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East West Link and Old Mangere Bridge Open Days

Another series of consultation events that will happen this week will be for the East West Link and the replacement of the Old Mangere Bridge.

Communities will get the chance to have their say about two significant transport projects in their area – the East West Connections and the replacement of the of the old Mangere bridge.

The NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport say there is an open invitation for people to attend three community days planned for later this month. Two of them – at the Onehunga night market (Thursday 24 July, 6pm-10pm) and at Sylvia Park shopping mall near the foodcourt (Sunday 27 July, 10am-1pm) – focus on the East West Connections project. The third – at Waterfront Road Reserve, Mangere Bridge (Saturday 26 July, 10am-4pm) – will focus on both the East West Connections and the next stage of replacing the old Mangere bridge.

The Transport Agency’s acting Highways Manager, Steve Mutton, says the community days deliver on earlier commitments from the Agency and Auckland Transport to work with local people.

“We want to build on the great feedback we’ve had from people to replace the bridge and carry that on into the East West Connections programme. This is the latest step for us to ensure that we fully understand what people are experiencing when travelling in Onehunga, Mt Wellington, Otahuhu, Penrose, Mangere and East Tamaki,” Mr Mutton says.

Community input will help the Transport Agency and Auckland Transport develop their East West Connections programme to improve commuter and freight links, public transport and walking and cycling options over the next 30 years.

“We have already identified freight issues that need immediate attention in Onehunga-Penrose – that’s a key priority given the area’s importance for jobs and the Auckland and New Zealand economies. We will be working with stakeholders and the community in coming months as investigations progress for those improvements.

“But we are not losing sight of the issues people are facing in the wider area. The vibrant communities in the area are likely to experience a growth in the number of people who chose to live and work in them. The predicted growth will put additional pressure on the existing transport network”

“We’ve already identified the need to improve reliability of public transport between Mangere and Sylvia Park – there will be other areas for improvement. We want the conversation with local people now so that as we progress with improvements in Onehunga-Penrose, we can also continue to work with communities to address their issues,” says Mr Mutton.

The community day at Mangere Bridge on 26 July will also be a chance for people to see the proposed design for the new bridge connecting Onehunga and Mangere Bridge.

“The earlier feedback from the community was a catalyst for the project and guided the bridge design,” Mr Mutton says. “We’ve worked hard to integrate the community’s requests, and we’re optimistic that they will be pleased with our design when they see it.”

Some features of the original bridge will be retained, with the new structure curving towards the motorway bridge. It will be high enough for small boats to pass underneath. A wider span also means that some form of opening for larger craft is not precluded in future. Two artists have been commissioned to incorporate the area’s history and values into the design through art.

“Replacing the old bridge and the East West Connections are two very different projects with one similar outcome – helping the Transport Agency and Auckland Transport get the best solutions to improve the area’s transport network. We want to hear the views of people to help achieve that,” Mr Mutton says.

On the East West Link it will be interesting to see if they actually show what they plan to do for the project or if they will just talk about the need for it. This is especially the case as I know they showed business and road lobby groups exactly what they plan to build about 7 months ago.

We can get a bit of a background as to what they will show from some of the information on the AT website including this image which highlights all the issues they’ve identified in the area.

East-West Issues

For a big click the photo or for the original it’s from here (5MB).

This image (on the NZTA website) shows all of the projects going on in the area.

East West Other Projects Large

As for the Old Mangere Bridge Replacement this newsletter shows a couple of impressions of what it may look like.

Mangere Bridge Replacement Total

 

Waterview Shared Path

Auckland Transport is holding an open day to discuss their plans for a shared path between Waterview and Mt Albert which was required as part of the Board of Inquiry for the Waterview Connection project.

Auckland Transport is about to unveil plans for a new walking and cycling link between Waterview and Mt Albert.

Delivered as part of the Waterview Connection project, the shared path will add to Auckland’s growing cycling and walking network, connecting with the north-western (SH16) cycle route and existing shared paths to Onehunga and New Lynn.

