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More City Link buses to Wynyard

Some good news from Auckland Transport who quietly as of yesterday made changes to the city link services. Now all City Link services (the red buses) will now go to Wynyard. In the past only every second bus did so. This should hopefully make the service more useful to people, especially as Wynyard grows.

City Link changes

Now all we need is the upgraded bus lanes on Fanshawe and Customs St to take place so the buses don’t get caught in congestion.

Bus route frustration

Now that I’m working in Takapuna I thought I would try out a few different options for getting to/from work via public transport and will write about some of my experiences over the coming days.

To start with I’m going to talk about the 130 bus which travels between New Lynn and Takapuna via Upper Harbour. I only tried this bus going home due to the timetable not exactly being friendly on the way to work in the morning. 

In theory this service should be ideal as 

  • It provides basically a single seat journey between Takapuna and Henderson (where I live)
  • Constellation Dr to Henderson has long been identified as being on the future Rapid Transit Network

But the reality is a far different story. PT services are always a balancing act between speed and connectivity and the 130 is a services that clearly doesn’t get that balance right.

Leaving the office at 5pm getting to the bus was easy and only a few minutes walk from work with the bus due to leave Takapuna at 5:10 so the timing was perfect. There were approximately a dozen people on the bus from Takapuna. From there it made its way to the Smales Farm busway station which took about 10 minutes with the bus getting caught in traffic along Taharoto Rd as well as picking up another ~6 passengers. The road is so wide that a bus lane should be easy along here however in the grand scheme of things it’s not the end of the world that it doesn’t exist.

At Smales Farm probably about another 10 people got on the bus before it blasted up the wonderful Northern Busway arriving at Constellation only a few minutes later. At Constellation another 10 or so people got on the bus bringing the total to 35-40 people all up which is a fairly decent load for a bus not going to/from the CBD.

Leaving Constellation the bus encountered what I thought was the first real problem that needed solving. To get to Upper Harbour Hwy the bus has to battle traffic on Constellation Dr trying to get on the motorway and it took almost 10 minutes just getting from the station to past the motorway interchange, a distance of about 500m. I’m interested to know if Northern Express buses to Albany also get caught in this traffic because if so it’s something that AT and the NZTA need to address (and quickly).

130 - Constellation congestion

From Upper Harbour Hwy it diverts to Upper Harbour Dr and then Greenhithe Dr to serve Greenhithe. I can kind of understand the latter diversion but Upper Harbour Dr is odd as it is very lightly populated. As there are some other buses that do run that route (the 956), perhaps it would be better to keep the bus on to the motorway till Greenhithe Dr giving a faster journey will still retaining the connectivity at Greenhithe. The suggested change is shown in red in the image below.

130 - Greenhithe

But for the problems that the service has on the Shore are dwarfed by those at once it crosses the harbour. It starts when the bus comes off the motorway and then off Hobsonville Rd and travels along Wisely Rd. That looks good on a map as it bisects the houses in the area but Wisely Rd has a fatal flaw for buses as it contains speed bumps every 100 or so metres. This makes the bus incredibly slow along the road. It also then takes further detours to try and provide greater coverage which is really the opposite of what a more regional route like this should be doing. In saying this West Harbour and Greenhithe were the locations where the majority of passengers disembarked (perhaps 2/3rds) and for them it’s clearly acting more like a local feeder service. Keeping the buses on Hobsonville Rd would lose some, but not all, connectivity but would greatly speed up this part of the journey.

130 - West Harbour

Perhaps the most mind numbing section was between Westgate and Lincoln Rd. The bus takes one of the most convoluted paths possible though roads barely big enough to fit a bus through undulating terrain. It’s clear that whoever designed this route only thought of trying to get as many houses on the route as possible and never considered actually making the service usable or attractive. This is of course on of the big downsides to a bus network focused on coverage rather than serving the most people. To me the bus should be run down the new Westgate Dr and then down Triangle Rd which like the Hobsonville example, would still provide some local connectivity but would reduce some of the worst parts of the journey.

130 - Massey

All up I get the feeling that the 130 is trying to provide a long distance service but ends up getting bogged down trying to provide local connectivity. For a bit of a comparison it took about 20 minutes to get from Takapuna to Constellation station then another 40 minutes to get to Royal Rd though an area that doesn’t suffer from congestion.

All up from door to door (including a lengthy walk at the end) my trip took over an hour and a half which is probably almost twice as long as it would take to drive at the peak. Suffice to say I won’t be catching that bus again.

To me this is a good example of why we have such a high mode-share for driving. The PT options are simply not realistic except for people who don’t care about how long their trip will take. In many cases around Auckland the new network will help with issues like those described above (although not so much in this specific case). It’s definitely an issue I’ll be raising when consultation on the new network comes up for West Auckland later this year.

