On Tuesday, the Auckland Transport hold their next board meeting, the first with their new directors. Their board reports are usually full of interesting information so always, I’ve gone and pulled out some of the things that stood out to me in the reports available.

Closed session agenda

There are a few items on the closed agenda but the two most interesting are:

  • Supporting Growth (TFUG) – Planning Alliance to deliver route protection
  • Airport Access PBC

We’ll particularly keep an eye out for the Airport Access information in the future.

Business Report

As usual, these are in the order they appear in the report

HOP usage is breaking records with 91.3% of all bus and train trips in March being made with HOP cards.

There are a quite a few technology items on the list but a few that stood out were:

  • A tender has been released calling for options on upgrading the EMU fleet Wi-Fi to 4G. This supports increasing data requirements and a better customer experience.
  • AT Metro Information Journey (Journey Impact): A project is underway to build a proof of concept that provides disruption notifications aligned to the data model developed during March. This concept is the stepping stone to allowing us to consume many data sources, create notifications, and prioritise and distribute them to teams, TOCs (Transport Operations Centres), CSRs (Customer Service Representatives), and customers.
  • Ghost Buses: Hundreds of AT Metro customers are in contact with AT every month, requesting information about the location of their bus. AT staff pass complaints on to operators, but have insufficient tools at their disposal to mitigate customer anxiety. During April Customer Central developed a simple interface to allow CSRs to give useful information to customers, and ongoing testing will continue as this further develops during May, with targeted delivery in June. The formation of a customer-centric metric is also underway; this will enable AT to measure the customer experience around the bus network, alongside current operational measures

AT does seem to be putting some effort in to improving the customer experience which is good to see, but they certainly have a long way to go.

Eastern Busway – 66 submissions were received on the consent and hearings are likely in August. The next stage of the project is the busway stations and Reeves Rd Flyover and AT are working towards design and consenting for those. The flyover will of course be an interesting element to watch. They’ve told me some of the early designs for the flyover are like nothing seen in NZ before but we’ll have to wait and see.

Light Rail – Following on from the decisions made recently, work continues on a business case for the route protection from the city to the airport. They also say:

Further work will be done to assess key operational elements, required trade-offs, flow on effects, transition impacts and network resilience issues. NZ Transport Agency and AT are working together with Auckland Council to determine an integrated approach that enables a progression from bus to LRT.

Progressing the Rapid Transit Network – AT have included this image to highlight all the work being done to progress the rapid transit network. It suggests that by early-mid next year much of the network should have business cases in place, essentially working towards getting things ready. Hopefully that means it becomes much easier for this or a future government to pick up these projects and get them built sooner.

Planning and Consenting – Every meeting there is a list of projects going through the stages of the consenting process or that will soon be doing so. The section consents targeted for the next three months contains these projects amongst others

  • Double Decker Buses (Dominion Road)
  • Double Decker Buses (Manukau Road)
  • Double Decker Buses (Pakaranga Road)
  • Tamaki Drive Cycleway

It says this in the Environment Court Appeals section

Newmarket Level Crossing NoR and RC – the appeal from Cowie Street Residents Association Incorporated has been withdrawn and the Environment Court has issued a Consent Order to resolve the matter

Hopefully they can get that crossing sorted out soon.

Facilities – There are a number of comments about the management of various AT facilities but this one stood out.

Britomart tunnel restrictions put in place by KiwiRail are being resolved This includes gas and tunnel equipment and updated policy regarding the Britomart Incline (to differentiate it from KiwiRail tunnels).

Manukau Rd / Pah Rd T3 Lanes – the introduction of T3 lanes appears to be having a very positive affect in the mornings. I wonder if there needs to be more enforcement in the afternoons, any regular users to share their observations?

Additional information regarding the performance of the Manukau Road / Pah Road T3 lane shows that the T3 lane has provided significant benefits to bus movements. During the morning peak periods, average bus travel times have improved by 14 minutes from 29 minutes to 15 minutes along the route. In the afternoon peak period, there has been a more modest improvement of 3 minutes. Bus patronage has also since increased by approximately 20%, and increased numbers of T3 vehicles have been recorded, pointing to increased corridor productivity/ efficiency for the corridor. A detailed survey and assessment of corridor productivity/efficiency is currently underway for this corridor, as part of Auckland Transport’s annual review of all bus and transit lanes across the network. The review is due for completion in May and is expected to confirm the appropriateness of the existing T3 lane on this corridor

City Centre Travel – Once again, and even during March Madness, travel times in the city centre are faster than they were before the CRL works started and closed down large sections of Albert St. This once again highlights that there is capacity to add back some pedestrian priority that was removed, such as the double phasing of pedestrian crossings on Queen St, to keep traffic flowing

South New Network – AT’s numbers for the use of buses in South Auckland continue to show growth with good numbers even accounting for more people transferring – which has been increasing too.