Auckland Transport has investigated a range of options, talked with property owners and developed a concept design for the path. We’re now ready to show our designs to the public, so come along and give us your thoughts.

The Waterview shared path will be around 2.4km long and around 3.5 metres wide, running from Alan Wood Reserve off New North Road, following the route of Oakley Creek and connecting with Great North Road (map attached).

Two new bridges will be built along the route – one across Oakley Creek and the other over the western rail line – to connect communities to the path. There will also be easy access to the path at various points along the route, such as Phyllis Reserve and the Unitec campus.

Details on the Waterview shared path will be revealed at two public open days – the first on Wednesday 23 July, 3pm to 7pm, at Metro Football Club, in Phyllis Reserve, Mt Albert; and the second on Thursday 24 July, 3pm to 7pm, at Avondale Baptist Church, 1288 New North Road, Avondale. The project team will be on hand to answer questions.

AT’s Community Transport manager Matthew Rednall says the shared path will be great for the local community.

“Not only will it mean safe traffic-free links and improved access to local schools, colleges and other community facilities, it’ll be a great place to get some exercise,” he says.

“The path will be well lit and have a low gradient to make it safe and easy to use.”

Construction is expected to begin in late 2016 and take around 12 months to complete.

This is the route the path will take

Waterview Cycleway Route

I’m please to see this being progressed however there are already a number of questions in my head about this project.

  • Why is it only starting construction in late 2016. This seems especially odd considering how fast the NZTA seems to be moving on the Glen Innes to Tamaki Dr Cycleway which has construction starting in a few months.
  • The route seems more about recreation than transport with the indirect route it takes and sharp slow speed turns – AT have said that this is to provide links to the community, not build through the sports grounds and that closer to the creek isn’t suitable for building.
  • Will AT be installing lights on the intersection of Soljak Pl/New North Rd/Bollard Ave? New North Rd is a high volume four lane arterial road that without any kind of crossing is going to be difficult to cross.
  • We’ve started seeing a lot of design being incorporated in pedestrian/cycle bridges in recent years, the concept for the bridge across the Oakley Creek that AT have on their website seems to shun that completely.

Waterview Cycleway - Alford Bridge artist concept

Footpath Clutter

When I was out looking at the trial bus shelters on Sunday I was reminded of an issue that plagues our footpaths – clutter. Symonds St where the bus stops are suffers from this quite a bit but by no means is it alone. In the case of Symonds St the footpaths are made quite narrow by the presence of the bus shelters and is made worse by a mixture of

  • Light poles
  • Real Time Displays and electrical plinths
  • Bus Stop and bus lane signs

All this can make it quite difficult for people walking to get through the area, especially if a lot of people are trying to get on a bus and it must be terrible for someone in a wheelchair or mobility scooter. Some examples of the clutter on Symonds St are below.

Footpath Clutter - Symonds St 1

Real time Displays, sign poles and even a car to get around – the car belonged to one of the guys finishing the installation of Shelter B and there wasn’t enough space for someone in a wheelchair to get around

Footpath Clutter - Symonds St 2

Looking straight on you can’t actually see down the footpath thanks to the light pole.

Footpath Clutter - Symonds St 3

And from a different angle you can see again the light pole, real time display and further down sign poles blocking the path.

One example I experience every day is on Albert St while waiting for my bus to Takapuna. The bus stop pole, light pole and bus stop board combine to completely block the view up the road (note buses usually stop with their front doors between these two poles).

Footpath Clutter - Albert St 1

Auckland Transport should really have a programme to identify and fix sites like this to improve the pedestrian realm and waiting experience for PT users.

I’ve seen plenty of other examples recently and I know many other readers have too judging by our twitter feed.

The Trial Bus Shelters

Back in May Auckland Transport announced that they were going to trial three different bus shelter designs on Symonds St. They are seeking public feedback on them with the intention of eventually rolling out the winning design across the region.

