We’ve long been concerned about the East-West Link, from the when it was suddenly catapulted out of nowhere from not even being on long term plans straight to being one of the city’s top transport priorities, to effectively becoming one of the governments Roads of National Significance.
From its increasingly eye-watering cost that has ballooned from around $600 million just a few years ago to over $1.8 billion, more than the cost of the Waterview tunnels and without a skerrick of concern from the media, to the fact cheaper and effective options stack up even when compared against those original construction costs.
And of course from when it was planned to plough through houses in Mangere severing communities, to filling in large swathes of the Mangere Inlet, severing pleasant access to the water – unless you like having an expressway next to you – and impacting on future development in and around Onehunga.
And that last point is important Onehunga is an area where Panuku Development Auckland – the city’s urban redevelopment agency who have had huge success with Wynyard Quarter – had picked as one of their key areas to focus on saying:
Onehunga’s strategic location on the edge of the Manukau Harbour, 10km from both Auckland’s CBD and Auckland Airport, makes it ideal to prioritise as a development location.
Panuku Development Auckland will use its land holdings in the area, including the Onehunga Port in the future, to enable developers to build high quality, mixed styles of housing close to the town centre, public transport and the water’s edge.
We’ve raised the issue of the East-West Link and its impacts on development in many posts in the past and now it finally seems to confirmed with the Herald reporting on Friday:
A plan is being drawn up to sell land earmarked for a waterfront development on the shores of the Manukau Harbour for a new motorway.
Political sources have told the Herald that council bosses have dumped a plan for Panuku Development Auckland to buy the Port of Onehunga wharf to develop along the lines of Wynyard Quarter.
Instead, the land will be sold to the Transport Agency for a new $1.8 billion east-west motorway between Onehunga and Mt Wellington. When the agency has used land it needs, it will sell the remainder to Panuku for development.
“It’s going to make life easier for the transport agency, which is good for them, but not good for Auckland,” said one source about plans for a waterfront village, apartments and commercial uses at the wharf.
Another source said the deal will “shaft the good folk of Onehunga”.
The plans we’ve seen to date show the impact on the Onehunga port site is significant. It will effectively be an island, cut off from the rest of the area and difficult to access. Furthermore, having trucks and cars thundering along at speed is simply not conducive with trying come up with trying to develop the area into a people friendly space.
Here’s an image of what the design could look like, also showing significant impact on the Hophua Tuff Ring and areas north of SH2o.
It’s crazy that in 2016, given all the knowledge that society has gained in recent decades, that we’re still even contemplating building such a massive road along the foreshore like the NZTA are.
The Herald carries on, quoting Jim Jackson of The Onehunga Enhancement Society (TOES):
Jackson said the port was the key to unlocking the Manukau Harbour and it had to be done properly. The fishing industry was interested in taking the area over and Panuku wanted to cover it in apartments, he said.
About $1.8b was about to be spent on the east-west link and no-one knew how it was going to connect into Onehunga. The transport agency had consent for a $25m pedestrian bridge and no idea how to connect it into Onehunga, plus there were environmental sediment issues, he said.
Panuku did not have the management skills to oversee development of the port area, said Jackson, who said he had only just been informed of the plan by transport agency highways boss Tommy Parker.
Wait, so the people behind the internationally award winning redevelopment of the Wynyard Quarter have no clue about redeveloping a port area? TOES were key in pushing for the great new foreshore redevelopment on the western side of Onehunga which they pushed as mitigation for the motorway being built through the area decades ago. Unfortunately, the experience seems to have affected them as they have been supporters of the East-West project in the hope getting more mitigation out of it to fix the trashing of the inlet in the past. Pushing for a motorway just so you can fix environmental issues is a completely backwards approach.
The new Onehunga Foreshore
And TOES solution for the East-West is even crazier than the NZTA’s, calling for an even bigger road complete with tunnels and new bridges across the harbour.
