Downtown to Takapuna: A great, underappreciated cycle commute

This is another post from Peter who you can see we’ve now allowed to post directly [ Matt]

I recently started a new job in Takapuna. Unfortunately, it’s just far enough away from my home on the isthmus to be inconvenient for commuting purposes. Driving means winding through town to get to the motorway and then dealing with the traffic freakshow on Esmonde Road. Taking the bus means transferring in town, and sometimes a 10-15 minute wait if you’re unlucky. (Or worse. Last Friday I mistakenly got on the 922 bus, which only goes to Takapuna after a half-hour tiki tour through Birkenhead and Northcote. If you’re going to Takapuna, take the 839, 858, 875, 879, or 895 instead.)

So when the weather and my out-of-shape thighs permit, I’ve been cycling up to Takapuna. Even without the Skypath, this is proving to be surprisingly easy. I cycle down Symonds St to the ferry building, take the ferry across to Bayswater, and then cycle up to Takapuna on the Bayswater pipe bridge and shared path, which lets me avoid battling traffic on Lake Road. (See map below.)

Peter Cycle commute to Takapuna Map

If you commute to Takapuna from the city centre or inner suburbs, I highly recommend that you consider taking the bike. On a good day, I can make it to work in 40-45 minutes, which is competitive with cars and faster than the bus. (Getting back’s a bit harder as I have to go uphill, but I can still do it in 50-55 minutes.) You get to ride on a completely uncrowded ferry, which seems to be a rare experience in Auckland these days. Cycling on the shore side is very safe, as Bayswater Avenue doesn’t get a lot of cars, and the shared path gets none.

And it’s a really beautiful ride to boot. Probably one of the best cycle commutes in Auckland.

And now, for the Tour de Bayswater by cameraphone.

Here’s the view from the Bayswater Ferry back to the city centre on a sunny morning. The ferry runs every half-hour during the peak periods, and hourly during the middle of the day (see the pdf timetable). I was running a bit late on the morning I took these pictures, so I cycled like mad down Symonds St only to have to wait on the wharf as the ferry emptied out.

Peter Cycle commute to Takapuna 1

The ferry is always completely full with commuters when it arrives in town at 8:20 – but I’m usually the only person to get on in the other direction. That is an insanely unbalanced peak flow!

Peter Cycle commute to Takapuna 2

The bike racks are completely full on the Bayswater side – in fact, they seem to be fuller than the expansive park-and-ride. Auckland Transport seems to recognise that a lot of cyclists use the ferry. A few weeks ago I got a quick bike tune-up and hot chocolate at a winter pit-stop sponsored by AT and Bikewise.

Peter Cycle commute to Takapuna 3

Then it’s up a small hill and onto Bayswater Avenue, which is dead quiet at this hour. Many of the kids at the local Belmont Primary cycle or walk to school, which cuts down the traffic quite a bit. I usually only see three or four cars.

Peter Cycle commute to Takapuna 4

And then it’s off the road and onto the shared path down the side of O’Neill’s Cemetery. At 8:40 in the morning, it’s generally populated by dog-walkers, who sometimes need a bit of notice of approaching cyclists.

Peter Cycle commute to Takapuna 5

The new pipeline bridge is fantastic. You feel like you’re gliding over the mangrove flats, which can be a pretty extraordinary sight on a good morning. It’s also a perfect demonstration of how good cycling infrastructure can make biking easier by linking up areas that are hard to move between by car. It adds a direct connection between two of the little finger peninsulas on the shore.

Peter Cycle commute to Takapuna 6

The shared path wends its way around the bays before terminating at Francis Street. From there, it’s an uphill cycle to Jutland Road, another low-traffic side street.

Peter Cycle commute to Takapuna 7

The intersection of Jutland Road and Lake Road isn’t fantastic. The curb bulbs out just before the intersection, forcing cyclists to squeeze between the cars while making the turn. Frustratingly, this intersection leads to the painted cycle lanes on Lake Road.

For safety’s sake, I usually hop up onto the sidewalk around this intersection. This isn’t an option on the trip back, so I usually do a hook turn using the pedestrian crossing button. I have to wonder what AT was thinking when they built such a terrible intersection between two of the major bits of cycle infrastructure on the shore.

