This is a guest post by reader Malcolm McCaskill based in Hamilton, Victoria.
When visiting Auckland earlier this year, I was surprised how slow the trains were compared with those here in Australia. To see what travel times should be achievable when the dwell time issue is resolved, I assembled timetable and distance data from Auckland, Wellington, Melbourne and Perth, using publicly available timetables and distances between stations from Google Earth. I then used linear regression to develop a relationship for each line between travel time for an in-bound morning peak service and distance between stations. The best relationship was for Wellington’s Kapiti line, which explained 97% of variation, and had an intercept of 1.0 (minutes per station) and slope coefficient of 0.85 (minutes per km). This implies that for each station the combination of deceleration, dwell time and acceleration adds one minute to travel time, and that without stations the average speed would be 71 km/hr. This regression approach was much less successful for other lines, because there was less variation in station spacing. For example on the Eastern Line it only explained 11% of variation. So I used the Kapiti relationship as a benchmark to compare the other lines, calculating travel times using these coefficients from the distance between stations. For all lines except Kapiti, timetabled travel times were unusually long when approaching the terminal station, so I did the calculations for the station before the terminus, because it is not a dwell time issue, and instead one of platform availability. How did Auckland perform ?
Auckland’s Eastern Line is currently timetabled to be 4.2 minutes slower (13%) than the Kapiti benchmark, while the Western Line was 8.8 minutes slower (20%). Melbourne’s Pakenham line was marginally faster (2%) than the benchmark, while Perth’s Fremantle line was 21% faster.
So we would expect that if the dwell time project looks to Wellington for optimal practices, Auckland should achieve travel time improvements of 13-20%. However if it looks to Perth there should be further travel time improvements in the order of 21%. Achieving times similar to Perth should be quite feasible, because like Auckland, its trains are powered by a 25 kV AC electrical system, which enables both regenerative braking and much faster acceleration than the 1.5 kV DC system used in Wellington and Melbourne.
Faster travel times are not simply an issue of passengers travelling faster. It is the equivalent of increasing the fleet size without having to purchase more trains, while also increasing the productivity of train crews, leading to a reduction in subsidies.
This benchmark approach is also useful to estimate travel times post-CRL travel times. From New Lynn to Britomart travel times would decline from the current 34 minutes to 19, or a saving of 15 minutes, while the travel time to Aotea would be 17 minutes. This is equivalent to halving its distance from the CBD.
[editors note] when the new Western line timetable goes live in May we may see some improvements in travel times while AT have say the next timetable change (likely next year) will see them incorporate many of track, signalling and operational improvements being implemented.
Along with the important issue of local point to point access of new cycling and walking infrastructure, as discussed in this cross-post with Bike Auckland [remember to submit by Thursday, especially if you are local] there is also the issue of increasing access to important Transit stops, especially RTN Stations, to improve their value. Below is a screen grab from MR Cagney’s excellent ‘Catchies’ work on Auckland’s existing RTN Station catchments. The shaded circles describe a 1km ‘as the crow flies’ diameter from each station, the coloured blobs show the actual 1km reach once street and walkway patterns are added. These then are a sort of visual description the difference between catchment theory and practice on the Auckland RTN.
Both Meadowbank and Orakei Stations exhibit some of the most limited catchments on the whole network [comparable to ferry wharves, which are by nature only half a circle] both are particularly severed from their potential local catchments by natural and artificial phenomena. In Orakei’s case development immediately around the station, much better and more frequent bus services, and increasing local road suitability for cycling and walking, are the answer to increasing its reach. For Meadowbank however, only one of those options is available; it will never have a major bus service because it is in a secluded valley away from the road network, and nor is the surrounding land able to be developed. The only way to improve its performance is to improve its walking and cycling connections, and here with the GI to Tamaki cycleway there is surely the opportunity to do just that.
Orakei, Meadowbank, and Glen Innes Stations on the Eastern Line
Especially to reach across the valley to Selwyn College in particular.
The Pourewa Valley section of the GI-Tamaki Shared Path. The Selwyn College playing fields are visible above the Path as it kinks away from the rail line.
The new shared path does offer potential connections up the valley and even though they will be beyond the classic Station 800-1000m catchment range, I have little doubt they would be used as the experience of starting and ending the work or school day with a walk or ride through the verdant Pourewa Valley is pretty attractive. Additionally the bus or driving alternative can be subject to congestion especially through the natural pinch points of our folded topography. The utility of network will of course increase dramatically once the CRL is open too; what a great way for people in this neighbourhood to get to Eden Park for example.
The Eastern Line is a tremendously fast and competitive option as shown by the modal comparison chart for Panmure below, but the reach of its stations certainly need work. Panmure itself has now got great bus connection and Glen Innes is currently in a walking and cycling improvement work programme.
Sylvia Park pretty much only serves the mall and desperately needs new connections to the east:
With work all these stations could add even greater value to the network, now that the train service, at least at the peaks, is frequent and high quality. The Eastern Line has been a star improver since electrification, but it still has capacity for more of its stations to push up the leader board. This can only be achieved with detailed work to remove the very real barriers to entry all along the network. Even a secluded and arguably poorly placed station like Meadowbank can be improved when an opportunity like this Shared Path comes along.
