We were rightly dismayed when the previous Transport Minister vetoed the desperately needed extension of the famously successful Northern Busway as part of the big spend up on SH1 on the North Shore. We suspect NZTA were too, as they know that the Busway the single most effective tool for reducing congestion and increasing access and human happiness for the travelling public on this route. And is a vital part of the booming Rapid Transit Network. Additionally this extension surely also helps streamline the general traffic lane design through the SH1/SH18 intersection and beyond. NZTA must be keen to not have to factor in growing numbers of merging buses from shoulder lanes etc.
So we are very pleased to find that the agency has found a way to return this logical part of the project to the programme and out of the shadow of ministerial whim [presumably the change of Minister helped?]:
Here is the full document.
Bus users report that their journeys between Constellation and Albany Stations can currently take up a disproportionately large amount of the total trip because of the absence of any Transit right of way; the buses of course are not only themselves delayed but are also delaying other road users here.
The extension will not be a minor structure but as it adjacent to commercial properties it is hard to see how the usual forces of compliant will be able get much traction against it, but it will still need public support at the consultation phase, so Busway users, let yourselves be heard.
We understand the current Busway is built to a standard to enable upgrading to rail systems, we would expect this standard to be continued on this extension, as this does look like the most logical way to next cross the Waitemata Harbour.
Finally, because this is a) spending on the Shore b) not ratepayers funds, and c) not spending on a train or a bike, even the venerable George Wood will be in favour of the proposed extension.
Last week I had some work in Sydney and while there I was able to grab a quick look at some aspects of that beautiful city. I want to start with Light Rail because Sydney has one line in operation, and is about to start another much bigger project next month, and one that is strikingly similar to what AT is proposing for Auckland. Similar in that it upgrades at capacity bus routes, links significant residential and commercial areas with the heart of the city from areas not covered by other Rapid Transit, links event locations with a major transport hub, serves some big tertiary institutions, and most importantly that it will be the catalyst for pedestrianising the main city street. For like AT’s Light Rail plan for Queen St Sydney’s also comes with the opening up of George St for pedestrians.
Below are some shots from my quick ride on the somewhat curious Dulwich Hill Line. This is mostly on the route of the old Metropolitan Goods Line, extended past the old docks of Darling Harbour for the tourist trade and terminating at the city end at at the busy Central Station. This is where I got on on a weekday morning, so heading against the flow, you’d think.
It arrives at Central on one-way loop to an elevated stop at the main concourse level of the Victorian train, Sydney’s largest. I assumed this was a built originally for Sydney’s previous trams, and so it was. The earlier system was largely about distributing into the city centre from this terminus station, but as Sydney grew a number of previously terminating lines were extended through to new underground stations in the central city and through to the bridge and across to the North Shore. The logical and very successful upgrade for a terminating city edge station, just like Britomart. In addition to the new Light Rail line they are also now planning the third underground city rail route and second rail harbour crossing: the new Sydney Metro.
The lovely CAF Urbos 3 arrived full and left full. On this evidence it looks like it could do with additional frequency.
It runs on city streets till Darling harbour then uses the impressive cuttings of the old Metropolitan Goods Line. So the route was not selected because it is necessarily the best place to run Light Rail, but because it was available. Very much like Auckland’s passenger rail network, and many new or revived urban rail systems globally [See Manchester Light Rail, and the London Overground for example].
This business of running services where there happens to be an existing route can of course lead to poor results if there isn’t a match with the surrounding land use, and this line at first did not perform as well as hoped. But that all changed with a the extension to a good anchor; Dulwich Hill rail station [opening 2014], and intensification along the route. It is now booming.
John Street Square Station with apartments and very urban open space above.
Heading back, and full again; mid morning on a week day.
Approaching Central on Hay St, crossing Pitt. Smart bit of kit.
There are obvious parallels with Auckland everywhere you look in Sydney, it is after all, pretty much just a bigger better version of a similar urban typology: a new world anglophone Pacific harbour city. It can be argued that Auckland is at a comparable point of development that Sydney was at decades ago, and while that doesn’t for a moment mean we should slavishly follow what happened there, there is much that can be learned from this city. There are a number of interesting projects underway in Sydney now, like the new Metro, which is introducing a new separate and fully automated rail system to complement the existing network. This is certainly an option for Auckland in the future, especially for upgrading Rapid Transit to our North Shore. The same universal urban forces are in play here as there, as can be seen with Light Rail in Sydney now: It is is working well simply because it delivers on the classic necessary conditions for this mode:
- Good land-use match: intensification around stations
- High quality right-of-way: mostly grade separate or has signal priority
- Strong anchors at each end of the route: train stations in each case, and destinations along the way.
- High standard of vehicle and service [sufficient frequency yet?]
