level of detail is likely to only be practical to provide for a rapid transit system and something I think AT should definitely do for both the rail network and the Northern Busway.

San Fran patronage matrix

In addition to the level of detail the files are updated quickly and are usually available by the 5th of the next month (compared to almost one month later in Auckland). Lastly one extra feature is that a spreadsheet is available with the annual patronage information back to when the system opened in 1973

Conclusion

So what could AT learn from these cities to improve how it provides information on patronage to the public.

  • At the very least:
    • consolidate the various reports into a single report that contains all the relevant information
    • a page on the AT website with links to each of the monthly patronage reports to the board.
  • Should have:
    • A page on the AT website with some graphs explaining the key PT results
    • Provide a downloadable file with historical patronage results
  • Would be nice to have:
    • An Entry/Exit Matrix for the Rapid Transit network (rail and busway)
    • Data updated automatically earlier in the month
    • Operating Cost and Revenue information
  • Would be ideal but won’t hold my breath for:
    • An Entry/Exit Matrix for the entire PT network that the data wizards out there can use to create new insights into our system.

Is there anything else you would like to see?

AT’s Get on Board with Jerome Campaign

Auckland Transport recently launched a new campaign featuring Jerome Kaino encouraging people to use PT and HOP. It seems to be primarily an online campaign focused on the videos below however I’ve also seen a few ads on the backs of buses too. Overall I think the campaign is pretty well done and Jerome seems like a good choice to front it.

I’m not sure I agree that the journey planner is as great as Jerome suggests. I find it often ignores the most logical or sometimes even the fastest options. For example to get from Takapuna to New Lynn on a Monday afternoon it only suggests catching the horrid 130 bus for almost two hours but ignores the much faster option of catching a bus to town and then transferring to either another bus or a train.

It’s good to see AT talking about what’s coming up and importantly highlight that the changes are helping to give Auckland a system like found in many other cities around the world.

Overall I think AT have done a decent job with this

Although it doesn’t have quite as many cool points as this 1980’s style video that L.A. Metro has just released.

Franklin Rd Upgrade options

One of Auckland Transport’s current projects – as highlighted in the August board report – is a rehabilitation of the iconic Franklin Rd

Photo is copyright to oh.yes.melbourne.

 

 

AT have now released more details about the project. Here’s why they say the project is needed.

Franklin Road is an iconic Auckland street with significant heritage value. It is lined by mature, hundred year old London Plane trees that form a canopy over the road during summer months. During the Christmas festival period residents of Franklin Road host a Christmas lights event which attracts thousands of visitors every year.

Franklin Road is also an important connection between Ponsonby and the Central Business District with over 14,000 vehicle trips per day, including buses and over-dimension vehicles. While predominantly residential in nature, there are some small businesses along the road operating from previous homes and larger commercial/retail activities at either end.

Franklin Road is in poor condition creating safety hazards for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. Over time tree roots have damaged footpaths, drainage infrastructure and road pavement. A high demand for parking and a lack of well-defined parking spaces often sees drivers parking too close to trees and driving over exposed roots which can damage the trees.

A number of utility providers are also concerned about the condition of their infrastructure in Franklin Road and are planning service renewals and upgrades in the near future.

As part of the improvements AT have come up with two options, both of which include.

  • Moving the kerbline to the other side of the trees and narrowing the roadway enabling the trees to be located within the berm.
  • Parallel parking on both sides of the road in front of the trees.
  • Upgrading the drainage system.
  • Building the new road pavement on top of the existing pavement to reduce the impact on tree roots.
  • Sewer separation and water main replacement by Watercare Services Limited.
  • Improvements to street lighting subject to power undergrounding works by Vector Limited.

The biggest change is that the kerb is being extended to the outside of the trees in a bid to protect their roots. As the space between the trees is currently used for parking that is being pushed out into the carriageway. I think there definitely needs to be some level of on street parking seeing as many houses don’t have off street parking (although some do) but by pushing the parking out into the carriageway it actually creates more parking spaces. As explained soon I wonder if that’s the best use of the space.

