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?
Morningside Level Crossing Incident
After another unfortunate incident at Morningside Level Crossing, once again questions have been asked of our level crossings. Morningside Level Crossing alongside Walters Rd in Takanini have achieved a sense of infamy over the years, some incidents have been covered below in the media, and as anyone who with any HSEQ background will know for each Incident there will be countless more Near Misses.
This post will look into the feasibility of closing Morningside Level Crossing to traffic, however still creating grade separated access for pedestrians/cyclists to the station on each side of Morningside Drive, understanding in tight budgetary circumstances that fully grade separating the crossing for all modes may not be feasible.
The area in question is below
Morningside Crossing Area
Removal of the Level Crossing to traffic would hinder three major groups, each which could be mitigated
- Users trying to access St Luke’s Mall via Car.
- Bus Users for routes 220, 221, 222, 223, & 224 some who may use the service for access to St Luke’s Mall.
- Residents who use Morningside Drive Level Crossing to Access New North Road.
Users trying to access St Luke’s Mall via Car
The closure of Morningside Drive may not adversely effect these users, at current St Luke’s is also accessible by two parallel major arterial routes, St Luke’s Mall via St Luke’s Road & New North Road, as well as St Luke’s Mall via St Luke’s Road & Sandringham Road.
Bus Users for routes 220, 221, 222, 223, & 224 some who may use the service for access to St Lukes Mall
Under the New Network these routes have been simplified into 1 the 22, this service could easily diverted down New North Road which is better placed to have Bus Lanes due to its 2 Lane-Flush Median-2 Lane layout & according to AT documents have planned Bus Lanes as part of the Central New Network.
New Network Central – Bus Lanes
The users wanting to access St Lukes Mall will at glance lose out from doing this of course, however would they? The New Network suggests not, under the New Network 22 users have the ability to transfer onto 1 of 3 Services heading to/past St Luke’s Shopping Centre, these are the Outer Link, 202, & Crosstown 6. Both Peak & Off Peak these services have the aggregate of 10BPH each way, therefore someone transferring at New North Road from a 22 service would have a wait maximum of 6m, or on average around 3m for a transfer, with Simpler Fares now in place transfers no financial penalty exists.
Also in the New Network, the old 233 which is now the 24 no longer goes past St Lukes Mall at all. So in conclusion Bus Users wanting to get to St Luke’s Mall may not be worse off due to more likely Bus Lanes speeding up travel times as well as not being subject to delays at the level crossing which will only worsen when the CRL is completed and train frequencies increase further. Users of the 22 not intending to go to St Luke’s Mall will also benefit greatly due to not having to divert via St Luke’s.
St Lukes New Network
Residents who use Morningside Drive Level Crossing to Access New North Road
These residents may also not be to impacted due to being able to access New North Road via Sainsbury, or having 4 local routes to access Sandringham Road as can be seen by the map of the area above.
So in final conclusion, it would be feasible to close one of Auckland’s most infamous crossings to traffic due to other options existing, as well as the New Network having sufficient services to transfer to if the 22 was changed to follow North New Road instead of Morningside Drive.
What do you think?
We’d like to welcome Harriet as our newest and first female permanent contributor to the blog. She has written a number of guest posts in recent months and has indicated she’s keen to contribute a lot more so we decided it was best to add her to the team – plus it’s always nice to have some diversity.
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, the next one targets one of the bigger gripes of the current network, Western transfers at Newmarket i.e. the “Why don’t Northbound trains open on Platform 2 not P3.”
At current many people including myself commute South from out West, in the morning the transfer is easy, most of the time you arrive on P3, with the Southern/Onehunga bound trains likely to be either P4 or on occasion P3. In the afternoon however the story is a different one. Northbound trains open the doors to P3, this means to transfer West you have to go to P1, this requires walking up the platform, up the escalators/stairs, across the lobby and then back down another set of stairs and escalators.
I know what many of your city commuters are thinking, get over it fatty, you need the steps. Personally I don’t mind, I usually take the stairs rather the escalator, and walk about 30min to/from Ellerslie to/from work everyday (Not Bragging or Anything :D). However for many people this is an annoyance, especially when they miss the connection. It’s also not great when you see people with mobility issues scrambling to get to P1 on time. Also many people rush bumping into people at the platforms, when wet the bottom by the escalator is a slip hazard I have seen many of a person nearly go.
So in summary it causes some people to slip when wet, is awful for people with mobility issues, and is annoying to many commuters potentially putting them off using the train. So why can’t Northbound trains use Platform 2, it’s on the same track as P3 just requires a other side to be opened.
I have emailed AT, which forwarded onto Transdev that gave a vague HSE answer, have asked Transdev/AT staff at Newmarket whose opinions range from “Don’t know ask AT”, “Yeah we have asked about this, still don’t get why we can’t” & “Yes we get this all the time, AT just tells us we can’t. So I had a think was it
a) Platform Gap – Nope looks fine & no worse than some stations out in the suburbs.
b) Lack of a signal box to tag (If you watch the TM’s tag a box at Newmarket which indicates to the signallers which way they want to go) – Nope on Platform 2 has them.
c) Don’t want to open doors due to safety on both sides – Fine but that doesn’t answer why we can’t open just on P2 for Northbound.
d) Confusion for Passengers – Maybe but people would get used to it, and this isn’t 2008 we live in the world of AT App’s & Station Real Time Boards by the Escalators & Platforms.
e) Confusion for Drivers – Again maybe but surely they would get used to it.
f) It is impossible to do so – I have seen them open the door onto P2, and have heard of accounts of this happening, however this is a rarity.