Given everything it almost feels like it would be more honest if we just went for the Dutch solution, close the inlet off completely and pump it out and create 5.8km² of developable land. Note: I’m not actually saying this should happen.
Of course all of this new roading development is at a time when many people and officials believe two transformational changes could revolutionise transport in the next few decades.
- Dynamic road pricing that can be used to ensure existing roads stay clear and likely avoiding the need to build many of the big roading projects currently on the plans. What’s more some of the biggest proponents of road pricing in NZ are the business and infrastructure lobby groups who have been key in pushing the East-West Link.
- Driverless vehicles are likely to be adopted by the freight industry faster than other areas involving transport and if the hype is correct, will remove many of the barriers and costs associated with moving goods thanks in part to being more efficient. That could render investments like pointless.
At what point to we stop ceding the city to the whims of the NZTA?
On Saturday Auckland gains 6.8 hectares of new parkland and beaches within the urban area as the $30 million Onehunga Foreshore redevelopment opens.
The redevelopment follows decades of advocacy after the original foreshore was cut off by the building of the motorway in 1975 by the Ministry of Works. A schematic drawing from the time showed future development similar to what has now been developed and the case for it was really pushed when the NZTA wanted to widen the motorway as part of the project to duplicate the harbour crossing.
The Onehunga foreshore officially opens on Saturday 14 November, with the $30m development providing Aucklanders with their first significant access to the Onehunga seashore since the 1970s.
The joint Maungakiekie-Tāmaki Local Board / NZ Government project has created 6.8ha of parkland between SH20 and the Manukau Harbour – with new beaches, a boat ramp and turning bay, and a pedestrian/cyclist bridge linking the foreshore to Onehunga Bay Reserve.
“After decades of advocacy and involvement from the people of Onehunga, followed by a three year construction programme, it’s wonderful to finally open up access to newly created beachside recreational areas and facilities – all within walking distance of central Onehunga,” says Simon Randall, chair of Maungakiekie-Tāmaki Local Board.
“This will become a popular walking and cycling route, just a stroll from Onehunga shops to the lagoon and reserve, and then a short walk across the new overbridge to the large beachside park and tracks,” says Mr Randall.
The NZ Transport Agency’s Auckland Regional Director, Ernst Zöllner says the Agency is delighted to have reconnected people to the water and helped make the community’s long standing vision for this foreshore a reality.
“The government’s significant $19m investment in this new urban amenity is part of a broader commitment to addressing the impacts of transport projects. We greatly value our partnerships with local communities and recognise the importance of Onehunga not only to Auckland, but New Zealand’s early history.”
The local board will be joined by Mayor Len Brown and NZ Transport Agency to jointly open the new reserve at 11am, 14 November. Following the pre-dawn ceremony from mana whenua and civic opening, community-led water-based activities will take place.
Representatives of Te Akitai Waiohua, Ngāti Te Ata Waiohua, Ngāti Tamaoho, Ngāti Whātua o Ōrākei and Te Kawerau a Maki form the project’s Mana Whenua Kaitiaki Working Group, which has an ongoing interest in the governance and management of the park.
The new name gifted to the foreshore park by mana whenua will be revealed, along with striking new artworks.
Ted Ngataki’s wayfinding carving navigates the surrounding landscape from a Māori perspective. The artwork celebrates the layers of mana whenua embedded in the foreshore location.
Bernard Makoare’s stunning bridge panelling is a contemporary modern expression that celebrates the nature of the sea at full tide and the mudflats at low tide.
The new reserve also features shared cycling and walking paths, seating and picnic areas, carparks and extensive planting.
Local board member Brett Clark says the completed project has very much benefited from the knowledge and input of the Onehunga Foreshore Working Group, including representatives from The Onehunga Enhancement Society (TOES).
“We’ve enthusiastically debated the detail, but all along the people of Onehunga have been strong supporters of this project, with close to 1000 supporting submissions received for the original resource consents application.”
