Data visualisation specialist Jonathan Callahan has produced by far the most interesting response to the death of Margaret Thatcher I’ve yet to see, originally posted as a comment on The Oil Drum and reproduced below. Using his Energy Data Browser he has linked significant points of Thatcher’s career to the North Sea Oil boom. This connection is useful to further unpack issues around the vulnerabilities of nations [and governments] more generally to oil dependancy.
Before having a look it is worth noting a couple of things. The Data Browser turns the figures from the annual BP Statistical Review into visualisations of where regions and nations sit on the Energy Import/Export seesaw. As such it depends on BP’s policies and accuracy. For instance the oil category is an ‘all liquids’ measure not crude oil only [the best stuff], so biofuels, lease condensate, bitumen and all sorts of products with different energy content and utility are all included. The key issue, however, is illustrated very clearly: North Sea Oil gave the UK some 25 years as a net exporter of liquid fuels. And that’s now over. Thatcher’s achievements, whatever your view of them need to be seen in the context of this temporary boom, as do Blair’s. For example; it is easier to close down one energy industry [coal mining] when you happen to have a new one just coming on stream [North Sea Oil].
UK Liquid Fuels and Thatcher. J Callahan
This approach should also be extended to include the Prime Ministers that followed Thatcher: Major and Blair both also had the good fortune to preside over the North Sea oil bubble. And Blair, like Thatcher, took his country to war and failed to plan for the decline of this energy windfall. Neither of these following PMs deviated from Thatcher’s line; taking the short term opportunity offered by this finite resource with no attempt to either husband it nor use it to invest in its replacement [unlike the other beneficiaries of the North Sea resource; The Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway, all of whom have been more circumspect with their shares]. Also the focus through this period in the transport sector was all on privatisation, PPPs, and other financial rearrangements but nothing on core issues like energy security [part of what is meant by the term sustainability] just gaming the market. In the UK the North Sea hydrocarbon riches have been used by both Parties to pursue social agendas and to fund foreign adventures.
This energy-centred analysis can also be extrapolated to the present which is looking increasingly like a direct continuation of the difficult economic crises of the 1970s in Britain [energy supply costs as cause of economic and social problems]. It’s almost as if the North Sea bounty never happened. Much harder for Cameron to continue Thatcher’s social confrontations without the happy boon of both the oil and its excise revenue. With North Sea production now increasingly in the rear view mirror, it looks very much like a wasted opportunity, most of it sold, after all, at around $10-15 a barrel. Nothing like an unrestrained free market to efficiently strip a resource as quickly as possible [again; compare and contrast to the more controlled exploitation by the other beneficiaries of this same resource]. So whenever I read praise of Thatcher’s or Blair and Brown’s financial management with no mention of the North Sea largess I find it hard to take seriously.
Given the example of Thatcher’s long hold on power and the lasting changes her government was able to make to British society it is easy to see why our current government is so keen on the idea that there must be oil under our land or seas somewhere; bending over backwards with sweetheart deals and law changes to try to entice oil companies to look for it. The search for oil has been going on for many decades here yet New Zealand has always been a net oil importer and the gap between production and consumption [see below] has widened considerably over the last 20 years. Our entire economy is extremely vulnerable to either restrictions in supply or rises in price of this commodity [two sides of the same coin].
NZ OIL 1974-2011
Therefore I would argue, and the example of the UK North Sea resource supports this, that the far better direction for any government is to work on reducing our dependancy on this very hard to replace input. With urgency. To work towards a situation where the quantities we are either producing or importing are used in the most value-added and vital parts of the economy and not simply squandered on more inefficient and wasteful uses.
Oil can be replaced by other energy sources in many applications [like electricity generation, which largely happened after the 1970s oil shock] but this is most difficult in the transport sector, oil is by far the best and most efficient source of liquid fuels: Oil issues are transport issues and visa-versa.
Because the vast majority of the use [and waste] of oil products is in the Transport sector this is the area that desperately needs new thinking and leadership from all levels of government. This is not easy but there are significant things that can be done now, changes that do not require currently unavailable or unaffordable technologies. For example the provision of much more effective urban public transport and in the electrification of as much of freight and passenger transport systems as is possible. As well as much more imaginative management of alternatives systems like our legacy rail network that are almost certain to become part of the answer to this problem.
The more we can bring that pink line in the chart above down, and in a structural way, the better. Consumption has plateaued since around 2004 but it will take a great deal more effort than just hoping people will buy smaller/hybrid/EV cars or spending enormous sums [virtually the entire transport budget] to straighten out some State Highways to get it meaningfully lower. This is true whether someone gets lucky and finds significant new oil or not; the less we are wasting the more beneficial any find would be [as well, of course, helping to reduce the production of the negative externalities that comes with burning all these fossil fuels]. The key metric for every country is the net figure; imports minus exports and the closer consumption is to zero the better this this sum will always be.