Maybe there is a genuine reason, and that’s fine could you please just let us know 🙂
However I am a big believer of “Don’t come to me with a problem, come to me with a solution” so here is mine. Currently the Platform Arrangement generally is (If services are running to schedule)
P1 – Westbound trains.
P2 – Closed
P3 – Northbound & Eastbound Trains with occasional Southbound
P4 – Southbound Trains with occasional Northbound
I would change to
P1 – Westbound Trains + occasional Northbound
P2 – Northbound Trains – Allows easy transfer West on P1, and no difference to users alighting/boarding at Newmarket.
P3 – Occasional Southbound + Eastbound Trains – Allows easy transfer South on P3/P4
P4 – Southbound Train
Here’s a diagram of what to explain, from here.
So what do you think?
AT have now put the SMART study documents on their site, here. There’s a lot to review there and this post is not a look at the whole report and its conclusions, but rather is a response to the problem of the length of time this project is likely to take whatever mode is selected.
All of the proposals in the report are capital intensive, without any currently identified funding source, and the timing of the RT route looks likely to be complicated by the Airport’s development plans, particularly those for the second runway, so there is a good case for looking at interim improvements for Airport/RTN interconnection while these bigger decisions are being resolved. I am focussing on the airport because of its fast growth is clearly a major generator of increased traffic congestion for the whole Mangere area.
First some background from the report. Just setting aside travellers for a moment, what about the workforce at and around the Airport, what are their current patterns?:
So we can see in the above data from the 2013 census that the key connection for workers is east to Manukau area, followed by that to the centre. Furthermore that employee movement is still quite peaky, despite the airport itself obviously being a 24 hour operation:
So what opportunities are there for a quick and relatively low cost connection between the Airport and the current RTN, particularly with the above information in mind, that could be built while the full Mangere/Airport RT route is being developed, whatever the mode? The first and obvious point is that there is already, right now, great service on the spine of the Southern Line relatively close to the Airport, particularly to the City Centre, but also south and across to Manukau City. Where the red and blue lines overlap there are services every five minutes at peak. So there seems to be a clear opportunity to improve connection east from the Airport for its own catchment while that also will connect, via the rail system, the City Centre and anyone who can access a train station.
Currently the connection between rail system and the Airport is very poor, as anyone -like me- who has used it will tell you.
The 380 via Papatoetoe station is not a viable option because of three problems [the longer and slower route to Onehunga is even worse, as well leading to an equally low frequency train]:
- Low frequency: 1/2 hourly service
- Slow route; the 380 has no priority on its route so therefore is subject to both delay and unreliability caused by other traffic [I have been on this bus stuck in traffic for tens of minutes]
- The Station/Bus physical connection at Papatoetoe does little to encourage the transfer.
So why not investigate a dedicated shuttle between the even closer Puhinui Station and the Airport on a minimum 10 minute frequency with dedicated lanes on Puhinui Rd and improved passenger interchange at the station, complete with lifts for people with luggage, and all weather cover? Puhinui is currently timetabled at 33-35 minutes from Britomart [this should improve with current work] with a train leaving every 5 mins at the peaks, exactly when traffic congestion is at is most disruptive. With bus lanes on Puhinui Rd the journey to the terminals would be a reliable 10 mins. Including an average wait time of 5 mins that’s a perfectly satisfactory 50 minute journey from Britomart to the Airport. Because this journey time is reliable and not subject to congestion and avoids the time and cost of parking at the Airport it should be competitive enough for a good proportion of travellers and workers. As shown below, there is space to build an interchange and turning space to the west [Airport] side of the station, this would need to be of interchange standard.
The Puhinui Rd/20B road and bridge are due to be upgraded or duplicated soon in the on-going work to increase general traffic access to the Airport [what you feed grows] surely it would be wise to actually include dedicated transit lanes on a bridge in Auckland for once? This is a future RTN route, the route is flat and unconstrained by buildings; these are good practical and cost arguments for bringing this section forward. Shoulder lanes, or better, a dedicated busway and bridge, LRT ready, would be real ‘future-proofing’ [a phrase it is hard not to be cynical about in Auckland as it generally means doing less than nothing in practice].
With this service then it would be viable and essential to brand both the shuttle bus service at the terminals and the Southern and Eastern line services, both of which, with no changes to how they currently run, then become true Airport services.
Of course the transfer is less ideal than a system that takes you on one seat right into the Terminal either as a flyer or an employee there, however we know many travellers currently transfer from their cars to various bus shuttles in order to get cheaper parking, and surely many workers would be happy to not to have to battle increasing congestion with a reliable and cost effective alternative. In other words by optimising the bus connection we will further unlock the value of investments recently made in the rail system. It probably makes sense on those grounds alone.
This should not be seen as instead of a north/south pan Mangere RTN, but it would surely make a good start, especially as this is the route for the future Botany-Manukau City-Airport RTN. So it would be even better if it continued to the new interchange at Manukau City, and then on to Botany and AMETI. And ensuring all hard infrastructure is built to be efficiently upgradeable to Light Rail in the longer term. Improving eastern connectivity is completely compatible with the northern Mangere routes discussed in the study, and indeed the current Airbus service, so arguably is an even more urgent direction to improve. There is no duplication in sorting this connection out first.
Incidentally this map clearly shows the other areas lacking RTN coverage: the Northwest and Upper Harbour, and the Isthmus and Mangere….
Which is exactly what AT have on their future RTN maps, but far too far into the future in my view. This is still based on last century’s thinking where every road is widened first, leading to the inevitable dysfunction and only then do we try to relieve this adding quality RT alternatives.
To summarise: we already have a high quality Rapid Transit service almost all the way to the airport, it seems to me that the addition of a high quality connection between these points would be a very useful first move in improving connectivity in this important area, especially if taken at least to Manukau City too, and as soon as possible.
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