This post is a collection of thoughts about a few recent things that have caught my attention.

Penrose platform 3 extension

On Wednesday, AT announced a $1.95 million project to upgrade platform 3 at Penrose. This is the single platform on the Onehunga Branch Line. The works include extending the platform to allow for 6-car trains as well as a few other improvements. These will allow for more capacity and thus a better experience for people attending special events.

Improving the experience for people leaving special events is certainly a worthy goal and there’s a hope that some people trying PT for an event might then go and try it more regularly for their commute. Bad experiences on the other hand can put people off using PT and tend to have a way of getting coverage in the media and on social media.

Where I do have a concern though is if that’s the most pressing use of limited funds. What happens when that person who had a good experience during an event turns up to their local train station to try commuting for the first time, only to get soaked due to a lack of shelter?

A lack of shelter at stations has long been a bugbear of mine and has been highlighted again earlier this week with the weather we’ve been having. The often quite small shelters on many stations may have been considered acceptable for the volumes using them when they were initially rebuilt 5-10 years ago, but they’re insufficient now. At my local station (Sturges Rd), I’ve often counted 80+ people on the platform, and that’s when a train that was coming every 10 minutes. There’s no way those 80+ people can fit under the measly 12m of shelter provided. My guess is that providing proper shelter at stations for everyday users would, over time, drive more PT usage. Everyday users getting soaked don’t make the news though.

Vending Machines

While we’re on the topic of stations, if you live out west you may have noticed some concrete pads that have appeared on platforms, like at Glen Eden below.

I was wondering what they were for, so I asked AT, who confirmed that they’re for vending machines that will be installed soon. AT first installed vending machines at a few stations some time ago as a trial and a quick google found the tender page for this new rollout, which notes the trial was successful.

One of the biggest single opportunities to create an immediate valued customer amenity not previously offered across the network is the deployment of appropriate convenience vending machines to vend food and beverage offerings in line with the ‘AT Metro Food and Beverage Policy for Vending’.

AT conducted a successful trial in nine stations around the network. The trials proved successful with strong customer use and no operational interference for AT Metro, as well as generating a promising value of additional non-fare revenue.

As a result of the successful outcomes of the trial a widespread ‘network’ deployment has been approved by the AT Senior Leadership.

Auckland Transport has identified approximately 50 locations throughout the public transport network (plus a few additional AT asset locations) suitable for vending.

The desired outcome of this process is to identify a suitable partner or partners to deploy vending machines at each location establishing a ‘side by side’ paired machine configuration with compatible food and beverage offerings suitable for AT’s customer “on the move”. This will result in over 100 machines as the total deployment.

I appreciate AT are trying to find more money, but perhaps a trade is in order, vending machines for some shelter.

Eastern Busway

Filed under ‘Finally’, the first stages of work on the Eastern Busway are now underway. It’s not the project itself but what AT say is pre-construction work and involves demolishing some houses to allow for archaeological investigations. AT Say

The archaeological work is particularly important on this project due to the unique history and culturally significant nature of the area, including the site of the historic Mokoia Pā. This site is located near the eastern end of Lagoon Drive and of major significance to Mana Whenua. It was the site of the Ngāti Paoa pā settlement throughout the 18th century and an important area of trade and commerce.

The last AT board report noted that the decision on the resource consent for the wider project is due mid-February so could be any day now.

881 limited stops in city

The 881 service, which travels from Albany to Newmarket via Symonds St, has been a fantastic PT success story. Initially fairly infrequent, lobbying by one of our readers many years ago saw the service increased, and as soon as that happened, it slipped into a virtuous cycle. Soon more and more services were added to cope with the growing demand and more recently many of those buses were upgraded to double deckers. The usage of the service keeps growing though and last year I heard stories of AT having staff at Busway stations encouraging people not to use it, to catch a NEX instead and walk or catch another bus up Symonds St.

Starting from this week, they’ve taken a new step to encourage people not to use it. Services will now not be stopping along Fanshawe, Sturdee or Customs St meaning that after Akoranga, the first stop will be Anzac Ave.

I can understand why AT have done this but at the same time it seems like they should at least be stopping it at Victoria Park. That would help provide otherwise non-existent connections between the University and Wynyard.

