Guest Post: March Madness Marches On

This is a guest post from reader Stephen Davis and was originally posted here.

Regular readers of TransportBlog will be familiar with March Madness. With workers, students and kids all trying to use public transport simultaneously, it’s the busiest month of the year. In rush hour, trips can take an hour longer. People stand helplessly at bus stops as bus after bus sails by packed to the gunwales, with their headsigns proclaiming “BUS FULL”.

Once you do get on the bus, scenes like this are fairly common. The “no standing” line is completely ignored, and it’s your turn to watch from inside as your bus now leaves other people behind.

Now, Auckland Transport treat this as a temporary, transient thing. It’s a problem for a few weeks, but we can’t afford to run enough buses to solve the problem when we’d only use them for a few weeks of the year. To quote an AT spokesman, “The numbers travelling on buses and trains does increase but settles back again as students work out their schedules. The best advice is to plan ahead and try to travel outside peak times.”

Now you can debate whether that attitude is justified. Our friends at Generation Zero compiled a rather nice report on the issues people reported, and it’s been ignored by Auckland Transport. But at least it’s over now, and those of us who haven’t given up on public transport entirely can at least get on our buses.

Except for one thing: these pictures aren’t from March. They’re not even from peak time. All of them were taken between May and July, this year, after 10am and before 4:30pm.

Welcome to New North Road.

I live in Kingsland, and study at the University of Auckland. I head in and out at all times, peak, interpeak, and evening. So this gives me a good chance to see how the buses are getting used, all day. There’s a lot of students, but the crowds aren’t just timed on the hour as people try to get to lectures. There’s also lots of non-students on the buses, too – judging by the number of beeps on their Hop cards.

The last week is typical. I’ve travelled in during the peak once, and interpeak four times. Of those four, twice I was left behind by a full bus, with the next at least ten minutes behind. Three of the four times it was standing room only. Twice the standing room was in front of the line saying “no standing in front of this line”. And this is at Kingsland, not even the end of the run – so as we go through Eden Terrace, those buses are no longer picking anyone up.

On a personal level, it doesn’t matter too much being a little late. I aim to get in well before lectures so that I’ve got time to do some work. I’m also young and not travelling too far, so standing doesn’t bother me.

But none of this is helping anyone else. Auckland is trying to grow public transport use, but in order to do so it needs to actually have some capacity for growth. We’re also trying to improve the reputation of public transport, and this sort of unreliability isn’t going to convince new people to try it.

So why is the crowding so bad? Have a look at the frequency of buses between Saint Lukes and the city. The hours are the times they arrive at Victoria Park at the end of their routes.

The frequencies are fairly high in the peak from 8-9, naturally, and are still high as late as 11am. But during the middle of the day they drop as low as 3-4 buses per hour. All that needs doing is to extend the frequency of buses throughout the day to be closer to the level during peak: 6 buses per hour or more. That’s what we run on Dominion Road, and less than what runs on Mount Eden Road. Some of the services can also keep running as expresses during the day, for example the 224 which starts all the way in Henderson. If it’s not going to stop in Kingsland anyway, it might as well be called an express.

You can also see that we need to extend bus lane hours and lengths. The few bus lanes along the route end at 9am – but the second-busiest hour, by the number of buses, is 9-10am.

The most infuriating part is that overcrowding off-peak is actually a good problem to have and a relatively easy one to solve. Full buses make money. Adding a new bus is expensive, but we already have them – there’s extra buses running during the peak hours, so all that’s needed is to run them at higher frequency a little longer. That’s good for business. It’s good for drivers, who can avoid split shifts or short shifts. And it’s good for passengers, current and potential.

Increasing frequency off-peak also helps with peak crowding. If the service is more attractive, more people will try to move their travel to avoid the peak.

Solving the overcrowding during the peak and in March is harder. There’s issues with the buses bunching once they get too frequent, for example. It’s going to take double decker buses, more frequency, more bus lanes, and maybe even light rail. But crowding in the interpeak? We could fix that right now, and it’ll make money, not cost money.

June-2016 Patronage

When it comes to public transport patronage, June is always important as it represents the end of the financial year and so also gives up the official annual results for the year. The June results are now available and the result was fairly similar to what we’ve been seeing for a few months now, continued strong growth on the rail network, decent growth on the ferries but with bus numbers relatively stagnant, even after some fairly great growth on the busway services.

All up patronage grew by 4.6% to 82.9 million and I’ve heard that only one other region in NZ experienced growth over the 2015/16 year, which I assume to be Wellington based on the numbers up to May. That’s the highest patronage has been since 1956 – although we obviously had a much lower population then.

1920-2016 Auckland Patronage

The breakdown of the June results is shown below. A couple of things that stand out in particular include:

  • The busway continues to show great growth, good thing we have all of those double deckers on it but perhaps more will be needed soon.
  • Other buses are performing poorly, some more details of which are below.
  • Rail is still performing strongly and the western line is clearly benefiting from the increased peak frequency.