AT have kindly sent us the Train Station HOP data for for the last two calendar years. Note that these data are incomplete, not including those travelling on legacy paper tickets, transferring, or on special event services. See here for Matt’s mid year post where on these data were then.
As expected these are great numbers; there’s spectacular growth across the network. Highlights include:
- Manukau City takes off now MIT is open: 118% growth jumping in rank from 24th to 13th. Strong growth is likely to continue once the Bus Interchange there opens.
- Panmure is the next big mover, leaping up 52%, from 12th to 5th. I guess we can expect a similar burst at Otahuhu too once the new Interchange is up and running.
- Britomart adds a million new movements each way. The top 10 stations are now over 400k, last year only 3 were.
- Next year should see Britomart over 5mil, Newmarket 1 mil, and most of the rest of the top 10 over 500k.
- Grafton still the most asymmetrical station other than Britomart; 69k more alightings than boardings, showing that downhilling is still strong there. This is people heading to the city via Grafton but returning via another route, many likely using Britomart, which shows more some 169k more boardings than alightings.
Here’s the top 15 ranked by 2015 boardings. The positive movers are all on the Eastern Line, which has had the new trains the longest, and biggest upgrade in frequency. And the biggest two movers have shiny new stations: Manukau City with the new MIT above, and Panmure with a new bus interchange. The Eastern Line also has very good bones; it has no level crossings, is fast, straight and direct and now some good attractors to unlock those advantages. As well as the two stations mentioned above, the mall at Sylvia Park is clearly drawing customers by train, which adds to the long strong destinations of Papatoetoe, Middlemore, and GI. Even the minor stations on the line improve well over the year: Puhinui the 3rd highest proportionate change at 43.9%, Meadowbank; 5th, 33.0%, and Papatoetoe, by no means minor; 6th, 31.3%. Papatoetoe still the forth busiest station in 2015, but will it be overtaken by Panmure this year? Which would be impressive as Papatoetoe has twice the number of services. It is clearly time that businesses took advantage of all those people at Panmure station; it’s still sitting in a land-use desert.
It’s pretty clear what works; investment in stations and interchanges [Panmure], alignment with land use [Manukau City], and improved service. I think it is likely that the Eastern Line still has more growth in it, as the results of improvements to frequency and capacity on the Western Line planned for this year may not fully come through until next year. If we have learnt nothing else from the changes to places like Sylvia Part and Manukau City is that it can take a little while for these changes to be reflected in pax numbers. Although the lower growth percentages from Western Line stations does suggest they are being held back by capacity and frequency constraint [exception: Avondale; jumping 29.3% up one place to 16th busiest].
What else can we learn from these data?
There are many reasons to be concerned about the plan to add more road lanes across Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour: from the extreme cost of building such big tunnels and interchanges [$5-$6 billion and four times as much as just building rail tunnels], to the undesirable flooding of city streets and North Shore local roads with even more cars, to the increase in air pollution and carbon emission this will create, the loss of valuable city land to expanded on and off ramps and parking structures, to the impact on the harbour of exhaust stacks and a supersized motorway on the Shore, to the pressure this will put on the rest of the motorway system particularly through the narrow throat of Spaghetti Junction. It is both the most expensive and least efficient way to add capacity across this route, and if resilience is the aim then the double-down on reliance the motorway system rather works against this. This one project will simply crowd out any other changes we could make of scale in Auckland or the country for years; yet it changes almost nothing; it simply enables more vehicles to travel across a short point in the middle of the city, yet this is by no means an obviously good thing: The list of unwanted outcomes from the current proposal is so extensive that the benefits had better be so extraordinary and so absolutely certain in order to balance them all.
But perhaps there is no greater reason to not do it than that it simply won’t improve things for drivers.
Really? How can this be? As well the obvious problem with this project that it will add super capacity for a short stretch of the motorway network and therefore just shifts any bottleneck to the next constriction, particularly the extremely difficult to expand CMJ or Spaghetti Junction, there’s also a bigger structural problem with building more roads to fight traffic congestion. It can’t work. We all have experienced being stuck in traffic on a motorway and sat there wishing if only the authorities had just built an extra lane all would be sweet, well it would, wouldn’t it? However the evidence from all round the world shows that while that may help for a little while it never lasts, especially in a thriving city and especially if these extension starve the alternatives of funding, condemning ever more people to vehicle trips on our roads. Soon we’re stuck again wishing for another few billions worth of extra lanes all over again.
Here’s how it works; each new lane or route simply incentivises new vehicle journeys that weren’t made before; a well known phenomenon called induced demand. Road building is also traffic building, the more we invest in roads the more traffic and driving we get, and not just on the new road; everywhere. Traffic congestion is, of course, simply too much traffic, too much driving. Take for example the I-10 in Houston, the Katy Freeway. In that famously auto-dependent city they freely spent Federal money and local taxes disproportionately on just one way to try to beat traffic congestion, the supply side: ever more tarmac [Houstonians can boast the greatest spend per capita on freeways in the US]. The I-10 which began at six to eight lanes has just had its latest ‘upgrade’ to no fewer than 26 lanes! That ought to be more than enough in a flat city with multiple routes and only half the population Los Angeles. So what happened? According to recent analysis it has made driving this route significantly worse.