Other PT stuff

Ferry fares – An indicative business case is being developed for July 2017 for ferry fare integration (not fare equalisation) with bus and train zoned fares. The three potential solutions include using the single uniform discount functionality already existing, developing a supplementary charge for ferry fares or integrating only the monthly pass feature.

Parnell Station usage – The report includes these numbers on the first four weeks of use of the Parnell station. I doubt we’ll see huge numbers using the station until further work has been completed such as building an over bridge and access to Carlaw Park.

There is plenty of other info in the report should people wish to read it.

Forward Programme

The forward programme gives an indication of stuff that will be coming to the board and it’s committees in the future. There are few items in upcoming meetings that are interesting.

  • Review of ATs activities in the Intelligent Transport System (ITS) space
  • Bus Frequency Priority Strategy
  • IPEMU Procurement Business Case
  • Special Events Integrated Ticketing
  • Social Media

The most interesting are the bus frequency priority and the IPEMU business case. IPEMU stands for Independently Powered Electric Multiple-Unit, another name for battery powered trains and we know from previous information that AT have been looking at these as a cheaper way to get electric trains to Pukekohe. From what I’ve been told in the past, they’d be exactly the same trains we have now but with some seats taken out and replaced with a big battery pack.

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  1. Does the ipemu recharge on the electrified network automatically? Can our current emus be retrofitted with local power storage cofr these trips and hopefully Kumeu also?

  2. I’m just going to come out and say what we’re all thinking.
    “You know I can’t ride your ghost bus!”

  3. It was good to see you presenting CFN2 to AC in the previous post – have you also presented CFN2 to AT as well? How did that go?

  4. Wow, lots of interesting stuff in this meeting it seems. “91.3% of all bus and train trips in March being made with HOP cards” – that’s really good. Maybe AT should look at some of the changes we’ve suggested, e.g. no change given for cash, or if people pay with a $20 note they get a Hop card preloaded with credit?

    1. While I’m not suggesting that we follow this example, some overseas operators have “prepaid only” services – The driver will turn you away if you’re a cash fare.

      I think that AT should look at increasing HOP adoption by perhaps increasing the credit expiry period, or even making the cards free to obtain (last time I checked it was $5 for a card, plus credit).

      Of course, it’d be nice if we could see _why_ people still use cash. The obvious reason of those persons using public transport only infrequently may not be the answer catering to the largest group…

      1. Yes it’s a good question, and has a complicated answer. The cash fares are so much higher, but many people have good reasons for needing to pay the cash fare. Some of these reasons should be addressed by AT – for example, there are significant hurdles to having a functioning AT HOP card with a concession… I might ask if I can write a guest post about it sometime.

        Certainly the system would not be providing accessibility if forgetting to take your card with you, or losing your wallet means that the driver won’t let you on, so please, let us never go down that route.

        A new AT HOP card costs $10 – this is probably justified, but should be refundable on return. I believe other cards, like the Oyster Card, are refundable. There are situations where AT should be required to buy back the cards – such as when a child-grown-up wants to manage his or her account instead of the card being linked to a parent’s card. Currently AT simply says the card can’t be transferred to a different account.

        1. Yes agree the card should be refundable. Oyster is. Octopus is. Others are too.
          The ideas others have said about someone with a $20 note getting given a preloaded HOP card to use to tag on right away is a good one. Then they can get the card refunded somewhere that isn’t time sensitive like a bus. Some places even have machines that will give you the refund.

        2. Yes, I like that one too (as long as they are refundable). I’ve been in the situation of having encouraged someone to take the bus with me, but she didn’t have a card, and there was no shop nearby to buy one. She then whinged about the high cost. Being able to buy from the driver would have brought one more person into the PT system.

        3. I’ve always thought it would be great if you could tag on multiple people under the 1 hop card. For friends that are visiting and maybe only going to use the train once then it’d be great to pay for the fare on my card rather than them pay the expensive cash rate.
          Or as listed – Have them refundable would fix that.

        4. Loosing your wallet would mean you are cashless as well. If we are saying these people need to be let on the bus for free, then we are talking about another level of accessibility completely.

