Auckland’s New Network — What comes next?

Right now Auckland Transport is in the process of implementing the New Network (NN). The NN is already operational in the south, and is being readied for implementation in other sub-regions as per the following timetable:

You can view the latest networks for each sub-region by clicking on the links provided at the beginning of this post. For those who don’t know, I should disclose that I was part of the consultant team who worked with AT to develop the original NN way back in 2012-2014. The original network we developed is illustrated below.

The original network shown above has subsequently evolved in response to several rounds of stakeholder engagement and public consultation. This included engagement with existing operators, consultation with local boards, and — finally — consultation with the general public. Moreover, as time has progressed, more detailed information has come to light, such as the land use outcomes associated with Unitary Plan and the NZ Transport Agency’s plans for developing highways and busways. All useful information that can inform the design of the public transport network, albeit information that has been somewhat slow to extract.

The NN has also had to dovetail with other projects AT has underway. I’m not aware of any other city in Australia or New Zealand that are attempting to change so much about their PT system in so little time. In the 15-20 year period starting with the opening of Britomart, Auckland will have developed a Rapid Transit Network connecting to every sub-region almost from scratch; redesigned the ticketing system and fare structure; implemented a new public transport contracting model; and drastically re-structured its services. Somewhat understandably, the desire to coordinate implementation of the NN with these other projects has delayed implementation beyond the initial (indicative) 2016 timeline.

So as we stand on the threshold of implementing the NN, one may wonder what comes next? The answer, in my opinion, is that the NN will be a constant, ongoing project for at least the next 5-10 years.

There are several reasons for this. The first is simply that all aspects of the NN won’t work perfectly right from the beginning, and they should be changed as further information comes to light. In terms of demand, some routes will experience too much while others will see too little. That’s a reason to reallocate resources. In terms of schedules, some timetables will have too much time while others will have too little. The struggle for reliability is ever-present.

Public transport nirvana won’t happen over-night, but it will happen. If we keep working on it. Maybe. But aside from continuous refinement of the underlying network structure, what else might change? The answer to this is both nothing and almost everything. When I say nothing, I am referring to the underlying principles of frequency and connectivity on which the NN was built, and which will allow us to run a more efficient public transport network. These principles are sound and should not change as we go forward. Instead, they should be strengthened and embedded more deeply into our PT network. Every time AT increase frequency, we should be asking whether we can remove duplication.

On the other hand, much about Auckland’s public transport network will continue to change. Let’s list just a few of the major projects that Auckland Transport and others will be working to implement over the next 5-10 years:

  • AMETI
  • City Rail Link
  • Northern Busway extension, including new Rosedale station
  • Extension of electrified services to Pukekohe, and new stations
  • LRT on Dominion Road and Queen Street
  • North-western Busway

When you line up all these projects, you start to realise that there isn’t many corners of our fair city where the public transport will not change fairly dramatically in the next few years. So we will need to get used to PT network changes happening on a fairly regular basis. Of course none of them should be as large as the NN itself, but nor should we delude ourselves that it will end with the NN. The NN is arguably close to the start of Auckland’s journey to PT salvation.

Indeed, such complacency with regards to continuous improvement of Auckland’s PT network is arguably a contributing factor to the situation we are in today. As an aside, I understand the following meme is popular among some of the folk that have long-lorded over Auckland.

Aside from the persistent and ongoing issues with the allocation of resources and reliability, there is one other potential meteor that seems likely to pass fairly close in the near future, and which threatens to destroy the heart of Auckland’s PT network. That is, Auckland has very limited bus capacity in the city centre, in terms of corridors, stop, and terminal capacity. I think it’s fair to say bus capacity in Auckland’s city centre has been neglected for decades, and is now being rapidly squeezed in all directions. The risk is that the meteor of bus volumes brings about a never-ending buspocalypse that in turn suppresses patronage and exacerbates congestion.

Put simply, the volume of buses that need to be accommodated in the city centre is rather high already, and it’s growing. And it’s not just about the corridor capacity: Buses need to stop, terminate, and/or turn-around. In fact, I’d suggest that corridor capacity is almost the least of our concerns, we can always splash around a bit more green paint, e.g. on Wellesley Street. Stop and terminal capacity is more problematic, simply because there’s not much space. LRT will help, but it is something that won’t happen super-fast and nor will it be a panacea when it is up-and-running. Meanwhile construction works associated with the CRL and the Council’s (excellent) place-making initiatives look likely to exacerbate the problems caused by our historical reluctance to address bus terminal issues.

Whether we encounter bus apolocalypse depends on whether AT are successful at changing the way we currently operate buses and manage streets so as to make them more efficient. The NN as it currently stands seem likely to result in higher bus volumes downtown than originally planned. Indeed, changes made during consultation — for potentially good reasons that I explain below — have had the effect of throwing more buses into the city centre, specifically:

  • Removing through-routing — the original NN proposed through-routing bus services between Takapuna–Onehunga, Glen Innes–Mt Albert, and Glen Innes–New Lynn. I understand all three though-routes have been dropped. This both increases bus volumes in the city, and requires more passengers to transfer, which increases dwell-times.
  • Retaining duplicative routes — In some cases, services have been added or retained that duplicate other services, even if they perhaps remove the need for passengers to connect. The most notable is the Outer Link, but there are also a number of peak services that have snuck their way back into the network. In terms of capacity, the latter are particularly problematic, because they directly increase peak bus volumes (by definition).
  • Removing cross-towns — the original NN arguably contained five frequent crosstown services in the Isthmus, specifically: Mt Albert — Glen Innes, Takapuna — Onehunga, New Lynn — Glen Innes, Pt Chevalier — Ellerslie, and Mt Albert — Pakuranga. The proposed NN now contains only one, or arguably two if you include the Outer Link. Going from five to two cross-towns will increase the number of buses terminating in the city centre, and increase the need for passengers to connect between services there.

This should not be construed as criticism of the changes made by AT. Indeed, the changes arguably reflect positively on AT’s desire to respond constructively with feedback. It’s also entirely possible that the changes will increase patronage and/or efficiency in the short term, even if they exacerbate issues with city centre bus capacity in the medium to long term.

But *if* buspocalypse does arise, *then* what should we do about it?

The good news is that AT are aware of the risk of buspoalypse, and have started considering how to mitigate the chance it occurs. Some of their current thinking has been documented in the “Bus Reference Case” report that was published last year, and which was written by my colleagues at MRCagney. While somewhat technical, the report does make for interesting reading, as it provides an indication of the sorts of volumes we might expect and sketches out some possible responses. And when I say response, I am talking about one that considers not just infrastructure, but also other related aspects, such as services, vehicles, and ticketing.