Yesterday I decided to go and check out the three options and all three shelters I liked and didn’t like about them.

Shelter A

This was my favourite when AT initially announced the designs and one of the reasons is it was quite different to what we’re used to seeing. Some commented in the original post that the wood would make it feel too dark and be less safe compared to the greater use of glass in the other designs. Personally I really like the addition of the wood including the structural support with the engraved Pohutukawa motif.

Bus Shelter Trial - Shelter A

I guess the only concern was the size of the glass on the front of the shelter for those times when the rain is coming in sideways.

Shelter B

This one is perhaps a bit of a dark horse. I thought it looked bland and boring in the initial images but it turns out it’s a case of actually having to see it in the flesh. Even the photo below doesn’t really highlight it that well. The real design feature is above the shelter with the roof having quite a retro feel to it, curved at the front and with fins out the back. The front kind of reminded me of an old tram. The shelter itself has a heap of seating and one big glass panel for those really rainy days which is good.

Bus Shelter Trial - Shelter B

The biggest issue with this shelter is how well the retro design holds up over time. It’s cool now but will it still be in 10 years-time? (Although I guess you could say this about all the designs). Because it’s hard to get the feeling for the shelter in this image the one below is the render from the AT Website which shows the design feature a bit better.

Bus Shelter Trial - Shelter B - Major

 

Shelter C

In our poll Shelter C was the second most popular design due to it appearing to have more design to it than B and more glass than A. In real life I didn’t really like the design that much and it seemed a bit busy and not that inviting. Perhaps it is too similar to what we’re used to seeing. Also like Shelter A it only had two small glass walls on the front to protect from heavy rain. One aspect I really did like though was the panel at the end of the shelter which was used to give more information. In particular I liked how it laid out the areas the buses that use the stop serve.

Bus Shelter Trial - Shelter C

Bus Shelter Trial - Shelter end wall

Just for a comparison, here’s what the old shelters look like.

Bus Shelter Trial - Existing Shelters

After viewing them in person I still think that Shelter A is my favourite, Shelter B lifted itself to my second favourite leaving Shelter C as my least favourite.

But not all bus stops are created equal, most will be much smaller than the ones above while stops in Neighbourhoods are likely to be larger. The images below are the renders for the other versions of each design.

Minor Stops

A trial of these shelters is being installed at the Silverdale Park & Ride, presumably until the full station is built.

Shelter A

Bus Shelter Trial - Shelter A - Minor

Shelter B

Bus Shelter Trial - Shelter B - Minor

Shelter C

Bus Shelter Trial - Shelter C - Minor

I think Shelter B carries the design idea through the best while Shelter A seems pretty standard with what we have now.

Neighbourhood Stops

What’s interesting about all three of these stops is they bend around the corner which makes them quite prominent which would definitely help in making bus stops more visible and a key part of Auckland’s future.

Shelter A

Bus Shelter Trial - Shelter A - Neighbourhood

Shelter B

Bus Shelter Trial - Shelter B - Neighbourhood

Shelter C

Bus Shelter Trial - Shelter C - Neighbourhood

Again my favourite is Shelter A which seems much more prominent and interesting, it even looks like it has some cycle racks behind the centrepiece part. Like in the original pictures Shelter B is difficult to see so hard to know exactly what it would look like in person. Shelter C just doesn’t look like it scales as well on the large stops.

Of course all of this is just my opinion and everyone can have a say so make sure you do. The AT website has more info including some more detailed info about each design. The consultation is open till 22 August and I would recommend going and having a look if you can, as it certainly changed my thoughts about Shelter B.

I ran a poll when the trial was announced and I’m going to repeat it again to see if anyone’s views have changed.

What new Shelter design do you like best?

