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
With the year fast coming to a close this is the first in a series of posts wrapping up what happened this year. In this post I’m just going to look at the changes we’ve seen with Public Transport.
While 2013 was very much a lull year while many projects ticked on in the background, 2014 has arguably been one of the biggest years for PT in Auckland for some time. This has largely been thanks to two major projects seeing significant milestones.
The first trains arrived in 2013 but this year saw them carrying paying passengers for the first time starting with the Onehunga line at the end of April. Electric trains then started running to Manukau in August before a full timetable upgrade earlier this month that saw improved frequencies – especially off peak. We don’t yet know the impact the most recent change have made however the earlier changes have shown the sparks effect in action in Auckland with those two lines seeing massive growth compared to last year – in the case of Manukau patronage is up 50% on the same time last year.
The fantastic news about the electrification story is that the biggest impact is yet to come which will happen the Southern and Western lines go electric by the middle of next year.
After years of delays and issues, integrated ticketing was finally rolled out to all PT services meaning you can now use a single card to pay for any trip across Auckland, regardless of who operates it. That is especially useful for anyone who has multiple options for which service they catch or those who catch transfer between services. It’s hard to say for sure but integrated ticketing is likely to behind some of the spectacular growth we’ve seen this year as from memory, internationally it’s been credited with patronage increases of around 7%.
As with electrification the best is yet to come and in 2015 we will hear more about the real game changer of Integrated Fares. That should simplify the fare structure significantly and mean you pay a single fare for your trip regardless of how many services you catch to get to your destination. It makes transferring much much easier and is needed for the New Network to work. From what I understand Integrated Fares requires some significant changes the HOP system and as such is not likely to roll out till around this time next year so it won’t really start having an impact till 2016. In the meantime Auckland Transport have already started making some positive changes including increasing the HOP discount in July that meant if you were using a HOP card then for most trips (except ferries) fares actually got cheaper.
Other than the two key projects above there’s been a lot of improvement in the PT space. Here are some of the other things we’ve seen this year.
Patronage has grown very strongly this year and has been one of the best years we’ve seen. We’re obviously still waiting for the results for December however for the 12 months to the end of November patronage has increased by 5.685 million (8.2%) to be over 75 million trips. Within that the star performers have been the Rapid Transit Network which is made up of the rail network and the Northern Express which combined have grown by 17% (2.166 million) compared to the same time last year. 2.166 million trips. On the rail network Auckland achieved two milestones at the same time with patronage surpassing Wellington for the first time and also passing the 12 million trips mark. That occurred only occurred in September however growth has been so strong it’s possible we will pass 12.5 million in December. However the regular bus network hasn’t been standing still either with that seeing a 7% increase (3.485 million). By mode the changes are:
- Bus – 3.817 million (7.1%)
- Train – 1.835 million (17.8%)
- Ferry – 32,900 (0.6%)
Down in Wellington patronage has had a spurt of growth for the first time in a while with the total number of trips rising above 36 million for the first time.
This year for the first time in Auckland Transport’s four year history we saw them implement a new bus lane. It occurred on Fanshawe St after a great post from Luke highlighting why it was needed and while small has made a big difference to buses leaving the city towards the North Shore.
In November we learned of a lot more bus lanes that Auckland is planning over the next three years which should really help improve the customer experience for bus users and improve operational efficiency.
City Rail Link
It feels like news has been relatively quiet on the CRL this year although the project has definitely moved forward. Earlier this year the project received approval from the independent commissioners which means for the first time in the projects 90+ year history there is a designation in place. Some groups are challenging that aspects consent and they should be heard by the environment court in the first half of 2015 however that is unlikely to stop the whole project.
In the meantime Auckland Transport have been moving forward with the project and the first section – the enabling works which will see the tunnel dug from Britomart to Wyndham St – should kick off by the end of 2015. AT have already put out a tender for the works and that should be awarded in the next few months. Positively, while the council and government still debate over when to provide funding, it seems everyone is in agreement that the enabling works should kick off now as they are needed for Precinct Properties to build their redevelopment of the Downtown Mall site.
