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 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.

Otahuhu Interchange making good progress

On the weekend I was out near Otahuhu so I took a quick diversion to take a look at progress on the new Otahuhu Interchange which is on track to open on October 29 before bus services start using it a day later when the New Network in South Auckland goes live.

One thing that surprised me and that I didn’t really get from the artist impressions was just how big this station will be. The concourse building is around 80m in length

In the image below you can see the rail side of the station with the existing platform complete with new, longer shelter. You can also see the platform edge and backfilling underway for the third platform which is needed for train operations after the CRL but is being built now while all of the other works are happening, perhaps a rare bit of future proofing for Auckland. Not to be missed in the Background is the new station building/concourse. To the left of the image you can see the old signal box and the back of the bus shelters.

Otahuhu Interchange Sep-16 1

This is the bus side of the station. As you can see the stops appear to be well advanced and aspects like planting are starting to happen. You can also see the carpark/kiss & ride area full of cars with people hard at work on a Saturday, presumably to ensure it is finished on time.

Otahuhu Interchange Sep-16 2

Out on Walmsley Rd the new footpath/shared path includes some concrete detailing as was suggested in the artist impressions. Just behind me the pedestrian crossing to Station Rd also includes a bike crossing and hopefully in time cycle infrastructure can be improved in the area to allow locals to make use of it.

Otahuhu Interchange Sep-16 3

As a reminder, this is what the station is expected to look like when finished.

Otahuhu Interchange aerial overview

The main entrance to the station can’t be seen in the photos as it is covered in shrink wrap. Here is what it is expected to look like.

Otahuhu interchange plaza area in front of entrance

All up it will be an impressive station and seems like things are well on track to be completed in time to open at the end of October.

July AT Board Meeting

Auckland Transport’s latest board meeting is board meeting is on as this post is published and here are the things I found interesting.

Closed Session

The closed session normally contains what appears to be the most interesting items at the meeting. My comments about the items in italics

Items for Approval/Decision

  • CPO/Britomart Group Agreement – I wonder if that relates to the suggestion to eventually build a permanent building behind the CPO.Cooper & Co Britomart Western Site visual 1
  • CRL Procurement update
  • Park and Ride – I’m not sure what this entails, new Park and Rides, changing how they’re managed?
  • Rail Procurement – I assume this relates to the procurement of services, if you recall they stopped the tender process last year.
  • AT Technology Strategy
  • Road Stoppings & Real Estate Inventory Optimisation
  • Newmarket Level Crossing – Confirmation of NoR
  • AMETI – Stage 2A Acquisition of land

Items for Noting

  • EMU Project update
  • Parking Future Platform update – I’m guessing this relates to the parking app we saw in the parking strategy video a few months back.
  • Insurance update
  • Unitary Plan verbal update – I’m not sure if any of the AT staff have been involved in the closed group reviewing the UP recommendations and if they were if they would be talking about this or just the UP process in general. 

 

Business Report

Moving on to the main Business Report and as usual I’ll just work through the report in the order highlighting the bits I find interesting.

RLTP Variation – AT have made a variation to the three-year Regional Land Transport Programme (RLTP) to include the Matakana Link Rd which suggests they’re planning on it being worked on within the next few years.

Strategic Initiatives

  • Work on the indicative business case for the NW Busway is expected to start in August.
  • AT say they’re working with the NZTA on integrating rapid transit options for the North Shore with the Additional Waitemata Harbour crossing route protection.
  • A preferred network for the greenfield growth areas has been decided and will now be presented to the council. I assume they’ll be fairly similar to the draft networks that were proposed. They’ll now have Indicative business cases created.

Lincoln Rd – AT have lodged a resource consent application for the large widening of Lincoln Rd. They expect it to be open for submissions in August.

