This had to happen eventually, in fact I’m surprised it took this long:
After a long night of discussions, the Wellington City Council has voted in favour of exploring alternative options to the proposed Basin Reserve flyover.
The decision came the same day Auckland architect Richard Reid announced he has drafted a solution to the traffic congestion, without needing the $90 million dollar flyover proposed by the New Zealand Transport Agency.
Councillor Justin Lester said the council will apply $50,000 toward looking at different options including Mr Reid’s idea of a second tunnel.
The vote was won eight to seven.
The flyover proposal is straight out of the 1950s transport engineering handbook – the kind of thing that most cities around the world are tearing down. Let’s check what it might look like:
There has also be a bit of a row break out about this process as the NZTA sent a letter to the council effectively saying that if the council changed its mind then it would re assess a whole host of other transport projects in the region, this has led to accusations that the agency is trying to bully the council into accepting the deal. This part in particular is probably what is causing the most offence and I had to particularly laugh at the line saying that the NZTA won’t invest in sub-optimal transport developments.
My understanding of part of what has caused both the regional and local council to start reconsidering their support of the flyover has been the governments decision to underground Buckle St to remove traffic from between the National War Memorial and Memorial park, a project I believe the NZTA weren’t previously keen on.
I think out of all the Roads of National Significance projects, the Wellington Northern Corridor is probably the worst – for a variety of reasons:
- Wellington’s population is hardly growing so there unlikely to be massive future demand for transport improvements, unlike Auckland which may grow by up to a million extra people over the next 30 years.
- The cost-benefit ratios for sections of the Wellington RoNS are simply terrible: 0.6 for Transmission Gully and 0.2 for the Kapiti Expressway.
- The urban impact of many sections of the Wellington RoNS are horrific, with the Basin Reserve flyover being the worst example of this.
I don’t know Wellington’s transport situation that well, but it seems that there must surely be better and more sensible options available than the $3 billion proposed to be ploughed into an unnecessary and destructive motorway?
This is a Guest Post by Louis Mayo and follows on from this previous post about Wellington’s PT fare review
Following on from the discussion on the previous post I thought I’d propose a scheme that, in my opinion, would make for an excellent and ‘world class’ fare structure.
Number of zones:
There would be four zones:
- Blue: Covering the entire Wellington City area & the northern suburbs.
- Red: Covering Hutt, Porirua and as far north as Pukerua bay & Upper Hutt
- Green: Covering Kapati as far north as Waikanae and South Wairarapa as far north as Greytown.
- Yellow: Covering everywhere further north to Levin and Masterton. Does expand into the area of Horizon’s council but it seemed fair to have a reasonably straight line west from Masterton.
I have prepared a map showing indicative zones:
The gaps in between the colours are the ‘overlap’ areas. You can view a zoomed in version here.
I have decided to go for the option of having a smaller number of larger sized zones. Zones are combined into to new zones at a ratio of around 1:3.5. It will mean that each zone can have its own dedicated colour (I personally can’t think of 14 different colours!) This has a number of advantages such as simplicity and easier to understand and also encourages people to use PT to make multiple transfers because they have a larger area for them to do so.
There is obviously a disadvantage with using zone based systems. For example person A could be going just across the zone boundary and end up being stung with a high fare for an extra zone even if they were only going a few stops. Meanwhile person B could make a much longer trip from one end of the boundary and only pay a one zone fare
There are two ways that this can be partially resolved. One is by having zones ‘overlap’ at each other (i.e some stops would be in two zones). My, very crude,”measurements indicate that both zones red and blue are around 15-16 kilometres long end to end “as the crow flies”, and the overlaps I have measured at around 4 kilometres long between blue & red and red & green and 6km between green & yellow zones. Obviously this does not solve the entire problem and there will be some that still end up paying more than what may be deemed equitable.
The other way is by having clear geographical marks to establish the cut off points. An example of how this could work is on the Kapati line – almost all PT users heading into Wellington will be on the train. There is a long distance between Takapu Road and Wellington so this works as a natural zone boundary. The good thing about having larger zones is that there are only issues drawing lines at three boundaries rather than at thirteen different boundaries as there currently is.
Paper tickets would be paid for in cash and purchased on-board a bus from the driver or from a vending machine or from staffed ticket booths (major stations only). There is the possibility of having tickets that are sold on-board buses to be “no change given” as used in many overseas cities. This will speed up boarding times but I do worry a little about this that it may put off some people. If I was an inexperienced, first time user of the system and handed over a $10 note expecting $6.50 change and not getting it then I’d be pretty annoyed. It is an issue that makes for a very interesting discussion.
Vending machines and counters will have cash and EFTPOS and would be located at every train, cable car and ferry stop on the network, but you could also roll this out major bus stops, which would facilitate faster boarding times. But this has the potential for fare evasion. Currently the bus driver acts as a reasonable barrier against it so GWRC would need to employ random ticket inspections (as per below) on buses as well which will increase costs.
The paper ticket would have the zone and expiry time clearly printed on the ticket. No tickets will be sold onboard trains and all passengers must have a ticket before boarding and must retain it for the entire journey.
Smart cards should be an RFID system similar to Snapper, but hopefully a lot ‘smarter’. Internet top ups (without needing to pay a horrific $40 for a USB card reader) will be available as well as the facility to have the card directly linked to a bank account for automatic topping up, two features that Snapper lacks at present. I envisage that most regular users would be on smart cards as the discounts and the benefits of not carrying cash would pay for itself over time.
