This post originally appeared on TheSpinoff, reproduced here with permission.

There’s a quiet revolution underway in Auckland. Slowly but relentlessly transforming the city. It began early in the century, a big change of direction taken in small steps, and has been continued by every council and government since. It is becoming an impressive and an undeniable success, and is changing a great deal about our biggest city; its pattern and its possibilities, its international image, indeed its very idea of itself. This is about to really accelerate over the coming decade, with a new scale and transformative force. Yet it is still invisible to many. 

This is because mostly, it looks like a bus.

Or a train or a ferry. Surprisingly, Auckland is becoming an actually effective public transport city; a city where more and more people can successfully live more of their lives without needing a car. 

People are voting with their bums; increasingly putting them on public seats in public vehicles. From a low point of around 30m annual trips in 1994, this year we are about to hit 100m, a number not seen since before the auto age, an increase well in advance of population growth.

In terms of PT use; we now live in the anti-1950-60s

This is not an accident, but is the result of many decades of hard work by many different people, from all sides of the political spectrum, especially in council, but also central government. After all, no one can choose to ride a bus or a train that isn’t there.

This is a profound shift for anyone used to late 20th century Auckland, a city that had become, through strenuous official effort, one of the most car-focussed cities outside the US. A place where public transport services had been allowed to wither to uselessness.

It isn’t that this new Auckland is yet available everywhere by any means. Quality of the services is still patchy outside of the city centre, or places that happen to be along the revived rail lines, and up the busway on the North Shore. There remain terrible transit shadows, especially in Mangere, East, and Northwest Auckland, and other gaps and frustrations between; still slow or infrequent services, or poor stops and stations. But the great news is that looking ahead to the actually funded programme for the next decade these are being addressed.

Such a metamorphosis of a whole city necessarily takes time. Looking both back and into the future, we can see that we are now around half way through a 30 year programme of retrofitting full transit networks into a previously auto dependent city. 

To understand this journey we need to go back to the highly contested decision to bring trains back to lower Queen St with the transformation of the grand old CPO into Britomart station. Opening in 2003 this began the revival of our then second-hand diesel train service, by actually taking users close enough to where they needed to be; the city centre. Championed by then Mayor Christine Fletcher but furiously opposed by her successor John Banks and others. This relatively small investment provided just enough evidence for the Clark-led government to commit to electrification and other upgrades to the suburban rail network. As well as the stunning urban regeneration of the space above the line in the city centre.

The other absolutely crucial early enabler of this revolution was the construction, by that same government, of the Northern Busway. Opening in 2008 this was also loudly opposed, predicted to be a white elephant, but instead was an instant and enduring success. Importantly it showed not only is it possible to add new rapid transit lines to places without historic routes like rail lines, it also put to bed forever the absurd claim that certain parts of town are ‘too posh to bus’. Everywhere people will choose a service if it is of high enough quality. And if it’s really good; fast, frequent, safe and reliable, many people will. 

Three important programmes started under the previous government continued under the new Key-led one; amalgamation of the city’s local authorities, the introduction of the HOP card, and the electrification of the rail network. 

The creation of Auckland Transport (AT) in 2010, at last unifying the delivery of transport services under one roof, enabled the coordination necessary to support all this growth.

The HOP card with integrated fares meaning passengers pay only once for connected journeys across a number of different trips has significantly reduced the cost barrier for many users, especially from further out, or disconnected places.

Fancy new electric trains on better schedules are also a huge success, driving a big jump in ridership. Since this upgrade there have been no more extensions to the core faster Rapid Transit Network (RTN), and much of the growth has been on regular bus routes, with AT redesigning the entire bus system while still delivering it, vastly improving both service to riders and its efficiency. 

But now there are at last three new extensions to the top-tier network underway, the Busway is being extended to Albany. An Eastern Busway is being built to speed riders to trains at Panmure Station from Pakuranga, at last starting to address this huge gap on the transit map. And a new interchange at Puhinui Station is being added, bringing seamless connection to an Airport busway for users of two of our three main rail lines.

The previous government and council also, of course, committed to funding the City Rail Link, which will double rail capacity and vastly improve the reach into the city centre for anyone along the rail network. This massive project however won’t be open until 2024, so in the meantime other work is underway at AT to speed and improve all those increasingly full buses on main arterial routes, as bus still does the heavy lifting in Auckland. 

The clear fact that we simply can’t keep adding more and more buses to our streets, and especially not to the booming city centre, is among the reasons the current government saw that to serve the other two big gaps in the top tier of the system: the North West and through the Isthmus and Mangere, need to be higher capacity Light Rail. These two lines, along with the Eastern Busway, will complete the doubling of the RTN from three to six lines, covering all points of the compass. 

ATAP 2018

So while the work in first decade or so of this revolution was relatively modest, their success worked as proof of concept. The second half of the programme is going to complete the transformation much more quickly. The result of this will be revolutionary levels of choice for nearly all Aucklanders, the option to travel throughout the city without a car will be easier and more attractive.

Which  is Auckland’s best hope to reduce carbon and other emissions as the city still grows, because, in our cities it is cars, not cows, that are the greatest source of climate change gases. We do need to make it more than just possible to drive less, but to actually make it the best choice for more trips much more often.