View Results

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New Network Consultation for the Hibiscus Coast

On Monday Auckland Transport are launching the next consultation for the New Network and this time it’s the turn of Hibiscus Coast. AT say the changes to the network are planned to go in early mid 2015 which could make the area the first to change to the New Network as the South Auckland changes aren’t due till later in 2015. As a reminder about the changes being made with new network watch this video from Auckland Transport

The first and perhaps most significant change to the network is that AT will extend the Northern Express (NEX) to a new busway station. AT have already started on this and built some of the Park n Ride planned however I believe it has been halted due to another challenge to the Environment court by a local land owner. It’s proposing NEX services running at 30 minute frequencies off peak and with 15 minute frequencies during the peak which it is describing as 6am-8am and 4:30pm – 7pm. They say services will be timetabled to ensure reliable connections with local services.

Hibiscus Coast Consultation - Busway Station

Where the Hibiscus Coast differs from other parts of the region is that there are no all-day frequent services and services that are a minimum of half hourly are made up of a two lower frequency for part of their journey. The full map of proposed services is below (click to enlarge).

Hibiscus Coast Consultation - Map Combined

At first glance one area that seems less than ideal is how buses are treated in relation to the Silverdale Town Centre. Going to the busway station some buses enter the town centre before doubling back and then going to the station while other buses skip it inbound and only go through outbound. All of this is because vehicles aren’t allowed to turn right out of Silverdale St or Wainui Rd. AT say that if a proposed new road gets built it will allow them to send all buses though the centre in both directions however as an interim measure perhaps they should just signalise one of the problem intersections and then have all buses run a logical route through it.

Hibiscus Coast Consultation - Silverdale Town Centre

The consultation will open Monday for a month.

Here’s the press release

More buses more often, new bus routes and extending the Northern Express to Silverdale, these are some of Auckland Transport’s proposals to boost public transport options for the Hibiscus Coast.

Anthony Cross, Public Transport Network Manager says the Hibiscus Coast is getting some notable service improvements. “Extending the Northern Express to Silverdale is huge, outside peak hours that will cut 30 minutes off the journey time to Auckland’s city centre”.

There will also be a new bus service for the growing area at Millwater plus buses every 30 minutes between Orewa, Silverdale and Manly, seven days a week.

More frequent local services, and a number of new or trial bus routes are also some of the benefits residents can look forward to under the New Network.

“We’re also building a new busway station at Silverdale which will become a key interchange for the Coast. We are increasing the Park and Ride car parks too,” says Mr Cross.

“The New Network will change the way people travel – it is a fundamental shift in the principles behind how we plan the public transport network. There will be a few challenging years ahead of us as we consult and implement, but in the long term it will make a very positive difference to Auckland’s public transport system.”

Consultation on the New Network for the Hibiscus Coast runs from Monday 14 July to Thursday 14 August.

Following consultation, changes are planned to take effect in early-to-mid 2015. There will be an extensive information campaign ahead of the changes, and the new timetables will be available ahead of time so that passengers can plan their journeys.

In coming weeks, Auckland Transport will have people in local markets, shopping centres, and transport hubs and on the streets on the Hibiscus Coast talking to customers about these changes and getting their views. A series of information events have also been planned.

For more information on the New Network for the Hibiscus Coast go to www.AT.govt.nz/newnetwork

The New Network is a region wide public transport network which is proposed to deliver bus services at least every 15 minutes throughout the day, seven days a week on major routes between the hours of 7am to 7pm. Services will connect better with train services for those customers who require connections.

South Auckland was the first region to be consulted on the New Network in 2013.

CRL design being progressed

Auckland Transport have said that they are focusing efforts to design the northern end of the CRL from Wyndham St to Britomart.

Design of the Britomart end of the City Rail Link is being progressed with Auckland Transport asking the construction industry to register its interest in the work.

The focus of the design work will be on the downtown section of the City Rail Link, from Britomart through Queen, Customs and Albert Streets to Wyndham Street.

It is the area that most affects other planned and proposed inner city development by Auckland Council and private developers.