The report notes, for example, that after the CRL the following actions could be taken to reduce bus volumes in the city centre:

  • Re-direct the New North Road (Route 22) service to Newmarket. This would possibly allow AT to drop the infrequent but direct rail service operating between the west and Newmarket, and increase rail services on the main Western line.
  • Eliminate expresses from the West, including Blockhouse Bay to City (Route 195), Green Bay to City (Route 209), Glen Eden Express (Route 151x), and Titirangi Expresses (Routes 171x and 172x). Instead, these routes would terminate at the Avondale, New Lynn, and Glen Eden rail stations.
  • Expand service from the Northwest, specifically Routes 110 and 125x (WEX upon completion of the North western busway); and
  • Eliminate expresses from the Southeast, including Mangere to City (Route 309x) and Papakura to City (Route 360x).

As well as changes to the network itself, the report investigates the potential demand for bus infrastructure in the city centre, especially with regards to bus termini and stop infrastructure around Wynyard, Wellesely, the Universities and Britomart. It’ll be interesting to see what the detailed designs for these areas look like, and whether they avoid off-street interchanges and termini. Naturally on-street would be more cost-efficient, but it does place increased demands placed on city centre streets. Balancing this demand with other place and movement needs will be tricky.

Either way, when we say “city centre bus infrastructure”, it’s fairly clear we are not simply talking about a lick of green paint. If we want to get buses off the streets in the city centre, while maintaining accessibility and growing patronage, then we need to think about where they go. And we may need to spend some money along the way.

In terms of the last point, it’s interesting to compare Auckland with our comrades across the ditch. Both Brisbane and Perth have some serious bus infrastructure in their central city. King George Square station, for example, opened a few years ago and is nicer than most metro stops.

Meanwhile in Perth, construction of the long-planned underground bus station (BusPort) in the city centre was completed in July 2016.

Over here in Amsterdam, they’ve been busy elevating their buses away from the street level so as to improve amenity around central station, while maintaining connections to other transport modes. Impressive stuff, and things that have long been in the works.

None of this is to say that Auckland will neessarily need bus infrastructure of the same scale as the above cities. With a more brutal network structure and more efficient operations, it’s certainly possible we could get by with less hard infrastructure than these cities have achieved. However, these cities do provide a good lesson for Auckland in terms of developing long-term plans for acommodating buses in the city centre. That is something Auckland hasn’t yet managed to achieve, even if it looks like the wheels are starting to turn.

It’s promising that Phil Goff’s election platform and subsequent noises have emphasized the important role for buses, both now and in the future. Getting Auckland’s buses working well will definitely require a level of technical and political leadership that perhaps has been lacking in the past. It may also require that we step on the toes of landowners in the city centre, who arguably have ruled Auckland’s roost for far too long.

What do you think? And if you were AT, and if there was an issue with city centre bus infrastructure capacity, then what would you do? I’d be particularly keen to hear about people’s ideas for the NN as it currently stands, and how it could be adapted so as to reduce bus volumes in the city centre. Which routes would you cut, and why?

And/or what are your ideas for how to improve bus infrastructure in the city centre? Ideas big and small are welcome. If we succeed with our plans for the city centre and public transport more generally, then it’s possible we’ll need some of these infrastructure and service initiatives sooner than we think. I think that’s a good problem to have.

P.s. Feel free to also comment on the proposal to relocate long-distance buses to Manukau and Albany. Grrr. That’s an issue I hope to cover in a future post.

2016 – A Year in Review Part 1 – PT

As the year rapidly draws to a close it’s a good time to look back at all the important events that have occurred. Because there’s so much to cover, I’ll be splitting this up over multiple posts, starting with public transport.

It’s been a huge year for public transport. Sometimes it can be easy to get caught in the day to day details which makes it easy to forget that a lot of really positive things happened in 2016. So, here’s my summary.

City Rail Link

We started the year with the great news that the government had come to their senses, agreeing the main part of the project should start as soon as possible, not be delayed till sometime after 2020 like they had previously said. This was primarily due to two things, we were continuing to see stellar ridership growth following electrification, well ahead of what was projected and with Auckland in a building boom with $billions planned to be spent, developers wanted certainty around the project.

While some of the earliest signs the project was underway began at the end of 2015, in June the project officially exploded into action in a ceremony outside Britomart.

In September the government and council signed an agreement that would see them share the costs of the project equally.

The project is now hard to miss in the city centre with works in full swing from Britomart through to Wellesley St. One of the first big pieces of work is to move a water main out of the way along Albert St and that has involved digging some deep shafts to enable a small tunnel boring machine to dig and install a new pipe. Auckland Transport kindly gave us a tour of the sites in October. On Albert St the project is now hard to miss with large parts of it closed to traffic and a huge piling machine busy at work.

In just a few weeks another milestone will be reached as passengers will start using the new, temporary entrance that has been built at the back of the CPO building to enable the CRL tunnels to be dug under the CPO.

 

Not everything has been great though. From what we’ve seen so far, Auckland Transport’s plans for the streets being re-instated after the CRL is completed have been a disappointment, especially so on Victoria St. In fact more than that they appear to be trying to actively undermine the Council’s publicly consulted City Centre Master Plan by removing key pedestrian space so a few more car lanes can be squeezed in. This is obviously something we’ll be following very closely in 2017.

Simplified Fares

August finally saw the introduction of Simplified Fares, another of the key steps in bringing public transport in Auckland up to a more modern standard. It introduced fare zones instead of stages and meaning people can transfer between multiple buses and trains and only pay one fare for their journey rather than how many buses or trains they used. This also had the advantage of reducing fares for many trips.

AT have also started work to integrate ferries into the system.

New Network and Otahuhu Station

The new bus network in South Auckland was another of the big puzzle pieces to slot into place, finally rolling out at the end of October

At the same time as the new bus network, the impressive new Otahuhu Station opened which is a key interchange on the network.

Also tied to the new network, the bus station at Manukau got underway in 2016

Progress on rolling out the new network to other parts of Auckland has progressed too. West Auckland is confirmed to roll out in the middle of next year while AT are currently assessing tenders for Central, East and North.

Double Decker rollout

A big feature of this year has been the roll out of double deckers on many routes. They are now almost exclusively used on Northern Express services and have rolled out to other routes too, such as Mt Eden Rd and the 881 from Albany to Newmarket. In 2017 we should see at least Onewa Rd added to this list.

Government agreement on Strategic PT network

The Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) was a big feature of the year, especially after the final report was released in September. I’ll talk about that more in a separate post but one particularly good point in relation to PT was that we now have agreement between the government and council on a future rapid transit network. While there are still finer details to be resolved such as exact modes and routes, it’s good to finally have the need for this agreed at a high level.

Ridership

Use of the PT network has seen solid growth over the year and the big star of that has been the Rapid Transit Network (busway and Rail) which has primarily driven that growth. Usage on the RTN in the 12 months to the end of November grew by a staggering 22.2% over the 12 months to November 2015.

As mentioned at the start of the post, the stellar growth on the rail network was one of the reasons the government had to change their position to support the CRL. That growth has continued this year and as of now there will have been over 18 million trips during the last 12 months. This is well ahead of where it needed to be for the silly target the government set in 2013 and that the Ministry of Transport once said it was unlikely we would achieve.

