On Saturday a short but important and long awaited new connection was officially opened to the Mt Albert Train Station. A new bridge crosses the tracks and directly connects the concourse added when the station was upgraded in 2013 upgraded with the town centre, saving a detour out to Carrington Rd and back.
The connection was planned for when the station was first upgraded so s you’d expect the new bridge matches the design of the connection out to Carrington Rd, including the smart and distinctive pattern on the windows.
Here you can see the new bridge from Carrington Rd
At this stage the new connection is only for able bodied people though as it ends in stairs. Those, such as wheelchair users still need to use the Carrington Rd exit.
The exit also puts users out into the carpark that still exists and which I believe is subject to a long term lease, how long till we see someone ignoring the paint and parking over it.
Upgrading the carpark to a plaza for people is being considered as a future option though and it’s at that time it appears ramps may be provided for this exit.
Mt Albert is in a prime spot, served by both the train station and multiple bus routes as part of the new bus network coming next year. This will be further cemented after the CRL is completed which will have the effect of shifting the town centre much closer to town. Given this and its current urban form, it is more ripe than most for some serious urban regeneration – the row of buildings that back on to the station are looking particularly sad. This bridge is one small step in enabling that to happen.
Following it’s 2013 upgrade I’d say the station is arguably now one of the best stations in the city, a far cry from it looked like just over three years ago.
On the weekend I was out near Otahuhu so I took a quick diversion to take a look at progress on the new Otahuhu Interchange which is on track to open on October 29 before bus services start using it a day later when the New Network in South Auckland goes live.
One thing that surprised me and that I didn’t really get from the artist impressions was just how big this station will be. The concourse building is around 80m in length
In the image below you can see the rail side of the station with the existing platform complete with new, longer shelter. You can also see the platform edge and backfilling underway for the third platform which is needed for train operations after the CRL but is being built now while all of the other works are happening, perhaps a rare bit of future proofing for Auckland. Not to be missed in the Background is the new station building/concourse. To the left of the image you can see the old signal box and the back of the bus shelters.
This is the bus side of the station. As you can see the stops appear to be well advanced and aspects like planting are starting to happen. You can also see the carpark/kiss & ride area full of cars with people hard at work on a Saturday, presumably to ensure it is finished on time.
Out on Walmsley Rd the new footpath/shared path includes some concrete detailing as was suggested in the artist impressions. Just behind me the pedestrian crossing to Station Rd also includes a bike crossing and hopefully in time cycle infrastructure can be improved in the area to allow locals to make use of it.
As a reminder, this is what the station is expected to look like when finished.
The main entrance to the station can’t be seen in the photos as it is covered in shrink wrap. Here is what it is expected to look like.
All up it will be an impressive station and seems like things are well on track to be completed in time to open at the end of October.
This is a guest post by Harriet.
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. I have often spoken to people of the weakness at Sylvia Park, that because it only has access to the shopping centre side, this greatly limits the stations potential. I thought it fitting then that the first project then should be this. Now onto the facts.
The catchment of Sylvia Park train station is currently severely limited. This is because there is no viable access to the east of the NIMT (Eastern Line), this limits catchment to the shopping centre, and as a result the station fails to serve important industrial/commercial areas east of the station on Carbine Road, and the surrounding streets. In this area are many homes, as well as businesses such as Bunnings, and educational campuses, and the NZMA Sylvia Park Campus.
By providing a link to east of the station to the Carbine Road area, the reach of the station will increase significantly, connecting people to an important educational area, to current/future homes, as well as commercial/industrial jobs all right next to, but currently not accessible to an RTN. The Unitary Plan has the area as a mix of mainly Light Industrial, Mixed Use and THAB.
Unitary Plan Zoning, Orange = THAB, Light Purple = Light Industrial, Dark Purple = Heavy Industrial, Pink = Mixed Use
As it stands for people to use public transport, this realistically requires a transfer onto a bus at Panmure, this is not as frequent (every 30 mins), as the train (every 10 mins) and is an unnecessary transfer. While the introduction of Integrated Fares has removed the transfer penalty, the time penalties, as well as the inconvenience of transferring means that many who would catch the train, instead may potentially drive or not access the area reducing opportunities. The New Central Bus Network has zero bus routes moving through the upper half of the area. The 323 in the New Network from Sylvia Park brings you over the Eastern Line, but will only have a maximum frequency of 30 minutes, so no real time advantage is gained.