        5. I’d certainly have that conversation.

          However, in the wallet case. Lots of people keep cash separately to their card wallet so yes you might still have money if you’ve lost your wallet. You may also be able to borrow some money from someone at work or home. They probably don’t have a card you can borrow, and AT say you can’t borrow someone’s card – only the person it is registered to can use it.

          Those were only a couple of examples I gave. There’s also the situation I’ve brought up before: AT say you can’t use children’s cards except for the children to whom they are registered. So you’re forced to pay the cash fare for extra children you’re taking on an outing – and delay the bus – because you’re not allowed to keep an extra card for when your child has a friend along, or if you’re “carpooling” by bus.

          I have more examples… basically not everyone fits the same profile as a standard worker/student commuter for whom the AT HOP is a no brainer.

        6. I agree there are many instances where cash is the only real option. If we were to adopt cashless buses I think this should only be during peak hour, when the time impact of people paying cash is at its greatest, and should be kept for busy frequent routes.

          I have a couple of guest hop cards at home so I am clearly breaking AT’s rules.

        7. Me too, and I think AT needs to address this. Presumably we and/or our “guests”, are up for a fine if caught.

          Yes, the peak hour is where it matters most, and I can see the merit in cashless for that time. That ever lengthening peak “hour”. However, this would actually cut out the “carpooling by bus” (with illegally used child cards registered to my own son) that I do for my son’s gym class… others would therefore drive. The bus may be held up by someone paying for a group of children with cash. Alternatively, all the buses in the area would be delayed by the extra car on the road.

        8. What about cashless stops instead? No cash at busy stops in town and main centres. Just have a hop machine at the bus stop, buy a ticket first like you do with the train.

        9. Good idea. It does seem particularly stupid when you’re waiting at a stop with a dozen or so people and plenty of time to kill, but you can’t use that time productively to help the bus take off faster.

      2. There is also the problem of your HOP card running out of balance, and compared with Snapper there are a lot less retail locations you can top-up at.

        Compare that with how many ATM’s you can get minimum of $20 out at and I think it paints a clear picture of what the problem is.

        1. Yes, I agree. And we haven’t even started on what students have to go through.

  5. Manukau Rd / Pah Rd T3 Lanes: I’m not a regular user, but have been out that way several times on the way to the airport. What I’ve seen is that the lanes are being abused by taxis. This is of course a busy route for taxis to and from the airport, at least until Waterview opens.

    Taxis are allowed to use the T3 lanes regardless of whether they have any passengers, but they shouldn’t be. Taxis shouldn’t be treated any differently to other cars, so in my view they should be carrying at least two passengers to use the T3 lanes.

    [Edited – I originally didn’t realise that taxis have special privileges to use these lanes]

    1. John, Taxi’s won the right to use the Onewa Rd T3 several years ago. Maybe this right has been extended to other transit corridors

      1. I thought that was only a pilot and was no longer the case.

        I’m conflicted over the net value of allowing taxis to use transit lanes. I lean towards allowing it only if they have passengers (NOT on the way to collect passengers). The issue with this comes to bus priority lights and other taxi-like services such as Uber and Lyft.

        1. A taxi is basically a private car with a chauffuer, it doesn’t really meet the purpose of T3 and bus lanes to facilitate high occupancy vehicles.

        2. is it too obvious to just say that any vehicle, whether private, public, or for hire which has more than 3 people in it can use the T3 lane? pretty easy to enforce then I would’ve thought?

        3. Three is a hassle to enforce as one of the people will be sitting in the back seat, much easier just to make it a bus lane.

        4. Agree. T3 and bus lanes are intended to get people to their destination. If anything, with a taxi you’re transporting one fewer person than you would be with a private car with the same number of people in it. They certainly shouldn’t have it *easier* than private cars.

        5. Think it’s debable about taxis. Would you rather some people who say fly from elsewhere then hire a car and park it somewhere taking up space or use a taxi? They are also useful when PT lets you down due to no shows, early/late hours or lack of frequency or coverage say.

  6. I can’t believe they still think it’s acceptable to punish ferry users with excessive fares!

    Either we have a super-city or we don’t, and this bias against ferry users has no place any more. Fare equality is essential, both for simple equity reasons and also as one of the few levers available to use to influence the congestion on Lake Road.

    This is a good early chance to see if the new board members are up to the job and whether they have any sense of equity and fairness when it comes to public transport.