The key lesson here is that if any of these conditions are missing steps must be taken to change them, as they did here. And that it is possible to exploit existing rights of way so long as there aren’t other barriers to change, especially to more intense urban land use around stations. Now that in Auckland we are well on the way to fixing the major vehicle and frequency standards on the rail network it is the development around stations that needs work. Especially as we only need to look at the improved performance of stations like Manukau City and Sylvia Park to see, yet again, how closely linked landuse and transport always are.
Looking ahead to the next Light Rail route in Sydney it is pretty certain that this will perform even better because it is designed around need not just route availability. It is hard to disagree with Alan Davies here when he writes:
There are literally hundreds of existing light rail systems in the world. The value of some is questionable, but Sydney’s proposed CBD and South East Light Rail line looks like it’ll be among the best.
And Davies, the Melburbanist, is often skeptical about high capex Transit systems, often questioning the value of ones in his own city.
I reckon that this is probably true for the proposed Auckland Light Rail programme too, with two provisos: That land around the stops is zoned for more intense use, and like in Sydney, that the through-routing of the current terminus station is at least funded and underway first. That’s the first fix.
Last week the latest iteration of the National Land Transport Programme was announced. This is largely a business as usual plan, dominated by the big spend on a few massive state highways projects. However there are a few things to be celebrated, especially for cycling, and even more in the language and thinking in the supporting documents. This was repeated at the launch too, especially in the words of NZTA CEO and AT Board representative Geoff Dangerfield, and NZTA Auckland/Northland Regional Director Ernst Zöllner.
The high level aims are all strong and commendable. The focus on ‘economic growth and productivity, safety, and value for money’ are incontestably valuable. If they were to add ‘resilience, energy security, and environmental performance’ it would probably be a perfect list. But of course this is really set by the Government Policy Statement.
Dangerfield was his usual clear and persuasive self, setting a high level context and skilfully bating away questions. Zöllner was particularly articulate about both the dynamic nature of the situation in Auckland and the unformed quality of Auckland’s PT networks; especially the incomplete nature of the core Rapid Transit Network. Both noted the strong growth of PT ridership numbers, which will see a rise in the PT opex spend.
Here’s what the agency says about the Transit and Active modes, in the Providing Transport Choices document:
All incontestable good sense, and exactly the sort of points regular readers here would recognise, especially the emphasis on the value of the high quality own-right-of-way Congestion Free networks of rail and dedicated busways.
People using public transport on high-quality public transport services with a dedicated right of way, like the Auckland Northern Busway or metropolitan rail networks, can now enjoy fast, efficient journeys on comfortable modern buses and electric trains, while freeing up road space for other people and freight.
There remains, however, some considerable daylight between this analysis and the actual projects being funded. This is especially the case with the comparatively tiny sum of $176m for Public Transport Capital Works in Auckland out of a total $4.2 billion spend over the three year period in the region [~4%] and $13.9 billion nationally. This sum [half of which is from the Council’s Transport Levy] will bring much vital kit, like the Otahuhu, Manukau City, and Te Atatu bus interchanges. But is a long way from fixing those big gaps in the RTN network. In response to my questions on this they quite reasonably countered that some funding for bus capex is in other budgets, notably under the AMETI programme, as part of the North Western massive highway works, and the Northern Busway extensions.
However the two Busway sums do not result in the construction of even one metre of additional RTN. For the Northern Busway the previous minister deleted construction of the proposed extension from the accelerated motorway package [a loan to be met from future NLTF], so all we are left with is ‘future proofing’ and no one can ride on a busway that has only been future proofed for. On the Northwestern we do get the improvement of bus shoulder lanes and a station at Te Atatu; but no RTN. AMETI is the best of the bunch, but that’s only if the proposed BRT does happen instead of the place-ruining flyover that appeals more to some entitled voices there.
Then we come to the great problem that the National Land Transport Fund is barred from investing in rail infrastructure yet Auckland is now showing the huge value of using this separate network for moving increasing numbers of people completely outside of traffic congestion. And some RTN routes are clearly best served by rail. Just as well the Council has the courage to just get on with the CRL first stage by itself so at least this vital gap at the heart of the RTN is getting a start.
The case for near term investment in PT and especially for completing the RTN can be summarised thus:
- current demand growth of 20+% on Auckland’s Rapid Transit Network,
- the RTN is showing improved operating cost effectiveness as it grows,
- the strongly voiced value the agency sees in quality PT networks especially their positive effects on traffic congestion and economic growth,
- the well known relationship between what is invested in and what then grows in use plus the positive externalities of increased PT use,
- and the observed sub-optimal nature of the city’s current PT networks in both quality and extent, ie the clear opportunities for improvement.