More bus lanes required – Newton

A few weeks ago I asked readers where in Auckland was in urgent need of more bus lanes.My first post regarding quick wins on Fanshawe Street has been quite successful so far, with several Councillors asking questions of the Auckland Transport chair. This resulted in Auckland Transport finally acknowledging that they were aiming to build a proper busway along here in the next few years, as well as a promise to see if the quick win idea was feasible.

Another area that came up regularly in the comments section of the first article was the area around Upper Symonds Street and Newton. This is especially topical this week with university starting back this week. I heard from several people that there were big delays here on Monday morning, and total jams here are not uncommon.

This area has very high bus volumes, with several of the highest frequency bus routes in Auckland converging at this spot. Looking up the timetables between 7am and 9am I found the bus volumes were as follows-

BUS ROUTE 2 hour volume
Dominion Road 45
Mount Eden Road 36
New North Road 30
Sandringham Road 40
Manukau Road (joins at Khyber Pass) 23
Gillies Ave (joins at Khyber Pass) 8

This gives a total of 182 buses in the 2 hour morning peak, or one about every 40 seconds. The 2013 screenline survey (undertaken last March) showed that buses carried 6734 people into the city along this corridor between 7am and 9am. In comparison the latest vehicle count data for the area (from 2006) only found 984 cars in the busiest morning peak hour. While we can only guess at car occupancy rates (often estimated at 1.5), buses will certainly be carrying at least 2/3 of the people along this corridor. This is a strong case for continuous bus lanes along here.

So here is the map of the current bus lanes in Symonds St from Karangahape Road south to the intersection with Mount Eden and New North Roads.

Newton Existing Bus Lanes

current bus lanes along Upper Symonds Street

Bizzarely there are no northbound buslanes at all, while the southbound lanes stop at Khyber Pass, despite 83% of buses continuing to the New North/Mt Eden intersection.

However there is a very easy fix for most of this corridor. This area is lined with Clearways (seen in dark blue). These are parking during off-peak times, but general traffic lanes from 7am to 9am, and 4pm to 6pm. These could very simply be converted to bus lanes following the same time periods. Considering the statistics above this would result in a better outcome for most users of this corridor. These Clearways also continue down New North Road almost to the Dominion Road flyover so these should become bus lanes too.

Newton Clearways

The only issue comes near Alex Evans Street where the it narrows to 2 lanes, and there is a left turn into Alex Evans. This could either be a joint left turn/bus lane or the left turn into Alex Evans could be removed as there are plenty of other easy routes for left turning traffic.

 Symonds Alex Evans

At the intersection with Karangahape Road, general traffic gets 2 northbound lanes, despite them merging straight away into 1, while buses get a tiny advance stop box, which gets blocked by left turning traffic. So the easy solution is to make one of the straight through lanes into a bus lane, which matches what happens straight after the lights anyway. This can extend back to Alex Evans St, with a gap to let cars cross over into the ridiculously long left turn lane.

Symonds K Road

Again these are just short term fixes. In the longer term a more complicated solution will need to be devised, potentially a centreline busway with full stations. This could fit in with a major regeneration of the area in tandem with the Newton City Rail Link station (located directly opposite where Mt Eden Road ends). However it will be complicated to design an appropriate solution that matches the needs of increasing numbers of buses, much increased volumes of pedestrians and the need for separated cycleways.

Will people walk further for higher frequency bus services?

To me the new bus network presents Auckland Transport with many opportunities to improve transport in Auckland. These include:

  • It simplifies the bus network and removes unnecessary duplication and inefficiency.
  • It allows for greatly improved frequencies across much of the city.
  • The simpler network structure means that it will be much easier to market the PT network as a whole rather than only being able to focus on individual parts.
  • The network structure encourages AT to put effort into improving bus stops and interchanges around the network further improving its quality – an example is the proposed Otahuhu Interchange.
  • The network provides a ready-made plan for what roads will need better bus priority built (e.g. bus lanes, bus priority at intersections etc.)
Frequent Bus Network 2016

The 2016 frequent network (although missing the changes made to the southern area)

With this post I want to look at another opportunity that AT will hopefully make as part of the roll out of the new network – changes to bus stop spacing. The problem is that along many routes the spacing of bus stops is extremely close, sometimes less than 200m apart. I only checked a few routes but on them stops appear to only average about 300m apart.  While that might be good for those living nearby meaning they don’t need to walk far to get a bus, it can make the bus slow by stopping frequently.

What kind of impact could changing the stop spacing have?