Jutland Rd / Lake Rd intersection 1: Where’s the space for cyclists?

Peter Cycle commute to Takapuna 8

Jutland Rd / Lake Rd intersection 2: Still not seeing any space for cyclists.

Peter Cycle commute to Takapuna 9

Jutland Rd / Lake Rd intersection 3: The painted cycle lane appears, at long last, in the left corner of this photo.

Peter Cycle commute to Takapuna 10

Moreover, the painted cycle lanes on Lake Road end in a dangerous way at the intersection with Esmonde Road. Rather than continuing along Lake Road to Takapuna, they take a left and go part of the way down Esmonde Road (i.e. towards the motorway interchange) before vanishing entirely. There’s no obvious, direct way for cyclists to continue through the intersection, which forces me to merge across a lane of left-turning traffic. Fortunately, traffic speeds slow down a bit north of the intersection, which means that the last bit of the ride is civil.

Peter Cycle commute to Takapuna 11

I probably haven’t picked the right time of year to start cycling to work – being winter and all – but it can be a pretty rewarding trip back at the end of the day. The ferry provides an impressive view of the harbour at dusk. Here’s a last look at our beloved coathanger and a few of Auckland’s many sails:

Peter Cycle commute to Takapuna 12

AT proposing more ferries to Gulf Harbour

There are many aspects that need to come together for a successful and well used public transport system. Above all else, frequency is the single most important one of these and as the saying goes, Frequency is Freedom. So it’s good to see Auckland Transport proposing to increase the number of ferry services to and from Gulf Harbour.

Good news for residents and visitors to Gulf Harbour, the number of ferry sailings each day between Gulf Harbour and Auckland is increasing to 12.

During peak times sailings will increase from two to three with another two sailings each way in the middle of the day, which should appeal to workers and students alike. There are now shopping and visiting options for those not needing to travel at peak times.

Auckland Transport wants the community to get involved and for people to have their say on the proposed timetable.

Auckland Transport Group Manager Public Transport Services, Mark Lambert says this draft timetable is the result of feedback AT has received about improving services to Gulf Harbour.

“It’s important to get behind these initiatives so that we can further improve public transport options for all Auckland residents.

“We want to hear from both current and potential users if these sailing times are right for them,” says Mr Lambert.

Fairway Bay Development consultant Michael Webb-Speight says “The survey we ran last year showed huge demand for increased ferry services. We are very keen for people to get involved and have their say. These additional sailings will make a huge difference to Whangaparaoa Peninsula commuters working in the CBD.”

As part of the process ferry operator 360 Discovery Cruises will be handing out information flyers to existing ferry passengers, and thousands of questionnaires will be mail dropped over the next week with the objective of canvassing both bus and car commuters.
360 Discovery Cruises Manager, James Bailey, says strong growth in passenger numbers has already been experienced due to increasing congestion on the motorway system. “It’s only 50 minutes by ferry from Gulf Harbour to the city, which is a lot less than the driving time from many suburbs.”

The new timetable could start next month subject to consultation.

Consultation closes Sunday 29 June.

You can see the consultation here.

There are currently only four services a day so increasing that to 12 is a substantial and positive increase. Here are the proposed changes to the timetable

Gulf Harbour Ferry Consultation

The services are still a long way off being frequent – and probably won’t ever be good enough to be part of the Frequent Network but it does seem like a move in the right direction.

AT say that if this change happens it will likely be implemented in July and the changes will be reviewed again after 12 months. They also say they are expecting to consult on the New Network bus routes for the Hibiscus Coast area in July and that it includes improved bus/ferry connections.

Photo of the Day: New Ferry

The new Fullers ferry. I’m not sure what routes is serving so let us know in the comments

(sorry for the poor quality, photo was rushed on my phone while I was on the way elsewhere).

Takahe 1

Takahe 2

Photo of the day: Kea

We’ve had trains and buses already today so how about some ferry love to round out the PT options. Sadly no service improvements associated with this one today though.

The trusty Kea that plies the waters between the CBD and Devonport.

Photo is credited to oh.yes.melbourne

West Harbour ferry gets bigger

Some good news from Auckland Transport that ferry patronage out of West Harbour has increased to the point of needing a larger ferry.