Hobsonville Ferry full

The Hobsonville ferry has been in place for just over five years now and over that time the number of houses and people in Hobsonville has grown significantly. The growth has meant a lot more people are catching the ferry but the number of services hasn’t changed. There remain just two services in the morning and three in the evening. There are also no weekend services. That’s now causing issues with customers getting this notification.

If you miss the 8am ferry there’s nothing to worry about, the next one is only 7.5 hours away at 3:30. This will essentially render the ferry unusable by many and they’re much more likely to then join the traffic on either the Northern or Northwestern motorways.

It’s also worth noting that as part of the New Network in West Auckland, there are two services that head to the ferry terminal, the 112 and 114. The 112 has been conveniently timed to arrive at the wharf at 8am, right as the ferry is departing. Did no one at AT think this through?

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  1. Change to 881 also kills connectivity from Newmarket to Wynyard. Even with 70 being relatively frequent (albeit a bit unreliable in the afternoon) it’s quite a hike to get to the NEX stop, particularly in bad weather.

    In general it feels like despite the “new network” AT is not thinking at all about making transfers easy.

    1. With NEX moved to Albert Street and entry to Britomart Station now at the back of the building the 881 also provided the best connection to the train from the North Shore. What is AT thinking? Isn’t the new network supposed to be all about connectivity?

      1. The struggle to contain the evils of through-routing.

        In theory the transfer from Albert Street to the train station is annoying but not too bad (it’s a 400m walk)… until you take into account the crappy traffic light phasing for pedestrians. I remember crossing Albert Street at the Quay Street intersection. Despite Quay Street having green light and Lower Albert Street being one way, pedestrians still got a red man. Just in case someone wants to go the wrong way into Albert Street I guess.

        But anyway I wonder if it’s possible to move the NEX to somewhere closer to the station.

        1. “In theory the transfer from Albert Street to the train station is annoying but not too bad ”
          Yes Roeland the walk is manageable, but it’s part of a cross town journey from the North Shore and therefore the length of it unacceptable. (I do this journey for work purposes and in the rain it is particularly unpleasant)

          Up to last year when coming from Takapuna you could get off the bus at Victoria Park and immediately step on the NEX at the Air NZ building. Now you have to walk 100m down the road. Why? And there might be a good answer, but AT certainly haven’t told me and yet they know my travel from my HOP card that I make this journey. (despite AT having a larger communications department than the population of Australia’s detention centres).

          So in the journey from Takapuna there are two walks in the middle of the journey. Don’t get me wrong, I am a strong advocate of transfers, but let’s make them reasonable.

          I just don’t believe that AT takes PT users seriously. Should a RTN really have connections like this in the middle? Are AT really trying to grow all PT journeys rather than just suburb to city? (December growth rates suggest not)

          Would AT contemplate building a park n ride 400m from a bus stop? Perhaps they should because the land in close proximity to the stop is far more valuable for commercial use. (Sorry that statement was self evident because AT achieves a negative return from park n rides). Not that I am not advocating for park n rides because they are a particularly wasteful way of growing PT numbers unless they are charged for.

          1. I agree both of those walks seem unnecessary. Moving the NEX to Albert Street struck me as a weird idea at the time, made worse now that the front entrance to the station is closed.

            I’ve taken the bus to a few other directions a couple of times and the arrangements were even more baffling. Go to some random lane off Customs Street, and go to a bus parked at some random spot on that lane… The system is certainly not designed for cross-town journeys.

            Still this limited stops idea for the 881 is quite an aggressive move. That’s basically enforcing one-seat journeys only. “People not using the system as intended will be thrown under the bus”.

          2. @Roeland. So where would you have moved the NEX to while CRL works are going on, while also making every other bus connection work to some degree?

          3. I don’t know. If Lower Albert Street is the closest stop possible then so be it. But then at least those traffic light cycles should be sanitized.

    2. There’s also the whole of Kaipatiki (Birkenhead, Northcote, Highbury, Hillcrest, Beach Haven…) and also Takapuna that can no longer transfer at Vic Park to go to Uni, Symonds St and Hospital. They’ve effectively cut off these folk from frequent service via transfer, to only non-frequent services available. Of course, if we had Onewa bus station, then that wouldn’t be a problem, but I really think they need to bring back Victoria Park until the North Shore new network is implemented. We had transfers, which was good, now AT takes it away. ;-(

  2. >I appreciate AT are trying to find more money, but perhaps a trade is in order, vending machines for some shelter.

