The Auckland Transport Board is meeting today and as usual I’ve had a look through the papers to see if there is anything interesting. Below is the collection of items or comments that caught my eye.

The rest of this year is going to see a lot of debate about long term plans emerge

Auckland Transport’s 30-year Integrated Transport Programme, the 10-year Regional Land Transport Plan and the Transport content of Auckland Council’s 10-year Long Term Plan, must all be adopted (as draft for public consultation) by December 2014.

The next steps in the consultation process, as endorsed by the Board in February 2014, are:

  • Submissions process timed to align with Auckland Council, in Jan/Feb 2015
  • Online consultation, also in Jan/Feb 2015
  • Replace formal Hearings with more informal Transport Conversations in March 2015

The last bullet point is quite interesting, does that represent a reduction in the public being able to have a say in the future development of transport in the city?

On the key projects there are a few interesting comments these include

  • For the Lincoln Rd upgrade – In response to public consultation, an additional analysis of cycle facility options is underway – this is good as the cycling facilities that were suggested as part of this mega road widening were pitiful and didn’t even meet the engineering standards AT are implementing.
  • The name for the East West Link has been changed to East West Connections as – The word “link” created confusion with people incorrectly assuming that the programme was one project on one road and consequently was changed to “connections” to better reflect that this programme will comprise several projects to improve the transport network across the area. – I find this one particularly interesting given the constant ongoing confusion we see around the City Rail Link which is really about improving the entire regional rail network. Even the mayor still calls it a loop at times giving the impression it’s just about trains going around in circles. Perhaps it’s time to change the name of the CRL to actually reflect what the project is doing.
  • With the electric trains CAF are building them faster than expected and are currently 4 ahead of schedule. AT are saying we will start seeing the trains on the Manukau and eastern lines in August when from memory that wasn’t meant to happen till September or October. On the performance of the EMUs AT say that the punctuality in June returned to above the average for the network and changes to the signalling system to allow faster running is under testing.
  • At Panmure the new station as seen the number of people using the station surge. A press release out today shows the numbers even higher than in the report with usage of the station up 73% on the same time last year and up 57% since the station opened in January. It’s seen the station rise from the 18th busiest in 2013 to 10th. As a further comparison AT say that in 2003 only around 100 people used the then Panmure station (in a slightly different location), now an average of 1116 are using it daily. We’ve also had anecdotal evidence that entire busloads of people from eastern suburbs are transferring to trains at the station for a faster ride to town.

Each month AT now give updates on spending on Road Corridor Maintenance. It’s mostly a fairly dull part that gets skipped over however I did notice some interesting comments in relation to why the spend in the Central and West areas were below forecast. In the Central area AT spent $67.8 million vs a budget of $73.3 million and in the West they spent $29.6 million out of a budget of 32.7 million. In both cases they said the difference was due to a reduced level of expenditure on consultants (although for central it also was the result of deferring work on Orakei Rd). Other parts of the region ended up on or ahead of forecast though which negated the savings.

On Public transport they say

  • HOP card usage is up over 60% for buses and at 75% for trains and this is of course before the fare changes from early July kicked in which should drive that even higher.
  • They say bus on time performance is improving with the changes to timetables that they have been making and that this is based on results measured from AT’s real time tracking systems. They say that from July they will be measuring bus punctuality based on these measures rather than the tinpot dictator style self reporting by operators that they have relied on for years.
  • They say that to the 4 July there were almost 12,000 subscriptions to the free WiFI at train and busway stations and ferry wharfs.

Of course as usual it’s the closed session that has all of the really interesting information including

  • An update on the CRL
  • An update of the next ITP
  • An update on the disposal of the diesel trains
  • City Centre Access options
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    1. In discussion with an overseas rail expert yesterday he said that the sort of problem like the recent power failure is consistent with new trains and lines introduced everywhere in world, including in places with long histories and well funded networks. In his view the trains are very high quality and this is nothing out of the ordinary.

      1. An excellent summary of the situation Patrick, with which I concur. That’s not to say that resolving it will be simple, but it will be resolved.

  1. I will be very interested to see the stats from the real time tracking system and hopefully they can provide some sort of breakdown by route (and not just by operator). If the stats are not detailed I would be making an OIA request for stats on certain routes that I know perform really badly and have not been part of the timetable reviews AT have been working on.

  2. Great to see them so far ahead with the EMU deliveries. Just hope that they’re not cutting corners for faster deliveries and sending out faulty trains. I’m sure that’s not the case being from such a large and well known manufacturer.

    1. Nope. Just we are sitting at (as of this morning’s peak) Day 9 of the entire EMU fleet being grounded owing to the infrastructure fault.
      Maybe tomorrow the EMU fleet might run a full revenue service before we get to the Manukau Line in September/October

  3. “Central Rail Connection” – the CRC should help rail run more smoothly and oil the wheels of commerce around the whole region.

  4. Those panmure stats are stunning! Ive always thought the station upgrades were a nice to have and would rather the money was spent on more frequent services. Then upgrade the stations once its justified by the increased usage the better service brings. Seem it works the otherway too.

    1. Just imagine when there’s integrated fares, more frequent EMU services and the South-Eastern busway is completed. Will probably at least double the numbers in the next few years.

