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.

Ignore the dotted lines

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

  1. Less duplication, especially in rail corridors and on North Shore
  2. More consistent service levels – “all day” network of frequent services which can be relied upon for many journeys, not just at peak commuting times
  3. Improved reliability
  4. Trade-off between frequency and “one-seat” for some journeys
  5. 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.

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    1. This network could be, quite simply, revolutionary. The reliable frequency, all day every day, is precisely what we need to compete with car travel and make public transport a realistic option for any kind of trip.

      With all due respect to the influence of our former administrator, this network redesign has been in the works for years. I understand that Dr Jarrett Walker has been pushing for this change for a long time now. Obviously the time is ripe now that we have both a single transit authority for Auckland, plus integrated fares on the way.

      1. Jarbury did get a mention in the presentation however, I think the stars are starting to align. The PTOM coming into effect is great, shame that it took National around 4 years to come up with a replacement fot the PTMA 2008 that they canned on entering.

  1. From watching the video, I think it’s important to add a couple of things:

    1) Every single blue line on the map represents a route that operates at worst every 30 minutes, throughout the day, 7 days a week.
    2) Many of the “frequent” routes would be running at better than 15 minute frequencies, I think Mr Cross mentioned particularly those on the isthmus.

    3) Oh, and most importantly, this network uses the same resources as the existing network. That’s amazing.

    1. Thanks Peter, I had meant to add that but it slipped my mind in the heat of writing the post. I have added it now for those that don’t read the comments.

      1. A point of clarification there Matt: this isn’t a redesigned ‘bus network’, but rather a total redesign of all modes of public transport in Auckland to make them into a single integrated system.
        Obviously the biggest change is in the bus routes, but the network was designed around service level and is mode/infrastructure neutral. You’ll note that the maps above have the three main rail lines plus the Devonport ferry as part of the top layer of frequent all day service, while the Onehunga branch and the other ferries are included in the secondary and tertiary layers. A large part of the design involves feeding local buses into the rail lines, busway and the Devonport ferry.

        Also on the hierarchy, it is based around service level not infrastructure, so the old RTN/QTN/LCN doesn’t quite fit.

        1) The Frequent Transit Network, the core network of services every fifteen minutes or better all day every day. This includes most but not all of the former RTN (i.e. busway plus the main rail lines), plus many of the former street level QTNs that have that high level of service, plus the busiest ferry at Devonport.

        2) The Secondary network: at least every thirty minutes all day every day. These are the routes that demand a quality reliable service but don’t have the patronage demand for really frequent service, i.e most of the QTNs. It includes most of the remaining bus corridors, plus one rail branch and one of the ferries. Some of these routes will ‘work’ on their own for local trips, but generally they act as feeders or distributors to the FTN.

        3) The tertiary network: This is a handful of small local and exurban routes with low patronage demands that can’t justify frequent or secondary service, but should still get all day service every hour or so. Again in many cases these simply get people from their neighbourhood to a local centre with an FTN connection.

        There is also the fourth layer of peak-only services. These are much reduced over what we have currently as the extensive FTN covers most of what people take peak expresses for. These exist mostly just to boost capacity on CBD bound corridors on the weekday peaks, or to pick up coverage on industrial areas that have high demands during the peak but almost nothing otherwise.

      1. It’s a funny situation whereby the Onehunga line and Manukau for that matter don’t feature on these maps except as blue lines because of their very poor frequency. They’re perhaps better termed reliable TN.

        1. Manukau is actually at the top level Frequent Transit as the terminus of the Eastern Line, but Onehunga is secondary presumably because the demand and patronage can’t justify a minimum 15 minute headyway all day and night seven days a week.

          But bear in mind the blue lines represent a frequency of at least every 30 minutes all day every day. So it’s still part of the all day reliable network, just not at the super frequent top level of service. A train every half hour to Onehunga on Sundays, at 10pm on a Tuesday, in the middle of the day on a Saturday etc. That is still f*cking awesome to be blunt, and miles better that what we have now.