Here are the trees on Franklin Rd likely not long after they were planted circa 1880

Franklin Road, Ponsonby, Auckland. Creator of Collection Unknown : Photographs of Auckland and Lyttelton. Ref: 1/2-004185-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22791340

In addition to the features mentioned above there are two separate options on what to do with the remaining carriageway which is 12.3m in width.

Option 1

Key features of this option are:

  • A shared use footpath cycleway on the uphill side of Franklin Road.
  • A marked on-road cycle lane on the downhill side.
  • The removal of the painted median.

Advantages

  • Retains parking on both sides of the road.
  • Provides an off-road cycling facility in the uphill direction when cyclists are slower and a dedicated on-road downhill cycle lane to separate quicker cyclists from pedestrians.
  • Maximises the traffic calming effect as vehicle speeds reduce with narrower traffic lanes and being closer to parked vehicles.
  • Provides a narrower road width for pedestrians to cross.

Disadvantages

  • Traffic delays caused by right turning vehicles sitting in the traffic lane waiting to turn.
  • No central refuge area for pedestrians crossing the road.
  • The downhill cycleway is less than the desirable width.

Franklin Road Option 1

The first thing I thought when looking at this was “where’s the uphill cycle lane”, that was until I realised that uphill cyclists were meant to share the footpath with pedestrians. To me that’s a bad outcome as even uphill many cyclists are likely to be much faster than walkers, especially as electric bikes become increasingly common. After that I also wondered why AT are still proposing to use squishy car protectors on the downhill side. Surely the cycle lane should be swapped with the parking lane.

I hoped the design would get better with option 2, sadly I was mistaken.

Option 2

Key features of this option are:

  • A shared use footpath cycleway on the uphill side of Franklin Road.
  • A wider downhill lane that safely caters for both cyclists and vehicles.
  • A 1 metre wide painted median (narrower than existing).

Advantages

  • Retains parking on both sides of the road.
  • Provides an off-road cycling facility in the uphill direction when cyclists are slower and a wide shared downhill traffic lane separating faster cyclists from pedestrians.
  • Provides a narrow painted median which should allow most drivers waiting to turn right to sit clear of the through traffic.
  • Provides a narrower road width for pedestrians to cross.

Disadvantages

  • No dedicated on-road cycling facilities (shared downhill lane only).

Franklin Road Option 2

So for this option we get less cycling infrastructure in return for a median strip so that cars don’t have to slow down as much if someone occasionally turns right.

I’m not sure why we keep coming up with seemingly crap designs for projects like this. To me both options seem like they are compromised by the desire to have as much parking as possible and to use both sides of the road. Instead I think AT need to look at having parking space on just one side of the street which should then allow for two (protected) cycle lanes, something like below.

Franklin Road separate option 1

 

The Great Auckland Transit Revival: Theory and Practice

Einstein

2011 saw the release of a study led by Ian Wallis Associates into Auckland’s public transport performance. It is a sober and restrained report that simply sets out to describe the performance of Auckland’s PT systems on comparative terms with a range of not dissimilar cities around the region. A very useful exercise, because while no two cities are identical, all cities face similar tradeoffs and pressures and much can be learned by studying the successes and failures of other places. The whole document is here.

The cities selected for the study are all in anglophone nations around the Pacific from Australia, the US, Canada, and New Zealand, with Auckland right in the middle in terms of size. And as summarised by Mathew Dearnaley in the Herald at the time, it showed Auckland to be the dunce of the class by pretty much every metric. Although the article is called Auckland in last place for public transport use it’s clear that the headline it would have reflected the report’s findings more accurately if the paper had simply said; Auckland in last place for public transport. Because it showed that the low uptake of public transport in Auckland cannot be separated from the low quality, slow, infrequent, and expensive services available.

Here’s the uptake overview:

Comparator cities

So it’s clear that population alone is no determinant of PT uptake. If it isn’t the size of the city what is it? Various people have their pet theories, some like to claim various unfixable emotional factors are at work, like our apparently ‘car-loving’ culture, though is it credible that we have a more intense passion for cars than Americans or Australians? The homes of Bathurst and the Indy 500? Others claim that the geography of this quite long and harbour constrained city somehow suits road building and driving over bus, train, and ferry use. A quixotic claim especially when compared to the flat and sprawling cities of the American West which much more easily allow space for both wide roads and endless dispersal in every direction. Another popular claim is that Auckland isn’t dense enough to support much Transit use. Yet it is considerably denser than all but the biggest cities on the list.

