This post is a bit late as I’m busy working though last week’s competition post so we can announce a winner soon.
For the first time ever this weekend we will have trains running all through the night – although only hourly and only in one direction (away from the city). These night trains are on top of additional services to help make it easier for people to get to and from Christmas in the Park and coincides with a time when many people are also often out for events like work Christmas functions. It’s an interesting move by Auckland Transport and one I hadn’t expected them to even consider, at least not until the new electric trains are up and running. Is it perhaps a glimpse at what we might expect to see in the future?
Get all of the details about extra trains and buses from here.
Below is an example of the outbound western line timetable showing the services all though the night and also showing some a frequency between 10 and 11 that is better than what we have during the peak at the moment.
It’s also worth pointing out that there is a complete liquor ban at Christmas in the Park this year so best to leave the beer or wine at home if you plan on attending.
This is not to be confused with an article in the herald yesterday about extra trains and buses being trialled to coincide with the introduction of new alcohol laws which will require bars to close at 4am.
More trains and buses will be running in Auckland when new drinking laws begin next week.
The special early trains on Saturday and Sunday are a trial to coincide with the sweeping changes the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act will bring from December 18.
Auckland Transport says bus services will also run all night on the Northern Busway – but a final decision on whether they are permanent will depend on demand.
Thousands of revellers are expected in the central city on December 20, the last Friday before Christmas and the first after the changes come into effect.
Several sources within the hospitality industry have told the Herald they are concerned about transport options available for what is considered the busiest night of the year.
From next Wednesday, all on-licence premises will have to be closed by 4am and there will be a lower tolerance for intoxicated patrons. If drunks are found to be in bars, the licensee faces a $5000 fine.
The details in the herald article aren’t clear but AT have provided me with this info explaining what extra services are being run.
The normal Niterider services will operate overnight on the 20/21 December as they do every weekend: http://www.maxx.co.nz/info/how-to-travel/take-the-bus/niterider-services.aspx
In addition we will be operating special early trains on both the Saturday and Sunday morning from Britomart.
- 5.03 am on the western line
- 5.11am on the eastern and southern line to Manukau
- 5.36am southern line to Papakura.
Bus services on the Northern Busway will operate all night.
I so wonder how many people will actually use the services however I think it is good that AT are at least trialling this. It hopefully bodes well for the future where PT is seen as a real option for a wide range of trips, not just about getting people to the CBD at peak times.
Some good news, Auckland Transport has now confirmed what the new bus network for South Auckland will look like following on from the consultation a few months ago. Here is the press release.
Auckland Transport has released its final New Network for bus services in South Auckland.
This follows public consultation earlier this year which resulted in more than 1100 submissions and three petitions. Overall, 56 per cent of submitters supported the proposed New Network and 22 per cent were opposed.
By far the most commonly mentioned positive attribute of the New Network was the proposed increase in service frequencies. Participants felt this would mean less waiting at bus stops, and faster journey times, especially during the weekend.
Public Transport Network Manager, Anthony Cross says he is pleased with the level of support and public interest in the New Network.
“Overall people got what the New Network is all about. Many submitters raised some valid concerns and made suggestions about our proposals. Of the 28 original proposed routes within the south Auckland area, we are making changes to 20 of those routes.
“In addition we are creating one new route and retaining a limited express service from Papakura to the CBD. As a result of consultation feedback there are 30 routes under the final South Auckland New Network.
Along with analysing the public submissions a team of public transport planners went out driving the routes in buses to clarify issues raised.
“On such a large scale as this we understand the final routes will not please everyone but we believe we have genuinely listened to what people said. We have had to make some trade-offs, we took things on board and where necessary or possible we made changes to improve the network to suit people’s needs, says Mr Cross.
Implementation of the routes is currently planned for mid-2015, subject to their affordability as determined by the tendering of bus services, and completion of the Otahuhu bus-train Interchange and other important infrastructure. New Network timetables will be available approximately two months prior to implementation to allow people time to plan their travel. A comprehensive public information campaign will also be carried out prior to any services changing.
For a copy of the final summary consultation report go to www.aucklandtransport.govt.nz/newnetwork
Under the New Network, Auckland Transport is moving to a simpler and more integrated public transport network. This will deliver a network of buses and trains that will change the way people travel – including the need for some passengers to transfer at key interchanges. In return it will allow more passengers to simply ‘turn up and go’ rather than planning trips around a timetable. It will offer flexible travel options over large parts of the city, making public transport more useful for a range of travel purposes.
