Tomorrow is the first Auckland Transport board meeting of 2017 and so as usual, I’ve scoured the board reports for any interesting information. The very first thing I noticed wasn’t even in a report but was the meeting timetable for the year. In past years there has always been a monthly meeting (except for January) but not it seems they’re moving to having a meeting every 6 weeks. I’m not sure of the reason for the change and one thing it could do is also mean we don’t get information like ridership data as regularly which would be a shame.

Closed Session agenda

The closed session is of course where all of the interesting discussions take place and despite being two months since the last meeting, there’s surprisingly not that much interesting on the agenda.

Items for Approval/Decision

  • Draft Statement of Intent 2017/18 – 2019/20
  • Advanced Bus Solution next steps
  • Delivery of Transport Networks for Growth
  • Quarterly report to AC

Items for Noting

  • AT Rollover Designations
  • CRL Update
  • Speed Management Update
  • AT Deliverables:
    • Results for Projects completed to 31 December 2016
    • Tasks for completion by 31 March 2017

The most interesting of those is the Advanced Bus Solution item. This relates to the NZTAs investigation into a bus alternative to AT’s proposal for light rail on Dominion Rd and to the Airport.

Business Report

There are quite a few things from the main business report and the order of items relates to where they appeared in AT’s report.

Every month AT list the projects that were approved for funding by the NZTA. There are usually a few items but one this time stood out. Almost $40 million is going on business cases for projects in what will be greenfield growth areas. This is from the TFUG work. As a comparison, a detailed business case for improvements to Lake Rd was also approved at a cost of $630k

Transport Network for Growth (Detailed Business Cases for North, North West and South) – this activity was approved with conditions for $39.5 million

Technology – There are a number of technology updates:

  • It appears AT are working on a new version of the AT Hop website

The AT HOP Web Rebuild project is on schedule to be delivered by 24 April for the rebuild of the Customer Web Portal, and the Customer Contact Centre Web Portal. This project will deliver a better online experience for our AT HOP customers.

  • It appears there will be more public information available

The EIM (Enterprise Information Management) team has launched an initial instance of a public GIS (map-based information) information website and an open GIS data website. The open GIS data capability allows customers to access and download authoritative GIS datasets. The initial 20 datasets will continue to be expanded upon as we move forward with new datasets being uploaded regularly.

  • And more mobile app improvements

Metro AT Mobile Application: The new AT Metro mobile application is in the final stages of end user testing prior to launch. This will be followed up with seven other items of additional functionality over the next few months including the addition of Train and Ferry services.

Newmarket Crossing – AT note they’ve got an agreement in principle with the appellants for the Newmarket Level Crossing project which will see Sarawia St closed and a bridge built between Laxon Tce and Cowie St.

Smart City – AT are going to conduct a ‘smart city’ technology trial in Devonport. It’s currently going through procurement.

A trial of smart city technologies in conjunction with UI is being developed for the Devonport Ferry Terminal, Bus Interchange and Park-and-Ride precinct.

Technologies to be trialled include, CleverCiti Parking Sensors for real time parking tracking in the Park-and-Ride area (144 spaces), SMIGHT smart poles for integrated sensor capability (including integrated cleverciti parking sensors, environmental sensors, wifi and electric vehicle charging).

Integrated analytics combining parking data, pedestrian data and AT-HOP data will help to build a picture of how people drive, walk/cycle or use buses and ferries to get to or from Devonport and improve our understanding how people integrate these modalities (e.g. arrive by car, take a ferry or a bus, arrive by ferry and then walk/cycle, arrive by ferry and then drive off in a car etc).

City Centre Roads – AT now report to each meeting how the city centre roads are coping with the disruption caused by the CRL and other road works. This is related in part to resource consent conditions for the CRL. Once again though we see that despite the disruption, most streets monitored are actually performing better than before the works (blue is the baseline). This continues to show that AT has a lot of scope to drastically change the city once the CRL is complete and refocus road corridors more towards people on foot, bike and bus.