We are, unlike the UK, in a very much better position with regards to electricity generation, and there is still a great deal that can be done to improve from the current 80% renewable figure. 100% renewable generation is an important task; it certainly would be better to not be burning gas and coal to make electricity. [Although they are making some good moves in the UK now too].
Unfortunately I guess our extremely short election cycle is one thing that works against longer term views, but then the UK’s five year cycle didn’t help them plan better for the future either. So the lack of any vision simply beyond trying to maintain ‘business as usual’ for a just little bit longer is really the problem. Shame.
And there is less excuse now with the very clear example above.
The transport committee meets next Tuesday and there is quite a bit on the agenda. I will look at aspects at a later date but one that caught my eye is something that has been discussed a bit here recently, the Manukau Southern Rail Link Connection (page 213 – 6.9MB). We have talked about a bit in the past here and here. This report doesn’t really add anything new but does summarise many of the issues. The link is shown in red below and the intention is that it would allow for trains from south of Manukau to directly access the Manukau station.
The report confirms that there are some potentially big barriers to building the link. The first of which pretty much confirms that some really poor planning went into this entire area, but I guess that is fits with how Manukau has always been. About the only thing that was done right was done by the NZTA who designed the motorway bridge piers to enable it. Since that time, Kiwirail have built an Inland Port on the Eastern side of the tracks, partially covering the path of the southern link. That will only serve to add costs to the project.
As we also know, a key rail project will be a third main line that will help to separate freight trains from passenger lines however that is going in on the western side of the tracks. It means any freight trains accessing the inland port HAVE to use the same tracks as our passenger trains, increasing the chances of delays occurring. Auckland Transport is also building the EMU depot on the opposite side which will see a lot of train movements in the area, especially when combined with the Manukau junction itself. In my view the EMU depot and the Inland Port should have been on opposite sides.
Even if it can be built cheaply enough, there are also potential operational issues from doing so, in particular could the two track Manukau terminus station handle all of the trains from both North and South not to mention the inevitable conflicts between freight trains and passenger trains in this area?
As always with these things, the biggest issue will end up being if the benefits outweigh the costs. There is no information given as to just how much the physical works however the report does say that just to run a 15 minute service between Papakura and Manukau would require an additional 3 EMU. Those cost around $7.5 million each to buy and at least $400,000 each per year to run.
It is worth remembering that there is still a lot of development and services to add to the existing network. By the time electrification is finished and all of the electric trains rolled out we are expected to see a train every 10 minutes to/from both Papakura and Manukau. With those higher frequency services and a quick transfer at Puhinui, the benefit of a direct service from the south to Manukau reduces significantly. That means it may only really become a viable after significant growth in Manukau as well as particularly the greenfields expansion that is proposed south of Papakura.
Overall the most interesting thing about the report is that it suggests Auckland Transport are currently working on updating their rail development plan which will set out what they intend to do to improve the rail network out to 2041. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what comes out of it and I wonder if they will still be using the same models which underestimate rail trips?
p.s. Nice of the council to use an image from the blog, the map has obviously come from this post.
There seems to be growing interest rail to the North Shore, perhaps mainly driven by the fact that one of the project’s biggest benefits would be putting off spending $5 billion on the stupidest transport project ever, another motorway crossing of the Waitemata Harbour. However there still seems to be relatively little discussion and agreement over how it might link in with the rest of the rail network. The Integrated Transport Programme costed the rail crossing at around $1 billion, but seemed to show it finishing tantalisingly close to the rail network at Wynyard, but not actually linking in (suggesting that NZTA and Auckland Transport have included it for show more than serious consideration) or perhaps it’s just hidden behind the words “city centre”.The Auckland Plan was a bit more definitive, showing that North Shore rail should link into the rail system at Aotea Station:Presumably Aotea Station’s is being future-proofed for a connection to a future North Shore Line in its design (something to submit on in regards to the City Rail Link notice of requirement). Previous options of connecting in at Britomart seem to have been abandoned – most probably because Aotea is more central and it’s not possible anyway to hook the North Shore line into the CRL as you’d end up with far too many conflicting train movements. Patrick outlined in a post a few months back how an extended Aotea Station might work to serve both the CRL and the North Shore Line. A further station would obviously be provided at Wynyard Quarter.
But what next? Should the railway line just be an independent line (maybe Vancouver Skytrain style light-metro to keep Peter M happy?) or could it link through to the Southern or Eastern Lines? Exploring each option further highlights advantages and disadvantages for every option, and perhaps not a particularly obvious preferred candidate.