2016-06 - Patronage Table

For a bit more detail, here are some comments from AT’s business paper on the results

Bus 

Bus patronage has grown by a modest +0.7% which is contrary to the general downward trends experienced across New Zealand where Auckland is only one of two systems (18 in total) that have experienced growth. The comparison found after allowing for population changes, the total New Zealand boardings /capita in 2015 declined by 3.2%. This may be compared with increases in 2013 (+1.0%) and in 2014 (+0.4%). The main reasons cited for the 3.2% decline include a real reduction in fuel prices impacting boardings by (-1.5%) and car ownership increase as a result of real price reduction in cars of (-0.8% reduction in boardings). Specifically in Auckland fare elasticity on a single service resulted in (-1.1%) reduction in boardings. In addition there were some unique events affecting Auckland, including disruptions as a result of CRL works and a bus strike earlier in the financial year

2016-06 - Bus Patronage

Rail

Train services totalled 16.8 million passenger trips for the 12-months to June, an increase of +20.6% on the previous year. Patronage for June was 1.5 million, an increase of +17.3% on June 2015. June normalised adjustment ~ 15.5% accounting for special event patronage, with the same number of business days and weekend days/public holiday. Rail patronage during FY16 has continued to grow in line with extra capacity provided by way of a homogenous EMU fleet, improving passenger comfort, punctuality and reliability. An increase in western line peak frequency in May 2016 with timetable improvements in February 2017 should see continued growth in this mode.

2016-06 - Rail Patronage

Ferry

Ferry services totalled 5.9 million passenger trips for the 12-months to June, an increase of +6.2% on the previous year. Patronage for June was 0.41 million, an increase of +9.6% on June 2015. June normalised adjustment ~ 9.6% accounting for special event patronage, with the same number of business days and weekend days/public holiday. Ferry patronage growth of +6.2% has been strong, with Gulf Harbour, Hobsonville and Pine Harbour showing strong growth in line with increased residential development in these areas. Additional sailings by two competing companies on the Waiheke route also saw strong growth both in terms of service trips and patronage. Continued expansion of capacity and further development in these areas

2016-06 - Ferry Patronage

It will be a few months before we see any results but it is going to be fascinating to see just what impact the introduction of Simplified Fares will have on the numbers. Also likely to be having an impact soon will be the introduction of the New Network to South Auckland, due on 30 October.

The recent changes to SuperGold is likely driving some of the changes with HOP usage, as of the end of June AT say 78.2% of all trips used HOP while I understand some days are now seeing well over 80% HOP usage which puts it on par with systems like Brisbane which has had integrated ticketing and fares for about a decade.

2016-06 - HOP Uptake

One area AT have been doing particularly well on has been farebox recovery which has now stormed above 51% to the end of May (it is always two months behind). This is a great result considering that the NZTA require AT to reach a 50% farebox recovery by the end of June 2018, so the recent results should have given them a bit of breathing space. One of the biggest factors has been the significant improvement in the rail result thanks to electrification lowering costs and encouraging more people to use the system. In the coming year a number of things will be impacting this including:

  • Simplified Fares which will see a lot of trips get cheaper, the question is just how much impact it will have, perhaps it will drive enough additional people to use the system to offset some of the costs.
  • The New Network in South Auckland which will considerably improve services while seeing AT also save around $3 million a year in costs.
  • Additional rail service improvements, likely to come early next year should see better off peak and weekend services to tie in with the new network.

2016-06 - Farebox

With a lot of the improvements on the way it’s going to be another interesting year ahead.

 

Auckland PT fares to get a whole lot better

The next revolution of public transport in Auckland now has a date, August 14. That’s the day that the city will finally shed its clumsy and expensive fare system with Auckland Transport finally implementing what they call Simplified Fares, also known as integrated fares, which will be smarter and in many cases cheaper.

Currently Auckland has a stage based system where you pay for every bus, train you use based on how many stages you pass, with only a small transfer discount for those that use multiple services. With Simplified Fares it will shift to paying one fare for your total trip based on how many zones you travel within and that includes using up to five services to get to your destination over a four-hour period. Even better is the cost for most trips is set to get significantly cheaper for a lot of people thanks to the new fare structure.

The confirmed fare map is below and AT say this about it.

Zone overlap areas (grey coloured areas on the new fare zones map) at some zone boundaries allow for travelling to the edge of the zone borders without crossing into another zone.

The zone overlaps are much more defined than they were in the consultation which is good and there are a few new/bigger ones too, such as at Westgate and Otahuhu

Simplified Fares Map

And here is the fare table

With an AT HOP card, you will pay for one entire journey from A to B, instead of paying the fare on each bus or train separately.

During your journey:

  • You can use up to 5 buses or trains within 4 hours, just ensure you transfer between each trip within a maximum of 30 minutes.
  • Tag on and off each bus and train as you do now and simply count the number of zones you travel through to find out your fare.

Simplified Fares - Fare Table

As mentioned for many fares will get cheaper or at least not get more expensive, in fact AT advised me that they calculated 99% of all trips taken will fall into that category which is great news. As an example of just how much cheaper this makes trips, here are a few personal examples. They don’t entirely reflect the costs I pay as I usually use a monthly pass simply due to how expensive it can be but that also makes it a good example.

I live not far from the Sturges Rd train station and travel to Takapuna. This usually involves me catching a train to town and since the bus changes for the CRL transferring to up to two buses, a Northern Express to get me to the Victoria St bus stop where I transfer again to a bus going direct to Takapuna (as an alternative I sometimes catch the NEX to Akoranga and transfer to a local bus or walk). If I was to use normal HOP fares that would be:

  • 5-stage train to Britomart = $6.00
  • 1-stage bus to Victoria Park = $1.30 ($1.80-50c transfer discount) – I could reduce this to $0 if I used the City Link or walked up to Wellesley St but both are less convenient.
  • 2-stage bus to Takapuna = $2.60 ($3.10-50c transfer discount)
  • Total = $9.90

Instead with Simplified Fares I would pay for 4-zones, Waitakere, Isthmus, City and Lower North Shore and all up that would be $6.00. That’s a saving of $3.90. Even if I was just going to the city, for 3-zones I would be paying $4.90, a saving of $1.10 over the current HOP price.