This ambitious plan is also already changing the shape of the city. Transport and land use influence each other reciprocatively; compact walkable cities need high quality transit to support that car-lite urban form, and vice versa. Low density sprawl is predicated on several cars in every garage, and lots of space between and around buildings. Auckland has spent this entire century filling in. Even though we are still building houses at the end of the motorway, and experiencing the inevitable traffic congestion as a result, more than 75% of all housing growth has been with the existing urban area for two decades. This trend continues to accelerate.

What about the happy suburbanist and keen driver? Well this is the best outcome for them too. Auckland has a saturated driving market; it has a mature road network on a constrained land mass, and a high level of car ownership. Adding the complementary alternative networks to the driving ones enables this boom in PT ridership to continue, freeing up road space for those who choose or need to drive. Especially important for the vital service, goods, and emergency providers.

Great Public Transport is a necessary condition for a great city this century. Auckland is already achieving something truly remarkable with this globally significant success story. Transformation is an easy word to write but a hard one to actually achieve in across a whole city.

Auckland is giving it a lash.

Share this

110 comments

  1. While the NW, Isthmus and Mangere, may need higher capacity Light Rail, I’m not expecting this government will have any money for it in the budget.

      1. Did you trying using the search bar on the treasury web site? That would tell you if there is budget money for LR
        hint – there isnt, unless some last minutes updates to budget occur 🙂

        1. This is an incitement to commit the crime of ‘Operation Swordfish’-style computer hacking and I hope the mods delete your comment

        2. There’s 1.1 billion in the budget for KiwiRail. New locomotives, new wagons, track and maintenance facility upgrades, no regional passenger rail.

    1. Light Rail hasn’t been greenlit yet (the business case isn’t completed, so yay or nay is still pending), so I wouldn’t expect budget funding for a project that doesn’t yet exist.

      1. +1, the budget is for this year’s detailed items, right. It’s in the RLTP and NLTP, so that’s as committed as anything beyond this year can get.

  2. Perhaps the Auckland fuel tax should be extended to cover aviation fuel so all those flying out of Auckland airport contribute to the public transport links needed to get them to the airport. It would also make a level playing field with the long distance ground based transport operators who drive out of Auckland.

      1. The current increase in travellers using aircraft to and from the airport is not sustainable and should be addressed.

  3. Great post, highlights what great progress Auckland has made over the past decade, but also how far we still have to go. The 2020s are going to be a really interesting decade for this place, we are past ‘turning points’ and now into transformation.

    1. Are we? The 2020s should be a time of construction and setting us up for the next 30 years. Currently we have some major projects, but the really transformational and new stuff isn’t getting through the bureaucracy fast enough to actually be delivered by the end of the next decade.

      1. While earlier is better, whether it is delivered in 2029 or 2031 is relatively trivial in the bigger picture.

        1. I’ve been crying about that one. Nightmare. Inhufuckingmane city.

          And thinking about the road there. It needs narrowing. It needs cycle lanes. It needs trees. So what gives? Certainly the median strip and turning bay. But that won’t be enough. Do we have to actively work to reducing traffic numbers down to the point that we don’t need a priority bus lane?

          What’s needed is so far-reaching. What’s being done is nothing close to what’s needed.

        2. That part of NNR through Kingsland is a town centre/village. 30k, tables, single lanes, trees, ped focus.

          Then that Sandringham rd intersection is an abomination that needs curing of sliplane addiction like the rest of Auckland central.

        3. Let’s put those suggestions through the machinery, shall we? Take three years to have it scaled back to a bit of paint.

        4. And yes reducing vehicle numbers. PT/active should become the main mode for all local movements in our city fringe areas. There’s already a motorway parallel, we can’t accept this level of risk on local roads.

        5. I saw someone die crossing Jervois rd when I was walking to intermediate school and the road layout hasn’t changed since except the speed cameras got outdated and taken out.

        6. Couldn’t help noticing on Google maps that at the Sandringham / New North road intersection, the slip lanes on two sides have no zebra crossings.
          So you have to play Russian Roulette just to get to the triangular refuge where you can press the beg button.
          That’s utterly bizarre – give pedestrians a light controlled crossing that only covers half the road.
          Does anyone ever tell the authorities that this is stupid? What do they say? Obviously there should be a zebra crossing on all such slip lanes.

        7. Yes, Julian. I believe the nutter who made slip lanes all over the city a standard device was the same one who implemented ‘courtesy crossings’.

          I think this designed crash happened at the signalised crossing on Sandringham Rd outside the train station where the road is too wide and people go too fast.

        8. Yes, that’s only half an hour in congestion each working day for two extra years…that’s 260 extra hours, or almost 11 days of time spent solely in the congestion that has made my commute half an hour worse in the last three years, over those extra two years.

          11 days of my life is not relatively trivial to me.

        9. That argument could apply to pretty much any infrastructure project that has ever happened but the world hasn’t come to an end.

          All projects are talked about and appear in plans long before they come to fruition.

        10. What is much worse is rushed projects that show serious constraints within the first few years after opening.

        11. Not good enough. There are thousands of new houses going in up the road from me. They and the traffic are real now. If the infrastructure to support them is going to take longer to come to fruition then it is simply not feasible to continue building more and more housing.

        12. I disagree on the importance of timing.

          By 2030, Auckland needs to have reduced carbon emissions from transport by about 30-40% (NB: More if National are in government because they’re likely to offer more subsidies for agricultural emissions, which will demand that the transport sector lifts more with regards to the country’s carbon commitments). And remember that’s a commitment National signed us up for.