Starting off with linking it through to the Southern Line, which would most easily be done by continuing the tunnel under Wellesley Street, probably bridging over Grafton Gully and then linking in with the Southern Line just north of Parnell. Something like this:The line could then extend to either the Airport or to the Southern Line, or conceivably both (especially if on the North Shore you had one service pattern commencing at Takapuna and another commencing at Albany). The end result of this approach is probably something similar to what Matt and Patrick developed last year – known as “the cross”:Advantages of this approach include the creation of a pretty legible and easily understood network – basically a north-south line and an east-west line, with a few variations and branches further out. You get a direct link from the North Shore to the Airport, you provide a heap of capacity to the city centre by running the two lines completely independent of each other and you remove the need to use that slow bit of the rail network around Vector Arena. Disadvantages perhaps include the enormous strain on Aotea Station as the transfer station between the two main lines, the requirement that North Shore rail be built to heavy rail standard (rather than the likely much cheaper Light Metro). It also effectively requires the construction of a second CRL – this time in an east-west direction. As we’re struggling to find the funding for the first CRL it does appear slightly premature to be planning what’s effectively a second, somewhat similar, tunnel.
The next option is to look at linking the North Shore Line up with the Eastern Line, via a route that takes a little bit of imagination but isn’t too impossible – leading to something like this:
Once again this option appears to have a number of advantages and disadvantages. Advantages include perhaps a slightly shorter and simpler link with the rail network that doesn’t involve bridging Grafton Gully and perhaps utilises some of the trackwork at the old Auckland Railway Station area to link into the Eastern Line. Trains heading further east could travel on to either Manukau via the existing Eastern Line or to Botany (or beyond?) via a new southeast line (as previously discussed here). Splitting the trains across two destinations in the east would balance well with trains originating at Takapuna and Albany on the North Shore – creating something like this:
- Albany-Manukau via City Centre, Panmure and Otahuhu
- Takapuna-Manukau via City Centre, Glen Innes and Highland Park
- Swanson to Papakura/Pukekohe via CRL, Newmarket and Southern Line
- Mt Roskill to Airport via CRL, Newmarket and Penrose
Mapped it looks something like this:Now before you go and yell at me for being too city centre focused I’m not necessarily suggesting that what’s shown above is Auckland’s ideal future rail network, but rather that it’s one way of showing how a North Shore Line could be “linked in” with Auckland’s existing rail network.
The big flaw with both “the cross” option and the one shown above is that they leave no role for Grafton Station, other than potentially on some sort of shuttle between Newmarket and Kingsland (would have to be Kingland now the Inner West Interchange station is gone). Both options also require significant expense east of Aotea Station to “link” the tracks coming into the city from the west with either the Southern or Eastern lines at Parnell or a bit north of that at the old railway station. Both options also seem to relegate the role of the City Rail Link by pulling either Southern Line or Eastern Line trains out of the tunnel and effectively giving both lines only one city centre station (plus Wynyard). Finally, both options also require the North Shore Line to be built as heavy rail, which is likely to be quite a bit more expensive than a light-metro option – although still barely half the cost of a road crossing of the Harbour.
The final option is to just terminate the trains at Aotea Station – running trains from both Albany and Takapuna to Aotea and then back again. This option is completely independent of the existing rail network:Advantages include relatively low cost (compared to other options), the potential to do driverless light-metro and the fact that the rest of the rail network’s balance isn’t stuffed up in the ways that caused problems with the other options (such as it being difficult to serve Grafton Station). Disadvantages include quite a lot more transfers, creating another independent system and the challenges with where you’d maintain the train fleet.
As I noted at the start of my post, there’s no clear winner when it comes to options to connect North Shore Rail into the existing system – but there sure are a whole heap of interesting options. Which is your favourite? Why? Have I missed another option or two that might work even better?
Are you passionate about cities? Want to know more about public transport?
If so then you might be interested in an upcoming event being held at the University of Auckland: “Get Connected – Futures in Public Transport” (NB: The link takes you to the Facebook page for the event, where you can RSVP). On the night (19 March) you will get the opportunity to hear from the following speakers:
- Jarrett Walker - who has 20 years experience working on public transport projects across the Asia-Pacific, especially the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand. FYI Jarrett was the lead consultant on the recent re-design of Auckland’s PT network. Jarrett currently resides in Portland but – as mentioned in this earlier post - he has a soft-spot for Auckland, which he describes as:
“… New Zealand’s largest city, the focal point of an agrarian nation’s ambivalence about urban life. If you’re a young North American who wonders what Seattle was like 40 years ago when I was a tyke — before Microsoft, Amazon, and Starbucks — Auckland’s your answer. To a visitor accustomed to North American or European levels of civic vanity, it often seems that Auckland still doesn’t know how beautiful it is. That’s always an attractive feature, in cities as in people, even though (or perhaps because) it can’t possibly last.”