“The project successfully reconnects Onehunga to the sea, and recaptures the biodiversity and recreational opportunities that were displaced when the motorway was built across Onehunga Bay in the 1970s,” says Mr Clark.
Across the motorway, a new festival lawn adjacent to Onehunga Lagoon will be home to the Onehunga Bay Festival in March 2016.
This will be a fantastic new addition to the city. Here’s what the development looked like from above in July
And a timelapse of it’s construction.
We’ve known for some time the East-West
Link Connections is shaping up to be one of those projects that tries to crack a nut by using a sledgehammer. The thin lines that AT/NZTA draw on the maps make the project look small, but in reality, if built this project is going to be massive. It will involve significant reclamation of the northern side of the Mangere Inlet to build a four lane motorway limited access road – with the truck lobby wanting even fewer intersections than currently proposed. As part of the 1960s nostalgic thinking around this new road, it even appears from the maps that the new road will cut off access to the foreshore, just at a time when the Onehunga side of the inlet is about to have its foreshore restored. In addition to the new road along the foreshore the project also involves:
- Adding new lanes on both sides of SH20 between Queenstown Road and Neilson Street.
- A massive new motorway interchange at Neilson St to link people directly to the new road and to Onehunga as well as widening Onehunga Harbour Rd to four lanes.
- Widening Neilson Street to four lanes and upgrading the Captain Springs Road/Neilson Street intersection – note: it seems the widening is only as far as Captain Springs Rd, not all the way to Church St.
- The extension of the Waikaraka cycleway to Sylvia Park
- Widening of Sylvia Park Road to four lanes and direct ramps to SH1 south of Mt Wellington
- Adding new lanes on both sides of SH1 between the new ramps and Princes Street
Even at this early stage the NZTA suggest the entire project will cost $1 billion. If they carry on with the current thinking then my guess is that the cost will probably start pushing up closer to $1.5 billion.
AT/NZTA say they are going to be working closely with local community on some aspects of the project and one of those is the Neilson St interchange – or Gloucester Park Interchange as they now seem to be calling it.
I’ve been sent a presentation following a stakeholder workshop earlier this month looking at the options for this interchange. I don’t know which stakeholders are involved but one will almost certainly be The Onehunga Enhancement Society (TOES). They’re one of the key groups behind current foreshore restoration but they’re also the ones who came up with a horrific alternative plan to put an eight lane road along the foreshore and all the way to Highbrook. As I understand it, one line of their thinking is that if a massive new road is built then as mitigation they can replicate the current foreshore restoration on the inlet. While the eight lane motorway thankfully isn’t happening it seems AT/NZTA are considering some of their ideas for the interchange.
The following images show the potential options being considered for the interchange, in all you can see the route for the rail line to get to the airport.
Option A1 is a version of the TOES concept and amongst other things would require a new bridge across the harbour to go with the two motorway bridges, a rail bridge and a walking/cycling bridge. There’s also a tunnel to link people heading south on SH20 to the E-W Link. It’s actually slightly scaled back from the TOES original version which had the blue connection also as a new bridge.
Option B1 is the NZTA’s concept and is what is shown in the first image. They note it will have impacts on:
- Coastal Edge
- Hopua Tuff Ring
- Sea Scout Hall
- Local access
As you can see from the image, it doesn’t add any additional road crossings of the harbour, and instead sends traffic to/from Onehunga or the motorway via a new bridge over the motorway.
The NZTA have also come up with two composite options which they’re calling Option C.
I personally can’t see the options that require a new bridge across the inlet stacking up, which means the most likely options to be selected would be B1 or C2
As the new road is intended to be limited access – i.e. no driveways – these plans would make it impossible to access some of the neighbouring properties such as the wharf. There are three options for how to retain local road and therefore walking/cycling access.
Option A is a tunnel under the motorway and new Onehunga Harbour Rd
Option B is a bridge over the top of the road – this would likely link in with option A and both option Cs above.
