Yesterday Auckland Transport finally confirmed that the Westfield station would close, after it was put on death row back in 2013 following the consultation for the New Network in South Auckland.
There are a number of factors that have contributed to the demise of the station with AT citing its low patronage with little prospect for future growth given the stations catchment of light industrial land on one side and the Mangere Inlet on the other.
As AT point out in their press release (below), the station has less than 330 passengers a day boarding or alighting at it, which is tiny when you consider that on the average workday the rest of the rail network carries about 65,000 trips. What’s more is the rest of the rail network is growing at a faster rate. Westfield isn’t the least used station however, Te Mahia has held that honour since Waitakere closed in 2015. Te Mahia was also on the chopping block in 2013 but AT decided to spare it after locals campaigned to save it, claiming the development nearby at the Manukau Golf Club would boost use – although I remain sceptical it will have much, if any impact.
The graph below is based on data AT have provided us in the past on rail station usage and shows the origins and destinations for trips that involve Westfield to the end of June. Of the two biggest, just over a third of trips are Britomart and further 7% are Newmarket.
Perhaps what’s surprising about this announcement is not that it’s happened but that it’s taken so long to happen. As mentioned, Auckland Transport indicated way back in 2013 that they wanted to close the station. I had assumed they might do it when the electric trains were rolled out but they left it open. I then thought they might do it back in October last year when they rolled out the New Network in South Auckland, including opening the impressively upgraded Otahuhu Station just down the road.
Closing stations, even under-performing ones like Westfield is never going to feel great, after all there might not be many of them but there are obviously people who use the station and they will be affected. The flip side to that is that closing it also allows AT to speed up the journey for everyone else who uses the trains from south of the station – although that itself will be balanced out by the opening of the new Parnell station which will only be stopped at all day by Southern Line trains.
Here is AT’s press release:
Westfield rail station in Ōtāhuhu is closing in March.
Auckland Transport says the station is one of the quietest on the Auckland rail network, in November last year it had less than 330 passengers getting on and off services each day.
Chief AT Metro Officer, Mark Lambert, says the station will close on 12 March. “The numbers using the station are low and it would require significant investment to bring it up to the standard of other stations.”
Mr Lambert says forecasts of future patronage indicate that demand is likely to remain low given the location in a light industrial area and new public transport options created in the past few months.
Auckland Transport consulted with the public on the closure in 2013. “In the past few years, Auckland Transport has invested heavily in public transport infrastructure in south Auckland, we rolled out the New Network for bus services last October and also opened the new bus/train station at Otahuhu.”
Other planned improvements in the south include the construction of a new bus station in Mangere Town Centre, the creation of a new of a new transport hub in Manukau and upgrades of Pukekohe, Manurewa and Papakura stations.
Mr Lambert says there are bus stops nearby on Great South Road which provide links to a number of places including Otahuhu, Onehunga, Avondale and Britomart.
He says further north, services will begin at the new Parnell Station on 12 March. “This station will serve local Parnell businesses and residents, the universities, Auckland Museum and will be great for events at the Domain.”
Note: We’ve been a bit concerned recently about the comments threads of rail network related posts deteriorating into ugly arguments so we’ll be keeping a close eye on this post and strictly moderating it. So consider this a warning to stick to our user guidelines or your comment may be deleted.
‘They always say time changes everything, but actually you have change them yourself’ -Andy Warhol
Ka mua, ka muri is a Māori proverb that expresses a great truth around a simple image. The image is of a person walking backwards into the future. It suggests that the past is clearly visible but the future is not, that we have imperfect information for the road ahead, but also that this is a natural state of affairs. Let us look back for clues to the way forward, but also understand that the future is unwritten. The future comes out of the past but will not be identical to it. The only unchanging thing is change.
It is in this spirit then that I want to take a walk through the following chart showing the last decade Auckland Public Transit ridership.
We constructed this chart deliberately in order to more clearly show some trends that we feel are important but are not so evident in the way Auckland Transport usually illustrate their data. Some observations:
1. Auckland is a harbour city and therefore Ferries are important, offer some the most pleasurable PT trips you’ll enjoy anywhere in the world, and are worth working on. But, as the chart shows has been the case over the last decade, Ferries will not drive a ‘transformation shift’ in Transit use. In Nov 2006 there were some 4.14m annual Ferry trips, or around 7.9% of the total, by Nov 2016 this has risen to 6.01m and 7.1%. Ferry use has been growing consistently but not as fast as land based Rapid Transit so we can also expect its proportional contribution to continue this gradual slide. Will it reach 7m out 100m total?