If you don’t use HOP – why wouldn’t you and now over 80% of trips are by HOP – cash fares are changing too. The fares have been rounded to a dollar amount which should help make it easier for drivers needing to give change. See AT’s website for those details.

In addition to the zonal fares, AT have introduced a new child weekend fare which looks good with a maximum trip cost of 99c for using HOP with a child concession.

A new AT HOP child weekend fare will be the most you pay for weekend and public holiday bus and train journeys when paying with an AT HOP card with a child concession applied (excluding SkyBus services).

You can take up to 5 bus or train trips over a 4 hour period with a maximum transfer time of 30 minutes between each trip and pay a maximum 1 zone fare (99 cents from 14 August 2016) regardless of how many zones you cross.

Like the monthly pass, AT are also moving to a single Daily Pass which will cover all zones. It also comes with a price change and will be $18 as opposed to the two passes it replaces being $16 and $22. I can’t imagine too many would buy this. AT have said in the past, and reconfirmed to me recently that they want to eventually move to having daily and weekly fare caps which would solve this issue.

At this stage the new fares only cover buses and trains. I’m aware that AT plan to integrate ferries into the mix although that doesn’t necessarily mean there will be fare parity. We’ll have to wait to hear more about this from AT.

Overall this is going to be great for Auckland and I can’t wait for it to be implemented.

An electric network, one year on

It seems like only yesterday and at the same time forever ago that Auckland finally rolled out electric trains across the region (except for Pukekohe). Yesterday marked one full year since electric trains rolled out to all lines. Electrification was the result of a strategy a decade in the making but the originated in dreams and discussion going back to at least the 1920’s.

Coming to the western line soon

Since going all electric the results have been fantastic and the constant increases in train use have been both impressive and staggering. In the last year alone patronage has gone up by 2.9 million trips and AT say that over the last 12 months just under 17 million trips have been made, an increase of over 20%. The sparks effect in action. The growth has been so strong that we’ve surpassed usage predictions originally set a decade earlier despite implementation occurring two years after initially planned. Those predictions expected us to hit about 15.7 million by the end of the June 2016 (rounded up to 16m). Instead we surpassed that mark in April and as of 30 June hit 16.8 million trips in one year.

2016-06 - Rail Patronage

Shortly after all services went electric, the final of the 57 trains we ordered arrived in the country but it definitely won’t be the last. With growth exceeding expectations and a lot more expected, even before the CRL is complete, we’ll soon need some more.

AT are also keen to having electric trains run all the way to Pukekohe but doing isn’t cheap and estimated at over $100 million just for the infrastructure. As such, AT have been working with supplier of the trains to investigate the option of battery powered versions. As I understand it they would be exactly the same trains as we have with about 10 fewer seats in the middle/trailer car which is where the four-tonne battery along with associated equipment would go. By being otherwise identical it means that in the future if we ever did install wires the batteries could be removed and the trains would be identical to what we already have. As the services would go all the way through to the city, buying a batch of them would then free up some of the current trains to add capacity to services. One of the biggest issues is that even if the government approved funding for the trains tomorrow they would take at least two years to get here.

Below are some figures from AT.

  • Patronage has risen by 2.9 million trips
  • Trains have travelled 3.8 million kilometres over the last year
  • There are now 158,000 rail services operated a year
  • The busiest time on the network is between 7.30 and 8 on weekday mornings
  • Britomart is the busiest station and at peak in the morning there are 6,500 passengers using the station an hour
  • Punctuality for services has improved from 82 to 96 percent – although some of that is due to lengthened timetables
  • For the year to April (the last data available at the time of writing), farebox recovery has increased from 30.4% to 37.7%. The cost per passenger km travelled has decreased 27% from $0.469 to $0.343.

But while there has been some great news as a result of the move to electrification, we still haven’t yet seen much in the way of speed improvements and the train timetables are slower today than they were with diesel trains. This has been due to a combination of factors including dwell times, line speeds, signalling issues etc. Last year Auckland Transport started working on a big list of initiatives to improve the trains including making them faster and more reliable. Some of those tasks have been completed and are contributing to the improved performance figures but others, such as improving dwell times remain a distant dream.

I understand the next timetable change, which is likely to be in February, will finally incorporate the benefits from some of the initiatives into improving performance. Whether that will include any changes to dwell times remains to be seen.

EMU + Rail improvement action plan 1 - Jun - Sep

Overall the improvements to rail services and the network have been considerable and very welcome. AT’s target for this year is for rail patronage to hit 19.5 million trips. With the growth we’re seeing and what can be expected in the next few years following integrated fares and the new network we should see that mark easily reached.

The Full CRL Business Case

Back in April Auckland Transport released a summary of a business case they’d produced for internal use to help with their planning and procurement for the project. The new business case took into account all of the changes to the project that have been made over the years as well as AT’s improved understanding of the project and other changes within Auckland. The business case found the project has a Benefit Cost Ratio of 1.6-1.7 thanks to $2.96 – $3.2 billion in benefits coming from the project.