Conclusion

These are of course only some of the big changes and discussions we’ve had over the year and many of them are likely to continue to be discussed over 2017 but on the whole, I think it’s been a pretty good year for PT in Auckland. We’ve definitely made many more steps forward than we have back.

Are there any key changes I’ve missed?

Tomorrow’s wrap up will focus on walking and cycling

New Network niggles

The new bus network is the right approach but it will only work if implemented well. So far there are some positive looking numbers.

  • Train boardings at Otahuhu and Manukau have increased, with Otahuhu doubling over the first three weeks of operation;
  • Total transfers across South Auckland up by 147%,
  • Bus/bus transfer up by 94%
  • Bus/train transfers up by 207%.

Although what would be more useful to know is if this was resulting in more people actually using PT.

 

While mostly the change appears to have gone relatively well, and it’s good to hear, not everything has. We’ve been hearing reports of issues with some buses and some of these were highlighted in this article.

 

But some of them specifically identified the 309 route as having issues ranging from break downs, to lateness and drivers getting lost.

An opinion piece on the new network singled out route for the same issues. In particular, buses were late or didn’t show up.

In one case a bus breakdown meant a 45 minute way for regular commuters. Occasionally some of the bus doors would not open automatically.

One woman wrote on Neighbourly that the bus had always run late every time she went to catch it.

The connector service runs from Mangere Bridge to the city via Mangere Bridge and Onehunga. It’s scheduled to run every 30 minutes.

Issues such as a lack of bus lanes are are almost certainly impacting on the network and I’ve heard that significant additional buses have needed to be run to maintain timetables. The cost of doing that will almost certainly be eating into the $3 million annual savings AT touted back in February. Getting on top of this and ensuring the operators are performing well, including knowing the routes is critical.

Worryingly though, it seems there’s some passing of the buck going on

A spokesperson for Auckland Transport couldn’t comment on the specific issues relating to the bus or the route, instead saying the contractor was the best to comment on it.

Go Bus, who is contracted to run the service, declined to comment. It says Auckland Transport sets the route and timetable and should comment.

It offered no comment on bus break downs or issues with doors not opening.

Both the AT and the operator pointing fingers at each other is a terrible look. AT have continually shifted to take greater control of the PT network, as they should, but with that also comes responsibility. As a user I and I’m sure all others don’t care who the operator is, our relationship is with AT and that’s who should take responsibility here.

Riding the Southern New Network

This is a guest post from reader and friend of the blog, Shan L

Although most southern commuters’ first experience of the New Network for South Auckland was on Monday morning, the go-live was on the day before – Sunday – when travel demand is much lower and any issues can be ironed out before the masses crowd on. To see what it was like, I decided to take a transit journey down south and experience first-hand the sort of the change the network might (or might not!) bring.

I took a look at the network map online, and decided to start my journey at Britomart, travelling to Mangere, Otahuhu Town Centre and finally Sylvia Park before returning to Britomart.

Then I added a few constraints to make it interesting:

  1. No smartphone or otherwise computerised trip planning allowed – given that the New Network is designed to be legible, I should be able to plan my trip entirely with a paper map
  2. No smartphone real-time tracking of trains or buses allowed – the New Network should be frequent and reliable enough that this is a nicety, not a necessity
  3. At each destination I’d do a brief bit of shopping – just to make things a bit more realistic
  4. Leave in the morning, and be back by lunch.

(Note: I’m aware this is a fairly unusual set of trips and not something people would do often. I wanted to see how the network would cope more than I wanted to simulate a reasonable journey)

Although I’m a pretty experienced user of PT in Auckland, most of my regular trips are within the isthmus, so on the surface this could be a quite a challenge, especially since just the day before the transit “network” looked like this:

south-nn-trip-1

Spaghetti, yes: and the chef was quite possibly drunk and suffering from anger issues.

That map is convoluted enough to make me give up and not even try – how are you meant to figure out which one of those maroon coloured lines to take, for instance?

But the New Network simplifies this to:

south-nn-trip-2

My plan would be:

south-nn-trip-3

Otahuhu Station is greyed out to indicate that it’s purely a transfer: I don’t care about shopping there, I’m only getting off the train to take a connecting bus to Mangere.

Now… to pretty much anyone who uses PT regularly in Auckland: this plan is clearly lunacy. You’d only ever try it:

  1. with a smartphone and spare battery;
  2. real-time tracking and route planning;
  3. not on a Sunday or in fact a weekday except during peak hours – you’d spend all day waiting for infrequent services to turn up.

But the New Network says this should now be possible in reasonable time and minimal frustration, so why not see if it holds up?

Leg 1: Britomart to Otahuhu Station

Time: 9.50AM
Wait for onward service to arrive: 8 minutes

Starting outside Britomart, the first task was to find a paper map and timetable. This was easy enough, and once obtained I looked for the first train that’d take me to Otahuhu Station. Luckily Otahuhu is served by both the Southern and Eastern lines, so the individual (entirely inadequate) half-hourly frequencies combine to give a train on average every 15 minutes – which while not exactly great – is serviceable.

south-nn-trip-4

After waiting at the platform for 4 minutes, I took the 9.58 service (on time), and arrived at Otahuhu at 10.24.

Leg 2: Transfer at Otahuhu Station to Mangere

Time: 10:24AM
Wait for onward service to arrive: 5 minutes

The new Otahuhu Station is fantastic. Somehow, It even smells like transit. Maybe ozone from the overhead lines is seeping into the building.

south-nn-trip-5

There’s quality wayfinding in place, much like you’d see in better stations in cities overseas, with exits and platforms clearly marked.

south-nn-trip-6

There is real time information in the concourse as you transfer, but unfortunately it wasn’t showing the platform for each service. Instead of looking around I took the easy option and asked an AT person with a clipboard where to get my connecting bus.

south-nn-trip-7

Note the nice single digit numbers in the “due” column

It’s great they’re using what look like fairly standard sized and reasonably large LCDs. But in my opinion they don’t show quite enough services at once before they resort to paging: waiting for it to scroll around to the screen that interests you can be at best annoying and at worst bus-miss-inducing. On a normal trip I’d use my phone to get this info instead.

The primary job of an interchange is to get passengers from one service to another with maximum speed and minimum anxiety, and given that the entire network just got replaced and everything is brand new, it did this with reasonable competence. A bit of tweaking to the wayfinding and it could be excellent.

I found my platform and a 325 turned up after 5 minutes. I had the option of a 32, 324, 325 or even 326 here, which combine to give average 6 minute frequency. The bus trip was on a brand-new vehicle, with USB at every second seat (in fact all buses I rode were similar). There were unfinished bits though – like missing screens which I’m hoping at some point will display your position on the route.