    How about getting JCDecaux or Adshell , they will usually do it in return for a couple of billboards

    1. Really gonna happen? Adshel protesteth too much that they’re “trailblazers, innovators and free-thinkers” on their own website, so you can pretty much count on them having deeply conventional views about the unattractiveness of a public transport audience to advertisers

      1. And anyway, we all pay for the advertising through being sucked in to buy things. People may say “I’m immune to that” but obviously society as a whole isn’t, or the advertisers wouldn’t bother spending the money advertising.

        If it’s a good thing to do – and it is – we should find the money as a society, not just as suckers buying more stuff and creating more waste.

    2. “appreciate AT are trying to find more money”
      If they are trying to do this they are not trying very hard. An example is the fixed lease gasometer parking in Takapuna. The price is half of the three adjacent private competitors. On that basis alone it is a complete disgrace. Unsurprisingly the waiting list for places is long. Again a complete disgrace because the AT policy says that when demand is high it is managed by price increases. The more deeply that I look at the operations of AT the more I believe that it operates at the behest of significant interest groups regardless of whether this conforms with their Statements of Intent.

  3. Can anyone answer why the platform wasn’t made longer in the first place? A lack of foresight or poor planning?

    RE extending platform shelters, I think an umbrella usually does the job. It would cost millions of dollars to extend shelters (Money AT doesn’t have) and there really is no need to when an Aucklander who should be used to the rain, can go out and buy an umbrella.

    1. Actually I would argue it’s very good planning!

      Because the onehunga branch was reopened cheaply, the low level of investment reflected the low (relatively speaking) patronage it can generate out of two stations. They got it running for a mere $13m, by retaining the single track line, level crossings, simple junction and small stations built without land acquisition. To have full length platforms, double tracking etc would have required a lot of properties to be bought and demolished and a lot of extra infrastructure built, increasing the cost ten fold for practically no near term benefit.

      Onehunga and Te Papapa are currently only big enough for three car trains, and the line itself doesn’t justify anything more because those three car trains seldom come close to filling up.

      WIth the CRL and LRT I expect that assessment will change, especially as Onehunga becomes the tail of the western line. At some point being able to run reasonable frequency of full length trains will be worthwhile.

      1. We are. You should take a look around minor branch railway lines in Germany or Japan, plenty of small trains running on single tracks with simple platforms.

  4. The vending machines raise an interesting opportunity: put HOP cards in them. Say $20 for a card preloaded with $10 credit.

    They do this in Seoul, they don’t bother with ticket offices or whatever, you just use cash or a bank card at one of the vending machines, a couple of which are at any station, to get the fare card. It was a little cardboard retail pack including a system map on one side and a multilingual getting started guide/FAQ on the other. Super simple for a tourist, especially me not being able to speak or read Korean.

    Far cheaper that having modules on the HOP machines to vend new cards, practically free if you work in a deal with the vending machine operator to also restock your hop card packs.

  5. Shelter is also useful for protection from the *sun*. Wet work clothes from sweat are worse than wet work clothes from rain… plus us gingers can only handle about 20 seconds in direct sunlight.

    1. Good point, this is basic health and safety. Patrons should be protected from the elements. Even convertible cars have a roof when needed. Even us allegedly part Maori have wives that don’t like us standing in the sun!

  6. It’s funny, because as someone on the Manukau (Green Bay) and so therefore will never quite be in the right place for rapid PT, the idea of Hobsonville really appeals.

    But Hobsonville is a fantasy, which is sad since it should be a better, smarter, more modern Devonport. With such limited PT it seems the only Devonportian thing is the cost of housing.

    1. I like the way they phrased the notice: “360Discovery and AT have worked closely together to determine that Discovery II is…” A very diplomatic way to report a conversation that probably went
      AT: Your service is getting full- please buy a bigger boat
      360Discovery: F%^& off

      1. Yeah it’s great they put so much effort into establishing the contractual terms rather than thinking about what to do to fix the problem. If I’d moved to Hobsonville I would livid – not knowing how you will get to work each day.