Traveling out I-10 is now 33% worse – almost 18 more minutes of your time – than it was before we spent $2.8 billion to subsidize land speculation and encourage more driving.
But hang on, those trips must need to be made, right, or people wouldn’t make them. Well in the absence of direct pricing it is hard to know exactly how valuable these new trips are. So first they really ought to price routes like the I-10 properly to reduce unnecessary journeys clogging up the valuable ones, like the truckies and trades [it is partially tolled now]. But the real problem in cities like Houston is the absence of any useful alternatives to driving [an earlier extension of I-10 took out an existing rail line!]. Providing those alternatives is how congestion is best dealt with. Not completely solved of course, that can only happen by collapse of the city economy like in Detroit, and no-one wants that solution. But traffic congestion can be made both manageable and, for many, no longer an issue, by providing them with attractive alternative options. And in turn this frees up the roads sufficiently for those who have to or prefer to drive. Especially when this is done in conjunction with direct price signals- road pricing; tolls or network or cordon charges.
Houston may be forever too far gone down this hopeless road but that doesn’t mean we have to follow it. Here is a description of the same problem in Sydney, with the solution:
Most people will take whichever transport option is fastest. They don’t care about the mode. If public transport is quicker they’ll catch a train or a bus, freeing up road space. If driving is quicker, they’ll jump in their car, adding to road congestion. In this way, public transport speeds determine road speeds. The upshot is that increasing public transport speeds is one of the best options available to governments and communities wanting to reduce road traffic congestion.
This is called the Nash Equilibrium [I would rather say better than faster; there are a number of variables including speed that inform our choices];
This relationship is one of the key mechanisms that make city systems tick. It is basic microeconomics, people shifting between two different options until there is no advantage in shifting and equilibrium is found. We can see this relationship in data sets that make comparisons between international cities. Cities with faster public transport speeds generally have faster road speeds.
Which brings us to the Waitemata Harbour. It currently has 13 general traffic lanes across two bridges, one walking and cycling lane on the upper harbour bridge, and some ferry services generally not competing with these crossings. The Harbour Bridge carries increasing numbers of buses from the hugely successful Northern Busway, the very success of which exactly proves the theory of the equilibrium described by Dr Ziebots above. In the morning peak the buses carry around 40% of the people without even a single dedicated lane on the bridge itself. And it is all the people using the busway that allow the traffic lanes to move at all. In fact NZTA argue that one of the main reasons for building a new crossing is the numbers and the size of the buses now using the current one.
The Upper Harbour Bridge is about become significantly busier because of the multiple billions being spent on the Waterview connection between SH20 and SH16, the widening of SH16, and the bigger interchange between SH81 and SH1 on the Shore. These huge motorway expansions will generate more traffic of course, but also will provide an alternative to driving across the lower Harbour Bridge.
What is missing anywhere between the North Shore and the city is a Rapid Transit alternative to these road lanes. Like Sydney always has had.
It is its [Sydney Harbour Bridge] multi-modality that makes it truly impressive, some 73% of the people entering Sydney on the Bridge from the Shore at this time are doing so on just one of the train lines and one bus lane; a fraction of the width of the whole structure. So not only does it shame our Harbour bridge aesthetically it completely kills it for efficiency too.
Auckland’s bridge was always only ever designed for road traffic, and should be left that way, the clear way forward is to add the missing Rapid Transit route as the next major additional crossing [after adding the SkyPath to the existing bridge].
In 1992 it [Sydney Harbour Bridge] was supplemented by a pair of two lane road tunnels that up the cross harbour tally for this mode to match the number coming over by train [bridge plus tunnels = 12 traffic lanes], but that wasn’t done until the population of the city had hit 3.7 million. The high capacity systems on the bridge saved the people of Sydney and Australia from spending huge sums on additional crossings and delayed the date they were deemed necessary by many decades. But anyway, because the additional crossing is just road lanes it only adds around 10% extra capacity to the bridge. To think that the government here and NZTA are seriously proposing to spend multiple billions in building a third Harbour Crossing in Auckland with the population only at 1.5m, but not only that but they are planning to build more capacity for the least efficient mode; more traffic lanes.
The good people at NZTA of course know this, but we just seem stuck in a bad habit of road building in a similar way as Houston is, because the money for motorway building comes from central government some people believe this makes it free, in a similar way that the highways in the US are largely funded by the Federal government, unlike public transport, which is more locally funded [Known as ‘path dependency’ and is well covered in the academic literature: Imran, Pearce 2014]. This means the pressure to evaluate the effectiveness of motorways over the alternatives is much weaker. Here is a slide from an NZTA presentation proudly proclaiming how much more traffic this massive project will generate:
Of course this growth can be met by a parallel Rapid Transit system instead. The success of the Busway here and the enormous uptake of the recently improved Rail Network show that Aucklanders are the same as city dwellers everywhere and will use good Transit systems when they get the chance. And two much smaller and therefore cheaper train tunnels have much greater capacity than the proposed six traffic tunnels. Twice as much in fact: the equivalent of twelve lanes and without adding a single car to city streets. Furthermore converting the Busway to a rail system, which is entirely possible, and depending on the system may even be quick and easy, means that buses can be completely removed from bridge freeing up more capacity there for general traffic; cars and trucks:
- Removing buses from the existing bridge would free up some capacity. 200 buses per peak hour ~= 1,000 cars ~= 60% capacity of a traffic lane. So a dedicated PT crossing provides car users with an extra lane (once you account for reverse direction). Not huge, but not negligible either.
