The station itself looks great but I have long had some serious concerns about its functional design. It feels like it was designed by people who don’t use or understand how PT works. It’s more like an airport lounge where people are expected to be waiting for long periods of time instead of just passing though on their way to a frequent bus. One of my main concerns, about the sawtooth bus stops not being practical for through routed services, is also now being borne out with the operational plan showing that some key bus routes won’t even stop at the station but use nearby streets instead. It’s like no one bothered to ask (or listen to) the people tasked with running the buses.
But the real reason for this post is that the open day has once again highlighted why so few people use public transport in Auckland, it’s just too hard and too slow. For the event, AT state this (which is good)
Parking will be limited. Take a bus, train or bike to the event, the venue is just a short one minute walk from Manukau Train Station.
So, I thought I’d have a look at how I could get to the station by 10am. To start with, I live relatively close to the Sturges Rd train station so plugging that and the Manukau Station into a journey planner the recommended route that arrives at Manukau at 9:52.
The arrival time is perfect for what I want but the real kicker is how long the overall journey will take. To get there by 9:52 I’ll need to catch a train from my local station at 8:15. Add in the time to walk to it and I’m looking at a 1:45 trip. It’s worth noting that there’s even only a 10 minute wait at Britomart so most of the reason for the travel time is due to other reasons.
The alternative is of course to drive, although as a PT advocate it would be weird to turn up to a PT event by car. Google tells me at that time of day would take 28-40 minutes.
So why is the PT option so much slower? I think it’s a combination of our services being unnecessarily slow and a poor network structure requiring a trip all the way to the city.
Our trains (and many of our buses) are horrendously slow. This makes them only time competitive with other options during the busiest peak hours, and even then only for certain trips like to the city. The Western Line suffers the most on this due to closer station spacing, frequent level crossings, a greater number of curves and hills, all meaning trains from Swanson to Britomart is 27.2km and is timetabled to take 55 minutes, an average of just 30km/h. By comparison, the Eastern Line is our fastest with the 26.3km being covered in 38 minutes, an average of 42km/h. For reference, the Southern Line from Papakura is 31.1km and takes 51 minutes for an average of 37km/h.
In my view, AT should be looking at how they could shave 10-20% off journey times. That would put the travel times much closer to the modelling by train maker CAF during the tender process that I have a copy of. A big part of achieving that would be through a significant reduction in dwell times but other improvements will be needed too.
You may recall that speeding up trains was one of the items included in Mayor Phil Goff’s letter of expectation to AT shortly after taking office as a key focus.
ensuring full value is obtained from council’s very large investment in rail electrification by reducing journey times, particularly through shorter dwell times at stations and more efficient rail operations
It’s also worth noting that in their latest board report, AT are promising improvements in the next timetable due to be implemented in August. They say journey times along the Southern, Eastern and Western lines will improve, including further reduced dwell times. They also say they’re considering another new timetable in early 2019 with even more improvements.
People catching PT not only have to put up with not only slow trains but also take a much longer route, as can easily bee seen in the images above. A train user from my station has to cover over 49km while a car only 33km. Reducing how far people have to travel though an improved network that isn’t just about the city centre could go a long way forward in making PT more useful. Notably the (former) Auckland Transport Alignment Project calls for a crosstown mass transit option
One such option for providing that could be Harriets idea of a crosstown light rail line.
Of course, it’s not just about me getting to Manukau on Saturday. Every day thousands of people descend on Manukau from all over Auckland, including many from West Auckland. For example, Stats NZ Commuter View, which looks at journey to work data from the 2013 census shows that while most workers in the Manukau area come from nearby, a lot are coming from other parts of Auckland.
Ultimately, if we want PT to be used by a lot more people, which we do, then we have to make it more competitive with driving. That doesn’t mean it needs to be exactly as fast as driving off-peak, but it shouldn’t be three times slower either.