Leg 3: Mangere to Otahuhu Town Centre

Time: 10:40AM
Wait for onward service to arrive: 5 minutes

The bus arrived at the Mangere bus station after a short trip. Since Mangere was a shopping stop, I wandered off to look around for a while. The station clearly isn’t quite finished yet: it’s basically a cone farm.

south-nn-trip-8

I didn’t see any obvious sign of any cycleways yet either, but I did see a child on a BMX trying to wend his way through the construction. Hopefully it gets finished soon.

Mangere is home to one of the new bus shelter designs that were trialled on Symonds St. This one felt a bit more robust than the one that was demoed and was pretty comfortable to be in, at least on a good day. I’m still a bit doubtful about how well it will hold up to wind and rain, though.

Despite there being some pretty decent maps and timetables displayed in the stops, practically every passenger who came through asked AT staff for help. My impression is that they’ll need staff on hand at all the major stops for quite a bit after launch. I overheard a few conversations, and while many were understanding of the changes and the need to transfer, one person neatly summed up their concerns with, “but nothing ever works properly in Auckland”.

When I got sick of shopping I started looking for my next bus, which was a 32, and turned up after 5 minutes.

So far I’d managed to do all this without looking at an actual timetable at all – only maps – something which would’ve been inconceivable on Sunday, only a week before.

Leg 4: Otahuhu Town Centre to Sylvia Park

Time: 11:19AM
Wait for onward service to arrive: ~30 minutes

This is where things got a bit dubious. The trip to Otahuhu went fine, and from looking at the map I thought I was going to be stopping at a proper bus station:

south-nn-trip-9

But unfortunately it isn’t completed yet so it’s less clear when to get off. Thankfully the bus driver saved me and let me off at the right place.

After wandering the town centre for a bit I finally found my unique-to-the-region produce and went looking for the bus to Sylvia Park.

south-nn-trip-10

In hindsight, it’s obvious that I should’ve just got back on the same service at the same stop I got off on… but being an idiot, I instead headed directly for where the old Otahuhu bus station used to be, where I found a large number of very confused people. The AT staff were pretty busy helping people who genuinely needed it but when I started trying to clamber through the construction site across the road someone showed me where I actually wanted to go.

But to be fair on me, the wayfinding here was pretty poor: if you’re going to require people to go to an unexpected place to catch their bus, then you need big signs with giant arrows all the way to the destination, not the little bits of A4 they had taped to the bus shelter. Having people to help is great (and they were great – watched one guy manage to get a couple with zero English on the right bus), but never underestimate the value of giant arrows in times like this.

Due to the combination of me screwing up and lack of good temporary wayfinding I missed my bus, so had to wait 15 minutes for the next. Which would’ve been fine, had it turned up. In reality, and in true Auckland fashion, it didn’t. So I waited about half an hour until one did, which was the 32 to Sylvia Park.

Leg 5: Sylvia Park Station to Britomart

Time: 12.15PM
Wait for onward service to arrive: 0 minutes

As I wandered from the bus stop through the mall to the Japan Mart (source of all the instant ramen you could possibly want) to do my final bit of shopping, the real-time train info handily displayed in the mall let me know that the next service to Britomart would be leaving in 7 minutes.

south-nn-trip-11

This was simultaneously useful and disappointing: useful because I now knew I only had 7 minutes to get to my train, which isn’t much time; disappointing because now I had a choice between either cutting my shopping short (I genuinely wanted to spend more time there) or shopping a bit longer and waiting almost half an hour for the next train.

I opted to cut it short and return. The train turned up as I stepped on the platform, then arrived at…

Britomart

Time: 12.41PM

Total duration: 2 hours 50 minutes

Total cost: $8.00

Possibly the most interesting thing about this journey was that I could do it at all. It’s was little extreme, and you’re not likely to want to do such a thing often, but until Sunday it was impossible or at least wildly impractical to do with public transport – and now it isn’t. We’re taking a big step forward.

But how about the details? How did the network stack up against the constraints I set at the beginning?

Legibility: No smartphone or otherwise computerised trip planning allowed

I didn’t use a phone at all for planning, nor did I choose my start time based on timetables, it was just when I happened to get up. I was surprised how legible the network was; I never really missed having my phone – in fact it was freeing not having to constantly ask Google how to get somewhere. Planning the trip felt similar to planning a journey on a reasonably decent transit network somewhere in Europe.

Frequency and reliability: No smartphone real-time tracking of trains or buses allowed

I did miss having on-demand real time tracking a bit – it helps make you feel more in charge of your journey (do I bail and call a taxi, or stick it out?) – but the only time I really felt I needed it was when the 32 bus from Otahuhu Town Centre didn’t turn up for half an hour. When services are frequent and reliably so, you don’t really need real time. Sadly, I don’t think we’re quite there yet in Auckland, even on our frequent routes, so this will probably remain essential for quite a while.

Suitability for shopping / spontaneous lifestyles

This is a derivative of frequency and reliability: are things good enough that I can ride somewhere, wander off and not worry about when I have to leave to catch a service? Despite the hiccup with the 32 I felt I could – but only if the journey didn’t involve rail.

It seems to me that the biggest weakness with the network will be the poor off-peak rail frequencies. AT need to look into getting them to serviceable levels as soon as possible. To me, that means every 10 minutes, but no doubt others have different opinions. I’d just like something that’d allow me to get my noodles, and not be forced to hang around in a mall for ages if I decide on a whim to buy cake as well.

Leave in the morning, and be back by lunch.

I eat at 1pm.

Addendum: Travel Times

(Approximate, for huge nerds only)

south-nn-trip-12

New Network in South Auckland goes live Sunday

Over the last few years Auckland has ticked off some major public transport milestones. The roll out of HOP integrated ticketing (albeit with the black-listing issue), electric trains (albeit with the long dwell-times ), double-deckers (albeit with stubby bus lanes on Mt Eden Rd), and integrated fares (albeit only on train and buses at this stage) are all giant leaps towards the type of public transport network Auckland will need if it is to continue to grow and prosper.

On Sunday, Auckland will reach another major PT milestone: The roll-out of the New Network (NN) in South Auckland. While some smaller areas such as Green Bay and Titirangi have already been implemented, this is the first major sub-region to see the NN. For those who have been asleep for the last few years, the NN was first proposed in 2012 when Auckland Transport consulted on the Draft Regional Public Transport Plan (RPTP). In this document, AT argued for a complete redesign of Auckland’s PT network, with a new emphasis on the development of a connected, frequent network of bus services that operated all-day, every-day — thus catering for a wide-range of journeys.

The general concepts underpinning the NN is explained in this video, and illustrated in the following diagram. Both the video and the figure contrast the design principles underpinning the NN with the existing bus network, which runs many different services in a chaotic fashion and at low frequency.