New Network – For the first time we’ve got some information about how the new network in South Auckland is performing. It appears that the number of trips in December are up significantly on last year, including a lot more people transferring. For some reason they’re reporting on trips and transfers separately rather than just reporting on journeys which is what they should be doing. The information by suburb shows that Otahuhu has seen significant change which will almost certainly be due to the newly upgraded station

Integrated fares – over successive fare changes, AT have constantly increased the price of monthly passes well above other changes in what has felt like a deliberate attempt to be less customer friendly to some of their best customers. The report, written before the most recent increase in price suggests monthly pass numbers have been slashed by a third.

Bus train monthly pass ($200) sales have stabilised with (~5,000 per month down from 9,500 per month) many passengers migrating to stored value.

March Madness – For perhaps the first time, AT are introducing additional capacity ahead of annual March Madness. They say 34 extra peak trips will be added to the NEX this month while Birkenhead Bus are introducing double deckers to Onewa Rd. As we highlighted the other day, they’re also boosting rail capacity as part of the new timetable due mid-March. Not related to march madness but they also say double deckers will be introduced from New Lynn to the city along Great North Rd on June 11 when the new bus network rolls out in West Auckland.

Train Stations – There are a number of changes to train stations planned.

  • AT have previously said they’re looking at gating a number of stations later this year. One of those was Middlemore but they’re now saying those plans are under review “to align with the planned third main line“. Hopefully that means we’ll see some progress on that project soon.
  • AT plan to install a new LCD based information displays at Parnell, Remuera and Greenlane which will display additional information around approaching trains that are not stopping (as also mentioned in the post the other day). They will also eventually have automated PA announcements for this too. I hope these new displays could be rolled out elsewhere to display information like how many cars the next train has etc.
  • They say a working group has been formed with Transdev and other stakeholders “to progress the opening of platform-2 at Newmarket Station for passenger use” by Easter this year. This is excellent news and well done to Harriet for pushing it.

Hibiscus Coast Station – AT have had a long battle to get resource consent for the full Hibiscus Coast Station. They now have approval and are starting by building the park & ride (till November) followed by the station building itself which isn’t due for completion till April/May 2018. In my mind they should do those projects the opposite way around.

Bus Priority – It appears AT are looking at more widespread bus priority across the city including for all frequent routes which is excellent news but that’s tempered by knowing they’ve been behind in implementing what they’ve said they would and are yet to fix what should be easy wins with extending bus lane hours.

A strategic bus priority plan is being developed to scope completion of citywide bus priority network over the next 3 years and extended over 10 – 15 years for the Frequent Network identifying high level budget requirements and key risks.

Customer Satisfaction – AT’s quarterly customer satisfaction survey is looking promising, especially for trains which they say recorded the highest result ever

City Centre Buses – AT say they’ve been reviewing the city centre experience for bus users to look for ways to improve it and improve bus use. Recommendations included:

  1. make existing bus stops more visual to customers
  2. to prototype and test new customer signage at two bus stops (two sided info-boards),
  3. better utilise the space on the reverse of passenger information displays to display key bus stop information.

Information Displays – AT have been trialling digital displays on a train and some buses but it hasn’t been a hit with passengers.

On-board digital screen trial (five buses and one EMU). The initial feedback from customers during the trial was mixed, which was validated with further customer centred testing via Customer Central in December. On-board journey and wayfinding content was valued more by new and irregular bus users. For regular commuters most used their own smart-device as a means of journey entertainment

There’s certainly a lot going on including a lot I didn’t cover. Have you read the report and picked up on anything else I missed?

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  1. Thanks Matt great post, it is good to see AT have come to their senses and deferred gating Middlemore until the third main works are complete.

  2. What a joke – Advanced bus solution instead of Dom Rd/Airport light rail. The bas***ds never had any intention of having any sort of rail based link to the airport or along Dom Rd. When the revolution comes the NZTA along with AT, town planners and economists should be the first against the wall. 🙁

    1. Light rail is an AT project. The advanced bus is an NZTA alternative, intended to obscure and confuse so they don’t have to do anything. Don’t worry, NZTA have no intention of building advanced buses or anything else… except more motorways. Same shit as they pulled with the CRL, random bus alternative studies to avoid actually funding anything. Lets hope AT can pull through and keep progressing rail, again.