So despite the good work being undertaken by many in all our transport agencies: NZTA, AT, and MoT, there seem to be structural problems that are leading to important opportunities
being missed in our only city of scale
. It is this context that I wrote to NZTA Auckland and Northland Director Ernst Zöllner with concerns about two specific projects that embody these issues. As this post is already quite long I will run the letter tomorrow morning in a follow-up post…
The next round of consultation for the New Network starts today and this time it’s the turn of the North Shore. This follows the consultations for South Auckland, West Auckland, Hibiscus Coast and Pukekohe/Waiuku.
Like pretty much every other area of Auckland, the existing bus network on the North Shore is a confusing mess – akin to spaghetti that’s been thrown at a map. There are a huge number of services that often do only minor variations. There are also a lot of situations where services overlap to provide frequency to some areas but at the expense of legibility for customers. An example of this is Takapuna where there is a frequent all day service already but it is made up by a plethora of different routes, many of which also serve other parts of the North Shore. If you’re standing on Albert St wanting to get there you catch the bus destined for Takapuna then catch one of the buses to the East Coast Bays, Forrest Hill or to Waiwera but whatever you do don’t get on the bus marked Takapuna (922) which reaches its destination only after an arduous detour through Northcote and Hillcrest.
The map for the proposed new network is below which is proposed to be rolled out in 2017.
As with all of the proposed new networks, the first thing you notice is that the map is considerably cleaner and easier to read and that in itself is an improvement however there are a couple of improvements I think could make things even better – some easier than others.
Transfers vs direct services – We’ve talked a lot before about how the focus on being able to transfer easily to expand the usefulness of the network is the right approach however I wonder if there aren’t still too many long routes that go all the way to town, especially at the peak. Those resources could perhaps instead go to providing more localised services that visit busway stations or hook into the very frequent Onewa Rd services.
Onewa Busway Station – The network really highlights how useful the originally proposed busway station at Onewa Rd would be. With this network someone from say Northcote to get to Constellation or Albany is quite difficult and the fastest option would probably be to go to Fanshawe St then transfer on to a Northern Express service. With a busway station just south of Onewa Rd it would allow people to transfer easily between very frequent services and open up those two parts of the network much better. Note: this busway station was opposed by many of same people that have opposed Skypath out of fear their streets will be full of parked cars.
There is more to the new network though. You may have noticed from the image above that there are three different Northern Express services planned. This is because AT say they are also changing where buses go on the south side of the harbour. All North Shore buses will eventually take one the three routes are shown below:
They say there will be three different routes which they say:
The benefit of operating buses on these 3 separate paths is that we can better match the number of buses with the number of passengers. In this way, services will be less likely to be overcrowded for people travelling to end destinations such as Newmarket.
However I’m not convinced that’s a good idea. Why not just use those extra services to make things less crowded for everyone while at the same time extending either of the other two services to Newmarket. Those wanting to go to Ponsonby would transfer like they’ll be required too on weekends not to mention those other routes generally have better bus priority. Due to the City Rail Link works that start early next year, AT will be changing existing routes in the city to one of the three above by the end of this year.
In every New Network consultation that’s taken place so far there’ve been a few changes in the way it’s handled and in this one there are a few new aspects that AT have added that I quite like. One is this before and after map highlighting just how much the service is improving. Red is Frequent routes with a minimum of 15 minutes during the day, Blue is Connector routes which have a minimum of 30 minutes during the day and most are much higher in the peak while Green are other services.
There’s also this table which highlights what kind of frequencies and span of service can be expected from each route.
Lastly here are some figures on how the changes to the network will impact people. Within 500m of a frequent route:
- the number of people living will improve from 6.2% to 32.3%
- the number of jobs will improve from 18.5% to 50.3%
There are more stats here.
It will be interesting to see how the consultation goes. Go to AT’s site for more information including public events and to give feedback.
The Public Transport offer in Auckland has a long way to go, but on some routes, especially in the inner city, it can be not only the quicker but also more pleasant option than driving, particularly once the hassle and costs of parking are considered. We look forward to this advantage being spread out to more areas and for more people as the Electric Trains, the New Bus Network, Proper Buslanes, and Integrated Fares roll out over the next couple of years.
Yet there is still the issue of people’s mindset. I understand this well as it wasn’t until I returned from living in Europe that I just didn’t unthinkingly reach for my car keys to undertake even the shortest or most ill-suited of journeys in Auckland. But also over that time PT services have improved from almost completely useless to on many occasions pretty handy. The Rapid Transit system is at last reaching utility as can be clearly seen by consistent rise in uptake, but there are also bus services like the Inner Link that I now use regularly because, once armed with a HOP card, it is often the best option for many journeys. Frequent enough, and a great place to check my messages between commitments, or just stare out into the city sailing by, perhaps even thoughtfully. It can also be pretty social:
Ride Social: On the Inner Link
My partner and I have recently had two instances that are deeply illustrative of how far many Aucklanders have to go with their car addiction. An addiction born of the environment; as for so long only one means of movement was well supported.