People often point to Sydney as a model, but with around 15.4m annual Ferry trips there in a city of 5m the numbers suggest that Auckland is already doing proportionately pretty well by comparison. The major difference between the two cities is fares, Ferries are expensive in Auckland, with the high volume routes unsubsidised [though the low volume ones are heavily subsidised] whereas they are really cheap in Sydney. The best deal of all, and strongly recommended, is a trip to Manly on a Sunday, because of the Sunday fare cap this Waiheke like trip, plus all your other travel that day, is capped at $2.50! Only beaten by the 65+age group in Auckland who can get to Waiheke and elsewhere for free at any time.
Ferries are, of course, permanently limited by geography, and even with greater investment, up zoning around wharves, better bus and bike connection (all worth doing) they will struggle to hold on to the 7% contribution. This is why we separated them out and made them the floor of our chart: Ferries are the hard biscuit base of the AKL Transit cake.
2. Buses do the heavy the lifting and will continue to do so, this is the middle band of the chart, ordinary buses, non-Rapid buses on local roads. Over the last decade (remember we’re walking backwards here) most Transit users were on these buses. And although this proportion is shrinking because the relative growth in Rapid Transit it’s still hefty: 60m trips out of 84m total, 71% in Nov 2016.
However over the last 18 months or so growth in bus use, outside of the Northern Busway, has stalled. Some of this will be people unsurprisingly choosing the improved train or Rapid bus where they can. But also we are in the middle of a total shakeup of the bus system, the New Network, which can be expected to disrupt use before it builds new ridership. But perhaps there’s a more worrying trend here too? Perhaps there is a need to give more attention to this important but more quotidian part of the system? More, more contiguous, and longer duration, bus lanes. Better physical and timed connection with Rapid Transit stations. Furthermore the New Network needs to be understood less as an end point but as a start; there will be a need for constant re-calibration and improvement of its design and implementation as it rolls out.
This part of the bus system mustn’t get lost in the necessary swing of attention to the shiny new kid on the block; the Rapid Network, as it is not being replaced by this newcomer but rather is pivoting into a vital more foundational role for it. These non-Rapid buses are the main filling in our cake, they provide the most nutrition and heft, and will continue to do so, even as their role morphs and shifts.
3. Rapid is where its at. There is no clearer lesson from the last decade in Transit in Auckland than this. People want high quality, frequent, turn-up-and-go, moving free of congestion, Transit. Our backwards view shows that where ever been delivered, particularly since the rail network was upgraded with electrification in the last few years, Aucklanders have piled on the services, and in consistently increasing numbers. Year on year growth of 20% has been standard on Rail and Northern Busway as their services have approached Rapid status (and neither are truly there yet).
There is no surer bet in transport provision in Auckland today than this [except perhaps that every new urban motorway lane we add, particularly in the absence of a Rapid Transit alternative, will clog quickly with induced traffic]. For all Aucklanders, and particularly for drivers, the lesson of the last decade is that we need to accelerate provision of Rapid Transit to the whole city. Particularly to those areas with none: The North West, The South East [AMETI], The South West [including the Airport and environs], and the Central Isthmus. Because a full network of high standard attractive Rapid Transit services will be so much more powerful than its parts, enabling and encouraging many thousands more people to go about much of their daily business without their cars.
This will require investment in permanent right of ways, but the bulk of these capital costs are one off and of enduring value, and as they will limit the endless spiral upwards of costs imposed by unchecked driving demand, this direction offers better ongoing value. This is transformational, this is real change, but to achieve it requires a change in both direction and pace; a change in what we fund and in what order. The trial is complete: We know what we need to keep AKL moving and prospering as it grows; it is, like Seattle, a policy of going all in on high quality Transit. The blue part in the first chart above is the only part of the pie that can rise profoundly, meaningfully, have any real impact on the burdens of traffic congestion and transform the way our city operates and is. But to achieve it the chefs have to get on and make it.
Same as it ever was.
Around 1958-59, after returning from a four month tour of galleries in North America, Colin McCahon painted ‘Tomorrow will be the same but not as this is’ with house paint and west coast sand. It is in the collection of the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna O Waiwhetu, despite the opposition of some Councillors at the time. Listen to Sam Neill discuss this work
In September the final report of the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) was released, many of you may have read about it, or most likely have heard about it. The Indicative Package was the below projects + 3 separate tranches of 21 Trains which were separated into three decades. First Decade – 2018-2028, Second Decade 2028-2038, & Third Decade 2038-2048. Please note that the package is indicative & some projects will likely move around subject to funding, changes in circumstances & individual business cases.
While we’ve talked about ATAP a lot in recent months, this series is concentrated on what I like to call the ATAP ASAP’s, decade 1 projects which really need funding As Soon As Possible. The first ATAP ASAP I am going to write about is the third main between Westfield & Wiri.