Principles of the New Network model

The same design principles can be seen in most successful public transport networks overseas, such as London’s Underground and Barcelona’s “sober” bus network. Edinburgh’s network of (primarily) frequent bus routes, for example, carries approximately 110 million journeys per annum at close to 100% cost-recovery, and all this occurs in a city that is smaller than Auckland (albeit much denser). Evidence suggests well-designed frequent public transport networks — where services operate all-day, all-week — are extremely effective, both in terms of patronage and efficiency. Of course, once you have a core frequent network you can always overlay direct additional services as and when justified by demand.

Auckland Transport have defined a frequent service as one that runs services at a minimum of every 15 minutes, 7am-7pm and 7-days a week (NB: Some routes will operate frequently outside of these hours). In the current network only a handful of routes achieve this standard, as illustrated below (the left-hand map). One of the key reasons is because Auckland’s current network has a lot of duplication, where routes run in parallel with other services, such as the rail lines. This duplication results in a relatively high cost per net passenger carried, and relatively low vehicle utilization. The word “net” is deliberate and important. In a network where there is duplication, removing a route will often not lead to much loss of patronage, because a large fraction of passengers divert onto other services.

And if you then reinvest the savings into running more service on another route, then you will often generate more patronage. This is indeed what AT have sought to achieve with the NN. In a nutshell: The NN is designed to deliver frequent, connected bus services, leveraging the benefits of past investments in the Rapid Transit Network (rail and busway), integrated ticketing/fares, and interchanges, such as New Lynn, Panmure, and Otahuhu. The result? Well, a vast expansion in frequent bus service to large parts of Auckland. The difference is illustrated by the maps below. Note that the original time-frame of 2016 has turned out overly optimistic, which is a point I’ll return to later.

New Bus network vs BAU

NB: In the wake of consultation, not all routes are the same as shown below either. While some of the changes have improved the network, many of the changes — especially in the Isthmus — appear to have compromised the effectiveness of the NN by reducing the frequency of cross-town routes. Again, this is a point to which I return later.

Beneath the frequent network are, of course, additional secondary and local networks that connect with the RTN, local centres, and other key destinations – expanding the reach of the RTN network. What is often not appreciated is that many secondary routes run at frequent levels of service during week-day peaks, so as to enable connections to other rapid/frequent services. Moreover, some secondary routes are prime candidates for future frequent routes, as and when patronage warrants and/or operating budgets allow. The secondary route running from Westgate to Constellation, for example, could well blaze the trail for a frequent route connecting a (soon-to-be-born) North-western Busway and the (jumped-up adolescent) Northern Busway. We look forward to that day!

The NN concept was adopted in 2013. Later that year AT went out to detailed consultation on the South Auckland network. Following some changes the network below was accepted. In 2014 they also consulted on and confirmed the Pukekohe and Waiuku changes, which also go live on Sunday.

new-network-south-final

As mentioned above, a key part of the New Network is its focus on using connections to increase frequency, span, and coverage. The need to embrace connections reflects the fact that no single route can, on its own, meet the wide variety of travel demands that exists in a bustling metropolis. Instead, what is required is a network of routes that work together to cover the urban areas. In such a network, some passengers may need to connect to reach their destination, but the pay-off (for everyone) is more frequency. The need for connections does, however, create the need for interchanges. Such as the $28 million bus interchange at Otahuhu train station, which is formally opened to the public tomorrow.

Otahuhu Interchange aerial overview

A high-quality bus interchange is also planned at Manukau. Work on the $35 million Manukau Bus station started this week, and is expected to be finished circa mid-2017.

While signature interchanges are important for enabling connections and network legibility for new users, many journeys will not start or end there. For this reason, as part of the NN AT are also rolling out improvements to local bus stop infrastructure. Following consultation on some concept designs, AT come up with new standards for bus shelters, which will be progressively installed around the region.

Bus Shelter Design A Range

And the changes don’t stop with the physical infrastructure. The implementation of the NN is proceeding in tandem with a whole new bus contracting regime, known as PTOM. For decades Auckland has been lumbering under the current contracting regime, which is a throwback to the Thatcherite hey-day of the early 90’s and was weighted heavily in favour of the ***incumbent*** private bus companies, stifling competition. For about 5 years, a combination of central government ambivalence and differences held-up progress towards a new contracting regime, until the explosion in contracting costs jolted the hamsters into action. We’re not sad to see the back of the current contracting regime, and it’s something that should make life much easier going forward. Specifically, the new PTOM contracts tilt the power back in AT’s favour while increasing competitive pressure at the same time. The tendering of bus contracts for the NN in South Auckland, for example, saved $3 million annually — while achieving a 21 percent increase in hours of operation and a 15 percent increase in kilometres covered. New operators will often be introducing brand new buses branded in the standard AT livery. The new contracts also put in place stricter rules around the quality of buses.

All these changes go a long way to explaining some of the delays to the roll-out of the NN. For example, following the conclusion of consultation for South Auckland, AT announced the network would be rolled out from mid-2015. That has kept slipping back until now, so it is rolling out over a year later than originally intended. I understand a large part of the slippage has to do with the delays building the Otahuhu interchange.

There are some other lingering issues with the NN that AT really do need to address, and which I’ll briefly mention here:

  • AT’s rail service planning appears to have fallen off the tracks. This means the frequency of the rail timetable has not been improved to match the new bus network. This is technically somewhat interesting, because I understand the lack of frequent rail services contravenes the RPTP, which has some statutory weight. Anyway, the upshot is that while bus routes will operate frequently all day, they will connect to trains that do not (depending on the station). The updated train timetable isn’t due till March, i.e. 6 months after the NN rolls-out. Hopefully someone can rouse AT’s rail service planning team into action before the NN rolls-out to the next sub-region.
  • In the south, a combination of consultation and budget savings saw an expansion of the frequent network from what was originally proposed. In contrast, the recently announced changes to the Isthmus network back-pedaled on NN design principles, and saw the retention of many duplicative existing routes, the Outer Link being the prime example. This necessitated a reduction in the coverage of the frequent network, especially on crosstown services, some of which have been downgraded and/or dropped altogether. It’s a shame AT’s NN nerve wavered in the Isthmus, which is the very part of Auckland where a frequent connective network is most beneficial.

So, what can we expect when it comes to patronage? Change always causes disruption, and it is likely that the NN will disadvantage some existing users. While unfortunate, this is unavoidable with major network changes of this nature. You can’t make a bus omelette without breaking some eggs. As disaffected passengers will stop using PT almost immediately, while new users take a while to attract, it may be that patronage decreases initially. I’d personally prepare for angry newspaper articles and photos of unhappy people going to the wrong bus stop and ending up in Waitakere (NB: Of course it’s all AT’s fault for even running buses to Waitakere in the first place. If only it’d been a train, then nobody would have been inconvenienced. Stupid AT).

More seriously, notwithstanding the initial resistance to change, the general experience is that patronage usually ends up higher than it would have otherwise within about 3-6 months of the network changes, and that growth thereafter is more rapid. As mentioned earlier, AT have already rolled out changes to the Greenbay/Titirangi area based on similar network principles, which experienced patronage growth of 35% in the last single year — and that was without any frequent services too.