The current bus network is considered complex, mostly infrequent and in many places, duplicates what trains do. It is inefficient to operate and does not always provide a suitable alternative to the car, or give ratepayers, taxpayers and customers the best value for money.
This new frequent network will have trains and buses timetabled at least every 15 minutes from 7am to 7pm, seven days a week. They will be supported by a network of connector routes and local and peak services.
Due to the large scale of change; consultation and implementation for Auckland’s New Network has been broken into several phases, starting with South Auckland, which was the focus of this consultation. Other parts of Auckland will be consulted over the next few years.
To get 56% of people support the proposal is fairly impressive when you consider how much change was being proposed and these types of consultations often only bring out people who like things the way they are, especially when it involves how they get around the city. I think it is a credit to Auckland Transport as to how well they conducted the consultation, not only explaining what was changing but why things needed to change. By comparison recent consultation in Brisbane consisted largely of just saying what routes were changing without any real explanation as to why and as such it saw a lot of negative submissions leading to the changes not going ahead. In saying that I’m sure there were things that AT could have done better but I’m sure they will learn from that for next round that they do.
Almost all routes from the original proposal have had changes of some sort. Most appear to be fairly minor consisting of small diversions which will add some travel time in return for more coverage. An example of this is below with the original proposal on the left and the final version on the right. In this case the 325 will now take a loop around Tennessee Ave and Blake Rd instead of the faster and more direct Farmer St.
Thankfully these little loop additions have only been made to the secondary or local network routes with the Frequent networks remaining more direct. Two of the frequent routes have seen changes though. In the original proposal two of the routes, the 31 and 33 split into lower frequency routes for part of their journey. Following the consultation they have both had one leg of their route upgraded to frequent status with the other leg being run as a separate service. AT are also retaining a peak only express bus service from Papakura, this is something we saw a few people commenting on here about – although the current service runs all the way from Pukekohe. However AT does say that the retention of the service is transitional and will be reviewed again in the future once the new network, electrification and integrated fares have all been in for a reasonable amount of time.
Here is the map of what was originally consulted on:
And here is the final version:
It’s really great to finally have this stage of the process finished however if I have one concern it is that we won’t be seeing any changes till mid-2015, over 1½ years away and is subject to infrastructure like the new Otahuhu interchange which is just being consulted on now. Slippages in that infrastructure and/or funding constraints could have the risk of further delaying the roll-out of these key changes.
Lastly there is the report analysing the feedback AT received. I won’t delve into it too much as this post is already long enough however I found the following two charts really interesting. 31% of all respondents said the new network would encourage them to use PT more compared to 36% saying it would make no difference and 22% saying they would use it less with 11% unsure. Of the 31% who would use it more the following reasons were given.
This is unsurprising and as Jarrett Walker says, Frequency is Freedom. People are obviously responding to this. On the other side are those that said they won’t use the new network more often with transfers highlighted as the biggest concern.
All up I think the new network is a really positive development and I can’t wait for it to be implemented, not just in the south but across the entire city.
An intriguing joint media release from NZTA and Auckland Transport emerged on Monday afternoon – highlighting a different approach to community consultation from the two transport agencies on the East West Link project going forward:
The NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport are asking community groups to help the two organisations find the best transport solutions to better link an economically growing south-west and south-east Auckland.
Existing transport in this important area – which includes Auckland International Airport, Mangere, Otahuhu, Onehunga, Penrose and East Tamaki – is already inadequate and with projected job growth there will be increasing pressure to better manage that increasing demand.
“We know that there are community concerns about a potential motorway solution, but there are a number of ways in which we can meet that demand. We do not have a preferred option – motorway or otherwise. We are asking communities to work with us to find the best possible answer to an important issue that will affect jobs, the streets families live in, and the way people and freight can move safely around this area,” says the Transport Agency’s Highways Manager, Tommy Parker.
Auckland Transport Key Agency Initiatives Group Manager, Rick Walden, says working openly with the community is a priority.
“We wanted to better understand the transport needs of this area, which we had been doing through local boards and other key stakeholders, before we began wider consultation. We’ve sensed a growing concern in the communities about this approach and acknowledge that we should have engaged the wider community from the start. We’ve heard what people have to say and we are responding to that immediately. We want to begin a more collaborative approach to discussing the issues and how best to deal with them together,” Mr Walden says.
“We want to work through issues like better public transport, walking, cycling and roading infrastructure with those communities.”