For the purposes of this exercise I’m going to assume that on average a bus loses about one minute of journey time per bus stop. That includes time to brake, dwell at the stop while passengers get on and off and then accelerate again. As a comparison, over a distance of 12 km (many bus routes will be longer than this) a bus that stops on average every 300m will make 40 stops, a bus stopping every 400m will stop 30 times and a bus stopping every 500m will stop just 24 times. Based on that one minute average stop time above then stopping every 400m could save 10 minutes per run while it could be 16 minutes saved with a 500m stop spacing. It’s also worth pointing out that in the situation above all stops are treated equal as in reality a larger stop where lots of people get on will likely be more efficient on a per passenger basis during the dwell time phase.

What are the benefits to increasing stop spacing?

The first one is that passengers get a faster trip whilst they are on the bus but that would have be partly offset by a longer walk to the bus stop. From an operations point of view, depending on the route that time saved might just be enough to allow an extra bus to be run without needing to buy another bus and hire more drivers. In effect it means that can either reduce how much we spend to get the same level of service or get more service (and therefore patronage) without having to spend more. Both options are positive.

The risk with increasing station spacing is that it the service becomes less attractive due to being harder to access stops. Bringing this back to the new network, the question is whether the increased frequencies on the new frequent bus network could be enough to offset the extra walking that would be required due to wider stop spacing. A research paper from Australia last year has attempted to answer exactly this question by surveying people in the major Australian cities. The abstract from the paper is below

Network planning of bus services requires addressing the trade off between frequency and coverage. Planning for good coverage of bus services using the rule of thumb that people will walk four hundred meters to access bus based public transport services means sharing the available budget between many services. For the same budget, the alternative approach of concentrating frequency on core corridors implies lower coverage and that some travellers would need to walk further to access bus based services. An understanding of to which extent people are willing to walk to a bus stop with higher frequency would provide empirical information for bus network planning.

The research question addressed by this paper is whether travellers are willing to walk further to a more frequent bus service in the context of Australian cities. A Stated Choice Experiment approach is used to elicit the trade off between walking further to access more frequent bus services. In doing so the paper investigates the potential success of reorientating a coverage approach to network planning, prevalent in many Australian cities to one predicated on concentrating frequency in corridors. The results show travellers in Australian capital cities are willing to walk around 206m to 327m further for a ten-minute reduction in bus headways. These research outcomes provide valuable Australian evidence confirming travellers are prepared to walk further to a more frequent bus service.

And just expanding on the conclusions they say

The major contribution of this paper is the quantification of the trade-off between walk distance and bus frequency as identified by the MRS. The results suggest that the travellers are willing to walk further to a more frequent bus service in all Australian capital cities. Travellers in Australian capital cities are prepared to walk further by between 206m and 327m for a ten-minute reduction in bus headways. The policy implications for network planning are that increasing frequency, even if it means travellers have to walk further to bus stops, will attract higher patronage. If budgets are fixed, this suggests that moving from a policy of coverage to the ‘European’ approach of concentrating frequency in corridors is likely to be a good policy if increasing public transport patronage is desired. Of course, concentrating frequency in corridors will require some travellers to walk further to access bus based public transport and will require policy-makers to consider and implement complementary policies to ensure accessibility is not reduced for those travellers unable to walk the additional distance. This could take the form of lower frequency access services or more flexible services to provide on-demand access to high frequency corridors.

In other words if we assume that we are at least a little bit similar to our cousins across the ditch then we are likely to see similar results too. It suggests that not only is the new bus network the right thing for Auckland Transport to be doing but that people will be prepared to walk further for higher frequency services without it compromising patronage (which would be boosted by the higher frequencies being provided). Implementing changes to bus stops spacing at the same time as the new network rolls out is something AT really should be doing.

2013: A year in review – Part 1

Over the next few days I’ll be doing a series of posts recapping the year before beginning the new year by looking at what we can expect in the year ahead. For me when it comes to transport, 2013 was always going to be a bit of an “in progress” year. By that I mean that a heap of projects (both PT and road) would be advanced throughout the year however there would be nothing major completed that would fundamentally change transport in Auckland – that will change in 2014. For this post, I’m just going to be recapping public transport.

Electrification

Infrastructure

Wires are now a familiar sight across much of the rail network with primarily just the Eastern Line and the inner parts of the Western Line still to be completed however this was originally meant to have been completed by September. Back in May we revealed that the project was running late and is unlikely to be fully completed till March/April with Kiwirail saying it will be all done by the time the first electric trains are running in April. Britomart and the Eastern line are the focus over the Christmas shutdown and as I was in town yesterday I popped into Britomart which was a hive of activity and flashing lights with crews and vehicles working on each track.