What is the third main
The third main is a proposed & semi built third track south of Otahuhu. Initially this would be to the Wiri Junction (where the branch line to Manukau starts) but eventually to Papakura & potentially onto Pukekohe. ATAP suggests a fourth main will eventually be needed too. The need for a third main is due to this area being of prime importance to both freight & passenger rail and is one of the busiest sections of rail in the country. The third main would give extra capacity by allowing freight trains to run separately of the passenger network allowing both freight & high passenger train frequencies to run.
So why is the third main between Westfield & Wiri an ATAP ASAP
It is because at this point freight and passenger services on the Eastern & Southern Lines share the current two tracks. In the past this hasn’t been as much of an issue as frequencies of both freight and passenger services were lower but both have increased in recent years and will continue to do so in the future. For example as part of the New Network, Auckland Transport need to run trains on the three main lines at a minimum of every 15 minutes Monday to Sunday 7am-7pm – but more so during the week – as shown in their Regional Public Transport Plan.
This is needed, the New Network focuses running bus services more frequently by using transfers to expand coverage. Many public transport trips may now require a transfer to a train so only having a train only every 20 or even 30 minutes would be frustrating to the people who need to transfer.
For most of the network sharing tracks is fine, either freight does not use the tracks heavily during the day or space still exists to fit in freight services however this is not the case south of Otahuhu. If properly implemented, the new network would see 12 passenger trains per hour running in each direction on weekdays, one every five minutes. Even on weekends there would be at least 8 services in each direction per hour. The question is, how feasible it is for KiwiRail to fit increasing freight services on the existing tracks. If they can, great, though given how the project has been described in the past, I am not optimistic they can. So a choice needs to be made:
- Is a freight curfew put into place effecting KiwiRail’s business & competitiveness?
- Are New Network Train Frequencies able to be put into place, or will they have to be reduced at certain times?
If the latter, I hope AT still increase the frequency of the Western Line trains, there is no reason they can’t be increased & just because we cannot increase in some areas doesn’t mean which shouldn’t increase the frequency in any area. Also frequencies wherever possible on the Southern & Eastern should be implemented wherever conflict would not seriously arise such as on the weekends.
So what would it take to complete the Third Main
Not much as I wrote before, it is already semi built from Otahuhu to Middlemore and from Puhinui to Wiri. KiwiRail in a presentation in 2015 said it would cost $50m to complete, with an additional $3m required to add traction (electrification so electric trains could use it too). I imagine a big chunk of the $50 million would be the upgrading of Middlemore Station realigning the platforms to accommodate the third main. The cost was revised to $55-$65 million recently, as mentioned in this article. It would also allow KiwiRail to not just continue services but to add another 6 peak freight services.
Third Main KiwiRail
Spending $55-65 million to dramatically increase the capacity and resilience of one of the most strategic transport corridors in the country is an outrageously cheap sum. We need to get on with the project ASAP.
Occasionally Auckland Transport will publish reports that originally went to their closed after they’re no longer deemed to be confidential. One of these released recently was a deep dive into ATs rail infrastructure and contained quite a bit of interesting but somewhat wonky information, particularly around rail related assets AT have.
With rail, Kiwirail own the tracks, signalling and overhead lines while AT own the trains, stations and other amenities associated with providing rail service.
The paper only looks at the AT aspects. In total, there are 57 electric trains, 10 diesel trains (for the Papakura to Pukekohe services), 40 stations across the network with 55 individual ticket gates across four of them and AT say there are 34 more on order. In total AT’s rail assets are valued at just under $1 billion and a breakdown of that is below.
In an age where multi-hundred dollar and even billion plus transport projects are now common, it seems almost quaint to remember that Britomart only cost a few hundred million to build. It would be interesting to see how the project would have stacked up under the current economic assessment criteria given what we know has happened since it was completed.
On the stations, they say as most are relatively new/recently upgraded as part of improvement works, they have a somewhat artificial “as new” state. Although interestingly they also say that while they’re functional, they “lack the amenity value expected of modern platforms. In particular, there is limited protection from the weather on or approaching most stations“. This is an issue I raised the other day. They also say
Renewals begin from 2021. Station cost for older stations is limited to cleaning and minor maintenance (approximately $150,000 pa) while platforms containing escalators / lifts, glass finishes and on-platform amenities (such as Panmure) rise to approximately $750,000 pa. Total station maintenance cost is approx. $3 million pa.
Below is their forecast for the condition of rail assets out to 2028.
For the trains, the purchase agreement will see the manufacturer CAF responsible for maintaining them based on a rate per train/ kilometre. AT say the cost for the EMUs last year was $12 million and is expected to be $13.5 million for the 2016/17 year due to the increase in services. The document also points out that the trains ran 3.8 million km last year.