          Another thing to consider is that Onehunga sits on the nexus of super frequent reliable routes to the city via Manukau Rd, another back to Mangere, the airport and Manukau City, and on a crosstown one that looks like it goes as far as Pt Chev one way and Pakauranga the other.
          Onehunga ain’t missing out!

    1. For the same $ means using the same amount of vehicles and driver man-hours as existing, I.e same operating costs.

      Don’t think they’ve made any assumptions about fare structure except that transfers will be penalty free.

      One would expect that this vastly superior network would result in a lot more income from fare paying customers, despite no change in operating costs. Greater efficiency and resource utilization means far more cost effective. I’d imagine subsidies dropping yet passengers would start to get a lot more for their money too.

  2. great vision from AT, i think of this every day on the bus how ineffective it is currently.
    just by increasing routes, streamlining lining will not solve the problem just look at the CBD & britomart at 5pm weekdays.

    i think they will need to have bus lanes, priority bus lights etc so the buses run on time, example for this the NEX

    the transfers will only work if we have buses running on time look at link at the moment, the city one i used to take it 2days a week to connect to western services at K’RD. stuck at lights given up on that now i just walk. reason -millions of traffic lights and interior is not designed to take that numbers-
    may be its a ploy from AT to force us to walk, cycle.
    i also don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel for PT in Auckland. (in some ways i feel sorry for AT as they are trying so hard) look at AIFS what a joke. the PT operators are so powerful (eg NZbus) that the project is delayed and delayed and delayed

    1. I think with increasing bus usage will come increasing calls for more bus lanes, at present we have the car users crying foul at loss of space for their cars but as PT use becomes inctreasingly normalised more and more people will see for themselves the need for bus lanes. Importantly what these changes will do is also hopefully reduce a lot of the buses coming into the city, putting further pressure on the trains – helping the CRL case at the same time. I also get the impression that NZBus are realising the long term benefit to them to reconsolidating the bus routes, regardless the PTOM has come into effect meaning they have to accept these changes to the bus networks rather than designing their own routes to compete with the train (and one another).

      I agree with the sentiments of those above that the next decade will lead to some fundamental changes in the provision of PT in Auckland that will lead to some very major changes in the way people see it and use it.

    2. Pradeep I suspect you added too much pessimism powder to your coffee this morning; try some sugar next time. Reliability is important; it is a somewhat separate issue from speed (which your traffic lights comment refers to).

      But I agree that there needs to be changes to the inner-city road network to better cater for buses. It’s tragic, for example, that the Central Connector stops at the northern end of Anzac just where it joins Customs: Surely the busiest part of the route and the section where bus priority would be most valuable? The performance of the whole Central Connector is undermined by the absence of a 100m or so of bus lanes. Similar story for the NEX, as you note.

      I’ll assume your “ploy” comment was written in jest. As for whether there is light at the end of the tunnel, you must surely be joking? Patronage on Auckland’s PT network is now growing at about 8-10% per year, which makes it one of the fastest growing in Australasia. Meanwhile, several major improvements (electrification, new trains, double-decker buses) are all ready to roll off the line in the next few years.

      Yes, the HOP card has been delayed, but it may be a situation of “less haste, more speed.” You only have to look at Melbourne to see how quickly the rapid roll out of an integrated/electronic ticketing can unravel. Keep those spirits up Pradeep – I think that in 3-4 years Aucklanders will have a somewhat sparkly little PT system that will deliver an experience that is vastly different from what we know today.

  3. Here’s an idea for AT. Make a website where you can type in two addresses. It will then come up with an analysis of how long it would take to get between the two points using the old version and the new version. Publish it, advertise it. Get as many people as possible to use it prior to implementation. This will have two benefits.
    1. Aucklanders will get to see how the changes affect them and how positive they will be.
    2. In the event that the changes create a worse outcome AT will know about it and be able to do something before implementation.

    1. Such an analysis would be a standard feature of a network redesign like this, but building it into a web page that the public can play with is a great idea.

      Another one would be to develop several dozen little fact sheets for each part of Auckland, outlining the changes and improvements, the better frequencies, where people can now get to etc.

      1. Especially as half of it has already been developed. I always think real world examples are the best. You never know what crazy routes people will come up with.