“It’s a sensible next step to get design certainty for the part of the CRL that will most affect everyone else’s plans in the city. It is also important to have the design advanced so any consents can be identified and applied for,” says AT Chief Executive David Warburton.

Auckland Council Chief Executive Stephen Town says “this next step is important as it will ensure the sequencing of city centre improvements is well planned over the next 3 years.

Auckland Transport wants to be in a position to progress work in the downtown area so other city development can proceed without unnecessary delay, once CRL construction funding is approved.

Dr Warburton says engaging early with the construction industry in this way is routine on major projects to ensure a cost effective design that minimises adverse effects.

It’s basically the section shown below (although without needing to take all of the Downtown Mall site like originally thought)

CRL Downtown site

Precinct Properties want to develop the Downtown Mall site and they have already agreed to build the tunnel under the site at the same time, this saved AT from having to purchase the whole site. It makes complete sense to then also join in that part of the tunnel to Britomart and to get it at least under the Customs St/Albert St intersection. The reason for that is there are a lot of plans in the area that will hinge on the CRL being completed so that they don’t have to be redone in the future. This includes:

  • The upgrade to Quay St to be a more pedestrian friendly area.
  • Changes to Customs St to accommodate the new bus network and some of the traffic from Quay St.
  • Potential changes to Lower Queen St and QE2 square

 

AT have also said they are likely to have some new images available in a month or so relating to station designs which will be exciting to see.

SHA’s and Transport Investment

A few days ago I looked in depth into the locations of the Special Housing Areas that have been released so far, allowing for over 33,000 new houses. The locations of these are not spread evenly around the city, or evenly amongst the greenfield areas. Therefore this should cause the council and Auckland Transport to rethink some of their priorities for transport investment. Firstly this should give further impetus to the need for some important Congestion Free network projects, which will benefit existing areas and new developing areas.

There are nearly 9,000 dwellings to be built to the North-West of the city, in areas like Kumeu. This area is currently hopelessly served by public transport. For example it takes nearly 1.5 hours to get the bus into town at peak times, and on weekends it is not much better as bus operates a hopelessly windy route, diverting through Henderson on the way from Westgate to the City! The extra development planned adds extra emphasis to the case for the North-Western Busway, which would provide a very quick link from the North-West into the city. While some would call for a diesel rail shuttle to be provided, this has been investigated by Auckland Transport but found to be poor value for money. The busway would result in a much higher frequency and much faster services than the rail shuttle, which would take over an hour. The proposed frequent bus network only shows 15 minute frequency to Westgate, however the scale of development should mean the frequent service should soon be extended to Kumeu and Huapai. The developments in this area are likely to be low density, so sites for several park and ride stations need to be investigated. These types fringe areas are the right type of areas to expand park and ride, not valuable urban sites. The busway would not just benefit new developments, but also existing suburbs along the North-Western like Massey and Te Atatu.

NW and UH busways

This 9000 houses also covers areas like Hobsonville and Whenuapai. Again the only route between the North-West and the North-Shore is an infrequent and wandering service that takes well over an hour for a 20 minute car journey. The new network offers some improvement, with a slightly more direct service, however still designed for local traffic rather than trips between West Auckland and the North Shore. This is where the Upper Harbour busway we proposed in our Congestion Free Network comes in. This will also be useful for people living in the Kumeu and Westgate areas as not all these people will be working or want to travel to the CBD, so quality links to centres in the North Shore are important too. Again the form of development is likely to mean that several busway stations with park and ride will also be required at the major motorway interchanges.

Through the southern corridor over 4800 dwellings will be built. 2200 of these are in the Addison area, which hugely strengthens the case for the Addison station that has long been proposed to serve that growing area. Another 1800 of these are in the Franklin area, which further builds the case to ensure the electrification extension to Pukekohe proceeds soon. 1000 of these are at a totally new greenfield site as Wesley, north of Paerata. As this is 5km north of Pukekohe a new station at Paerata/Wesley should proceed here with some urgency.