To be honest, this is fairly unsurprising outcome given the significant community backlash against the incredibly secretive process that NZTA and AT have undertaken so far in advancing the East West Link. Although this secretive process only seemed to extend to the local community as I have heard that businesses in Highbrook – and likely other areas – had already been approached for their thoughts on the various plans.
As I’ve discussed in recent posts, “Option 4″ for the East West Link is an incredibly stupid, expensive and destructive project and it’s quite incredible that planning for it seemingly got so far down the track, despite the sustained opposition from the local board who were one of the only groups we know for certain that has been consulted with.
Option 4 isn’t the only bad option with Option 3 being quite destructive and likely very expensive.
Of course the media release was timed ahead of tomorrow’s first Infrastructure Committee meeting, where the Respect our Community Coalition who oppose the East West Link motorway will share their concerns with the Councillors. There’s also a report updating the Committee on the project, which surely gives the Councillors a great opportunity to share their concerns with the way Auckland Transport and NZTA have been advancing it over the past few months. Expect a few sparks to fly.
We’ve also proposed an alternative solution that would still provide many of the benefits of the East-West link but without needing to go to the great expense that is options 3 or 4.
While it’s obviously a good thing that NZTA and AT have recognised the errors of their ways in how they’ve advanced the project to date, I somehow doubt it’s completely dead yet. Once the road engineers get excited about a project, it takes a lot of effort to stop them.
I’ve been speaking to Auckland Transport they’ve offered me a $100 HOP card to give away to a reader.
So what do you need to do to win? You just need to have some great ideas.
I’m after suggestions for things that Auckland Transport can do over the next six months to improve transport in the region. It can be for any mode of transport and the best suggestion – as judged by us – will win the HOP card. Now I realise with there will be a tendency for many people to suggest the likes of building the CRL or just getting the HOP roll out sorted but those are projects that are either already under way so try thinking of something different. While we won’t all know how much a project might cost, please try and keep the suggestions aimed at quick and cheap projects i.e. nothing over $1 million.
The competition will be open until the end of Friday
So let’s hear it, what would you do?
Update: Thanks everyone for the suggestions. It’s going to take me a while to go thorough all of the responses as I didn’t expect so many so I will announce the winner next week.
One of the features of the new bus network is that in return for a much greater number of frequent routes, some people will need to transfer. It’s important that we make that process as easy as possible, especially at the major interchanges – like the Panmure one that Luke posted about this morning. In South Auckland where the new network has already been consulted on – and received really positive feedback with something like 70% support – one of the biggest interchanges will be at the Otahuhu train station where there will be two frequent and numerous other bus routes.
The the current situation is fairly grim with the station being hidden from the main road by walls of empty shipping containers, there’s not even really any bus stops nearby. Here are some images from Auckland Transport of the station and it’s surrounds as it is today.
Auckland Transport are now consulting on a design for a fully interchange to make it easy to transfer between train and bus (or bus and bus). They say key design features include:
- Integrated platform – dual bus bays (x4 buses each site)
- Canopied bus and rail platforms – continuous coverage for passengers moving between bus and train services
- Enclosed waiting room on bus platform
- Concourse – linking bus and rail platforms, incorporating retail kiosk, staff facilities, gating and ticketing
- Multiple bus / train platform access options – stairs/lifts/ramps/escalators
- Kiss & Ride parking, taxi stand
- Secure cycle storageOtahuhu bus train interchange
- WiFi Hotspot facility
- CCTV security – real time information
I really like the idea that there will be an enclosed waiting room for bus passengers. That’s something we haven’t seen be a feature in Auckland so far so a nice addition. Here are some images of the proposed upgrade.
If the final design turns out like this then I think it will be quite a neat station. I really like the wide concourse building and the close integration with buses. Certainly a much better use of the land than what is currently on the site. If this is the standard for the major interchanges – which it must be considering other major stations like New Lynn and Panmure – then I think it suggests we are heading in the right direction.
If I was to have one concern about the project though it is that it focuses only on the interchange, why not also take the opportunity to upgrade the local roads to improve walking and cycling connections for locals but that is something that can be included in the feedback.
Auckland Transport is proposing to widen Lincoln Rd – something that in my opinion is probably already Auckland’s most soul destroying street, particularly from a land use perspective. Every time I travel down there (which is frequently as I live not far from it) it always reminds me of the worst aspects of auto-dependency. Even the recently built ASB regional centre promotes auto-dependency by not only having a drive through ATM but also drive through banking.
