I rode out to Swanson on the weekend to have a look at the two developments that have been happening out there.

The first was to see what $2.5 million of Auckland Transport and NZTA money buys us. The answer, a new park n ride facility with 136 carparks. This is in addtion to the small existing carpark. The new addition works out at over $18,000 per carpark highlighting just how expensive it is to add capacity by way of park n ride. If every space is used every working day in a year it would add about 34k trips per year.

Carparks are fairly boring but the images below highlight the location of the carpark in relation to the station. The second image is taken from the platform

Swanson Park n Ride 1

Swanson Park n Ride 2

AT say the works are completed however there’s no sign of the covered walkway or station upgrades as initially mentioned.

The proposed improvements at Swanson include

  • Construction of a Park and Ride with an additional 136 car parks and a covered walkway to the station. This is expected to cost $2.5 million and be completed in March 2015.
  • A station upgrade which will include improved lighting, signage, CCTV, additional platform shelters, walkway canopies to the footbridge and stairs, and new platform surfacing and marking. Design is expected to be completed at the end of 2014.

Note: the original carpark below

Swanson Park n Ride Original

The other and more interesting development is the Penihana North development that’s happening to the south of the tracks.  This is the only greenfield development next to a station served by electric trains and as such it will be interesting to see what impact the development. I’d suggest it will probably lead to a greater gain in patronage than the Park n Ride will – although it obviously takes up more space too. I understand it has taken over 13 years to occur due to a lot of opposition from local residents – some who suggest it will be an urban ghetto (I suspect they don’t know what a real urban ghetto is). Perhaps one positive is I suspect the delay has meant the development is better than it would have been as if if occurred 13 years ago the idea of the station being important wouldn’t have crossed the developers mind.

The development basically covers the area below that is (was) lined with hedges.

Penihana North Area

It seems that a lot of bulk earthworks are going on but I’d suggest we’ll start seeing houses sprouting up later this year as the sections closest to the station look almost ready for them – including with formed roads. In total it is expected there will be about 330 dwellings in the development with those closest to the station being terraced houses. One aspect that I really like that has already been completed – but is not open to the public – is a shared path that runs alongside the tracks from Pooks Rd/Oneils Rd at eastern edge of the development. Importantly the path leads directly in to the station platform where there are also some new bike racks, this is something we need at many more stations. You can see it in the image below along with some of the development.

Perihana North new path to station

Oh and yes there is a small gap in the railing between the platform and the path at the end allowing for more permeability – it just needs some more HOP readers installed.

Perihana North new path to station 2

The new bike racks are slightly protected from the elements by the stairs for the pedestrian bridge.

Perihana North new path to station bike racks

From the station the development stretches up away from the station

Penihana North Development 2

The map below gives an idea of how the development is being laid out

Penihana North Development Concept Plan

My guess is that all the developments at Swanson – including the electric trains – will help considerably boost patronage from the station which has been one of the lesser used on the network

Penihana North Development 1

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  1. They may as well have handed $18,000 each to 136 current drivers on the condition that they take the train instead – would have had the same effect (and without the maintenance cost of the carpark)
    They should spend their money elsewhere, park and ride is a dud.

    1. Park and ride works globally quite well. Take a tour to the UK, all local stations have some parking. Seems the anti-car brigade aren’t happy about anything much.

      1. “Park and ride works globally quite well.” Is that just something you dreamed up or do you have any evidence?
        This is from Wikipedia; “There is not much research on the pros and cons of park-and-ride schemes. It has been suggested that there is “a lack of clear-cut evidence for park-and-ride’s widely assumed impact in reducing congestion”.[5]
        Not a glowing endorsement is it?
        “Take a tour to the UK, all local stations have some parking.” I used to catch the train from Hendon to Westminster; the car parks were well hidden or (non-existent). And the ones that do, charge for it. I recently parked at Settle station and was charged 2 quid.