Both times we were happily bussing it, only to be dragged off into relatively unpleasant and time wasting car experiences by people determined to do us a favour and generously save us from perfectly efficient and enjoyable Transit trips.
The first, after a dinner out we were dragged, past our bus stop, into the limitless helllhole that is the SkyCity car dungeon, our hosts struggling to find their car on the bizarre sloping and labyrinthine parking floors, paying an absolute fortune to release it once found, seriously taking way longer and much less pleasantly than hanging on Albert St on a clear evening, even for the relatively roundabout 020.
It was very kind of our friends but I really really would have rather had the bus trip home. The conversation, thereafter, became all about how vile SkyCity is as an experience and how expensive the parking was; which was an order of magnitude higher than our combined busfares.
The second, Maria was on Ponsonby Rd buying flowers en route to the hospital (Bhana Bros; what will we do without you?), only to bump into a mutual friend who insisted on driving her to Grafton. What ensued was a longwinded driving/parking hopeless nightmare. Compared to taking the Link, as she’d intended [directly point to point; unlike the drive], or riding, as I usually do to get to the hosp. and there’s been a lot of that over last few years, what a stupid way to cover that route! Yet this person wouldn’t have a bar of it, absolutely full of how she’d saved Maria from some kind of malady and done her a great favour…. But it actually made her late for her next appointment and robbed her of a contemplative moment on the bus.
I had a similar experience not too long ago. Drinking near Britomart late at night, group decides to go to a bar in Ponsonby. They start the inevitable horse trading of who is driving what and where and whose car I have to go in the boot of. I say bugger that and announce I’m catching a bus, the rest look at me like I’m insane. Basically begging me to cram into their car which is parked in some building like they are saving me from some huge hardship. Me and one other get the Link up no worries, and are well onto our second drink before the rest arrive complaining about nowhere to park etc. All absolutely flabbergasted we got there faster on a bus. One person didn’t believe us and said we must have run straight to a taxi. Anyway, who wants to be driving when bar-hopping?
I get this totally because if you don’t use PT at all you sort of don’t see it, except as that thing blocking your way when driving, also you don’t know how it works, where to catch a service or how long it might take, or what the hell a HOP card is. And it also means you pretty much always have your car with you piling up parking charges or nagging you about the wisdom of having that drink. I really do feel much freer in the city without my car, free to change plans, free to socialise. In the city the car is a burden.
And continued improvements to services are baked into the pie, especially now the the Transport Levy is in place. Although it is extension to the Rapid Transit Network that would be truly transformative. Here is the coming spread of the Frequent Network:
Those that still only ever think of driving are clearly the majority in Auckland but there is a considerable upside to this observation because as the kinds of improvements that are available in only some places become more widespread it means that there are many more Aucklanders who will discover this advantage and add using these services to their options for movement. When and where it makes sense to.
The data supports the idea that this is already happening as the transit trips per capita figure keeps steadily advancing despite the rising poulation. It is now at 50.5 PT trips per capita from 44 in 2011, still very low compared to similar cities
, and reason enough to expect ridership to keep climbing. As long as Auckland Transport keep improving services measurable.
But also thinks of new ways of getting HOP cards into more new hands. Events where PT journeys are part of the ticket price are currently the main way that AT are doing this. But with Fare Integration I think its time they started approaching major employers near good services to include HOP cards in renumeration packages. And for the government to revisit Fringe Benefit Tax rules for both PT and car parks.
Could Auckland have something like this running on a couple of major city routes before this decade is out? The AT board is to decide later this month how to proceed with its Light Rail plan and with what sort of pace. Everybody it seems loves trams, but why now and why there? What problem are they addressing? In a follow-up post I will discuss the financial side of the proposal.
CAF Urbos Tram recently ordered by Utrecht
First of all lets have a look at Auckland’s situation in general terms. Auckland is at a particular but quite standard point in its urban development: 1.5 million people is a city. The fifth biggest in Australasia; behind Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth. But on the location with the tightest natural constraints of the group; squeezed by harbours, coasts, ranges, and productive and/or swampy farmland, it shares the highest density of the group with Sydney in its built up area. And is growing strongly. It also has the poorest Transit network of the group and consequently the lowest per capita Transit modeshare [although the fastest improving one].
So these three factors scale, growth, and density are all combining to create some serious pressure points that require fresh solutions especially on existing transport routes, and particularly on the harbour constrained city isthmus.
