Over the next ten years Auckland’s rapid transit network will grow massively, if the plans from the Auckland Transport Alignment Project are fully implemented. There will be major upgrades or expansions of the rail and busways that exist today, as well as the introduction of a whole new rapid transit mode – light rail.

As part of developing a successful rapid transit system, Auckland will need to constantly look around the world and learn from what has worked, and what hasn’t. Alon Levy’s Pedestrian Observation blog is always a good read (if pretty technical at times) and a recent post runs through some of the key similarities of “successful transit cities” around the world.

I’ll briefly work through some of Alon’s key points, discussing their relevance to Auckland. I think some of these findings are very useful to keep in mind for Auckland, both in the near term (are we sure we’ve got the right modes, what needs to happen around light-rail to maximise its growth potential etc.) and also in the longer term considerations for how we build on the excellent rapid transit network we’ll have in 10 years’ time (when might we need express trains, what’s the right way to extend rail to the North Shore etc.).

Alon’s first point is about getting the right type of solutions for the scale of the city:

In fact, one way cities can fail is by adopting transit features from cities of the wrong size class. China is making the mistake in one direction: Beijing and Shanghai have no express subway trains or frequent regional rail services acting as express urban rail, and as a result, all urban travel has to slow down to an average speed of about 35 km/h, whereas Tokyo has express regional lines averaging 60 km/h. China’s subway design standards worked well for how big its cities were when those standards were developed from the 1970s to the 1990s, but are too small for the country’s megacities today.

In contrast, in the developed world, the megacities with good public transit all have frequent express trains: Tokyo and Osaka have four-track (or even eight-track!) regional lines, Paris has the RER, New York has express subways (and the premium-price LIRR trains from Jamaica to Penn Station), London has fast regional rail lines and Thameslink and will soon have Crossrail, Seoul has a regional rail network with express trains on Subway Line 1, and Moscow stands alone with a strictly two-track system but has such wide stop spacing that the average speed on the Metro is 41 km/h. Smaller transit cities sometimes have frequent express trains (e.g. Zurich and Stockholm) and sometimes don’t (e.g. Prague), but it’s less important for them because their urban extent is such that a two-track subway line can connect the center with the edge of the built-up area in a reasonable amount of time.

And if China failed by adopting design standards fitting smaller cities than it has today, the US fails in the other direction, by adopting design standards fitting huge megacities, i.e. New York. Small cities cannot hope to have lines with the crowding levels of the Lexington Avenue Line. This has several implications. First, they need to scale their operating costs down, by using proof of payment ticketing and unstaffed stations, which features are common to most European transit cities below London and Paris’s size class. Second, they need to worry about train frequency, since it’s easy to get to the point where the frequency that matches some crowding guideline is so low that it discourages riders. And third, they need to maximize network effects, since there isn’t room for several competing operations, which means ensuring buses and trains work together and do not split the market between them.

The best example of an American city that fails in all three aspects above is Washington. While railfans in Washington lament the lack of express tracks like those of New York, the city’s problems are the exact opposite: it copied aspects of New York that only succeed in a dense megacity. With interlining and reverse-branching, Washington has low frequency on each service, down to 12 minutes off-peak. The stations are staffed and faregated, raising operating costs. And there is no fare integration between Metro and the buses, splitting the market in areas with price-sensitive riders (i.e. poor people) like Anacostia.

Auckland obviously is not a megacity, but is growing rapidly and therefore is expected to reach 2.5-3 million people over the coming decades. Our challenge is to avoid the mistakes of Washington DC, ensuring that we keep operations efficient, ensure the entire public transport network comes together as a holistic whole, and do everything we can to efficiently ensure frequencies remain high. We’ve done a lot of good work on this over the past five or so years, with things like:

  • The HOP card which enables operating efficiencies, especially through faster bus boarding times and reduced train staffing requirements.
  • Integrated fares which don’t peanalise users for changing between buses and trains.
  • The new network means that buses no longer compete with trains, instead focusing much more on feeding people into the rail network.
  • Improving service frequencies has been a big focus, although mainly for buses (incredibly train frequencies off peak are still insufficient for rail to properly be considered part of the frequent PT network, even though rail forms the core of this network!)