      2. The issue isn’t park and ride – and in the scheme of things this is the right kind of place for one – as opposed to somewhere like Orakei. It’s just highlighting that these things don’t come cheap, especially for the patronage they provide. Many cities charge parking fees for Park n Ride, often not much but it’s used as a demand management tool otherwise people expect transit agencies to keep building bigger and bigger ones at huge cost.

  2. That $2.5 million spend on a car park was determined from the outdated 2012 report which effectively canned trains to Waitakere and growth areas of Huapai/Kumeu. That amount could have easily covered the long planned 3rd platform at Swanson for the Huapai – Swanson rail shuttles.

    Good to see that since only the PTUA took Auckland Transport to task over the maligned and outdated report that they are now undertaking an in-depth look at the growth in Huapai and the need for rail services. I have been informed all details will be ready for reporting back in December. So we’ve had a positive effect for getting change in just 6 months of existence.

    As mentioned in this posting, growth of greenfields is quite limited at Swanson, where as Kumeu/Huapai and surrounds is opening up like a can of worms, so a rail service is vital and something which can quickly be achieved without forcing the residents to wait for 10+ years for a limited busway to be constructed. Both are needed.

    1. So the park and ride cost about what it would for a single year of operating a Huapai shuttle and is a one off cost that will probably deliver a greater level of patronage. If growth is so strong then probably a more frequent service going to where the residents are going might be useful. Seeing as most aren’t going to anywhere near the rail line – except Britomart – then perhaps a frequent bus service would be better. For the same cost as a rail shuttle AT could probably run a bus every 10 minutes which would allow for connections to other parts of the PT network at a number of places. As we know frequency is considered far more important in building ridership than mode it would probably be more successful.

      Out of interest Jon what happens if the AT report comes back saying trains to Huapai are still not justified. Will you call for a third report or will you accept the findings?

      1. Thanks for your reply Matt.

        1) “As we know frequency is considered far more important in building ridership than mode it would probably be more successful.” So putting on a horse and trap every 5 minutes would be the best based on your statement? A slow, uncomfortable but frequent mode is better than speed? Hmmm.

        2) Apart from yourselves and Genzero, the commuters, residents, business associations and Auckland Local Boards we have approached, not to mention the Auckland Council Infrastructure Committee, all agree with the PTUA that 2012 report has been quickly outdated with the coming of SHA’s and other developments. Even Auckland Transport are now undertaking work on the issue of rail to Huapai ONLY because of the PTUA taking a stand for “neglected” public transport users in the Nor West. We would prefer a fully independant STUDY but will see what AT comes back to us with.Once we know the scope of the review, without clearly obvious flaws as in the 2012 report, we can live with the outcome.

        Will Transportblog eat humble pie, say “we were complelety wrong, PTUA you were right” when the Western Connector rail shuttle proves successful?

        1. 1. So you want to reduce things to absurism. I’m talking about two similar things. As for speed, buses would be as fast, if not faster than rail. I know of people who catch the bus from Huapai daily and say trips to the city are already way shorter than you’ve claimed they are and will only get faster in a couple of years when bus lanes (intermittent at interchanges but better than what existed before) will run from Lincoln Rd through to Pt Chev. So faster and more frequent vs slower but a nicer more comfortable ride. I know which one I’d bet on gaining the most patronage.

          2. As for politicians, it’s easy to get them to agree to something when they aren’t the ones funding it, especially when you claim all sorts of fantastical things that aren’t actually true. As the report, you’re the only ones claiming it’s outdated which of course you need to do to justify your campaign. In the way you use the term it’s really just “we didn’t like the outcome” rather than the report was bad.
          On residents saying they want it, of course they want something more, which community wouldn’t. The real question is if they’d use it regularly. From memory lots said they would use it the last time it was tried – and before you put up arguments about the service offered, yes I’m aware it was only one a day but that’s no less useful to most people than an hourly train. Perhaps what you could do to convince AT and others is run Kickstarter type campaign and get enough people to pledge a month of fares to show they’ll actually use it.

          Lastly if the study comes back saying that the idea could be viable then of course we’re not going to oppose it.