This pressure is on all transport infrastructure, at every scale from footpaths [eg Central City, Ponsonby Road]; the desire for safe cycling routes; on the buses, trains, and ferries; to road space for trucks and tradies, and of course road and street space for private vehicle users. Transit demand in particular is going through the roof and this is way ahead of population growth and traffic demand growth, especially at the higher quality Rapid Transit type of service where growth over the last year has been at an atsonishing 20%.
This is to be expected in a city of Auckland’s current state as Transit demand typically accelerates in advance of population in cities of a certain size, because of the universal laws of urban spatial geometry, as explained here by Jarrett Walker;
This problem is mathematically inevitable.
As cities grow, and especially as they grow denser, the need for transit generally rises faster than population, at least in the range of densities that is common in North America. This is completely obvious if you think about it, and I stepped through it in more detail in Chapter 10 of Human Transit. In brief: Suppose a particular square mile of the city doubles in population. Transit demand would double because there are twice as many people for whom transit is competing. But independently of that, if density is higher, each person is likely to find transit more useful, because (a) density creates more disincentives to driving and car ownership while (b) density makes it easier for transit agencies to provide abundant and useful service. Those two separate impacts of density on transit, multiplied together, mean that transit demand is rising faster than population. Again, go to my book for a more extended and thorough argument.
And that this means that the infrastructure needs of our growing city is likely to be ‘lumpy’. Big long lasting kit that is costly and disruptive to build become suddenly urgent:
As transit demand grows in a growing city, it hits crisis points where the current infrastructure is no longer adequate to serve the number of people who want to travel. Several major subway projects now in development are the result of transit’s overwhelming success using buses. I’m thinking, for example, of Second Avenue in New York, Eglinton in Toronto, Wilshire in Los Angeles, Broadway in Vancouver, and Stockton-Columbus in San Francisco.
Broadway, for example, has local buses running alongside express buses, coming as often as every 3 minutes peak hours, and they are all packed. In that situation, you’ve done just about everything you can with buses, so the case for a rail project is pretty airtight. In all of the cases I mention, the rail project usually has to be a subway, because once an area is that dense, it is difficult to commandeer enough surface street space, and we tend to have strong aesthetic objections to elevated lines in these contexts.
As driving amenity is very mature in Auckland there is very little opportunity to add significant driving capacity to streets and roads to much of the city at any kind of cost, and certainly not without a great deal of destruction of the built environment. This has long been the case so in a desire to solve capacity and access issues with a driving only solution we did spend the second half of the last century bulldozing large swathes of the Victorian inner suburbs into to make room for this spatially very hungry mode. This solution is no longer desirable nor workable. Below is an image showing the scar of the Dominion Rd extension citywards and the still extant Dom/New North Rd flyover. These were to be the beginning of a motorway parallel to Dominion rd to ‘open up’ or ‘access’ the old isthmus suburbs.
1963, Dominion Rd flyover in the foreground
Where we can’t nor want to build ever wider roads we can of course add that needed capacity though the higher capacity and spatial efficiency of Transit. Most easily with buses and bus lanes. There are also potential significant gains to made at the margins by incentivising the Active modes with safe routes especially to Transit stations and schools and other local amenity.
However as Jarrett Walker describes above there comes a point where buses, through their own success, cannot handle the demand as the number of vehicles required start to become both less efficient and more disruptive than is desirable. At this point demand can only be met with higher capacity systems with clearer right of ways. Such systems require expensive permanent infrastructure and are never undertaken lightly. The CRL, being underground, clearly fits this definition and is due to begin in earnest in the new year. And although the physical work and all of the disruption of the CRL build occurs in the Centre City, the capacity and frequency improvements are to the entire rail network, and therefore much of the city: West, East, and South.
But not everywhere. Not the North Shore, not the North West, and not in ‘the Void’, as AT call it, the isthmus area between the Western and Southern Lines. Shown below in purple with the post CRL Rapid Transit Network. This area has a fairly solid and quite consistent density, housing about the same number of people as West Auckland, around 150,000. Note also the South Eastern Busway [AMETI] plugging directly into Panmure is very much a kind of rail extension for the Transit-less South-East, as is the Manukau spur further south.
These three major areas will still be relying on buses. The CRL, New Bus Network, and Integrated Fares will enable and incentivise more bus-to-train transfers that expand the reach of the core rail network and that this will help limit the numbers of buses going on all the way to the city. But this is primarily for the South, South-East, and West of New Lynn, there will still be an ever increasing number of buses with from the remaining areas converging on the City Centre. AT calculates that we need to act now to cut the bus numbers from at least one of these major sources to leave room for growth from the others, and all the other users and uses of city streets. [More detail on this in Matt’s previous post, here].