    2. Thing is we need it all, 60 years of neglect and abandonment takes some catching up. It’s a juggle and some bits get left behind but as each bit gets improved we should get towards real step change moments when these incremental changes combine to suddenly deliver results. Clearly the new trains should do this as really they represent the culmination of lots of different upgrades.

      So what if next year isn’t a 14% increase but 20% or more? It could be as the Eastern Line getting EMUs is a much bigger deal than the little O-Line…. I hope they’re ready.

    3. I’d suggest high-quality station upgrades in *certain* locations are well worth the money. More specifically, those stations where connections to other services are likely to happen. In the case of Panmure, you’ve got lots of bus-bus and bus-rail connections that passengers can make with more comfort/confidence.

      I suspect part of the patronage increase observed at Panmure is therefore down to existing passengers starting to make connections between services, rather than simply new passengers being attracted. Although the latter will definitely occur over time.

      But that doesn’t mean we should expect all station upgrades to deliver the same impact.

      1. Panmure is a very obvious choice for a high quality station as it will be the interchange between two RTN lines. Henderson will be similar if not as extreme when the UH busway is built,

  5. That growth in patronage at Panmure is staggering really.

    I am so amused at people saying the CRL will be a White Elephant. Yet can we really name one PT project in the last 10 years (ever?) that hasn’t exceeded all expectations. We can now list Britomart, the Northern Busway and Panmure stations as specific investments that have reaped a massive return. And each for around the same price as a single motorway interchange.

    Ideology will always win over evidence won’t it Brewer, Wood & Co.

    1. don’t forget New Lynn, Western rail line, and Central Connector (Grafton/Symonds bus lanes etc).

  6. Multi-modal transfers – who would have thought people would take to it so easily? When the benefits are there and the frequency limits waiting time, this can be a winner! Panmure is a fantastic opportunity for bus customers to get to the CBD quicker (and on a nicer mode of transport with the upcoming EMU quality customer experience coming their way). Interesting to hear that apparently people are already making these transfers with regularity. Will be interesting to see if H&E and AT will create a short route to deliver people to Panmure interchange. This would certainly make sense from capacity and peak bus requirement perspective, but suspect it probably won’t be in place until the magic integrated fares are delivered.

    I took a bus via Ellerslie and Nmkt into the CBD a few weeks ago and OMG it took forever. Much easier to read on the train also without getting all motion sick (boo hoo for the 20% of people who experience this). Took a Flyer a few days later which went along the motorway and was much better, although tiny load for a peak bus for both morning and afternoon peak trips.

  7. The curious case of unfortunate timing:
    A colleague of mine receives a lovely 5 day free pass to try the trains from Te Papapa Station to CBD (28th July – 1st Aug). This would have been to boost numbers of local people trialing the fabulous new EMU service. Hmmm, other older shorter trains rammed to the gunnels instead. Shame about the timing here, although the intention is good. You would think that the monthly pass users (that are registered) would have been de-duped and excluded from the mail drop. Now – I have an issue with how the free pass works, so best I get this off my chest now. This appears to have been dropped to all houses as she has a monthly pass so is getting 5 days free travel. She was pretty rapt with this of course. It is just a basic card which she flashes at staff at Britomart when getting off. So – I suppose there is a bit of counting going on and there may be a way of seeing that overall patronage has lifted during the 5 days from Te Papapa, but what then? Cards should be tokens to use which are numbered. These are passed in at Nmkt and Britomart. These numbered tickets/cards are collected and can be tied back to the address they were dropped at. AT then begin building a great database of prospective converts and it also allows them to make a follow up offer e.g. half price monthly pass to get people into using it regularly. This is marketing 101. To build a long term usage of taking PT regularly this really does need some more thinking. Pretty easy to get right, so hopefully we see some improvement in this approach as we head towards the Manukau and Eastern Line coming on stream with the EMUs.

    1. In essence this is a case of Marketing having a budget and finding somewhere to spend it. I personally believe that giving something away free undermines the value of the product. Nothing wrong with promotion and cheap price offers but value still needs to be evident to the customer.
      Example – what value the free weekends on the NEX? What did they provide apart from driving patronage (Bonuses impacted perhaps?).
      The NEX is full even on Saturdays so why give it away?

    2. The cost of removing/deduping existing users would very likely be more than any lost revenue. Plus there may be privacy issues, who has the data on the passes and who is the one doing the marketting? You actually run the same risk if you try to tie it in to follow ups. I’m sure you can do it (many private companies would) but remember this is a government connected thing so they would be loathe to do something that the media may make it to some sort of evil big brother conspiracy.

      Also are you saying she gets the 5 free day travel even with a monthly pass? I would have thought unless the timing is exactly right, she would miss out. But if they made it so she does get it somehow (does it say she can use it after her pass expires or something?), then that’s actually another advantage. A risk of free stuff like this is it tends to annoy existing customers who have to pay despite being loyal customers so if they have her one and she can use it, it’s actually an advantage. Even if they didn’t give her one, there’s still a fair chance she may hear of it from somewhere else (although obviously giving someone one which can’t be used is likely to annoy more).

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