New Network Routes
Map prepared for AT by MRCagney shows the realistic walking catchment of the station (Highlighted Area, 1km, 10-15min) which shows the catchment east of the NIMT is very low. The current overpass shows the difficult accessibility of the route.
Sylvia Park Station Catchment
GI Station Catchment
Panmure Station Catchment
As a result this puts Sylvia Park station in an interesting situation, where for relatively low one off CAPEX cost, the reach of Eastern Line RTN can be extended. A Low Hanging Fruit Opportunity presents itself to maximise our RTN’s.
1. Access to the Station is provided from the South-Eastern Highway Flyover. The Highway sits relatively close to the station and has footpaths in place. A signalised intersection is at Carbine road which allows relatively safe crossing.
2. Access to Carbine Rd via the use of the carpark currently east of the NIMT. The footpath would use a very small amount of land, however private property would be affected which would require the loss of some car parks.
Land East of NIMT towards Carbine
3. Elevated walkway access to Carbine Rd. This would use a similar route to #2. However, it would not affect the car parks to the same degree. This option may have higher costs.
Mt Eden Station Elevated Walkway
4. Underpass access to Carbine Road. This option would use a similar route to #2/3 but would be an underpass. Above ground property would therefore be unaffected. This however, may be extremely expensive and pedestrians don’t tend to rate underpasses highly due to safety concerns.
Red Arrows indicate on Map Location
Ellerslie Train Station Underpass
In conclusion providing better access east of the NIMT will drastically increase the reach of the Eastern Line RTN, connecting people better to jobs in the Carbine Rd area, enabling the higher density residential development of the area in the Mixed Use and THAB zones, as well as significantly improving access to people studying at NZMA. Lastly it will allow better access to people in the area who wish to cross the Eastern Line, reducing severance.
As part of Auckland Transport’s trial around platform markings they are also updating other signage at stations. I need to get out and have a look at them in more detail but one of the most obvious changes is in the station name signs. Below you can see what it looks like at Fruitvale Rd.
There’s a couple of interesting features:
I like that they seem to using W in a green circle to indicate the line. Although Western Line is listed in the top left corner under the AT Metro logo, perhaps the prominence of the W suggests AT are thinking of moving to a single letter system for the train or Rapid Transit lines. This would likely tie in with new route numbering that is being rolled out as part of the new network which sees frequent bus routes have one or two digit numbers with less frequent routes having three digit numbers. If I’m correct it will be interesting to see how they’ll treat stations served by multiple lines e.g. Otahuhu.
I also like that they’ve added the next and previous station information on them, it’s little things like this that add to usability. At Fruitvale at least they’ve taken this further with a list of upcoming stations printed on to the screen stuff that covers the glass to prevent damage (don’t have a photo sorry).
Many of the old MAXX signs these replace had been scratched and vandalised – as far as I’m aware the signs only appeared on Tuesday and had already been vandalised by that night. Hopefully these signs are cheaper and easier to replace when that happens. Speaking of the old signs, I personally think these new ones look much better than the signs they replaced, an example of which is below.
What do you think, an improvement or what would you have done differently?
Starting from next week Auckland Transport are trialling new markings at a few train stations in a bid to make it easier for those with disabilities, pushing prams or with bikes. They say “concerns have been raised about how difficult it is to know where to stand on the platform to be in the best position to locate the doors (visually impaired passengers) or the ramps (mobility impaired) and be able to board the trains before they depart.”
The trial markings are being installed at Sylvia Park, New Lynn, Avondale and Fruitvale Road Stations for use starting Monday. One of the impacts is that some 3-car trains will stop at different locations on the platform to provide consistency and that may mean doors to the low floor section are further away from the shelter – which AT need to provide more of at most stations. AT also hope that by improving access for those who need to use the middle carriage they can improve dwell times of trains.