The North Western is currently getting more bus priority with the motorway widening
, and hopefully proper stations at Pt Chevalier, Te Atatu, and Lincoln Rd [although NZTA and/or the government are showing little urgency with this aspect of the route]. Also priority improvements to Great North Rd and further west too. The North Shore is the only one of the three with a Rapid Transit system [which also should be being extended now
], and while there is still plenty of capacity on the Busway itself, like the other routes these buses are constrained once in the city. This leaves the very full and frequent ‘Void’ bus routes as the ones to address with another solution first.
So essentially LRT for this area has been selected because of the need:
- for higher capacity and efficiency on core Isthmus bus routes
- to reduce bus numbers on these routes and especially in the central city
- adds Queen St as an additional high capacity North-South city route
- for extra capacity both before and after CRL is operational
- to address Auckland Plan air quality, carbon emissions, and resilience aims
- to enable major public realm improvements along routes, especially Queen St
and possibly because:
- it may be able to be financed as a PPP so helps smooth out the capital cost of building both projects [more on this in a follow up post]
Above is a schematic from AT showing the two proposed LRT branches. The western one leading to Queen St via Ian Mackinnon Drive from Dominion and Sandringham Roads, the eastern one down Symonds St from Manukau and Mt Eden Roads, some or all routes connecting through to Wynyard Quarter. More description in this post
It is worth noting that this area, The Void, gets its very successful and desirable urban form from this very technology; these are our premier ‘tram-built’ suburbs. With all the key features; an efficient grid street pattern, mixed use higher density on the tram corridors, excellent walking shortcuts and desire lines. So what the old tram made the new tram can serve well too.
Auckland Isthmus tramlines
With all door boarding and greater capacity LRT will speed more people along these routes with fewer vehicles and lower staffing numbers. Frequency will actually drop from the current peak every 3 minutes down to 5 or 7 minutes [I’m guessing]. This along with the narrower footprint required by LRT is a big plus for other users of the corridor. But the huge gain in travel time comes from improvement to the right of way and intersection priority that can be delivered with the system. Stops are presumably to be at intersections, instead of midblock as buses are, so the passenger pick-ups are coordinated with traffic lights.
But best of all for this writer is that LRT is a tool to drive enormous and permanent place uplift. The removal of cars and buses from Queen St, improvements to New North and Dominion Rds, hopefully including that intersection itself, a fantastic new Dominion road with the potential for real uplift to premier status. It will spur the redevelopment of the mixed uses zone all along Dominion Rd. This is real place quality transport investment. And all of course while moving thousands and thousands of people totally pollution free and with our own mostly renewably generated electrons. Breathing in the Queen St valley will become a fresh new experience.
We all look forward to hearing the proposed details of the routes and of course the financials. I will follow up this post with my understanding of the thinking on this next.
Finally it is very good to see that there is no dispute over the necessary solutions to Auckland’s access and place quality issues, just the details and timing. Auckland Transport’s map above is pretty much the same as our solution in the CFN. We are delighted that AT are planning for four light rail routes were we proposed one.
There are of course plenty of debates to had about further extensions to the Transit networks that this proposal invites; LRT in a tunnel from Wynyard to Onewa, Akoranga, and Takapuna? Then up the Busway? From Onehunga to through Mangere to the Airport? Along Grey Lynn’s apartment lined Great North Road, to Pt Chevalier, and the North Western? Panmure, Pakuranga, Botany, Manukau City Airport? Which of these need to be true grade separate Rapid Transit and for which are bus lanes or busways a more cost effective option? Are their others that would be better suited to extending the rail network? Is there enough density elsewhere in the city to justify other LRT routes?
At the Infrastructure Committee two weeks ago not only was there an update on AT’s light rail plans but also on the status of the New Network and Integrated Fares including some maps of what is proposed.
On the New Network there is the rough timeline of when we’ll see the next steps in the process.
2013, 2014 – consultations completed
- South Auckland, Green Bay/Titirangi, Hibiscus Coast, Pukekohe/Waiuku, West Auckland
2015 – Consultation dates
- North Shore Consultation – June to July 2015
- East and Isthmus – Combined Consultation – September to November 2015
- Waiheke Consultation – to be decided
2015 – Implementation of Hibiscus Coast
2016 – Implementation of South, Pukekohe/Waiuku, West
2017 – Implementation of North, East and Central
There are also some low quality images of what is proposed for the North Shore and Isthmus/East consultations.
Other than the busway it suggests there are four services which will meet the frequent definition of a bus at least every 15 minutes, 7am to 7pm, 7 days a week as well as a number of other services running at lower frequencies. For me personally I quite like that the services that serve Takapuna appear to be greatly simplified which should make it much easier for non-regular users to work out which bus to catch. Currently Takapuna is served by a handful of buses that pass through Takapuna on their way to other locations such as the East Coast Bays (and they tend to be well patronised throughout the day).