The ideal would be a single smart card that works across Auckland and Wellington, and potentially other cities as well. Not sure what the chances of achieving this are, but dreams are free. Surely there must be advantages from economies of scale to be gained from using the Thales system after it has been installed in Auckland?
Time based ticketing:
All fares would be time based – more like a ‘subscription’ to the chosen zones rather than just a single trip. I propose offering two hour and daily time periods. I personally see nothing wrong with people using two hour passes to make a return journey if it is within the two hour window.
In addition for smart card users there would be weekly and monthly ‘fare caps’, i.e once you reach that cap over that week / month then you can receive free travel over that / those zone/s for the remainder of the week / month.
The following people will pay discounted fares at all times:
●All people under 20 years of age.
●Beneficiaries / very low income earners.
Photo I.D would need to be carried at all times to qualify for concession fares. Children should travel free when travelling with an adult during off peak hours in order to make transport more affordable for families and will further incentivise off peak travel.
Off peak fares:
All people would receive discounted fares during the off peak hours. These would be 10am-2.30pm (deliberately set to end before the after school period) and after 7pm during weekdays as well as all day weekends and public holidays (and potentially for contra-peak journeys as well) This provides an incentive for people to choose other times of the day to travel and will help manage crowds during peak hours. Free travel for senior citizens off peak would continue.
Price of fares:
Suggested fare prices are shown in the tables below. A one zone fare is set at the price of what is currently a two zone fare, but would give you the equivalent of around three zones worth of travel which does mean that there is some cross subsidisation to longer trips from shorter trips. The reasoning is that PT is less likely to be competing with walking and cycling for shorter trips and more likely to compete with car travel for long trips and also because longer trips end up getting very expensive without some cross subsidisation and I would say that the marginal cost of providing for longer distance trips is lower.
To incentivise smart card usage, a 20% discount is offered. Weekly fares are set at day fare x 4.5 and monthly fares at weekly x 3.5. As it is an electronic transaction, fares do not need to be in fifty cent multiples. Prices are as below:
There is again a disadvantage with the larger zones. The jump between a one zone and a two zone fare is quite large from $3.50 to $6. The next increases are not so bad.
I think these fares are realistic, as much as I’d like to have cheaper fares I am wary that budgets are at considerable strain and there is not really the scope to be charging lower fares. Although for some there will definitely be an initial shock of what appears to be a fare hike. But over time most will change their behaviour and get better value for money. For example someone making a one zone commute into work may be shocked to find their fare has increased from $2 to $3.50. But over time they will find that they can get a smart card and travel off peak and only pay $1.60 and might find that they can use the network to go for a meeting in another part of the city and avoid an expensive taxi fare.
Wellington (central) train station is easily gated. Due to the heavily radial structure of the network, most train travellers will hit the gates at Wellington, but it would be good to see some of the other busier stations to be gated as well in the longer run. Lambton cable car station already has gates which would simply need to be adapted for the new system. There is no reason why gates could not be rolled out busy bus stops as well.
I had assumed that all gated stations would need to be staffed. Stuart, however, informs me that Amsterdam have a system where people trying to exit without a ticket can press a button and the gate will open but they will be recorded on camera. I had envisaged that there would need to be staff to help people in wheelchairs, etc to get through the gates and stop the odd dunce from trying to jump over the gates. Wellington actually has quite a few staffed stations, Porirua and Waterloo I know but I think there are a few others as well. Inspections will have to be carried out regularly and officers would need to have the power to issue infringement notices as just forcing people to pay the fare will not be enough.
I feel this system would provide a convenient and easy policy that has many advantages. There are definitely disadvantages but they are outweighed by the positives in my personal opinion. Please do comment as there is important and very interesting discussion to be had and I’m very interested in the opinions of others on this matter.
I remind you again to go to www.farereview.co.nz and fill out a quick survey (takes 5 minutes) or attach a document of a longer submission – 14th September is the closing date. The criticisms I have of the survey are that it doesn’t address transfers and they have some auto system that pre judges your survey answers before you submit.
Some pretty exciting news for Wellingtonians today – with an announcement that instead of refurbishing the rather old Ganz Mavang trains, Wellington will instead replace them with an extension of their current order for new Matangi trains:
Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) and the NZ Transport Agency announced today they intend to replace rather than refurbish the existing Ganz Mavag trains to complete the region’s peak train requirements.
“When all 48 2-car new Matangi trains (or 96 cars) are in service later this year, at least a further 26 trains will still be needed for peak hour services,” GWRC Chair, Fran Wilde, said today. “In the immediate future the older Ganz Mavag trains are being used, but the ageing and increasingly unreliable fleet needs to be refurbished or replaced to ensure reliable services are provided as demand continues to increase.”
Last year, based on a comprehensive cost/benefit analysis of refurbishment versus replacement, GWRC decided in principle to refurbish the Ganz fleet subject to funding and final comparison costs. The NZ Transport Agency agreed to fund at least 50% of this refurbishment project.
“However, we have recently received a competitive offer from Hyundai Rotem, supplier of the Matangi, for up to 35 additional new trains (or 70 cars). This offer is less than half the cost estimated in 2011 and with more robust information on the maintenance cost of the Matangi and Ganz fleets, buying more Matangi units looks considerably more favourable than it did last year.
“Importantly our reviews and independent analysis show that buying more Matangi trains would have about the same impact on regional fares and rates as refurbishing the Ganz Mavag fleet because debt repayment would be spread over a longer period.