It’s a road that doesn’t seem to do anything well. It’s a road that is quite wide with a minimum of five lanes (two each way and a full painted median), the major intersections are massive blowing the road out even wider to cater for turning in all directions including slip lanes yet can also get horribly congested, particularly for people heading towards the motorway – which the NZTA are currently upgrading into an absolute monstrosity. On top of that it has poor pedestrian amenity, no cycling amenity and the only bit of bus amenity being a small section northbound at the intersection with Triangle Rd/Central Park Dr to give buses a slight head start.
AT say the road carries about 42,000 vehicles per day and a poor safety record with 446 crashes reported between 2008 and 2012, over a third of which were from drivers exiting driveways or side roads failing to give way. The road has also been listed in various documents over the years as needing to be an RTN in the future as part of the primary route connecting the North Shore to West Auckland. The area surrounding the road is also home to around 8,500 residents, 9,000 jobs, a primary school and the Waitakere Hospital.
It’s the northern section which is the worst and that is the part AT are proposing to upgrade with the plans being to
The upgrade seeks to
- widen Lincoln Road to provide an additional bus and high occupancy vehicle (transit) lane on each side of the road to increase capacity and improve pasenger travel times.
- upgrade existing intersections to reduce congestion and improve safety
- build a solid raised and planted median to replace the existing painted median to improve vehicle and pedestrian safety
- install shared paths for pedestrians and cyclists on both sides of the road
- implement stormwater treatments to minimise surface flooding
- relocate and upgrade existing utility services
- integrate with the NZ Transport Agency’s current motorway interchange upgrade.
There are some seriously big cop-outs there, a transit lane (because there aren’t already enough lanes for private vehicles to use) and shared paths that will pit pedestrians against cyclists (although the road is so horrible that very few people walk anyway). Here is what the typical mid-block cross section is meant to look like.
However while the mid-block may be 7 lanes wide (including median) the major intersections of Universal Dr and Triangle Rd/Central Park Dr blow out to over 9 lanes in width in a bid to cater for every kind of vehicle movement its own lane
And here is a video (from which the image above has been taken) showing the works planned
There is some more detail about some of the features on the AT website and they say the that construction isn’t planned to start until 2018. Here is the timeline.
There will also be two open days about the project next week
Thursday 5 December
3.30pm – 7.30pm
Netball Waitakere Centre
31-35 Te Pai Place
Saturday 7 December,
10am – 2pm
Lincoln Green Conference Centre
159 Lincoln Road (use Te Pai Place entrance)
I think it’s fair to say that we’ve been pretty disappointed with patronage results over the last year or so (longer for rail). After about 7 years of almost constant growth we saw patronage decline and then flat line with it only just starting to show signs of turning around. If there is perhaps one silver lining from all of this it’s that it has hopefully shaken Auckland Transport up and made them realise they can’t just sit back and expect patronage growth will always occur.
There are a heap of big projects happening at the moment which will dramatically improve public transport over the coming years, in particular electrification, the new bus network, integrated ticketing and eventually integrated fares. However these are all big, multi-year projects that we won’t see the full benefit from for a while and I suspect that AT may have been resting on their laurels waiting for those projects to be completed. The patronage problems forced AT to start thinking about PT more and we’re now starting to see some of the early outcomes of this with them starting to improve their marketing – and there is likely to be other improvements to come.
The patronage results were even more concerning as in the Auckland Plan the council set AT a target of doubling patronage over a 10 year period to 2022 with a longer term goal of reaching a PT usage of 100 trips per person per year by 2041 (currently at about 45). A big question has become whether the organisation can actually meet the targets that they have been set and to help answer that Deloitte have been analysing what is planned to estimate just what kind of patronage we can expect. They presented their findings to the AT board last week and the report itself has now been made public. The results are both incredibly interesting and concerning.
All of the various initiatives currently on the list have been summarised into the following groups and there are no surprises from this. What it does help to show is just how much will be happening over the next couple of years.
Deloitte say that even if we manage to fund every PT project currently on the list – including the CRL – and we do it well and on time (i.e. not like HOP so far) then the best we can achieve by 2022 is 101 million PT boardings. That’s a ~31 million increase on what we have now but is 39 million short of AT’s target.