      1. That’s because NZTA know we are all good ol’ Aucklanders who’ll dumbly accept the booby prize that is buses as a PT staple and they know National couldn’t care less about anything but motorways. It will take a change of government to stop this way of thinking!

        1. That’s right. It’s, if they want PT we’ll stick them all on buses. Buses run on roads so we can just keep building more of those.

    2. It’s worth remembering that Dominion Rd light rail isn’t on the cards until 2028-2038 in ATAP, which is still along way away. I think by the time we get there any studies plans that are currently being worked on will be overlooked. There were plans to turn the Southern line into a busway in the 1980s, by 1998 Britomart was beginning to be built.

      The buses in the CBD problem will be what ultimately ensures LR gets built on Dominion Rd.

  3. “over successive fare changes, AT have constantly increased the price of monthly passes well above other changes in what has felt like a deliberate attempt to be less customer friendly to some of their best customers.”

    Not sure I agree with this — the pricing of monthly passes is tricky. Reason being that monthly passes tend to appeal to regular commuters, who
    1) Drive daily / seasonal variability and hence have high marginal costs (in terms of infrastructure, rolling stock etc); and
    2) Are not as price sensitive as customers who travel at off-peak times (typical elasticities for peak commuters are 50-100% lower than off-peak.

    Common sense suggests that if you have a bunch of customers that 1) impose high marginal costs on the system and are 2) relatively insensitive to fares, then you should be prepared to charge them a higher fare.

    In saying that there are good reasons to offer passes as a 1) volume discount and 2) way of reducing transaction costs.

    I’m not a big fan of monthly passes, but instead would prefer a combination of weekly/annual passes:
    1) automatic weekly passes, e.g. apply a 50% discount on all trips beyond say 10 per week. This would seem to appeal to school/uni students; and
    2) non-refundable annual passes, where you have to commit in advance. This would seem to appeal to commuters.

    Both passes would have the effect of stimulating demand in off-peak periods: weekly passes would tend to increase demand on weekends and evenings, whereas annual passes would tend to increase demand during summer months (when many commuters probably don’t both to buy a monthly pass and instead drive)/

    Brisbane has #1 but not #2, whereas Switzerland has #2 but not #1.

    1. P.s. One other option for off-peak discounts: NS in the Netherlands offer a 40% discount on offpeak trips (they use the same ticketing technology as HOP). All you need to do is pay an annual fee of 50 euro and the discount is loaded onto your card (through the website). The smart thing about this discount is that rather than offering a discount to everyone, they target the discount to people who will be travelling frequently, and also require some commitment. This allows them to offer a steeper discount to people who really value it, rather than a shallower discount to everyone – including people who not less price sensitive (business travel, for example).

      1. Wouldn’t mind other pass options instead of monthly but so far, AT has shown no sign of doing it and at their current rate of progress it will be years before we see any.

        1. yeah that’s a fair point.

          So what AT are doing is phasing out monthly passes and moving everyone to stored value, without having clearly articulated an alternative system of discounts that will be implemented over time.

          Unless they just want everyone on stored value. Which would seem to fail some psychological / behavioural scientific findings on the value of committment.

  4. Hopefully the website updates are well thought out. I need to claim back my work related trips, but the website cannot export trip data to csv or anything else, so I’m stuck screenshotting and using a highlighter to mark trips I’m claiming for.

    1. …and getting rid of the dozen “blacklisted” ones that show on the top of the list that many of us have thanks to the Auto top-up screw ups and/or other issues.

  5. What would it take for AT to finally close off Queen Street to private vehicles and only allow deliveries during the early mornings. AT should consider trialing this out for a month or a year and see how it goes.

    1. Yeah why is it still open to cars? Its absolutely pointless, all they do is unnecessarily drive *through* it, more slowly than the alternatives, only delivery vehicles and buses make sense.