“The key issue is that if we refurbish the Ganz trains we still would have to purchase replacements for them at the end of their life in fifteen years’ time at whatever the price is in 2027,” Fran Wilde said.
“Buying more Matangi trains offers a rare opportunity to completely renew an entire fleet in one extended procurement process.
“The Council will be considering this at its September meeting and if approved we would then begin negotiations. The financial evaluations and economic modelling we have done as part of our due diligence so far show that it is a ‘no-brainer’ to pursue this option.
“We expect that during the 35 year life of the new trains there would be a $228m saving over the cost of refurbishing the Ganz fleet and replacing them in 15 years.”
Jenny Chetwynd, NZ Transport Agency’s Regional Director says the NZTA’s contribution of at least 50% of this investment in new trains reflects the strength of the proposal.
“These new trains will be a great investment that provides good long term value for money and will significantly improve state highway congestion issues as well as the reliability, capacity and quality of Wellington’s public transport services. This should help to encourage future passenger growth and help economic productivity throughout the region. This is a significant and worthwhile financial commitment which delivers on the NZTA’s investment priorities and the regional transport strategy.”
Cr Peter Glensor, Chair of the Regional Council’s Economic Wellbeing Committee, which oversees the council’s public transport activities, said that the replacement option offers two benefits: facilities on the trains and reliability.
“An all-Matangi fleet would mean that all of Wellington’s metropolitan trains would be modern, efficient, fully accessible, air-conditioned and reliable. We anticipate that more people would use the new trains which would help reduce peak congestion and transport-related pollution. Thus apart from the competitive price on the table – half of last year’s market estimate – an important issue is the performance and high quality passenger experience of the Matangi fleet, and the improving levels of punctuality,” Cr Glensor said.
“We are also pleased with the very positive feedback we are receiving from drivers and on-board crew as they become more familiar with the new Matangi trains.
“Having a single fleet also makes good economic sense: driver training would be simpler and more consistent; no heavy maintenance would be needed in the short term; warranties would be extended; spare parts and inventory holdings would be reduced; and we would not need to undertake further major rolling stock procurement for at least 30 years,” Cr Glensor said.
Crs Wilde and Glensor said that from the beginning they had explored the issue of the impact of this decision on Hutt Workshops.
“However, we have been informed by KiwiRail that the workshops have enough current and planned work for the existing workforce and are not reliant on the Ganz Mavag refurbishment work. All regular maintenance on the Matangi trains will also continue to be done locally.”
Ms Wilde says that if negotiations proceed, delivery of the first unit could be around the middle of 2014, with the entire fleet in service by mid 2016.
So by mid 2016 both Auckland and Wellington will pretty much have entirely brand new passenger rail fleets. That’s pretty cool.
I also think we need to come up with a proper name for Auckland’s new electric trains.
This is a Gust Post by regular commenter Matthew Thredgold (“handlebars Matt”). It originally appears on his blog here and has been reproduced with his kind permission.
Is it time to dust off for a reread the Danish firm, Gehl Architects’ 2004 Report for Wellington’s City to Waterfront Study?
The NZTA are often accused of sham public consultations and then doing whatever they want, and that may well be the case for what they are now calling The Tunnel to Tunnel Inner City Transport Improvements.
The politics of road building can be pretty nasty. There is the Happy Motoring brigade who never want to stop at a red light, wait in a traffic queue for any amount of microseconds, nor see a bloody cyclist on their beloved tarmac. The current transport minister may well indeed be one of the brigade – see Brownlee is a Roads Scholar. Then at the other end of the spectrum there are the green purists who view all road development and automobiles as intrinsically evil. (Yes I know such people probably are mythical, but I suspect people, like the commenters on every story on the RoNS in the Fairfax press who say “Hurry up and build the thing”, believe that they do exist.)
If we ignore the great economic cost of building giant roads and tunnels in the first place, and if we ignore the pollution issues, and the possible urban blight issues of a flyover in Mt Cook/Te Aro, and the fact that petrol is going to get more expensive, and that Wellington is presently in the economic doldrums meaning traffic levels are probably going to fall, does the Tunnel to Tunnel plan actually have some benefits for making Wellington a more liveable city?
Should we (we as in the non-Happy Motoring Brigade) roll over on the Basin flyover, the Buckle Street tunnel, duplicating the Terrace Tunnel, and the Mt Victoria Tunnel, and the widening of Ruahine Street and then use them as an opportunity to improve the outcomes in terms of urban quality, better cycling routes, getting rid of traffic on the streets that are bypassed and slowing down the traffic that is left? It is after all called the Inner City Bypass.
Firstly I’ve got to say it is a good idea to reinstate the Helen Clark Government’s plan to put Buckle Street into an underpass to make an urban park in front of the War Memorial carillon. It’s now a rush job to get it finished by the centenary of the Gallipoli landings (and it wouldn’t have been a rush if National didn’t cancel the plan in 2009). So we can thank Helen Clark for it, rather than John Key.
Putting the traffic underground here wasn’t National’s idea.
Next consider that a pedestrian cycle facility is meant to be included in the NZTA plan. I’m not sure from the brochure what the quality of it is going to be, but maybe they’ll even improve the Mt Vic Tunnel facilities (how many years have we been ignored on our calls to install a relatively inexpensive perspex screen for the pedestrian route in the current Mt Vic Tunnel so that pedestrians aren’t poisoned with fumes?) The blue dotted lines are crying out for separated cycle lanes (without fear of dooring) on Kent and Cambridge Terraces to join out this proposed better route with the waterfront and the start of the around the Bays route.