The 5000 dwellings to be built in the Flat Bush area will further add to congestion is the already car dependent south-eastern suburbs. While Flat Bush is in an awkward location in relation to potential rapid transit routes, the Te Irirangi Drive busway would help connect residents to the closest centre of Manukau with its brand new station and tertiary institute, and also to the mall at Botany.


Eastern busways

 

The need to invest in transport projects which benefit these areas, should also show the need to rethink lower value projects across the city. First of all there are less than 900 dwellings north of the existing urban area at Albany, and these are at Silverdale. Note that means there are none on Whangaparoa Peninsular, Warkworth or Wellsford. First on the deferral list should be Penlink, which has a very high cost, high environmental impacts and low economic and transport benefits. It is difficult to see why this project should proceed when there is little growth in the area. A few extra ferries to the city seem like a much better idea to improve transport for people of this area. Deferring Penlink would free up $200 million to spend on much more high value projects. The lack of new development north of Orewa is yet further ammunition against the need for the Puhoi – Warkworth Highway to proceed. The $760 million required for the project should be reallocated by the government to serve areas of Auckland that are actually growing, rather than further delaying or canceling important infrastructure like busways. Across the city there are various other low value roading projects than should be deferred or downsized to free up money for more transformational public transport investment.

Updates on the Northern and Northwest busways

This post is an update on two of the three key busway projects in Auckland at the moment, the extension of the Northern Busway to Albany and a busway along SH16 (the third one is the AMETI busway).

Northern Busway Extension

The Northern Busway has been an outstanding success since opening fully in 2008. Despite only being grade separated for 41% of the route it has managed to exceed patronage projections and defy the doubters who claimed it would be a waste of money. It’s even had the remarkable success of significantly changing mode share with the number of people crossing at peak times on a bus increasing from 18.5% in 2004 to 41% in 2012.

Northern Busway White Elephant

NZ Herald Cartoon 14 Feb 2008 – The day after the busway opened

One of the most crucial projects we need to be getting on with is the extension of the Northern Busway from Constellation to Albany. When the government announced it’s package of motorway projects in June last year the associated map included “Northern Busway Improvements”

sh18-sh1-link

It’s also mentioned on the NZTA page for the Northern Corridor improvements as component 5.

Northern Corridor Improvements

In July we found out that the plan to extend the busway was estimated to cost about $250 million and that the busway would actually stay on the Eastern side of the motorway to make it easier for a future extension to Silverdale (which would cost an additional $300 million. It would be connected to the Albany busway station by a dedicated bridge across the motorway.

Northern Busway Extension - Eastern access to Albany

So it should be about to be constructed right? Unfortunately not.

Papers released by The Treasury show the project isn’t part of the government funding package anymore.

The Northern Busway

25. An extension to the Northern Busway was previously included as part of the Northern Corridor package of projects.
26. The NZ Transport Agency has advised it would need $250 million to deliver this project on accelerated timeframes but that investigations and route protection for the project can continue without additional financial assistance from the Crown.
27. [7]

The point 27 which has been withheld is “to maintain the current constitutional conventions protecting the confidentiality of advice tendered by ministers and officials

From conversations I’ve had it appears the NZTA were quite keen to get on with the busway extension and had expected to get the go ahead to do so but were stopped by The Treasury who pulled the funding for it at the last minute. I suspect that’s what point 27 refers to. My understanding is now all the NZTA can do is to make sure that the motorway plans they do proceed with leave enough space so that they don’t stop the busway from happening at some point in the future.

I guess we won’t know exactly why funding was pulled and I notice none of the other motorway projects have had parts stripped out of them. It appears to me that this is just a continuation of the single mode focus that has dominated the transport discussion for so many decades and it’s both hugely frustrating and disappointing. It’s also an insult to anyone who lives on the upper North Shore or up by Orewa/Whangaparaoa and who wants better choices in how they get around.