The presence of the busway also makes it much easier to develop a connected network on the eastern side of the North Shore which sees most services feed in to the busway stations. The same can’t be said for the western side which looks much like it does today with almost all routes feeding to the CBD. This makes it difficult for someone on the western side of the North Shore to reach the eastern beaches or north to Albany. Given Birkenhead Transport’s previous aversion to changes it seems like AT are still caving in to this patch protection effort. It is something that we will need to submit on when it consultation opens because it really weakens the new network in this part of the city. Of course this wouldn’t be so bad had the original busway plans of a having a station around Onewa Rd had happened but that was dropped after strong opposition from the Northcote Residents Association. Such a station would have allowed people using the buses that feed into Onewa Rd to the frequent Northern Express or Takapuna buses.
There’s also a slide suggesting that AT are thinking about how the buses that access the city centre will be dealt with. The two options are shown below with my preference being the second one which would be simpler while still enabling easy and frequent transfers to services covering Ponsonby Rd and Karangahape Rd from the proposed Victoria Park station.
This is where the new network will be at is strongest with the highest number of frequent routes including a number of frequent cross town routes. There also appears to have some changes to a few of the cross town routes compared to the current network schematic shown on AT’s website. As an example the frequent route along St Lukes Rd/Balmoral Rd/Greenlane West now carrying on to Orakei Rd and Kepa Rd and Glen Innes instead of terminating at Ellerslie. It seems like a good change. It also highlights how good Mt Albert is for Transit, it’s served by the western line, New North Rd buses, the remnants of the outer link and two cross town frequent lines – an ideal place for some intensification.
Of course I’m sure AT will also need to show at the time how light rail would fit in this mix, particularly as it seems like the tracks will remain north of SH20 so there will need to be an explanation of what happens south of that.
I think it’s worth remembering the southern part of the network looks a bit bare due to that part having been consulted on as part of the South Auckland Network e.g. there’s a frequent route linking Botany, Otara, Papatoetoe and Mangere. I also thought there would be a stronger connection between Botany and Manukau along Ti Iriangi Dr considering it’s meant to be a future Rapid Transit route – although again worth noting there’s also a non-frequent service connecting the two via Harris Rd/Springs Rd/Preston Rd.
Moving on to Integrated Fares it’s noted that in October the AT board approved the business case for Integrated Fares which will see us move to a Zonal based fare system. All up there are 14 different zones although only seven in the main urban area (eight if you include the Hibiscus Coast). However the second slide on fares suggests there will only be 5 zone fares which suggests there will be a maximum cap (not many would likely go over that anyway i.e. how many people are travelling from the Silverdale to south of Manukau on PT on a regular basis.
While I do think the map is an improvement on what we’ve seen before I still think there will be some major issues around the zonal boundaries, even where they overlap as the overlap seems to be fairly small. As an example someone going from Fruitvale to Avondale on the train pays the same price as someone from New Lynn all the way to the city centre. This is something that using distance based fares would have addressed.
The big winners in all of this will be those that make cross town trips like those in the green arrows below or across the isthmus e.g. from Mt Albert to Sylvia Park. Obviously a key feature is that there is no penalty for transferring however I wonder if there are any trips where the fastest option involved more than 3 legs.
For the next steps in rolling out integrated fares we should hear more detail next month. I like that they are talking about family and ferry passes although on the latter I suspect they’re still unlikely to include ferry trips in the monthly/daily passes also eligible for buses and trains. This is likely in part due to the key ferry routes of Devonport and Waiheke being enshrined in legislation as outside of AT’s control.
To implement this and some of the other changes like Light Rail at also note that they need to update the Regional Public Transport Plan (RPTP) which was formally adopted in September 2013 and that should also happen this year. This likely won’t be a full new RPTP but just a refresh of the current one.
Train Bus Interchange. Looked to me like was working pretty sweetly. Quite a bit of Kiss’n’Ride going on on the northern side, car drop off, as you’d expect for a reasonably far enough out station in such an auto-dependent city. And, rather like New Lynn, this station feels somewhat stranded by roads and not anything like the intensity of land use we all expect to see develop over time.
But of course those roads bring the buses right to the front door; quite a lot of people seem to be transferring to the trains rather than staying on the bus all the way to the city centre, and Howick and Eastern looked to be doing a good trade to and from the station. It is interesting that H&E have just announced they are buying 15 new double deckers, all with wifi and charging points. It looks like the quality of the new trains has started an quality of service race among providers, along with providing the core of the lift in ridership enabling this sort of investment and upgrade; win win win.