Option C is what they call an inner loop but which appears to be a tunnel using part of the old rail designation.
They then combine each of the interchange options with each of the local road options, with each to go through an assessment to determine the best combination. The presentation also notes that following the workshop AT/NZTA agreed they would assess a few other aspects. It suggests not all are listed but includes:
- Where local roads can go over, not under, the East West Connection arterial.
- Possibilities for cut and cover of the East West Connection arterial opposite the Wharf area.
- Alternatives for the suggested bridge, which crosses SH20 in the current options, to become a tunnel.
As you can see just from this small section alone, it is likely to be hugely expensive to build this road, which will probably do little for truck congestion because the road will be filled with single occupant cars. If the project was really about providing better access for trucks then they’d be getting on with fixing Neilson St and adding measures like truck lanes. That they’re not doing this only adds to my feeling that this is a make-work scheme for road planners/engineers, and a predetermined solution in search of a problem – much like another road crossing of the Waitemata Harbour. There’s probably also a case of those working on the project being beholden to the crazy demands of the stakeholders such as TOES and the trucking companies.
Continue reading East-West and Gloucester Park Interchange
Work on restoring the Onehunga Foreshore has been going on since December 2012 and is nearing completion with the area expected to be open in November. When complete there will be
- 6.8ha of new parkland
- a pedestrian and cycle bridge over SH20 linking the new foreshore to Onehunga Bay Reserve
- sandy and gravel/shell beaches
- a boat ramp
- pedestrian and cycle paths
- park facilities such as a toilet block, park furniture and carpark.
To show just how much the area has changed the two images below highlight what the area looked like before work started and as it was just a few months ago in July.
What a difference three years, more than 334,000 cubic metres of fill, 11,000 cubic metres of sand and 30,000 native plants make. There is also a timelapse and some aerial shots of the work below
I’m looking forward to this opening
Over the last few years we have been concerned the rail network failed to meet its patronage targets. A key reason for this would be the failure of Auckland Transport to implement rail frequency improvements over the past few years. With the start of EMU services this week it is surely time to start increasing frequencies. First though a quick look back at what happened to the planned improvements.
In 2006 ARTA promised the frequency of the western line would increase to a train every 10 minutes in the peak.
She says when the double-tracking of the Western Line is finished in 2009, train frequency will increase to a service every 10 minutes during peak times.
I also remember this being said a few years later not long before double tracking was completed.
Back in December 2011 Auckland Transport highlighted a number of proposed rail frequency increases that could be achieved with the diesel rolling stock:
–Introduction of train services to Manukau, following the completion of track and signalling works by KiwiRail in the second half of 2011. Initial service offering will be 3 trains an hour during the peak and two trains an hour at all other times.
–Introduction of 6 trains an hour from Henderson during the peak Monday to Friday on the Western Line. The infrastructure works to allow this level of service were completed in August 2010 and patronage has now grown to a level that warrants this service capacity.
–Western Line services will operate a half-hourly service between Swanson and Britomart during the core of the day on both Saturdays and Sundays.
–Onehunga Line services will be increased to half-hourly throughout the day and at a weekend, to accommodate further growth.
-Increased frequency of services from Pukekohe to every 60 minutes during the day midweek in response to customer demand.
Some of these frequency increases have been achieved such as 30 minute weekend services on the Western Line and services every 60 minutes during weekdays to Pukekohe. However 2.5 years on we still have hourly off-peak services to Manukau, 15 minute peak frequency on the Western line and hourly Onehunga services.
It is difficult to figure out what happened to these service improvements. Auckland Transport Board papers suggested they were to be discussed at a March 2012 meeting, but this was is a closed sessions and the documents have not been made public.
