At the transport committee the other day we leant about our sexy new trains but that wasn’t the only interesting presentation that was given. Auckland transport gave an update on what is happening to improve buses across the region including a sneak peak of what the future network could look like. There are a few key things that are combining to enable us to provide a better bus system, the first is integrated ticketing (not much mention needed there) and the second is the new contracting model PTOM which was discussed by Peter the other day. With AT able to sign new contracts they have finally taken the opportunity to take a clean slate approach to the bus network.
One of the requirements of PTOM is that AT divide up areas into units with each unit containing one or more bus routes and a full timetable (so no cherry picking of services by operators). AT has chosen to divide the city into 50 units and each unit will be contracted out separately through a mix of tendering and negotiation with existing companies. The contracts will include revenue sharing between AT and the operators and have incentives built as well as KPI’s and penalties for not meeting requirements. Due to the size of the task AT will be spreading out the contracting and changes over 3 years with 1/3 done this year, 1/3 next year and the last lot done in 2014.
In previous PT plans AT had split the network up into three levels:
Rapid Transit Network
- Rail & Busway = right of way and frequency
Frequent Transit Network (previously known as the QTN)
- High Frequency Bus (& ferry) network: connected routes at least every 15 minutes, 15 hours / day, 7 days / week
Secondary Network (previously known as the LTN)
- Local / feeder / shuttle services
- Peak only services
- School services
Here is a diagram showing the kind of thing they are hoping to achieve:
So instead of a network that has lots of services going everywhere but low frequencies, we can with the same amount of resources make a network that with some simple transfers allows much higher frequencies. Even taking into account the time of the transfer this can often lead to faster journey times (perhaps they could be improved with pulse timetabling).
Based on how planned funding and continuing on with how we have been developing our rail network currently it is estimated that we would end up with following high frequency network. It contains the busway, the rail network, the link services and only 10 other arterial routes.
However by applying the methodology pointed out just before we would get a high frequency network that looks like this: (remember services on this network would be running at least every 15 minutes for at least 15 hours a day and for 7 days a week)
As you can see it is vastly different and my understanding is that the population covered by the ‘frequent’ network is around three times the business as usual version. There would also be secondary services that fill in many of the gaps that run at a lower frequency as well as peak only services and school routes. Here is an idea of what the total network could look like when secondary services are added (this image only focuses on the isthmus and west). The red routes are the high frequency ones shown above while the blue and purple routes are secondary or tertiary routes. The blue lines actually operate at worst at every 30 minutes 7 days a week
Here are some of the benefits and issues that AT identified
- Less duplication, especially in rail corridors and on North Shore
- More consistent service levels – “all day” network of frequent services which can be relied upon for many journeys, not just at peak commuting times
- Improved reliability
- Trade-off between frequency and “one-seat” for some journeys
- New ways of designing passenger infrastructure to facilitate bus – bus transfers at key intersections
Speaking to the presentation they said that this fantastic new network not only dramatically improves services but also uses the same amount of resources as the current inefficient network does. They also identified that changing the network so drastically may see a temporary dip in patronage but that over the long term it not only recovers but grows at a faster rate and this has been witnessed in many cities overseas. There will of course be people upset about having their bus stop and route moved so there will be quite a bit of consultation later in the year.
You can watch the presentation here.
I really get the feeling that over the next few years we are going to see absolutely massive improvements to out PT system. By 2016 we will have a completely redesigned bus network, rail will be electrified and most of the new trains will be running, we will have integrated fares that make paying easier and through better contracting we should hopefully see the level of subsidies required start to plummet. It could turn out to be one of the most important periods in Aucklands transport history.