Wires about to go up at Britomart

While the case for extending electrification to Pukekohe came out in 2012, the new development that is now expected to occur along the rail corridor thanks to the Unitary Plan is likely to help bring forward the need and justification for it. At the other extreme of the network Auckland Transport announced this year that the Waitakere station would close due to a combination of stubbornly low patronage and high costs to run a diesel shuttle service. The outcomes of two more stations – Westfield and Te Mahia – are still under review after it was suggested they would be closed too.

At Wiri the new state of the art depot to maintain our new electric trains was completed in time for the arrival of the first train.

Electric trains

The first of our new electric trains arrived at the end of August and staff have been busy testing it. Since then it has been joined by three others with more due to arrive soon. The trains are arriving at a rate of two every month till December when they increase to four per month. From my personal experiences of riding on them, I think they’re fantastic and people will be surprised when they first get to try the out next year.

SECOND EMU_7047

City Rail Link

The City Rail Link perhaps provided the biggest surprise of the year when in June the government suddenly turned around and agreed that it was needed and said they would help fund half of it. This was quite a change from the position they had previously taken, especially their earlier responses including to the City Centre Future Access Study which even Ministry of Transport officials had been a part of. It is believed a large part of the reason the government had such a change of heart was that their polling was showing a lot of unhappiness amongst Aucklanders about the lack of support towards the regions preferred transport and housing solutions.

While the announcement saw the government finally support the project it doesn’t mean they agree with everything about it as the government don’t want to start the project till 2020, roughly the time the council want it finished. They have set some aggressive but potentially achievable targets for starting early. Regardless some parts of the project will actually start next year (or in 2015) following an agreement between the council and Precinct Properties (who now own the Downtown Mall) for part of the tunnel to be built when they redevelop their site. That removed potentially one of the biggest issues from the consenting process which has been proceeding fairly quietly in the background. We should hear the results of that in the new year.

We here at the blog had been getting pretty frustrated with the way the project was being sold by AT (and others). Finally in November we saw a decent effort by AT with this video.

Integrated Ticketing and Fares

Integrated ticketing has one of those projects where if something can go wrong it will, frequently stumbling from one issue to the next with deadlines frequently missed as a result. The project had already been delayed multiple times in the lead up to 2013 and this year showed no sign of that changing with more deadlines missed. This year we were told the roll-out of AT HOP to buses would be completed by the end of the year however issues with the change overs pushed that back again. Birkenhead, Urban express and NZ Bus buses have now all been converted to AT HOP and fingers crossed the rest will be complete within the first few months of 2014. It will mean that for the first time people will be able to get around the city on PT with a single ticket (which is different to a single fare).

While getting integrated ticketing is a good step, integrating fares will be one of the keys to unlocking the system and making it more usable. While it has always been mentioned that integrated fares would come sometime after integrated ticketing, many at AT had previously given off the impression that it was more of a nice to have and there had been no real push. From what I have heard there has be finally been a shift and realisation within AT that integrated fares are desperately needed, especially to support the new bus network and as such work has been going on behind the scenes on this so it should become a reality.

New Bus Network

Early in the year we saw that there was a hugely positive response to the Regional Public Transport Plan of which one of the key features was the new bus network. This enabled AT to go out to the first detailed consultation which was in South Auckland. Once again there was a overwhelmingly positive response to the proposed changes. Auckland Transport deserve a lot of credit for this result as wasn’t just that the new network was good but that AT took their time to explain the reasoning behind it. Despite consultation now being complete in the South, we won’t actually see the changes made till 2015 as AT still need to work though significant issues like contracting with the bus companies. The video below is one AT put together to help accompany the consultation and explained excellently much of what is happening.

Patronage

Patronage growth was fairly stubborn throughout 2013 after a poor few years partially exaggerated by the Rugby World Cup. However there have finally been signs of improvement in the last few months, especially on the rail network. I suspect we will start to see some decent growth occurring once again in 2014.

Dec 13 Total Patronage

Other

Along with some of the big projects mentioned above, below are some of the other important things that have happened over the year:

Anything major PT wise I’ve missed? Upcoming posts will look at and recap what’s happened with road network, walking/cycling, development/planning and finally the blog itself.

New South Auckland Bus Network Confirmed

Some good news, Auckland Transport has now confirmed what the new bus network for South Auckland will look like following on from the consultation a few months ago. Here is the press release.

Auckland Transport has released its final New Network for bus services in South Auckland.

This follows public consultation earlier this year which resulted in more than 1100 submissions and three petitions. Overall, 56 per cent of submitters supported the proposed New Network and 22 per cent were opposed.

By far the most commonly mentioned positive attribute of the New Network was the proposed increase in service frequencies. Participants felt this would mean less waiting at bus stops, and faster journey times, especially during the weekend.

Public Transport Network Manager, Anthony Cross says he is pleased with the level of support and public interest in the New Network.