CRL Benefits graphic

Last week the herald triumphantly announced that the cost of the CRL had blown out by a cool $500 million up to $3 billion but as I wrote following that article, the actual cost was $2.5 billion +/-20%. So it could be that when tendered the project comes in lower than currently expected. The cost blowout was overblown. While looking at some details for that article, I found that Auckland Transport had actually published the full business case online (8MB), not just the summary like they had earlier.

While the summary was useful, the full business case contains a lot of information and so with this post I thought I’d have a look at some of it.

The first thing that I noticed is the report pulls a lot of history and previous reports together as part of explaining why the project so important. Perhaps one day I’ll do a post in more detail about this info but if not, I’m sure it will be a useful resource for students and studies in the future.

Construction

The diagram below can take a bit to understand but shows roughly where, when and how construction will take place across the entire project.

CRL Business Case - Construction Time Diagram

Related to construction, this comment caught my eye as part of talk of altering some designations (page 50).

Changes to provide for the relocation of ventilation equipment at Aotea Station to Kingston Street and the associated relocation of the Bluestone Wall (approximately 3m to east)

I’m guessing in part this is about providing better footpaths along this part of Albert St.

This diagram shows the cross section for the bored tunnels. They say it needs an indicative internal tunnel diameter of 6.24m.

CRL Business Case - Tunnel Diameter

CRL Capacity

The report gives an indication as to the capacity the rail network will have once the CRL is built.

Once the principal constraint has been addressed, with the CRL turning Britomart into a through station, it will be possible to run up to 24 services per hour, each way, through the Link, with initial plans for 18 services per hour in the peaks. Ultimately, advanced systems and further investment might see that figure rise to 30 services per hour.

Currently Britomart is limited to 20 trains arriving per hour so we go from that to 36 an hour with the CRL initially and up to 24 in the future while we might eventually get up to 30 an hour. They say that whilst the actual operating plan will be confirmed closer to the opening date, the running pattern below is what they used for planning and modelling purposes.

Post CRL running pattern at start

They’ve say the planning is based modelled demand and capacity needed for each line. The western line is used as an example:

Figure 13 below shows as an example how train capacity was matched against predicted demand by decade by line, in this case the Western Line for 2023. The capacity line represents 6 tph x 3 car service starting from Swanson, 3 tph x 3 car service starting from Henderson and a 3 tph x 3 car peak overlay starting from Henderson. Similar analysis was carried out for other lines and decades.

and

Over time, as demand increases, as the fleet size is increased, an increasing number of trains can be lengthened to 6 car operation, and the span of operation of the peak overlay can increase from 1 hour to 3.

CRL Business Case - Western Line Demand and Capacity

This suggests the plans are to only run 3-car trains at the opening of the CRL. As covered later, I think they’re underestimating just how popular the CRL will be and given we already have 6tph, some of which are 6-cars in length, and on some services they’re getting full I think AT will need to revisit this. I’m also personally unhappy that despite the CRL there is no service improvement past Henderson (or at Manukau).

One last interesting comment on this, they say “until sufficient level crossings are addressed on the western line, a Henderson – Otahuhu service has no capacity to operate”.

Patronage Modelling

There has been a lot of modelling on patronage – although like most previous predictions we’ve seen I think they’re on the low side. The CRL will be transformational and change like that is hard to correctly predict when using models that are based on current habits.

The table below shows the current and predicted AM peak trips to the city (CRL includes the three CBD stations).

CRL Business Case - AM Peak Rail Arrivals in City

It is expected that about 40% of that growth (green) comes from people otherwise using buses (but they may still use a bus to get to a station), the remainder is from new trips or those who would otherwise have driven. I’m a bit sceptical about just how much impact the CRL will have for buses as from memory Britomart was meant to decimate bus usage but it has grown too. Also the table below shows where patronage is expected to change. It seems unlikely that some of those routes will see any impact at all, for example on Richmond Rd.

CRL Business Case - Patronage Change

As part of the modelling, the future patronage projections were updated to reflect the surge in usage we’ve been seeing in the last few years – but only for the short term and so they decided to leave the long term predictions unchanged. They say that “it is clear that this is highly conservative” and my gut feeling is that after opening we’ll quickly see usage rise to hit 45 million rail trips a decade or more sooner than they suggest. The biggest limiting factor is likely to be that we won’t have enough trains due to the wrong modelling saying they aren’t needed yet.

CRL Business Case - Overall Rail Patronage

Development

The summary document talked about how just within the CRL footprint there was 4.9ha of developable land with a potential floor space of 210,000m² to 250,000m² and which has an estimated value of $1.2-$1.4 billion. The business case also looks wider development across the city enabled by the CRL. They say modelling suggests the CRL will increase the feasibility for new dwellings within rail station catchments by 41% from about 40,000 to around 57,000. It’s also worth noting that the Mt Eden figure excludes the land counted earlier as part of the CRL footprint.

CRL Business Case - Resi development feasibility by rail station

Economics

As mentioned the CRL has a BCR of 1.6-1.7 depending on the growth scenario and using the standard NZTA evaluation manual. That BCR stacks up even under higher discount rates and cost sensitivity testing.

CRL Business Case - BCRs

CRL Business Case - BCR range

For those economist types, the report breaks down all of the various components of the benefits that have been calculated.

Costs

The table below shows the capital costs of the CRL inflated to the expected dollars of the day.