So what does the study say is the reason for Auckland’s outlying performance?

It considers service quantity [PT kms per capita], quality [including speed, reliability, comfort, safety, etc] and cost both for the passenger and society, and easy of use [payment systems]. Along with other issues such as mode interoperability, and land-use/transit integration. And all at considerable depth. The report found that Auckland’s PT services are poor, often with the very worst performance by all of these factors and this is the main driver of our low uptake.

And happily some of the things that stand out in the report are well on the way to being addressed. Here, for example is what it says about fares:

Fares and ticketting Benchmark Study

The HOP card is no doubt a huge improvement and has enabled some fare cost improvement. And we can expect more to be done in this area soon, we are told, especially for off peak fares. Additionally the integration of fares is still to come [zone charging].

Here’s what it says about service quantity and quality:

Service qual. Benchmark Study

Oh dear.

Yet there is one thing that the report returns to on a number of occasions that perhaps best captures what’s wrong with Auckland, and offers a fast track to improvement. And, even at this early stage, gives us a way of checking the theory against results in the real world:

Rapid Transit benchmark study

Right, so perhaps the biggest problem with Auckland’s PT system is simply the lack of enough true Rapid Transit routes and services. To qualify as true Rapid Transit it is generally accepted that along with the definition above, a separate right of way, the services must also offer a ‘turn up and go’ frequency, at least at the busiest sections of the lines. And that this is generally considered to mean a service at least every ten minutes, but ideally even more frequent than that.

In Auckland we only have the Rail Network and the Northern Busway that qualify as using separate right of ways, and the busway for only 41% of its route. At least the frequencies on the Busway are often very high, where as on the Rail Network they only make it to ten minute frequencies for the busiest few hours of the day. So to say that Auckland has any real high quality Rapid Transit services even now is a bit of a stretch. However these services have been improving in the three years since the report was released, and will continue to do so in the near future with the roll out of the new trains and higher frequencies on the Rail Network, and more Bus lanes on the North Shore routes especially at the city end of their runs.

Here is a map with a fairly generous description of our current or at least improving Rapid Transit Network:

CFN 2015

Even though it is only three years since the report was released, and there is much more to come, there have been improvements, so we can ask; how have the public responded to the improvements to date?

Below are the latest Ridership numbers from Auckland Transport, for August 2014:

August 2014 Ridership

SOI: Statement Of Intent, AT’s expectations or hopes. NEX: Northern Express.

So the chart above, showing our most ‘Rapid’ services, Rail and the NEX, are clearly attracting more and more users out of all proportion with the rest, and way above Auckland Transport’s expectations or hopes as expressed by the SOI, is a pretty good indication that both the report authors were right, Auckland is crying out for more Rapid Transit services and routes, and, at least in this case, Einstein was wrong: Practice does indeed seem to be baring out the Theory.

And from here we can clearly expect this rise in uptake to continue, if not actually increase, as the few Rapid Transit routes we have now are going to continue to get service improvements. And 19% increases, if sustained, amount to a doubling in only four years! Rail ridership was around 10 million a year ago, so it could be approaching 20 mil by mid 2017, if this rate of growth is sustained.

But this also means we can clearly expect any well planned investment in extensions to the Rail Network [eg CRL] or additional busways [eg North Western] to also be rewarded with over the odds increases in use. Aucklanders love quality, and give them high quality PT and they will use it.

Furthermore, given that these numbers are in response to only partial improvements even extending on-street bus lanes for regular bus services looks highly likely to be meet with accelerated ridership growth. I think it is pretty clear that Auckland Transport, NZTA, MoT, and Auckland Council can be confident that any substantive quality, frequency, and right-of-way improvement to PT in Auckland will be rewarded with uptake.