Lincoln Rd Feb Design - Universal

Parnell Station – Kiwirail plan to move the old Newmarket station to the site in November and it will then undergo an external refurbishment till April 2017. AT will also be doing work at the station including adding footpath connections and ticket gates. It hadn’t been clear before that they would be gating the station but it makes sense that they should be doing. They haven’t said yet when services will start stopping there

Parnell pic June15

Otahuhu Bus/Train Interchange – AT say passengers will start using the new concourse from early October but the station will offically open on 29 October. They will also now be building a third platform, which is required for the CRL so means it can be done preventing disruption again in a few a year’s time.

New Network – AT are currently evaluating tenders for the West Auckland routes and will soon be launching tenders for Central, East and North Auckland which once awarded should allow the majority of the city’s new bus network to be implemented by the end of next year.

Bus performance and capacity – AT’s figures show bus reliability and punctuality are down on the same time last year and that a “A consolidated 12-month plan has been developed to address this and to manage capacity increases.” It’s interesting to see that Skybus which is a commercial service and outside of AT’s control performs considerably poorer than the other bus services. Conversely the Northern Express which has been gross contracted is the best performer, although the much better infrastructure helps here too (note: other services are generally net cost contracts until PTOM comes in)

2016-06 - Bus Performance

Fare evasion and Security – AT say “Strategy discussions are progressing with Police around an enhanced joint approach to Metro security and fare enforcement.

Other

A few other things that I noticed that caught my attention.

Parking – the monthly indicators show parking occupancy in the city centre remains high both on and off street. On street parking prices in the city will be going up soon.

2016-06 - Parking Occupancy

Forward Programme – This gives an indication as to what is being discussed in future board committee meetings and at the next meeting. One interesting item to the next Customer Focus Committee is that AT are looking to change the T&Cs of AT HOP top-ups.

 

Is there anything else you’ve seen in the reports you’ve found interesting?

Otahuhu Interchange gets under way

Good news yesterday with the Otahuhu Interchange officially getting under way. The interchange is the key to enabling the new bus network in South Auckland to be implemented

Otahuhu Interchange aerial overview

Work is beginning today on a major upgrade of Otahuhu Station to make it easy to connect between high frequency buses and trains.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges, Mayor Len Brown and Mangere-Otahuhu Local Board Deputy Chair Carrol Elliott have marked the start of main construction works by turning the first sods at the station construction site.

Otahuhu Station is an important part of the new, simpler and more connected south Auckland public transport network. It is designed to provide Aucklanders with a new network of buses that better connect to the trains at Ōtāhuhu.

The $28m project is funded by the Government through the NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Council. The fully integrated bus and train station is expected to open in the second half of 2016.

In the first five years of a united Auckland, Mayor Len Brown says growth has been dramatic across all public transport modes. “This station and the simpler and more connected new South Auckland public transport network will see patronage on the southside leap even more.”

“Otahuhu is a part of the new Auckland that we as a united council have been heavily investing in to make life better. It’s wonderful to see how Tōia, Otahuhu’s new recreational precinct, has so quickly become the vibrant heart of the community reflecting the character of the area. The transport station will provide another big boost to Otahuhu.”

Local Board Deputy Chair Carrol Elliott says, “Otahuhu has been waiting a long time for a modern, clean and safe public transport facility. This one should serve the people who live in Otahuhu and those who come to Otahuhu to work.”

The NZ Transport Agency’s Director for Auckland, Ernst Zöllner says the development of the Otahuhu Station will help contribute to the development of a rapid transit network to provide the future backbone of Auckland’s transport network and better choices for getting around the city.

“The Government has contributed significantly to the renaissance of rail in Auckland through investment in network, station and rolling stock upgrades. It’s investment in the Otahuhu Station upgrade continues this commitment to growing public transport as one of the solutions to addressing Auckland’s transport challenges.

Auckland Transport Chief Infrastructure Officer Greg Edmonds says the upgraded station will make it easier to connect between trains and frequent bus services being introduced with the new public transport network.

“It will be linked with two new bus platforms and a terminal building via an elevated concourse. It’s pedestrian friendly and will have improved accessibility.”