On top of these maintenance costs, AT say the annual depreciation is $42.5 million
As mentioned earlier, Kiwirail are responsible for the tracks, signals and overhead lines. AT pay Kiwirail a track access fee to cover their portion of the costs of running the network. For the first time the details of how it is determined how much AT pay is available. This is shown below.
- Track use split – based on kilometres per annum, changed to 89.5% AT / 10.5% KiwiRail (was previously 88% / 12%)
- Track maintenance split – based on gross tonne kilometres per annum, changed to 66.3% AT / 33.7% KiwiRail (was previously 56% / 44%)
- Overhead Lines Maintenance – 100% AT, KiwiRail do not operate electric locomotives in Auckland
While we don’t know the exact figures for these costs, the total amount AT have paid since 2013 along with the budget for the year to June are shown below.
Given the general state of the tracks, clearly a lot more investment is needed. It would be interesting to know how much more Kiwirail would need to spend to get the tracks up to a decent condition
Seemingly in addition to the tracks, the ongoing costs to support the ETCS (European Train Control System) are expected to be about $1 million per year.
AT don’t say how much it costs to run things like CCTV or the HOP infrastructure at stations but do say the OPEX of gating stations is about $500,000 per year primarily due to needing to man the gates.
Looking forward, the report notes that ATAP suggests up to $3 billion of investment will be needed over the next 30 years and includes up to 63 more trains, a second depot, level crossing removal and of course a third and even fourth main in the south. The ATAP table describing this is below.
The major issue though is that other than the CRL, currently only around $150 million has been budgeted in the Council’s Long Term Plan. This along with the investment since AT took over in 2010 is shown below. As you can see, AT spent $737 million from November 2010 to June 2016 but if you exclude the EMU related costs, it equates to $164 million.
All up an interesting paper, if you’re interested in some of the behind the scenes costs for rail in Auckland.
Britomart extension taking shape
I recently read through the Jacobs prepared alignments for AT for the SMART (South-western Multi-modal Airport Rapid Transit) project. In it contains the proposed alignments for HR (Heavy Rail), BRT (Bus Rapid Transit), LRT (Light Rail Transit), as well as a Hybrid option. I would recommend giving them a look but they’re big files so perhaps not on your phone.
The first thing I noticed was for some reason the line names are wrong, I assume this was a mistake. The other and far more serious observation is the lack of a flying junction at Penrose, anybody who passed through here knows that trains can sometimes be sitting for minutes waiting for a free path. And this is with just 8 trains per hour (TPH) each way. I wouldn’t want to imagine the issues at the Penrose junction if trains are running 12-18tph each way. I assume a flying junction would theoretically be possible, though the Great South Road flyover would mean some serious thought would have to go into it, as well as money.
SMART HR Penrose
The route from there is basically what you expect, some level crossings are trenched, while others just closed. In a separate, low cost option some level crossings are simply upgraded to be safer rather than removed.
SMART HR Te Papapa
One important change is the Onehunga Station would be moved between Galway St and Victoria St. After passing through the current station site, the line continues over the overbridge currently being removed, and then under the SH20 Bridge to the western side of SH20.
As we’ve discussed in other posts, the trench at Kirkbride is not designed to allow HR at road level due to the grades involved, therefore it must go over the top.
Towards the end is where the real issue arises however, it requires a long tunnel, under the new proposed runway all the way to an underground station by the terminal. The Airport want to lock their plans in now and would be unlikely to allow the line’s construction after the new runway is built. As such this section would likely need to be built before the actual line was funded, this would create a need to accelerate funding either in part or full, not that building it sooner would be a bad thing.
SMART HR Tunnel Part 1
SMART HR Tunnel Part 2 (Potential Business Area Station)
SMART HR Tunnel Part 3
SMART HR Airport Station
Compare this to the length of Light Rail tunnel needed
SMART LRT Tunnel Part 1
SMART LRT Tunnel Part 2
Light Rail (LRT) is now AT’s preferred mode, so what does the alignment look like. The first worrying thing about the route is the large park & rides, right next to a rapid transit route on land that could easily handle transit orientated development. The very concerning part is at Denbigh where houses would need to be demolished to build the Park & Ride. Surely stations in areas such as this should be more focused on bus feeder services & active mode improvements to improve catchment rather than Park & Rides. At Mangere surely a more mixed use development could occur by the station.
Three Kings PnR
The second worrying part is getting onto SH20, where additional homes would need to be purchased & demolished. There are surely many other ways that we could achieve access to SH20 without requiring the demolishing homes, I am sure a transit engineer among us would be able to draw them.