  6. Growth on the South Auckland new network is great and the busses (33, 365 and 371 (the one’s I use)) are brilliant. Just one small problem: OH WHERE ARE THE BUS LANES?
    (Answer: AT to start consultation for bus lanes on the Great South Road, Takanini straight later this yea)

    1. Takanini – Manukau needs to have a continous buslane both side of the road. The small one-lane section of buslane in Manurewa seems very useless.

    2. Be good to know the actual journey stats as Matt says, though still looks pretty good so far. In Mt Wellington it’s good to see the new 32 route often with it’s 15min freq. not many on it often off peak but it currently overlaps a bit with the 515 (previously 512) off peak “sort of” service.

  7. “City Centre Buses – AT say they’ve been reviewing the city centre experience for bus users to look for ways to improve it and improve bus use”. What an empty goal.

    Here’s a hint AT because you don’t really care. The Auckland CBD is the main originating and terminating destination in Auckland, did you know that?. Did you also know that in New Lynn and Otahuhu and other places you have had the logic and common sense to set up transport hubs around the railway station or as stand alone bus stations so that it makes life as easy and convenient as possible for users. But in Auckland CBD you throw a dart at a map and park a bus originating point there, literally anywhere. There is no planning, no logic because no one in your faceless unelected organisation gives a flying shit. No one cares that passengers get off one bus and then end up in a search for their connecting bus because AT you have decided that they can be anywhere in the greater CBD.

    You have even relocated some originating stops over and over in the past year squeezing just a couple of buses in here and there just to further piss off the users. It like your real goal is to antagonise and drive people back to their cars!

    If you want to persist with buses then at least sort out the CBD into a centralised hub too rather than the utter shambles that it is. But I am guessing that ain’t going to happen and reviewing the city centre experience for ways to improve it and improve bus use will fall back on the old favourite, posters and confusing maps.

    1. Perhaps a little cynical. I think a lot of thinking goes into where the stops go, it’s just very constrained and too much priority given to cars. I guess a central bus hub underground connecting with Britomart (original plan wasn’t it?) or the future Aotea station would be ideal but I’m guessing would have a huge price tag attached to it. I thought over the holidays that a less ideal but maybe way more feasible bus interchange (think Perth’s “Busport”) for a great lot of the city centre buses would be where the current Farmers parking building is of Wyndham St. Could go up and under and really bigger version expand under Nelson St if/when necessary? It’s pretty central but not right in the middle of the city taking up too much more valuable space. Buses pass through other important points but can layover/transfers done here more. Perhaps they need another one in the “Learning Quarter as they seem to be investigating. Wynyard Quarter is too far over west I think for the other area they are investigating? Wyndham St would have more walk up ability from the centre of town (improvements to pedestrian access etc would obviously be needed).

      1. Al they need to do is make a road bus only (e.g. albert street or wellesly street) and have all buses go via it at some point. Then you know you can get a bus to anywhere via that street.

        1. Definitely needs to be done in conjunction with the Wellesley St bus & ped only access plan. Not sure if one road through idea would work for bus turn arounds etc….and would need a lot of length to allow all stops?

        2. Solution for AT.

          How about all streets in and around Britomart? Commerce St, lower Queen St, Quay St, Customs St, Tyler, Galway and Gore Streets through to and including Britomart Place. And add in Queens Wharf and perhaps lower Albert St. No car parks, just bus stops and bus only (except for delivery vehicles). Cheap, do-able, practical and best of all it would just about centralise all routes, timed of course. Link buses can feed off this to the other areas in the CBD.

        3. I’d hate to see that area around Britomart clogged with buses any more than it is now, and we didn’t buy Queens Wharf back off ourselves (sorry I mean the Port company) to park buses on it.

          In my opinion we either need to splash out on a indoor bus terminal, and accept this will suck up funds from elsewhere or make say Wellersley Sts and Customs Sts the two places for buses. The latter doesn’t solve the problem that many buses terminate in the CBD.