The new Ōtāhuhu station will offer the following benefits:

  • A high quality accessible modern facility
  • The design and architecture will reflect local and historical stories for mana whenua (portage site for waka)
  • Clear separation of buses, trains and a shared pedestrian and cycle pathway (including cycle storage racks), separated cycle crossing at the adjacent signalised intersection
  • Passenger drop off zone
  • Covered bus platforms for passengers moving between bus and train services
  • More frequent bus services from the second half of 2016
  • Better connections between bus and rail networks
Otahuhu Station Sod Turning - Simon Bridges Len Brown

Simon I know of a place in the central city where we would welcome you getting the digger out

AT August Board Meeting

Tomorrow is the next Auckland Transport board meeting and as usual I’ve been through the board papers to pick out the parts that were interesting to me.

The most interesting details appear to be in the closed session and that appears no different this month. Some of the topics are:

  • Newmarket Level Crossing Project – I assume this will be seeking approval to lodge the Notice of Requirement
  • LRT Alignment
  • Deep Dive – Bus
  • K’Road Value Engineering Outcomes – My guess is this is about the K Rd station for the CRL. AT’s project page now says they’re now only going to build one entrance initially and I’ve heard some rumours that it’s the Beresford Square entrance that will not be built. It seems to me this is incredibly short sighted and a classic case of ‘value engineering‘ engineering all of the value out of the project.

K Rd station Beresford Entrance

  • CRL Communication Strategies update – This is likely to be about communication to manage the disruption caused by the CRL construction.
  • Britomart Development update – presumably the bid by Cooper & Co to develop the site behind Britomart

On to the main business report.

  • Te Atatu Rd – Construction has now begun and will is due to be completed in February 2017
  • K Rd Cycleway – AT say ‘ concept design for stakeholder input is planned for the end of 2015.’ I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with.
  • Nelson St Cycleway – According to the report consultation is due to start any day now on phase 2 which for Pitt St and north of Victoria St. The main issues is whether it uses Nelson St or Hobson St to get to Fanshawe St and down to Quay St. I personally think they should do both options.
  • Beach Rd Cycleway Stage 2 – Construction is due to be completed by the end of this month with a public opening ceremony for 18 September.
  • Otahuhu Bus-Train Interchange – Construction is due to start in mid-September and due to be completed in June next year before the rollout of the new bus network in October.
  • Manukau Bus-Train Interchange – AT are increasing the capacity of the interchange from 16 to 25 bays although two will be for bus layover. They say the key reason for the change is that the various inter-city bus operators will move from the CBD operate from there. Presumably this means that inter-city bus users going to/from the CBD will have to transfer to a train at Manukau. Particularly at peak times this might actually end up a faster outcome.
  • Parnell Station – Works on the platform are due to be completed in October but there is no date yet for when it will come in to use. Also of note is the old Mainline steam sheds are currently being demolished as the site was recently sold to a retirement village company. There’s a bit of an irony in that we will end up with a retirement village on one side of the tracks and Student accommodation on the other.
  • AMETI (Reeves Rd Flyover) – AT say a joint review between them, the council and the NZTA of the timing of Flyover and the busway from Pakuranga to Botany has been  happening with final discussions around funding options due to happen in August/September. The recommendations from the review will go to the AT and NZTA boards in October and the Council Infrastructure committee in November. I wonder how much they’ve taken in to account the Basin Reserve Flyover decision, in particular as they’ve said the Reeves Rd Flyover won’t improve things unless they also replicate similar solutions at Waipuna Rd and Carbine Rd.
  • Mill Rd – The hearings for the Notice of Requirement start at the end of the month. They say there were 286 submissions of which 216 were pro-forma ones in opposition.
  • WiFi on PT – AT will extend WiFi to all PT modes and vehicles – we saw WiFi as a requirement for new buses last week. AT are already trialling it on trains and it was available on the special service they put on for the EMU celebration just over a week ago. A trial will also begin on Gulf Harbour ferries and the Northern Express soon.
  • Active Modes Survey – AT say they’ve surveyed 1,600 Aucklander’s about walking and cycling along with their motivations and barriers for doing so. The high level results are completely unsurprising with concerns over safety from sharing lanes with cars continuing to be the largest barrier to more people cycling.
  • Rail Service Performance – there is a fairly lengthy comment about the performance of the rail system.