“Overall people got what the New Network is all about. Many submitters raised some valid concerns and made suggestions about our proposals. Of the 28 original proposed routes within the south Auckland area, we are making changes to 20 of those routes.

“In addition we are creating one new route and retaining a limited express service from Papakura to the CBD. As a result of consultation feedback there are 30 routes under the final South Auckland New Network.

Along with analysing the public submissions a team of public transport planners went out driving the routes in buses to clarify issues raised.

“On such a large scale as this we understand the final routes will not please everyone but we believe we have genuinely listened to what people said. We have had to make some trade-offs, we took things on board and where necessary or possible we made changes to improve the network to suit people’s needs, says Mr Cross.

Implementation of the routes is currently planned for mid-2015, subject to their affordability as determined by the tendering of bus services, and completion of the Otahuhu bus-train Interchange and other important infrastructure. New Network timetables will be available approximately two months prior to implementation to allow people time to plan their travel. A comprehensive public information campaign will also be carried out prior to any services changing.

For a copy of the final summary consultation report go to www.aucklandtransport.govt.nz/newnetwork

Under the New Network, Auckland Transport is moving to a simpler and more integrated public transport network. This will deliver a network of buses and trains that will change the way people travel – including the need for some passengers to transfer at key interchanges. In return it will allow more passengers to simply ‘turn up and go’ rather than planning trips around a timetable. It will offer flexible travel options over large parts of the city, making public transport more useful for a range of travel purposes.

The current bus network is considered complex, mostly infrequent and in many places, duplicates what trains do. It is inefficient to operate and does not always provide a suitable alternative to the car, or give ratepayers, taxpayers and customers the best value for money.

This new frequent network will have trains and buses timetabled at least every 15 minutes from 7am to 7pm, seven days a week. They will be supported by a network of connector routes and local and peak services.

Due to the large scale of change; consultation and implementation for Auckland’s New Network has been broken into several phases, starting with South Auckland, which was the focus of this consultation. Other parts of Auckland will be consulted over the next few years.

To get 56% of people support the proposal is fairly impressive when you consider how much change was being proposed and these types of consultations often only bring out people who like things the way they are, especially when it involves how they get around the city. I think it is a credit to Auckland Transport as to how well they conducted the consultation, not only explaining what was changing but why things needed to change. By comparison recent consultation in Brisbane consisted largely of just saying what routes were changing without any real explanation as to why and as such it saw a lot of negative submissions leading to the changes not going ahead. In saying that I’m sure there were things that AT could have done better but I’m sure they will learn from that for next round that they do.

Almost all routes from the original proposal have had changes of some sort. Most appear to be fairly minor consisting of small diversions which will add some travel time in return for more coverage. An example of this is below with the original proposal on the left and the final version on the right. In this case the 325 will now take a loop around Tennessee Ave and Blake Rd instead of the faster and more direct Farmer St.

South example change

Thankfully these little loop additions have only been made to the secondary or local network routes with the Frequent networks remaining more direct. Two of the frequent routes have seen changes though. In the original proposal two of the routes, the 31 and 33 split into lower frequency routes for part of their journey. Following the consultation they have both had one leg of their route upgraded to frequent status with the other leg being run as a separate service.  AT are also retaining a peak only express bus service from Papakura, this is something we saw a few people commenting on here about – although the current service runs all the way from Pukekohe. However AT does say that the retention of the service is transitional and will be reviewed again in the future once the new network, electrification and integrated fares have all been in for a reasonable amount of time.

Here is the map of what was originally consulted on:

South Network Proposal Before

And here is the final version:

South Network Proposal Final - 1

It’s really great to finally have this stage of the process finished however if I have one concern it is that we won’t be seeing any changes till mid-2015, over 1½ years away and is subject to infrastructure like the new Otahuhu interchange which is just being consulted on now. Slippages in that infrastructure and/or funding constraints could have the risk of further delaying the roll-out of these key changes.

Lastly there is the report analysing the feedback AT received. I won’t delve into it too much as this post is already long enough however I found the following two charts really interesting. 31% of all respondents said the new network would encourage them to use PT more compared to 36% saying it would make no difference and 22% saying they would use it less with 11% unsure. Of the 31% who would use it more the following reasons were given.

South Feedback - use PT more

This is unsurprising and as Jarrett Walker says, Frequency is Freedom. People are obviously responding to this. On the other side are those that said they won’t use the new network more often with transfers highlighted as the biggest concern.

South Feedback - use PT less

All up I think the new network is a really positive development and I can’t wait for it to be implemented, not just in the south but across the entire city.

Panmure Interchange Progress

Note from Matt L: Please welcome Luke to the TransportBlog team. He has been a long time reader and commentator of the blog. He is half way through a Masters of Urban Planning Degree at Auckland University, and is also the Auckland Policy Director for Generation Zero.