SMART LRT Access to SH20
Looking at the alignment down SH20, it looks unlikely that both LRT and the proposed Avondale-Southdown line – which the designation is for – could both fit in. Kiwirail allowing AT to use the designation could be a big sticking point for LRT line. However, this route would not preclude an Mt Roskill spur from being built as LRT is only east of the Dominion Rd flyover.
SMART LRT SH20 Part 1
Mt Roskill Spur
The LRT route continues down SH20 onto Princes Street with two potential alignments around the Lagoon.
From there it elevates over the top of the existing station at Onehunga, possibly joining with a future line from Manukau Rd.
The LRT route then travels down the old rail corridor towards the port and above the NZTA’s planned roadsfest. Like at Onehunga Lagoon there are two options, one is next to the motorway bridge and it crosses onto the western Side of the Motorway south of the harbour. The second option swoops under the bridge like the Heavy Rail option.
Apart from that the route is similar to the video posted by Auckland Transport recently on LRT for SMART.
Now I give fair warning, the following images may cause distress, face palming & nightmares. The route starts with an underground bus station at Wellesley Street, it then continues to an at grade Symonds Street station. It’s not clear where the portal is but it’s unlikely to be pretty.
SMART BRT Wellesley Street Station
SMART BRT Symonds Street Station
From Symonds Street it continues to an at grade Khyber Pass station before an underground bus station on Broadway. Not sure how I feel about an underground bus station at Wellesley & Newmarket to be honest :/ maybe we can rename it from Broadway to Busway 😀
Next down Manukau Rd, Pah Rd, and Queenstown Rd with well-spaced stations at Clovernook, Bracken Rd, Inverary Ave, Greenlane West, Pah Rd & Mt A Rd where it joins parallel SH20 Southbound in a new Busway where in parts it becomes a literal Sky Bus.
SMART BRT Connection to SH20
Similar to the LRT route, it continues down Princes Street into an Elevated Bus Station above Onehunga Station. Then onto SH20 where it has shoulder bus lanes over the bridge and connects to an elevated Mangere Bridge Bus Station, which if you can look closely doesn’t have any Park & Rides which the LRT had?
SMART BRT Onehunga
Lastly it follows the LRT route until Kirkbride where it transitions a BRT median down SH20A, which is rerouted around the end of the runway, until it gets to Tom Pearce Drive
SMART BRT Airport Station
The last option which is the Hybrid option, it simply combines the BRT from Onehunga, to an upgraded Onehunga Line, this would thus require transferring to/from HR.
And finally, here are finally “controversial” benefit cost ratio tables from the report, first the main one with Costs & Benefits assuming a 6% discount rate, and the second testing against 4% & 8%
SMART BCR’S with Discounts
We often talk about the big projects, networks, as well as game changing best practice regulations. However what about the small things, low hanging fruit where for cheaply i.e. not for 100s of millions of dollars we can achieve with a “Small Step” a “Great Leap” for the people the project & area it effects, part 3 is about the difficultly of transfers in the off peak.
During the peak, transfers are not to bad, lots of bus routes have 10-15 frequencies, as well as the trains. However during the offpeak transfers become difficult, because of timings. Here are 3 examples
- The Southbound Southern Line service on the Weekend departs Newmarket the same time the Westbound Western Line is scheduled to come into Newmarket, meaning a 30 min transfer wait is required as you always miss the transfer.
- The Eastbound service from Britomart leaves 1 min after the Western Line arrives on the Weekend, if you know this, putting yourself strategically in right carriage, and know to run, you can just make it if Eastern TM is onto it, however if not you will usually miss the service which means 30min transfer wait.
- A person I knew wanted to head to the Airport from Avondale, the original plan was they would catch 008 to Onehunga & then 380 to Airport, however the 380 left one min they said before 008 was timetabled to arrive. Again 30min transfer wait.
These types of events really put people off, and make people not want to use PT on off peak except for direct to destination services. While in the long run Auckland Transport should fix these issues through the introduction of the New Network with many routes including the trains having a service every 15mins 7-7, Monday to Sunday. However the New Network won’t go live until later next year for Central, East & the North Shore, the 380 also is still only has a 30 min frequency service in the New Network. I also can’t see how they can run a train every 15 mins Monday-Sunday 7-7 due to the Eastern & Southern Lines sharing the tracks between Westfield to Wiri, this would mean in this section 8TPH would be running each way, now this is fine for passenger services we run 12TPH each way during weekday peaks on that section, but the question would be when & how easily would KiwiRail fit in it’s freight services without a third main in that section?