  3. I think AT would have done better to have allowed that land where the carpark is to be developed into apartments or terraced houses, better return on the land and creates a safe feeling station when people are living right next door – eyes and ears – rather than a desolate carpark as it will be in the evenings. Probably would have allowed a tidy profit which could have been spent on improving cycle links in the area.

    The money could have been spent on traffic calming Swanson Rd, installing curb side parking there by removing the median strip, and implementing better cycle lanes through the area, thereby encouraging more people to walk and cycle to the station.

    1. I feel that all park and rides need to go through a period of being filled by commuters, then the parking charged for (on the basis that the charges rise to maintain 15% vacancies) and when that starts to become overcrowded then redevelope the land for commercial/residential combined with newly developed park and ride on the outer rim of the urban area with feeder buses to the rail.
      Walking through car parks to the station should be designed out.

      1. Do you want people on the trains or not? Seems every effort made to entice them is counteracted by a desire to annoy (potential) commuters by making life harder and throwing in extra costs for good measure. That’ll work, not.

  4. Park and Rides in areas like Swanson allow commuters who don’t live closely to utilise public transport, opening up the train system in this instance to a wider variety of users than would otherwise be the case.

    They also serve a function of reserving the land for other uses in the future. You never know, Swanson might go places one day and a higher intensity use for this land may be appropriate.

    A lot has been made of the $18k per carpark. Can we please get a comparison with the amounts being spent of cycle infrastructure? Given there are about 2,000 cyclists per day it shouldn’t be hard to work out.

    1. Except that a car park can never store more than one car, and a park & ride car park will rarely ever have turnover for more than one car/day – while cycle growth grows the more cycleways you build, and can be used and re-used throughout the day. And for your information, more than ~10,000 Aucklanders cycle in the morning peak alone, based on Census data, despite decades of underinvestment.

      Also, our ability to remove car parks once built has been ridiculously low in this town. Once built, car parks become like heirlooms to part of this society, more heritage-protection-worthy than the best villa.

      1. Swanson is the edge of Auckland, and according to the Unitary Plan zoning protecting the Waitakere ranges it will stay that way permanently. Park and ride makes sense at the end of the line to pick up rural commuters from outside Auckland proper.

        Can’t see much need to change that in this location. Could stick some apartments there I suppose, but they would always be apartments on the far edge of Auckland.

        1. Yes absolutely correct. Not to mention that the carpark will last for decades so the cost spread out over that time-frame means it isn’t so bad.

        2. Sorry, but cost-spreading doesn’t work that way. Otherwise, the City Rail Link would have a benefit cost ratio of gazillions, because we will still be using it in a 100 years.

        3. Sure, people in the Waitaks will likely never have a PT system good enough to abandon cars. BUT that doesn’t therefore automatically make a park & ride for them a good use of limited PT-related money!

          You might, for sum X, get 50 Waitakere drivers to stop using a car for the rest of their trip of, say 20km length into the city.

          But what if the same sum X, spent on improving PT services (not park and ride car parks) elsewhere in Auckland, gets you 200 people to stop driving 10km into the city. You’re seeing much better return on your investment (and even the Waitak drivers NOT encouraged to use PT profit, because there’s 200 less cars on the roads).

          So while there may be a benefit to PT from park & ride, whether that benefit means it’s worth doing it is far from settled.

        4. Yep, urban / city-dwellers cross-subsidising sprawl / wop-wop dwellers, as they do for most infrastructure. In this case for the opportunity cost of sum X.

    2. You can also compare it to how many people would benefit from an additional harbour bridge, and the cost of such bridge (AND all the extra motorway widening to the North and South). I think this one would be pretty good by comparison.

      And re cycling: what if we would spend 500 million on cycling infra and it will allow 50,000 people to cycle to work? That’s $10,000 per person. And I might be mistaken here, but I think 50k is a fairly conservative estimate.

      So let’s bring on the comparison.

    3. Well the photo above shows four bike staples holding eight bikes. The staples would cost maybe $1200 all up, so $150/bike? Hell, include the cost of the concrete underneath if you like and that’s still going to be well less than $1k each – a lot better than $18k.