        1. Simple. You own a car. You own two cars if you have a partner who works in a different part of Auckland. Car parks are plentiful. However this will not always be the case as Hobsonville is picking up the pace and most houses only have one car park.

          1. Carparks are not plentiful in Hobsonville. Parking is one of the main gripes from people who have shifted there.

          2. Yes, they don’t have any play spaces to convert to carparks like we did in Pt Chev. Cycling along Huia Rd yesterday evening (which used to be a play space), every possible bit of kerb was taken by parked cars. The driveways, however, almost all had space for these cars. Although there were probably no cars in the many garages, because they are all full of Stuff, the one car parked in each driveway still left plenty of room for the others… but you wouldn’t want to block someone in, would you? Instead, park on the Council-provided play space, and call it a road.

          3. The prudent thing if you buy a house with only one car park is to make sure you can organise your life so you only need one car.

            But if that arrangement was that one partner takes the ferry to work, and one partner takes the car, then you’re royally screwed at this point.

          4. Great observation Heidi, the same out West, 3 or 4 cars associated with a house all parked on road or verge, none parked on the plentiful off street parking on the property. Have none of them watched “ The Castle”.

          5. Mfwic – when the first affordable homes went in there three years ago, it was mostly construction site or bare land and you could park anywhere you like. Development has intensified and for every house that goes in, you can write off at least one on-street car park, and the pace is definitely picking up. The thought of having to cruise the streets after a long day at work looking for a park has put me off moving there.

      2. Could it not be that the conversation was as follows?

        AT: Your service is getting full – please buy a bigger boat
        360: Can you please pay us some more money to help us cover this additional expense?
        AT: F%^& off
        360: Shrug

        Anybody know what the actual conversation was?

          1. Interesting. I have no recollection of 360 Discovery taking on Fullers on their cash cow Waiheke run. Certainly anyone that does gets squashed but in this case it must have been more a suggestion rather than an actuality.

          2. And when Explore went head to head with fullers AT also didn’t help . In Auckland they had their ticket office across from Fullers but to get their boat you had to go to the pontoons which had no coverage from the weather , and the elderly weren’t able to use the gold card legally so explore decided to let them use and took the hit . And on the Island any one that wanted to buy a ticket had to find them basically out the back by all the empty car rental booths . Just before they closed down At allowed them to construct a booth in the main hall which helped , Then fullers decided to run their sailings also at the same time as Explore which went on the half hour , so they acted like a big bully . And then AT decided at long last to have the buses meet both arrivals , before that Explore had to supply their own bus.
            Fullers own both the Ferries and the Buses on the Island and as a monoply they can get away with everything .
            As with the other ferry that comes to the island you can get a Bus to half Moon bay but when you arrive on Waiheke you have to either walk 2km to the nearest bus stop or spend a fortune on a taxi , as the car ferry is own by an Aussie company Fullers & AT don’t want to help walk on passengers go figure that one

          3. Yes, it’s been a terrible situation. Yet another reason why AT should be running the services themselves. Competition in transport doesn’t seem to improve service, and inflexible contracts prevent necessary improvements and change over time.

        1. “Carparks are not plentiful in Hobsonville. Parking is one of the main gripes from people who have shifted there.”

          These two simple sentences encapsulate so much that is wrong about Auckland.
          1) People bought in Hobsonville Point because it was cheap and affordable. (They didn’t think that it was cheap because a developer had bought land in the middle of nowhere with no connections and as such he was able to come to market cheaply. They also didn’t think that the developer made savings by having narrow roads and less parking and that helped in the cheap housing.
          2) They locals now have a problem getting to places from where they live but are not going to ask for better public transport because why would that work for them?
          3) And someone else should fix their parking problem because although they saw it when they bought, it isn’t their fault and someone should fix it for them.

          There shouldn’t be any surprises because this is a repetition of Devonport with their congestion; Albany with their demands for park n ride because the planning was so screwed; and Mt Eden with that park that mysteriously appeared after people bought.