CRL Business Case - CAPEX

This shows the costs by year

CRL Business Case - CAPEX by year

Operating costs are estimated at around $50m per annum when the project opens rising to nearly $80 million by 2046. As a comparison, last I saw we spend around $100 million on running trains in Auckland and the report suggests that due to the CRL providing shorter routes there will be savings on the running costs outside of the tunnel. The estimate that in the first year there will be around $20 million in additional fares from the CRL but that will also be related to the anaemic growth they expect.

CRL Business Case - OPEX

 

Overall I thought there was some fascinating additional information within the business case.

Mangere and Otahuhu bus stop upgrades planned

With implementation of the new bus network in South Auckland coming up in October, Auckland Transport are consulting on the designs for the bus station in Mangere Town Centre and the bus stops in the Otahuhu Town Centre. Both of these improvements are also being classed as part of the East-West Link Connections project. Both upgrades are due to start in August and be finished in October.

The two stations have been major advocacy projects for the Māngere-Otahuhu Local Board says Māngere –Ōtāhuhu Local Board Chair, Lemauga Lydia Sosene.

“Both projects are significant milestones for the community and it is great to see them getting underway.”

“These high quality projects will help deliver safer, more practical and connected local bus services and complement other works underway in both centres to improve and rejuvenate the local communities.”

Mangere

“The new station in Māngere will be extended to accommodate seven parked buses (two more than currently), new shelters to extend the covered passenger area and a covered connection to Māngere Town Centre. It will also include a toilet adjacent to the bus shelter, new cycle racks, an additional westbound lane for traffic and paving and landscaping of the area around the bus station.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the area, here’s where the town centre is and the area affected is shown in yellow.

Mangere Town Centre Bus Station Upgrade - Location

And here’s what’s planned for the town centre

Mangere Town Centre Bus Station Upgrade - Plan

Mangere Town Centre Bus Station Upgrade - Plan 2

The shelter and other station amenity upgrades are good however there are a few things that appear to be changing that AT haven’t mentioned. Most notable is that there now appears to be two westbound lanes rather than just the one that currently exists. In addition, the cycle lane appears to have moved to the outside of the bus station and is just a line of paint. It’s crazy that in this day we still have AT staff proposing crap, even more so that AT currently have an active project trying to improve walking and cycling connections to the town centre, including using protected cycleways. Our friends at Bike Auckland have more to say on this too.

Here’s what it currently looks like from Google Street View.

Mangere Town Centre Bus Station Upgrade - current

 

Otahuhu

In Ōtāhuhu the existing bus station on Avenue Road will close. It will be replaced by new bus stops and bus shelters installed on both sides of Avenue Road, retaining a familiar bus stop location for existing passengers.

In October, many south Auckland buses will travel between the town centre and the new bus station at Ōtāhuhu train station.

Once again, the area affected is shown in yellow

Otahuhu Centre Bus Upgrade - Location

And here’s what’s planned

 

Otahuhu Centre Bus Upgrade - Plan

Otahuhu Centre Bus Upgrade - Plan 2

It’s not clear what’s happening with the old Otahuhu Bus Station but I believe it is privately own by Infratil so I’m guessing it will be developed or sold. These new stops are likely to be fairly busy with a couple of frequents and other services passing through on their wait to or from the Otahuhu Bus/Train interchange. In some ways it’s a little suprising that AT didn’t just turn this short section of road into a transit mall given there are a number of other nearby streets that can handle general traffic. That would have also allowed for cycle lanes on this street for people to use to access the station

 

Auckland Transport are going to hold two information days about the upgrades:

Ōtāhuhu
11am to 2 pm, Thursday, 14 July 2016 and Saturday, 16 July 2016 – Toia, (Community Centre), Mason Ave, Ōtāhuhu

Māngere
11 am to 2 pm, Tuesday, 19 July 2016 and Friday, 22 July 2016 – Māngere Town Centre

 

 

CRL Cost Blowout Overblown

On Saturday the Herald proclaimed that the cost of the City Rail Link had blown out by $500 million which came on the heels of Prime Minister John Key saying that the project will “almost certainly cost more than they thought

The cost of Auckland’s most expensive project – the $2.5 billion City Rail Link (CRL) – has jumped to more than $3b.

Auckland Transport chief executive David Warburton says the project needs more money in the rail network that could easily take the “combined project cost” above $3b.

He understood that Prime Minister John Key was referring to additional investment in the rail network when he claimed last month the CRL will “almost certainly cost more than they thought”.

The article also quotes some unnamed sources, presumably from the government, claims extra work is needed for the CRL

A second source said that a “bit more rigour and discipline” since the Government had agreed to bring forward a business plan had identified work that should have been costed in the first place.

Aotea Station Design Platform Mar - 16

Of course it didn’t take long for the three councillors who have consistently opposed improvements to the city to jump on board and claim they predicted doom and gloom all along.

Confirmation by Auckland Transport that the cost of the City Rail Link will undoubtedly rise to over $3 billion does not surprise three Auckland councillors who recently wrote to the Auditor-General outlining their concerns about the project and urging the Office of the Auditor-General to ensure a close oversight. The trio now wonder what the ‘no go’ point is with the CRL.

It equally didn’t take long for Auckland Transport to (unusually) get in touch and tell me that the article was wrong and that they’d be making a formal complaint about it. They later provided me with the information David Warburton sent Orsman who seems to have confused and conflated a couple of issues.