Another thing I think builds off Alon’s third point is that a city Auckland’s size needs each of its rapid transit lines to do a number of different jobs. We simply aren’t big enough to justify, for example, an investment that’s just about airport passengers. We also need that same line to serve airport workers, residents of nearby suburbs wanting to get to work, people along other parts of the same corridor getting to work, to their local centre and millions of other different trips. This is a big part of why the proposed light-rail project that links together a huge swathe of central and southern Auckland, rather than a dedicated airport rail service, makes much more sense for a city Auckland’s size.

Looking out into the future, we may start to need some of the characteristics of much larger transit systems. Express trains to the south is probably the most obvious example, which was picked up in ATAP and also is an important part of our Regional Rapid Rail proposal. These services will become necessary as Auckland grows to the south and trips become unacceptably long at the current speed of our rail network (which is pretty slow at not much more than 30 kph).

Alon’s second key point is about transit-oriented development (TOD for short). He highlights that cities which have generated sustained high use of public transport are generally those that have structured their growth plans around it, both in supporting a strong downtown core as well as major housing developments around stations.

The other common element to transit cities is TOD. Here, we must distinguish old cities like London, Paris, Berlin, and Vienna, whose urban layout is TOD because it was laid out decades before mass motorization, and newer cities like Stockholm, Tokyo, and every city in Eastern Europe or the East Asian tiger states. The latter set of cities built housing on top of train stations, often public housing (as in the communist world or in Stockholm) but not always (as in Tokyo and to some extent Hong Kong), in an era when the global symbol of prosperity was still the American car-owning middle class.

The importance of TOD grows if we compare countries with relatively similar histories, namely, the US and Canada. Neither country does much regional rail, both have had extensive middle-class suburbanization (though Canada’s major cities have maintained bigger inner-urban middle classes than the US’s), and English Canada’s cities came into the 1970s with low urban density. The difference is that Canada has engaged in far more TOD. Calgary built up a large CBD for how small the city is, without much parking; Vancouver built up Downtown as well as transit-oriented centers such as Metrotown, New Westminster, Lougheed, and Whalley, all on top of the Expo Line. Nowhere in the US did such TOD happen. Moreover, American examples of partial TOD, including Arlington on top of the Washington Metro and this decade’s fast growth in Seattle, have led to somewhat less awful transit usage than in the rest of the country.

Auckland has a mixed history with TOD. On the one hand we are starting to see good growth around the rail network in higher density housing, especially in recent years around the Western Line in places like Mt Eden, Kingsland, Morningside, Avondale, New Lynn and most recently, Glen Eden. On the other hand, we haven’t seen much evidence of TOD around the Northern Busway – although that is starting to change at Albany and even Constellation. The busway obviously sits right next to the motorway while the rail network generally links together a series of town centres, so I guess different outcomes are not that surprising.

As the rapid transit network expands, some of the new corridors are planned to be next to the motorway (Northwest light-rail, North Shore light-rail, parts of the City-Airport project) and some along main roads (Dominion Road light-rail and AMETI Eastern Busway). While in an ideal world we would shift all our rapid transit corridors away from the motorway so they could facilitate more growth, in reality this is either going to come at massive additional cost (huge land acquisition or tunnelling) or much slower travel, which runs counter to the whole concept of rapid transit. There are no easy answers to this dilemma and trade-offs will probably need to be made again and again. It would, however, be nice to see some stronger efforts to develop TOD around these routes.

We are making rapid progress, but a high quality public transport system is still a relatively new thing for Auckland. So we need to constantly learn from overseas. The importance of scaling and the importance of transit oriented development are key consistent lessons we can learn and apply.

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  1. Thanks Matt, interesting article you linked. Alon’s point here is also worth noting, I think: “I don’t know of examples of failed TOD – that is, of auto-oriented cities that aggressively built TOD on top of new or existing rail lines but didn’t manage to grow their transit ridership.”

    I have heard many people criticise Auckland’s strategy of developing along transit corridors, but have never managed to pinpoint why. This will be a useful article to share.

    1. Auckland has developed transit orientated development quite well, and that has been development around the motorway and private vehicle.
      For the last 10-15 years we have been seeing that this form of TOD used to work quite well however it has come at an increasingly large cost (economic, environmental and social).

      Hopefully (fingers crossed) either central (via kiwibuild) or local govt (via panuku) can develop areas of housing around any new stations at a density that makes walking and cycling viable to most people both in distance and safety.

  2. We’ve only made progress so far with integrated fares. As an example, I left my HOP card at home by mistake recently. For my error I paid $9 for a two-leg one-way trip that with my HOP card would have cost $3.30. (I had to pay cash fares of $5.50 and then $3.50).