Dotted blue line is supposed cycle/pedestrian facilities
Those separated cycle lanes on Kent and Cambridge fit in with Jan Gehl’s idea of City Boulevards, as shown on this map on his report. Notice that with a lot of the traffic removed out of the city centre (and especially off the Quays) the Quays, Cable and Wakefield St and Kent and Cambridge Terraces are all City Boulevards. This is the idea from the Gehl report that needs revisiting.
But the good news is this is the NZTA’s thinking too. This is in their brochure:
So what is an urban boulevard for Wellington? It means reducing the 6 lanes on Waterloo, Customhouse and Jervois Quays down to 4. It means adding Copenhagen style cycle lanes to the Quays, so no on street parking. It means a 3 metre median planted with trees. (Yes it has this in part already)
And it means slowing the traffic. At the moment the Quays are way too fast. They are either 70 or 50 km/hr and it is too fast. The fast traffic and the 6 lanes means it is a barrier to pedestrians to get from the Golden Mile to the Waterfront. I would like a 30km/hr limit. The Happy Motoring brigade would like 50 and then drive at 60. Perhaps 40 km/hr, enforced, is a happy compromise.
We need the bike lanes on the Quays as the Inner City Bypass is for cars, the Golden Mile will remain to be for buses and pedestrians, the waterfront is for walkers, strollers, dreamers, and slow recreational cycling, and the safe separated cycle lanes on the Quays will be for cycle commuting. If you want to cycle slow go on the waterfront. If you want to cycle at 20-30km/hr cycle in the cycle lanes on the Quays.
Wellington is also having its debate on buses versus light rail for the railway station to hospital transport spine study. The Boulevard on the Quays could still be reduced from 6 lanes to 4, and accommodate the light rail tracks.
The Gehl report has lots of other good advice especially about linking the Golden Mile to the Waterfront and removing obstacles for pedestrians along the Golden Mile (by closing side streets) and is worth a read, but it also has some recommendations for cyclists. First a map of the cycle routes in the city. The orange boxes are areas of “cyclist confusion”. The northern one could be fixed with my cycle paths across the Cake Tin forecourt suggestion. The Eastern one by boulevardising Kent and Cambridge.
And lastly Gehl’s recommendations for cycling:
All good, and points d, e, h and k I think are particularly great advice. Point j gives the Trondheim example of the bike elevator.
All in all, I reckon the forces of Happy Motoring are going to win the day and we are going to end up with at least a completed 2-lane in each direction road between Cobham Drive and the SH1 and SH2 split. i.e the Inner City Bypass will be complete. The Mt Vic and Terrace tunnels will be duplicated. We have to stand fast and hold them to the Buckle Street Underpass that they’ve promised.
It is not all bad news as significant benefits are going to be had if we ask for them and prepare for them. We can make good decisions about the CBD. It does involve slowing down speed limits, narrowing roads, getting rid of on-street parking, building separated cycle lanes, and lots of things that are anathema to the Happy Motoring brigade, but we should stand tall and say thanks for the opportunity, we’ll take it from here.
This is a Guest Post by reader and commenter Louis Mayo:
Hello everyone. This is the first of my promised guest posts and I thought I’d cover this issue outside of Auckland, as the other writers do a fantastic job of this already. Greater Wellington Regional Council / Metlink appear to (finally) be looking at integrated ticketing and integrated fares. As a regular user of Wellington public transport and someone who is very interested in fare structures and have guest posted about Auckland before (here and here), I thought I’d throw my two cents worth. I’d like to thank Stuart Donovan for reading over my draft copy and I have edited the post, taking into account the feedback he has given me.
Wellington’s fare system is structured slightly better than what is currently (hopefully not for much longer) used in Auckland. The system is based on “zones”, which radiate from the CBD, rather than “stages”. The difference is that zones are clearly defined and cover the entire network, “stages” on the other hand, can be different for each individual route (or group of routes). Another feature about Wellington’s system is that all fares are in fifty cent multiples which makes cash handling easier, speeding up dwell times on buses.
As with Auckland, there are cash fares, which are only available as single trip, no transfer tickets as well as frequent rider fares which are, in some cases (i.e Snapper on NZ Bus operated services, and I believe Mana and Newlands coachlines have a smart card as well) a stored value card (e.g HOP or Ritchies Fastpass in Auckland) or in other cases, a ten trip, “clip the ticket” system (e.g the rail network). There are also several (expensive!) daily and monthly pass options. All in all this amounts to a confusing system, almost as bad as Auckland, although one advantage is that the discount for ten trip and stored value is fixed at 20%, which is better than most discounts offered in Auckland (Ritchies only offer a 5% discount in Auckland!) and is at least standard across all operators (the discount, not the card).
The system that is currently used is archaic and needs to be changed. There are a huge number of very small zones. There are total of fourteen zones over the entire Greater Wellington (admittedly including Wairarapa). This would have to be comparably more than almost any other city in the world that I am aware of. The small zones consequently amount to very high fares, as only a small handful of people will travel only one zone. Zone 1, for example, barely gets you out of the CBD. You can view the current zone map below:
Penalties for transferring:
The single worst element of both Auckland and Wellington’s fare structure is that transferring between services is penalised. The use of “single trip” tickets is a major disincentive to transfer between different modes and services. Wellington are also redesigning the bus network to a system with better frequencies,the trade-off being that additional transfers will be required, therefore a time based fare structure rather than a single trip based fare structure is crucial. As far as I’m concerned if it penalises transfers, then it’s a bad system, regardless of other features. Obviously changing to a time based fare system will require full gross contracting of all services.