- Mode shift: by providing a fast and more direct alternative route you will get mode shift, providing more space to the cars that remain. So you have more vehicle capacity and less demand = a real congestion benefit.
So compared to a new road tunnel where both crossings would need to be tolled, and simply generate more competing traffic for drivers through the whole city, the dedicated PT option would seem to be better even for motorists. The better, faster, and more attractive the Rapid Transit route the freer the driving route will remain; with more people choosing the car-free option: The higher the Transit utility; the higher the driving utility.
Of course while a rail crossing will be considerably cheaper to build than a road crossing it still needs a network either side of the harbour to make it useful. Are there good options for this? In fact there are a number of very good options, all with varying advantages and disadvantages that need serious investigation. And it is important to remember by the time this project is being built the public transit networks in Auckland will be considerably more mature. The City Rail Link will have transformed the newly electrified rail network to a central role in the city, it will quickly have doubled from 2015’s 15 million annual trips to 30 million and more. The New Bus Network will be functioning and with the new integrated zonal fare system meaning people will be used to transferring across routes and modes to speed through the city. The increase in bus numbers and population will make driving in the city less functional. There will certainly many tens of thousands more people in the city without their car, many with business or other reasons to travel across to the Shore. And importantly there will almost certainly be a new Light Rail system running from the central isthmus down Queen St and terminating downtown.
The quickest and cheapest to build will probably be to take the city Light Rail system through Wynyard Quarter and across the harbour, as outlined by Matt here. The busway can be most easily converted for this technology, as it is already designed for it. Furthermore being the only rail system that can run on streets it can also most easily include branches to Takapuna and even Milford to the east, and from Onewa up to Glenfield. This also has the advantage of balancing the existing city-side routes, unlocking a downtown terminus, not unlike the CRL does for the rail network.
What a North Shore light metro network map might look like.
Higher capacity and with the great advantage of cheaper to run driverless systems are is Light Metro like the massively successful SkyTrain in Vancouver. As described for Auckland here. However like extending our current rail system to the harbour it would require a more expensive city-side tunnel to Aotea Station for connection to city network. We know work has been done to prepare Aotea station for this possibility. Matt has also explored other variations here.
Perhaps the best answer for both the near term and the long term is to build tunnels that can take our new Light Rail vehicles for the years ahead but are also capable of being converted to the higher capacity Light Metro when the demand builds so much to justify the further investment of the city tunnel between Wynyard and Aotea Station. Bearing in mind the LR vehicles AT are planning for are high capacity [450pax ] and they can run in the cross harbour tunnels and the busway at very high frequencies. And that Light Metro systems can use track geometries much closer to LR than can conventional rail systems.
So in summary, the bane of the motorist and the commercial driver, traffic congestion, is best dealt with on the demand-side as well as the supply-side. We have spent 60 years just supplying more tarmac, and now it is time to get on with addressing the demand side: Building quality alternatives and providing clear incentives to fine-tune peoples choices.
And, just like road building, investing in quality Rapid Transit will grow the demand for more of it. It will also shift land use, incentivising agglomeration economies and greater intensification around transport nodes, as well as individual habits to suit this option more. What we feed, with infrastructure investment, grows. And vitally, inducing this sort of movement instead of driving is entirely consistent with other the demands of this century; especially our country’s new commitments to reduce our carbon emissions, and the use of our own abundant and renewably generated energy.
This project is both so expensive and potentially so valuable or so damaging that it needs a fully informed public debate about the possibilities. Gone are the days that NZTA can just keep building what its used to without real analysis of all alternatives, or that a politically expedient option sails by without serious evaluation. Because it can be transformed into a truly great asset for the city and the nation on this important route from the eye-wateringly expensive and clearly dubious idea from last century that it is now.
What’s clearly missing from this picture, especially once Light Rail fills ‘The Void’, and some form of rail goes to the airport?:
Body without a head: Official post CRL rail running pattern
They’ve been a few interesting pieces of news from Wellington over the last last week.
Transdev to run Wellington’s trains
Transdev – who run the trains in Auckland – has been picked as the preferred operator for the trains in Wellington. This is an interesting result as for one it means trains in both Auckland and Wellington will have the same operator. Whether this is a good or a bad thing will have to remain to be seen. The Dominion Post reported the company was surveying people earlier in the year asking about ideas such as quiet cars, indicators to say where seats were available and WiFi. All of which begs the question of if they’ve thought of it, why they aren’t doing it in Auckland already. Presumably their holding some improvements back while they wait for Auckland Transport to go out to tender again or restart the current tender process*.
Just whether changes will lead to growth is something we’ll follow closely. In recent year’s patronage in the capital has increased but not by much.
*Auckland was also running a tender for rail services with the short-list also being Transdev, Kiwirail and Serco however AT postponed it in September citing uncertainty over the outcome of the Auckland Transport Alignment Process. As such they extended Transdev’s contract.
Greater Wellington Regional Council has selected Transdev Australasia in association with Hyundai Rotem as its preferred future operator for Wellington’s metro rail service.