Again in August 2013, in one of my first posts on Transportblog I highlighted an Auckland Council report that suggested a number of frequency increases that could help meet patronage targets. It included this handy summary of the aforementioned issues:
The completion of the interim train fleet took place in 2010. Since then, some limited improvements have been able to be made to rail services, such as running key peak western line trains with 6-car sets; commissioning the Manukau Branch Line and improving interpeak services to Pukekohe, through the reallocation of existing rolling stock to best match supply and demand. However, no new capacity will be able to be added until the start of the commissioning of the electric train fleet in April 2014. This means that since 2010, patronage growth has been constrained by the inability to add peak capacity.
This report made a number of suggestions for how Auckland Transport could increase rail services and thus increase rail patronage.
Improved interpeak and weekend rail services. As noted above, until electric trains start entering service from April 2014, there will be no increase in peak train capacity. International research shows that the improvement of non-peak train services can lead to stronger increases in patronage than peak capacity improvements. Substantial improvements to non-peak service levels form part of the roll out of electric trains. There may be opportunities to advance non-peak service improvements in advance of electrification such as extending Sunday train services west of Henderson (which currently has no Sunday train service) and improving weekend frequencies to half-hourly.
Since this report we have had half hourly frequencies and Sunday trains to Swanson added, however none of the other earlier suggestions have been actioned.
Some people may be thinking, what is the problem, electric trains will solve all of the issues. This is true in some sense. If AT sticks to the Regional Public Transport Plan they produced then by the end of the rollout in 2015 we should have 10 minute peak services and 15 minute off peak and weekend services on all lines except Onehunga. This is import because improved frequency is considered one of t he biggest drivers of patronage. However the EMU rollout will not be complete until ‘Mid/Late 2015’ which is anywhere from 12 to 18 months away. It is essential that we keep making moves in the short term to increase patronage, especially with the pressure from the government over patronage targets for the City Rail Link.
EMU at Onehunga on Monday
While the EMU’s have now been launched on the Onehunga line , they are still operating on their old hourly off-peak timetable. This seems very strange considering the advertising and public relations effort that is surrounding the launch of the trains. It will not send a very good message if people new to rail in Auckland turn up to the ride the EMU but have to wait 55 minutes. Hopefully soon from Auckland Transport we will see a new, faster timetable with 30 minute frequencies all day, 7 days a week. Next up for EMU addition is the Manukau Line, probably in September. It would be great to see frequency increases at the same time, certainly moving to a 30 minute service from Manukau during the day, which will give a service every 15 minutes all day along the main Eastern Line, rather than the current stupid 30-10-20 arrangement. There has also been some suggestions from Auckland Transport that we would see full EMU service on the weekends, which would be very exciting. This would benefit from improved timetabling as well, dependent of course on if we had enough EMU’s in the country.
While the the Western line will be the last to be electrified, I would hope that the diesel rolling stock deemed surplus from EMU operations was used to increase capacity on the services that remained dieselised. This would be a great time to increase Western Line frequency to every 10 minutes at peak, and every 15 minutes all day. Another good area for improvement is evening services which currently finish ridiculously early. Currently the last Western Line train leaves Britomart at 9.53pm, Onehunga at 9.30pm, Southern Line at 10.10pm and Eastern Line at 10.40pm though this only runs to Otahuhu. The latest train should be pushed back at least past 11pm. This can be done with diesel operation on the Western and Southern Line, and in tandem with EMU timetable improvements on the Eastern and Onehunga lines.
The focus for improvements to public transport around Onehunga in recent years has been in the form of trains with services reinstated to the town centre back in 2010 after being stopped 37 years previously. The station has since been wired up and is now ready and waiting for our new electric trains to arrive. Positively patronage at the station has also been steadily improving and combined with the station at Te Papapa, is likely to exceed 2016 level of patronage that was predicted when the station was built.
But while the trains have been added, not a lot of effort had gone into the local bus infrastructure until now. Not far from the train station is the Onehunga Transport centre which is a bus interchange. It was previously not very inviting and I would say actively worked to put people off using buses. It had very little seating or shelter, the footpaths were quite narrow. Further while the bricks probably looked good when they were first installed, they come across as tatty and dull in the streetview image below.