          Working backwards from 2030, prices are the only transport policies that can deliver a reduction in vehicle demand –> emissions of that magnitude. This means within the next decade, Auckland will need to (1) expand priced parking and (2) adopt congestion pricing. If we are to deliver road pricing by 2029, then we need to fill the gaps in the RTN circa 2028 at the latest.

          Basically, the climate crisis will demand that we abandon “Business-as-usual” transport scenarios. In every city where I have worked, the BAU transport scenario is entirely incompatible with the realities of our existing commitments to reduce carbon emissions. And even our existing commitments appear to be insufficient, which implies that necessary reduction is actually higher.

          Basically, IMO we don’t have time to wait: 2030 is the deadline by which the core PT network needs to be in place ready for road pricing. Now can someone please tell MoT and NZTA? And maybe the National Party while you’re at it (the highways they want to build just can’t be built, at least now and perhaps ever).

        13. What is our punishment for delivering an RTN network in 2031 rather than 2030?

          There are downsides to completing things quickly as well. We could well have been celebrating the opening of CRL in 2021 and by 2031 commiserating the failure to allow for 9-carriage trains and the resultant extra traffic that lack of foresight has caused.

          Yes of course we should do everything perfectly and do it now, but that rarely happens in practice.

        14. Yes, Stu. And with tens of billions of dollars going in carbon abatement costs even before 2030 – that gives an indication of how high they’re going to be once the carbon credit price rises AND our graduated commitments ramp up.

          We’ve committed to reduce emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. That’s a drop of 43% below 2017/18 levels, nationwide. I think Auckland’s vkt needs to be cut much more than the national average because we have more options for access in a big city.

          Once you put it in terms of needing to halve the vkt, or even less, by 2030 (and to keep cutting it further for higher and higher commitments) it’s clear that our current ATAP’s not up to the job.

          The big projects still need to be done well, but as you say, other factors like pricing have to be implemented urgently.

          I would put in road reallocation through tactical urbanism as a must-do in the next few years. We can spend the latter half of the next decade making changes permanent. Right now, we need to go boldly into changing our streetscapes through whatever means we can to prioritise and make walking and micromobility safe, including to the bus stop.

          And while the work for the city centre needs to progress to do it well, in the suburbs none of this even seems to be on the cards. We’ll just have to show the way. Are you ready, AT?

        15. Sorry, clarification:

          “We’ve committed to reduce emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. **As vkt**, That’s a drop of 43% below 2017/18 levels, nationwide.”

        16. Great stuff Stu – finally someone has said it – it cant be business as usual. Many overseas cities and a lesser number of countries get it, but not here it seems.
          There are areas where congestion/road pricing could already be introduced because options exist and that is clearly the city. I strongly suspect that most people who work in the city don’t need to drive to the city.
          Maybe we should already have inter city road tolls because much of this travel is discretionary and therefore users can choose whether they wish to pay for it. Might this add a fraction of a cent to a can of baked beans? Yes it might, but inflation is largely in check.
          I completely agree with you that we cannot wait until 2029 until we do something. Despite Patricks rosy assertion Auckland still has a mode share around 81%- by international standards we are an embarrassment and most of our European visitors are derisive of out public transport.
          I also agree with you about one of the solutions. Maybe extra roads shouldn’t be built right now on the basis that they simply wont be needed – ever.
          I have been amazed from our recent time in Europe. Huge numbers of people use trains for intercity transport. I was gobsmacked in travelling from Milan to Venice that 60% of the traffic was trucks – very few driving. Had road tolls caused this?
          There is another way. In Auckland it should start with a transparent report by AT on what they are spending on roads and road renewal; and then an examination, line by line, project by project, of whether it is needed if the aim is to dramatically reverse car mode share.

        17. And, of course, the slip lane is precisely the spot where a motorist is least likely to be watching for a pedestrian because they’ll be looking over their right shoulder for traffic closing from their right.

        18. Stu. We apparently have over $28 billion of spending on these projects coming in Auckland alone right?
          That’s $28 billion of cement steel aggregate bitumen plastic and any other building material you can think of.
          The carbon spend of this is enormous. Some claim the manufacture of cement contributes up to 8% of global emissions along and steel more than 5%.
          It seems to me entirely probable that we can’t build our way out of this.
          If we spend that much carbon and continue a growth path I don’t see how cutting VKT by 43% is going to get us there.
          3 things I wonder.
          Does the cure kill the patient?
          Are people more afraid of climate change policy than they are of climate change?
          Is anybody here really prepared to do what’s necessary?

          A bit rambling but hopefully someone can follow.

        19. Bit rambling and a bit unrelated to Julian’s comment about slip lanes. Who were you replying to, Tony?

        20. I’m proposing cheap trials at the moment.

          Perhaps policy to:
          – buy more buses and put on more frequent services,
          – restrict cars – tax? road pricing? cordon off areas

          Can have a good effect on reducing vkt without having to build anything? And then with some well-chosen ‘building’ for road reallocation…

          We do have choices, at this stage, and they can be equitable and respectful. If we don’t act now, those options will be whittled away.

      2. I share your impatience. But I urge you to remember how recent it is even having such ideas treated seriously by our officials and masters, let alone as official plans, let alone funded!

        This is a great time. That NZTA are struggling to change quickly from being largely a rural highway builder to becoming a rapid transit provider, is, in hindsight, unsurprising. Some naivety perhaps there on our part born of enthusiasm… But I have no doubt it will sort through.