Looking forward to the next Interchanges at Otahuhu and Manukau that are funded to start this year. However the really spectacular upgrade for SE Auckland will be the Bus Rapid Transit part of AMETI which will connect this station with Botany, Pakuranga, and hopefully Highland Park with bus priority [construction start 2017]. Won’t be too long before we have new and much better options for getting around our city.
This week Auckland Transport have made a number of changes to bus routes including introducing a new service.
The major changes are on the North Shore with Birkenhead Bus services where the changes came into effect on Sunday. Key changes include additional trips and changed timetables that mean there will be services down Onewa Rd at least every 15 minutes all day, seven days a week. During most of the day on weekdays, frequencies would be even higher. After the Highbury shops where the Glenfield Rd and Beach Haven services diverge there are at least 30 minute services all day every day. In addition to the frequency improvements some services from the city also now operate later into the night.
These changes are good as it means a large part of the North Shore should see significantly improved services and effectively can be seen as a precursor to the New Network. We’ve seen in other places where frequencies have been improved – even if just through fixing existing timetables – that patronage often jumps considerably.
The bus routes serving Beach Haven
Perhaps unsurprisingly there appeared to be a few hiccups yesterday however I would hope they should settle down – although full buses are likely to be an ongoing issue (and not just on these routes).
The other key change was a new service serving the Stonefields Area. The 632 Stonefields Loop bus travels between Glen Innes and Stonefields every 20 minutes from 6am to 7pm, Monday to Friday. That frequency ties in nicely with the current train timetable which runs every 10 minutes during the morning and afternoon peaks and every 20 minutes off peak.
It will start at Taniwha St before going anti-clockwise along Merton Rd, College Rd, Bluegrey Ave, Tephra Boulevard, Stonefields Ave and Morrin Rd before getting back to the train station on Apirana Ave
It’s good to see Auckland Transport trying connecting services like this one who’s only real goal is to feed the rail network. One surprising aspect about it though is that it will be run by Howick and Eastern who obviously had the better tender. The reason it’s odd is that NZ Bus runs most – if not all bus services in the area and has a bus depot very close by (just at bottom of the image).
Hopefully both of these services will be a success. We’ll try and keep a close eye on what impacts the changes have.
Due to the summer break it’s been a while since we’ve seen any public transport patronage for Auckland with the last results being for November last year. That finally changed yesterday as Auckland Transport published them ahead of their board meeting on Friday and the results are stunning.
Firstly December where we saw a major change for rail with a new timetable that saw the Southern and Eastern lines split and both move to 10 minute frequencies at peak and 20 minute frequency off peak.
There are some fairly solid results in there, especially on the Rapid Transit Network which was up over 29% on December last year.
Moving on to January and the results for rail in particular are incredible. This is primarily due the summer shutdown being shorter than in previous years with the Southern, Eastern and Onehunga lines back in action on 5th January and the Western Line a week Later on the 12th. In addition there was no shutdown during Auckland Anniversary. There were a few events that also impacted on patronage. Even taking all of those changes out the patronage growth in January was impressive across all modes.
While it would have been affected by some of issues mentioned earlier, I wonder if the 166.9% increase on the Eastern Line is a record of some kind. That’s a staggering increase. Putting aside the percentages, the actual growth in number terms is also impressive. Compared to January last year, for the previous 12 months there have been over 6.5 million extra PT trips, an average of around 18,000 extra per day (will be higher on weekdays and lower on weekends). Included in that is an extra 4.3 million bus trips and 2.1 million extra train trips. If rail growth continues the way it has for the past year it will be putting huge pressure on the Government’s target for an earlier start to the CRL.
What’s also impressive about both December and January is that buses and ferries are showing some great growth too. In the case of the jump in ferry usage, AT say it is partly attributed to the patronage coming from the new Explore Group services that started a few months ago between the city and Waiheke Island. The timetable means there is now a 30 minute service throughout the day which offers a vast improvement in utility on what existed before so it’s not really surprising to see that having an impact. That also helps to highlight that the new bus network should help drive very good patronage growth.
The graphs below highlight some of the changes in patronage.
The last time total patronage was as high as it is now was prior to 1958
The most impressive growth is occurring on the Rapid Transit Network which comprises of the Northern Express (NEX) and the rail network. Both rail and the NEX have shown great numbers recently.
Another thing that’s really impressive about the patronage results is that they’ve occurred at a time when petrol prices have been at their lowest point in years. Even though fuel has been cheap it seems many simply don’t want to sit in the congestion.
Looking forward, February has already been feeling very busy and I expect the strong patronage growth will likely continue all the way through March Madness and beyond.
Update: some people noticed an issue with the change compared to the sane month last year figure for the Onehunga line. AT have corrected it below however it doesn’t affect the overall result