The subject of penalties for transferring between services seems to be an “elephant in the room” (similar situation as Auckland) and disappointingly, was not addressed in the survey. Hopefully that means that GWRC are already planning on changing this and did not require it to be in the survey. It’s all very well to be talking about distance based fares but shifting to time based ticketing would provide far more benefit. This seems to be a case of putting technology ahead of the best interests of the customer.
My recommendation is that we move to a time based system. For example, single tickets are replaced with “2 hour passes”, so instead of taking a single trip, you get two hours of unlimited transfers within the specified zone/s.
Price of fares:
Wellington have a relatively high farebox recovery rate, around 55%, the highest in the country. But personally I think fares are far too high in Wellington and they are affecting patronage numbers, growth has been a little unspectacular over the past few years (albeit starting from a higher base than Auckland). Public transport has to be reasonably cheap if you want people to use it on mass. Yet GWRC seem intent on regularly raising fares, with a disadvantage of the 50 cent rounding being that the minimum fares can be raised by is 50 cents. For example increasing the one zone fare from $1.50 to $2 meant a 33.33% increase, which is significant.
By increasing fares you are reducing potential patronage. Stuart informs me that the price elasticity of demand for public transport fares in Wellington has been calculated at around -0.5, so theoretically total revenue should increase after an increase in fares but I don’t really think that maximising revenue should be an aim for public transport. Remember that for every less car there is on the road, the less that should need to spent on roading projects.
A 50% farebox recovery rate seems relatively fair but I think NZTA’s approach to this matter is flawed. They seemed determined on enforcing an arbitrary figure but need to be supporting initiatives to improve long term farebox recovery such as ticketing technology (reduces fare evasion and encourages new users), bus priority measures (bus lanes, traffic signal priority). Calling for better farebox recovery and then reducing funds available for public transport capital improvements is hypocritical and GWRC should not accept this.
Zone based vs Distance based
There are obviously advantages and disadvantages of the zone based system that is used by Wellington. I see that Wellington is looking at the idea of distance based fares. The idea is that you would pay for the kilometres you travelled directly, rather than by the number of zones you travelled through. There would be a rate of x per km, with the possibility of having a uniform base charge (e.g $1 + 40 cents per km for instance).
Arguments for distance based fares (counter arguments in italics):
User pays / fairness: For example if you travel 2km then you only pay for that much. Under a zone based system you could pay for 8km of travel and not use it. As people are using the system pay for what they use only , users are not cross subsidising another person’s travel on a distance based system. Cross subsidisation is not necessarily a bad thing in all cases. See below.
Removes arbitrary zone boundaries. In a zone based system you have a case where making a short trip could cost you a 2 zone fare simply because it happens to go across the boundary. The larger the zones are, the larger the fare will increase by. This can be solved to an extent by having zones “overlap”, and by having clear geographical cut off points, see below.
Behavioural inefficiencies caused by zone based systems. For example under a zone system we could see people doing a “park & ride” and driving to the zone boundary and then catching public transport from there. This can be solved by charging fees for the usage of park & rides.
Arguments for a zone based system:
Convenience and easy to understand: It is much easier to calculate fares quickly by simply counting through zones rather than measuring distance. Smart cards can easily calculate fares automatically.
Can make fares for travelling longer distances very expensive, remember that one car doing a 20km trip creates more congestion than one car doing a 5km trip, yet the former will have to pay four times as much if they use public transport. This can partially be solved by having a base charge and then a lower per km rate.
Introducing a time based “pass” system that allows users to make unlimited transfer within the given time window is much easier on a zone based system. This could be solved by having a mixture of both systems, see below.
There is a question of how distance fares are calculated, would it be ‘as the crow flies (the shortest measurement between the two points)’? Or is it the length of the route taken. which would mean people have to pay extra for indirect routes, which would be unfair. The former would mean that factors such as hills (very common in Wellington!), which increase the cost of providing the service would not be taken into account. The Johnsonville Line and the Cable Car are prime examples of where this difference raises an interesting issue.
There is the option of using different fare structures, the “best of both worlds” one could argue, and to be honest the only way distance based fares would work well. How this would work is you have a distance based system for a stored value smart card (load up money), the system deducts the fare automatically from the stored value by recording the difference between the “tag on” and “tag off” point. A flat “time based” fare (e.g 1 hour unlimited travel) for cash / paper tickets would then be used. Monthly passes could then be offered using a zone system. This would probably work okay and is what is used in Amsterdam and Singapore.
Trying to do a distance based system for cash fares on paper tickets or for monthly passes wouldn’t be feasible. An example of a PT network that tries to, is CityRail in Sydney, who charge fares in blocks of distance, rather than in zones. In reality this creates a highly confusing system, because tickets are only point to point, i.e you buy a ticket for travel between “Central and Chatswood” rather than simply “three zones”. This is the reason why integrated ticketing has been such a nightmare in Sydney (T-Card).
On balance I definitely think zones are the way to go (Stuart raised some valid points but not quite enough to convince me:) . Having one fare system for all (with a discount for smart card users) should bring big savings in IT and administration costs. The main point I’m trying to make is that the zone system is not the problem with the fare structure. The problem is that transfers are penalised.