        And anyway, I would much rather it’s done well than quickly. It’s too important for that. And my understanding is, and this I can share, that they are going right back to first principles of transit planning in evaluating the various RT proposals for the two next routes.

        I fully support this approach, and while wish it could be sooner, better is better than quicker…

        1. And that’s where I respectfully disagree.

          The future planet my daughter hopes to inhabit does not have the luxury of time. The urgency we now face is critical.

          So, please, for her sake, don’t down play the critical need for speed that exists in relation to transport investment. We cannot let perfect be the enemy of good.

        2. Agree Stu, but talking about a year on major LR projects, not on any of the near term bus work, that can have immediate effect. Essentially the initial timeline for LR was unrealistic, given the problems at NZTA. Interestingly it probably would have been Ok if the project had stayed at AT, who are more experienced than NZTA with both PT and cities.

          But, and am not re-writing history here, I did support LR going to NZTA on the grounds that we need a nation wide high level PT systems capability and not just an Auckland one. But it is now clear the cost of that idea includes a slowing down of delivery LR1 in AKL.

          And agree with you about pricing. That must come too.

        3. I’m not commenting specifically on LR Patrick.

          I’m saying that the transport system we need to have for road pricing needs to be implemented before 2030. If it can’t then something has to give, and the urgency of the climate crisis means that’s unlikely to be road pricing.

        4. Stu, yes it is too slow. A new bus can be put on the road tomorrow. We can reconfigure routes tomorrow.
          I recently wrote to AT suggesting reconfiguring a part of the Takapuna network that would change frequency on that route from 30 minutes to 10 minutes at no extra cost. The person who wrote back to me didnt even seem to know where the bus ran; or if they did what streets it could take; or that for many of the riders of that bus, the bus that they were suggesting was inconvenient. (I am ambivalent about this matter because I can use both routes, but I do have a concern about the success of the wider network.)
          AT are not trying hard enough in respect of better PT. As you say, for the sake of our kids, they need to do better. Like you I have real concerns about what they will grow up to and if the worst case scenario that AC have written of for 2050 it will be a shit heap.

        5. Agree John. My personal approach is one of good ol’ fashioned backwards induction.

          That is, we need to start with the VKT reduction we need in 2030 and work backwards to determine what transport policies we need. My view is that pricing, and congestion pricing in particular, is unavoidable not just as a demand management measure but as a tool for reducing carbon emissions.

          That’s assuming we don’t have a first-best carbon price by 2030, which I think is reasonable because that’s probably about $100 per tonne now and rising the longer we do nothing.

          I don’t think anywhere has really “got it” yet. Even in Europe, their motivations for adopting the transport policies they have, including prices, were usually not related to carbon emissions. If course having done so for different reasons they’re now better placed to respond to climate change.

        6. I think the NZSF offer and the disorganistation at NZTA are also a large part of the delay on the LRT project. Part of the LRT allocations have also been spent on CRL upgrades. They haven’t been able to find savings in their road CAPEX – in fact projects like Transmission Gully are still dragging the allocations.

          Potentially the NZSF as also provided room for the LRT opponents in NZTA to delay decisions.

          Some of the timing on road projects maybe depend on contracts as well.

          Clearly we are luckily that Simon Bridges was not making a budget decision about spending money on EWL or CRL.

        7. Stu,
          yes I agree with your approach of backwards induction and that it is completely sensible. I also agree with your comments that there needs to be an even approach over the years.
          My worry is that the end point is not fully understood. I will post on that later.

        8. Stu, if the climate crisis is real (I’m not convinced), then it’s not going to be averted by less driving and more riding. NZ could install extensive PT networks in every town and city, it won’t make any difference to the climate. And since we have elections every three years, we will never see the day when a government forces people to abandon their cars. It will only ever be an incremental change.

          The real problem is human activity in general. The industrial revolution is where it began, and for as long as we want a world with buildings, electric cars, trains, buses, computers, tools, electricity and eveything else the modern world offers, we will mine ore and mine/burn coal (without coal, there’s no steel).

          If the climate crisis is real, then the future lies in humanity returning to its roots, pre-industry. Either because nature insists, or we choose that path.

          Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic ain’t gonna keep it afloat.

        9. @Geoff;
          Why do you doubt the Climate crisis existing given that: There’s a virtual consensus amongst the scientific community and we’re already seeing the effects?

          It’s like denying evolution or the benefits of vaccines.

        10. “if the climate crisis is real (I’m not convinced),”

          How on earth are you not convinced by now? What more evidence could possibly convince someone who is *still* not convinced?

        11. Thank you Stu, we do need to move with more speed.
          We also need to inform the public as too what we are doing and try to take them with us. It would be ideal if we could understand the present iteration of the carbon trading scheme and how it is achieving carbon reductions and what are it”s implications.
          My own feelings are that if we could see it and how it is affecting our every day lives there may be a greater understanding that would help us to change the thinking. At the moment I feel that little is being achieved and we should ditch the emissions trading scheme and go for a carbon tax with a real progression set out on the cost of carbon. The revenue to be used to offset the disadvantages being shouldered by the low income section of the community. Such as helping with greater PT growth.

        12. Thanks Ted. I share your concerns with the ETS. It seems to have started slowly. I’m no expert on it, but it could be that ramping its operations up will get an effect – even if imperfect – before a carbon tax can be brought in. You know how the politics is. If a need for a better system becomes apparent and politically possible, maybe we can switch later?