        Some fact sheets would be great as well. The key to making this successful is communication. People need to be told how awesome transferring can be.

      2. I think key to selling this is the fact that so many routes will be running at >15 minute frequencies, all day and every day, that is pretty well close to walk up and take it when it comes frequencies, whereas 1/2hr is really a frequency where you have to start planning your day.

  4. So now transfers are to be free? Here they were saying they didn’t want to do that. Did this blog change their mind or something else (like sense)?

    1. I think the first stage is to get the electronic ticket in place using the existing fare structure, the next part is to then design a new fare structure. I believe that this proposal assumes that AT continue to do that next part.

      1. That’s what Sydney tried to do. You’ve heard about that debacle haven’t you?

        Melbourne’s effort wasn’t as bad, but they never thought to have a new ticketing system on un-integrated rules. Qld, WA, even ACT have been able to implement integrated fare structures on smart card systems from day one, and saved millions or billions doing it that way.

    2. Perhaps the sheer awesomeness of what is possible through the bus network redesign has highlighted the critical importance of free transfers?

    3. Penalty-free transfers are essential for this sort of network. The discounted transfer thing is just a first step toward that eventual goal and there are various options for zone systems and what not being looked at.

      One thing to bear in mind is that this proposed network has been designed for a couple of years from now, they won’t be doing it tomorrow.

  5. Maybe I’m misreading the maps – to be fair making good bus service maps is hard – but is an implication of this that there wouldn’t be a direct bus service along (say) New North Road all the way into the city? You’d have to change somewhere and continue your journey?

    If that’s the case, then I can see a lot of lost patronage. If you take away direct services that are currently available you’ll lose customers.

    It doesn’t matter how much the network design theory says that the two rides with a transfer will get you there quicker, people will hate the fact that they have to catch a bus twice, stand in the rain twice, find a seat twice, organise their stuff and get their ticket checked twice – all of that.

    All that’s fair enough if it makes possible a trip that previously wasn’t reasonably possible at all, but not if it messes up existing direct connections.

    1. You’re not misreading it, although I will point out that the big map is a later version and the blown-up insert is from an earlier version. I’m not sure who made that mistake.

      While almost all main corridors continue into the CBD (and in many cases out the other side again), the map above does show New North Rd stopping short. This is a special case and do bear in mind the map above is the one for after the City Rail Link has been built. The thinking here is that the bus route and the rail line basically duplicate each other, and that once we have the new trains, the CRL and a single integrated fare structure covering all modes, then the rail line is going to be far quicker and more comfortable way to get to the CBD from New North Rd. So the frequent train is used to get to town, and the frequent bus is used for trips along New North Rd, in particularly for local to access St Lukes Mall or for locals to get to the rail stations and other FTN routes that run across it. The main point is almost no one will catch the bus into town from about Avondale to Kingsland when the train will be just as frequent and much faster, so the bus can be redesigned to serve local service instead.

      The benefit here is that by cutting the fairly useless city end duplication off the bus route, those bus resources can be used to boost the all day frequency on the remaining section by some 50% or so. Cutting out the duplication of routes in the same corridor is one of the principles that lets this network do it’s magic with no extra resources.

      All other frequent routes on the ithsmus continue to terminate or pass through the city, except those that run across town or the ones that terminate at a suburban centre like New Lynn or Onehunga (that serves as a transfer node to other FTNs).

      You’re comments about ‘forcing’ a transfer to finish a trip rather than ‘allowing’ a transfer to open up new areas is perfectly valid. There is no point in chopping a main CBD focussed route a couple of Ks out of town, because arbitrarily adding in a transfer on a linear route is never going to make it faster.

      Where the transfer thing really shines is on more complex trips between any two places that aren’t both on a radial CBD corridor. In this case designing a network around transfers allows each route to run at very high frequency such that a transfer between any two routes is quick and relatively painless. There is simply no way we could give a frequent and reliable service between all the various parts of Auckland without designing around connections (not without increasing the operating budget tenfold that is).

      1. That all makes sense Nick, except that “the map above does show New North Rd stopping short. This is a special case and … the map above is the one for after the City Rail Link has been built”

        Just reassure me on this detail. Tell me we’re not redesigning the bus network in 2012 premissed on a piece of rail infrastructure for which there is no money, no central government support and no prospect of it actually existing much before 2020?!

        At the moment, even with shiny new trains, for most people – esp Uni students – buses are a better way to get into town than the train – the last ten minutes on foot from Britomart are a real issue for that (substantial) market.

      2. Nick may correct me, but I think what he’s meaning is that there has been a “pre-CRL” and a “post-CRL” bus network designed. The one without the high frequency New North Road service is post-CRL, but there definitely will be a pre-CRL network to be put in place in the next few years.

        I think it’s useful to identify what the benefits of the CRL are in terms of making it possible to run a more logical bus network. After all, one of the project’s greatest benefits is that we don’t need to operate so many buses into the city centre as would be necessary if we didn’t build it.

        Furthermore, from my peering at the map it looks like the New North Road bus service does run all the way into town. Note that it diverts to St Lukes and Morningside Drive, which can cause confusion.

        1. Yes there are two phases planned. The initial network is designed to be implemented in the next few years to work with what there is now (i.e. pre CRL). They second phase takes into account the changes in capacity and speed afforded by the City Rail Link (i.e post CRL). A lot of the benefit of the CRL is it allows us to redistribute bus resources away from the main radial corridors out to the suburbs.

          There is a stuff up with that map above. The main map is for the post CRL network, the inner city blow up is actually from the pre-CRL network, so the blow up isn’t correct for that map.

  6. Is the CRL actually going to happen within the next 5-7 years or even within 10 years? Sorry, but the cynic in me sees the typical NZ habit of applying half-baked, badly thought through solutions. Without the CRL, AT are just creating a bunch of pretty pictures with numbers…and have no intention whatsover of putting any of what they propose into action. Convince otherwise, people. Convince me that things will actually happen this time, that AKL will have a CRL in place before 2022 and that we will have a properly functioning integrated bus-rail-ferry network by 2015.

    1. *Disclaimer*. I’m writing this from the other side of the Tasman.

      Surely once electrification goes in there will be a big increase in rail use. How much room is there in your rail network for that growth? In Brisbane, we are seeing capacity issues with 55-60mil p.a. patronage and 4 tracks into the CBD. You have 1 track and 10 million. I’d expect capacity issues will force the issue. CRL should double the capacity, perhaps more with the effect at Newmarket so long as the CRL-Grafton connection is built.

      Sydney has 300mil p.a. and 6 tracks in, but much larger trains and more off peak usage than Brisbane. Not sure if you have a greater off peak proportion than Brisbane.

      1. We have capacity issues now, off peak is very poorly served. The council are working hard on the CRL, doing everything up to actually digging, which can’t happen without funding from our money controlled by Wellington [ie the gov.]. It will happen, sooner if there is a change of gov in 2014.

        And yes Simon electrification will stimulate uptake, but the new trains only begin to arrive 2014, it will 2016 before they are all running. Until then get used to lots of stories of frustrated commuters, crap frequency, busted kit. Rail opponents will say these prove rail doesn’t work. Still with the new trains we are likely to immediately face the problem of the capacity constraint caused by the Britomart deadend.

      2. Electrification represents an almost doubling of capacity in rolling stock and rail patronage is expected to hit 16m-17m in 2016 and max out at about 22m-25m by the the early to mid 2020’s. The business case for the CRL suggests that patronage on the network by 2041 would be getting close to 50m per year.

        Also for Odaikorob – The council is budgeting in the long term plan for half of the costs of the CRL with the assumption that they can convince the government to pay for the other half. Considering how much other money they are planning to spend roads during that same time period, I feel they need to do a bit of reprioritisation.

        1. Sounds to me like the council are stringing everyone along, saying they are pro-rail while in reality ploughing all the allocated budget into roads. Nothing changes. Out of touch and head in the sand as always. I rest my case.

        2. How is a local authority budgeting to pay for half of a nationally significant piece of infrastructure “stringing along” or “head in the sand” ?! The CRL is number 1 priority at council.

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