Firstly, AT say the estimated price of the project remains $2.5 billion but the crucial aspect is that they say it has always been the centre of a range that could be +/- 20% – in other words they say it will cost between $2 billion and $3 billion depending on how tendering goes. It seems that Orsman and the herald have only taken the upper limit of this range to fit their narrative. They also say that “recent tenders for large civil works contracts in NZ have come in at 10% to 15% under the initial QS estimate“. They won’t actually give any examples of these projects though, saying their “pricing analysis is to assist in competitive indexing“. They also claim that the only people to benefit from claiming the prices have gone up are the those tendering for the work “creating an environment of high price expectation“. The CRL business case estimated the impact of the cost increasing by 20% and shows that even if that happens, the BCR drops from around 1.6 to 1.3, conversely if costs dropped by 20% the BCR rises to 1.9. This is shown below with the figures in 2015 $.

CRL Business Case - BCR range

Secondly, the CRL will unlock a lot of potential capacity across the entire rail network, that is after all the purpose of it. That doesn’t mean it’s the only thing that’s needed and it was already known that over time other improvements are needed. This includes things such as signalling upgrades, removal of level crossings, additional cross overs, the third main south of Westfield and many other improvements. Many of these were detailed in this presentation Kiwirail gave to the council’s infrastructure committee last year. Not all of these other improvements are likely to be needed on day one of the CRL and many will be things that can progressively be done over the years following the completion of the CRL to increase capacity of the rail network to its full potential. It seems that deciding which of these projects should or shouldn’t as part of the costs of the CRL is still being decided. On this, Warburton said

My understanding is the PM was referring CRL as part of the wider rail investment and there will be additional investment in the network to optimize the CRL work. One can easily discuss this as a combined project cost over the life of the project being above $3b. It simply depends on scope, pricing and how projects are related to CRL. That’s not equivalent to what I understood you/your informant were implying.

KR - Infrastructure Committee - Spending Needed

Of course splitting up projects into smaller chunks, some of which are completed later is nothing new and it happens all the time in other areas. One such example is the Waterview Connection and the Western Ring Route. The Waterview Connection project only covers the extension of SH20 from Maioro Rd, the tunnels and the Waterview interchange and is costed at $1.4 billion. Not included in that is the cost widening (and raising) of the SH16 causeway to handle the traffic or any of the other projects along SH16 to cope with the expected traffic demand. Those projects bring the total to over $2.4 billion and if you include the other projects from recent years needed to complete the Western Ring Route, that raises the cost to $4 billion. The image below is something I put together a few years ago so some figures will be out of date.

WRR Costs

So it seems this news by the Herald is the result of a number of factors but the actual situation hasn’t actually changed. The cost remains $2.5 billion as it has been for some time and as there were before, there are a number of other rail upgrades that will be needed over time.

But I also think that AT really haven’t helped themselves in how they’ve handled this issue. Given just the political posturing they should have known this would have come up but especially so since the Prime Ministers comments. Instead they seem to have deemed it all a non-story and so have let it run with not much done to challenge it. The responses to the Herald suggest a lack of cohesive and clear messaging which only adds to the confusion. It is also very difficult to find much, if any useful information about the project on the on the AT website, most of what is there is useless fluff or out of date. AT would help themselves if they were more open about the project and if the website was more useful.

Key unlocks Quay St

Aucklands newest and one of its most prominent cycleways was opened this morning on Quay St by John Key along with transport minister Simon Bridges, Mayor Len Brown and a host of other officials. The opening was certainly helped by the thunderstorms of we had overnight easing and the clouds even parting to make for a calm winter morning.

John Key, Simon Bridges, Len Brown and AT Chairman Dr Lester Levy all spoke before the ribbon was cut. I thought all spoke well about the need for us to develop integrated networks that are safe for all and not mixed with other vehicles like cars and buses. Lester also put his health hat on reminding people that on top of the transport benefits of being about to move a lot more people in the same about of space, those cycling also tend to be healthier which has benefits to the health system.

After the speeches it was time to cut the ribbon and for officials to take a ride.

Quay St Cycleway Opening 1

Like other cycleways, AT have installed cycleway counters but for the first time they’ve also added a visible counter so everyone can see how many people have passed every day and year.

Quay St Cycleway Opening 2

I suspect this will quickly become the busiest cycleway in Auckland. Before and even during the speeches there were cyclists passing by on a fairly frequent basis.

Quay St Cycleway Opening 3

As part of the project the entry to the port has also been made safer.

Congratulations to everyone involved in making this project happen..

Here’s the official release from AT on it which also highlights that there are a couple of consultations for other major project coming up soon including Ian McKinnon Dr later this month.

Auckland’s waterfront will be an improved urban space and an even busier cycle route following the opening of the Quay St Cycleway today.

The Prime Minister, Transport Minister Simon Bridges, Mayor Len Brown and a large group of people on bikes, were the first to use the city centre’s newest cycleway. The opening was preceded by a dawn blessing with Iwi representatives.

A new cycle counter on the promenade, a first for Auckland, will highlight the number of people cycling along one of Auckland busiest routes.

On the waterfront side of Quay St, the 1km, two way cycleway goes from Princes Wharf at Lower Hobson St to Plumer St. The $2.18m cycleway is being delivered by Auckland Transport and has local funding and an investment from the Government through NZ Transport Agency and the Urban Cycleways Programme.

It will benefit everyone who spends time at the waterfront and will encourage more people to start cycling into the city centre says Kathryn King, Auckland Transport’s Cycling and Walking manager.