The trial will be monitored over a number of months for effectiveness and compliance. Some of the measures being monitored include:
- Mobility Group feedback
- General feedback through all customer channels
- Dwell time analysis
- LE & train Manger feedback
- AT staff general feedback
- Transdev staff general feedback
They say that if the trial is deemed successful then the Platform and Door Markers may be rolled-out across the rail network. Here are what some of the trials look like.
Overall I think this is a good idea and one that should help however I suspect it will need more than just some markings on the platform. Often I people with disabilities, bikes or prams who don’t even realise that the middle low floor car exists and who then struggle up the stairs and in the case of the latter two groups can potentially block doors and aisles.
I’d also like to see AT include information about what train is going to turn up on the platform displays – of which we need more. Showing the length of the approaching train is quite common overseas.
There’s a lot that Auckland Transport do that we criticise them for and I so always like being able to give them praise when they deserve it. As such this is just a quick post to say that I thought their communication on Thursday about the impacts of the severe weather were good – at least on twitter anyway.
It started right from early in the morning with this tweet
Most people who use PT often have a choice between PT and driving and when the weather is bad the first instinct can be to revert to using the car, especially if the car is parked in an internal garage. Of course when that happens the roads get even more congested so having congestion free options – the rail network, the Northern Busway and the few roads with bus lanes on them – becomes even more essential. The great thing about the reminder above is most people can probably remember times when they’ve been on the road in those conditions and the gridlock that ensued.
I know the thought of driving crossed my wife’s mind before reminding her of what the roads would be like. A others clearly went through the same thought process and the reminder was timely in enabling them to get around the city.
And of course as expected the roads were madness, there were some horror stories out there of people taking multiple hours to drive around the city. This was especially the case in the eastern suburbs where Tamaki Dr was closed. Again on Tamaki Dr it seemed their communication was really good. This is just one of many tweets they had on the issue.
So for comms well done AT, you did a good job.
In saying this, it’s also worth thinking about why people changed their habits so much. One of the reasons is surely due to the lack of quality amenity at many train stations or bus stops. By that I mean the often appalling small and exposed shelters. Take my local station as an example (Sturges Rd). On both platforms there is only a single shelter with seating under it for about 10 people. That might be ok during off peak but in the mornings it’s common to see more 70 or more people waiting for the train (in the offpeak it’s not uncommon to see 30 people waiting for a train). On Thursday morning those people were all trying to cram under this single shelter and to get there they already had to dash across the open platform and access paths at either end.
Sadly most bus shelters are just as bad or in many cases probably even worse.
I realise there are a lot of competing priorities when it comes to PT funding but in my opinion providing better facilities would go a long way to improving the customer experience and would probably drive more patronage than $100 million spent on new park n ride facilities.
To end on a positive note though, my wife works in the Wynyard Quarter and until Thursday had always walked there from Britomart. She doesn’t mind if it’s raining lightly and had always ignored suggestions to catch the City Link bus as only every second one went there. However the weather on Thursday was pretty crazy and now that all City Link buses go to Wynyard it’s simplified the service and increased the frequency to the area so she gave it a go. In her words “it was a godsend”. A good example of how simplifying services and improving connections will get people using services.
One of the things I’ve really liked about some of the recent developments in our PT network has been the development of some really high quality stations. In the Herald on Sunday, Janet McAllister takes a look at the new Panmure station which is the most recent of these:
Although traffic fixes seem super-slow, the efforts of our transport czars to beautify the Super City along the way have been a nice surprise. New Zealand Transport Agency’s eye-popping, swooping pedestrian motorway overbridges and even Auckland Transport’s amusing Lichtenstein-inspired pop-art bus ads are unexpected delights.
Then there are the beautiful train stations. In just over a decade, several new-look Auckland stations have been built including (but not limited to) Britomart, which is ageing well; sleek, criminally hidden Newmarket; and art-clad New Lynn.