- Anthony Cross – who is employed by Auckland Transport in the enviable position of “Public Transport Network Planning Manager” (aka “PTNPM”). Anthony was raised in Auckland but spent much of his early professional career working in Wellington. After helping the Capital’s public transport network become one of the most efficient and effective in Australasia, he was kidnapped by our oompa loompas and brought to Auckland. We managed to convince him to stay after promising him a job title that sounded important but was difficult to say.
- Joshua Arbury – since founding the Auckland Transport Blog (I can hear the cries of gleeful appreciation resonate across Auckland) Josh has upped sticks and moved onto greener – in the money sense – transport pastures at the Auckland Council, where he now occupies the position of Principal Transport Planner. My oompa loopma spies at Council inform me Josh can speak knowledgeably and with ease on any transport and land use topic, particularly the transport sections of the Auckland Plan. And that he loves his daughters.
- Pippa Mitchell – last but certainly not least we have Pippa. In her career Pippa has worked on a range of complex and fascinating projects, such as the roll-out of real-time information at bus stops. She has also worked on some not so interesting projects (haven’t we all!), such as bus stop re-locations. I would expect Pippa to inject some level-headed reality into the evening’s discourse, because we don’t want anyone to finish the evening having listened to Jarrett, Anthony, and Josh and come away thinking that it’s all drugs, sex, and rock-n-roll in this industry.
That’s not all. In between these distinguished and knowledgeable speakers you will also get to hear from our very own Patrick Reynolds; a man who is known for his enthusiasm, beautiful photos, and occasional words of random wisdom.
You know that if you give enough monkeys enough time banging away on a keyboard then chances are they will eventually churn out a word-for-word version of Hamlet? Well the same goes for Patrick when he’s talking about transport – eventually, and after much gnashing of teeth, he will say things that are both intelligent and witty. If for nothing else, you should come along to the evening and listen to Patrick (NB: Patrick I do love you).
Here’s the event flyer if you’re interested (kudos to Kent); please remember to RSVP through the Facebook event page for catering purposes. Important notes:
- For those not in Auckland we will try to video the event so it can subsequently be uploaded on onto the blog; and
- The point of the event is to get people (especially students) thinking about PT careers. It is not to debate the PT situation in Auckland.
P.P.s You will note that some of the people in the photo below are illuminated. This represents current peak hour bus mode share, i.e. a little less than half of people travelling into the city in peak periods arrive by bus.
A Norwegian friend (whom I affectionately refer – and defer – to as the “Socialist Dictator”) recently alerted me to this article entitled “Why you should travel young“.
If you are looking for a delightfully introspective, relatively insightful, and genuinely motivating article on the virtues of travel then I’d encourage you to read this article. Why? Because it makes points that have been resonating in my bones for a while now, but been unable to articulate. For my part, the pleasure I derive from travel relates to its ability to simultaneously make you feel more aware of both yourself and the world around you.
Having read the article I was then sufficiently motivated to add some of my own biofuel to the travel fire started by Patrick’s post on his recent trip to Antartica. The destination for my own recent travels were nowhere near as glamorous, although it was probably more sustainable and definitely more readily reached (at least for those of you whom reside in Auckland). So I’d like to ask you to join me for destination “Waitakere Ranges.”
Now I know what most of you are probably thinking: “Been there done that”. But, if I may be so bold as to have a follow up question: Have you ever walked the Hillary Trail? If you have, then well done; you may want to read on for nostalgia’s sake. If you have not, then you should read on to find out why a four day, three night hike is something that all Aucklanders with a love for travel and a reasonable degree of fitness and knowledge of the outdoors should do.
Before we get onto the trail itself, I wanted to answer the question of “how does one get there?” A question to which my emphatic response is: The Western Line. That’s right, you can “hop” on the train right to Glen Eden, from where a short (and fast) taxi ride will take you right to the start of the track (Arataki Visitor centre), as shown below.
But that begs another question: “why would you take the train rather than drive?” Well, for me the main reason is that I don’t actually own one of these so-called “private automobiles”. But for those of you who are burdened by a car there’s another good reason to leave the car at home: The Hillary Trail is not a loop track. Thus, unless you want to leave vehicles at both ends, or spend time getting someone to drop you back to the start once you’ve finished, then a combination of public transport and taxi is actually a fairly good option. In the photo below I provide a demonstration of the correct posture to use when one is trying to “tag on” to the start of a hiking trip wearing a pack.
Once the logistics of getting to the start of the track have been sorted then all you really need to do is walk. 70km in fact, as per the route map shown below. The Hillary Trail route takes you from Arataki Visitor Centre to the Karamatura, Pararaha, and finally Craw Campgrounds on the first, second, and third nights respectively. On the final day (which is a long one!) you walk out to finish at Muriwai Beach, where an icecream and a swim provides a fitting end to an awesome hike.