    Return trip of $18 vs $6.60 is quite a difference. Paying $11.40 extra for a small error would be crippling for some – their fares for the next two days. I can see the point of a differential between HOP and cash, but I think the integrated fares should be possible without HOP too. I should have been able to show my original ticket for $5.50 to the second driver and been waved on.

    And the fact remains that with this big a differential, newcomers to public transport will be deterred by the cash price.

      1. It’s 21st Century and we operate a relatively cashless environment. Could we not have something like hand held readers the bus driver has to scan a code from your AT Hop card app? This could be for when people forget their cards. I know its not feasible to change all the card readers on buses but coming up with something similar to what the train inspectors have shouldn’t beyond our reach!

        1. I think the solution needs to be more robust, and work for people in poverty, for elderly, for children, for people with different intellectual abilities. Phones are mainstream but not part of a robust solution for those managing on a day to day basis or outside the cultural norms.

        2. +1, making the payment system inclusive has social benefits that we don’t take into account these days when justifying economics of a project.

        3. Fully understand what you are saying, fully agree that cash fares should be integrated and for people living in poverty and the elderly the forgetting a HOP card should never be an issue, they shouldn’t have to pay in the first place! Suggestion was aimed at a high percentage of your average commuting riders who for whatever reason have forgotten their HOP card, a simple backup rather than having to a) find cash from somewhere nearby b) then having to pay more when you already have a HOP card…As for kids, every single person I see on a bus under the age of 15 has a tablet device with them on public transport, I’m quite certain they are technology savy.

    1. +1 and note that this experience of yours is happening every day to ferry users, with or without a HOP card. Hopeless from AT.

      1. No hopeless from Fullers. It is Fullers who have been delaying the integration process. They fought against HOP being implemented at all for monthly passes and they are now making it difficult for integration.

        Not one to defend AT but I understand in this case they are largely blameless.

        Fullers is slowly running the ferr service into the ground by their minimum investment. Their main focus is on tour boats and the ferries are an unwelcome (albeit profitable with no investment in infrastructure) distration.

        The ferries should be nationalised and operated as a public service. We need 15 min ferries 7am to 7pm on the Devonport and Bayswater runs. Plus more intense housing around the ferry in Devonport and Bayswater.

    2. “Newcomers to public transport” will be encouraged to use a Hop Card by the cash price which is a highly desirable outcome. Handling cash wastes an inordinate amount of time and inconveniences the 93% who have the nous to get a Hop card, it also adds a lot of extra cost and security problems. Mistakes cost money, just learn from the experience and do better in future.

      1. The incentive to buy a HOP card is there with the differential between cash and HOP for a one-leg journey. A factor of over 1.5 is already quite excessive.

        More than this, such as multiplying it by 2.7 as in my case – is counterproductive, and loses goodwill. Someone trying out the buses for a day is quite likely to completely miss the concept that a HOP card would allow integrated fares and thus reduce the fares so much. They’ll just go back to driving.

        1. -1 this particular thread has now played out repetitively enough that stuff style votes are sufficient as further comment

        2. You shutting it down then @bjfoeh? Nice to have the moderators on board! And the arbiters of style…

      2. You also need to consider visitors to Auckland who may only want to make a short journey or two. Having to organize and fork out for a Hop card will likely be a deterrent. Unless the price can come down to say $1 and it be very easily available – i.e.from a machine at every station and outlets everywhere (this is how it works in Los Angeles).

        1. I completely agree – the nice thing about Sydney’s Opal card is that there’s already a network of station concourses with ticketing machines and staff on hand at the big ones… and machines that can sell as well as top up. Anyone in town for more than a day or two would find the cost trivial.

          But finding a HOP card in Auckland – that entails a web search for dairies that sell them among the cigarettes…

          Here’s an idea – a temporary, cardboard preloaded card (with a chip obviously) that you could buy, use, and transfer the balance later. Or a dog tag – why does an RFID device need a full size credit card? With a sticky back to stick to your phone. Or maybe just an app that avoids the whole palaver, that works like Apple Pay on a phone or watch.

    3. In Christchurch if you pay by cash you can get one free transfer. You just hand in you Cash ticket to the driver of the next bus as long as it is within 2 hours of getting on the first bus.