      Cost of the shared path? Well that will be used by a large number of pedestrians and cyclists who live in the area, so that’ll spread the load. Still a lot cheaper than an equivalent road to drive them all instead (to say nothing of the ongoing road maintenance costs). And we haven’t even started on the congestion savings for everyone else still driving…

      (BTW, there are ~50,000 cycle trips in Auckland/day, not 2000. And the whole point of the exercise is to significantly grow existing cycling numbers…)

    4. “Can we please get a comparison with the amounts being spent of cycle infrastructure?”
      You seem to have plenty of time on your hands why don’t you do it?:

  5. Do you know what the design of “Primary” and “Secondary” looks like? It would seem important in the light of some recent design criticism of some development roads and could be a good time to look at this aspect of street design. eg narrow carriageways with bay type parking etc.
    Jon Reeves and PTUA hope that you achieve your aims of extending the rail to the Huapai area before the housing comes on stream rather than after it is completed and they need to wean the drivers from their cars onto the train when it comes.
    An afterthought, Matt it would be nice for the aerial and the development plan to have been close together for comparison. Thank you for your post.

  6. Great to see the bike parking using under-structure locations to provide some simple shelter; I see so many other missed opportunities for this (e.g. under the overhangs of buildings).

    I do wonder about the practicality of having that rail in front of it all though. Imagine your bike is parked at the far left and then to get out you have to squeak in front of some bikes parked further right… It could be the angle, but it doesn’t look like a lot of wriggle room once bikes are actually parked there. I’ve seen similar situations where whoever has installed the bike parking hasn’t always thought about how bikes will actually use it, e.g. too close to buildings, too close to other racks, bikes extending out onto the street, etc. Make sure the little details are done right!

  7. We love it. Swanson and Waitakere are the closest rail stations for Bethell’s Beach and the surrounding areas. Our only bus services are for schools and due to the stupid contracting system can’t be made available to the general public so cars are our only option. We chose to live at the top end of the Bethells Valley as it was close to the rail head. With the zone system the charge to get to Waitakere was insane so a lot of us use Swanson. Up until recently we could never get a park so the new Swanson Park and Ride is a fantastic addition. By the way a large amount of the project work seemed to be taken up with drainage issues so perhaps the topography and geology has some impacts on the cost and minimised cost effective options for other uses …. at this time.

  8. They should zone the land adjacent to the platform for a breakfast bakery and dairy shop. The shops can act as a shelter/toilet for waiting passengers.

    As the station gets popular, the land can then get re-zoned into mix used town center/apartment and build the multi-story car-park building

  9. Being a long time user of the western rail line from Swanson, I am pleased with the completion of the new car park.

    In the last few years, we have seen a significant boost in the number of train users from Swanson and the small existing car park was overflowing before 7am. To me, it seems an appropriate, and reasonable, use of space and money towards the reduction of road congestion and increase of rail patronage.

  10. Small problem with trying to get more people in Auckland to cycle to work, too many hills. Auckland is not flat like cycling hotspots Christchurch or Holland, and while cycling uphill might be a breeze if your name is Chris Froome, it is not for everyone. I used to regularly use the cycleway alongside the North Western Motorway for recreational cycling, and there weren’t a hell of a lot of other cyclists on it, no matter what time I was on it

    1. It must have been a long time ago that you cycled alongside the NW Evan. If you went on it now you would see it being used a lot by all manner of people. I always give a cheery good morning to the primary school kids who cycle from Te Atatu to Pt Chev if I happen to meet them on their ride.

  11. I used to hit the cycleway at St Lukes Road and cycle east to the pedestrian bridge, then west to wherever. And it was a long time ago, November last year in fact when I took crook. I have also worked on the road works alongside the cycleway, and while the usage was regular it wasn’t heavy by any stretch of the imagination. I’m not knocking it, I think it is marvelous, but it is quite hilly in parts, just like the rest of Auckland.

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