A jump in passenger numbers means a bigger ferry has joined the run to West Harbour operated by Belaire Ferries for Auckland Transport.

Belaire Ferries Managing Director, Adam Tallentire, says the 90 passenger Spirit will now operate on the morning services along with 49 seaters Clipper and Serenity. “With this increase in capacity we are confident that even more commuters will consider the ferry as an alternative, a way to escape the on-going upgrade work on the North-western motorway.”

The new service was immediately popular, on the first sailing of Spirit on Monday 3 March there were 64 passengers (picture attached). The previous capacity on the sailing was 49 passengers.

The West Harbour service has seen a 56 per cent jump in patronage since capacity was last expanded in October 2011.

There are 14 return trips between West Harbour and Downtown each weekday.

A 56% increase in patronage over just a few years is fairly impressive, even if just off a small base. I imagine the service could be especially popular over the next few years now that the North Western motorway has been turned into a giant work site.

West Harbour new Ferry

Photo of the day – Evening Ferry

It’s a glorious Friday afternoon so how about some photos to look at taken from Queens Wharf (not taken today though, weather is much nicer)

Photo are copyright to Sydney

Clifford Bay decision raises more questions than answers

Interesting to see yesterday the government make a decision on the Clifford Bay ferry terminal. I say interesting because the more you look at the details the more it shows just how much transport policy is being driven by political agendas rather than based on facts. First up here is Gerry Brownlee’s press release

The outcome of a study into the commercial viability of a ferry terminal at Clifford Bay in Marlborough has concluded Picton should remain as the southern terminal for the inter-island ferries, Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee announced today.

Over the past year a Ministry of Transport-led expert team has been testing whether Clifford Bay could be delivered as a fully privately funded project.

“We have been delivered a thorough and robust report which clearly shows Clifford Bay is not commercially viable as a fully privately funded project, and the level of investment required at Picton over the next decade to extend its life would be substantially less than previously estimated,” Mr Brownlee says.

The project team estimated a ferry terminal at Clifford Bay could be delivered by 2022, at a cost of $525 million.  This left a gap the Government would have been required to fill to induce private sector investment in the construction and operation of the terminal.

Meanwhile, the investigation found Picton’s facilities are not expected to fail or become constrained due to asset age or condition, or growth in freight volumes, over the next 30 years.  It also found the level of investment required at Picton by its owner Port Marlborough over the next decade to extend its life and adapt its facilities is approximately half the cost estimated in 2012.

Mr Brownlee says it was concluded a number of significant financial risks would exist in the development and early operating phase of a ferry terminal at Clifford Bay.

“While it was expected these would be manageable, mitigation and management cost would have fallen to the Government.

“In the end, the government cost, remaining risks, and the lack of a compelling constraint at Picton have led us to decide the Clifford Bay option should be set aside at this time,” Mr Brownlee says.

“I hope this announcement will provide some planning certainty for Marlborough communities.”

To read the report, Clifford Bay Investigation 2013, and the paper Mr Brownlee took to Cabinet, visit www.transport.govt.nz

For those that aren’t familiar with the proposal, the idea is to create a new ferry terminal further south of Picton as shown in this image from the Ministry report.

Clifford Bay Routes

It would be a substantial project though with the report stating there would need to be

  • the construction of a breakwater 1.8km into Clifford Bay with a single-pier dual-berth facility for the two ferry operators
  • associated shore-side facilities for the marshalling of passengers, vehicles and rail wagons
  • the upgrade to Marfells Beach Rd to SH1
  • a rail link to the main trunk line

None of that is going to come cheap and the report costs the terminal at $525 million – although positively Kiwirail already own most of the land needed so land acquisition wouldn’t be as high. The problem comes that the berthing fees for ferry companies simply wouldn’t be able to cover the costs of building the terminal and so the project isn’t viable from a commercial perspective. But what about the economic benefits of the project?

There are a couple of massive benefits for the project first of all it’s a shorter route (~15km) as well as one that also has no speed restrictions on it which means faster journey times. In addition as most people and freight are travelling south it would also provide some substantial travel time savings for both roads and rail due to being further south and not having to deal with the climb out of Picton and the Dashwood Pass north of Clifford Bay. For rail that journey incurs not just a time penalty but an additional operational one too as either an extra locomotive is needed or trains need to be shorter. The time savings are listed below. Compare those savings with something like Puhoi to Wellsford which would save 10 minutes if we’re lucky.