“Having a dedicated cycleway like this means there is more space on the promenade for people to walk and enjoy the harbour views. The planter boxes, which provide protection from traffic, improve this wonderful space by adding some greenery.

“The cycle route into the city centre along Tamaki Dr is the busiest route in Auckland, and this will make cycling from the east even more attractive. Providing a protected cycleway on Quay St gives people working in the downtown area greater travel choice and an excellent cross-town route that avoids a lot of city traffic.”

Mayor Len Brown says it’s another important chapter in his vision for Auckland as the world’s most liveable city as it transforms the city centre into a pedestrian and cycle friendly destination.

“This project is another example of Auckland Council, Auckland Transport and the Transport Agency working well together to achieve a great outcome.”

Bike Auckland, chair, Barbara Cuthbert says the cycleway is a great addition to downtown Auckland. “It’s hugely exciting to have a safe separated space for people cycling and those walking close to rail and ferry services.”

Map QuaystThe three-metre-wide cycleway connects with the Beach Rd Cycleway at Britomart Pl and by the end of 2018 will link with the Nelson St Cycleway and Westhaven to City Cycleway at Princes Wharf and the Tamaki Dr Cycleway.

When phase two of Nelson St Cycleway is constructed next year, the city centre cycle loop will be complete. This loop includes Lightpath, Nelson St, Grafton Gully, Beach Rd and Quay St cycleways.

Auckland Transport is working with project partners Auckland Council and the Government through the NZ Transport Agency and the Urban Cycleways Programme on a $200m programme of cycle improvements from 2015 to 2018.

Quay St Cycleway

  • The Quay Street Cycleway is delivered by Auckland Transport and is one of the projects funded in the 2015-18 Urban Cycleways Programme (UCP).
  • Auckland Transport is working with project partners Auckland Council and the Government through the NZ Transport Agency and the Urban Cycleways Programme on a $200m programme of cycle improvements from 2015 to 2018.
  • The UCP involves central government partnering with local government to accelerate the delivery of $333 million of key cycle projects around New Zealand over the next three years
  • The $2.18 million cycleway is funded from $0.70M Central Government, $0.75M National Land Transport Fund, $0.73 million Auckland Transport. This project is part of the wider Auckland city centre package project announced through the Urban Cycleways Programme.
  • The one kilometre long, three metres wide, two-way cycleway goes from Princes Wharf, Lower Hobson to Plumer St. The majority of the route is on-road, physically protected from traffic with concrete separators (similar to Nelson St Cycleway) and planter boxes.
  • This cycleway connects with the existing shared path on Quay St in the east. By 2018 AT will have delivered another cycleway that will connect Quay St Cycleway at Plumer St with the start of the Glen Innes to Tamaki Dr Shared Path at Hobson Bay. People will be able to cycle and walk from Glen Innes to the city centre.
  • Beach Rd Cycleway connects with Quay St at Britomart Pl allowing people to cycle all the way to the Northwestern Cycleway via Beach Rd Cycleway and Grafton Gully Cycleway.In the west, people can now cycle over Te Wero Bridge to Wynyard Quarter and around the Viaduct. Ultimately it will connect with Westhaven Dr to City Cycleway and Nelson St Cycleway when they are completed in 2017.
  • When Nelson St Cycleway phase two is complete next year, a city centre cycle loop will be complete including the pink Lightpath, Grafton Gully Cycleway, Beach Rd Cycleway and Quay St Cycleway. The project team is currently working on how best to connect Nelson St Cycleway (which currently ends at Victoria St) with Quay St Cycleway.

Cycling in Auckland by numbers

  • 750 cycle trips per day on pink Lightpath since it opened December
  • A doubling of the number of people cycling into the city over three years.
  • 50% increase in people cycling in Symonds St/Grafton Gully corridor following opening of Grafton Gully Cycleway in 2014
  • 20% increase in people cycling on Northwestern Cycleway in May 2016 compared with May 2015.

Upcoming cycle projects in Auckland

  • Mangere Future Streets opening late September
  • Mt Roskill Safe Routes opening late October
  • Ian McKinnon Dr Cycleway public consultation starts July
  • Karangahape Rd Streetscape Enhancement and Cycleway public consultation by August.
  • Great North Rd Cycleway public consultation by the end of 2016.

A deadline for PT improvement

Auckland is in the midst of the most transformational change to public transport the city has seen since the trams were ripped out in the 1950’s – and I’m not even talking about the City Rail Link. Much of the change is the result of strategies set a decade or more ago but which have only really started to be implemented in the last few years. Once complete they represent the laying of foundations upon which we can build public transport to a level Aucklanders expect and can start to be proud of and with this, projects like the CRL will never be as successful as they could be. The changes are both public facing and behind the scenes with some of the main ones being:

  • Integrated Ticketing
  • Integrated Fares
  • Rail network improvements
    • Double tracking the western line
    • Reopening the Onehunga Line
    • Building the Manukau line
    • Station upgrades
    • Electrification
  • New contracting model (PTOM)
  • New Bus Network

Some of these are already completed while others are due to start rolling out soon, for example integrated ticketing first started rolling out in 2011 while integrated fares are due to go live on 31 July. The results from the initiatives that have rolled out so far have been impressive. Overall, annual patronage in the last decade has increased by nearly 32 million trips a year from around 51 million in 2006 to nearly 83 million as of the end of May. Despite rapid population growth, per capita usage has increased by around 14 trips per person per year up to nearly 52 – although that is still low by international standards.