        4. Customs will already be at capacity immediately after CRL with only half of the buses there and is right on the edge of the city centre.

      2. I have to disagree Grant about a lot of thinking has gone into this because based on the evidence of the system or non system we have, there is no thinking.. Firstly I think some buses leave from uptown, some from Customs Street West, Quay Street, Wellelsley Street both sides of the hills, possibly Victoria St East and West, Albert Street, Commerce Street and in essence anywhere a bus or two can be squeezed throughout the greater CBD. There is no thought process except for just that, where they can park a bus. We are supposed to be embracing transference but how can you when the network is as I said, located as if by throwing a dart at a map and so disconnected.

        Yes we can be humble good non complaining workers and accepting that this disorder is all we can do because its just too hard but really, is that it, the best AT can come up with? We had a city bus terminal pre Britomart Station and it worked well short of being unable to deal with North Shore routes but now in 2017 its too expensive? Come on. The hub has to be in the city centre and is needs to be near Britomart. Although I like the look of the Britomart precinct who were the idiots who thought it a good idea to build on top of Britomart rather than turn it into the bus terminal hub?

        And if you want more evidence Birkenhead Transport buses used to have about 4 bus stops in Victoria St. Now this was too far from the ferries and trains but at least you knew that was buses could be found. Then it moved half way down Albert St. Then it moved to the bottom of Albert St. Then it moved to Quay St where that stop can accommodate two whole buses. As I said AT demonstrate by this arrangement they don’t care! After the digging up of Albert St who knows where it might end up? If it is too expensive to do this properly then don’t expect buses to be much more than what they are, a sop to PT. And expect gridlock to remain. Auckland is too big to be so half arsed anymore.

        1. You do realise that AT have spent the last four years planning, designing, consulting and now delivering an entirely new bus network right?

          All of what you are complaining about is the old network, which they are changing for precisely the reasons you point out.

        2. Where then in the CBD is the area set aside for a central hub for buses taking into account rail and ferries?

        3. Still, is this the best anyone can come up with?

          I think one basic problem is that there’s no way to move east–west within the CBD on PT. Think going from midtown to either the universities or Victoria Park. There’s the 22x buses but they run in an annoying lollipop pattern and they also don’t all stop at the same bus stops. Catching one from near Hobson Street is almost impossible.

          Then there’s the focus on Britomart. Britomart is in the wrong place for a bus hub: on the edge of town, and it’s the far edge for both North Shore buses and buses coming from the isthmus. Right now if you come from the Shore and you don’t have to be at Britomart, that detour will add, what, 10 minutes to your journey? If you’d go from Kingsland to Takapuna on PT you’d be underway for almost an entire hour. And it’s not like those places are out in the sticks.

          So yes I get it — many of this is temporary, but I can’t believe this is the best we can do before the CRL is finished (which is some years away).

        4. new network for north shore has buses every few minutes along Wellesley/Victoria, now hopefully AT will sack up and actually put the buses eastbound on Wellesley too.

        5. Having a lot of buses also doesn’t mean a usable service. If you look at the current 22x routes, together that’s quite a few buses along Wellesley Street. However:
          – they are not evenly spaced: you may have 3 buses in 10 minutes, and then a 25 minute gap.
          – they start from different stops. You can’t just go to a stop and catch the next bus. The stops are not close enough together to run to the other stop if a bus shows up. You have to guess which bus will actually show up.

          I know from experience that you cannot catch a bus from near Victoria Park to Newton, despite what the bus maps tell you.


          Here is the final version for implementation (pre CRL).

          Four of the routes run 15 minutes or better all day and one runs 10 minutes or better all day. The entire point of the new network (which you already knew) is to eliminate multiple duplicate routes on a single corridor which all have low frequency. So that eliminates your concern.

          Going to Newton catch 22 or 24 direct or any bus on Wellesley Street to the university interchange and then to transfer to a service to Newton.

        7. Hint: despite what the bus maps tell you.

          To give another example. The yellow line is the Outer Link. Although it appears as a continuous line, what you actually see is both ends of a line which happens to go back in a big loop to it’s starting point. That bus terminates on Queen Street. You can stay on that bus if you want, but it may wait 10 to 15 minutes until it’s time for the next run. You can’t tell that from a map.