      There is still a reasonable difference between Cash prices and Metro Card. What helps make Metro Card better is you only get charged two times per day (First ride of the day then first ride after 2 hours) and can end up having unlimited rides with also free weekends if you have paid 10 times that week.

      1. Yes, the Christchurch system is actually far superior in its simplicity.

        Of course A would rather send people to study systems in Australia, US or Europe rather than admit Chch has something to teach Auckland.

    4. The fare discount for using a Hop card is pretty generous.
      I remember feeling distinctly cheated in Wellington when NZ Bus introduced their Snapper Card at a 20% discount (the same as the ten trip concession cards), then about 6 months they cut the discount to 10%.

      1. Snapper was 25% when introduced then cut to approx 20% with variation depending on rounding of cash fares (50c rounding policy – lowest discount is currently 17% for 1 zone fare).

        From 15th July, adult Snapper discount will be at least 20% peak and approx 40% off-peak (off-peak: 9am-3pm & after 6:30pm weekday, all day weekends and public holidays) plus free transfer within 30min (buses only).

        Rail: still cardboard 10-trips (= 10x Snapper price)
        (GWRC integrated ticketing = long running joke, been just a few years away for decades)

        1. Yes, GWRC stuffed around for ages over integrated fares then got taken for a ride by NZ Bus’s Snapper.

          I was sure the Snapper discount kinda sucked, and the 25% lasted only a very short time. Maybe my memory is playing tricks. Still not as good as Hop in any case.

  3. Makes complete sense. Even the most imperfect implementations leave their mark on development – clusters that form around stations. The city might build the network, but in the end the network builds the city.


    @Heidi Now, is there a case to be made that urban transport should be free? Everybody pays through their taxes, so best to use it… and save the cost of mass ticketing and card schemes, and associated enforcement. Has “user pays” had its day?

    1. Yup. 🙂 Best way to reduce our transport carbon emissions. The subsidy to drivers for their contribution to climate change is massive. But most of them would prefer not to be doing so.

      1. The great thing about FREE is that it overcomes the regressive impact of fixed fares on the poor and unwaged. Higher income earners simply pay more, through their share of the tax take.

        1. I imagine it would also boost sprawl as there would no longer be a financial cost for living further from work, the only disincentive would be time.

        2. Oh, that we get to the point that the travel time for PT from sprawl edges is inconsiderable. 🙂

    2. I would be cautious about this. Places that have trialed free PT have generally failed to greatly increase ridership, while severely undermining system finances and the ability to fund capacity increase.

      A better ticketing system I have seen in several places in Europe and Asia is to have a smart phone App for ticketing. Infrastructure cost zero. You only need to download the App. You pay on the App and it lets you ride and can be scanned by inspectors. South Korea, France and Germany are already doing this. Melbourne is about to start trials.

      As for the general theme of this article (which I like) take a trip to Bordeaux if you want to see great public transport in a medium sized city with similar population density to Auckland.

      1. It would certainly help if some of the cities that are serious about their transport-related carbon emissions would re-visit their analyses of free transit for today’s situation. Some places have managed to capture more externalities in recent years than they were doing when the attempts for free transit were made. Auckland, with its laughable pretense of carbon emissions reductions and resistance to reducing the subsidy to polluters, is unlikely to be the one to lead the charge. Then again, mode shift amongst voters here is happening more quickly than anyone seems to realise.

        1. There’s a pretty simple equation for this. Fare revenue is about $300m a year, around 50% of the total cost.

          So to implement free PT we would need to raise an additional $300m a year just to maintain the service levels we have today.

          There are 474,000 dwellings in Auckland, so that would mean an average rates increase of $633 each ratepayer.

          The average Auckland rates bill is $3,620, so it would be an 18% rates rise to get the same transit system. More if we assume more people use free PT and you have to put on more buses and trains.

          Another way to look at it is to ask, if we were going to raise an extra $300m a year from ratepayers for public transport, is that the best way to spend it?

          An alternative would be to keep fares but increase the service delivery budget by $300m a year.That would be enough to make pretty much every bus, train and ferry in Auckland run every ten minutes to midnight, seven days a week.

          Or in terms of capex, $300m a year is enough to service a spending programme of five billion dollars on infrastructure. You could have the two light rail lines built for that.

          What would actually deliver better outcomes for Auckland, what would have better mode shift, emissions, social outcomes etc?

          I’m pretty keen on the “every ten minutes everywhere all the time” option actually!