  4. Research shows that cyclists are the happiest commuters. But I think what’s going on in Auckland is producing quite a few happy bus users, too. Part of that is the social side. I love watching kids and teens using the bus in groups, or meeting each other by surprise. Part of it is that you can use your phone.

    It’s important to keep working away at improvements. But posts like this are a good opportunity to reflect on the improvements we’ve already made. And to show to people who still think that “no-one likes the bus”. I do; I love it. And it looks like plenty of people are happy enough to use it, once they get the services that work.

    1. Heidi, you are a ray of optimistic sunshine in midst of coughing bus exhaust. I agree its great to see happy bunches of children teenagers catching busses. Their conversation always amuses me and my counting of ‘like’ use in their language skillset reaches ever high records.
      Best to date is three tweenage/teenage girls fast breathless chatter managed just on 50 ‘like’ in a minute. (One was my daughter plus her friends on way to New Lynn movie theatre)
      Certainly makes bus trip much more amusing and hence happy although like all ancients the evolving teenager language gets confusing.

      1. 🙂 I haven’t counted ‘like’ in a while. I can get to 15 just counting the words I don’t know. But I have other games, too. Like how long does smiling take to get a smile back from the grumpiest face? And then there’s the “can I count all the cars parked illegally on this route right to the end, or will I get distracted by something more interesting on the way?” Usually I get distracted, or I’d be boring you with the numbers…

    2. I’ve cycled to work in the past to save money and maintain fitness.
      Can’t say I was too happy all the time doing it though, like when it was too windy or wet.

  5. Great stuff. Still a long way to go, but at least the next round of rapid transit investments are underway.

    Putting on my black hat: What could happen to disrupt Auckland’s public transport growth? What could go wrong?

    I have a few candidates, but they seem more likely to not occur:

    1. Technological change: If we invent a new, cheaper, and more convenient transport mode, PT use may decline again. However, driverless cars still seem a ways off, and electric bikes are as likely to boost rapid transit use as undermine it.
    2. Failure to deliver: If transport agencies can’t build useful stuff or provide good services, then the public may suspend funding. This is an everpresent risk but will hopefully reduce over time as agencies get more practice.
    3. Economic decline: If NZ experiences a long, deep recession or a sustained slide in living standards, then demand to travel may fall. I think we’ve mostly got macroeconomic policy settings that mitigate this risk, but things can always go wrong.
    4. Decline in Auckland’s growth rate: If Auckland itself gets less attractive than the rest of the country, then population growth may fall and cut into PT growth. High house prices are the most likely culprit here, but there seem to be some signs of a rebalancing, with Auckland prices flat or falling and prices rising in most other parts of the country.

    Any others I’ve missed?

    1. Oh, and I should add that what’s really exciting about the Eastern Busway, Puhinui Station to airport, and eventually Airport to Botany routes is that they are the first non-radial rapid transit corridor Auckland will build.

      All other rapid transit routes feed directly in to the city centre. This has been transformational for the city centre. I’ll be interested to see how cross-town routes reshape other parts of the city.

      1. Yes this is really important. A new phase, and extending RT without adding more buses to the city centre is essential from now on. But also East Auckland is ready to boom like the North Shore did. They exhibit exactly the same social profile, and severance from the big employment centre. They’ll resist using PT till it gets irresistibly effective, just like the Shore.

        Permanent Buslanes on Pak Highway more important in my view than Botany Busway… more services that way. Talk about low hanging fruit. Time with opening of Pan to Pak.

        What will also need timing with this is, finally, Rapid all day 10 min service on Eastern Line. Happily more trains are coming, drivers need hiring. And, I suspect, not only the third on the NIMT, but also on the plateau of Eastern, ie Ōtāhuhu to GI, or there abouts…

    2. No need to worry about driverless cars as nobody is ever going to allow them even if they work. Can you imagine Mr terrorist getting four and loading them with fertiliser and sending them out into a city? Even just knowing that is possible will be enough to stop anyone allowing driverless cars.

      1. Nice to see you being optimistic, miffy. Must be the sunshine.

        Haven’t we shown convincingly that we just plough on ahead with “progress” because it’s “progress”?

        1. A group, like GA, consisting of both optimists and pessimists seems likely to make better collective decisions than groups dominated by either one of those perspectives.

          Basically, I’m optimistic that Miffy’s pessimism has a value, even when we choose to disregard it.

          In terms of Peter’s comment, there’s also a big upside risk that may mean patronage ends up being higher than we’re anticipating: the climate crisis, and policies arising therefrom, may increase the demand for (and hence value of) PT investment.

        2. Patrick, yes Europe is the inspiration. I have just recently come across the Charter of Brussels regarding active mode share. I dont currently bike, but the great bike ways in Milan and Vienna convinced me that if we had been there for a longer time then I would. OK, well perhaps because PT transport options were so good.
          Its encouraging that many citizens in those countries are so proud of their PT. We met our daughters young friend in Milan and she spoke with passion of their recent changes. We arrived in Vienna by train and we asked at Information how we would get to our hotel. I knew that we could travel by tram, but my wife was sceptical and we had elderly parents with us. We asked, where can you get a taxi? He looked at us strangely and said, you can get a tram. With different mindsets you can get different results!

    3. Peter, good list, but my take is this is a major societal structural shift comparable to the last one in the post war era, best described as the sprawl/highway age.