The latest is Panmure Station, which, like New Lynn, is part of a bus-train interchange. I went there last week, to meet some of the Opus team responsible, including Chilean architect Victor Hugo Rojas and project manager Stefan Geelen. Bonus: I got to travel on the Eastern Line, which includes one of the world’s most beautiful stretches of suburban train track, crossing lagoons on its own causeway.
The Panmure site is not so pretty. The station, with its impressive statement frontage, stands as a handsome beacon of glass, stone and wood in the midst of a pedestrian-unfriendly commercial semi-wasteland (features for cyclists are still part of the work in progress). But the station is designed to help kick-start a more human cityscape: pleasingly, AT’s brief asked for an open public plaza and for quality, in order to attract good development.
I love the few higher quality stations that have been built around the network and look forward to more being developed over the next few years – we should see Manukau finished this year and Otahuhu next year before the new bus network rolls out. One thing that is undeniable though is that they do cost more than regular stations, Panmure cost $17.5 million while Newmarket cost $35 million, the costs for the New Lynn are tied in with the works to put the rail line in a trench for grade separation. As a comparison my understanding is that a typical station upgrade is probably something like $2-3 million.
As patronage is generally one of the key things that PT systems and stations are judged on there’s often a bit of debate about whether the extra investment to make high quality stations worth it. The Atlantic Cities has reported on some research from Italy looking at just that.
But are transit stations really “destinations” in the absolute sense? More to the point: Do riders really care how nice they are?
The question is pretty apt considering a renewed trend toward gorgeous train and transit stations. These include the Arts et Metiers station in Paris, the Stadion station in Stockholm, the Expo station in Singapore, among others. The new focus on aesthetics has been dubbed a “station renaissance,” with many being designed by big name architects (Santiago Calatrava is behind the new PATH).
Recently a pair of civil engineers at the University of Naples, in Italy, tried to estimate what exactly this renaissance is worth to the average rider. They compared ridership of two lines of the Campania regional metro system: one traditional line, and the new “Rainbow” line that opened in 2009 at considerable cost. By service standards, the routes are remarkably alike — both serve a similar corridor with similar trains running similar travel times. But the Rainbow stations (left, below) are what you might call unparalleled. The traditional ones (right)? Very paralleled.
Using a series of rider surveys and statistical models, the Naples engineers concluded that station aesthetics did, in fact, influence rider decisions about which line to take. They found that commuters were willing to pay about 50 cents (Euro) more per one-way fare at the nicer stations, to wait up to 7 minutes more for a train, and to walk an extra 10 minutes to get there. The latter metric is the equivalent of extending the station “catchment area” (basically its service zone) by about a quarter mile.
The researchers conclude that a station’s architectural quality should be an explicit design consideration and should even be compared against other service metrics, including frequency and accessibility, when determining transit improvements.
To some extent they do have a point. The perceptions people have toward transit matter, sometimes over and above objective service metrics, and striking the right balance is important. Scale aside, there’s no reason the interior of a transit station shouldn’t be as pleasant as the interior of a car.
That’s some fairly positive results for the higher quality stations however as The Atlantic Cities points out there is a need for balance. In Auckland I think we probably are getting that balance about right on the big stations. $17.5 million might be a lot of money but for such a major station as Panmure will be then it doesn’t seem overboard at all. I also like that we are developing a more nuanced hierarchy to PT stations. Even just a few years ago we either had the big expensive stations and then everything else. Now with stations like Mt Albert we are starting to see a middle category emerge, stations which are an improvement over the typical Auckland station but not as big or expensive as the those major ones. For example I believe Mt Albert cost just under $7 million so in between the typical station and major station cost.
Note: I still think a lot more effort needs to go into existing and even recently upgraded stations to improve them. In particular through providing additional shelter and seats.
Mt Albert Station with its concourse and built in art
As part of the RPTP, Auckland Transport also included a table highlighting what should be included in the design of any future PT interchanges so we should see this hierarchy develop further..
- Major Interchange – at the city centre or at metropolitan centres, where a rapid service terminates or passes through, where several or more frequent services terminate or pass through, where local and connector services terminate, where inter-regional services may terminate or pass through, or where the interchange facility is a landmark feature within its environment.