Clifford Bay Time Savings

So while the costs are high at $525 million, the overall economic benefits are substantial enough to outweigh them with the report stating that the project has a Benefit Cost Ratio of 1.3. Unfortunately we can’t see all of the details relating to the benefits as most of that has been blacked out. However interestingly the report does state that the BCR of 1.3 doesn’t include the wider economic benefits (WEBs) that might occur (which have been assessed) and also uses an 8% discount rate and 30 year evaluation period.

This in itself is interesting as the NZTA recently changed their economic evaluation manual to assess projects with a 6% discount rate and 40 year evaluation period. The report states that an assessment with a 6% discount rate was done but the result is blacked out.  I think it’s pretty safe to say the result would have been much higher if all of those bits were included. Why this is particularly interesting is that the government/NZTA have long been talking about the BCRs of the RoNS projects like Transmissions Gully using the new assessment criteria as well as included the WEBs figures too.

The project even scores highly on the NZTAs new assessment criteria which asks about Strategic/Policy Fit as the crossing is considered a key part in both the national road and rail networks.

Clifford Bay Stragtic Network

Now let me be clear, I have no problem with the government saying they that they won’t support the project – despite being economically viable – due to it not being commercially viable. Sure there might be a positive benefit to the economy but if we can’t afford to build the project then that is fine. But I do have a problem when the same approach isn’t being taken when it comes to other areas of transport policy like what is happening with the RoNS. Projects like the Kapati Expressway have a BCR of 0.2 and Transmission Gully isn’t much better yet the government are pushing them ahead as fast as possible.

What all of this means is that the government are clearly picking and choosing which types of projects they want to support regardless of the facts. There would be no issue with this if they just said we’re building roads because we like them better but they don’t, instead they pretend they are building stuff that will really help the economy.

Bayswater and Alexandra Park developments

As we keep pointing out, the development community is really coming back to life and lots of projects are now on the table again. This is most likely being brought on by a number of factors:

  • Higher land prices are making developments more viable.
  • The Unitary Plan, despite only being notified and not in place yet, has given developers some certainty about Auckland’s future.
  • The economy is looking healthier and so it is becoming easier for developers to obtain finance
  • Migration levels are increasing bringing more people into the city.

Today brings news of more development proposals. This time in Bayswater and at Alexandra Park.

Bayswater

The Herald reports:

A marina village is proposed for a “wasted” island which is a 10-minute ferry ride across Waitemata Harbour from the Auckland CBD.

Bayswater Marina lost a 2009 Environment Court appeal against North Shore City Council restrictions on residential building on its 3.4ha, which was reclaimed when the marina was built in the 1990s.

However, owner Simon Herbert said much has changed since – notably the receptive attitude of the Super City councillors to housing plans near the city centre.

It has encouraged Mr Herbert, who bought the marina in 2006, to work on a fresh plan for a better return from the land, which is presently parking lots for trailer boats and cars.

“It’s like a little island attached to the mainland by a causeway only 2km from the CBD. It has spectacular views back to the city and could offer an ideal lifestyle and a beautiful public area by the water. I feel it’s a wasted resource of land at the moment.”

Mr Herbert and his wife, Paula, say the new proposal fits the Auckland Plan and the proposed Unitary Plan, which is now out for comment. This provided for quality urban design, a mix of places for people to live and more places for people to live around transport nodes, including ferry services.

Bayswater Marina

Due to the previous opposition to building heights (and as we have seen its common thing on the shore) it’s suggested that the development will be limited to three storeys in height and have about 125 dwelling on it. That’s a little bit of a shame but still 125 dwellings more than are on the site right now. Although even that is too much for some of the locals who seem to feel they have a right on the land.

Long-standing opponent of marina housing Paddy Stafford-Bush said: “This is reclaimed land from the seabed and it belongs to the people. It’s nice the way it is and people are comfortable with it and the way it looks and works.”

Now admittedly it is a bit difficult to access the marina due to it being at the end of a peninsula however the really big opportunity with this development is that it should help to improve justification for improving ferry services to the marina. Currently services are half hourly in the peak, hourly off peak and almost non-existent in the weekends. If those were able to be improved due to the extra people then that would also benefit the rest of the community.