          You’re right about it being a single line now, at least all those buses should start from the same bus stop. I’ve lived in the CBD for too long to take that for granted though. There’s no reason why the current bunch of 22x buses can’t start from the same stop.

        8. There’s not one single hub, they weren’t foolish enough to attempt that. Rather there are three hubs: Aotea, Wynyard and University. All buses will connect to all other buses at one of those three points. All buses will connect to rail at either britomart or aotea (yes, I realize aotea doesn’t exist yet).
          Ferries are hamstrung by the fact the can only ever run downtown. Without making every bus end up on the waterfront, ferries get to connect to rail and about half bus routes only.

        9. “Hint: despite what the *current* bus maps tell you.”

          If you want to demonstrate why it isn’t possible under the new network then please demonstrate that at least one part of my proposed journey doesn’t work, especially given that there will be two direct buses.

          What you said regarding the link is a completely fair criticism and it is a real shame that AT caved to demands for specific route configurations on that when their original proposal was significantly better.

          You may have also noticed that there is a lot of bus priority improvement going in at the moment. This will really help bunching on other routes at least. While it’s perfectly reasonable to complain about the rate of implementation, I don’t think that there are many fair criticisms of the direction of implementation from AT (retaining the existing Link buses being an obvious exception).

          I think it’s a lot easier to have fewer stops overall when you also have fewer routes. There will be the same number of buses but with a more reliable and consistent temporal spacing meaning that they can use any stops more efficiently..

        10. Sailor Boy said, “While it’s perfectly reasonable to complain about the rate of implementation”
          Unfortunately the problem is bigger than that. AT’s figures show the addition of only 19km of bus lanes in the year to June 2017. For goodness sake NZTA are building more kms of new motorway and extra lanes than that every year.
          As great as new improved routes might be, if buses are still going to be stuck on congested roads it defeats the purpose of the change.

          The great thing about integrated fares is that you can simply change buses. All NEX services from the Shore go to Britomart; however if you get off at Victoria Park then you can simply get onto a bus ex Takapuna heading to the Civic. (assuming that Takapuna buses will ever stop at Victoria Park again! I travel that bus every day and at the moment I have no idea from day to day where it will stop). I notice on the trip from the city some people do change moving from a Takapuna bus to NEX..

  8. >>Advanced Bus Solution next steps

    Shades of the Wellington PT Spine study. LRT eliminated from consideration because rubber wheels good, steel wheels bad. Hmm, maybe a busway. Nope, corridor width too restricted. Conclusion: some feeble attempts at bus priority, a fancy name, and hope everyone doesn’t realise it’s the status quo with a bit of green paint.

  9. In city, the bus stops information requires somebody who knows the bus route well. Definitely not designed for irregular users and tourists.

    More maps, and better way finding information for irregular user is needed.

  10. oh, really Double Decker for Birkenhead buses, i drive past their depot on a daily basis, still haven’t see the double decker yet??
    would love to see the new Birkenhead double decker on this website soon? haha

  11. “a detailed business case for improvements to Lake Rd was also approved at a cost of $630k”
    Every time that I read about proposals to upgrade Lake Road I think how bizarre this is. This is a non growth area because the locals want it to be so. (see the current scrap to prevent the building by Ryman of a retirement village because of the scale and look of the project. As best I can tell the scale of the project is a problem because it blocks some others view of the water. Apparently the design is wrong because the entire building looks very much the same. Has anyone told the locals that villas are called villas because they all have common design characteristics?)
    Most of us can remember that the concrete is barely dry on the multi million dollar re-development of Devonport Wharf. Far enough though, I appreciate that many prefer to drive to the city.
    As Matt L suggested in a recent post, wouldn’t it make sense to put bus lanes into Takapuna where the population will significantly increase by a factor of 200%?
    Let’s have sensibly targeted spending rather than pander to (self) interest groups.

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