 

As we have previously highlighted work is ongoing around Panmure as part of the first major stage of the AMETI project.

Panmure is an important node on the future frequent network as it links buses from Eastern Suburbs such as Pakuranga and beyond into the rail network.

The Howick and Eastern buses are timetabled at about 40 minutes from Panmure, while the trains take 20 minutes. This new interchange will allow very easy interchange between rail and bus, and this may mean that passengers bound for Britomart from the East will find it best to transfer to train if they are headed for the Britomart part of town. This will give further capacity to the buses down the line for passengers from Ellerslie – Panmure Highway and Great South Road.

Panmure map RPTP

This interchange also includes the first part of the Eastern Busway, which is planned to extend to Pakuranga by 2020, and Botany by 2030. Of course as part of the Congestion Free Network we would really like to see this fast-tracked, and generally complete by 2020.

 Substantial progress has now been made on the new Panmure Station and Bus Interchange. I must say it looks very impressive and will allow the easiest rail-bus interchanges in Auckland, with the bus interchange being right on top of the station.

P1050308

Panmure Station and Interchange from the slopes of Maungarei/Mount Wellington. This shows the relation to the Panmure town centre, the roundabout (soon to be removed), and the new roading connections around the station.

P1050317

Interchange building from opposite side of Ellerslie-Panmure Highway. Note the white bus shelters to the right of the photo.

P1050341

Close up of interchange building from the future busway. The lifts inside are already in use as disabled access. Managed a quick look inside and must say looks very impressive.

P1050305

The project website does not give an update as to when this interchange will open, however I suspect it be in January, soon after the summer shut down. Should see a big boost to Panmure station patronage as a result, as well as helping renewal of this part of town.

Improving your local bus route

The follow is an email I received from a reader about his PT experience and what could be done to make it better. At the end of the post I have put some additional thoughts

Much of the debate about public transport is strategic; it talks about big projects and big numbers, and often forgets the implications for the little people out there. I recently had the opportunity to switch from driving to taking the bus, and I thought I’d present some numbers and some ideas to stimulate discussion.

I live out near Avondale, off Wolverton Street. I have traditionally driven to work in the CBD around 5:50am as I start work at 8am and need to get to the gym first, and also because I need to be home early enough to have enough sunlight to do some fieldwork. I finish between 4 and 4:45pm. With summer arriving, I decided to trade my carpark (more on costs later) for a monthly bus pass, leaving home at the same time. Here are the basic numbers:

CAR

Average time door-to-door inbound: 21 minutes
Average time door-to-door outbound: 33 minutes

I should point out my CBD carpark is a good 10 minutes walk from my gym/work. If I’d had a closer (on-site) carpark, you can half the inbound and subtract a third from the outbound.

BUS

Average time door-to-door inbound: 41 minutes
Average time door-to-door outbound: 48 minutes

So, on average it takes me 20 minutes longer inbound, and 15 minutes longer outbound; 35 minutes a day, 175 minutes a week. Given c.45 working weeks a year that’s a loss of 7250 minutes or 131.25 hours – that’s three full working weeks of lost time.

Looking at costs – my monthly bus pass is $140 and my monthly carpark was $220, a saving straight away of $80. Additionally, I am using a lot less petrol – my rough estimate is a saving of $30/week. I am not going to include other costs, because I would have a car anyway so talk of savings on insurance and registration is irrelevant.

That gives me approximate savings of $200/month, or $2400/year. Is saving $2400 a year worth losing 127.5 hours a year? It gives a hourly rate of $18.82. That’s pretty low, but I get some back from reading on the bus; I also lose some from the discomfort of being crowded.

My own personal view is that I can only use public transport during summer. During winter, the sun sets shortly after 5pm, and the bus would simply not give me a 20-minute sunshine window to do fieldwork, which driving does.

So, what can Auckland Transport do to keep people like me on public transport, who would love to do so, but have crunched the numbers and found it a bad idea?

  • Much of my time when using public transport is spent walking to and waiting for buses – I haven’t separated them but on average on the outbound leg, about 11 minutes is spent walking to bus stop/waiting. On the inbound leg, 7 minutes – which is roughly 70% of the time it would take me to drive to my carpark (with the extra walk on top)
  • More buslanes!!!
  • More buses during the evening peak. As noted, the bus itself doesn’t take too long, but waiting for buses takes ages.
  • More express buses. I doubt a bus can ever beat my inbounds time, but with expresses and the Sandringham Road buslanes, it might beat my outbound.
  • Straighten out the routes. The buses continue to do a dogleg around Owairaka Shops rather than turning up Maioro Road extension. It adds 5-7 minutes.