        2. @Nick R Who says it should come from ratepayers? Why not general taxation, which already funds a whole lot of things that are spent far from where many people live. But totally with you on frequency. Every ten minutes makes a huge difference. And some better common sense and less dogma around the “no tiny dogs” policy on buses and trains, but oddly not ferries.

        3. Or, we have both, at $600m per year.

          How many car parks are there for each car in Auckland, Nick? How many car park spaces in Auckland? By the time we have AT charging commercially viable rates for its own car parks [=how much revenue?] and we tax all the other parks at a fair rate to capture the costs of the induced traffic they cause, we’d have a surplus.

          Of course, there’d be a whole lot of savings in public health, mental health, environmental health… There’d be a whole lot of fare-paying infrastructure and technology, and fare-enforcement that we wouldn’t have to fund…

          And when people start getting rid of cars and carparks as a result, urban form would change, space would become available for better uses. Income from carparks would go down, but boy, people would by then be sold on a compact, cleaner, more accessible city, and raising the rates instead wouldn’t be a problem.

      2. $10 for a HOP Card is too much. $80 and an internet connection for the same thing is vastly too much. Even if you can find a cheaper app supporting piece of hardware (than $80), it’s not going to be $10.

        I’m on holiday in London at the moment (I should, in fact, be asleep) and the question of HOP versus Oyster is interesting.

        The first thing to note is that there are vastly more ways to “tag on” in London… I’ve seen pay wave (including our very own ASB cards) and smart-watches in addition to Oyster cards being used.

        The second thing to note is that this means you have to separate out your Oyster Card and any paywave cards you’ve got (not sure if you can get a bus pass without an Oyster Card), which is somewhat inconvenient (especially since it’s so hot right now in London; I’d normally just use another pocket).

        Thirdly, and this might just be because of the option my grandfather (who got me the Oyster card and has paid for my fares) wanted (i.e. I haven’t checked) but the trains and the busses (and the boats to Greenwich) seem separated out more than here. I mean, the system we’re using gives us a weekly pass on the busses (and presumably we’re saving, only once have we not caught a return bus… when my cousin’s partner dropped us off for one leg) but no-where else.

        Finally, you don’t have to tag off on busses, even though you do with the underground. I’ve got no idea how it works but it does. And it does make things easier & faster, even as it makes a mockery of my remarks when my mother forgets to tag off the bus in Auckland (she’s a very infrequent user). On a somewhat connected note, I have seen their busses (via stickers) explain how to get off at the right stop… I remember having to people watch my way off ours. This is probably also why no-one thanks bus drivers in London… or maybe it’s passive-aggressive reactiveness to how stinking hot they are.

        All in all, I don’t think HOP or Oyster card approaches are so bad as a ticketing system. Comparing these two, the only ones I am personally familiar with (never used Snapper), ,allowing for my total lack of research into Oyster, suggests further that HOP isn’t even so bad. But maybe they should start providing or selling little wallets for them… that’s definitely something that Oyster Cards do better.*

        *I couldn’t figure out where to get an appropriate sized protector when my original card case finally completely fell apart (after three-ish years!) so I resorted to buying a completely new HOP Card to get the new plastic case. Ridiculous. But it did make using the 380 to get to Auckland Airport easier… infrequent bus users, frequently lose their HOP cards.

        1. Thanks, Whirsler. Interesting details. I’ve had the same issue about getting a replacement plastic cover. I would have thought the dairy where I could buy a HOP card could also stock a few replacement covers, but no.

        2. I believe I have “discovered” how Oyster manages to avoid tagging off. This was not based on any research but rather labouring under the misapprehension our passes expired some point in the future. You see, I get on the bus to get back to where we’re staying and the reader makes the funny noise. I had been issued with an emergency ticket, valid only for my current bus trip (unfortunately it is leg one of a journey with a transfer). Disaster!

          As the bus keeps going along I keep an eye out for anywhere I can top up, which includes a lot (all??) of the dairies (as the driver points out to me). The first one we come across looks open but the door’s shut. Blessing in Disguise!

          I get off at the next dairy. The dude at the till confirms the pass has expired, explains that every trip… transfers included… are a flat pound fifty (basically, $3) and sends me on my merry way, after I elect to just top up. I have to say, I think HOP’s zonal system is much better than this. My mother says my grandfather says there’s a cap of four pounds fifty, which makes things a lot better… and maybe the reason all the bus stops (all the ones we’ve seen anyway) have the numbers of busses which use them /and/ a map of their routes (and quite a lot have a more general area map) is because they don’t have to worry about representing zones in the maps.