Service delivery (or reliability) is the proportion of trains not cancelled in full or part and arrive at their final destination. Punctuality is the proportion of trains that were not cancelled in full or part and that arrived at their final destination within five minutes of the scheduled time. Presented below are the services scheduled (blue bars), total services operated on-time (yellow line) and punctuality percentage (red line) trends.

There was a significant improvement in performance recorded during the month, partly reflecting the changes implemented from 20 July which saw the replacement of diesel trains with EMUs on all lines except on the non-electrified section between Papakura and Pukekohe. The operation of a single common fleet type removed many of the restrictions that previously existed that had complicated service recovery by allowing trains and crews to be swapped between lines thereby limiting the adverse impacts following service disruption.

For Jul-2015 service delivery (reliability) was 96.6% and punctuality was 83.7% compared to the 12 month average of 96.0% (94.9% last 6 months average and low of of 92.9% in April) and 83.1% (79.2% last 6 months average and low of 73.6% in June).

For the period 1-9 August, performance improved further with reliability at 98% and punctuality at 89% across 3,766 services.

A number of days in mid-August have seen performance at more than 99% service delivery and 90-95% punctuality.

While only a few weeks into the full EMU operations, service performance improvement is encouraging and supports the decision to introduce earlier the full EMU services. A joint team of AT, Transdev, KiwiRail and CAF are now focused on delivering the planned improvements

Rail Service Performance - July 15

  • Some other PT comments:
    • The first Howick & Eastern double decker arrives in the first week of September.
    • The first of the new bus shelters have started has been installed. It appears that the focus is on getting a number rolled out on the Hibiscus coast in preparation of the new network which rolls out in October
    • AT have asked Transdev and Kiwirail to review the timetables for the Pukekohe shuttle after complains the transfer time between services was too short.
    • On the roll-out of more bus priority they say that over the last month:
      • Onewa Road T3 lane (city bound) – went live in July
      • Park Road bus lane (hospital to Carlton Gore Road) – consultation completed; construction due to commence in September
      • Parnell Road bus lane (St Stephens to Sarawia Street – outbound) – consultation completed; construction due for completion in August
      • Manukau Road/Pah Road transit lanes – internal consultation completed – consultation underway
      • Great North Road bus lanes (New Lynn to Ash Street) – final concept plans completed – consultation completed
      • Totara Avenue signal removal – improvements to New Lynn bus interchange; construction completed and live
      • Esmonde Road bus lane – construction to commence September.

 

Otahuhu Bus-Train Interchange design

In my post about the AT board meeting last week I highlighted that construction of the Otahuhu Bus-Train Interchange station is currently out for tender. This interchange is crucial to enabling the new network for South Auckland to be rolled out

The AT website contains a few new images of what’s proposed for the site and which are different to what we’ve seen before.

First up the overall layout

Otahuhu Interchange plan diagram

I agree with some of the comments from the AT Board Meeting post that said having a single entrance meaning buses travelling though the station have to loop around isn’t ideal. I guess the only counter to that is that having another entrance/exit adds an additional intersection which may not be idea.

Here’s what the interchange may actually look like. First up an aerial overview of interchange.

Otahuhu Interchange aerial overview

The main entrance

Otahuhu interchange plaza area in front of entrance

Walking along Walmsley Rd from the North

Otahuhu Interchange from Walmsely Road

Overall it looks like a very nice station and a great addition to the network. Currently the station is not highly used however once complete the bus interchange should see a lot of people flowing through every day.

Of course it also needs to be supported by improved walking and cycle connections. There are plans to improve the connections to the Otahuhu Town Centre but these don’t seem to include improvements such as along Walmsley Rd into the nearby residential areas.