On Sunday the transport centre officially reopened after a makeover and it looks much better. These images are courtesy of Auckland Transport.
The upgrade fixed the issues mentioned above as well as a few others. One thing I’m not that impressed with however is the amount of clutter on the footpath. on this short stretch of road I count at least 5 poles with what I assume are no parking or bus stop signs on them, there is a rubbish bin, at least one real time sign and a light pole. I do however really like the look of the bus shelters and also added another feature that doesn’t appear obvious at first, Kassel kerbs.
These special kerbs we invented in the German city of Kassel back in the mid-90s as a way to improve the customer experience of people using modern low floor buses, especially for those who are disabled. It is actually quite a simple concept as it is just a concaved kerb. The driver moves into the kerb which helps to keep the bus the right distance from the footpath. The kerb is also slightly higher than normal so combined with being closer to the footpath, means that the gap between it and the bus is much smaller than it would otherwise be. It is therefore much easier for people to board which can speed up dwell times. In many ways it is similar to having a level boarding of trains like we will have with the low floor carriage in our new EMUs. I believe that they have also been used at a few other locations and that there is now a local manufacturer of them so hopefully they can eventually be rolled out to all bus stops. Here is a little video about them
Starting this Sunday a new service will be calling at the upgraded transport centre. The current 380 Airporter service which goes between Manukau and the Airport is being extended to Onehunga although oddly not all services. The route is actually identified in the RPTP as a frequent route meaning it will eventually operate with at least 15 minute frequencies but I guess that will come later as the new bus network starts to be properly rolled out. Here is the route.
The buses running this route have received the AT branding similar to the Northern Express (although the logo is smaller). The bright orange is certainly eye catching and perhaps suggests that buses on each of the frequent network buses will get route specific colouring.
A few years ago there was a lot of noise an complaining about Onehunga. At first it was because almost a year after it had originally promised to be operating, the station hadn’t even been started. Then once it was built the issue was that the platforms were built at only 55m long, too short for our future electric trains which we already knew would be around 70m long. Of course there was a lot of jumping up and down by many saying how it was another example of poor planning in Auckland however there actually turned out to be a fairly logical explanation for it. The simple version of it was that get all of the consents and agreements to build it right the first time would have taken months, if not years longer so the decision was made to build what they could and start the services sooner.
Well now the consents and other issue have been sorted out so AT have lengthened the platforms so that they can handle our new trains. I took a trip out there yesterday to have a look and it appears the job is all finished so here are some photos.
And at the other end of the station
But that wasn’t the only addition to the station, there are also some public toilets being installed which is something needed at more stations
While on the topic of Onehunga, it is probably worth pointing out another thing mentioned a few years ago about it, its patronage forecasts. The forecasts most likely come from the same models that are used to predict how well things like the CRL will be use. Here is what ARTA said in July 3020 about patronage at Onehunga:
ARTA’s spokesperson, Sharon Hunter said, “Passenger travel shows patronage on the line from September 2010 for the two hours at morning peak, from 7am to 9am, is estimated to be approximately 100 people boarding at Onehunga. This compares with 3,600 people alighting at Britomart during the morning peak period.
Now I don’t know exactly how many board during the morning peak but I have heard stories of up around 50-60 on some trains alone. It would be really interesting to see how those previous estimates have worked out in reality as I would suspect they way underestimate what is happening in reality. That is something that seems to be a common feature with Public Transport yet the opposite is true for vehicle traffic which is constantly overestimated.
Edit: Sharon got in touch with me and provided this information:
The most recent survey counted 170 passengers boarding at Onehunga in the morning two-hour peak with 60+ boarding the most popular service (7:45am departure). For a full weekday about 400 passenger were counted using Onehunga to board trains. In overall rankings that is about the same as Orakei and Meadowbank (i.e. ranked about 30th out of 42 stations).