While it was good to see the Westfield-Wiri third main in the indicative projects lists in the first decade, we still have no idea if this means it will funded tomorrow, 2018, or even 2028, it is an ATAP ASAP for me, but whether it is for AT & Government I am not sure.
In the meantime, we could make peoples lives easier if in the next timetable adjustments, we tweaked a few off peak services to better connect to each other like the examples above.
So what do you think?
The ATAP final report includes a 30 year vision for Auckland’s strategic public transport network. It is a substantial expansion of what we have today and quite closely resembles our “Congestion Free Network” developed in 2013:
ATAP generally goes out of its way to avoid making a call on the specific mode of new strategic public transport projects, instead using the phrase “mass transit”. However, it does show CRL as the only expansion of the heavy rail network (in red) with all other new strategic PT routes presumably being something other than heavy rail. Elsewhere, ATAP notes the need for ongoing investment in upgrading the existing heavy rail network over time to provide for growth in passenger and freight services – but not an “expansion” of that network.
This is quite a change from the 2012 Auckland Plan, which envisaged heavy rail to the Airport, the Avondale-Southdown Line and, in the longer term, rail to the North Shore. At times we have also seen the Mt Roskill rail spur being considered as another useful (if relatively small) expansion of the heavy rail network.
This change appears to have occurred on a relatively ad hoc project by project basis, rather than as part of an overall strategic plan, which I think sits behind much of the discomfort that people have felt about Auckland Transport decision to progress light-rail, rather than heavy rail, as their preferred strategic public transport mode to the Airport. It is worth thinking about this shift at a network level, in particular at the question of whether further expansion of the heavy rail network is likely. If not, it seems that CRL may actually be the end of the heavy rail network – rather than a key catalyst for its expansion.
Compared to other PT modes, heavy rail has some advantages and disadvantages:
- Very high capacity
- High speed
- Can leverage off existing network
- Very demanding geometry leading to high construction costs
- Creates severance when at surface level
For Airport rail, the capacity requirement of heavy rail wasn’t really a factor, due to relatively low projected passenger volumes – around 2,000 southbound trips in the morning peak in 2046 (compared to around 10,000 peak trips coming over the Harbour Bridge today in the morning peak):
While I think actual use will be much higher than this (models tend to substantially under-estimate future public transport use) it will still be well within the capacity capabilities of other modes like light rail. Therefore, the comparison really came down to a speed vs cost trade-off, with the high cost of serving heavy rail’s much more demanding geometry making this trade-off clearly fall in favour of light-rail.
The high costs of serving heavy rail’s demanding geometry means that heavy rail is most likely to “stack up” as the best option when we’re looking at a corridor with extremely high demand (i.e. beyond what might be able to be catered for through other modes) or where we can utilise the existing network.
North Shore rapid transit is potentially an example of a corridor which is likely to have very high demand in the future – because it is the only connection between a very large part of Auckland to the north, and the rest of the region. Early work a few years back suggested heavy rail as the preferred option, but more recently this appears to have shifted – illustrated by ATAP’s strategic PT network map linking North Shore rapid transit into the proposed Dominion Road LRT line. I know Auckland Transport are currently looking at different rapid transit options to serve the North Shore once the Northern Busway hits its capacity limits. I suspect the main question will be the trade-off between the extra capacity you get from heavy rail against the much higher costs of having to regrade the busway, along with the challenge of how it would link into the rest of the public transport system.
Importantly, even if the CRL does “complete” the heavy rail network and we don’t see major new lines in the future, there’s major upgrade of the network we have that will be required over time. Most obviously this is to separate passenger and freight services, but over time I see the need to separate local and express passenger trains – especially as the southern greenfield area grows. Therefore, ATAP’s $3 billion 30 year rail programme is almost certainly on the light-side of likely future investment in the heavy rail network in Auckland.
In July Auckland Transport stealthily uploaded a 97 page Programme Business Case on the Light Rail page of the AT website. Due to ATAP (Auckland Transport Alignment Project), the Unitary Plan and City Rail Link (CRL) has gone a little bit under the radar.
So what is it? Technically while Light Rail is one part of the business case, the document is called the Central Access Plan (CAP) & deals issues identified in City Centre Future Access Study, which was even with the CRL CBD bus corridors would reach breaking point due to bus congestion/numbers on Wellesley & Symonds Streets.
Bus Numbers with CRL 2041
It looks to be part of a wider scope of studies/works about providing transport access to Central Auckland, they being the CRL which provides good access for the West/South/Inner East, the North Shore Rapid Transit study, which I assume is looking at a need for future rapid transit options either standalone or as part of AWHC project in the foreseeable future, and the Northwest Rapid Transit Project which one would assume is the Northwest Busway report due April 2017 prepared by Aurecon.
