AT Board Report Feb-15

Auckland Transport’s board meet tomorrow and I’ve scoured the board reports for any interesting information. Here’s what caught my attention.

Projects

East West Link Connections

A detailed business case for the project is being worked on and will go to the board in April. AT still haven’t officially said which option they’ve chosen from their consultation back in October however this image – from a draft version of the RLTP (page 57) in the December Board meeting and which includes a note saying the map is not to be released to public prior to January 2015 – suggests it’s either option C or D.

East-West Priorities Dec-14

South-Western Multi-Modal Airport Rapid Transit (SMART)

AT say work on the design of the Kirkbride interchange includes future proofing for either light or heavy rail. The RLTP notes that this future proofing is costing AT $30 million which seems extremely high considering the rest of the interchange costs $140 million. One reason it could be so high is I understand the the NZTA team working on the project didn’t originally include rail in their designs despite rail to the airport having been on plans for decades along with other parts of the NZTA working with AT on the route.

Wynyard Quarter – Integrated Road Programme

We should start seeing more roadworks in the Wynyard Quarter in April with AT expecting to issue a contract mid Feb. Works for stage one are Halsey Street South and Gaunt Street between Daldy and Halsey. I’m not quite sure just what changes we’re going to see yet though.

Franklin Road

AT say they will feed back analysis of the submissions in March and I’ve heard rumours the current thinking greatly improved on what we saw earlier. An email update a few weeks ago suggested they were looking at whether parking between the trees could be retained in some situations.

Westgate

AT say the new mall being built as part of the new town centre is due to open in October this year and that new bus services to the area (new network) are due in October 2016. Those bus services will also need an interchange constructed and AT are trying to work out just how they will do that. They say resource consent will be needed and almost certainly will be publicly notified for which any submission will delay the project. A temporary interchange is being planned

Penlink

Work is still going on to update and amend the designation for Penlink and consent will be notified in early 2015 however a recent press release states that due to funding constraints, construction of Penlink is not anticipated until 2025. There are two open days about it, one this afternoon.

  • Thursday 19 Feb, 2pm-7pm, The Peninsula Retirement Village (441 Whangaparapoa Road, Whangaparaoa)
  • Saturday 21 Feb, 10am-2pm, Stillwater Boat Club (70 Duck Creek Road, Stillwater)

Otahuhu Interchange

The demolition of the old foot bridge and piling for the new station happened over the Christmas shutdown and AT say the construction for the interchange itself will begin in June. It’s due to be completed in February 2016 at which time the New Network for South Auckland can finally be rolled out.

Manukau Interchange

Consent is currently being sought for the enabling works for the interchange and AT are hoping to have the project completed in the first quarter of next year.

EMUs

At the time of writing the report AT say there were 42 of the 57 trains in the country and 32 of them had provisional acceptance. They also say that services in December were affected by issues with the signalling system and there had been some door closing issues. The door issues were upgraded over the break but the signalling ones are still being worked on.

Newmarket Crossing (Sarawia St level Crossing)

AT have created three concept designs and have taken feedback from residents and Manu Whenua into them. AT are wanting to lodge resource consent for the project in February and in the past have said that this project is required before they can deliver 10 minute frequencies on the Western Line. Given the stage it’s at and that some of the residents of Cowie St are bound to go to the environment court over it, it could be years before we see any peak frequency improvements out west.

Puhinui

AT are planning to upgrade Puhinui station with most of the works completed in March and April and with a new canopy installed in June

Swanson Station Park and Ride

The extended park & ride is expected to be completed by the end of April.

Onewa Rd

Also to be completed by the end of April are the works to deliver the westbound transit lane and shared path.

Other stuff

Parking

One piece of good news is that parking officers are experiencing the lowest recorded volumes of aggression towards them and there have been no serious harm injuries since October

AT also say the removal of earlybird parking has meant lease revenue is ahead of forecast and in addition casual occupancy and revenue in the downtown carpark is increasing. The latter part is particularly good as it means the carpark is being used by more people throughout the day which was exactly one of the aims of removing the earlybird prices.