Perhaps the biggest news about the CRL was that AT have dropped the Newton station in favour of an upgraded Mt Eden station.
Just a few weeks ago AT launched a new brand for PT called AT Metro and to accompany it all buses will eventually have a unified livery rather than each operator having their own brand.
Three more consultations for the New Network occurred in 2014 following the South Auckland network in 2013. This year there were Hibiscus Coast/Warkworth, Pukekohe and Waiuku and West Auckland. One major issue that has emerged with the new network though is the lack of progress on interchanges with the West Auckland network suffering the most from this.
The first stage of AMETI which will eventually see a busway from Panmure all the way to Pakuranga and then Botany was completed at the beginning of the year with the opening of the new Panmure station and interchange. It is already having a significant impact with patronage at the station up as much as 100% in some months compared to 2013 and that is only likely to continue as more improvements are made.
The Manukau station opened back in 2012 however since then it has been a bit hidden away thanks to the construction of the MIT campus that sits above it – which was subject to delays thanks to the collapse of the construction company building it. Those issues are now over and in June the MIT campus opened providing a spectacular entrance to the station.
So what did I miss?
Well for Christchurch Bus and for Auckland Rail users it is. Christchurch is launching its New Bus Network today:
PDF here. We are very keen to hear back from users about they think of this. In fact we’ed be very keen to run a guest post or two from interested PT users in Christchurch. Here’s what Christchurch Metro say about it:
Our city has changed, and so must we. Public transport is a valuable asset to a modern, vibrant city. It helps to keep us, and our economy, moving, and so this new network has been developed to cover our emerging city. The core of the new network features five high-frequency, direct services running across town.
Also today the new Auckland Rail timetables, especially for the Eastern and Southern lines in Auckland begin, as Matt described last month here:
This means the beginning of an all EMU service on the Eastern Line, and the beginning of our much more legible and frequent turn-up-and-go Metro-style rail Rapid Transit running pattern. This is the next step in the great upgrade of rail services for Auckland that is already being met with enthusiasm by Auckland travellers. Early next year the Southern Line with get its Electric Trains, followed by the Western Line towards the end, which will also come with frequency increases. Next year will also see the beginning of the roll out of the radical upgrade of the Bus system that is the New Network. Today will also see the beginning of regular use of electric six car sets on the network.
Again we are keen to hear from users how the new services are going.
Back in July and August, Auckland Transport consulted on changes to the bus network on the Hibiscus Coast as part of the region wide new network. The main driver for consulting on the changes now is that AT want to extend some Northern Express services to the future Hibiscus Coast busway station before the middle of next year and so it makes sense to reorganise the rest of the network in the area at the same time to take advantage of it.
The results of that consultation are now available and the final proposed network is going to the AT board today for approval. All up AT received 874 responses with 71% supporting or strongly supporting what was proposed. That’s quite a bit better than the 56% combined support for the changes to the network in South Auckland. One interesting aspect I noticed from the demographic information of submitters that stated their gender was that 59% were female. I think this is good as often transport discussions tend to be far too male dominated. The feedback has resulted in a number of changes with 10 of the original 11 routes being modified. The key issues raised and the changes as a response to them are below
I personally thought extending the NEX to Orewa itself would have been a useful anchor point rather than having it terminate at the Hibiscus Coast Station which is only accessible by car or local bus however AT say that to take the NEX through congested local roads would affect its reliability and therefore the quality of the service. In addition AT say some people wanted the new NEX services to bypass Albany busway station or in some cases all busway stations to ensure there was capacity for those going to the Hibiscus Coast. In response AT say they believe that there are greater benefits of access, simplicity, and legibility to be gained from keeping all NEX services running the same route at all times of day and serving all the busway stations. Further the buses to the Hibiscus Coast will be in addition to the existing NEX buses providing additional capacity and will be timed to leave at the same time as buses going just to Albany to help spread the load out. The proposed frequency for the NEX hasn’t changed from the consultation and will be every 15 minutes at peak (6am-9:30am city bound & 3pm-6:30pm outbound) and 30 minutes off peak.
