Another great video from the ever excellent Street Films highlights the work being done in Seattle to make the city particularly more PT friendly but also more bike friendly. Seattle is a perhaps one of the more useful comparator cities for Auckland due to its similar geography and topography challenges.

One big takeaway is the off board fare collection and all door boarding on their RapidRide bus services which sound equivalent to the frequent network Auckland Transport are rolling out as part of the New Network. I especially was surprised to see they achieved a 20% increase in the speed of the service. This is something AT need to roll out to the Northern Busway as soon as possible and eventually to the entire frequent network.

It was also interesting to hear that now, 70% of trips to the city centre are by non-car means and that is expected to increase to 75% in coming years. By comparison, Auckland currently has around 50% access by car and the numbers arriving by car are about the same as 15 years ago with all the growth coming from PT and active modes – and this doesn’t even count all the people who now live in the city centre who don’t cross the motorway boundary.

via Transitcentre

While on the topic of Seattle, if you have a spare hour or so, you may also be interested in this Auckland Conversations style video from the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies from Seattle on the findings of their trip last year to Auckland about the things they learnt from us.

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  1. Yeah there are a lot of similarities between Seattle and Auckland including strong population and economic growth. And of course housing and infrastructure pressures. Also both populations are very much in favour in investing in Transit and cycling and improved urban realm.

    As the video shows Seattle have done a huge amount to grow their Transit mode share especially with high volumes of big articulated buses, off-board payment, bus advance lanes, and whole dedicated bus streets. Currently our gov agencies are working on a bus-only plan for completion of the Rapid Transit Network, it will be interesting to see just how many city streets would have to become four lane bus corridors seen in the vid above under such a plan; Wellesley is planned to already, then Albert, Fanshawe, and at least Queen?

    1. Largely agree, although I don’t think Auckland is quite as far down the road in terms of support for transit projects, there are still a significant number who think the CRL is a giant waste of money and would prefer more motorways. It’s improving though.

  2. Three things I really like in the first video…
    * They’ve got bike racks on their buses
    * RapidRide is something we need instead of our “Express” routes
    * I love how they turned the right turn lanes into bus lanes

        1. Having seen the bus bike racks in action there last year, I’d agree doesn’t have much impact.
          [not too many bike riders used the buses – as evidenced by the numbers of bikes seen in the bike holders on buses nor did those bike riders who did use the buses slow the loading/unloading of the buses very much].

          Riders loaded and unloaded their bikes when the bus pulled up, so got off the bus early, or got on last as other passengers deboarded/boarded.
          As bikes were loaded on front of bus driver could see that the biker rider had got out of the way before they took off.

          One other point I noticed is that a lot of their buses downtown are the long articulated/”bendy” buses similar to what we had years ago, but seemed to run on electricity via overhead wires, like Wellington does [but is trying to get rid of].

          Not all are electric powered, some of them still have smokey old diesels powering them.
          Which makes using the underground combined Lightrail/Bus tunnel stations “interesting” places to be to say the least.

          Lastly, they have zero on street parking downtown. So the “right hand” lane (or left hand lane for NZ) is always kept clear of parked vehicles.

          [except for firetrucks or ambulances on call out].

        2. Of course. A bus can carry 50 people. It will never carry 50 bicycles. As soon as even a small minority regularly takes their bicycles on the bus (or train), that idea will break down.

        3. Well there’s about eight other cities in NZ that already have bike racks on buses where you could get some local feedback (even Wellington is now trialling them)…

        4. Bike racks on buses sounds like a great idea but who is responsible for loading (assuming the cyclist) and the load security (under NZ law all loads and load security are the responsibility of the driver) so it will be fun and games (probably leading to the removal of the cycle racks) when the first one fall off.

        5. Speaking from experience (used them on a regular basis in Vancouver). The bike racks don’t actually slow down the boarding or disembarking. That’s because by the time the bike is on the rack (10-20 seconds for someone with experience doing so), the other passengers are still boarding the bus. And as long as you’re the first one out, you won’t slow anyone down either. Sometimes bikers needed to wait for next bus due to demand, or just ride instead – as there are only 2 on each bus. So the slower boarding times are misnomers. So my personal observations are in line with Nick R comment about negligible impact to the boarding times.