- Intermediate Interchange – are within town centres, where a rapid service may terminate or pass through, where one or more frequent services may terminate or pass through, where local and connector services terminate, or where the interchange may be a landmark feature or integrated into other land use. A different type of interchange also fits into this category where it is a dedicated piece of infrastructure required for connection between two modes, such as ferry to bus or train to bus. In this situation, the location is fixed by the access requirements of one of the modes (ferry or train) and may often not be part of any urban centre and will thus need to be fully self-serving (i.e. no opportunity for shared facilities).
- Minor Interchange – are at local centres, where a rapid service may pass through, where one or more frequent services may terminate or pass through, where local and connector services may terminate or pass through, or where the interchange facility is more likely to be integrated within or subservient to surrounding land use.
- Neighbourhood Connection – Within a neighbourhood centre, where frequent services pass across each other and provide a connection opportunity, or where the connection points are generally on-street stops and subservient to surrounding land use.
Lastly one positive is that the cost of these upgrades is like loose change compared to the new PATH station being built at the World Trade Centre site and which is costing US$4 billion/NZ$5 billion.
One of the features of the new bus network is that in return for a much greater number of frequent routes, some people will need to transfer. It’s important that we make that process as easy as possible, especially at the major interchanges – like the Panmure one that Luke posted about this morning. In South Auckland where the new network has already been consulted on – and received really positive feedback with something like 70% support – one of the biggest interchanges will be at the Otahuhu train station where there will be two frequent and numerous other bus routes.
The the current situation is fairly grim with the station being hidden from the main road by walls of empty shipping containers, there’s not even really any bus stops nearby. Here are some images from Auckland Transport of the station and it’s surrounds as it is today.
Auckland Transport are now consulting on a design for a fully interchange to make it easy to transfer between train and bus (or bus and bus). They say key design features include:
- Integrated platform – dual bus bays (x4 buses each site)
- Canopied bus and rail platforms – continuous coverage for passengers moving between bus and train services
- Enclosed waiting room on bus platform
- Concourse – linking bus and rail platforms, incorporating retail kiosk, staff facilities, gating and ticketing
- Multiple bus / train platform access options – stairs/lifts/ramps/escalators
- Kiss & Ride parking, taxi stand
- Secure cycle storageOtahuhu bus train interchange
- WiFi Hotspot facility
- CCTV security – real time information
I really like the idea that there will be an enclosed waiting room for bus passengers. That’s something we haven’t seen be a feature in Auckland so far so a nice addition. Here are some images of the proposed upgrade.
If the final design turns out like this then I think it will be quite a neat station. I really like the wide concourse building and the close integration with buses. Certainly a much better use of the land than what is currently on the site. If this is the standard for the major interchanges – which it must be considering other major stations like New Lynn and Panmure – then I think it suggests we are heading in the right direction.
If I was to have one concern about the project though it is that it focuses only on the interchange, why not also take the opportunity to upgrade the local roads to improve walking and cycling connections for locals but that is something that can be included in the feedback.
We learned a few months ago that AT were about to trial some cycle cages at a few rail stations and if successful roll out the scheme to the rest of the rail network. Now the first cages at Papakura, Papatoetoe and also at the Birkenhead Ferry Terminal have gone into operation and if you live in the area, you can register to use them here.
New bike parking facilities have opened at two train stations and a ferry terminal.
Auckland Transport is trialling enclosed, covered bike parking at Papakura and Papatoetoe train stations and Birkenhead ferry terminal.
The parks at the train stations hold 20 bikes while the one at the Birkenhead ferry terminal can store 30 bikes. All three parks offer a choice of standing racks and hanging bike parking.
Auckland Transport’s Manager of Community Transport, Matthew Rednall, says “We want to encourage people to leave their car at home and get on their bike to connect with the train or the ferry. It’s a chance to get fit and takes another vehicle off the road.”
The bike parks are covered by CCTV cameras and, to add to security, access is by a proximity card which is issued after registering on-line.