Interestingly in terms of projections, Te Papapa is exceeding expectations with more than 100 boardings counted in the morning 2-hour peak period. The combined effect of Onehunga + Te Papapa is generating around 280 passengers per day in the morning two-hour peak versus the 2016 modelled 360 so it is heading in the right direction.
A few days back the Human Transit blog superbly outlined the basics of designing bus routes – using Halifax in Nova Scotia as the example. There are some excellent “basics” outlined in that post: the need to identify choke points, the need to have good “anchors” at each end of your route, the benefits of bouncing routes off at right-angles once you reach the edge of a grid system and so forth. What seemed perhaps most obvious of all is how each route is designed to achieve a number of different things – not just to drag various people from around the suburbs and take them into the city before turning around and doing the same thing. The first route the blog post looks at is perhaps the best example of this:
While the whole peninsula is fairly high density, the main patronage attractors are within the various shaded areas – education facilities, employment zones, hospitals and so forth. The red circles represent the chokepoints on entering the island and the “T” represents transfer points. What I like about this route is how – let’s say during the morning peak – there would be strong flows of passengers both ways along the route – because it doesn’t simply terminate in the middle of town and then head out again, it passes through the city. With transfer points at both ends of the route you would have a lot of passengers on the bus right to the end of the line (which is good for efficiency) and because it keeps to a very low number of streets it’s a simple and easily understood route.
You would struggle to find too many routes like this in Auckland. Most bus routes seem to very much “peter out” at their suburban terminus, while through-routes are extremely rare as well. This means that our system has huge inefficiencies, in the form of empty buses close to the end of their runs, and then by having to run many ’empties’ from the city centre terminus back to the start of the route.
When I wrote this post about the possibility of using the Wellesley Street corridor for most North Shore buses, there was a lot of interesting discussion in the comments about sending some of those North Shore buses further south. The 881 service from the North Shore to Newmarket via the University and Hospital is apparently very popular – and many have thought that it might make sense for the Northern Express to continue to Newmarket. Personally I view the NEX as part of the “Rapid Transit Network” and see no point in duplicating RTNs between Britomart and Newmarket (we have the train line of course), so I would do things another way.
My route, as shown below, basically brings two routes together: the main ‘non-busway’ QTN route on the North Shore and the future Manukau Road b.line service between Onehunga and the city.
If we start with the ends of the routes, we have two obvious major transfer points: Onehunga in the south and Constellation bus station in the north. As I outlined in my blog post about Mangere bus routes, I see most of them feeding into Onehunga in the long run – allowing transfers onto train for the fastest Onehunga-downtown trips – or onto a Manukau Road b.line for intermediary trips. Manukau Road is a major arterial that clearly requires a high frequency bus corridor in just the same way as Dominion Rd, Mt Eden Road and others do.
In the north, while the busway will obviously be used for most trips heading to or from the city, there will similarly always be the need for a service linking together all the town centres and various trip generators on the North Shore. So if we’re going to need both these routes – primarily not for fast trips to the city centre from outlying areas but for trips along the route, for trips that may occur outside the peaks, for trips in the reverse peak direction and so forth – why not join these two routes up so we offer even more options? The route above would allow one to travel from Takapuna to Epsom, or from Royal Oak to Milford – but without the inefficiency that a normal ‘everywhere-to-everywhere’ style of service pattern tends to generate. Run this route at 10 minute frequencies off-peak and you create a really strong north-south bus corridor across the whole city that can be useful for a vast number of different trips.
I suppose that on the down side it would be a fairly long route and with that comes potential for unreliability. But because there would hopefully be enough patronage generated by the route (in both directions and right to the ends of it) it should be able to support high enough frequencies that make unreliability less of an issue.
This is quite a dramatically different way to operate a bus route in Auckland. Do people think it would work? It seems critical to me that it has a fast route through the city centre – so people travelling from Takapuna to Epsom don’t spend half their lives stuck at traffic lights downtown – but it seems potentially a pretty efficient way to provide for a lot of different potential trip options.