One other aspect that AT will pulse buses at the busway station. That means for connecting buses there will only be around a 5 minute wait between services. The same thing will happen with the Gulf Harbour ferry.
I won’t go through all the details in this post however the consultation report goes all of the issues as well as the investigations and considerations AT undertook before coming to their final decision. One change I will cover though is that buses won’t use the Hibiscus Coast Highway like proposed and will instead use Centreway Rd. In addition all services except the express will loop around the town centre.
So here is what the proposed map looked like for the consultation.
And here it is with the changes that have been made (click to enlarge however unfortunately it isn’t super high quality).
While the AT board are expected to approve the changes today, staff note there are a number of risks associated with the changes that will need to be addressed.
- Hibiscus Coast Station won’t be built by the time the New Network is implemented, due to ongoing legal disputes (refer Attachment 1), which will mean the customers’ experience when making connections will be sub-optimal. It is important that high quality temporary facilities are in place. Four new shelters have recently been installed adjacent to the current park and ride facility for this purpose. Temporary toilets will also be provided.
- Because the full park and ride facility will not be built by the time the NEX is extended to Hibiscus Coast Station, there is likely to be dissatisfaction with the amount of carparking, although this will maximise the potential market for the feeder bus services.
- The cost of providing these recommended services is to be negotiated with the incumbent operators for implementation in mid-2015. Should the cost of providing the new services exceed expectations we may have to reduce the level of service from what is recommended in the consultation summary and decisions report.
- These service changes are proposed to be implemented before integrated fares are in place across the network. While customers with a monthly pass or a SuperGold Card will not be affected, all other passengers who make a connection under the New Network, will pay more than they do currently if required to transfer. This is likely to generate some negative publicity. An interim solution may be possible, however, service improvements are considered to outweigh this interim disbenefit.
- Feedback suggests that some people have a poor understanding of how connections will work or are concerned that they will be reliable. We will need to work with operators to ensure connections are reliable, and to clearly communicate how connections will work under the New Network.
On the busway station itself AT have given some more details about the environment court challenge it is facing.
Resource consent for the Busway Station (Silverdale Park and Ride), which was granted on 10 July, has been appealed against by two submitters who own adjacent parcels of land. Their principal area of contention is the traffic capacity on Hibiscus Coast Highway for future developments in the Plan Change 123 (Silverdale South) area. The appellants are arguing that the Busway Station affects the amount of traffic that can be generated in the Plan Change area, thereby placing potential restrictions on their developments.
So the argument is over how much traffic the park and ride may generate and who should be able to clog up the roads more. This is perhaps a good example of one of the main issues with park and ride in general that people often don’t think think about. The other being the cost of it at around $10,000 per space for an at grade carpark. As part of the consultation AT received a number of comments wanting to see the proposed 500 spaces expanded including buying some of the neighbouring land for it. They say there is no plans to do that.
Do you live on the Hibiscus Coast, what do you think of the changes?
Last week Auckland Transport began consultation on the new network for West Auckland. I and many readers were highly critical of it as it seemed to ignore much of the network design philosophy and elements AT are implementing elsewhere and enshrined in the Regional Public Transport Plan. In particular the consultation sees a move away from the idea of a high frequency all day network that may require some to transfer to a network with lots of infrequent routes but may have not direct routes. The two different network design models are shown in the image below.
In most post I speculated the network proposed was a result of not having interchanges at Te Atatu and Lincoln Rd. It appears like that is exactly the case with AT now saying:
AT is redesigning the bus network across all of Auckland. Within each area, there are opportunities to improve public transport. However, the reality is that all changes will take time to implement, especially where major new infrastructure needs to be built, or where the cost of operating services will increase substantially. Both will require more ratepayer (Auckland Council) and taxpayer (New Zealand Transport Agency) funding than is currently budgeted.