Northwest Busway

We’ve called for a busway along SH16 for a long time and it is a key part to the Congestion Free Network.

NW Busway on CFN

It’s also an idea that seems to continue to gain some traction. In my view it’s a project that will become increasingly important as large greenfield land gets developed in the North West. The area already contains ~40,000 dwellings and it’s been estimated there will be additional 80,000 over the next 30 years. To put it another way it will grow by about the size of the North Shore.

In March last year Auckland Transport proposed a bus interchange station at Te Atatu between the motorway and Titoki St however it seemed to have a couple of major flaws like requiring all westbound buses to cross the motorway twice just to access the station. There was also significant community opposition to the proposal and in the end AT dropped the idea and went back to the drawing board. In a response to an OIA request initially to the NZTA but passed to Auckland Transport they say:

NW Busway AT OIA request

There’s no information about what that new interchange station may look like but it’s positive to hear that they are now looking at full busway along the route – although I suspect only from Te Atatu west. My guess is we might hear more about the project later this year when the consultation for the new network in West Auckland happens.

Of course even with a full busway is chosen who knows if or when it would be funded. In my mind it should be an NZTA project like the Northern Busway however considering how difficult it appears to be to get the extension to that funded we could be waiting a long time for a Northwest busway.

The CRL is about capacity

I’ve been noticing in recent times an increasing number of people questioning the need for the City Rail Link. I’m not sure what’s causing it but it might be that Auckland Transport have been remarkably quiet on the project for the last six months or so. With this post I thought I would highlight some of the key reasons why the project is needed and it’s all related to capacity.

It’s commonly mentioned by those that oppose the CRL that the CBD is only 15% of all regional employment. What’s not mentioned is that 15% represents ~100,000 jobs. While the 15% figure is true it ignores a couple of key points.

  1. City Centre employment has grew by about over 20,000 jobs between 2000 and 2013
  2. The numbers are based on a fairly narrow definition of the CBD. Expanding that to include the city fringe areas which are also likely to be directly affected by the CRL means the total number of jobs in the central city is 24% (~153,000).
  3. At ~100,000 jobs the level of employment in the CBD is still significantly larger than any other single area in the region. The second largest number of jobs is the massive commercial area covering Onehunga, Penrose, Ellerslie and Mt Wellington which combined has 60,000 jobs. Areas like the airport (including around Ascot/Montgomerie Rd), Manukau/Wiri, East Tamaki, Albany and Wairau/Smales Farm each only contain between 20,0o0 and 30,000 jobs.
  4. In addition to the CBD, employment areas all along the rail network would benefit from the greater frequencies the CRL would deliver.
  5. Employment isn’t the only thing that happens in the CBD, there are also 40,000-50,000 students at the two universities plus more at other education institutions.

Both employment and tertiary student numbers are expected to grow significantly in the future. AT say that by 2041 employment in the city and fringe areas is expected to increase to over 200,000 and student numbers to around 72,000.

City Centre Employment to 2013

That’s a lot of growth but why do we need it in the CBD, why not encourage it to other parts of the region?

Despite decades of anti CBD policies one of the key reasons the CBD is the size it is, is simply because of its location – it’s central. A large part of that is simply its historical location and how the city has subsequently developed but it means it’s an area that has relatively equal access from the North, South, East and West. That means employers in the CBD have a much larger pool of potential talent to choose from than ones in say Albany or Manukau.

Auckland is home to 60% of the top 200 companies in the country and a many of them based in the CBD due to the reasons just mentioned as well as to gain the benefits of agglomeration. It is why even companies like Fonterra who make their money from the rural sector have their head office functions in the Auckland CBD. The types of roles found in the CBD also means those workers tend to earn on average 27% more than workers in other parts of the region. So yes we could encourage or even require those new jobs to be elsewhere in the region but it’s because of the factors mentioned that growing the CBD is something that can help improve our economy further in the long term.

