Today is the April edition of the Auckland Transport board meeting and as usual I’ve gone through the board reports to see what interesting snippets of information they contain.
Before I get into what’s in the reports, first I need to address what’s not. The closed session is chock full of reports which is disappointing for an organisation that has promised to be more open and transparent. Items in the closed agenda included:
- Rail Operations Tender – Transdev’s contract expires next year and AT will be putting it out to tender instead of just rolling it over. I understand a number of groups are interested in it so it can hopefully drive some big improvements in opex costs.
- Integrated Fares – obviously a massively important piece of work that is needed as soon as possible. Last we heard AT were investigating two different zone options.
- Annual Fare Review – In the face of rising patronage I’m hoping fares don’t go up (well perhaps except for cash fares).
- Dominion Rd
- CCIF – Seawall – this is the replacement/upgrade of the seawall along Quay St.
- Auckland/Wellington Public Transport Comparison – this appears to be a financial comparison and bound to be related to the rail operations tender.
- Rail Strategy – Level Crossings Programme
On to the reports that are available.
There appears to be a growing recognition that AT are going to have to start some serious discussions about project prioritisation in the coming years with a new version of the ITP and the next LTP coming up and that there isn’t just an unlimited money tree, that the council has hidden away somewhere, not even one for roading projects.
AC’s Budget Committee met on 11 April to consider the direction of the upcoming Long Term Plan. AC staff have advised that they are likely to be aiming for annual rates increases lower than the 4.9% forecast in the 2012-2022 LTP, and that this will require a significant reduction in the planned capital programme for the AC Group. AC has since issued guidance to CCOs and departments about the information requirements and timelines for this process.
Work on preparing financial data for AT’s long term plans (Integrated Transport Programme/Regional Land Transport Programme/Long-term Plan/Asset Management Plan) is continuing. The ITP Project team has compiled an indicative programme of capital projects, and Finance is forecasting a corresponding operating programme. Work on modelling the renewals and maintenance programme is well underway.
The make-up of the final programme will depend on feedback from consultation, prioritisation, and expected revenue from AC, NZTA and external sources. Trade-offs will need to be made between different types of projects, and between renewals and new capital expenditure.
Moving on to projects underway.
- AT say that work on the Tiverton-Wolverton upgrade is now almost complete and work should be taking place on some parts of the alternative cycling route in May but with some revisions. They say two sections of shared path are being built and I’m keen to know if that is a downgrade from what was originally promised.
- For the Dominion Rd parallel cycle routes construction is targeted to start in May and be finished in the spring.
- While we finally have an additional bus lane, work is continuing on getting a permanent busway built along Fanshawe which will include an interchange station to serve Wynyard Quarter.
- AT is wanting to amend the existing designation for Penlink and renew the construction and operation consents. While it does seem to be moving ahead, I do wonder if there is any actual desire to build the project any time soon or if this is just AT keeping the project active for other reasons.
- On the East-West Link the update shows one of the major problems we have with transport in this country. The project is being rushed ahead with decisions being made and routes chosen yet there still hasn’t even been a business case done. By comparison the CRL with a business case that’s been reviewed multiple times with a fine tooth comb languishes due to ideology.
- Work is continuing on both the Manukau and Otahuhu bus interchanges. With Otahuhu, Auckland Transport are also saying they’re working on another project in parallel to improve pedestrian connections to the station which is great news. I think improving station access for people walking and cycling fits in the low hanging fruit category.
- AT have some feedback on users impressions of the new Mt Albert and Panmure rail stations. For satisfaction both stations had 97% of people rate them between 6-10 out of 10.
- On the Beach Rd cycleway AT say they intend to have it completed by September and the first stage will involve the route from Grafton Gulley to Quay St via a Mahuhu Crescent and Tapora Street.
Moving on with AT’s seemingly renewed focus on improving PT. We’ve talked before about the Deloitte report that looked at how much patronage the current plans might deliver which showed patronage falling short of the councils targets for 2022 by 39 million trips. Rather than just work to lower the targets the board have decided to see what can be done to meet them. It’s been decided that with so much focus and investment in rail that has happened in recent years and is planned for the future that there’s probably not a lot more that can be done that isn’t already underway. As such the biggest opportunity for AT to increase their chances of hitting targets is to improve buses. They will be investigating further – including possible business cases for a number of initiatives around better buses.
- Bring forward busway investments and bus lane / prioritising the proposed high frequency bus network
- Increase frequency and service kilometre coverage of the proposed new bus network and bring forward investment earlier than currently proposed
- Fare price reduction and fare restructuring – a separate update paper has been prepared for the April 2014 Board meeting
- Increase cost of PT alternatives including parking and congestion charging
- Bring forward proposed park and ride provisions and improve other PT journey ‘first and final leg’ options
There are some good options in this group and it will be interesting to see the outcome which is targeted for the June meeting. The one most immediate could be the suggestion of a fare price reduction. I’ve mentioned before that I would actually prefer to see prices stay roughly the same rather than drop with the money used to fund service improvements – although I would like to see a bigger differential between HOP and cash fares to further encourage HOP use.
Lastly the report has Special Topic on the new uniforms worn by rail and customer service staff from yesterday. A few interesting points I noted from the piece were that
- The uniforms have a grey base colour with different colour accents depending on the role, blue for operational staff and red for customer service staff.
- As the new uniforms are of a higher quality, both from a material and image point of view, they have increased uniform costs by about 40%.
- AT have been planning this change for months only for the company they were working with to pulled out in February leaving AT to have to source the uniforms elsewhere.
- Due to the supplier issues AT couldn’t get exactly what they wanted but the uniforms will be improved later with items using bespoke fabric.
- New uniforms will also roll out to parking wardens but no mention is made of requiring the customer facing bus staff do the same. I wonder if that will come once the new PTOM contracts are rolled out with the new network next year?
Some images of the uniforms are below