They have also estimated patronage by each mode and say that capacity issues on the bus network could start hurting patronage from 2015 onwards and if not addressed then by 2022 it would mean bus patronage affected by up to 15% (roughly 9 million boardings)
Further they say that if the various projects were to get similar results as seen in other cities that have completed similar projects, then patronage could be as low as ~83 million boardings depending on which comparisons are used. The other cities compared were Wellington, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, London, Toronto and Vancouver and they say none of them managed to double patronage in 10 years with it typically taking twice as long as that with the best being Vancouver at about 16 years. They say that the cities that have seen significant patronage growth have also seen sustained network investment and service improvement.
The one thing perhaps in Auckland’s favour is all of these cities did start from a high base and with a more mature PT network which probably makes it harder to double patronage on. However if Deloitte are right then don’t have a hope in hell of reaching the target that has been set.
So what does all this mean for Auckland Transport? Deloitte say there are two primary options to pursue
In my mind cutting the targets should not even be considered to be an option and I would hope our elected officials would feel the same way. That leaves only option 2 which will mean AT will have to rethink what they are doing and helpfully Deloitte have even suggested a few potential options.
1. Operational, network and service initiatives — for example:
- Fare reduction and restructuring
- Increase frequency, coverage, or additional service kms
- Focus on operational improvements including punctuality and reliability
2. Modification of existing planned projects — for example:
- Rescheduling capital projects (i.e. bring forward CRL and potentially other projects)
3. New capital investments — for example:
- Additional investment in busways
- Bring forward the harbour crossing
4. Incentive management initiatives — for example
- Creating a competitive process for operators
5. Structural reform — for example:
- Congestion/road user charges
Basically if AT want to meet the targets then they will have to really invest in improving the PT network. The really big one is 3. where at the meeting Deloitte said we would need one or two additional busways on top of what is currently planned for a capital cost of ~$355 million. Also I must say I have no idea how pulling forward the AWHC does anything to help patronage, if anything it will do the opposite. In addition improving fares, frequencies and/or network coverage as well as other areas of the PT system will be critical and Deloitte estimate that could cost up to an extra $1.5 billion in operational funding (~$150m per year). In addition to the carrots of better services and infrastructure the authors say we also need to consider some stick type approaches by way of road pricing and increasing parking charges.
By in large I couldn’t agree more and of course the need for AT to change their current investment patterns by re-prioritising spending is something we have suggested quite strongly with the Congestion Free Network. We’ve even suggested a number of busways they couple pursue.
Of course my guess is that they will try for option 1 first using the excuse that they can’t afford to invest more in PT without the council giving them more money as to some within the organisation, the thought of cutting the roading budget seems like a concept from a different planet.
At the board meeting the only real question that arose was whether the goal of 140 million boardings was actually worth it and what would it do to mode share. In other words what sort of difference would that extra 39 million boardings make to metrics like congestion, emissions or how the city works. That wasn’t able to be answered at the time so presumably it is a piece of work that will now be happening.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on what unfolds as a result of this report.
Last week I talked about Penlink and how it appears that it is back on the agenda and being pushed ahead fairly rapidly. This has also been partially confirmed by this listing on the Auckland Transport tenders site.
This Request for Proposal (RFP) is issued for Auckland Transport (AT). The aim of this process is to award a Contract for supply of Planning Professional Services to implement the Penlink Planning Strategy to successfully complete an alteration to the designation and obtain all required consents. This will involve the use of other professional services skills including design, project management and technical experts which are to be provided and managed by the Planning Consultant.
So with this post I thought I would look at some of the alternatives that should be done first – and the impacts properly assessed before committing to building Penlink. Like we have suggested with the East-West link and Operation Lifesaver the focus is on a series of smaller upgrades that can likely be done significantly quicker and cheaper than what is currently planned. Further some of these projects are already on the drawing board so aren’t actually new.
Firstly the primary areas of development that are going to occur in the area in the future is not so much on the peninsula but in the areas closer to SH1 in and around the Silverdale North area. As you can see in this Unitary Plan map there is a heap of land set aside for housing (cream), business (purple) as well as future urban (yellow). It’s this development that will really put a lot of pressure on the Hibiscus Coast Highway (HCH) between Whangaparaoa Rd and the Silverdale interchange.
So with that in mind the focus should be on addressing how we can avoid putting too much pressure on that section of the HCH. Here are a series of projects that could do that.
I understand this has been talked about for some time but the idea is fairly simply, Wainui Rd travels through the south western part of the Silverdale North area before crossing the motorway just over halfway between the Silverdale and Grand Drive interchanges. The idea is to create a set of south facing ramps and therefore providing a more direct connection to SH1 for the Silverdale North area. That would remove the need for many of the future residents to travel down to use the Silverdale Interchange. It would also help in serving that large section of Future Urban land to the west of SH1.