One of the main differences between the calculated benefits of the Ministry of Transport’s review of the City Rail Link project and the revised analysis undertaken by Auckland Council and Auckland Transport of the project depends on the extent to which many of the current “long-haul” bus services are turned into rail feeder buses. There’s a clear logic behind this: the more bus routes you curtail into feeding the rail system the more rail passengers you generate and therefore the greater pressure you put on the rail system (hence the greater need for the rail tunnel). This is not rocket science, or a unique proposition: around 70% of riders on the Toronto Subway arrive at their station on the bus.
However, historically we have been utterly pathetic at co-ordinating buses with trains: not only in terms of ticketing (which is finally being sorted out) but also in terms of timing, the physical ease of transfering between the two and so forth. This has led to multiple stupid situations where we’re subsidising buses and trains to complete basically the same journey – the public purse paying for parallel routes. Incredibly stupid, incredibly inefficient. Furthermore, by making it nigh on impossible to transfer, we actually leave many in the outer suburbs with stupidly long bus trips to take.
Let’s take a comparison of peak time train and bus trips between four obvious transfer points around Auckland – New Lynn, Panmure, Onehunga and Manukau City (well, Manukau from February next year when the station opens): You can see for many of these trips the train is enormously faster than the bus – taking less than half the time in the case of an Onehunga to Britomart trip (no wonder the Onehunga Line’s so popular!) Now while we will obviously need to continue to run buses between downtown and these various points – to pick people up in between and deliver them to intermediary locations, it seems utterly crazy that (for example) we run buses from Howick to town, which pass right by Panmure station. Surely if every bus from east of the Tamaki River terminated at either Panmure or Ellerslie, with their passengers transfering onto the train we would be able to vastly improve frequencies of buses using the same resources (shorter trips means more trips per hour), while at the same time giving people a much faster trip to where they’re going. It just seems so obvious. Cut every bus serving the Mangere area at Onehunga so people transfer onto the train there for the much faster ride. The shorter bus trips mean that the same resources can go into much higher frequency feeder services, so people don’t have to wait as long for the bus. Do the same with all buses west of New Lynn – and possibly for buses west of Henderson you could have a further transfer point. Some of the more recent changes to Green Bay buses incorporated elements of this – although until we have integrated ticketing there will probably be a relatively limited market for it: You can do the same south of Manukau (as well as having either Otahuhu or Westfield being a further transfer station for areas around the Southern Line north of Manukau). Through this process not only do we end up with a far more efficient transport system, much faster trips for passengers, but the booming rail patronage will make it more and more obvious to Central Government how essential the City Rail Link project is. It’s a win-win all around.
But what’s the bet Auckland Transport’s too scared and disorganised to actually implement any of this?
I was pretty gutted to miss it, but on Saturday the Onehunga Line reopened to passenger trains for the first time in 37 years. Jon C at Aucklandtrains has extensive coverage, including photos, of the opening. It seems like the opening event went incredibly well, with a huge crowd turnout. Furthermore, mentions of rail to the airport were very popularly received.
The NZ Herald also had an article, here are some extracts:
Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee, a long-time proponent of reopening the Onehunga line to passengers, said the huge turnout yesterday indicated a seachange in the way Aucklanders viewed rail passenger transport.
Referring to the Onehunga and New Lynn rail developments, he said people would look back on September 2010 as the day the phrase “Aucklanders never get out of their cars” lost its meaning.
Transport Minister Steven Joyce said the developments were a step towards Auckland becoming an “efficient and prosperous world class city”.
New network-wide timetables began yesterday, with more than 400 extra train trips a week across Auckland, about a 25 per cent increase in services according to ARTA chairman Rabin Rabindran.
I’m very much looking forward to catching the train out to Onehunga on the weekend to do shopping at DressSmart, and to check out the awesome second hand bookshop there. Will certainly beat trying to find parking.