Given that Auckland’s PT use is advancing ahead of population growth [unlike the driving stats] I believe we have already improved that poor number up top to 47 trips per person per year. So there’s still plenty of room for growth even to catch up with the next city on the list. So perhaps it’s time to formally update that report too?

Imagine just how well a full city wide network of Rapid Transit would be used? Clearly Auckland is ready for it:

CFN 2030 South-Grafton

 

 

Orakei Bay Village – To P&R or not to P&R?

Some of you who have been living in Auckland over the last decade might recall the long-running saga that is the Orakei Bay Village.

When the project was first mooted around a decade ago, it was met with furious local opposition. Thankfully the proposal has now progressed to a “point” where new houses may actually be delivered. Stage 1 is illustrated below (sourced from here); as you can see it’s a reasonably pleasant spot to develop some houses, shops, and some new recreational facilities.

Orakei_Hero_with_no_labels

Not only is the development situated on the edge of Hobson Bay, it is also accessible to Orakei Station in the Eastern Line, which is barely 8 minutes by train to Britomart, something the developers are keen to point out. The merits of the development itself, however, are not the topic of this post.

Instead, in this post I want to explore the merits of providing park and ride at Orakei Station. Some of you may also know that Orakei Station currently provides about 178 park and ride spaces. In the above photo you can see the park and ride spaces shown in the bottom right hand corner. Their presence in close proximity to medium to high density housing looked to me to be somewhat anomalous.

In this previous post I explored some of the merits of P&R and discussed the conditions where P&R might work well. Since that post was written AT has released a draft parking discussion document, which provides more specific criteria to guide future investment in park and ride. The key section is illustrated below (p. 44).

Capture

Below I’ve undertaken a brief evaluation of Orakei Point’s suitability for park and ride compared to the most pertinent policy points outlined in AT’s parking discussion document:

  • Wider PT accessibility. This location will be well-served by all-day bus connections. The all-day network released with AT’s Regional Public Transport Plan shows how both Orakei and the adjacent Meadowbank station will be accessible from local bus services. Indeed, to access Orakei you have to drive past these bus stops. For this reason, providing park and ride at Orakei is likely to undermine local bus services.
  • Local congestion around the station. Traffic congestion was frequently put forward by local residents as a reason to decline the proposed plan change for Orakei Point. Their opposition suggests the local area does experience traffic congestion, which is of course likely to be exacerbated by the provision of park and ride.
  • Congestion upstream of the station. While there is congestion upstream of the station, the city centre is so close that the resulting congestion relief provided by a park and ride at Orakei would appear to be fairly small, at least compared to other potential park and ride locations located further away from the city centre (where land is also cheaper).
  • Land use controls of the area surrounding the station. The recent plan change means that this location is now suitable for high-density development, as evident from the above image. This suggests that park and ride might not be the highest and best use of this land.
  • Public transport fare zones. Orakei is only one stage to Britomart. This in turn means that providing park and ride in this location may encourage people drive to the train at Orakei as a way of avoiding paying a higher fare for travelling from further out. In this way, park and ride at Orakei might undermine revenue (although of course the zone structure may change in the future).

When evaluated against AT’s five main park and ride investment criteria, Orakei Point does not appear to be a suitable location for park and ride. Perhaps the only criteria where there is doubt relates to the potential congestion relief benefits of the P&R. We can, however, do some quick calculations to quantify whether this argument has any merit.

Auckland Council’s GIS viewer suggests land at Orakei Point is valued at approximately $900 per sqm. If we use this land value and assume 30 sqm per car-park, then we get $25,000 per car-park. Let’s round that up to $30k per car-park to allow for some capital depreciation/operating costs. Using this figure within a standard discounted cash-flow model (i.e. 8% discount rate; 30 year lifetime) then we can calculate that a benefit stream of approximately $2,500 per car-park p.a. is required to yield a benefit cost ratio of 1, i.e. to reach economic break-even point.

Now we need to asses the congestion reduction that might follow from providing park and ride in this location.