For West Auckland, AT has taken the view that it is better to make as many improvements as we can afford to make in the next 2 years, to take advantage of the benefits electric trains will bring, rather than wait until all of the desirable infrastructure is in place.
The current proposal which is out for consultation is shown on the left-hand diagram below. On the right-hand diagram is the network we want to implement as soon as we have the necessary funding and consents to build interchanges at Te Atatu and Lincoln Rd, in anticipation of the long-term proposal to build a Northwestern Busway. We hope this clearly illustrates the benefits of the more frequent and better connected network that will be possible once the required infrastructure is funded and built.
To me the network on the right is so much cleaner and easier to understand as well as being more useful due to the higher frequencies. What’s clear is both AT and the NZTA need to urgently get on with sorting out the interchanges at Lincoln Rd and Te Atatu to enable the new network to properly implemented. I suggest that anyone submitting on the West Auckland Network highlight the need for the right hand image to become a reality.
Consultation for the West Auckland portion of the new network is now underway. This follows the consultations for Pukekohe/Waiuku, Warkworth, Hibiscus Coast and South Auckland. The consultation runs from today till Monday 1st December. It’s a consultation I’ll be following very closely seeing as I line in West Auckland.
Like much of Auckland the current bus network in West Auckland is an absolute mess. It consists of a myriad of routes, some as slight variations that focus on providing coverage at the expense of directness or frequency. As such many buses trundle around the suburbs largely empty. Some routes also mimic the rail network which is a hangover from the days when rail services were virtually non-existent. A map of the existing network is below and you almost need a degree to properly interpret it. In fact I believe this isn’t even all routes.
Like with the other consultations the new network shifts the thinking about how we could run our buses and instead focuses on transfers to increase mobility.
The map for the proposed new network is below.
There are a few thoughts I have about the network for West Auckland. I’ll list them below in no particular order.
The immediate thing I noticed was the lack of frequent services. There’s just two of them, the 4 which travels between the CBD and New Lynn and the W3 which travels between New Lynn SH16 via Henderson before branching (more on that service soon). This is less than was signed off in the RPTP just let year. The key frequent routes missing are from Te Atatu Peninsula to Henderson and a route on SH16 with interchanges at Lincoln/Triangle Rd and at Te Atatu interchange. I can only assume these interchange upgrades are held up NZTA and AT not being able to come to an agreement/location for them. The lack of a frequent on seems to being SH16 is also disappointing considering the growth that is about to occur there.
I’m a little surprised that they’ve branched the W3 frequent route as one of the outcomes from the South Auckland consultation was to keep the frequents as a single route. Again this is possibly to do with the fact there appears to be no bus interchanges at the Te Atatu Interchange or the Triangle Rd/Lincoln Rd interchange.
There are some notable areas both gaining and losing service. The most noticeable of these is the buses to more rural areas such as Oratia and Waiatarua (a service I used to use in my teenage years) as well as Henderson Valley.
In September an update to the Council’s development committee talked about the the future NW Busway and indicated that bus shoulder lanes would be built on the motorway between Lincoln and Westgate by 2018 however in this consultation AT are now saying it won’t be till 2021.
There will be these specific open days to discuss the proposal.
- Sunday 26 October, 8am – 12 noon, Avondale Markets.
- Tuesday 28 October, 2.30pm – 6pm, New Lynn Interchange.
- Thursday 30 October, 2.30pm – 6pm, Henderson Interchange, Council airbridge.
- Sunday 9 November, 7.30am – 12 noon, Te Atatu Peninsula Markets.
- Tuesday 18 November, 2.30pm – 6pm, Westgate Bus Interchange.
- Sunday 23 November, 9am – 1pm, Hobsonville Point Markets.