Taxi’s on Grafton Bridge

A 12 month trial allowing taxi’s on to Grafton Bridge will start in late March and AT will be monitoring bus travel times, cyclist safety and amenity along with how many infringements get issued. If any significant issues arise during the trial it can be stopped. AT say the Taxi Federation and Cycle Action Auckland have been involved in the development of the proposal.

Personally I don’t think AT should have even entertained the idea of allowing Taxi’s on the bridge and should have actually gone the other way and making it bus only 24/7.

Double Decker Bus Mitigation Project

To get double deckers on the streets AT need to complete a whole lot of mitigation works to ensure the buses don’t damage things or get damaged themselves. This includes moving power poles, veranda modifications, kerb build-outs and tree pruning. They plan to have this work done by June to enable double deckers from Howick and Eastern to start running. Mt Eden is the next route planned for mitigation works which is meant to happen in the next financial year however AT are awaiting the outcome of the LRT proposal before making any changes.

On the Howick and Eastern Double Deckers, a press release yesterday announced the company was spending $12 million on buying 15 double deckers – most of which would be built in Tauranga. They will operate between Botany and the City Centre. The most interesting aspect of these buses is that they will also include free WiFi, power points and USB ports. Those are great additions and hopefully something we start to see become standard on all PT vehicles and I certainly think they should be on our new trains. The buses are from Alexander Dennis – the same maker as the small NZ Bus buses.

More about Taxis on Grafton Bridge

Last week I highlighted some of the interesting points from the last AT board meeting. One of those garnered quite a bit of discussion and also raised a number of questions in my head. Here are the answers from Auckland Transport to some of those questions.

How AT will monitor them and how will it deal with taxi services like Uber?

We are still working through the details of this proposal. As for monitoring, we plan to use a video camera operated on site by an enforcement officer, who will cross reference registration numbers against the NZTA database of authorised taxis.

The intention is to allow only taxis authorised by NZTA to use the bridge and not private hire vehicles like Uber.

Is it only taxis that have passengers or can empty ones use it too?

Empty ones will be able to use it as well.

Are there any changes to signage that will happen?

Some minor changes are planned, but we are still working through the detailed design.

Have the views of bus companies and cyclists been taken into account given the narrowness of the route?

As previously mentioned this proposal is still under development, but we have been working with our Public Transport Operations team on this. We will consult with bus operators and we will monitor any impacts to bus journey times using bus GPS data. We will also consult with cyclists on the proposal.

As part of the trial we also plan to conduct user surveys to understand the impacts on buses and cyclists. We are planning to conduct video surveys to identify any potential safety risks. We are planning 3 monthly review periods with the trial concluding after 12 months. If at any time we feel that it is not operating satisfactorily then we are prepared to terminate the trial.

Where did the idea come from?

We originally received a request from the taxi industry to permit taxis in all bus lanes in Auckland. We undertook an assessment of the likely impacts and we decided not to agree to this request. However, we did conclude that we could look at this specific location because it would provide significant benefits to taxi passengers on a route that links high demand destinations (i.e. the hospital and the city centre).

Has NZTA been consulted as they funded the strengthening works on the basis of it being bus only during the day?

We are still developing the proposal and once that is done we will be consulting NZTA.

As I said last week, this seems like it could have quite a bad outcome, especially for cyclists who are more likely to feel more pressured on the narrow road. It could also be quite bad for bus users if a lot of taxi’s start using the route as a bunch of taxi’s at lights might mean buses start missing a phase slowing buses down. Add to that the confusion between just what is a taxi and the sheep like nature of many drivers who might drive over the bridge from seeing other cars do it and it seems like a recipe for confusion and frustration. Leave it as it is and if the key is to link the city centre to the Hospital then Wellesley St seems like a much better option from most locations anyway.