Despite the delays, and minor quibbles like an infrequent rail network, it’s fantastic we’re finally seeing the NN rolled out in South Auckland. It should make travel using public transport much easier for a lot more people which is a great outcome. It also provides the bones of a frequent network around which infrastructure investment and land use development can progressively occur. It’s important that frequent bus routes become a much-loved and semi-permanent feature of Auckland’s urban-scape, as indeed they are in all major cities. (Incidentally, the need for permanence is one reason why we go on and on about bus lanes on Mt Eden Rd: That route is not going to go away, it’s been there since the year dot, and it’s now busier than ever. That’s a good thing, and that’s why AT should throw some resources into making those bus lanes run for more than an hour.)

While AT may not get everything right first time around, at least the “bones” of a decent bus network are in place, and it is something that can be progressively improved, as and when justified by demand and/or enabled by budgets. This point is important to keep in mind: The NN represents the start of a long-term project whereby Auckland’s bus network becomes more frequent, more connected, and easier to use. I would hope that we’re back here in 5 years time quarreling over how to best respond to the growth that results. The answer, I hope consists mainly of more frequency, more connectivity, and less complexity.

P.s.The other main areas to be rolled out are West Auckland, expected in June 2017 with the North shore, Central Auckland and East Auckland rolled out between August 2017 and April 2018.

P.P.s. If you want to attend the opening of the new Otahuhu Station, the details are below.

Ōtāhuhu Station opening

  • Date and time: Saturday 29 October, from 10am to 3pm.
  • Getting there:
    • By train: Both the Eastern and Southern lines trains stop at Ōtāhuhu Station.
    • By bus: A free shuttle bus will run between Ōtāhuhu town centre (existing bus depot) and Kaka Street. The bus will operate every 15 minutes from 10am to 4pm. Passengers will need to climb the steps of the Kaka Street overbridge to get to the event.
    • By bike: Lock your bike at the station’s cycle rack.
  • There is no public parking at the event.

Mangere and Otahuhu bus stop upgrades planned

With implementation of the new bus network in South Auckland coming up in October, Auckland Transport are consulting on the designs for the bus station in Mangere Town Centre and the bus stops in the Otahuhu Town Centre. Both of these improvements are also being classed as part of the East-West Link Connections project. Both upgrades are due to start in August and be finished in October.

The two stations have been major advocacy projects for the Māngere-Otahuhu Local Board says Māngere –Ōtāhuhu Local Board Chair, Lemauga Lydia Sosene.

“Both projects are significant milestones for the community and it is great to see them getting underway.”

“These high quality projects will help deliver safer, more practical and connected local bus services and complement other works underway in both centres to improve and rejuvenate the local communities.”

Mangere

“The new station in Māngere will be extended to accommodate seven parked buses (two more than currently), new shelters to extend the covered passenger area and a covered connection to Māngere Town Centre. It will also include a toilet adjacent to the bus shelter, new cycle racks, an additional westbound lane for traffic and paving and landscaping of the area around the bus station.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the area, here’s where the town centre is and the area affected is shown in yellow.

Mangere Town Centre Bus Station Upgrade - Location

And here’s what’s planned for the town centre

Mangere Town Centre Bus Station Upgrade - Plan

Mangere Town Centre Bus Station Upgrade - Plan 2

The shelter and other station amenity upgrades are good however there are a few things that appear to be changing that AT haven’t mentioned. Most notable is that there now appears to be two westbound lanes rather than just the one that currently exists. In addition, the cycle lane appears to have moved to the outside of the bus station and is just a line of paint. It’s crazy that in this day we still have AT staff proposing crap, even more so that AT currently have an active project trying to improve walking and cycling connections to the town centre, including using protected cycleways. Our friends at Bike Auckland have more to say on this too.

Here’s what it currently looks like from Google Street View.

Mangere Town Centre Bus Station Upgrade - current

 

Otahuhu

In Ōtāhuhu the existing bus station on Avenue Road will close. It will be replaced by new bus stops and bus shelters installed on both sides of Avenue Road, retaining a familiar bus stop location for existing passengers.

In October, many south Auckland buses will travel between the town centre and the new bus station at Ōtāhuhu train station.

Once again, the area affected is shown in yellow

Otahuhu Centre Bus Upgrade - Location

And here’s what’s planned

 

Otahuhu Centre Bus Upgrade - Plan

Otahuhu Centre Bus Upgrade - Plan 2

It’s not clear what’s happening with the old Otahuhu Bus Station but I believe it is privately own by Infratil so I’m guessing it will be developed or sold. These new stops are likely to be fairly busy with a couple of frequents and other services passing through on their wait to or from the Otahuhu Bus/Train interchange. In some ways it’s a little suprising that AT didn’t just turn this short section of road into a transit mall given there are a number of other nearby streets that can handle general traffic. That would have also allowed for cycle lanes on this street for people to use to access the station

 

Auckland Transport are going to hold two information days about the upgrades:

Ōtāhuhu
11am to 2 pm, Thursday, 14 July 2016 and Saturday, 16 July 2016 – Toia, (Community Centre), Mason Ave, Ōtāhuhu

Māngere
11 am to 2 pm, Tuesday, 19 July 2016 and Friday, 22 July 2016 – Māngere Town Centre

 

 

A deadline for PT improvement

Auckland is in the midst of the most transformational change to public transport the city has seen since the trams were ripped out in the 1950’s – and I’m not even talking about the City Rail Link. Much of the change is the result of strategies set a decade or more ago but which have only really started to be implemented in the last few years. Once complete they represent the laying of foundations upon which we can build public transport to a level Aucklanders expect and can start to be proud of and with this, projects like the CRL will never be as successful as they could be. The changes are both public facing and behind the scenes with some of the main ones being:

  • Integrated Ticketing
  • Integrated Fares
  • Rail network improvements
    • Double tracking the western line
    • Reopening the Onehunga Line
    • Building the Manukau line
    • Station upgrades
    • Electrification
  • New contracting model (PTOM)
  • New Bus Network

Some of these are already completed while others are due to start rolling out soon, for example integrated ticketing first started rolling out in 2011 while integrated fares are due to go live on 31 July. The results from the initiatives that have rolled out so far have been impressive. Overall, annual patronage in the last decade has increased by nearly 32 million trips a year from around 51 million in 2006 to nearly 83 million as of the end of May. Despite rapid population growth, per capita usage has increased by around 14 trips per person per year up to nearly 52 – although that is still low by international standards.

2016-05 - Total Patronage

The biggest aspect yet to be implemented is the new network with the first part in the South due to roll out in October. The West was tendered for recently and AT are currently evaluating the responses at the moment but the other parts of the network aren’t due to roll out till next year or even early 2018. The timings below come from AT’s latest Board Report.