My thoughts on some of the suggestions

  • Fully agree with the need for more bus lanes and personally I find it a little disappointing that AT are currently in the process of widening Tiverton/Wolverton Rd with what appears to be no thought of them. Perhaps AT should consider one of the added lanes as a Bus, Truck and T2/3 lane. Once Waterview is completed it should remove a lot of car traffic from this route and so the case for better priority should be even stronger.
  • On the last point about straightening out the routes, it appears that the dogleg at Owairaka is being removed as part of the changes to the bus network as can be seen on the pink line in the image below

CFN - New bus network interaction

  • Not sure about the need for more express buses or if significant time savings could be achieved through better bus lanes and other operating improvements. For example getting more people using HOP (once it is rolled out) along with all door boarding and changes to how cash tickets are sold could easily save 1-2 minutes per bus journey. Even bigger could be re-spacing bus stops. A quick check shows that starting from the bus stop outside Kowhai Intermediate though to Wolverton Rd are on average just 300m apart with some as close as 130m. If stop spacing could be extended to 400m which shouldn’t have too much impact on the overall pedestrian catchment then combined with the removal of the Owairaka diversion it has the potential to remove ~700m and 9 bus stops from the route. That could potentially save quite a bit of time for someone going all of the way to Wolverton St.

I’m keen to hear your thoughts though, whether it be what could be done to improve this route or the route you catch. I’m particularly interested in any suggestions you have for improvements outside of the current plans (network, ticketing, fares etc.)

The infrastructure needed to support the new PT network

Just over a year ago Auckland Transport released the draft version of the Regional Public Transport Plan and for Auckland it was nothing short of revolutionary. It was the first time we had officially seen the plans for the new bus network has seen the entire network redesigned from scratch focusing around a series of frequent bus routes that would run with at least 15 minute frequencies for most of the day, 7 days a week.

Over the next few years Auckland Transport is moving to a simpler and more integrated public transport network for Auckland. This will deliver a New Network of buses and trains that will change the way people travel.

These changes include the need for some passengers to transfer at key interchanges. In return the New Network will allow more passengers to simply ‘turn up and go’ rather than planning trips around a timetable. It will offer flexible travel options over large parts of the city, making public transport more useful for a range of travel purposes.

Along with the new network the plan also took into account the massive improvements that will be brought about by integrated ticketing, fares and the new electric trains. Further while the network was designed to work without the City Rail Link, it also will work perfectly with it thus addressing one of the issues raised by the government and Ministry of Transport in the review of the first CRL business case. You can get a good impression of the impact of the changes from this video (if you haven’t seen it already).

After the initial draft there were some changes made to the plan and it was endorsed by the Auckland Transport board in March this year. However crucially the plan couldn’t be fully adopted at the time as many parts of it relied on the changes being made to the LTMA by the government, in particular the Public Transport Operating Model (PTOM) which sets out among other things how the contracting will now occur.

Now that the LTMA changes have been passed (not all of them good), AT were able to formally adopt the plan on September 23 following a few changes to better reflect the new legalisation. One of the biggest and most interesting changes is the addition to the implementation chapter to include a lot more detail about the prioritisation and funding for public transport projects over the 10 year span the plan covers.

To give a good overview of the changes this table (which was in the earlier documents) lists the key components to the new network. What you can see is that there is quite a bit going on over the next 3-4 years.

RPTP - Key Components

But the really interesting bit is the next table which goes into a lot of detail. The table shows each project, what its priority is, what it does, when it is needed by, whether it is in the current Regional Land Transport Plan and how much it is expected to cost. All up the document says that that AT need to spend $3.8 billion (excluding land costs) on PT over the next decade to support what is proposed however that does include the CRL. Without the CRL the cost is $1 billion however the vast majority of that relates to costs associated with the EMUs and new Wiri depot. In terms of prioritisation, the different categories are described as:

a. ‘Essential’ means required in advance in order to run the proposed services or the project significantly enhances patronage growth
b. ‘Highly desirable’ means crucial projects to maximise the benefits of the proposed services in terms of patronage growth and/or enhanced connection environment between services
c. ‘Desirable’ means useful projects that complement the proposed services, eg by improving customer experience.

So here is the table over multiple images

RPTP - Infrastrucure programme 1

RPTP - Infrastrucure programme 2

RPTP - Infrastrucure programme 3

RPTP - Infrastrucure programme 4

RPTP - Infrastrucure programme 5

RPTP - Infrastrucure programme 6

As you can see there is a heap of projects being planned over the next decade and most of them appear to be interchanges to make the new network work well. Getting these interchanges right is likely to be crucial for the new network and something pointed out in this post. So it is also interesting to see another new addition to the plan being Appendix 5 which provides guidelines for what facilities new or upgraded interchanges should have. There are four different types of interchange station.