The parks at the rail stations also have bike repair stands for small jobs like fixing punctures.
Cycle Action Auckland Chair, Barbara Cuthbert, says “Bike parking has moved into a new age with these superb facilities – they even have a bike pump as part of the installation. Secure, undercover bike parking will allow more of us to cycle to the train or ferry, and have peace of mind out bike will be ready and waiting at the end of the day.”
Access to the bike parks is on a six-monthly basis, you will be contacted before your registration runs out in time to renew or cancel it.
For more information and to register go to: http://www.aucklandtransport.govt.nz/moving-around/biking-cycleways/cycling-and-public-transport/Pages/default.aspx
Here are some pics of what they look like.
This is a good initiative and hopefully is successful and rolled out to all train and bus stations as well as ferry terminals. Many stations have woeful options for storing bikes yet can have a heap of carparks, like my local station at Sturges Rd below where there are 170 car parks but only a few exposed hoops to tie bikes up to. It’s no surprise that they are never used.
Lots of space for cars at Sturges Rd
Not much space for bikes
The users of the Mt Albert train station have had a long few months of disruptions as the station has been rebuilt however the worst of it is now over and entrance to Carrington Rd is open once again. It is the last station on the western line to be upgraded although the next phase will see the underpass at the western end upgraded creating a few more headaches for users. To celebrate tomorrow there is a ribbon cutting ceremony from 10am-3pm along with a few activities for the kids. Here is the press release from AT:
Stage one transforms Mt Albert Train Station
Auckland Transport has completed the first stage of transforming Mt Albert Train Station from an aging station offering a basic level of passenger convenience to a modern, attractive and safe facility with better access for mobility users and pedestrians.
Mt Albert was one of the last stations on the Western line to be improved as part of Auckland Transport’s upgrade programme.
Auckland Transport’s, Project Director – PT Capital Improvements, Nick Seymour says “In recent years, upgrading Mount Albert Station has been in the headlines, primarily to ensure the end result is one that copes with future needs incorporating the wider plans for the area. The project is being delivered in two stages. The first focused on improving the customer environment and enhancing the entry point from Carrington Road Bridge.
“The second stage will be delivered in 2014.
“Once fully complete Mount Albert will have a magnificent new station fit for years to come”, says Mr Seymour.
Upgrade work included resealing the platform’s surface, installing two new passenger shelters along with electronic information displays, passenger help points and improving lighting and CCTV security.
Mr Seymour says it is the architectural form and design which gives the station character. The glazing along the walkway and concourse wall incorporates artwork designed by Moko IA Creative House. Titled ‘Owairaka’ it was developed around the cultural significance to the iwi of Tamaki Makaurau, the location of the rail link and the transportation of people both to and from Owairaka or Mt Albert.
Albert-Eden Local Board Chair, Peter Haynes says “Mt Albert has been waiting a long time for the station to be upgraded. We finally have it and it looks fantastic. The improved customer facilities now bring Mt Albert in line with other stations. This is stage one of an exciting redevelopment of the town centre as we look forward to progressing our plans for the future.”
To mark the completion of stage one a community ribbon cutting ceremony and free family festival will be held on Saturday 6 July from 10am to 3pm.
There will be a bouncy castle, a vertical bungee, free sausage sizzle, candy floss and popcorn, clowns and face painting. The festival is organised by the Albert-Eden Local Board in partnership with the Mt Albert Business Association and Community Groups. All are welcome to attend. Rain or shine.
What: Ribbon cutting and family fun festival
When: Saturday 6 July
Where: Carpark plaza, New North Road, Mt Albert
Time: 10 to 3pm
Free, Rain or shine
This is what the station used to look like.
A few months ago I visited the station to check on progress and this is how it looked.
And here is what the station concourse looks like now, such a magnificent improvement.
While there is still a little bit of work on Mt Albert, from memory there is only the Panmure station upgrade to finish, Takanini station to upgrade and the Parnell station to build then all stations within the electrified area will have been finished. That is a vast improvement from over what the state of the network was 10 years ago.