          Fortuitously, this dairy I used was opposite Chiswick Business Park, i.e. the terminating stop of the 27 bus that has proven fairly ubiquitous across the places in London we’re concerned with. Happy ending!

          It’s possibly also interesting that today’s transport difficulties are forcing me to plan tomorrow and Saturday’s excursions (complicated by the fact we’re not here for much longer) in much the same way I would try to get anywhere under any circumstances in Auckland. Although, I have to say, TfL’s journey planner is better than ours… although it could do with a map functionality. Funny that.

          Also, the business park is a kind of thing I’ve never really seen before… it’s like the Supa Centre in Manukau but with office blocks instead of shops and no food court. The 27 and the 70 bus stops are not well signposted, although randoms were helpful with directions.

        3. Having read your responses Whistler I think your still coming to grips with Oyster. It’s an easier system to use then either HOP or Snapper. Most people pay for a weekly or monthly tube pass which is done in zones and allows unlimited use of all buses irrespective of the zone your in.

          You have been using essentially pay as you go which is not cheap as you have discovered.

          When you tag onto a bus that reader recongnises that you have used your payment card (Oyster/Debit Card etc) on that reader and will not let you tag on again until that vehicle arrives at its destination.

          To keep things simple all bus fares are charged at the same rate thus negating the need to tag off but as I mentioned before, the way to go is to pay for a weekly bus ticket or buy a weekly/monthly/yearly tube zone pass (can be used on the ferries, tube, trains, tram within zone and buses everywhere).

          As I no longer live in London itself I use my debit card (Eftpos in kiwi parlay) as it still gives me a reduced pay as I go fare without the need of topping up etc or carrying the Oyster Card itself, clearly the way to go in NZ.

      3. I bow to your greater knowledge on this, but obviously many factors affect rider usage rates, not least of which is frequency and the state of the system. App-based or Watch-based scanning is great (I can hear the “how many people have a watch?” objection now) but the people who really need to be dragged out of cars are the middle classes – Gen X and earlier – whose grasp of technology is patchy.

        So people will only use what they have to pay for? I’d question that, given that price elasticity is one of the arguments for current bus subsidies.

        Now free health care, street lighting and education – what adverse effects do they generate again? Yet there’s no suggestion of a toll gate at the hospital to “improve system finances” or tag systems as you drive or walk to turn on the lights. It is about defining something as a public good, a political and philosophical question that the body politic should answer. And it cuts to the heart of the religious arguments around “user pays”.

  4. Great post.

    Yes it’s disappointing we can’t get train frequencies higher already with all the bus networks rolling out having so much emphasis on using it. Central NN starts this Sunday. Using the AT Mobile app I can see some of the journey’s I’ll be making, especially shorter ones, are quite a bit longer than they should be by having two transfer waits at either end of the train trip. Peak not so bad but inter-peak and especially weekend really add the time up. Inter-peak average wait time of 10mins+10mins is 20mins wasted journey time in effect, so walking further & catching the winding slower alternative bus is often faster.

    re Express trains – random thought, if we could (once Pukekohe is electrified & extra mains built) an express Pukekohe train, stops at Paerata, Drury, Papakura then limited stops at Puhinui, Otahuhu (maybe Ellerslie) then Newmarket would really rock.

    1. Interesting article Brendon! Very keen to see more talk of rapid transit in Christchurch. When I read your article my first instinct was that Christchurch seems a long way off from what you’ve described. I feel like there’s a bunch of interim steps that need to be taken first, like making the core bus system useful again, through making iterative improvements like more bus lanes, better bus priority, higher frequencies, longer spans, easier transfers, better routes, double-deckers, intensification of landuse etc.

  5. Public transport needs to be completely overhauled in the way it is run so that it is run like the airline network.

    1) The objective has to be rapid transit, something current PT in NZ doesn’t deliver nor do the light rail proposals for Auckland given their proposed operating speeds and inability to provide for express services bypassing stations.