If we assume vehicles using the Orakei park and ride would otherwise travel to the city centre (i.e. somewhere in the vicinity of Britomart) via Kepa Road and Orakei Drive, then each avoided vehicle trip will save about 5km of driving, or 10km per return trip. If we then annualise this distance by assuming 220 days p.a., then we find that each vehicle diverted to using the park and ride as opposed to driving to the city centre would save about 2,200 vehicle km p.a.

This previous post, however, presented evidence on some of the diversion effects of park and ride. Research in the Netherlands found that only 25% of park and ride users would otherwise drive for their entire journey in the in the absence of park and ride. Instead, many park and ride users were “diverted” from alternative options, such that park and rides caused a net increase in driving in many locations. Post-opening surveys of the Northern Express also found large diversion rates, with only 50% of park and ride users responding that they previously drove to the city centre.

This diversion effect can be incorporated into our calculations by factoring down the vehicle kilometre savings down, by say 50%. This suggests that 1,100 vehicle kilometres p.a. are removed from the road network for every park and ride space provided. If we divide the annual cost ($2,500) by the annual benefit (1,100km), then we find that the cost of removing this travel from the road network is $2.26 per vehicle kilometre. This means that each kilometre removed from the road network by providing park and ride at Orakei has to generate $2.26 in congestion reduction benefits to make the investment worthwhile.

Personally, this seems like an implausibly high congestion reduction benefit to attribute to removing vehicle travel from the road network.

To put it in context, the average journey to work trip by car in Auckland is approximately 10km. Using this per kilometre rate, removing the average journey to work trip by car would generate approximately $23 in congestion savings. And even this relatively high congestion reduction benefit would result in a benefit-cost ratio of only 1.0, i.e. an extremely marginal investment from NZTA’s perspective.

Of course, there may be other benefits from providing park and ride. However, there’s also additional costs.

Remember that some of the people diverted to using the P&R would have otherwise used park and ride elsewhere and/or used a connecting bus. Providing park and ride at Orakei therefore might be expected to increase the congestion generated by these journeys compared to an alternative scenario in which park and ride was not provided at Orakei Point.

Finally, there’s also the longer term land use displacement effect. This reflects how choosing to provide park and ride in this location would tend to reduce the intensity of residential development that could be accommodated at the site. Some of the residents displaced by providing park and ride will likely choose to live further out from the city, in locations where they are even more likely to drive.

In conclusion, based on this back of the envelope assessment Orakei Point does not seem to be a suitable location for park and ride.

That’s not to say, however, that park and ride in other locations might not be worthwhile. Indeed, if we consider our simple benefit-cost analysis then investment in park and ride would seem to make the most sense where: 1) land values are low; 2) vehicle trip distances and long; and 3) it does not compete with non-car access modes.

AT’s surveillance system

Concern erupted yesterday about whether Auckland Transport was going to by effectively spying on us all as part of a new surveillance system they are buying.

Surveillance technology that uses high definition cameras and software that puts names to faces and owners to cars is coming to Auckland.

Surveillance will also include scanning social media and news websites.

Auckland Transport, the regional transport provider, has yet to announce the multi-million dollar deal, but California’s Hewlett-Packard Development Company said today it has the contract.

No dollar sum is given.

They call it a “visionary Big Data” project and in a statement said Auckland has selected HP “to drive groundbreaking future cities initiative”.

With over 2000 cameras deployed across Auckland, the system will use a “HP Intelligent Scene Analysis System” and licence plate recognition for accurate identification.

They will screen for dangerous activities and analyse safety threats across the city.

All the data gathered by the cameras will be processed by HP cloud servers based in Palo Alto, California.

Auckland Transport’s PR department has not confirmed the announcement, but Auckland Transport’s Chief Information Officer Roger Jones is quoted by HP.

“The safety and well-being of our citizens is always our top priority and the Future Cities initiative is a big step in the right direction,” he is quoted saying.

“Only HP could comprehensively deliver the custom solution, expertise and ecosystem at this scale to transform our vision into reality.”

The vast amount of data including text, images, audio and real-time video will be analysed by HP’s system.

“The system will leverage data from a variety of sources, including thousands of security and traffic management cameras, a vast network of road and environmental sensors as well as real-time social media and news feeds,” HP said.