Access to Central Auckland
The area the Central Access Plan looks as if it trying to address is Void, which has been mentioned on this blog before, the isthmus area between the Western & Southern lines. This area consists of some of Auckland’s major arterials & bus routes – Mt Eden Road, Sandringham Road, Manukau Road and Dominion Road.
The study identified 3 major problems
- The inability to meet current and projected transport demand on key corridors will sustain unreliable travel and poor access to productive central city jobs
- Blockages and delays in central bus services worsen travel times and customer experience for those using public transport
- High and increasing traffic volumes on residential and inner city streets create adverse urban amenity and environmental effects.
The study also notes that “There is already a substantial problem now with buses frequently late and full, resulting in passengers being left behind. Projects and initiatives such as the City Rail Link (CRL) and the New Network, largely with double-decker buses, will provide substantial additional capacity, but the underlying growth in projected demand is so great that most bus routes and the associated terminals and bus stops will have reached capacity by the early 2020s. The stress on the system at that time will be such that only the introduction of a mode that can move more people in fewer vehicles and that can use the sole under-used City Centre corridor – Queen Street – will provide more than very marginal relief. While measures to optimise the use of the bus services and reduce demand through promoting active travel are integral components of the proposed programme, they only ‘buy time’ before the extra corridor must be brought into use with a higher capacity mode. They will help to make conditions more tolerable as demand continues to grow and before a step-change can be introduced.”
CBD Street Capacity
The below graphs show the buses per hour needed on each street, the Orange shows unmet demand due to over the realistic capacity of buses on the corridor.
Wellesley St Bus Numbers
Symonds St Bus Numbers
The below map shows the Business as Usual scenario, with the red areas no longer within the 45min PT Commute of the City if speeds decrease by 31% (This was a KPI in ATAP)
Areas within 45 CBD PT Commute
To try & mitigate the 3 problems above they first tested 6 options against the Do Minimum Network (The Do Minimum Network included CRL/AMETI/Busway to Albany, Puhoi-Walkworth, as well as Southern/Northern Corridor Improvements.), the options were (Please note these are the Plan’s Pros/Cons, I don’t necessary agree with all)
Option 1 – Do Regardless which includes: Auckland Cycle Network – $200m, More Double Deckers – $80m, City Centre Street Improvements – $30m, Footpath improvements – $15m, Bringing forward Te Atatu and Lincoln Rd stations – $10m, Implementing off board collections, traffic signal changes, more cycle parking and bus shelter improvements – $2m
Pro: Buys Time & minor increase of capacity.
Option 1 – Do Regardless
Option 2 – Non-Financial Demand Management which included reducing parking supply in CBD, all lanes on Symonds (Past K’ Road) & Wellesley during peak would be bus lanes, more aggressive cycle/walking upgrades due to removal of parking.
Pros: Improves Bus Efficiency, more space for Active Modes, does not preclude further options & reduction in pollution.
Cons: Effectiveness Short Lived
Cost: $540M (Not sure if Do Regardless Cost is Part of each Options Cost or Not)
Option 2 – Demand Management
Option 3 – Extended Bus Network which turns Queen Street into a surface busway for Dominion & Sandringham Road bus services as well as changes to other routes.
Pros: Increase of Capacity & Bus Efficiency, Removal of General Traffic from Queen, Buys a number of years before further intervention.
Cons: Lots of Buses on Queen Street, effective short lived without bus terminal capacity, restricts future interventions, high cost.
Option 3 – Extended Bus Network
Option 4 – A Mt Roskill Spur using the Avondale Southdown Corridor with two stations at Owairaka & Mt Roskill.
Pros: Low Impact due to using rail designation, provides extra capacity on inner west stations, buys time before further intervention, some reduction in buses, does not affect further intervention.
Cons: Short lived, low train frequencies adds to travel times, longer distance for Dominion Road.
Option 4 – Mt Roskill Spur
Option 5 – An LRT Network which consists of 5 stages. Stage 1: Mt Roskill via Queen Street & Dominion Road, Stage 2: An extension to Wynyard Quarter, Stage 3: A Sandringham Road LRT Line via Queen Street, Stage 4 & 5: Three Kings via Symonds & Mt Eden Road LRT, Onehunga via Symonds & Manukau Road LRT.
Pros: Provides necessary capacity, travel time improvements, removes high level of buses from CBD, removes traffic from Queen Street, increase of public space.
Cons: Cost & potential impact on general traffic in isthmus.
Option 5 – LRT
Option 6 – The introduction of a Bus Rapid Transit System with a CBD Bus Tunnel.
Pros: Provides necessary capacity, travel time improvements, removes buses from CBD surface, increase of public space, North Shore services can use tunnel.