      If I’m right about that, it is as irresistible as any zeitgeist, and has decades to run, and the only immediate threats to it are political, organisational, or macro economic (crisis or collapse). But even so all of these would simply alter its pace not direction.

      Then it will be superseded by the next thing, the next technological/social/environmental shift. But this is unknowable, and, is many decades distant. If I have to guess it would be something tripped by climate crisis… but that’s just a guess. Humans are crap at imagining things being different. Always wrong, except for a few really imaginative thinkers…

      1. There are plenty of places ploughing on with the wider roads -> more driving -> sprawling suburbs growth model. For better or worse. I don’t think this can continue indefinitely, but places like Hamilton have room to continue for the near term at least.

        Auckland will have to be ahead of the curve as it is exceptionally constrained. There is less vacant land here for development of any kind, and existing transport corridors are largely built out. Road widening is therefore unusually costly, and that creates a fundamental incentive to pursue different transport options.

        I can understand why people might be uncomfortable about this. There will be costs and inconveniences along the way. But I think that it’s very difficult to articulate a plausible alternative to ‘build out rapid transit and cycleways’ at this point, which is why nobody seems to be able to do so.

      2. Another way of putting it is that what’s happening in Auckland is less about zeitgeist and more about incentives!

        1. I would put the same thing another way. We spent the last 60 years spreading out by building main roads outwards, then motorways outwards, widening the roads, widening the first motorways and then widening them again… that worked for decades but now we’ve simply run out of empty corridors to build on or easy roads to widen (again).

          The key problem I think, is that there was actually plenty of vacant land and easy corridors to widen for a very long time. From the 1970s until today they’d just keep filling in the flat land between Howick and Papatoetoe, but oops it’s actually all joined up now right back to the Hunuas! We got used to it so much until its the only thing we know. And now we have to do something vastly different.

  6. On the vastly improved list:

    Rail be it the trains themselves, the platforms, the track, the expanded network and the frequency.
    Northern busway.
    Integrated ticketing and that one is huge.
    Ferries and wharf infrastructure
    Standards for buses
    Bigger buses
    AT app works pretty well.

    On the could do better list:
    Although buses are now better ventilated and this alone makes a vast difference in rider experience, its is very inconsistent and dependent on the driver and or operator.
    Not enough time between transfers using HOP.
    Ferry frequency less than optimal, Hobsonville being hopeless.
    Ferry fares expensive
    Ferries not really fit for purpose
    PT fares not particularly good value
    Northern busway sadly incomplete especially around Northcote. The tacked on half arse lanes from Stafford Rd cross an off ramp and two on ramps and that ain’t safe.

    On the 1960s who cares about PT, need to do vastly better list:

    Non existent PT mode connection at Britomart (exception being the ferry proximity)
    Buses with the exception of the original Northern busway are soooooo slowwwww, Jesus wept they are slow
    Most time tabling begins too late for many in the morning and finishing too early. Totally rule out shiftworkers.
    Buses being the main mode of PT full stop.
    West Auckland PT infrastructure, with exception of rail is like a trip back to the 60’s when PT was on the way out. It largely bus based and totally at the mercy of gridlocked roads.

    1. I’d add in to the third list, substandard safety for people accessing bus stops and train stations all over the city. Lack of police enforcement of red light running and of speeding. Lack of AT enforcement of illegal parking. Lack of decent crossing infrastructure and vulnerable user priority.

      1. There should be red light cameras on every set of traffic lights.

        They’d pay for themselves in about 3 months

        1. Yes. Mind blowing that this hasn’t happened already.

          Where are the police? They seem to be so focused on personal responsibility they can’t step up to the task of making a safer system, with all strands of safety improved.

    2. Agree regarding transfer times. In my opinion it should be five trips within four hours, irrespective of the time taken between each of the transfers.

    3. Regarding bus ventilation, most are sealed air conditioned and end up musty/moldy. They need to air them out back at the depot by leaving the doors open in fine weather. Another option would be to plug in a ventilation filter system at night to air them out.

  7. For me the biggest improvements has being the new bus network and the Manukau Bus station. But as Waspman has stated above the situation in the city with bus transfer to trains and ferries is poor. Inter connectivity is much better at Manukau.
    On rail the new electric trains are great although I find it wasteful we couldn’t have used the SA SD as well. I was a supporter of the southern link into Manukau but I am not so sure that is so important now with many transferring at Puhinui. The new route from Puhinui to the airport will be awesome and I await with bated breath on how the buses will be rearranged to fill the gap left by 380 not traveling past Papatoetoe station.
    My main focus will be on the eastern busway and particularly its connection to Manukau and the airport, also I will be watching how passenger rail is extended south to Hamilton. I will also be keeping a critical look at how light rail finds its way through Onehunga and on to Mangere and the airport.
    But yes a lot has being achieved so well done to all involved.

  8. I would agree with everyone that there have been very significant advances and changes in Auckland’s PT. Integrated ticketing was a biggie for me. The electric trains are a leap forward but like Royce I thought it wasteful that the SAs and SDs couldnt be used, perhaps with new electric locomotives.
    The continuing disappointment is the awful state of PT in NW Auckland although the vast improvements of SH16 balance that somewhat. I cant use language strong enough to express gob smackingly astonishment that we have major work ongoing on SH16 at Lincoln Rd up to Royal Rd and to Westgate that involves new road overbridges for extra SH16 traffic lanes BUT apparently no route for either NW light rail or a NW busway.
    Still want the trains to Huapai and Helensville.