“We are proud to work with such an innovative and forward-thinking government agency like Auckland Transport,” HP’s Big Data group manager Colin Mahony said.

“This comprehensive HP … big data solution will enhance the life of their citizens and will become a model of transport systems for cities around the globe.”

And this video shows what the supposed system is meant to be capable of.

Tracking number plates and individuals across the city is pretty big brother stuff and combined with the data being shipped off to the US it’s pretty easy to see why people are concerned about this. One thing worth pointing out at this time is that all the cameras already exist out on around the city, this project is about the back-end system they are connected to.

Last night AT finally responded to concern on social media about the article saying

They’ve also said the details in the Stuff article are incorrect and that they won’t be using that capability

And this is the article they pointed to that was in the Herald

There are a couple of things very odd about this whole situation and it’s hard to know what the truth actually is. In particular AT say they aren’t using number plate recognition yet the HP press release suggests that the police will in which case the data must be being collected.

In the first phase of the project, Auckland Transport will focus on improving public safety. Law enforcement will use HP Intelligent Scene Analysis System and license plate recognition for accurate identification and scene analysis for dangerous activities and analyzing safety threats from over 2,000 cameras deployed within Auckland. Going forward this information will be linked with rich insight from social media news sources to provide a comprehensive solution that can proactively identify breaking trends and respond to critical safety incidents for cyclists and transport users.

All up it feels like AT are being a bit secretive about what’s happening which is never a good sign and it seems to me that they need to come clean and explain exactly what they are doing if they want to build any semblance of public trust over this.

Unfortunately being secretive about what’s actually happening seems to be a common theme with AT technology projects with the roll out of the HOP system a classic example.

I also note that the council was recently advertising for a new member to sit on the board of directors. In particular they want someone with technology experience which I assume is to help the board actually understand what is going on. As an example, this Business Technology Update going to the board today kind of suggests to me that the IT staff are trying to baffle the board with figures and terminology. To my knowledge the new director hasn’t been appointed yet so hopefully they will be soon.

 

Update: AT have provided this statement

Auckland Transport publicly announced the agreement with HP at its June board meeting. The information was picked up by the NZ Herald which ran a story in July.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11297578

Auckland Transport currently has five video systems which it inherited, this will bring it down to one processing system.

We are not installing new cameras, this is a “back end” system for the approximately 1800 cameras we have access to covering intersections, railway and busway stations. Initially we will be doing a trial using 100 cameras.

The system will be used to monitor traffic flows, vandalism and safety. We will not be using any capability which identifies faces or number plates, our cameras do not have the ability to do that.

Let’s be very clear NO information is being sent to the United States. Information can be stored on our system in Auckland for a maximum of 7 days.

We are working through draft policies with the Privacy Commissioner and will make the policies public before any changes are made.

This is a $2million upgrade of a system we have had for 10 years, there is nothing new here other than that we are going to one processing system and we are introducing some automation.<\blockquote>

Auckland Transport Early October Board Meeting

The Auckland Transport board meeting is on Thursday and below are sections from the various reports that caught my attention.

The first thing I noticed was the huge number of items on the closed agenda with 18 specific items for decision/approval or for noting. The topics include a number of items that I imagine a lot of people would be interested in these include (but are not limited to).

  • Papakura Pukekohe Electrification
  • Auckland Rail Development Implementation Pathway
  • Rail Procurement Strategy – Presumably around the re-contracting of rail services
  • PT Network Name & Bus Livery – there is some more on this later in this post
  • Wayfinding – there is some more on this later in this post
  • CRL Update
  • Mill Road
  • Rail Fleet Disposal Update – What’s going to happen to our old diesel trains post electrification
  • EMU Implementation/Timetable update – there is some more on this later in this post.
  • Bus Development Initiative
  • EW Connections – The infamous East West Link
  • CCFAS2 – This is the first I’ve heard of a second City Centre Future Access Study. Hopefully his is just fixing up the modelling issues in the first version.
  • Newmarket Crossing – The grade separation of the Sarawia St level crossing. AT’s plan was to build a bridge to Cowie St but residents there are challenging the decision in the environment court.