Oct 2015: Hibiscus Coast bus service design implemented

Oct-2016: South bus service design implemented

May-2017: West bus service design implemented

Aug-2017 to Feb-18: North, Central and East bus service design implemented

Getting to the point of the post, I feel Auckland Transport need to impose upon themselves a deadline of around 14 months to get all of these changes implemented.

There are few reasons for this. First and foremost, the sooner we get the new network rolled out, the sooner we can start to reap the benefits from it but there’s now another reason too. Last week the government announced the date for the next census as Tuesday 06 March 2018.

The census is important as the results are used heavily in many analyses’ for projects and policies as it’s the only to get detailed journey and mode data across the entire (working) population. With Auckland in particular changing so rapidly, being able to show that through the census results is important. As one example, the last census in 2013 revealed that as a change in modal share, PT and active modes in Auckland were all improving and given the results we’ve seen I’d expect that to continue from the 2018 results.

modeshare-change-percent

The data has also been used to create interactive results like the commuter view, allowing you to click on an area unit and and see where people are coming from or going to for work.

Census Journey to Work - Auckland Central West and East

Maximising the outcome for PT and active modes represents a great opportunity for AT to show how the city is changing and it’s one I think they should be looking to take which is why I think they need to set a deadline to get as many PT improvements in place prior to that time.

But why only allow 14 months, that only takes us to about September 2017. The main reason for choosing that date is that it’s about 6 months prior to census day. Having everything implemented by then would therefore allow users to adjust and get used to the changes and new ones to start to take advantage of them. We know from overseas that these types network changes often result in an initial reduction in patronage but they achieve stronger growth over time as new users try the changes and adapt to them. Conversely, holding off changes till after the census is also not a great idea as it will mean the network isn’t operating as well as it should be and patronage growth wouldn’t be as strong as a result. AT need to find the goldilocks zone.

On top of just rolling out the new network by that point there are a couple of other things they need to have sorted by then.

The census takes place in March which we know is traditionally the busiest month of the year for the transport system. In the last few years we’ve seen repeated issues with buses being overcrowded resulting in people sometimes needing to wait for up to 12 to go past before one with enough space turns up. While the new network will address some of that, on top of setting that up they’ll need to be working with operators to have extra capacity provided during that time. Unfortunately given the lead in times it will be too late to do anything to get extra trains in so there are likely to be some busy trains by that point.

AT will also need to get moving on getting more physical infrastructure rolled out to support the new network, this includes upgraded bus lanes or other bus priority, improved stops and signage etc. In essence they need work on ensuring there are significant improvements to the customer experience.

For one more reason why it’s important, previously the census has only asked about journey to work which excluded a lot of trips, especially PT trips by students. Following consultation it’s appears quite likely that Stats NZ will add to the census a question about journey to education which should give a much more relevant picture of transport use.

What do you think, is it time for AT to put some harder deadlines in place in advance of the census?

Central and East New Network Outcome

On Monday, the Auckland Transport Board are expected to rubber stamp the outcome of the final and biggest of the major consultations for the new bus network, Central and East Auckland. The consultation was held at the end of last year and AT say they received over 3,700 pieces of feedback for the Central network and almost 1,200 pieces of feedback for the East Auckland network. For the Central network 60% of people were in support or not opposed to the proposed changes while in East Auckland that number was 64%.

As a result of the feedback AT say they they have made changes to 29 out of the 52 routes in the central area while in the east 10 out of the 15 routes had changes to them and timetable changes for 8 of them. That’s a lot of changes and not all of them appear to be good, in fact some effectively break the principles behind the new network which I think will undermine the success of it. The biggest concern is in the central area where there now appears to be much weaker cross town services thanks to most of them rerouted, downgraded, truncated or removed entirely. In the end it feels much more like an extension of the status quo than the revolutionary connected network we were promised.

Next I’ll step through the central and east networks separately. Perhaps it’s just the way the image looks in the board paper but one immediate observation of both central and east is the maps feel more cluttered and harder to read compared to those used in the consultation. This seems to be in part due to some of the changes that were made.

Central Network

Some of the major changes include:

  • The outer Link has been retained – although on a modified route between Mt Eden and Newmarket.
  • As a result of the Outer Link, the Crosstown 6 route along St Lukes/Balmoral Rd/Greenlane West has been had it’s frequency downgraded and at it’s eastern end, it no longer connects to the Orakei Train Station meaning there is no longer a frequent all day service service there.
  • The Crosstown 5 route which also served Orakei as well as proving a connection between Ponsonby, Kingsland, Valley Rd, Mt Eden and Remuera and Mission Bay town centres has been removed. Both this and the Crosstown 6 are suggested to be in part the result of people from Orakei not wanting to transfer to get to the city centre.
  • There are a number of new peak only services to the city centre
  • The frequent service along Tamaki Dr and a new route through the eastern suburbs will be branded the Blue Link

There are many other many other changes but it is hard to list them all here.

Here’s the final network

New Network Central - Final

As a comparison, here’s the network that was consulted on

Central Proposed New Bus Network

To clarify which roads have at least one frequent service to the city all day, AT have the map below. They also say

The final New Network will mean that the arterial routes listed below will continue to have all-day frequent service to and from the City Centre, with enhanced capacity and levels of service (including in most cases 15 minute or better frequencies in the evenings and on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays), to support the increasing level of economic and social activity in the city centre outside normal business hours. Most of these routes will also operate every 30 or 60 minutes between midnight and 3.00 am on Saturday and Sunday evenings to replace the Nite Rider services. Routes anticipated to utilise double-decker buses within the next 2 – 3 years are underlined:

  • Jervois Rd (Outer Link)
  • Ponsonby Rd (Inner Link)
  • Great North Rd as far as New Lynn
  • New North Rd
  • Sandringham Rd
  • Dominion Rd
  • Mt Eden Rd
  • Manukau Rd
  • Ellerslie Panmure Highway and Ti Rakau Drive
  • Remuera Rd
  • Parnell Rd (Inner and Outer Links)
  • Tamaki Drive

 

New Network Central - Final - frequents to city

 

East Network

As mentioned earlier, there have been a number of changes in the east, the two big ones are:

  • They’ve swapped the frequent service that will go all the way to the city from being the service from Howick (route 55) to the service from Botany (route 53). It will be interesting to see how the latter route performs in the future given that it could make services on the busway AT want to build less reliable.
  • The route down Te Irirangi Dr (35) has been upgraded to a frequent.

Here’s the final network

New Network East - Final

As a comparison, here’s the network that was consulted on

East Auckland Proposed New Bus Network

Infrastructure

As part of the new network networks AT will need to roll out around 100-150 new bus shelters across both central and east. That’s not all that much more than just the South Auckland network which I guess is in part due to many of the main routes on the Isthmus not needing to be changed.

There is also talk of bus priority being added over the next 2-3 financial years. Where bus lanes are or are expected are shown below. AT Also say this which is promising.

bus lanes will be added on Pakuranga Rd and a start will be made on the South-eastern Busway between Panmure, Pakuranga and Botany

 

New Network Central - Bus Lanes

 

I know there has been pressure from a number of sources to roll the network out sooner and positively the document says they plan to roll out the networks in two separate stages in the second half of 2017 which is promising as previously they had been saying early 2018.