Size & Number of Zones:
The fewer zones, the easier it is to use the network. If it is easy to know how much you need to pay to make a trip, then you’re more likely to use public transport outside of your normal “daily commuter trip”. If a “time based” system is used then you can also get better value for money as you have a larger area to use.
With larger zones this will mean lower priced fares for longer distance travellers. By reducing the number of zones to five, each zone would approximately be the same size as three zones currently. it is likely that you’d set the fare at about the price of a current 2 zone fare ($3.50 for an adult) for one zone of travel which would mean that people going three zones pay less and people going one zone pay more. Therefore, people going shorter distances are effectively cross subsidising longer distance travel. This could have the effect of encouraging undesirable urban sprawl which should be avoided. But at the same time longer distance public transport travel does reduce congestion more than shorter distance travel does. The other point is that shorter distance travellers are going to have more of an option to walk or cycle – the most sustainable mode of transport you can get!
When I stay in Wellington, I’m lucky enough to be on the boundary of zone 1 and zone 2 which means I can get to / from the airport on the #11 bus on a two zone fare. When I go to the CBD I only need to pay for one zone, which is great for me but I’d be part of a minority. I guess that many using one zone fares will be people transferring between modes, for example I often catch the bus into the CBD on a one zone fare, then catch a train, if there was a time based system then I could go all the way on one ticket.
A lot of people who currently travel one zone only will be encouraged to make further use of the public transport network. For example after coming home from work, they will have an incentive to use PT to go to the shops because it won’t cost them anymore under time based ticketing.
It is very important that zones have a large overlap, which Wellington currently does not have. This would mean that there would be a number of stops / stations that were in two zones. It’d be in whatever zone that benefits that particular passenger. For example if the zone boundary was at Pukerua Bay, then the zones would overlap as far as Plimmerton and Muri. If you were coming from the north you’d say the boundary was at Muri, if you were coming from the south you’d say the boundary was at Plimmerton.
I agree fully with the idea of concession discounts being expanded to all people under 20. Providing beneficiaries and people on low incomes with concession fares would also be a good idea, remember that high transport costs hit low income citizens the hardest. I do appreciate the additional costs involved, but feel that this is worth the gains. Another thing I would like to add, is to lower costs for families and groups travelling together as the fares start to stack up in favour of driving the car once you have two or more people travelling together. I would like to increased discounts for families when travelling off peak.
Off peak fares:
Off peak discounts should be available on all modes, not just train fares. A discount of 20-35% seems about right. Off peak discounts encourage a more efficient use of resources as it is likely that increasing off peak capacity will incur less marginal costs than increasing peak capacity as there are fixed costs of buses and trains that are parked up at the depot doing split shifts, whereas improving peak capacity will require purchasing of additional vehicles.
Stuart also suggested allowing off peak fares for people travelling in the counter direction during peak hours. This would be a good idea (the vehicles have to run back out again no matter what so might as well fill them up) but could have a few issues issues defining counter peak. For example what is counter peak for services that don’t run into Wellington CBD? I’m sure this could be worked around though.
Smart card vs cash fares:
The current system of a 20% discount to incentivise smart card travel should remain. Cash fares are important to remain in the system to encourage casual usage of public transport but regular travellers should be encouraged to use smart cards to reduce dwell times for buses and reflect the additional costs of printing paper tickets, etc. As well as that I would make weekly and monthly passes only available on the smart card.
Smart card technology:
One advantage of Wellington starting this project later than Auckland is that they can hopefully learn from Auckland’s mistakes and hopefully minimise failure. It does appear that the Snapper system that is established on NZ BUS operated services has a number of deficiencies, in particular the slowness of the tagging on and tagging off and the inability to conduct online and automatic top ups as well as the issue of giving NZ BUS unfair access to statistics about other operator’s services.
My observation is that fare evasion is increasingly problematic on the rail network in particular. The system of conductors walking through trains and clipping tickets is very dated and must go. Ticket gates could easily be installed at Wellington station and consideration should be given to gating other busy stations on the network. Staff should exist only to conduct random inspections and issue fines where required.
I congratulate GWRC on consulting with the public. You can fill out the survey http://www.farereview.co.nz/ and can also choose to attach a document of a longer submission. Submissions close on 14 September and the plan is to finish design of the new system by mid 2013, lets hope they can meet this deadline. I certainly look forward to the debate that will hopefully result from this post!
Yesterday’s announcement by NZTA that they are scaling back the Otaki to Levin section of the Wellington Northern Corridor Road of National Significance, from a four-lane highway to an upgrade of the existing road, has some really interesting implications – as Matt commented on in his post last night. Perhaps the assumption that RoNS = new four lane highway has finally been broken and we can start to approach the transport area in a slightly more rational way.
Of course there are plenty of other bits of the RoNS programme which ought to be considered in a much more sensible way, as NZTA has managed with Otaki to Levin. Matt’s post discussed the infamous Puhoi-Wellsford road as a clear candidate – with the Warkworth to Wellsford section being a complete no brainer. Furthermore, a comment from “Watcher” on an earlier post suggests that NZTA may even be looking at staging the Puhoi-Warkworth section of the road – and doing the Warkworth bypass section first. Just as proposed in Operation Lifesaver, thought up by our former admin Josh. Here are the relevant bits of Watcher’s comment:
I have heard that NZTA are looking at splitting Puhoi-Warkworth into at least 3 sections with the first section to be built being Warkworth to somewhere around Perry Rd. This would effectively act as a Warkworth bypass (non-tolled) until, at some later stage, they can link up with Puhoi. Given that this first stage has few cuts, fills and viaducts it would possibly be one of the cheaper to build – but one of the more expensive when it comes to the cost of property purchase – something which I believe is giving NZTA a bit of headache because NZTA don’t have the budget for property purchases – certainly not the numbers who wish to paid out sooner rather than later.