The Regional Council will now begin negotiations with Transdev to finalise the terms of the 15 year contract. Subject to those negotiations being successful, a new contract is intended to commence on 1 July 2016.
The jobs of 400 TranzMetro staff who currently deliver Wellington’s metro rail service and maintain the new Matangi trains will be preserved. GWRC’s contract will require Transdev and Hyundai Rotem to offer employment to those staff on the same or more favourable conditions.
GWRC Chair Chris Laidlaw says the selection of a preferred operator is a significant milestone towards a new era for public transport in the Wellington region. “The rail contract is the first of all new, performance-based contracts for our train, bus and harbour ferry services. The new contracts will mean better services for customers and provide strong incentives for operators to grow patronage by making public transport easier and smarter.”
Mr Laidlaw also acknowledged the very competitive tenders submitted by the two other tenderers. Those tenderers were Keolis Downer in partnership with KiwiRail, and the UK based rail operator Serco.
Transdev currently operates the Auckland passenger rail service under contract to Auckland Transport and operates rail, tram and bus services in 19 countries across 5 continents.
Hyundai Rotem is the manufacturer of the region’s Matangi electric train fleet.
Commenting on its selection by GWRC, Transdev Australasia’s Acting CEO, Mr Peter Lodge said “We are very excited by the news today and look forward to the next stage of the process and concluding the contract with GWRC in the New Year.”
GWRC will not be making further comment until negotiations with Transdev are completed and a decision has been made to award the contract. This is likely to occur in March 2016.
Diesel buses set to replace trolley buses
As part of a new bus network the regional council will phase out the use of the electric trolley buses in 2017 in favour of diesel buses that they can eventually replace with battery powered buses. It is part of their change to a new bus network but does sound like an odd way of going about things. As an example it raises the question of why not just skip straight to battery buses which as a technology are advancing quickly. It also seems a bit odd that they think they’ll get a whole heap of new diesel buses now and that bus companies will replace them again in just a few year’s time. That sounds like a recipe for bus companies charging a lot more to run services as they amortise the cost of the buses over a shorter time frame.
Wellington’s new bus network
The Wellington region now has a clear path to an all-electric bus fleet after the Regional Council made some decisions today on how best to get there.
Chris Laidlaw, Chair of Greater Wellington Regional Council, says an exciting future is in store for bus travel in the region. “We are determined to be the first region in the country with an all-electric bus fleet when the technology is more mature and affordable. We expect to progressively introduce electric buses to the region within the next five years, starting with an electric bus demonstration in the first half of 2016.
“In the interim, however, we need to begin upgrading the Wellington City bus fleet. High capacity buses are a vital part of the new, simpler and more convenient network which will be rolled out in early 2018. The new network will give 75% of residents, compared to 45% at present, access within 1km to a high frequency bus route. Services will run through the CBD instead of stopping or starting at Wellington Station or Courtenay Place as many do currently. This, coupled with the use of high capacity buses, will speed up travel times for everyone.
“The Council has decided that an upgraded fleet should include new low emission double decker buses, ten of which will be hybrids. These will replace the older diesel buses in the fleet and the trolley buses, which are being phased out in 2017 because of their unreliability, the high cost of upgrading and maintaining the infrastructure and incompatibility with the new routes. The upgrade will mean that by 2018 the average age of the fleet will be five years compared to 13 at present and overall tailpipe emissions levels of the fleet will be about 33% lower than they are now.
“The biggest gain we can make in contributing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions is to get people out of their cars and onto public transport, and this is why the bus fleet strategy that we’ve endorsed this week is so important. By removing the trolley buses and the old diesels we can deliver services that are fast, reliable, comfortable, easy to use and that go where people want to go. And the only way to achieve these big changes by 2018 is by replacing those vehicles with the best technology available, which is a mix of hybrid buses and new low emission diesels.”
Mr Laidlaw says the Regional Council will be going to tender around April next year for new bus service contracts and will be working with operators to bring their ideas and innovations on how to provide a low emission bus fleet for the region.
“We also plan to hold a symposium around the middle of next year on electric vehicles, bringing everyone together to ensure we make the most of the exciting opportunities on the horizon. Electric vehicles are coming and the challenge is to prepare the way for these by agreeing on the infrastructural needs. Wellington region is poised to lead the country to a cleaner, smarter transport future and we’re determined to make this happen.”
Island Bay Cycleway
While the work to build the Island Bay parking protected cycleway continues, some parts are already open and it looks fantastic. Unfortunately, the people who have long opposed any change to the street – claiming that the road was already safe (because only the hardy used it) and that people would be doored by passengers on the left have continued to fight the project.
A new cycleway through the heart of Wellington’s southern suburbs is threatening to tear the community apart, as thousands vent their anger at its “confusing” design.
Critics of the Island Bay cycleway have labelled it “a death trap” and say it has made one of the city’s main arterial roads too narrow for buses, reduced visibility for motorists on adjoining streets, and even made it “impossible” for some residents to pull out of their driveways.
But many also say the cycleway looks fantastic and will make life easier and safer for people on bikes.
There is a very good post on the project responding to many of the claims from supporters of the project and where the image below is from showing there is plenty of space for doors to open and not hit people on bikes.