Now I realise that sounds like a lot of effort. And it is: The Hillary Trail is not without its challenging sections. But the “pay-off”, as they say, is huge: Even though I have lived in Auckland for all my years and been in the Waitakeres on a good many occasions, I found that there was nothing like hiking the Waitakeres from top to bottom to get you a more connected sense of how it’s various coves, beaches, and ranges fit together.
It also really rams home the extraordinary biodiversity that Auckland has sitting on it’s western door-step. That’s enough talking from me; to finish I’d just like to share some of my many photos taken from from the Hillary Trail itself. I’d suggest you do it while you’re still young . No ifs, no buts.
P.s. My random “travel highlight” was wandering out to the public reserve at Whatipu only to be showered in freshly baked scones that were leftover from a gathering of the Orpheus Society (NB: The Orpheus is the name of a ship that sank entering the Manukau Harbour and has the unfortunate honour of being New Zealand’s most deadly maritime disaster). Then, to cap it off, Mr Bob Harvey himself – one of the instigators of the Hillary Trail concept when he was Mayor of Waitakere – wanders over to have a chat about life in general. Viva!
Day #1: Settling in for the night at the Karamatura Campground
Day#2: Close to Whatipu, looking west towards the northern shore of the entrance to the Manukau Harbour.
Day #2: Looking east along the northern edge of the Manukau Harbour
Day #2: Volcanic peaks around Pararaha Campground
Day #3: Hiking north along the beach towards Anawhata
Day #3: Isolated and inaccessible beach (Mercer’s Bay), just south of Piha
Day #3: Nikau groves just north of Piha
Day #4: Lake Wainamu, just south of Bethells Beach
Day #4: Looking south over Te Henga and Bethells Beach
There has been renewed discussion of a southern rail connection into Manukau Station over the past few days. The catalyst for this discussion seems to have been the Council rejecting a funding bid by Auckland Transport to double-track the north-facing rail connection, with a possible reason for the rejection being some confusion about the proposed north-facing connection and the much desired south-facing connection. If you’re not quite sure what I’m talking about, hopefully the diagram below resolves any confusion, with black showing the existing rail links and red highlighting the missing, but future-proofed, southern link:There is something intuitively logical about having the southern link in place, when you think about Manukau’s role in Auckland as the commercial hub for southern Auckland. For a start, Manukau station is likely to be the destination of more trips than it is the origin of them – because of the proposed (although now on hold) tertiary campus, the shopping centre and the employment in the area. Once the bus station is built that might change to some extent as people catch a feeder bus and then transfer onto the train. But even then I think as many people are likely to be connecting between buses or simply catching a bus to Manukau as they are to be making bus to rail connections. In summary, at least in my mind Manukau city probably serves the area to the south of it more than to the north of it, so providing a rail connection to the north but not one to the south seems counter-intuitive at best – rather silly at worst.
However, looking at how Auckland’s rail network will function in the future the north-facing link at Manukau starts to make a bit more sense – enabling Manukau to become the southern terminus of the eastern line while southern line trains (i.e. those going via Newmarket) will bypass Manukau and head further south. Certainly as I understand it, that will be the post-electrification service patterns with 6 peak trains per hour on the three main lines and two on the Onehunga Line:So there’s a logical role for a north-facing connection at Manukau in our future rail network. But how might things work in terms of providing a southern link? In my mind there are a couple of options:
- Continue the eastern line trains from Manukau south to Papakura and potentially onto Pukekohe
- Run a shuttle train from Papakura/Pukekohe to Manukau with the train terminating there and returning to Papakura/Pukekohe
Let’s look at each option in turn. Firstly with the proposal to continue to run eastern line trains from Manukau to Papakura or Pukekohe. This option would effective mean that the trains simply “detour” from the main trunk line into Manukau before returning to the trunk line and continuing their journey – much like how the 233 bus along Sandringham Road detours down St Lukes road to the mall before returning to Sandringham Road and continuing its journey. The option is shown below as an edit to the earlier diagram: It’s hard to know exactly how long the detour would take but to be reasonable there’s probably a couple of minutes in, then a couple of minutes for the driver to change ends and then a couple of minutes out – perhaps a six minute detour overall, fairly significant.The other disadvantage of this option is that you potentially end up running more train service south of Manukau than you actually need – because you’re running both southern and eastern line trains (with 6 tph on each) all the way down to Papakura. I’m not entirely sure of the loading profile on Auckland’s trains but it seems that most lines slowly build boardings at they head towards the city (the Western has a couple of blips at New Lynn & Mt Albert due to school kids) with maximum loadings on the eastern between Orakei & Britomart, the southern just south of Newmarket and the western just before Grafton station. Needless to say, we’re unlikely to need 12 trains per hour just north of Papakura.