We certainly await with interest to see if this is true. Perhaps with Gerry Brownlee not micro-managing NZTA to the same extent as Steven Joyce did, they are able to actually do their job much more now and be a bit more sensible around the staging of projects.
Looking a bit further south though, I wonder whether there are other projects which may benefit from a more sensible approach to the RoNS programme. While there are some sensible bits to the Waikato Expressway project, there are also some incredibly expensive bits to it as well – which just seem a bit unjustifiable if you look at their details. Let’s take a look at the Hamilton bypass section for example – which is shown in the map below:
This section of the Waikato Expressway is 21.8 km long and comes at the eye-watering price tag of $890 million. Now I hate driving through Hamilton as much as the next person, but some fairly decent bypass routes already exist (SH39 to the west, SH1B or SH27 to the east). Is it really worth the money?
Looking in a bit more detail at the plans for this route, it becomes clear that – once again – bits of the proposed route make sense, but other parts seem to not require anything like a super-expensive motorway standard road. Let’s take a look at the daily traffic volumes for 2021, which is a couple of years after the route is proposed to open:
You’ll see that I’ve circled a bit of the proposed highway that has what I think are pretty low traffic volumes for what’s proposed to be a four-lane motorway. By way of comparison, in 2010 the Kopu Bridge had just under 10,000 vehicles a day across it – when it was still a single lane bridge controlled by traffic lights at each end! You would think it might be far more sensible to extend the semi-bypass that’s being built in the west part of Hamilton rather than duplicate this with a super gold plated road to the east which isn’t even going to see much traffic.
To hammer this point home a little further, the traffic projections for 2041 still show pretty low volumes for the section of road mentioned above (and remember NZTA are likely to be extremely optimistic in their projecting of future volumes): The 2041 volumes reinforce that bits of the project are necessary, but suggest that there are likely to be far more cost-effective options available than a full motorway – considering the vehicular volumes are still pretty low on some sections. It does appear as though most traffic is travelling to Hamilton – either from the north or from the south – rather than completely bypassing it. I imagine this is because of other existing bypass routes further to the east and west. Google maps suggests, for example, that the best routes from Auckland to Wellington or Auckland to Taupo go nowhere near Hamilton.
Perhaps it was with good reason that the SAHA assessment of the RoNS package gave the Waikato Expressway such a poor cost-benefit ratio:
I suspect that similar observations could be made about many more of the RoNS projects.
Edit: This is the blog’s 2000th published post. Woohoo!
This is a guest post from reader Louis Mayo.
Although this is the Auckland Transport Blog, it is good to give some attention to transport issues in other parts of the country. You may or may not be aware that the “Capital Connection” is under threat of cancellation. The Capital Connection is a train from Palmerston North to Wellington calling at Shannon, Levin, Otaki, Waikanae, Paraparaumu & Porirua. It operates a single return train every weekday. It has been operating for over 20 years. From the KiwiRail brochure:
Start your day in style
The Capital Connection is a popular commuter train that runs between Palmerston North and Wellington from Monday to Friday excluding public holidays.
With comfortable, spacious seating you can spread out and work or simply relax. Plug in your laptop, read the paper or even have a bite to eat from our licensed café. With onboard toilets and super friendly staff nothing beats the Capital Connection.
People get a great deal of benefit out of the service. Transporting commuters to the capital in a way that avoids the stress of driving long distances. It take cars off the road. This will improve road safety. It is also reducing congestion on the roads and reducing carbon emissions. It is a great convenience for commuters to be able to eat, chat, walk around, do some work, make a phone call or have a nap on the way to and from work each day. Things that you cannot do whilst driving without it being illegal and dangerous.This is a great use of time for commuters as rather than wasting at least two hours each day driving , they can be doing something more productive.
I am not quite sure why Kiwirail have made an about-face and decided that they will cancel the service without a subsidy. One of the possible reasons is due to the extension of electric suburban trains on the Kapati Line from its traditional terminus of Paraparaumu to Waikanae. This has been a major success but not so great for the Capital Connection, with people moving to the more regular Tranz Metro services.
There has been some suggestions that there may have been some dodgy accounting going on, with this strange revision in the financial figures. If nothing else it seems disturbing that KiwiRail can make such errors in their accounting systems.
It seems that KiwiRail has lost interest in passenger services. While I understand the main money is to be made in long distance rail is in freight, passenger services should not be ignored. But given they are under the directions of a very roads and motorway focused government it is hardly surprising.
The bad news is that NZTA, with its usual roads, roads, roads focus have effectively said that they won’t be providing a subsidy. This is very poor form from NZTA and is only a fraction of the cost of the ludicrous Transmission Gully Road of National Significance. Hope still remains that Horowhenua and Greater Wellington Regional Councils will reach an agreement and offer a subsidy or that KiwiRail will reconsider and back down. I think a subsidy is quite reasonable really, as the Wairarapa Connection service (that runs between Masterton and Wellington) gets a subsidy and there are many trains of this type around the world (serving bigger populations) that get a subsidy and are not expected to return a profit. Lets hope that the councils make the right decision.