    1. I would suggest that if they don’t want to go the whole hog with Ferry’s then they should have fully integrated ferry fares (with equalisation) and then just have a surcharge on them of say $1.
      Would simplify the whole network further and if ferries really are that much more expensive to operate then it does go some way to helping with that without being punitive to users.
      That would make the Devonport Ferry $6.50 by cash or $4.15 by HOP. This would be the same cash price as is currently in place however the HOP fare would save $0.45 over what is currently in place. However if someone were to then take a bus from Devonport up to Belmont then they would be saving an additional $1.85 for a total saving of $2.30 on HOP compared to present.

      1. AKLdude the ferries are not that expensive to operate and I understand are much cheaper to run than trains. Train users are on average subsidised to the tune of about $4 per trip – if train users can be subsidised then so can ferry users. It’s as if AT don’t realise that lower North Shore is part of Auckland now and that they are collecting vast amounts of rates from there.

        On the basis of costs, there’s absolutely no cost justification for hammering ferry users and nothing that would override principles of equality and fairness.

        1. My understanding is if there is a significant increase in peak demand for ferries then the costs would go up quite dramatically. One of the reasons ferries are quite cost efficient is some of the boats that are used on peak runs do tourist runs during the day.

          Any increase in capacity during the peak would not be able to be offset in the same way, therefore the marginal cost is quite a bit higher than the current cost.

        2. David, ferries are more expensive to run than trains, and can for the most part carry fewer people. For example to have more than 99 people on board required three crew.

          And ferries are massively subsidised, some runs to the tune of $20 or more per passenger. Yes there are two busy commercially operated routes, but the rest of them are paid for almost entirely by subsidy.

        3. I take your point about some of those fringe services but they represent a small minority of passengers.

          Looking at those two main routes only, would you agree that the services are perfectly able to support fare equality with a per-passenger subsidy less than or equal to that offered to train users?

        4. Yes I agree with that, like buses and trains I believe ferries should be covered under a gross contract model where the operator is paid a fair normal profit to run the service. That in effect would allow more efficient ferries to subsidise less efficient ones. If would also allow you to drop the price to the same fare structure as buses and trains, which would bring the current overall farebox from 70% or so down to about 50% I would guess.

          However doing that wouldn’t allow open slather on new ferry routes, it would only make the existing ones a bit fairer. The fact remains that new ferry lines would likely be very uneconomic and drag everything down, so it’s important to consider the firing/margin rather than the average.

          Maybe I read you wrong, but people often use the supposed cost effectiveness of ferries to argue for boats going everywhere. Unfortunately they aren’t cost effective outside a narrow niche where they perform well.

          The CFN added one ferry route, the best performer of the options according to the AT review, but even the best performer had a BCR well under 1.

        5. Auckland trains are similar in terms of subsidy when capital costs are properly accounted for.

        6. Bevan, just note that is the subsidy per passenger-kilometre for all ferry routes, the denominator of passenger-kilometres includes the non-subsidised routes too.

    1. I would imagine it is the bit from the rail line to Quay Street to tie the Glen Innes to Tamaki cycleway into the CBD.

  7. manukau road t3 lanes: these should be bus lanes. absolute bonkers that manukau road is not treated like mt eden rd – both are equally busy in the morning

    1. I’d love to see the dat/justification which resulted in it being defined as a T3 lane and not as a bus lane.

    2. Unless buses are being considerably impaired by legitimate T3 vehicles then there is no harm done by this and plenty of benefit from car-pooling. There typically aren’t many people driving around with 3 or more people in the car as a percentage of overall traffic.
      Where the problem is of course is people using the T3 lane that shouldn’t be.

      1. The issue is enforcement is hard leading to abuse of the lanes. The second is due to inlane stops on Manuku Rd cars merge in/out of T3 lane to overtake bus causing congestion & no room exists for offlane stops not that you would want them from a PT perspective anyway.

      2. “Where the problem is of course is people using the T3 lane that shouldn’t be.”

        This is much easier to enforce on a bus lane.

        1. Also known as the ‘cost efficient thing’. I don’t feel that requiring quarter of a million dollars a year to enforce a T3 lane is a good idea, for example.

        2. The fines from it would more than pay the quarter of a million dollars figure. In fact the council would probably gain money out of it. $250k pa sure does sound like a large figure for what is effectively 1 person at a time standing by the side of the road with a video camera and another back in the office processing it plus a manager (whose cost would have to be apportioned to the other enforcement people).
          Even if you had 2 people for the first 2 jobs (which you wouldn’t as they would be covering multiple roads as part of a team that is 4 people @ $45k pa (not exactly a skilled job), 1 car @$12k pa coming to $192k so that leaves $58k for other costs (including part of a managers time).
          As mentioned those staff would be spread more so in reality you are looking at more like $150k pa + manager/computer etc.