The other option is to run a shuttle between Papakura/Pukekohe and Manukau. Immediately this seems like probably the more viable of the two options – because post electrification the current plan is to run a shuttle train between Papakura and Pukekohe because the wires are only going as far south as Papakura. Extending the shuttle train north to Manukau would provide a service that makes use of the southern link – something like this:
I will get onto analysing the likely cost-effectiveness of extending the shuttle northwards in a minute, but the initial obvious problem with this option is the question of what to do once electrification is extended to Pukekohe – as is currently proposed to occur potentially in the not too distant future. Then we won’t have a diesel shuttle at all – in fact we shouldn’t have any diesel trains on the entire rail network – and therefore this interim solution no longer makes sense and we’re back to either the first option or continuing the shuttle as a duplication of the newly electrified direct service into town. In fact those are pretty much the same thing, come to think of it.
In any case, I think we need to look a bit closer at the cost-effectiveness of additional rail service south of Manukau if we’ve made the decision to not inconvenience those wanting to bypass Manukau (i.e. those travelling from Papakura to Newmarket or Britomart) by forcing them to detour into Manukau. For the shuttle option in particular, we need to look at whether it’s worth running the extra service kilometres between Papakura and Manukau for the number of additional passengers likely to catching the train. In essence, our potential “market” for the southern rail connection are the stations of Homai, Manurewa, Te Mahia (which mysteriously isn’t shown in the RPTP maps), Takanini, Papakura and Pukekohe. In particular, I guess the key point is what would a train service from the south to Manukau offer which is superior to the proposed bus network in the south:The map above is the proposed 2016 “all day network”, with lines in red indicating the rail system, blue indicating “frequency services” which will run at least every 15 minutes 7am-7pm, every day of the week and the green lines indicating the connector/secondary network that will operate at least half-hourly most hour of the day, every day of the week.
It’s a bit difficult to pick out routes individually but overall it seems like most places are covered fairly well by the all-day network (this is supported by a number of lower frequency routes not shown above) and it also seems like pretty much all the routes feed into Manukau city at their northern end. In other words, pretty much anywhere within walking distance of one of the train stations which form the ‘market’ for a southern connection into Manukau is already proposed to be served by a fairly high frequency regular bus service doing the same thing. Everywhere outside the walkable catchments of the train stations also manages to be served by these bus services that can take passengers to Manukau (which is why we wouldn’t want to do away with those services) as well as feed passengers into the rail network if they want to take trips to areas north of Manukau.
I think I’m finding myself coming to a couple of conclusions here. The first is that Manukau is simply in the wrong place. The idiots who chose to build a new city centre a few kilometres east of the railway line create a geometrical problem that is incredibly challenging to fix – do you divert trains away from where seemingly most people want to go in order to serve the important centre or do you terminate trains at the important centre, creating inefficient outcomes or missing connections?The second conclusion here is perhaps a recognition of the different roles of buses and trains in the public transport network. To over-simplify a bit, trains work well for longer-distance trips where speed and capacity is of the essence – but at the cost of coverage. Buses work really well for shorter trips because it’s much cheaper to spread them out and cover a wider area, yet they’re pretty slow and relatively low capacity so you don’t want to be running them on incredibly long and high demand routes because that becomes inefficient.
As a result of this second conclusion I think that there is a way to make a southern connection to Manukau work because there are important trips for it to serve – quite long distance trips where speed is important and coverage perhaps less important. That is a shuttle between Pukekohe and Manukau – however I think it is only after the significant greenfield development occurs between Papakura and Pukekohe and we see new stations at Paerata, Drury and perhaps somewhere between the two. Until then I think buses can probably do a better job at providing connections between Manukau and the hinterland to the south than a train can – and probably for a much lower cost.
The railway station boarding data finally released by Auckland Transport the other day allows some interesting analysis of which stations have experienced the most growth over time. I’ve put all the data together into one place, building on an earlier spreadsheet:
In terms of sheer numerical growth, Britomart is by far the winner – with Newmarket, Papatoetoe, New Lynn and Glen Innes other stations which have at least 1,000 more daily boardings now than they did back in 2003. In terms of percentage growth Pukekohe and many of the Eastern Line stations stand out – largely because they came off extremely low bases.