    2) PT should be based on:

    a) A series of hubs covering a city

    b) Direct services hub to hub (with rapid transit priority (bus priority, own lanes, grade separation where needed))

    c) In some cases hub to hub services may pass through & stop at other hubs where the geography/demand matches

    d) Within the catchment of each hub, on-demand transit to door and from door services from/to the hub. (People would also have the choice of uber/taxi etc if they wanted direct door to/from hub service (obviously walk & cycle are options as well))

    e) A limited number of fixed all stop routes (where demand exceeds on-demand services but doesn’t justify hub to hub.

    In essence this is effectively a rapid metro system (can be bus, brt, lrt, metro, rail) with on-demand transit from door to door at each end of the trip

    1. Wouldn’t it make more sense to run PT like the numerous successful PT systems around the world, none of which than I’m aware of run anything like you have described?

    2. If you have say 10 hubs, that is 55 different rapid transit routes you would require, that would be some serious money spent on grade separation.

      The reason this model works in the airline industry is getting a plane into the air is expensive and grade separation is effectively free.

      1. You only need to grade separate where the infrastructure (metro, lrt) requires it. There is no reason that smaller services (bus, brt, light rail) cannot be at grade with junction priority)

        1. I wouldn’t call BRT or LRT a ‘smaller service’ as we can see from plans for both of these things being planned in Auckland at the moment, even without grade separation they are not cheap.

    3. Given that the airline industry is the least profitable industry for decades on end, I’m not sure we want to copy their model for PT.

  6. Interesting since I gather airlines in the US and elsewhere are trending away from hub-and-spoke topologies, preferring instead direct links between smaller centres at higher frequencies – essentially the Uber/shuttle bus model. Hence the huge orders for Embraer’s and Bombardier’s regional jets and good orders for A320 and 787s, while the hub-to-hub A380 languishes.

    1. I never mentioned spokes.
      The service pattern (hub & spoke + direct smaller hub to hub) would be totally determined by the demand, just as it is in the airline industry

    2. Peter, for airlines, was the hub and spoke system suitable because flying was more expensive? Was it that people would expect to transfer (perhaps by another mode) to a hub? Whereas now, the middle classes find flying cheap, don’t own the climate change it causes, and want the most convenience?

      1. @Heidi I’m not sure what the relative footprints per passenger km are for multiple smaller journeys vs hub-to-hub with connections – and factors other than flight emissions come into play. I suspect there was an operational desire to keep things centralised, and now that aircraft engines have become massively more fuel efficient and their emissions much reduced, the benefit of cramming more people onto bigger planes has narrowed (though the proliferation of low-cost carriers and their planes cancels out the emission gains).

        I know there’s a general disdain for the carbon consequences of flying – well founded – but surely it’s more efficient than driving across, say, Europe in anything but a Tesla. Or taking the TGV.

        Throwing it wider, high speed trains and sail-assisted shipping beat everything else over long distances, don’t they? No one seems to be doing the later… nor solar-powered Zeppelins. There’s a steam punk idea that could do with another look…

        1. There’s a sailor who has a regular run bringing coffee down from Fiji and supplies several Auckland cafes… 🙂

          Europe seems to be mucking up its long-distance travel with supercheap flights and expensive rail. I’d love to know what the drivers (no pun intended) are.

    3. In airline, transferring is inefficient because of too much time and fuel waste on landing, transfer, security checks, and take off fuel cost.

      Also using bigger planes means the planes will be very empty during off season, wasting fuel.

      It pt as soon as frequency is high, transfer doesn’t involve too much overhead.

  7. @kiwi_overseas Splitting hairs – you didn’t, I did because the model is built on hubs and spoke arrangements are implied (people have to get to hubs somehow). But it’s the hub-to-hub model that is being redrawn. Ask Airbus.

    Anyhow there’s a degree of hub aggregation in the Auckland plan as it stands. And the article based on Levy’s work suggests that’s just fine, as long as the scale’s right. Unless you’re proposing mini-hubs – simply called stations, to which people come to catch a train. On foot or wheels – take your pick.

  8. Great post.

    Auckland currently has a few issues to solve in order to make TOD successful.

    First, Auckland have an issue in planning the new greenfield development. They do not plan any a rapid transit around it.

    For example, master planned new development like hobsonville has poor ferry frequency, and a slow bus service.

    What should have been happened is there should be a rapid transit station in any major new planned development.

    Second issue is a lot of land around train station has fragmented ownership and inefficient height to boundary restrictions making efficient redevelopment in small sections difficult. For example fruitivale station.

    Third is our train speed and frequency currently is not attractive enough to make car free possible to facilitate attractive TOD.

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