The trend of lots of closed session items continues for the months ahead too according to this document

End of October November December
CCFAS2 Ferry Services Strategy HOP Extension and Loyalty Programme
Integrated Fares Business Case Parking Strategy Digital and Social Media Strategy
PT Security & Fare Evasion Transport Funding Agreement
Bus Service Commercial & Sth Auck Tender Dominion Road
EMU Costings AMETI
Draft RLTP CCFAS2
Customer First Strategy

On to the information that is available and from the business report we have

On specific projects:

  • AT are only just now getting around to talking with locals affected by the alternative cycle route being built as part of the Tiverton/Wolverton upgrade. From memory the alternative cycling route was originally meant to have been completed as one of the first stages of the project but we now have the road finished but the cycling portion yet to start.
  • The new AMETI Link Rd – which has been named Te Horeta Road is almost complete and will open on 1 November. This is the road I highlighted the other day for its unprotected cycleways on what is almost a motorway.
Te Horeta Rd - AT Report

Te Horeta Rd looking South – Looks like there’s already a car in the cycle lane ;-)

  • For the East West Link Connections, AT say an indicative business case has now been completed. In addition to the plans for the Onehunga-Penrose area they say they have also identified some improvements needed to planned bus route between Mangere, Otahuhu and Sylvia Park. Presumably that will mean more bus lanes/priority being added.
  • A separate paper says AT will replace 40,000 of Auckland’s 108,000 street lights with LEDs and a management system for them which allows control over each individual light. It will take place over a 5 year period for a cost of $22 million and over the next 20 years is expected to bring savings of at least $36 million.

Historically AT have travel planning for schools (Travelwise) and for some businesses but never really focused on individuals.

The Birkenhead Personalised Journey Plan ran from April to August 2014. The project recruited 438 commuter car drivers and provided advice on alternative travel options – public transport, carpooling and active modes (including to public transport). Although 76% were aware of the AT HOP card around 30% of recruits had never used public transport for commuting. There were strong perceptions that public transport offered a lesser quality of service and experience than their private car.

The programme was effective in getting participants to try an alternative to driving for their commute, with 61% trying an alternative during the trial period. This was particularly focused for the city bound trips with 86% of completing participants (111 completed full evaluation) trying another travel choice.

The project achieved a 49% reduction in morning peak single occupant trips and 42% reduction in vehicle kilometres in the morning peak. This included an extra 282kms of walking, to destinations or public transport, equating to 5km every week on average per participant and an extra 17,640 public transport trips annually.

The programme achieved a high level of satisfaction with 85% stating they were satisfied or very satisfied with the customer service they received and 60% agreed that the programme had helped them think about their travel options.

A Personalised Journey Planning project is now in development for Titirangi and Green Bay to support the new bus network implementation (which sees higher frequencies and more direct routes).

Getting people to try other ways of getting around is the hardest part so I hope this is something that can eventually be rolled out to a much larger audience.

Not really related to transport other than the impact on the road corridor but about the rollout of Ultra-Fast Broadband AT say

In an effort to reduce the costs of deployment, Chorus are now trialing a new build approach of single sided core network deployment with road crossings being installed to every second house boundary. While this approach is not favored it does provide an upside to AT through less customer and asset disruption. If these road crossings cannot be installed with trenchless technology then deployment is required on both sides of the road.

For PT:

HOP usage increased to 71% of all trips in August, up from 67% in July. I suspect a large part of this was the fare changes in early July which for buses and trains increased cash fares but reduced HOP fares by increasing the HOP discount. They say over 38,000 cards have been sold over the last 90 days. As noted earlier a paper to the board at the next meeting will about the installation of additional gates across the rail system (including potentially security gates). That is the same meeting another report will go to the board with the business case for Integrated Fares.

They say “concept development for 1/3/7 day and customized HOP cards for visitor / tourist PT and tourist attraction discounted access is nearing completion“. I hope this development includes multi day pass options for regular users too. In addition they have come up with “a NRL Nines AT HOP card with discounted tourist attraction passes is targeted for January 2015. This is a collaboration exercise with ATEED and pivots off Auckland visitor research.