    1. Yes. Unforgivable of NZTA. They need to fix this fast. And some heads should roll too, if they’re still there.

      1. +1, it’s worse than not building it too. They haven’t even built the bridges to accommodate the RTN in the future.$10ms of bridging work that will have to be ripped out in a few years. This is emblematic of the National Government’s ‘f**k you’ attitude to and deliberate sabotage of AT and AC.

        I’m aware that NZTA staff were under ministerial pressure, but I think I’d rather quit in disgust than have my reputation tarnished by that decision.

  9. Patrick, I have checked a number of dictionaries because I thought revolution was dramatic change. I think that what has happened in Auckland should better be described as evolution. Our leaders have realised that larger cities need PT to function and we have evolved accordingly.
    I dont believe that our PT ridership has moved ahead of population growth as you suggest. If that was the case then mode share wouldn’t be much the same as it has always been – that is around 81%. That is enormously disappointing.
    Changes have been helpful, but have not been enough to change mode share which how now become absolutely critical as the city struggles to reduce emissions Change has been limited by the amount that we have chosen to invest in roads and road renewal, often at the expense of PT. It seems that the mood to substantially reverse previous priorities has arrived.
    As others have said, if road users were to pay the true cost of the provision of roads this would free up money to better develop PT infrastructure and expenditure on opex. This will be revolution and transformational change and I hope that AT and NZTA have the fortitude to move quickly in this direction.
    While there are some huge projects being developed for the next ten years I am sure that climate change will demand that other major advancements such as rail to the Shore will become necessary well in advance of what is currently planned.

    1. I think what Patrick is trying to communicate is that by taking a series of incremental steps over 30-years AKL will be transformed. To a point where in 2030 people will look back at where we were in 2000 and express amazement at how they got to where they are.

      Whether that’s evolution or revolution depends on the benchmark rate of change, which is somewhat subjective. And when you’re talking transport and land use patterns, manifest over relatively long time-frames.

      1. Yes; the process has been incremental, but the outcome is a quiet revolution. Now is time to speed it up.

        Your dictionary research will have shown that revolution means turning of the wheel. And that is what the first chart shows, we are not going back to the 1940s, we are moving forwards but in a way that reverses the secular ridership declines of the 1950-60s to get to a new place.

        Next real change is dramatic increases in PT ridership (and Active) but this time with actual declines in vehicle use per capita. That’s the revolution i’m anticipating… What we’ve been building is the launchpad for that.

        You might then agree that’s a revolution in the more dramatic sense?

        1. I completely agree Patrick that now is the time to speed it up.
          What really concerns me is that many people don’t seem to comprehend the scale of the change required. A 40% reduction in vkt is huge. It certainly is not equivalent to a 40% increase in PT ridership, unless PT ridership matches car trips, which is only probably the case for peak hour trips from the North Shore.

          Here’s how I see it. Memory says that last year’s ATAP report stated Auckland PT mode share to be 5%. We know this equates to 92 million trips per year.
          A little simple maths shows that the total number of annual trips of all descriptions must be 1,840,000,000 per year.
          If we assume that car mode share is 80% (its probably a little more than this) then the total number of annual trips by car is 1,472,000,000.
          If we want to reduce this by 40% (assuming that a 40% reduction in vkt is equivalent to a 40% reduction in trips) this amounts to 588 million trips per year.
          If we attempt to put those trips on any PT infrastructure that we have now, or are planning, it is simply impossible. The infrastructure just won’t cope. The ATAP Report talks of ridership of about 160-170 million in ten years time.
          This is the revolution that I imagine where the rate of change increases markedly.
          Change will depend on accessing new money, and lots of it, and that will inevitably come from those who have more of it. This may not be popular. Money obviously won’t come from taxing the family bach (or the reality for most NZers, the garden shed) even though with global warming the value of the bach might be dubious with high tides lapping just below the window sill. It seems reasonable to look at the way that many European cities (and others) have addressed paying for the true cost of roads and carbon emissions. Maybe we need to look at higher vehicle registration fees, a payroll tax, road tolls or higher petrol prices?
          Patrick, I do agree that this will be revolution in a dramatic sense; and I also agree with Stu that our kids future demands it.
          I don’t believe that currently either local or national government are prepared for the necessary rate of change and this is the aspect that concerns me the most.

        2. Thanks. Raw numbers of trips that need to shift from driving to PT or active modes must surely help people wake up.

          The other way to reduce the vkt is, as you know, from housing people more centrally. Doubling the intensity decreases vkt by 25 to 30%.

          We seem to find the same Councillors and Politicians who resist intensification measures also resist road reallocation and pricing. Same lack of vision and lack of understanding, I guess.

        3. How much further do we have to cut or where else do we find enough offset for all the carbon released by building all this infrastructure?

          Heidi, will people just abandon their suburban houses for high rises and apartments in the city?

        4. Lol Tony, your trembling ‘abandonment’ is know by the rest of the world as ‘moving’. And it happens all the time.

          What you are suffering from is the ‘completeness fallacy’. No, it does not require 100% of everything to be completely reversed in order for meaningful change to happen.

          Change always happens at the margin, everything has a vector as well as a quantum. Changing the vector, the direction, is the most important thing in order to achieve profound change.

          We can make the necessary decarbonisation of Auckland spatially by growing up from here. But this does require not demolishing every existing house, or even many. This is usually how change happens (outside of wars and disasters; but even then usually more persists than you’d think, chch is a good example), incrementally.