2016-05 - Total Patronage

The biggest aspect yet to be implemented is the new network with the first part in the South due to roll out in October. The West was tendered for recently and AT are currently evaluating the responses at the moment but the other parts of the network aren’t due to roll out till next year or even early 2018. The timings below come from AT’s latest Board Report.

Oct 2015: Hibiscus Coast bus service design implemented

Oct-2016: South bus service design implemented

May-2017: West bus service design implemented

Aug-2017 to Feb-18: North, Central and East bus service design implemented

Getting to the point of the post, I feel Auckland Transport need to impose upon themselves a deadline of around 14 months to get all of these changes implemented.

There are few reasons for this. First and foremost, the sooner we get the new network rolled out, the sooner we can start to reap the benefits from it but there’s now another reason too. Last week the government announced the date for the next census as Tuesday 06 March 2018.

The census is important as the results are used heavily in many analyses’ for projects and policies as it’s the only to get detailed journey and mode data across the entire (working) population. With Auckland in particular changing so rapidly, being able to show that through the census results is important. As one example, the last census in 2013 revealed that as a change in modal share, PT and active modes in Auckland were all improving and given the results we’ve seen I’d expect that to continue from the 2018 results.

modeshare-change-percent

The data has also been used to create interactive results like the commuter view, allowing you to click on an area unit and and see where people are coming from or going to for work.

Census Journey to Work - Auckland Central West and East

Maximising the outcome for PT and active modes represents a great opportunity for AT to show how the city is changing and it’s one I think they should be looking to take which is why I think they need to set a deadline to get as many PT improvements in place prior to that time.

But why only allow 14 months, that only takes us to about September 2017. The main reason for choosing that date is that it’s about 6 months prior to census day. Having everything implemented by then would therefore allow users to adjust and get used to the changes and new ones to start to take advantage of them. We know from overseas that these types network changes often result in an initial reduction in patronage but they achieve stronger growth over time as new users try the changes and adapt to them. Conversely, holding off changes till after the census is also not a great idea as it will mean the network isn’t operating as well as it should be and patronage growth wouldn’t be as strong as a result. AT need to find the goldilocks zone.

On top of just rolling out the new network by that point there are a couple of other things they need to have sorted by then.

The census takes place in March which we know is traditionally the busiest month of the year for the transport system. In the last few years we’ve seen repeated issues with buses being overcrowded resulting in people sometimes needing to wait for up to 12 to go past before one with enough space turns up. While the new network will address some of that, on top of setting that up they’ll need to be working with operators to have extra capacity provided during that time. Unfortunately given the lead in times it will be too late to do anything to get extra trains in so there are likely to be some busy trains by that point.

AT will also need to get moving on getting more physical infrastructure rolled out to support the new network, this includes upgraded bus lanes or other bus priority, improved stops and signage etc. In essence they need work on ensuring there are significant improvements to the customer experience.

For one more reason why it’s important, previously the census has only asked about journey to work which excluded a lot of trips, especially PT trips by students. Following consultation it’s appears quite likely that Stats NZ will add to the census a question about journey to education which should give a much more relevant picture of transport use.

What do you think, is it time for AT to put some harder deadlines in place in advance of the census?

AT’s “It’s All Go” campaign

With Auckland’s newest high profile cycleway opening on Friday, Auckland Transport have launched a new website to highlight the cycleways that exist or are coming to the central city over the next couple of years along with a PT inspired network map.

AT Central City Cycling Metro Map

‘It’s all go’ for cycling in Auckland

A new transport map is set to become as recognisable to Aucklanders as the Tube map is to Londoners. Auckland’s cycle network map will be a tool to help Aucklanders plan their journeys and illustrates how we’re improving travel choice to the city says Kathryn King, Auckland Transport, Cycling and Walking Manager.

“Today we have launched our campaign with a video clip of people riding on Auckland’s cycleways. The objective is to let Aucklanders know about the city’s fantastic new and proposed cycle routes. Working with the Government and other partners, we are building 52km of new cycleways by the end of 2018.”

“The pink Lightpath has proved hugely popular and we’ve seen big growth in the number of people cycling into the city.

People are switching to cycling as a mode of transport because it provides them certainty of travel time, it saves them money and it’s a great form of exercise,” she says.

“We are opening Quay St Cycleway on 8 July and later in the year we will be opening cycle routes in Mt Roskill and Mangere. In the coming months we will be seeking feedback from the public on a number of cycle projects including improvements on Ian McKinnon Dr, Great North Rd and Karangahape Rd.”

“Local research tells us that, a large number of Aucklanders would commute into the city by bike if there were more protected cycleways. This programme of improvements will be transformational for Auckland’s transport network,” she says.

Auckland Transport, Auckland Council and the Government through NZ Transport Agency are working on a $200 million programme of cycle improvements in Auckland by the end of 2018. Significant funding has come from Urban Cycleways Programme – a partnership between Local and Central Government to accelerate key cycle projects throughout the country.

As part of the campaign they’ve released this clip

I’ve seen some criticise as being not very representative of Auckland with all of the people young, white and fit

In addition, AT have also released a book which looks at what was achieved in Auckland in for cycling in 2015 along with a number of facts and figures about cycling in Auckland.

The Auckland Cycling Account 2015

As mentioned, the cycleway on Quay St opens on Friday following an official ceremony. Finishing touches are still going in but here’s what it looked like on Sunday afternoon. When finished it will be a welcome addition to the city centre.

Quay St buffer before opening