          And don’t take shots at me because you think Takapuna has all the amenities. You are very welcome to both of the car park buildings that Panuku is looking to build here (40 Anzac and the gasometer site) because they will be just as little use in Hobsonville Pt as they will in Takapuna.

        2. The conversation should have ended with AT saying: Well if you won’t co-operate we will find another operator for this service and any other future services.
          Trouble is that AT doesn’t seem to have the fortitude to do this.

    2. As a visitor to Hobsonville before & after the New West Bus Network, I can say it’s a lot better than before the changes to and from there. Pre NN was so random & hard to figure out. But weekend ferry is sorely lacking with the farmers market there on the weekend. It could also mean some could more likely totally do without owning a car there.

  7. As far as commercial activity goes, are Newmarket and Britomart the only stations that have semi – integrated shops? I suppose that New Lynn is so close to its culinary boulevard that anything in the station would be excessive, although a cafe wouldn’t be unappreciated I am sure. And when will coffee bars start popping up semi-permanently on the North Western Cycleway? My brother informs me that in Seoul they have soju bars on their cycleways. I know it is a different scale and all that but I could see myself pausing for a craft bier on my Friday homeward commute. This is outside the box stuff for Tāmaki Makaurau, and no doubt commercially risky, but surely some sponsors would be up for it? And AT might stop looking so square? Everyone’s a winner baby (Hot Chocolate)!!!

    1. Kingsland has quite a few food venues (bakeries, cafes, bars and restaurants) just up the ramp from the city bound platform.

  8. Seeing as Onehunga to Airport HR is never going to happen, could Penrose station be better utilised as a link point for cross town LR?

    Station Rd Penrose across to Penrose Rd – LR track all the way out to Waipuna/Pakuranga & eastern suburbs via Waipuna bridge?

    1. Yes and then joining with the Onehunga-Roskill section of the “Southwest“ line and extending to Mt Albert and Pt Chev for the Western and Northwestern lines. That’s how you build a real network – connectivity.

  9. What good will these Vending machines be ? You are not allowed to Eat , Drink or Smoke on the trains and the people getting off the the trains won’t be hanging a machine when they are in a hurry to go elsewhere . So it another target for the local vandals , yes
    As for the platforms at Onehunga extended it the length of one carriage that way the driver then can get into a six car train and with Tepapa just position the train in such a way passengers can get on both set of units and keep the other doors locked simple , as it not like they are still running an SA/SD train anymore

    1. and will what the machines provide be healthy with biodegradable/recyclable packaging and will collection points be located close by for this packaging.
      Love the earlier suggestion of pre loaded HOP cards also.

    2. Sir David L your comment is based on the premise that trains come so frequent that there is no time to eat anything between buying from vending machine and getting on the train.

      In fact Auckland trains are horribly infrequent (a train every hour) and so being able to snack on something (or two somethings) while you wait for the next train is a great way to pass the time.

    3. Well if you are right David then the trial will be a failure and they won’t roll them out further. However given that just about every train system in the world has plenty of vending machines across all kinds of stations I think there is a good chance that people might buy things from them.

      You are allowed to drink on board, anything with a closed container or a lid is fine.

  10. Re Hobsonville: I can’t believe how rigid the AT-Fullers agreement seems to be. Surely they must be provisions to negotiate additional sailings and/or larger vessels.

    1. Yes the whole comment about not having a larger ferry is one thing but surely it shouldn’t be too hard to add an extra sailing! 7:30am, 8am and 9am would make sense (they probably need to look at adding another sailing during the day maybe at 10am or 12pm)

      1. This is pretty normal. Afternoon peak is longer and flatter with more broadly spread demands. Morning peak is more intensive and peaked.

  11. Hobsonville – bus connection: fantastically the 114 doesn’t suffer the same scheduling problem as the 112. With only 2 customers (at Peak) the 114 always gets in early and there’s time for coffee before the ferry. I wonder how AT’s calculator allows for opex investment in a 40+ seat bus capability for 2 people, and yet the ferry can’t be up-size the ferry for 200. Maybe they need another calculator to help their opex decision making and the prioritisation of major projects????.

    1. The funny thing is that the cost to operate a 40+ seat bus is not that much higher than a 10 seat bus, particularly if the depreciation is calculated over 10-15 years.