Bayswater Ferry Timetable

 

In fact it would be would be quite interesting exercise for AT and the council to do some work out how many extra people in the ferry catchment would be needed to improve services and what impact that would have on residents views. For example what if an extra 500 people in the area were needed to justify improved frequencies that would benefit everyone and this development delivered 300. How would that change the dynamic of those that support/oppose the project? By more directly showing locals the benefits of intensification it might actually help to get them supporting more of it.

Alexandra Park

Across town in Greenlane the owners of Alexandra Park want to develop some of their land.

Auckland’s Alexandra Park could be the scene of more than $110 million of commercial and residential developments over the next decade.

Members of the Auckland Trotting Club have voted by a huge majority to support their board in the first $41 million development of a joint purpose building at 223 Green Lane West.

The building is proposed to have four floors of apartments, ground floor commercial space and an underground carpark.

If that venture is successful the trotting club has the option of similar developments on two further Green Lane West sections.

The Unitary plan lists the highlighted section below as mixed use (as opposed to special purpose like the rest of the site) so this is most likely where they are planning on building the apartments.

Alexandra Park mixed use

I think the site will be quite a good one for intensification as there are a number of high quality amenities nearby especially Cornwall Park providing a lot of open space. Further transport should be quite good from this location, Manukau Rd is only a few hundred metres away and has frequent buses heading towards the CBD (although it could do with some bus lanes) while Greenlane West will also see frequent buses providing easy cross-town trips.

Let’s hope both of these can successfully go ahead.

One other development we haven’t really talked about before, but that we probably should have is Springpark in Mt Wellington which has just recently obtained resource consent. The development is converting land that is currently a plant nursery into 420 low rise terraced houses and apartments that is an example of getting intensification in the suburbs without having medium or high rise buildings. In fact a quick calculation suggests that an average of just two people per dwelling on this site will deliver a density of ~8,000 per km². That’s quite a bit above what we currently see in many parts of Auckland.

The site looks like it has some connections out to Mt Wellington Rd which will have frequent buses on it which is good.

Springpark

Works on the site are expected to start next month and both this and Hobsonville point could end up as excellent examples of future suburban development

The opportunities for ferries

With elections coming up we are bound to get the odd political hopeful throwing out the old line that we are a harbour city so if we want to improve public transport we should be thinking about investing in more ferries. It’s an idea that sounds really good in theory but as always, it the reality is sometimes a little different. Well the other day I went along to a talk by Douglas Hudson, the CEO of Fullers, about what opportunity he/Fullers see for ferries in the future. As I’m sure you can imagine it was quite an interesting talk and helped to confirm many of my thoughts on the subject. I’m going to break this post down into a few of the key areas he covered.

Auckland Ferry Performance

People often love to point to the Sydney ferries in particular as a great example of what we should be doing. If you look at a map of the ferries you see services going all over the place with services extending all the way from Manly in the North East of the harbour through to Parramatta in the west. The ferries carry about 14.8 million passengers a year which is quite substantial but when you put it in the context that there are about 551 million PT trips a year you realise the less than 3% of all PT trips take place on ferries. With a population of about 4.7 million it means that on average there are about 3.1 trips per year per capita in the Sydney area.

Another Australian city that Douglas raised was Brisbane which runs services along the Brisbane River. Yet despite being free yet there were only about 1.2 million trips on them last year. That is less than 1% of the total PT patronage and about 0.5 trips per person per year.

So how does Auckland compare? Well we have about 5.5 million ferry trips a year yet when you compare the figures for percentage of PT trips and per capita trips, we perform better than both Sydney and Brisbane.

Auckland Ferry Performance

Further as well as performing better when looking at patronage, Douglas says we also perform much better from financial point of view. As many of you will know the Devonport and Waiheke routes are fully commercial services while the other routes in Auckland tend to have fairly high farebox recovery. The reason for this high farebox recovery is that our ferry companies also run a number of tourist services meaning many of the operating and capital costs are currently able to spread across those. They will use their boats in the morning to do a few commuter runs and then during the middle of the day those same boats will be whisking tourists to many of the destinations around the gulf. The downside of course is that there are no or limited off peak services.