          Which does of course create the problem of people being able to go on living in the past for a very long time, then reacting with incredulity when they suddenly notice the rest of the world has moved on. Like those sad old goons freaking out over AT… so it goes.

          You just need to put one foot in front of the other and in a while you’ll be somewhere else, you should try it…

        5. Heidi, I agree with your premise, but not much of this will happen in the next 10 years. We simply cannot build central city apartments fast enough. It is like searching for enough affordable electric cars.

        6. Lol Patrick you’ve completely missed the point. No surprise tbh.
          Of course the suburbs won’t be abandoned.
          So there won’t be any intensification significant enough to reduce vkt by 25-30%.

          So maybe instead of attacking me you could show exactly where this massive reduction (and it is massive) is going to come from.

        7. Tony I’m not attacking you, just showing how just because you can’t imagine change, are emotionally invested against the very thought of change, doesn’t matter; it’s gonna happen to you and me and everyone else anyway. All you’re doing is stubbornly abandoning any chance of shaping it… which is fine.

        8. Tony – do you have any information to back up your concerns around emissions from construction of PT infrastructure cancelling out reductions from less driving?

        9. Emissions from PT infrastructure seems to be a strawman when we still haven’t succeeded in stopping the construction of roads, which are highly damaging during construction, during use, and in the way they change land use.

        10. I think I’m imagining the change far more accurately than you. I think you don’t realise the enormity of the task of reaching so called carbon zero. Including all the carbon you’re about to release trying to reach it.
          You’re still stuck in baby boomer growth mode.

        11. Im not sure what you think that means, especially as you don’t say, only that you’re better at thinking than me.

          Well, I don’t just think, I read what other people think, people who research this a lot. There’s an enormous opportunity in the transition, failure to see that is failure of the imagination, meh whatever.

          I’m used to being told we have it all wrong, but the last decade in Auckland shows that so far we’ve been way more accurate that those claiming nothing’s going to change like we think. That, in part, is what this post shows.

          Anyway try reading Alex Steffen: https://www.fastcompany.com/90318242/climate-change-is-inevitable-how-bad-it-gets-is-a-choice

        12. Tony, yes the carbon zero task is enormous as my figures above show.
          The great thing about building rail infrastructure is that largely you only do it once. It is also way less demanding in terms of related infrastructure. NZ won’t have to build more power stations as will happen if we adopt evs as the answer. Neither will we need more lines; electric not train. Apartment buildings devoid of garages is way less energy intensive than stand alone houses.
          Who knows whether outlying suburbs will be abandoned as petrol and road tolls kick in? I struggle to remember how NZ reacted to the oil shock of last century when travel became very much more expensive. I know that it caused me to live close to the city and the talk of peak oil over the years has caused me to continue to live close. My two daughters are both searching for houses and I have discussed with them whether their calculations factor in road charges.
          For me, Patrick has always spoken coherently, consistently and eloquently about PT as a solution for mobility, congestion and the environment. While he and I might differ about the pace of change required I accept his view and I think that you should his; change could well be tumultuous particularly if we don’t start to embrace it soon.

  10. I came back to look at that lovely graph. Apologies if it’s been noted before, but it’s really striking that the maximum occurred over the war years. You had relatively static usage pre-war (with a big dip, maybe for the depression?) followed by a huge rise in tram patronage during WW2, presumably due to petrol rationing? Maybe the “climate war” is our new peak, and this is our new “mobilisation”?

    1. Not just petrol rationing, but rubber tyres, oil and mechanics! My grandfather was a motorcycle mechanic who was sent to the New Hebrides to repair allied aircraft. You also had the mobilisation of women to the workforce for the first time so travel demand was up while private vehicle use was down.

  11. Yes, and not only was petrol scarce so were cars…and the country’s population was boosted by lots of Americans! Essentially the 1940s were a peculiarly perfect storm, being pre-mass motoring.

    Yes climate ‘war’ will drive this change onward, and land use changes are the big one. All those apartment dwellers; local centres getting more mixed use with employment and entertainment available locally is also great. The rise of the walkable hubs, soon to be interconnected by quality Transit…. is a function of, and cause of, the shift in movement behaviours and modes.

    No generation will ever drive like the Boomers. They are the drivingest people of all time; they drive more than their parents and more than their children… the 20th century is gone, its time to stop living there…

    1. the Marine camps in Auckland were all on rail lines, and entertainment centres were on the tram lines… seems like it all worked pretty well

  12. Great post. Progress seems slow in real time, but when we look back it’s surprising what has been done in Auckland in more recent times.

    1. Humans aren’t good at reading incremental change. Like trees growing or traffic building. We don’t seem to be wired for it. We keep adjusting with it, so it seems like a consistent present. But in fact all there is is change… it’s the only unchanging thing.

  13. While this is of course great news to see recorded public transport usage in Auckland rising; it is offset by the “Shifting fortunes” article from the other day about decreasing affordability in Auckland and a growing income disparity.

    And don’t forget; during the second world war when those tram patronage numbers were so high and all those women were going to paid jobs and giving total PT numbers higher still than today; Auckland population was about that of Christchurch and Wellington now. That’s between a 1/4 and 1/5 of what it is today. So there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

  14. The number of people using PT around 1945 is impressive – imagine if the tram lines were not removed, it would be an amazing figure today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *