One of the perennial issues that comes up with the CRL, is what to do about Grafton and Newmarket. These two stations have become pretty popular for those coming from the west and large numbers, perhaps up to 40% of people on some trains, disembark there. Grafton in particular has seen its patronage grow pretty rapidly since opening in its current location in 2010 and is used by not only school kids from nearby Auckland Grammar and St Peters College but by people who work at the hospital and many office workers from the buildings down Carlton Gore Rd. In the future it is also likely to be popular when the Lion Brewery site eventually gets redeveloped. When we built the CRL these passengers are rightly going to expect that it is still easy for them to get to yet the location of Grafton in particular is probably the hardest to deal with.
First up here is the situation now which is pretty straight forward:
The downside of course is that CBD bound passengers which make up the majority of passengers have to take the long way around town. Further due to the constraints at Britomart and Newmarket with having to turn trains around there isn’t really any opportunity to improve frequencies. This means the most trains we would run from out west is about one every 10 minutes. Now for the sake of this post lets say you wanted to get from Mt Albert to Grafton and you are not the kind of person who has memorised the timetable. On average upon arriving at the station during the peak hours you would need to wait for about 5 minutes till the next train showed up, with EMUs the journey to Grafton would be about 10½ minutes so all up the trip would take on average 15½ minutes.
Once the CRL is built we could look at running services direct from West to South as per below:
The problem with this though is that patronage is simply not ever likely to be high enough to justify a decent frequency. I know that some people would love to see a West to South service but I can’t see it being viable and that means that the example from above gets worse as your average wait time will increase or make relying on a timetable much more important. Even if we could get a West to South service running once every 15 minutes it would leave you with an average of a 7½ minute way and a 10½ minute journey for a total time of 18 minutes.
So what can we do, providing we also build the Eastern Link we could rely on transfers to make it easy for customers:
Using a pattern like the one suggested in this post would allow for us to easily run one train every 5 minutes on each of the lines during the peak times, perhaps slightly more. Turning up at Mt Albert station you would only have an average wait of 2½ minutes before the next train arrived to whisk you away. Getting close to town your train would then head down the tunnel until it got to the Symonds St station which would take about 8.5 minutes. At Symonds St you would disembark the train and wait till the next train heading out to Grafton/Newmarket turned up which again would be an average of about 2½ minutes. Another two minutes on the train and you would arrive at Grafton. All up the journey would take about 15½ minutes which is no different to the pre CRL situation.
Now now improvement doesn’t sound that startling however it would likely also be possible to have the transfer at Symonds St timed with the train heading in the opposite direction to cut out that down time and bringing the total trip down to 13 minutes. What this means is that by keeping the network simple and running at a high frequency we can actually negate the loss of a direct connection to Grafton and Newmarket and if we time our trains right then it could actually end up faster for people than it is today. Of course it would require both the Eastern link and Symonds St station to be built up front.
Another thing to consider with the last option is that by boosting the frequencies to a train every 5 minutes it also benefits travellers going from places like Henderson to New Lynn. Suddenly people out in the suburbs have access to a really high frequency service that would not have been able to be provided otherwise and which would help to encourage more people to use the train.
Hopefully we can keep it simple, frequent and fast so that everyone can benefit.