A new rail timetable has been approved by all parties which will be implemented in early December and see some substantial changes for the Southern Lines.

The new timetable will provide for full 7-day EMU Manukau via Eastern Line services with increased frequency to 6 trains per hour peak, and 3 trains per hour in the interpeak and off-peak, with weekends at 2 trains per hour. Diesel shuttle services will run an hourly service between Pukekohe and Papakura on Saturdays and Sundays and connect with arriving/departing EMUs at Papakura. Papakura / Pukekohe diesel services will all operate via the Southern Line (via Newmarket) rather than operating an alternating via Southern Line and via Eastern Line. This will improve the customer legibility of the Eastern Line (Manukau) and Southern Line (Papakura / Pukekohe) service patterns and improve resilience and robustness of the timetable.

So effectively will see this service pattern implemented although the off peak/weekend services will need to be increased at or before the new network is launched next year. Disappointingly there is no mention of any service improvements for the Western Line which has seen basically no change for a number of years now.

service-pattern-post-electrification

On the new network, AT say they received over 900 feedback forms for the Hibiscus Coast consultation and nearly 400 on Warkworth. This is in addition to over 1200 people spoken to at consultation events. AT are now working through these. They also say the consultation for all of West Auckland is due to launch on 21 October and is something I’ll be keep a very close eye on seeing as I live in the west.

AT say work is continuing on a series of bus priority measures, which involve both quick wins as well as longer term programmes. There are 16 quick wins and 10 corridors for investigation. Hopefully this means lots more bus lanes around the region soon helping to make buses more efficient, reliable and therefore attractive to the public.

AT are currently testing displaying comparative bus travel times for the Northern Busway and motorway on the motorway signs. This sounds like a fantastic idea and another way to encourage people to give PT a go. The only problem I foresee is that it will lead to even more calls for big and really expensive park n ride facilities.

Also on the real-time front AT will be displaying real-time train departures on ANZ Bank digital displays in both the Customs/Queen and Victoria/Queen branches from early next month. This idea is one that will hopefully be increasingly rolled out to locations near the rail network.

Details about closures to the rail network over Christmas are included in the report. They mention the works needed to build the new Otahuhu Interchange but there’s no mention of why the Western Line will be shut for 2.5 weeks. The network will be shut for the following times

  • Sunday 23 November: diesel trains required to operate on the Manukau via Eastern Line all day replacing EMUs.
  • Saturday 29 November: diesel trains required to operate on the Manukau via Eastern Line all day replacing EMUs.
  • Saturday 6 December: bus replacements south of Penrose and Sylvia Park replacing trains.
  • Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 December: bus replacements south of Penrose and Sylvia Park replacing trains.
  • Thursday 25 December to Sunday 4 January: full network shutdown with bus replacements on all lines.
  • Monday 5 to Sunday 11 January: Western Line only closed between Waitakere and Newmarket with bus replacements. All other lines open.

And saving perhaps the most interesting part till last. AT say they have completed a redesign of bus livery that will be rolled out as part of new contracts with operators. They say they’ve used the EMU livery as the starting point for their designs and the intention is to deliver a consistent look across the modes. This is something we’ve needed for a long time so it’s great that it will be finally happening and will really help in highlighting that we have single integrated PT system rather than the multi coloured mess we have now. On the designs themselves they do feel like evolutions of what we have now on some services which is probably a good thing. I like that they’ve cut back from the massive AT sign that currently exists on the NEX to one that doesn’t obscure the view out the rear windows. It also appears they are planning some large wayfinding signs on the side of the buses which should hopefully help customers.

[Image removed temporarily]

 

It is also the first time I’ve heard about NEX2 and all I can assume is it’s another service pattern on the Busway. Also with AT going for a multi-modal look I wonder if they’ll do anything about the look of the ferries.

Lastly linked to the bus livery AT is looking at improving wayfinding signs. Below is an example of this.

[Image removed temporarily]

 

They say improving wayfinding is an AT led all of council project which presumably means the same types of design will also pop up in other places such as parks.