Another claim levelled at the project is that the road isn’t wide enough for a protected cycleway. This image from Stuff highlights the width well. You can see the cycleway on each side (with some cars parked in it), the parking and the road lanes. It looks like plenty of space to me.
This is AT’s official future vision for the Rapid Transit Network in Auckland. I feel the need to show this again in the context of a number of uninformed views about the CRL popping up again, as one of the chief misunderstandings is to treat the City Rail Link as a single route outside of the network it serves.
All successful transport systems are designed through network thinking and not just as a bunch of individual routes, this is true of our existing and extensive motorway network just as it is true for our rapidly growing Rapid Transit one. The Waterview tunnel is not being built just so people can drive from Mt Roskill to Pt Chev, and nor is the CRL just to connect Mt Eden to downtown.
The CRL is but one project on the way to a whole city-wide network, as is clearly shown below, and as such it doesn’t do everything on its own.
But then having said that because it is at the heart of the current and future city-wide network it is the most crucial and valuable point of the whole system. That is true today and will continue to true for as long as there is a city on this Isthmus. In fact it is hard to overstate the value of the CRL as by through-routing the current rail system it is as if it gives Auckland a full 100km Metro system for the cost of a pair of 3.4km tunnels and a couple of stations. This is simply the best bargain going in infrastructure in probably any city of Auckland’s size anywhere in the world and is certainly the best value transport project of scale in New Zealand. Because it is transformational* for the city and complementary to all our existing systems, especially the near complete urban motorway network.
Additionally the capacity it adds to the region’s whole travel supply is immense: taking up to 48 trains an hour this can move the equivalent of 12 motorway lanes of car traffic. All without flattening any place nor need to park or circulate those vehicles on local roads and streets. And all powered by our own renewably generated electricity. This is how the city grows both in scale and quality without also growing traffic congestion.
This map will evolve over time as each addition is examined in detail. For example I expect the cost-effectiveness and efficiency a rail system over the harbour, up the busway and to Takapuna to become increasingly apparent well before this time period. In fact as the next harbour crossing, so we are likely to see that in the next decade, otherwise this is that pattern that both the physical and social geography of Auckland calls for. Additionally Light Rail on high quality right-of-ways, although not true Rapid Transit, will also likely be added in the near term.
Welcome to Auckland: City.
* = transformational because it substantially changes not only our movement options, the quality of accessibility between places throughout the city and without the use of a car, but also Auckland’s very idea of itself; we have not been a Metro city before: It is doing things differently.
Matt suggested adding this more recent version. I agree this is a good idea, it shows just how quickly ideas are changing in Auckland right now. This is a very fluid and exciting time for the city as the new possibilities are becoming acknowledged by all sorts of significant players. It remains my view that extending our existing rail system is better for Mangere and the Airport, but that taking AT’s proposed LR across the harbour in its own new crossing is a really good option:
And just this morning we get wind of these very big changes for those making plans for Auckland. It looks like the funding roadblocks [pun intended] for the necessary urban infrastructure that the growing and shifting Auckland needs may be melting away….?
Auckland Transport have announced that construction will start next year on an upgrade to the Pukekohe Station, turning it into an interchange with the buses that will serve the area.
Construction will begin in the first half of 2016 on the upgrade of Pukekohe Station to a new bus-train interchange.
The project, being delivered in partnership with the NZ Transport Agency, is expected to cost about $13 million.
The upgrade will feature a park and ride for about 80 vehicles, a six-bay bus interchange, cycle parking, a covered walkway and a new canopied pedestrian over-bridge linking buses to trains. Auckland Transport is about to begin work on detailed design.
The new bus-train interchange is at the heart of the new public transport network to be rolled out across Pukekohe and Waiuku by October 2016. New bus services, operating every 30 minutes, seven days a week from 7am to 7pm, will connect to trains at the interchange.
Temporary bus stops will be in place during construction to allow the new network to operate smoothly until the interchange is completed in mid-2017.
The new public transport network is designed to maximise the efficiency of the entire public transport network between buses and trains and provide more frequent journeys to get around south Auckland and the rest of the region.
Franklin Local Board Chair, Andy Baker, welcomes the proposed changes to Pukekohe Station.
“We all know about the pressures of growth in the wider Pukekohe area and the challenges we currently have with our rail based public transport.
“The upgrade of Pukekohe station is incredibly important as we try to make travelling by rail more attractive to people and this is actually something that we can control.
“Creating the ability for people to transfer between buses and trains, together with the improved bus networks in Pukekohe will hopefully reduce the need for people to park their cars in and around the station.
“Similarly, we want to really promote the use of bicycles to get to and from the station, especially with Pukekohe being a relatively flat and easy place to bike around. I am keen to see additional things like a coffee cart or café at the station and a reflection of our history there as well.”
Councillor Bill Cashmore says it’s great that improvements are on the way for Pukekohe commuters.
“It’s a huge growth area and I’m pleased to see we are finally getting a transport interchange that will be able to cope with the increased demand.”
Auckland Transport Project Director, Nick Seymour, says the new interchange will make it easy to use the new bus services being introduced with the new Pukekohe public transport network.