East Coast Rd and Curley Rd Extension
Again this is something that has been talked about for a while but the idea is to extend Curley Rd – a small stub road – to the east and eventually connecting up with Wainui Rd south of where the ramps mentioned above would be. An extension of East Coast Rd to the north across the Wheti River would then connect in with the Curley Rd extension. The idea is to create a connection allowing for traffic going north-south from one side of the HCH to the other to do so in a single crossing without having to use the HCH for part of the journey (other than a single intersection). The rough idea for these two roads is shown in the map below with the new road in red.
Whangaparaoa Rd Upgrades
Whangaparaoa Rd is generally a single lane road for most of its length except for a short section for about 1.5km west and south of the intersection with Red Beach Rd. A previous review of Penlink in 2010 found that while not a substitute for Penlink, widening the section between Red Beach Rd and the HCH would relieve congestion and push back the need for the expensive capital investment that would needed to build Penlink.
My understanding is that this widening was planned to happen fairly soon but has now been put on hold until a new decision on Penlink has been made.
Of course these are all road upgrades, what about some PT upgrades? To me there are two things that should be considered – probably together. First though what is current happening with PT in the area.
AT are going to be building a busway station and park n ride at Silverdale. I believe that stage one which includes access roads and the first 100 or so car parks has been built however stage two which includes the station itself has now been delayed by potentially up to a year. This is due to a neighbouring land owner who has fought the development all the way now seeking a judicial review by the high court. Assuming that eventually falls in AT’s favour then the station can be built and some Northern Express services extended Silverdale. Connecting in will be local services which I will talk about soon. At the other end of the peninsula is the Gulf Harbour ferry. So what could we do?
Improve Local Bus Services
Like most of Auckland the current bus services appear to be a shambles and the maps are hard to read. The new network proposes a much simpler network for the area.
However a key issue that will remain is the frequency of those services with the RPTP suggesting that they will only be half hourly during the peak and hourly off peak. At the very least we should consider what the cost would be to increase the frequency of the green route to be every 15 minutes during the peak and half hourly off peak. That would likely help a lot in making the system much more usable and is unlikely to cost massive amounts of money. Likewise the service to Gulf Harbour might need improving to go with some improved ferries.
The current ferry service is only any use for commuters travelling to the CBD during the peak. For commuters there are only two sailings towards the CBD in the morning (7:00 & 7:30) and two back again in the evening (4:40 & 5:35). Along with increased connector bus services, investing in improving the ferry service should be considered. That would likely require the investment in new ferries and would obviously cost a lot more to run that what exists now however the costs need to be considered in relation to what we would be paying for Penlink. Remember the talk is now that it will be built as a PPP which means we will be paying for the project out of operational budgets for the following 25 years. The cost of running some extra bus and ferry services is probably less than the amount we would be paying just to cover the private company’s interest bill.
So there we go a series of projects that would help in addressing some of the direct traffic problems in the area. I’m not sure how much it would all cost but is almost certainly a lot less than what is planned for Penlink which could now be more than $200m yet only make a difference of about ~7000 vehicles a day. It doesn’t mean Penlink might not be needed in the future but does help address things for the short to medium term.
Another of the board papers presented to the AT board yesterday seemed fairly innocuous and so I didn’t cover it but at the meeting today I actually found it slightly interesting but then more details have emerged which has raised a heap of questions.
The paper was about all of the upcoming major events in Auckland and what the impact was for Auckland Transport. There are a surprising number of major events coming up over the next few months and the table of them is below.
The event that caught my attention in the board meeting was the mention of Christmas in the Park where AT said for the first time they would run a proper rail service right through the evening an into the next morning. This is a change from normal where they might run a couple of special services but trains often quickly fell away to hourly leaving PT as a terrible option for families. They didn’t say exactly what the frequencies will be but I’m hoping for 15 minutes on all of the main lines. AT also mentioned that for the first time the event will be alcohol free.
Others to note are an incredibly busy weekend in the middle of February during which there are the NRL 9′s, the Lantern Festival, Eminem and the Weekbix Triathlon. That has the potential to be one of the biggest weekends of PT use we have ever seen.
You might also notice in March that AT are planning an open day for the EMU’s where it sounds like they will be showing off the new trains with rides between Britomart and Newmarket.