Operating Issues

While our ferries are apparently more financially efficient due to the use of the boats off peak for commercial tourist services, it does mean there aren’t any boats to provide off peak services. In addition we would ideally want more frequent peak services too. To do this it means that we would need to have a lot more boats and they don’t come cheap at $7-8 million each (he said a new boat was currently under construction in Wanganui which will be here in about a year). Further and perhaps most importantly over the long run is that there wouldn’t be the option to spread the operating costs out like what currently happens thanks to the tourist services. This means that effectively all of the operating costs would need to be paid for out of the PT budget, dramatically increasing the amount we would need to spend overall.

I have also heard it suggested that we should try using smaller, cheaper and quicker vessels instead of the larger ones we tend to use. In response to this Douglas pointed out a number of issues. We have quite a decent tidal range. As a comparison Sydney has a range of 1m while in Auckland the range is 3.5m. In addition the inner harbour tends to be more exposed and have stronger swells. All of this combined means that smaller vessels become much harder to dock in adverse conditions with the wharf so the larger vessels are needed to be able to keep reliability/speed up. As it is he said some routes have up to 30% of services cancelled a year due to weather which presents additional problems as people who are willing to give ferries a go often eventually give up due to reliability issues.

One major issue for ferries is that they tend to have a limited catchment due to half (or more) of it being water. This makes it very hard to attract lots of trips without either feeder bus services or heaps of car parking. Also due to their nature as a mode of choice and he said ferries are much more of a choice that people choice to make compared other PT modes and he cited that surveys show about 30% of ferry passengers are earning over $80k per year. In the area where I disagreed with what he said the most he then went on to talk about how he thinks many people will only catch a ferry if they can drive to it pointing out that around half of all people who use the park n ride at Devonport drive there from less than 1km away. Based on this he is suggesting that expanding park n rides at ferry terminals is needed to really increase patronage although he did admit that was all but impossible to do these days on prime waterfront land. Personally I think a vastly improved bus network – like what is being proposed – and integrated fares that include ferries will really make it much easier to use ferries.

Routes

Perhaps the most interesting comments – and ones I agreed with a lot – are that he doesn’t really see much opportunities for expansion of ferry services. As we have pointed out here in the past, all of the really useful and easy routes have already been done. Other routes mooted would generally require a lot of money to be spent and potentially a lot of wharf infrastructure e.g. a ferry wharf at St Heliers would extend about 500m out to sea for it to be deep enough. There are currently a couple of routes proposed by various people including services from Te Atatu, Takapuna and Brown’s Bay but each presents some significant challenges. He said that a rough estimate for any Takapuna is that it would need about 400 passengers each peak and would need two additional boats. To put that in perspective, the most recent screenline survey suggests only Devonport and Waiheke services have higher peak patronage.

ferry-passengers

As such Douglas said he thinks the real opportunity is to improve the existing routes through higher frequencies but to do that it would obviously require buying and running more boats but also require making it easier for passengers to get to the ferry terminals.

Auckland Ferry Routes 2

This also seems to be the position of the Ministry of Transport, well at least on the potential to expand ferry services. The extract below is from an OIA request I got back recently and the document was providing background information to Gerry Brownlee.

Mot Position

The Great Upgrade Timeline

Public transport patronage has been source of much concern for the last year and a half on the back of falling or flat numbers which followed about 6 years of almost constant growth. During that time the performance of the PT network has come under ever increasing scrutiny as public discussion and interest in transport has increased. For many of the PT figures there have actually been some fairly logical explanations as to why the numbers aren’t looking as good as they used to however unfortunately most people don’t look at the fine print and just look at the headline number.