      1. Yeah plus that capacity is handy just in case a crowd of people want to go there together for some reason i.e. an event or social gathering etc.

        Also with that additional housing going in near the airforce base, the 114 will become a lot more used. At least there was a bit of forward-thinking this time… rather than responding late.

        I completely agree that 112 and 114 should be timed to meet the Ferries (max 10 min transfer window), and there is no reason they can’t do that really… I am sure they will try to come up with one though, probably already one of the pre-drafted “unfortunately” responses they have prepared for inquiries about that…

      2. And that bus isn’t just used for that run, it’s part of a fairly standardised fleet.

        Unlike with our large bus fleet with over a thousand buses across a dozen depots, it’s much harder to just put one more boat on. There probably isn’t a boat spare.

        Putting another ferry sailing on at peak times probably literally means buying a new ferry boat and putting three extra staff on the payroll just to run one more service. If AT want to contract that one extra run the operator would need a contract fee that covers the cost of buying a new boat and hiring new staff. That’s a whole lot of cost to lump onto one service.

        1. Visit Hobsonville wharf during the day on most days of the week and you will find the ferry sits there for up to 6 hours. A simple rejig of sailing times in the morning could provide for a third service before the ferry takes a lengthy timeout during the middle of the day. It’s not an extra ferry that’s required, simply an extra return trip.

          1. It’s a 1 hour five minute turnaround, so yes it can do a third service… a hour and five minutes after the second one. Perhaps a departure at 9.05am arriving downtown at 9.30am could work for some people.

    2. Is the bus fare still additional to the ferry fare? You ended up paying $10 or something in total per trip…I never got the difference in fare for the ferry trip between Beach Haven and city, and Hobsonville Pt and city either.

  12. Platform extensions when 3/4 to full length shelter is included, are revenue generators particularly on citybound platforms – increases fare purchase and retail-oriented microtransactions by 45%. Average ROI in Japan for a full length platform shelter upgrade is 7 months.

    1. Nice call Rob. When shelters are in place, people don’t mind coming to the station early to get out of the rain/sun… and if small-scale retail is in place, they will use it.

      I would add that for side platform stations, shelters should also have backing on the side away from the tracks to protect from the rain driving in on an angle. This would make train stations massively more pleasant and attractive.

      Quality shelters are a sign of a mature transport network. Surely it’s one of the quickest wins around for AT. We need to get on with it.

  13. A useful improvement to Penrose station a real time display board at the entrances to the station, especially on Station Road, so you can choose which platform to go to if you’re heading up to the city.

    1. I would suggest many stations would benefit from a prominent, large text display at the nearest street entrance. Great customer service and solid advertising of alternative choices to drivers.

      1. Yes.. even Britomart is pretty hopeless if you forget to look before you go down the stairs. The signs on the platform are barely readable from the concourse.

      2. Penrose is special though in that you have the choice or 2 lines into the city in very close proximity but different platforms. Especially on weekend frequencies etc would be good which to know which to go to without looking at an app, save ~10-15mins, can easily miss one as it’s quite a hike to the other platform or takes too long to open and see the app in bright sunlight etc…or you are driving to *cough*cough*, “park and ride”.

        1. Newmarket is basically the same when it comes to going towards Britomart. Two platforms, the realtime information is permanently in non-working condition. Since trains generally run a few minutes late it becomes impossible to tell which platform to use. A number of times I (together with a group of other passengers) ended up running up and down to the other platform. I hope that once platform 2 is operational virtually all trains towards Britomart will depart from platforms 1 and 2/3 meaning the run will be over.

  14. “The 112 has been conveniently timed to arrive at the wharf at 8am, right as the ferry is departing. Did no one at AT think this through?”

    Unless it’s actually brilliant planning: because the bus’s return trip is now well timed to take you to Westgate where you can bus to town, after you turned up to catch the ferry and it was too full for you to get on. 😛

  15. ‘I appreciate AT are trying to find more money, but perhaps a trade is in order, vending machines for some shelter.’

    To me this suggest vending machines are just a money making nuisance. To me a vending machine is good customer service, and providing this service is more about providing PT users a better experience so shouldn’t be tied into any other benefits, as in reality its a benefit on its own.

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