However if we are to enable that growth to happen we need the capacity so that people are able to get to the city centre and that’s where the problems begin. The roading network is already at capacity at peak times and the costs to increase that capacity from now onwards by any substantial margin are likely to be astronomical. Over the long term there is also likely to be less road space in the CBD to handle traffic thanks to the focus on making the city a more pedestrian friendly area. In short we will have to find a different way of getting more people the city centre and that’s where PT comes in.

Thankfully we’ve already been seeing significant change when it comes to PT use and the city centre. Since 2001 the number of people entering the CBD by car in the morning peak has actually decreased while the number entering via PT has increased substantially and resulted in an increase overall in people arriving in the CBD.

modalshift-2001-2012

Over the coming years we will see further enhancements that will deliver greater capacity and frequency to the CBD (and other places). This comes from a combination the New Network and electric trains both of which should help to revolutionise travel in Auckland.

But why not just use buses?

The New Network greatly simplifies the regions bus routes and provides more capacity in many locations. However over time an increasing issue is going to be bus congestion and it’s predicted that on Symonds St alone there would need to be over 250 buses per hour in the peaks. In short we would end up with a wall of buses situation and that’s not what anyone wants to see. The map below shows where the most congested parts of the central city are expected to be by ~2041 if we don’t build the CRL .

Bus Network Congestion

The City Centre Future Access Study looked at a huge range of bus solutions to solve the capacity problems but found none were as good as the CRL – although it did say some improvements were needed to surface buses.

While the road networks are at capacity the one network we have that has plenty of capacity just waiting to be unlocked is the rail network. The problem is that despite an estimated 40% increase in train capacity from the new electric trains it simply won’t be enough long term. It’s expected that the strong patronage growth we’re seeing will continue and will be aided further by the new network which sees more buses interchanging with the rail network. While the services we have might be run to capacity the rail network itself is far from capacity and is being held back its own constraints. The tunnel leading into Britomart acts like a funnel limiting how many services we can run. It has long been said the maximum number of services we could run is 20 per hour made up of 6 per hour per direction from the west, south and east and two per hour to Onehunga. We’re already very close to that mark and have been for some time. Other options for expanding Britomart or the approach tunnel have been investigated but are also quite costly and don’t give the advantages of delivering people further into the city centre.

So a large part of the CRL project is not so much about making the rail network better but simply about providing the capacity to allow the CBD to grow. The other options for increasing capacity are more costly or aren’t able to deliver enough extra people to the CBD to allow the growth to happen..

PT fares change today

Public transport fares have changed today and despite cash fares increasing, for the majority of users the cost of using PT has dropped thanks to an increase in the HOP discount. As I said back when the change was announced.

Overall I think this is a very good move by AT. By raising the cash fares but also increasing the HOP discount it does two things.

  1. It increases the differential between cash and HOP fares which will help make HOP more attractive. More people using HOP is good, particularly for buses as it speeds up boarding time.
  2. Over 60% of all trips now take place using HOP, that means for the majority of PT users these changes will actually represent a decrease in fares.

As of the end of May 64% of bus and train users were already using HOP cards and I suspect it has grown further during June. Since the change was announced I’ve also heard of people who have brought a HOP card simply because of the changes which are clearly designed to encourage greater use of HOP.

The adult bus and train fares changes are below.

July 2014 Fare changes

No everyone has benefited though with most ferry fares increasing.

I think it will be a fascinating to see what happens with patronage which has been growing strongly in recent months and I hope will continue to do so.

In addition to the fare changes, last week AT quietly introduced daily passes on HOP. The daily passes work in the same way and with the same zones as the monthly passes yet oddly despite there being an inner zone there isn’t an inner zone daily pass. There also aren’t any child pricing options. The costs are:

  • Zones A & B – $16
  • Zones A, B & C – $22

The map below shows the zones.

Daily Pass Zone

It seems like there is still some way to go before this can be a product easily used by many people