Cons: Extremely high cost, large tunnel portals & potential impact on general traffic in isthmus.
Option 6 – BRT Tunnel
AT then put each option against criteria with a ranking of 1-5 for each, the total was the average score with LRT coming on top as best option with a average of 4.4/5 compared to the next highest option the BRT tunnel at 3.7/5.
Cap Option Evaluation
After concluding that LRT was possibly the best way forward, they looked deeper into the option, the first observation they made from the models was that “a second light rail service pattern using Symonds Street, Manukau Road and Mt Eden Road may be required towards the very end of the 30 year period. Allowance has not been made for this service pattern in the IP owing to the level of uncertainty in forecasting so far out as noted in ATAP.” So in the time frame they would only be looking at Cost/Benefits of two of the LRT Lines, Dominion Rd & Sandringham Road
Dominion Rd LRT had a Cost Benefit Ratio (CBR) of 0.7 – 1.9 if land value uplift was included, this allowed the potential of a Mt Roskill Spur to be potentially added to the package. The Cost of Dominion Rd LRT including Wynyard Quarter was $1,367m.
Dominion Rd & Sandringham Rd LRT had a CBR of 0.5 – 1.1. However they say this should improve due to it being able to be staged. The cost of Sandringham LRT they have estimated at $500m.
AT says there is issues with the modelling however for the following reasons which do not allow a proper case to be made
- The constraint of requiring a fixed land use for the evaluation is a flawed assumption, as without additional capacity for travel to the City Centre, the ability to deliver the land use is compromised.
- Similarly, for the people that are ‘crowded off’ the public transport services, there is likely to be a second order effect on general traffic as some of them would be forced back to car travel, making it even less efficient in the process. The performance of the road network would also be expected to degrade over time so potential benefits further in the future are likely to be under represented.
- Large public transport projects where a step change is being made represent a significant investment up front, but offer comparatively modest benefits in the early years. However, for a number of reasons there is a need to make that investment at that point in as there are no feasible options to allow continued functionality without the investment.
- The reliability improvements that come with almost completely segregated travel need to be explored further, particularly as the EEM currently caps them at the same value as the travel time savings.
- The non-transport benefits, such as increased tourism activity in the City Centre would further contribute to the overall economic benefit of the IP.
- Land use value uplift has not been estimated in detail but based on overseas examples is potentially large. Further assessment will confirm the magnitude of these benefits.
These are now the same graphs as before but with the Programme Interventions
Wellesley St Bus Numbers with Intervention
Symonds St Bus Numbers with Intervention
With ATAP released the other day, it should be noted they in the Indicative Projects List have said that Bus Improvements may be able to last until the 2nd Decade 2028-38 period before a Mass Transit system may need to be introduced, I am not sure ATAP & CAP are on the same page regarding this, and this issue may potentially need more investigation.
So what do you think?
We often talk about the big projects, networks, as well as game changing best practice regulations. For a while I have wanted to create a small campaign about the small things, low hanging fruit where for cheaply i.e. not for hundred of millions of dollars, we can achieve with a “Small Step” a “Great Leap” for the people the project and area it effects. My first post was on expanding access to Sylvia Park Station, this one targets one is about transfers at Britomart.
This post will be short & simple, but it will make a huge difference to people transferring at Britomart. At current the normal platform use of Britomart is
Platform 1 – Eastern Line
Platform 2 – Onehunga Line
Platform 3 – Southern Line
Platform 4 – Spare
Platform 5 – Western Line
This layout is awkward due to the main transfers between lines being between the Eastern & Western, this means to transfer the passenger has to walk all the way to the other side to transfer, often rushing due to the timings of the trains. On the weekends for example to transfer from the Eastern Line requires you to be at the front carriage, hope the Western is on time and to run to platform 1, or be doomed to a 30m wait. The main transfer at Britomart is between the Eastern & Western Line because transfers between the other 3 lines happen at Newmarket.
So what is my proposal, my proposal is that the Platform use of Britomart be changed to
Platform 1 – Eastern Line
Platform 2 – Western Line
Platform 3 – Onehunga Line
Platform 4 – Spare
Platform 5 – Southern Line
This layout would
a) Make transfers between the Eastern & Western Line easy.
b) Make no difference to Eastern Line passengers travelling to Newmarket as the Western Line goes to Newmarket as well.
c) Transfers to the Onehunga Line from the Eastern Line would be a little more difficult, however the transfers are likely to be very low & Platform 3 is only a little further away.
Moving the platform use would be low cost, and not cause to much trouble as this has been done before. However it would make the passenger experience just a little easier & if we can do that shouldn’t we.
So what do you think?