 

Photo of the Day: Grafton Bridge

Grafton Bridge (probably my favourite in Auckland)

Photo is credited to oh.yes.melbourne

A new appreciation for Grafton Bridge

Last week Cycle Action Auckland invited me along for a walk doing with the NZTA along the Grafton Gully Cycleway route. What I ended up finding most interesting about the walk was not the details of the cycleway itself but what the project will do to the area, but it also gave me a new appreciation for the Grafton Bridge.

What the NZTA thinks the cycleway may look lik

The areas that the cycleway will skirt around, the Symonds St cemetery and the bush clad gully, are really a bit of hidden gem. The only people who seem to venture into the area at the moment tend to be a bit undesirable as they are often under the influence of various substances and this understandably has put the rest of us off visiting. This probably isn’t helped by the cemetery also being is a state of disrepair as probably not much has been done since the motorway was rammed through it in the 60s. The gully itself is littered with all kinds of rubbish from old tires (heap of them) to shopping trolleys and everything in between. The cycleway is prompting the restoration and clean up of these areas and the presence of more people, will add to safety. In many ways, what this project really seems to be doing is creating a brand new park close to town and one that is quite unique from others in the city. When people first start to ride and walk down through this new connection I get the feeling that they will be quite surprised by it. 

The other thing is the Grafton Bridge. The structure has always been impressive but looking at it from a distance, driving underneath it at speed, or even walking across it, you don’t really get a good appreciation for just how big and impressive the structure is. Again I think people will really be surprised and seeing it from ground level has well and truly enshrined it as my favourite bridge in the city, if not the country.

Grafton bridge from the ground

But its also worth looking back and seeing how things used to be, so here are a collection of shots showing just how much of the bushland we have lost to the motorways.

Grafton Gully in 1940 and 2010

Grafton Bridge, Auckland. Whites Aviation Ltd : Photographs. Ref: WA-11627-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23009732

Just imagine if we could have retained that bush, the area could have been such an excellent natural park on the edge of town.

Grafton Bridge – Revenue Gathering or Stupidity Tax

I’ve lost count of the number of times this same story comes up in the Herald and about the only thing missing this time was a sob story from a motorist. Instead we get three councillors who think this is a perfect opportunity to try and score some political points.

A central Auckland bridge is netting $150,000 in traffic fines from confused motorists every month.

Almost 1000 tickets have been issued each month this year to drivers snapped by enforcement cameras as they cross Grafton Bridge – which has been closed to all but buses for three years.

This year’s total take is about $1.25 million.

Some civic leaders say a “dog’s breakfast” of signs around the bridge creates confusion.

Auckland Council members Cameron Brewer, George Wood and Calum Penrose have called for a review of the signs after learning that as many as 997 tickets, worth $150 each, are being issued each month.

Mr Brewer said the council-controlled Auckland Transport had put up an array of small signs around the busy approaches to the bridge to show it was for buses only between 7am and 7pm on weekdays.

But the number of signs had added to the confusion.

“For many who may be heading into the area for the first time in a long time, it is as clear as mud.

“With no time to take it all in, many drivers find themselves on the bridge, nowhere to go, and staring at a $150 fine.”

Mr Wood called the signs a “complete dog’s breakfast” and said they explained why so many people were still being fined three years after the bridge became a bus corridor.

Well George I don’t think that it is the signs that are causing people to keep using the bridge but a mix of stupidity and risk taking thinking they might get away with it. First there were cries of not enough signage, now cries of too much signage but I think that the signs are just a convenient excuse. As I understand it Auckland transport already has a policy of letting out of towners off with a warning and with the amount noise that was generated the previous times this issue has come up I would be really surprised if there was really that many people that didn’t know that the bridge was off limits.

If there is any confusion at all it is due to the fact the bus only status is only active between 7am and 7pm on weekdays, perhaps the solution is to just make it bus only 24/7. The other thing Auckland Transport should do is to is to come out and say that if people are going to be stupid enough to drive over the bridge then they deserve a fine (and the same goes for other bus lanes too). They shouldn’t have to appear almost ashamed that they are keeping the bus lanes moving as without enforcement they quickly deteriorate with drivers thinking they can get away with clogging them up.