It would be a major shame and a major blow to the region and to passenger rail in New Zealand if we were to lose yet another service. We can make this service thrive again. With some of the money from the turnaround plan, KiwiRail could upgrade the line to enable higher speeds and faster travel times. Another option could be splitting the 8 car train into two 4 car trains so that would mean two return services could be provided, giving travelers a bit more choice. Adding a few more services during the day time and possibly a late evening and a couple of runs in the weekends would be fantastic. I would point out again that the Wairarapa Connection has five return weekday trips and two in the weekend.
Save the Capital Connection!
Well this is an interesting media release from Generation Zero, an advocacy group looking to raise awareness about climate change:
A mistake to the tune of $59 million was revealed today in youth organisation Generation Zero’s submission at the hearings on the Wellington Regional Land Transport Programme (RLTP).
The draft RLTP, put out for consultation in March, states a total project cost for the Mackays to Peka Peka Expressway of $571 million. However, according to the NZTA website the best estimate as of January 2012 is $630 million.
The $59 million mistake is more than the total funding devoted to public transport infrastructure and cycling and walking facilities for the next three years in the draft RLTP ($55.71 million).
Speaking at the oral hearings this morning, Generation Zero spokesperson Paul Young suggested that the higher actual cost might constitute a “significant” variation to the RLTP under the significance policy. If so, this would require that the Expressway be consulted on again with the correct price tag.
“Regardless of the statutory answer, we think this raises questions about whether there has been fair and adequate public consultation here,” said Mr Young. “An extra $59 million might sound like small bikkies in the scheme of things, but it will place more pressure on an already squeezed transport budget.”
In its submission, Generation Zero called for the Expressway to be delayed to allow for greater certainty about future oil prices and for the expenditure to be properly weighed up against rail-based freight alternatives, and also against projects to emerge from the Wellington Public Transport Spine Study next year.
“Our big concern is that with all the money set to be poured into the Roads of National Significance, there will be nothing left for smart transport projects that will help free us from oil-dependent travel and reduce carbon emissions,” said Mr Young.
This Tuesday, Generation Zero launched its 50/50 campaign calling for a more balanced transport budget than the current one, which will see roughly $14 billion of taxpayer money spent on new State highways compared with just $0.5 billion on new infrastructure for public transport, walking and cycling.
“The case here is a perfect example of the unlevel playing field created by the Government’s unbalanced transport priorities,” said Mr Young. “Throwing another $59 million at a highway project with a low benefit-cost ratio hardly raises an eyebrow, while far less costly public transport and cycling developments have to fight for the crumbs from the table.”
If such an error has happened, it wouldn’t necessarily be surprising as transport agencies seem to have a habit about making such mistakes. Last year the Ministry of Transport managed to miss a cool $180 million in their calculations – for example. But perhaps the more startling revelation is that the “rounding errors” of a single state highway project in Wellington is more than what will be spent there over the next three years on all public transport infrastructure, walking and cycling projects.
Generation Zero seem to be doing some pretty good work raising the profile for smarter transport spending, with a pretty successful, and highly ingenious, protest earlier this week.
Rail patronage in Auckland is continuing to close in on Wellington. Metlink were kind enough to update their patronage numbers up to January for me and it revealed some interesting about just how close the two cities now are. Up until the middle of last year there hadn’t been a single month where the Auckland network had carried more passengers than Wellington, the closest we had was in March last year where we were only about 17k trips behind. I had expected that we might have had high patronage in September and October due to the world cup but what I didn’t expect was that we also had higher patronage in August which turned out to be the first time it had ever happened.
Things have slipped back to normal for now but based on the growth each city is seeing I guess it is only a matter of time before the green line below passes the purple one. When that happens I wonder if people will finally realise that rail in Auckland is actually used.
Of course on a per capita basis the Wellington network is still far ahead, for Auckland to be on par with it we would need to be having about 35 million trips per year based on our current population.
The full public transport patronage report for September is yet to be released, but hidden within the general business report for the October board meeting we can see some pretty spectacular numbers – to be expected of course due to the Rugby World Cup:
September 2011 patronage was 6,634,342 passenger trips across public transport, an increase of +18.7% compared to September 2010. For the 12-months to September 2011 patronage was 67,682,156 passenger trips, an increase of +9.8% compared to the 12-months to September 2010.
The large increase in patronage in September is partly a result of Rugby World Cup 2011 (RWC2011) matches held in Auckland. Special event PT services were provided for RWC2011 and fanzones on 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 22, 24, 25 and 30 September 2011 with integrated match and public transport ticketing across rail and bus special event services.
Rail patronage for the month of September achieved 1,178,586, a new monthly record and an increase of +32.0% on September 2010.
I wonder whether the big rail numbers in Auckland in September and October will finally push us ahead of Wellington’s rail patronage. I don’t have numbers for Wellington more recent than June this year, but it’s interesting to see how both the monthly and 12-month rolling totals (full data here) for Auckland and Wellington have converged over the past few years:
Of course Wellington’s much smaller population means it has far higher per capita usage of the rail system (Auckland would need to be having more than 30 million trips a year to compete, something that’s probably 20 years away and requires the City Rail Link). But it’s interesting to see how much we’ve caught up since 2003. I would imagine that by this time next year Auckland may well have pulled ahead.