However the thing that really got be frustrated – and I don’t know if it was just that I missed it in the meeting – but was definitely in a press release shortly after was about the upcoming Santa Parade. Here is the press release:
Plan your travel early to the Farmers Santa Parade
Take the family on board a bus, train or ferry to a magical day out at the Auckland Farmers Santa Parade on Sunday 24 November, 2pm.
The parade is one of Auckland’s most popular Christmas events and public transport and roads in and out of the city will be busier than usual.
To accommodate the parade and public safety, roads around the parade route will be closed and parking restrictions will apply.
People should expect crowds and plan to travel early. Check by using the journey planner at www.at.co.nz
If the event is moved to the rain date of Sunday 1 December some services may not operate.
Travel to the parade by train:
Event trains operate approximately every 15 minutes on most lines in to the city from 10.30am.
Limited services will depart from Pukekohe and rail buses will replace trains at Helensville, Waimauku and Huapai. These services will transfer to trains at the Swanson Train Station.
After the parade passengers travelling to Helensville and Pukekohe will have dedicated entrances for priority boarding.
Travel to the parade by bus:
Bus services will operate to a Sunday timetable.
Some bus stops in the central city will differ due to the parade. Auckland Transport ambassadors will be on site to help passengers.
Travel to the parade by ferry:
Ferries will operate to a Sunday timetable.
Parking in the city:
If you are planning to drive to the Parade, be aware that road closures and parking restrictions will be in place. Public parking is free at the Auckland Transport Downtown and Victoria St car parks for vehicles exiting between 12noon and 6pm. Check road closures here at Auckland Transport’s website
Trains will have decent frequency but buses and ferries will be left on what are normally crappy Sunday frequencies however the really annoying part is the last point. AT are making two of their parking buildings free for the afternoon. Are they completely insane?
Firstly it completely undermines the any incentive for people to use public transport to get to the city, the one location that would be easiest to ramp up services to. But worse it is likely to cause nightmares on the day. The free parking only covers the Downtown and Victoria St carparks which according to the AT website have 1,890 and 850 spaces respectively so 2,740 all up. Even if every space was taken up with a car carrying the mythical nuclear family of two parents and two kids, that only represents about 11,000 people. That might seem like a lot but would only represent a small fraction of the overall crowd, often estimated at up to 300,000 but more realistically to be around the 80-90k mark.
The problem though is that lured by the potential for free parking heaps of people will then decide to drive to the CBD, after all why pay for a train or bus when you can get free parking in the CBD. Also worth pointing out that it isn’t possible to buy a family pass now unless you are at one of the handful of train stations that still sell them and it is also the same day that the rest of the Metrolink fleet switch over to HOP.
Those car parking spaces will be gone in a flash (probably before the free period even starts) and that will leave the CBD clogged with cars trying to find an alternative places to park and will potentially even see people missing the event as a result. It has the hallmarks of the RWC opening night all over again but instead of the trains failing it will be the road network. Further the congestion is likely to spread out of the CBD which is then bound to affect the few buses that are running – and because it’s a weekend the bus lanes aren’t in operation.
Seriously this sounds like it is going to be a nightmare. If AT were serious about this they would have
- Put on more buses and ferries
- Put the bus lanes into operation
- Made PT free for the event and encouraged as many people as possible to use it.
I’m not looking forward to hearing what happens on Sunday.
For the last two days both Patrick and I have attended a conference on Auckland Transport Infrastructure that was even chaired by the founder of this blog. The agenda included talks on a wide variety of topics related to transport there were a number of quite good ones that I will post about in the future.
Naturally the highlight being the presentation of the Congestion Free Network at the end of day one . The good news is that many of the people in the audience, representing a wide range of the industry are very supportive of it. This included people heavily involved in the design, funding, construction and operation of roads and even heavy users like the freight industry. The general feedback we get from people within the industry when we present the CFN is that people really like it as an idea for fixing Auckland which really highlights to us that the key problem is one of leadership – primarily from a political level but also from senior management.
For this post I’m primarily going to focus on one particular part of Len Browns opening address. The primary theme of his talk was about how infrastructure providers and operators need to improve how they understand and deal with communities, both from a compassion and communication perspective – cue comments about the East-West Link. He cited both the Victoria Park Tunnel and now Waterview as projects that have engaged with the community well during construction.
He also talked about the need to keep an eye on costs and noted that as part of the upcoming review of the Long Term Plan the council would be going through the transport projects on a line by line basis to decide if projects were really needed. That shifted his discussion on to the issue of funding as based on the current wish list of projects which we simply won’t be able to afford everything without raising more money somehow. However this is where things started to take a strange turn as Len started talking quite a bit about PPP’s and how the council will be using a lot of them to help fund that wish list. He even told the attendees that they would need to help in selling the benefits of PPP’s to the wider public.