In terms of looking at each line, or part of line as I’ve broken both the southern and western lines (at Otahuhu and New Lynn) into inner and outer sections, it’s interesting to see that the inner parts of the network have grown at a higher percentage rate than further out – I guess previously people from far out caught the train even though the service was pretty bad because catching the bus was even worse. As the train system has improved there has been a shift from bus (and car too I imagine) to rail for shorter trips as well:
Because it’s difficult to compare the 1000% patronage growth of Pukekohe with the 1,000 trips per day growth of Glen Innes to get an idea about which stations have really been a huge success in recent years, I’ve analysed each station’s ranking and how those rankings have changed over time. Because not all stations have been around for all the years analysed, there are a few gaps. However this does show that Pukekohe and Panmure have really been stars, while Swanson, Te Mahia Ranui, Waitakere and Remuera have been the stations to go backwards the furtherest. Manurewa has bounced around in a particularly interesting way as well.
I wonder what this table will look like in a few years’ time.
With the release of the station boarding data in the post yesterday by Mr Anderson, and the recent sluggish patronage growth, its perhaps worthwhile looking at how things are going compared to projections. Again we can look at the supporting report for a lot of information as AT/AC attempted to answer one part of Steven Joyce’s question relating to evidence of patronage growth, particularly in the morning peak.
First of all, anyone who has followed this blog for long enough will know about how rail patronage has increased. In 2003 before Britomart opened rail patronage was sitting at about very low base of 2.5 million trips per annum, since that time it has shot up to over 10 million trips per annum now. While it is off a low base, it has easily outstripped population growth and the report says it has seen per capita usage jump from 2.2 trips per person to 7.3. over the same time morning peak patronage has increased very strongly going from 1,012 people arriving at Britomart during the two hour peak to 6055 in 2012. What the report notes is interesting however is that the percentage of off peak patronage growth, particularly in recent years has outstripped the level seen during the peak which is useful for showing that the improvements aren’t just about getting more peak users but that there are benefits off peak too.
It is pretty clear that that there has been some pretty big increases but the next question is if the increases were a result of a cannibalising of bus patronage. So the reported looked at the AM peak numbers and compared those with private vehicle numbers over time and from that we can see that both rail and buses have increased there share when it comes to accessing the city centre although for some reason ferry patronage wasn’t included which would explain why private vehicle usage is at 56% when the 2012 numbers were 50:50 between PT and car.
But what about those projections, well each of the projects over the years have had some form of projections attached to them. In 2001 when the council of the time was putting its case together for Britomart the report notes that the current transport model used was still being developed however it was working enough to get some basic results. There appear to have been two years that were modelled forecasting 10 and 20 years out (2011 and 2021) and the numbers are below:
So with the exception of outbound passengers in the morning peak, the actual numbers are considerably higher than even the 2021 projections (40% higher than 2011 prediction and 15% higher than 2021). In fact the change in daily patronage out of the station just between 2010 and 2011 was greater than what was predicted to occur between 2011 and 2021. What’s more the author of the report notes that the projections included the network and frequencies being in a similar state to what they are in now and included electrification.
The next set of projections come from the 2006 rail development plan which is what really kicked off project DART and electrification. While it appears we are tracking at less than what was forecast, there are some fairly important reasons for that. The forecast was based on by now there being more frequent services and importantly was based on electrification being started almost straight away and completed in 2011. It was however delayed by both the previous and current governments and we are now not expecting all the trains to roll out to the network till 2015/16. The report notes that the 2016 forecast patronage has now been revised up higher from 15.7 million trips to 17.3 million.
Electrification had been forecast to be completed in 2011
We also have projections for Onehunga, which ended up opening later than expected (from memory it was initially said that it would open in 2009 but didn’t open till late 2010. Even so AM actual numbers seem to be a little bit ahead of projections while the all day numbers are not far off.
This post is starting to get a little long so tomorrow I will look at some of the reasons that have been identified as being responsible for the increase in patronage but it is pretty clear from reading through the report so far that we seem to constantly underestimate rail patronage. As the same modelling is being used, that means it is quite likely that projections in the CCFAS and the original business case have also been underestimated and that could have significant impact on the outcome of the economic analysis.
Back in June 2011 Auckland Transport released station boarding data for each railway station between 2003 and 2010. The results obviously show significant growth throughout the entire network, but particularly at some stations (like Panmure and Pukekohe) and less so in other areas (like Waitakere and Te Mahia). Here are the numbers from 2003 to 2010:
For some reason Auckland Transport has been rather less than proactive in releasing the numbers for 2011 and 2012. However, finally a LGOIMA request by Arthur Stokes has flushed the information out. So here it is:As can be seen in the tables above, the 2012 numbers may have been affected by some operational issues on the day that the counts were made (presumably with the Hop Card and the passenger counting technology on the EMUs we’ll be able to get this data for any day of the year).
A few thoughts:
- The numbers are a bit all over the place for a lot of stations over the two years, highlighting the issues associated with looking at just one day.