Getting patronage growing is considered to be one of the key goals of Auckland transport and a lot of the expectation for future growth is being is being placed on a handful of key projects. Many of these projects have been going on for a long time however it is only over the next few years that we will really start to see them come to fruition and make an impact. This paper going to the AT board on Wednesday looks at these key projects and provides a timeline for when we will start to see the next batch of major changes. The key projects are:

  1. HOP integrated ticketing followed by progressive implementation of the initiatives within a strategic pricing and fares review for public transport including integrated and fares
  2. Service regulatory and procurement reform through the PT Operating Model (PTOM) following enactment of enabling legislative reform of the Land Transport Management Amendment Act 2013 in June
  3. New service network rollout of high frequency bus services and integrated and connected support services with associated facility and infrastructure upgrades
  4. Rail service enhancements and transition to the new EMU fleet
  5. Ferry service and facility enhancements
  6. On-time service performance and customer information
  7. Customer experience enhancement across all customer touch points

These projects are often what we refer to as “The Great Upgrade”. They represent Auckland Transport finally addressing the key issues of our current public transport network and putting in place the foundations for future expansion. Without these projects being successfully completed there is no City Rail Link and there is definitely no Congestion Free Network. Sadly they are all projects that should have happened at least decades ago and they help to show just how far behind we are. As far as I’m aware there isn’t a city in the world that is about to go through as much fundamental change as we are – but that is because most other cities have all, or at least a decent proportion of these things in place already.

The paper then goes on to show the most interesting part which how these projects will fit in on a timeline for the individual modes.

Rail

The next major event for the rail network will be later this year where AT are saying that we will finally get improved weekend frequencies which should mean at least half hour frequencies and services to Swanson on Sundays. One of the interesting things is that with no other changes on the rail network due till at least April when the EMU’s start running, it should give hopefully give AT some excellent data to see the impacts of the changes separate from anything else that is going on. Moving on to the end of the year and we are finally getting a new journey planner. This is long overdue as the current one is absolute rubbish and I simply won’t use it (I keep a copy of the timetable on my phone).

We have always known that the introduction of the EMUs will be spread out over a couple of years and I think I have seen a similar timeline before so it isn’t a surprise. What is a surprise though is the suggestion that we won’t be seeing integrated fares until the end of 2014. Of note the bus timeline has integrated fares happening slightly earlier and at the same time as the new bus network rolls out in South Auckland. Lastly we can see that in 2016 the current Transdev contract expires after having been extended a few times to avoid any possibility of a change in operator in the middle of the EMU roll out (we don’t want a labtests/Medlab situation happening and holding up the delivery of trains). I believe that the contract will be put out to tender so it will be interesting to see what comes out of that.

Timeline - Rail

Bus

On the bus side most of the timeline is similar to what we have seen previously in the likes of the Southern Network consultation documents. The next year and a half seems like it will be a particularly busy time in which most of the consultation, procurement will occur  and where the first areas will go live.

Timeline - Bus

Ferry

There seems to be quite a bit less going on with ferries however I think the key thing will be the first light blue arrow below the timeline where there are meant to be on-going service improvements to existing routes. You can also note that there is no integrated fares note on the ferry timeline once again confirming that ferries will exist outside of the integrated fare structure.

Timeline - Ferry

Across the bottom of all of the images above there are a couple of very specific points. One relates to marketing PT and shows how AT are really going to be a bit limited to only targeting towards specific services or areas for some time however once the entire new bus network has been rolled out it will enable them to market the entire network as a single entity. The network concept is probably something that many Aucklanders haven’t thought about it in the past.. The other piece common across all modes is the Customer Experience Programme which is the one area we haven’t really heard much about. Below is an explanation from the report as to what is involved. It will certainly be interesting to see what a fresh pair of eyes and thoughts might come up with and we will be following it closely.

This is one of the seven strategic projects in the three-year programme. This is a five month project that began in July 2013. The aim of the project is to develop a set of design blueprints and standards for an enhanced experience that customers will receive on future bus, rail and ferry services and through multi-modal support services. One of the first implementation of a customer experience blueprint is targeted for the service revenue launch of the EMUs on the Onehunga Line in April 2014.

Thoughtful Design consultancy has been appointed to facilitate the work having recently completed similar blueprint and experience design remits for Auckland Council and Air New Zealand.

The first four weeks of the project has been an information gathering exercise across current and new public transport services and public transport traveller profiles have been developed, that visually articulate current travel journey scenarios across public transport modes identifying pleasure-points, pain-points and needs. The phase one report is being finalized.

For the next six weeks to mid-September, from the public transport traveller profiles created, a set of guiding service design blueprints will be developed – the basis for building public transport customer-oriented experiences and products across services, facilities, support services and staff-customer interactions.

The rest of the paper looks at how these projects then get modelled to estimate what patronage might be. I will look at that part of the paper in a separate post.