But just when it couldn’t get worse he then confirmed that the Council/Auckland Transport are planning on fast-tracking Penlink and that they are looking to do so by tying it in with the PPP that the NZTA will use for Puhoi to Warkworth. So with this post I thought I would look at Penlink and explain why it is such a crappy project.
What is Penlink?
Just in case you’re not fully aware of what Penlink is, it’s a new road that would connect the Whangaparaoa Peninsula to SH1 as shown in the map below. All up it includes:
- a new 6.8 km stretch of road
- a new 540-metre bridge spanning the Weiti River
- a new motorway interchange at Redvale which also require some modifications to East Coast Road
- widening of Whangaparaoa Road between Brightside Road and Arklow Lane. Penlink will intersect with Whangaparaoa Road through a new roundabout
Penlink – a road we don’t think is needed
As you can see it’s a fairly sizeable project and one that has the potential to save a huge amount of time over travelling through the existing route at Silverdale. But as you would expect, the big question is if its really worth it especially as this isn’t going to be cheap. The cost from a few years ago was $175 million however that is almost certainly going to be over $200 million now however it could be significantly higher than that. It’s worth noting that the road has already been consented and the former Rodney District Council had purchased the land needed.
To help pay for the road the plan has always been to toll the road – suggested to be somewhere between $1.50 and $2.50 – yet despite that, the toll was only expected to pay for about 29% of the cost with the rest coming from taxpayers and ratepayers. If the construction cost has increased we can likely expect the percentage covered by tolls has reduced further.
Is Penlink worth it?
This is where things get interesting. As mentioned it is a shorter route off the peninsula and for those to the east of where it joins Whangaparaoa Rd the saving is less than 4.5km with those to the Northwest of the route the saving will less depending on their location. Based on the last census there were roughly 21,500 people living to the west of Penlink that would benefit the most with just over another 9,000 on the peninsula up to where it connects to the Hibiscus Coast Highway. Not everyone on the Peninsula will be trying to get to town either, especially with an increased number of businesses around Silverdale.
However critically there is little growth that is left available on the peninsula. There will be a few sections here and there that are yet to be built on but according to the Unitary Plan then by and large the areas highlighted in red on the map below show the only locations left which are able to be developed. They are generally Mixed Housing Suburban but I would be surprised if there was able to be more than 2,000 dwellings build on here. Further many of the sites may end up being developed as retirement villages which have quite different travel demands to other dwellings. Further as you can see there has been almost no intensification allowed on the Peninsula with only a few pockets of THAB or Mixed housing allowed.
As such there is very little potential growth that will occur in the area so that removes the argument that we need to build the road to cater for future growth. Instead the project is more about moving the existing population. This is also confirmed in the results from the traffic modelling done in 2011 to support tolling which shows that by 2021 without Penlink there is almost no change in traffic west of Whangaparaoa Rd and only small increases in traffic east.
You might also notice another key point from the numbers above, the toll road is only expected to make a difference of about 7,000 vehicles per day. Most single lane arterials in the city carry considerably more vehicles than that yet not cost $200 million plus.
Lastly it doesn’t seem to do anything to address where the main future residential and business growth will occur which is in the new greenfields developments around Silverdale including Millwater. Yes it would remove some traffic from the Hibiscus Coast Highway which would free up space for vehicles from these developments but there are other ways we could deal with that.
To me it seems the main aim of the project is to provide a super expensive new road that would only be useful for a very small segment of the population in a part of the city that has almost no growth left. For those people all it does is serves to reinforce driving as the only realistic option yet as it only connects to SH1 southbound its only purpose is to get people to the end of the motorway queue a little bit faster. I don’t know about you but I can certainly think of a better way to spend $200 million. Of course if it’s built as a PPP we won’t have to pay for it upfront but it will end up costing us considerably more than $200 million as we will be paying a company who will be building the project with private financing.
In a separate post I will look at what alternatives there are to Penlink to improve transport in the area.
With the East-West Link, the various motorway projects, Puhoi to Warkworth and now this it really does feel like someone is pushing to double down on road building. Who’s behind it (because I know it’s not the construction industry) and is this all just a part of a last gasp being pushed by the road lobbies who are seeing the writing on the wall that public want change? I also note it’s on the close agenda for today’s Auckland Transport board meeting.07