- Overall daily boardings grew from 35,750 in 2010 to 43,346 in 2012 – though pretty much all that growth was between 2010 and 2011. This reflects the stagnation of rail patronage in 2012.
- Manukau’s boarding numbers are pretty embarrassingly low. Opening the bus interchange and MIT on top of the station can’t happen soon enough. Oh, and for Auckland Transport to stop wasting money on empty parking buildings.
- Waitakere, Te Mahia and Westfield are still the three quietest stations on the network and I would think their days are numbered, though all three stations had a bit of patronage growth in 2012.
- New Lynn is now the
third fourth busiest station on the network, overtaking the southern cluster of Papakura, Manurewa, Papatoetoe and Middlemore.
- Grafton’s growth has continued strongly in the last couple of years since it opened in 2010.
I’m not sure why this data has been so difficult to get out of Auckland Transport, but great that it’s finally available.
Included with the City Centre Future Access Study documentation released late last year were the answers to a number of questions that the previous Minister of Transport, Steven Joyce, had asked in mid 2011. As well as requesting the preparation of what turned into the CCFAS, Joyce requested the following:
- “Finalisation of the spatial plan and master plan including establishing achievable growth projections for the CBD
- Demonstration of a commitment to resolving current CBD issues, for example by improving bus operations and addressing capacity issues
- Evidence of rail patronage increases, particularly in the morning peak, residential intensification and CBD regeneration as a result of current investment
- Beginning implementation of large scale residential developments along the rail corridors
- Implementation of additional park and ride sites, and changes to bus feeder services”
There’s a lot of really interesting information in Auckland Council and Auckland Transport’s response to these questions, but for this post I’m going to look at an element of the third question: evidence of residential intensification as a result of current investment.
To help get an understanding of the level of intensification past/current investment in the rail network might have stimulated, the report compares growth since 2001 in areas with good proximity to the rail network with growth in other areas that were already urbanised in 2001 These are the areas looked at:
A couple of years back Steven Joyce suggested that most intensification in recent years had actually occurred away from the rail corridors, by saying this:
Yep, we should allow the city to increase in density (watch councillors run a mile when it comes time for the district plan changes), and we should support cost-effective transport options that support that. But we also have to understand that people like to live where they want to live, and provide cost-effective transport options (roads even!) for those people too. Amusingly, Auckland has increased in density in recent times. But largely not where the central planners said it would, (along the transport corridors) and instead in the beach-side suburbs. Fancy that.
I suspect that Joyce asked Auckland Council the question about where intensification occurred because he thought he’d be able to say “gotcha!” then the results showed that investment in rail had not had any impact on development patterns.
Comparing the level of growth in Census Area Units near the rail corridors with the level of growth elsewhere in Auckland would test Joyce’s assumption and also help answer his question – of whether the investment in rail upgrades had coincided with higher rates of growth in nearby areas (recognising of course that correlation does not necessarily mean causation.
The results are quite interesting:
These results are reinforced by analysis of consents by type (looking just at the Auckland City Council area this time):
This shows that almost all “higher intensity” housing typologies like apartments and terraced houses constructed within the old Auckland City Council area over the past five years have been in the rail CAUs.
The report concludes that it would seem Steven Joyce was wrong and intensification has definitely been occurring at a higher rate in areas close to the rail system compared to other parts of Auckland:
Both population trends and building consent data indicate that intensification has occurred at a faster rate within the rail CAUs than elsewhere in Auckland since 2001. Development within the rail CAUs has occurred in a variety of different ways, reflecting different development markets in different parts of Auckland. Some important trends include:
- Significant construction of apartments in the city centre.
- A number of larger-scale intensive developments around inner parts of the rail network (e.g. Newmarket, Mt Eden, Kingsland and New Lynn stations).
- New development areas around stations in the outer parts of the network (e.g. Sturges Road and Takanini stations).
- General infill and small-scale intensification across the network.
- Increasing household sizes in the outer Southern Line part of the network.
Combining analysis of population trends and building consent information with economic analysis suggests that improved rail services boost property values and therefore makes intensification more economically viable. It would appear that this process has happened in Auckland over the past decade, although in different ways in different areas – reflecting varying market characteristics across Auckland.
I think the way in which the report notes how intensification has occurred differently in different areas is quite important. I suspect the assumptions made by Steven Joyce (and others) around ‘apartments next to railway lines’ is an over-simplification of how intensification can occur. Apartments are clearly only market attractive in some locations and it’s unrealistic to expect them to be built right throughout the rail corridors any time particularly soon. However, other forms of growth such as general infill, new growth around some stations, small-scale intensification as well as apartments and terraces have happened and overall it seems clear that there has at least been a correlation between the rail corridors and a higher level of development over the past decade.
Not for the first time, it seems that Steven Joyce was wrong.