  • Major Interchange – at the city centre or at metropolitan centres, where a rapid service terminates or passes through, where several or more frequent services terminate or pass through, where local and connector services terminate, where inter-regional services may terminate or pass through, or where the interchange facility is a landmark feature within its environment.
  • Intermediate Interchange – are within town centres, where a rapid service may terminate or pass through, where one or more frequent services may terminate or pass through, where local and connector services terminate, or where the interchange may be a landmark feature or integrated into other land use. A different type of interchange also fits into this category where it is a dedicated piece of infrastructure required for connection between two modes, such as ferry to bus or train to bus. In this situation, the location is fixed by the access requirements of one of the modes (ferry or train) and may often not be part of any urban centre and will thus need to be fully self-serving (i.e. no opportunity for shared facilities).
  • Minor Interchange – are at local centres, where a rapid service may pass through, where one or more frequent services may terminate or pass through, where local and connector services may terminate or pass through, or  here the interchange facility is more likely to be integrated within or subservient to surrounding land use.
  • Neighbourhood Connection – Within a neighbourhood centre, where frequent services pass across each other and provide a connection opportunity, or where the connection points are generally on-street stops and subservient to surrounding land use.

And here is the table showing what attributes each type of interchange should have. Both major and intermediate interchanges look to have some fairly significant features that will a big step up from what we have currently.

RPTP - Interchange Design 1

With all of the interchanges that will be needed,  more than anything this shows just how much work AT have to do to really get the new network humming. As always it is really going to come down to funding and with so many of the projects not even on the current funding plans it means AT are likely going to need to make some hard decisions, perhaps postponing or even just scaling some back some of the roading projects that are currently planned. With so many of the projects listed as essential or highly desirable, this could be a real litmus test as to where the organisations priorities lie as the successful implementation of the network is critical to the future of improved PT in Auckland.

Titirangi and Green Bay bus network changes

The new bus network is great and should really help revolutionise public transport in Auckland. However if there is one problem with it, it is that it is going to be taking around three years to roll out across the entire city. Now that isn’t a criticism of Auckland Transport as I can understand just how much of an absolutely massive task it must be. Instead it’s just a reflection on how much better PT would be if we could get everything done sooner and something I’m almost certain AT staff would love too.

So with that in mind it’s really positive to see AT working to make some changes in other parts of the city where they think the changes can be made quickly and easily. That should not only help to bring some of the benefits of the new network to a wider area sooner, but should hopefully make the future wider consultation quicker and easier. In this case AT have announced a review on bus routes servicing Titirangi and Green Bay.

Auckland Transport is proposing changes that will make better use of the bus services that currently run in the Titirangi, Green Bay, Blockhouse Bay, Laingholm, Glen Eden and Tanekaha areas.

The proposed changes will increase service frequencies and create a simpler, easier to understand timetable compared to the 26 different route numbers currently operating. Timetables will also have even spacing between trips, easy to remember departure times and more trips throughout the day.

There will be better service frequencies with more route options between Titirangi and New Lynn. Currently services only run at odd times on weekdays between these centres with gaps of up to two hours between some services.

A new route will be created to link Titirangi Village directly with Glen Eden shops and train station and existing express services will be replaced with some new express routes.

Some direct trips to the city will be replaced by local trips to New Lynn where passengers will need to connect to another bus or train. Connections between bus and train have been timed to allow passengers to transfer easily.

Some low frequency services in Wood Bay, Tanekaha Rd, French Bay and Titirangi will be withdrawn. Other routes will also change but overall the number of trips will increase.

Services included in the review include: 19X, 104, 163, 170, 173, 173X, 177, 179, 179X, 180, 181, 182, 183, 184, 185, 187, 188X, 189, 189X, 191, 193, 197, 197X, 198, 198X, 199, 207, 207X

Group Manager of Public Transport, Mark Lambert says the proposed changes are a direct response to passenger requests to have a simpler, more legible and more frequent bus service.

“These bus service improvements can be made ahead of the wider New Network consultation for West Auckland.

“We have the resources and service operators are on board to make any changes, which depending on public feedback can be carried out in mid-2014.

“We will have information out in the community so we encourage people to pick up a copy of the consultation brochure, have a read of the changes and give their feedback on the proposals.”

Public consultation on the proposed changes runs from Monday 21 October to Friday 22 November 2013.

For more information about the proposal and feedback form go to www.AT.co.nz/GreenBayTitirangi or phone (09) 366 6400.

You just have to look at all of those route numbers to see just how complex things have been. The maps below show the changes. First up Green Bay

Greenbay Changes

 

And Titirangi

Titirangi Changes

As I said it’s good to see AT making these changes in advance of the wider network where possible.