“Pukekohe Station will be at the heart of the area’s new public transport network, so one of our priorities is to provide a modern and accessible interchange that connects commuters both locally and to the wider region.”
Key features are likely to include:
- A six-bay bus interchange
- A covered walkway between the new bus stops and station over-bridge
- A new canopied pedestrian over-bridge, linking the buses with the rail platform and Station Road with stairs and lifts thereby making it more accessible
- A park and ride facility for approximately 80 vehicles
- Cycle parking facilities
- Plans to provide public toilets within the interchange area
- Improved pathways leading to the interchange
- Improvements to the Manukau Road and Custom Street and Harris Street intersections to aid bus movements.
A public information day has been organised on 14 October 2015 at Pukekohe Station from 5 to 7 pm for members of the public to speak with the project team and get their questions answered.
Auckland Transport will also be engaging with mana whenua, Franklin Historical Society and the Franklin Local Board to identify possible opportunities to incorporate cultural and historical connections into the design.
Here is the confirmed bus routes that will serve the Pukekohe area
Now if we could also get some wires strung up between Puke and Papakura along with some additional trains to run on the tracks that would make things even better.
A presentation by Kiwirail (from page 41) to the Auckland Council Infrastructure Committee provides some interesting insight into the future of the Auckland Rail Network. Unfortunately the council don’t record the infrastructure committee and put it on online so we can’t see exactly what was said by the CEO of Kiwirail but the presentation which has been uploaded to the council website does give an indication.
For the most of the presentation the slides appear to be a fairly typical business presentation talking about how they’re performing and supposedly changing their business to be more customer centric. The most interesting parts are the last four slides which highlight that there’s a lot more to do to improve the rail network than just the City Rail Link. The first of these is below and gives an indication of what needs to be addressed.
Auckland strategic issues & opportunities
- 23% pa Metro Growth
- Freight growth into Auckland
- Port of Tauranga
- Ports of Auckland
- Network Resilience
- Funding Shortfalls – DART perception/reality
- Integrated land transport planning (AT/NZTA/KR)
The remaining slides show how the network needs to be operating within the next year or two, how it will need to be working in the future and finally how an indication of specific pieces of work needed to realise the vision along with some cost indications.
For the short term it appears the need is to get the Western Line up to 10 minute frequencies, improve network performance and get more freight trains through South Auckland. On the latter point it the image suggests at least two freight trains an hour in each direction at peaks south of Otahuhu.
Moving forward to the future and by 2041 you can see a lot more trains will be on the network thanks to the City Rail Link. At peak times there would be 18 trains an hour on the Western Line in the peak direction plus 12 an hour on both the Southern and Eastern lines. There are also more trains on the Onehunga Line and more freight trains along with higher performance requirements. In a way this highlights one of the biggest benefits of the CRL, it allows us to get a lot more use out of our existing rail corridor. I personally remain disappointed they don’t plan on increasing frequencies past Henderson and I still feel like AT are trying to complicate the future train plan too much, especially with the Henderson to Otahuhu trains.
The most interesting slide – to me at least – is the last one showing a whole range of projects needed to get the network up to spec. It suggests that prior to the CRL opening around $400 million is needed not including level crossings or the Onehunga line which will be for some of the items on the list here plus I suspect a lot of catch up maintenance that still hasn’t happened yet. As you can see some of the urgent items include:
- More cross overs,
- more signals
- Infill balises (transmits the signals to the train)
- Getting freight trains using the new signalling system
- Level crossing closures
- 3rd main between Westfield and Wiri
Some of the more interesting items I can see include:
- What appears to be three different options for getting 6 car trains to Onehunga – extending the current platform, reconfiguring the station or a new platform at Neilson St.
- Changes to the eastern end of Britomart – getting more trains through Quay Park perhaps
- Extending the third main all the way to Pukekohe.
- A new Mt Smart station – this seems odd giving the close proximity to Penrose.
- Shifting the long distance services back to the Strand – surely this will not be good for the usage of them.
- Different options for reconfiguring Henderson station.
- A grade separated Westfield Interchange
- An upgrade to the junction at Newmarket
To me the considerable amount of work still needed to get the rail network up to speed is reflection of the level of neglect the network suffered from for decades.
Interestingly I suspect related to all of this, a week ago Auckland Transport posted this on their tender website although it has now disappeared.
This RFI sets out to identify a company or individuals who will be able to best provide AT with rail infrastructure design and constructability knowledge, for on-going commissions on the Auckland rail network.
Auckland Transport requires a Rail / Track geometrics, signalling and overhead line design and rail constructability consultant with at least 20 years experience in the provision of design and constructability services within a live operating environment. New Zealand experience is preferred with an intimate knowledge of the Auckland network an advantage. Experience working with KiwiRail is necessary.
This capability will be drawn upon on a regular basis to provide design and constructability services for modifications to the Auckland rail network such as:
- New stations and Park & Rides
- Grade separations
- Modifications to stations
- Level crossing upgrades
- Additional stabling facilities
- Additional mainlines for freight
- Extensions to electrification
- Signalling Modifications
- Track realignments
As you can see there’s a lot more than just the CRL to do to the Rail network.
The Sydney city centre is fantastic. It’s vibrant, varied, exciting:
And, like all successful cities, full of people. So how do they all get there? Of course some are there already, the City of Sydney has some 200,00 residents, but many journey in each day from the suburbs.