        3. Lol, one full time employee to enforce the entire thing? You’ve clearly never been down Onewa Road in peak hour.

        4. Doesn’t need to be enforced 100%. Do you see police on every street?
          Enforcement simply needs to be often enough and random enough that people don’t risk it for fear of getting a fine. Otherwise you’d have a police state a la 1984.

        5. Sailor, there are 2 issues here
          1. the direct economic cost of people using the T3 vs. the cost of enforcing it, and
          2. the broader ethical issue of not allowing illegal behaviour to continue

          Fundamentally, civilisation rests upon a social contract, and even if the time savings from enforcing the T3 are less than the enforcement costs, it is the right thing to enforce them

        6. “Doesn’t need to be enforced 100%. Do you see police on every street?”

          No, but I don’t see one hundred people an hour committing murder on every street either. I’d encourage you to stand a few hundred metres away from the enforcement camera on Onewa Road, you will soon come to learn why even one camera every day simply isn’t enough.

      3. If car-pooling is increasing, & little abuse it’s good in that beyond and before the T3 lanes you have less metal tins driving around & taking up parking space…but more driving due picking up dropping others off and each end. If the lanes are working pretty good I suspect abuse won’t be high.

      4. Carpooling?? Ha ha ha! What’s that? Great idea – just doesn’t happen – never has, never will.

  8. On a related note, NZ Herald had a story about “A new app which makes finding information about catching a bus, train or ferry more intuitive and easier to use has been released by Auckland Transport.”

    The app went live on Google Play on the 16th March and hasn’t been updated since… Oh well. At least the Herald is trying 🙂

  9. Does anyone know if AT/KR has ever looked into installing PV (solar panels) along the rail network?
    Most of the rail corridors are more than wide enough to have single PV panels lined up end to end for most of their length.
    Given that the Auckland rail network is 96km long (and conservatively saying only 50% would be suitable) would mean that there would be 48km available (not counting areas with space for more than one panel).
    Average commercial panel is just under 2m long so you could have up to 24,000 panels @ 300W per panel = 7200kW (7.2MW) There is also the depot that has a 7650m2 roof (so say 3000 panels half roof = 900kW) Gives a total of 8.1MW. I don’t know exactly how much electricity the network needs but it has been mentioned several times that it is less than 1% of Auckland’s daily power usage (which is approximately 1700MW at peak) would mean that approximately 0.47% of Auckland’s power could come from these during the day (or half the power needed for the trains). Since trains mostly run during the day this would be quite a good match. Could significantly reduce the running costs of the train network.
    Potentially there is enough to actually power the whole train network (things like station roofs, using more rail corridor space etc).
    It would be a significant capital outlay (although might avoid the need for a 3rd grid connection) but would help with NZ’s renewables target (not to mention reducing strain on the grid transmitting to Auckland) so central government might be interested in chipping in.

    1. I don’t know whether AT pay the spot price for power or whether they have a flat rate deal, if it is the latter then there may be some benefit as solar is at it’s best during the middle of the day.

      I doubt there would be any benefit to the overall grid in Auckland, it has to be engineered to handle the peak load on a cold winter’s evening, when solar offers nothing.

      1. Fair point about the winter peak.
        It would also allow trains to continue running in the event of some power problem to one or both grid connections (or the grid itself). Would allow the trains to run in some kind of degraded (slow mode). Thing is that commercial PV is now the cheapest form of electricity generation in the world (Auckland isn’t quite as good as a desert but isn’t bad).

        1. Yes, solar is fantastic if it can be matched with demand, this tends to happen in sunny countries within 30 deg of the equator (as a very rough guide). This is because peak demand moves from heating on winter evenings to air conditioning on summer afternoons.

          What you are descibing will likely become more viable with improvements to battery technology, allowing daytime power to be used during the morning and evening peaks on the rail network.

          The best way to reduce peak power demand in NZ is better insulation in homes, there are already signs of improvement in this over the last 10 years, but there is a long way to go.

  10. From my reading of current rankings, this would make Parnell the third least-used station on the network, ahead of Te Papapa and Te Mahia.

    It’s still early days though, and I hope they can optimise amenity and patronage.

  11. I can’t help but wonder whether or not the AT board get a little too much in the weeds here.

    Their role is strategy and governance.. These agenda seem to be a little packed with project-specific detail. Why do they care about social media? I’d think if there were a firmer focus on a few key goals and objectives, but greater discussion on those few points (and more accountability), the results would be better.

    The travel time stuff is gold; that’s the sort of result you can hold people to account for.

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