AT Board Report Feb-15

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

Projects

East West Link Connections

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

East-West Priorities Dec-14

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

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

Wynyard Quarter – Integrated Road Programme

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

Franklin Road

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

Westgate

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

Penlink

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

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

Otahuhu Interchange

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

Manukau Interchange

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

EMUs

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

Newmarket Crossing (Sarawia St level Crossing)

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

Puhinui

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

Swanson Station Park and Ride

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

Onewa Rd

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

Other stuff

Parking

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

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

Taxi’s on Grafton Bridge

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

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

Double Decker Bus Mitigation Project

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

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

Find out more about the new Otahuhu interchange

AT are holding an open day tomorrow about the new Otahuhu Bus/Train interchange they plan to implement as part of the new network for South Auckland. Detail of it are below.

A new bus-train interchange sited at the existing Otahuhu Train Station is on track to begin construction later this year with completion targeted for the middle of next year. The new interchange is expected to transform the way people travel in South Auckland.

Detailed design information for the Otahuhu Bus-Train Interchange will be on display at a community event this Saturday at the Otahuhu Town Hall between 10am and 1.30pm. This new transport facility will be a critical hub in the delivery of a new integrated public transport network in South Auckland.

There will be plenty of fun with spot prizes, giveaways, food and entertainment and an opportunity to meet the project team who will take the interchange through to completion. This is a celebration of Otahuhu and the connecting of its people and places.

Feedback from local people has been important in the design process, we want locals to come and see how the interchange design has changed since consultation began last December.

Passenger comfort, safety, ease of accessibility and convenience were areas you asked us to consider for the final design.

Key features include continuous cover along bus and rail platforms, an elevated and enclosed concourse connecting the existing rail platform with new bus platforms, multiple pedestrian access options, escalators, lifts and stairs, WiFi, CCTV, kiss and ride and bicycle parking/storage. The facility will be built to accessible standards, including provision of limited parking for disabled users.

The community also sought assurance that getting to the new interchange would be simple and efficient for those travelling from the town centre.

New on street bus stop facilities will be built on Avenue Road replacing the existing Otahuhu bus station. New, modern bus shelters will also be constructed on Mason Avenue to serve the new Otahuhu Recreation Precinct with regular and frequent bus services connecting the interchange with the new town centre bus stops.

Otahuhu interchange

The design certainly looks like it’s changed a bit from the earlier concept images (which is to be expected).

Otahuhu proposed 1

NZTA to help fund PT interchanges

Some more good news that the NZTA has agreed to help fund both the Manukau and Otahuhu interchanges.

Two keys projects linked to the upgrade of bus and rail services in Auckland south have received $1.6m in funding from the NZ Transport Agency

The Transport Agency will fund $780,000 for the design of a bus station at the Manukau transport interchange, and $831,000 for the design of the bus/rail interchange at Otahuhu.

The funding represents a 50% share of the design costs for both projects, which are being led by Auckland Transport as part of its comprehensive programme to improve public transport services across the city.

The Regional Manager for the Transport Agency’s Planning and Investment Group, Peter Casey,  says providing people with more frequent public transport services was a key factor behind the funding decision.

“The development of Auckland Transport’s new interchanges at Manukau and Otahuhu will promote greater use of buses and trains,” Mr Casey says.

Auckland Transport’s Chief Development Officer, Claire Stewart, welcomes the funding.

“These two interchanges are an integral part of Auckland Transport’s on-going upgrade of transport infrastructure in the south.  We want to provide facilities which will improve the experience for our customers,” she says.

Mr Casey says the Transport Agency provides funds for several of Auckland’s big public transport projects including the electrification of the rail network, the roll-out of the one ticket electronic HOP card, and the development of AMETI (Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative) to improve travel for both drivers and people who use buses and trains.

It would be good to see what the final designs are that have been approved.

Otahuhu interchange proposal

Otahuhu interchange proposal

Manukau interchange plan

Manukau interchange plan

It’s also interesting that the NZTA are the ones making these announcements. The cynic in me wonders if three are softening us up for a big roads announcement.