The streets are full of traffic, most are not like the part of Pitt St shown above, where pedestrians have priority:
The Bridge is full of traffic:
And there’s a couple of road only tunnels that were added next to the bridge, the Eastern Distributor, the Anzac Bridge, and many other roads in, so in just one of the AM peak hours 25,000 people drive into, or through, the Centre City on a weekday morning.
But that’s nothing. It’s only 14% of the total, just over twice the number that walk or cycle [source]:
80% arrive on Public Transport. Over 100,000 in that one hour on trains [2011/12]. Because they can.
They would have to, it would be spatially impossible to have such a vibrant city centre if any more than a small number accessed it by private car. There would no space for anything but roads and parking if they tried. No space for the city itself, nor for quiet places away from the hustle:
So while Sydney streets feel very busy with cars, and they certainly have priority to almost all of them, they aren’t actually as central to the the functioning of the city as they appear. There’s just is no way Sydney would be the successful, dynamic, and beautiful city it is without the investment in every other means of getting people to and through the city. Especially high capacity, spatially efficient, underground rail. And nor would the streets be able to function at all if more were forced to drive because of the absence of quality alternatives.
And more is coming too. Next month a second much bigger Light Rail project begins to add to the current one, and a new Metro line with new harbour tunnels is also underway. Driving numbers will likely stay steady into the future, but the city will only grow through the other systems. City streets are vital for delivery and emergency vehicles, but really successful city cities don’t clog them up with private cars to bring in the most essential urban component; people. That’s just not how cities work; even though that may be the impression given by the sight of bumper to bumper traffic on city streets.
And successful cities always appear congested; the footpaths are busy, the stations are crowded, and the traffic is full. Because they are alive and attractive for employment, commerce, entertainment, habitation; in short; urban life. This is the ‘seductive congestion’ of successful urban economies. To focus on reducing traffic congestion without sufficient investment in alternatives for people movement is to misunderstand what a city is and how they work. Sydney is not perfect, but it has a thriving and vibrant, properly urban centre built on properly urban movement infrastructure.
All else there stands on the quality of this investment.
Is Auckland getting ripped off when it comes to the cost of running rail services? Councillor Mike Lee has long thought so and has frequently raised the issue by way of comparing the costs of running the Auckland and Wellington rail networks – $125.6 million vs $85 million in the financial year to 30 June 2014. At that time rail patronage was also almost identical in each region. He has frequently blamed the way rail is set up saying:
A contributing factor may lay in the fact that in Wellington services are a matter between the Wellington Regional Council and KiwiRail. In contrast the Super City’s rail services management system is a complex, unwieldy ‘too many cooks’ arrangement of Transdev, KiwiRail, and of course Auckland Transport (AT) – which is demonstrably too expensive, inefficient, and allows too much room for dodging accountability.
Auckland Transport have looked at the differences in the past and come to the conclusion that the differences will largely iron out once electrification is finished however I don’t think Mike has ever been happy with that – and he seems to have an intense distrust of AT and Transdev in particular.
The Council’s Finance Committee tomorrow are presented with the outcome of that review which has found that when you account for the differences in the volume and nature of services provided, the costs aren’t all that different. Further it needs to be remembered that for FY14 Auckland had only had electric trains running on the Onehunga line for a few months. As such the efficiency of the Auckland network is only expected to improve – especially when combined with the growth in patronage expected. Here is what he found:
As mentioned above the costs in Auckland are much higher. The biggest single difference comes from labour costs – more on this soon – and train maintenance. The latter should have been reduced substantially with the arrival of the electrics.
So what causes the costs to be so much higher in Auckland. One major aspect is that there are considerable differences in both how many and how services are run. The report notes that in Auckland services are run stopping at all stations along the way. By comparison Wellington runs multiple short and long run service patterns on most of it’s lines. Boiling down the results they’ve been measured on the basis of how many full line services they equates to. Using that measure Auckland ran 2210 services per day while Wellington ran 1778. This highlights that one of the main reasons for the difference in cost is simply a difference in service provision.
Another factor identified was the level of dead running. Basically if services in Wellington terminate somewhere they can immediately go to a stabling yard nearby. In Auckland they often have a lot of travel some distance to get back to a stabling yard and all those trips add up to over 200,000 km per year. I suspect some of this has already been improved through the use of the newish stabling yard at the old railway station.
All up when adjusting for all of these factors the report says that the Auckland network is only approximately 7% more per hour to operate and that’s before taking into account the impact electrification will have.
On the other side of the ledger is the revenue from passengers. The report notes that the fare structures are fairly similar between the two cities however the average fares are quite different at $2.65 for Auckland vs $3.72 for Wellington. The main reason for the difference is that trips in Auckland are generally shorter. It had almost 1 million trips (9%) that were one or two stages while in Wellington the main lines of Kapiti and Hutt Valley most trips are a minimum of three stages due to the local geography and design of the system.
Overall it suggests that rail in Auckland isn’t as bad as the headlines often suggested which is good news
I’m sure this is a topic that will come up again and now the electrics are rolled out then for the future we should finally have more accurate figures to work with. One thing we do already know is that the subsidies are coming down with the subsidy per passenger km coming down.