          Racks definitely get used more during rainy times, which means people are more likely to bike, as they have a “backup” in case the weather turns bad.

          If Auckland was to trial the bike racks, then in my opinion NEX would be a smart choice as:

          * it would significantly increase bike catchment for commuting
          * equipment would need to be installed to a static & limited fleet (NEX branded buses only) meaning reliability for bikers, knowing that every NEX carries one. There is no point installing them on smaller routes, as there is no guarantee that a bike-rack-equipped bus will be avaiilable unless the scheme is introduced to every single bus in Auckland.
          * NEX is kind of a train on rubber wheels, so that would mimic the bike carrying ability of trains on the North Shore equivalent – the NEX.
          * in case someone says that double-deckers can’t have racks, sorry, they actually can 😉

  3. Seattle is also a place where the US YIMBY movement is growing rapidly. They have some pretty impressive city advocates. In particular Sara Maxana a mum (she tweets as @yimbymom), a regional planner and a resident of Seattle is impressive. The following video clip of her speech to the YIMBY Conference is 40 minutes long but is really good.

  4. Off board fare collection and all door boarding on the Northern Busway is one of the most obvious short term solutions. It would require enforcement though as it’s not really possible to gate the CBD stops, I wonder if they are waiting for the new enforcement legislation?

      1. I think the main points are:

        1. Authorised officers who are legally able to issue fines, demand a name and address, and I think arrest (I could be wrong on the last one).
        2. A $150 fine for failing to provide a valid ticket.

        These are quite a step up from the current situation.

        1. I think the word is ‘warranted’ and I don’t believe they have the power of arrest, so basically everything a parking warden is but on public transport checking tickets.

  5. They started out by pointing out that Auckland has the highest per capita car ownership in the world, so the context for the whole talk was if Auckland can make progress with public amenity and transport integration then pretty much anyone can. Proud to be providing a low low bar for the rest of the world

  6. Interesting to see well thought out interventions at intersections for transit. We could do with more of that. Also interesting they have gone with articulated buses vs our double deckers. Cant help thinking articulated would be supwrior for all door boarding etc. I wonder if articulayed buses were considered before we started heading down the double decker route.

    1. There’s a double decker in the Seattle footage too, albeit a solitary one outnumbered by all the articulated buses.

      I seem to recall there was an issue fitting the AKL “bendy buses” round corners i.e. they had to swing out wide so the trailer part didn’t run over the curb. The modern problem in AKL is of course the lack of real estate available for all the buses, so you can probably fit four double decker buses in the same footprint as three articulated ones.

      1. Double decker buses have limited use in Seattle because of the trolley bus wires, and because they can’t fit into the downtown bus/train tunnel. They’re mainly used on express services running straight down the I-5 into town, or on express services on the east side of Lake Washington. But the articulated buses also have troubles turning, in the narrow U-District area they essentially block two lanes of a road to turn right.

        1. I studied in Leuven, which has a combination of relatively narrow and winding streets in a medieval city centre, and lots of bendy buses. Any bus would block 2 lanes when turning, and most streets have 1 lane each way. No problem. Buses don’t spend ages turning.

          There’s absolutely no way turning would ever be a problem for buses in Auckland. The streets are literally more than twice as wide over here.

          The space, that depends on how boarding works. Articulated buses are longer, but because they have 3 doors they could spend less time at a bus stop than a double decker.

        1. Where would you want a Subway to though, the three CRL stations basically hit the whole CBD except Wynyard Quarter (Would be done as part of any North Shore Line) and the Universities (Which are not in unreasonable walking distance from the CRL stations.

  7. Speeding up the NEX?
    Easy: Allow the buses to travel at 90 or 100km/h on the NEX rather than the 80km/h limit now.
    Allow approved buses (something along the grounds of HGW vehicles having an H after being approved as being suitable) to drive at 100km/h on the motorway.
    Those 2 things would shave 3 minutes each direction off the trip time. Over the space of a day over the NEX fleet that would save around 8 hours total (effectively adding another bus into the service for free).

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