I hope that AT are able to revisit some of the poor decisions they’ve made around the new network in a couple of years’ time, perhaps when the CRL opens and that they don’t just assume this is complete and doesn’t need changing.

PT to miss this years targets

Is Auckland Transport doing enough to improve public transport or is it resting on its laurels basking in the glow of the spectacular increases being seen on the rail network and busway. That’s a question asked by Radio NZ the other day in highlighting that patronage on the bus network outside of the busway has actually fallen recently and will mean that AT misses its PT targets for the year.

The number of trips being taken on Auckland’s public transport network looks set to miss targets this year, and a new survey shows public perception of the services is worsening.

There has been strong growth on trains and the dedicated Northern Busway but fewer people are using the general bus network, which carries 75 percent of the city’s public transport users.

With two months to go, patronage is down slightly – despite population growth – and overall bus trips are expected to fall short of the annual target of 51.5 million, by more than 4 percent.

I’m not quite sure where the 51.5 million comes from as buses already carry well more than that so it might be a year to date target but that doesn’t change the fact that patronage has dipped in recent months. The four graphs below show how we’re performing across each of the modes and the targets are based on information from the Council’s Long Term Plan debate last year. As you can see both trains and ferries have already exceeded targets but bus use has tailed off and that’s dragged the overall total down.

2016-04 - Patronage vs target

So what’s causing this drop. AT attribute to a number of factors such as charging for the City Link which they say has seen the biggest change and resulted of around 700,000 fewer trips, something AT seem fairly nonchalant about. But seeing as they’ve been doing a lot of advertising recently including large ads in Britomart and people walking around with the modern day version of a sandwich board it’s obviously trips they want back on the buses.

“If you’re transferring from another bus or another train using the AT HOP card, the service is still free,” AT Metro general manager Mark Lambert said.

“But I guess some of those people who were using the City Link for relatively short distances would rather walk a few hundred metres than pay a 50 cent fare. That’s completely understandable and that’s probably a good thing.”

Other factors likely include that people are being put off some buses as a result of the bus stop and route changes made to accommodate the construction of the CRL and possibly even lingering effects of people put off by the bus strike and March Madness a few months ago. But I suspect there are additional factors too.

Over the 18 months or so, AT plan to roll out some of the biggest changes we’ve seen for PT in the form of Integrated Fares (next month) the new bus network (South Auckland in October and the rest of Auckland some-time between then and early 2018). Both of these changes will undoubtedly be positive when they arrive and be the result of countless hours and effort put in by AT staff. Yet at the same time I also wonder if they’re hiding a little behind those projects or perhaps that they’ve just got so much resource tied up in getting those projects over the line that other improvements suffer.

AT said the bus network had suffered years of neglect, but new fares and a redesign of routes over the next 18 months were expected to provide a boost.

“As we change the bus network there may be a localised stagnation, as people get used to the changes, but we certainly expect to see strong growth as a result of those service re-designs,” Mr Lambert said.

One such example which is seemingly languishing on AT’s list of projects includes the roll out of bus lanes on which their latest report says they have under spent for this year.

Bus Priorities and Bus Lanes

Whilst we have received a number of requests from AT Metro in the last few weeks, we are still forecasting to underspend by $1.5m as undertaking any physical works this FY related to those requests will not be possible.

Just one example are the proposed transit lanes along Manukau Rd which would cut journey times for bus users and thereby making the buses along the route much more attractive and efficient. Other routes they’re looking at are shown below from their latest report but it seems the roll out of them is going far too slow.

Bus Lane Rollout

What do you think, are AT doing enough to keep patronage on buses growing or should we just hang around till October when the new network starts rolling out? If you were in charge what would you do to get that growth happening again?

North Shore New Bus Network to be confirmed

In the middle of last year, Auckland Transport consulted on the new bus network for the North Shore. Now in a report to the open session of the AT board meeting today is an item with the outcome of the consultation (9.9MB).

At a high level:

  • AT had a massive response with over 3,100 responses which is huge considering the South and West Auckland consultations each only had around 1,000 responses.
  • In response to the question “Overall to what extent do you support or oppose the North Shore New Network?” 54% were in support and 34% opposed.
  • As a result of the feedback they’ve made changes to 21 of the 40 routes that were proposed in the consultation and have added two new routes although one route was removed. In addition 15 routes have had changes to their frequency or hours of operation.

Here’s what the final bus routes on the Shore will look like

North Shore New Network Final

As a comparison here’s what the route maps currently look like. It’s a much busier map which largely because there are a lot of infrequent services that wind their way through the suburbs.

North Shore Current Buses

One of the key principles of the new network is to make use of transfers to get better use out of buses so that rather than running multiple buses infrequently in all directions, buses run to fewer locations but more frequently with transfers to extend the reach of PT routes.

Principles of the New Network model

Of course competing with this, many people want buses to travel express from their local stop to their destination. As such AT received a number of pieces of feedback to retain or create express services. Positively it appears they’ve resisted the urge to do this as it would likely have both increased costs and AT say in their report that it would have put even more buses on already busy city streets. With the exception of the Western North Shore and a few other locations, most services will feed into a busway station – like buses will do with trains in the South and the West. To ensure there is adequate space for people transferring from feeder buses in the mornings, AT say some busway buses will start at Constellation or other intermediate stations.

The busway itself will get a boost with multiple Northern Express (NEX) routes so services to the city will be even more frequent than they are now – although different services from across the Shore to the city will use different routes. This is shown below but essentially the NEX 1 and the frequent services from Onewa Rd will go to lower Albert St like they’ve started doing since the change for the CRL works. The NEX 2 (former 881) and other buses from the shore will loop through the middle of town while a few services like the NEX 3 will go via Ponsonby and K Rd to Newmarket however these will only operate on weekdays. A small note says that whether they go via Ponsonby Rd or not will depend on bus priority investigations.

North Shore New Network Final - City

AT say that to implement the new network they’ll need 100-150 new or relocated bus stops and likely some other minor infrastructure too such as bus layover facilities, and bus priority.

It’s hard to say just what impact the new network will have but AT estimate the should achieve about a 15% increase in bus use during the morning peak within 12-18 months of implementation which would be the equivalent to about 1,000 cars.

But it will still be some time away before these changes take place. AT say the procurement for the North Shore is likely to happen at the end of this year with the new network rolled out in early 2018. The network that’s is to be approved will result in around a 20% increase in service kilometres being run and about a 15% increase in the number of hours they run for compared to what currently exists. AT managed to save $3 million a year on the South Auckland contracts so I imagine they’ll be needing the same levels of savings from buses on the Shore to help pay for that.

Lastly here is a view of the new route map showing the changes that were made, what do you think about them?

North Shore New Network Final - with comments