Here’s our weekly collection of smaller pieces.
Otahuhu station works
Over the Christmas/New Year period works were undertaken to enable the third platform at Otahuhu, which is being done as part of the City Rail Link. A timelapse of the works is below.
Electric Bus MoU
Auckland Transport’s current plans to roll out electric buses with them specifying all new buses be electric by 2025 and all buses electric by 2040 is simply not ambitious enough. So there was some slightly good news this week that AT have signed a memorandum of understanding with Vector to look at what is needed to convert the bus fleet more rapidly.
Auckland’s 1360-strong bus fleet is one step closer to becoming fully electrified after Auckland Transport (AT) and Vector announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to explore the impacts of a full implementation.
Commencing immediately, Vector and AT will carry out a feasibility study to assess the impact of a fully electric bus fleet on the Auckland electricity network, and to identify opportunities where innovative energy technologies could be used to assist the transition and help avoid large network upgrade costs.
Two reports will be produced as part of the MoU, the first exploring a route and service profile, which will model the electricity demand that a fully electrified bus fleet will require. The second report will provide guidance on the electricity network infrastructure upgrades required at each bus depot, as well as likely timings and costs. These 2 reports are expected to be delivered by June 2020.
More bus lanes for the CRL
Late last year among the myriad of things AT consulted on at the same time, was a plan for bus lanes in the city centre to help cope with the disruption caused by the City Rail Link works. This disruption will see the Albert St/Wellesley St intersection closed for 9-nine months and as soon as that reopens the Albert/Victoria St intersection will close for 18 months.
AT have now released the results of that consultation, confirming it will go ahead. A summary of the feedback is below and positively there was strong support for it.
- Overall sentiment for this proposal is positive – 80% of respondents gave feedback to endorse or to improve the proposal (with 64% stating their explicit support and 16% suggesting ways to increase bus priority or improve active transport in the city centre). Two people (3%) said they did not support this project; the remaining 17% gave feedback outside the scope of this proposal.
- Nearly a fifth of you (18%) suggested seamless 24/7 bus lanes to match the rerouting map to improve the proposal; all those who expressed mixed support suggested this to give buses even greater priority.
- Almost a tenth of you (9%) suggested extending the 24/7 bus lanes along at specific sections of the re-routing map to give buses priority through heavy congestion points.
- A number of you said the bus lanes need to be enforced using cameras to be effective; to deter non-compliance and fine vehicles using the bus lanes (7%).
- A small proportion of respondents want the proposed bus priority measures retained after the City Rail Link (CRL) works are completed (6%).
- An equal proportion of people want more city centre cycling lanes as well as the bus priority measures, to improve both active and public transport options (6%).
- A significant proportion of respondents (17%) provided feedback on other projects or issues unrelated to the bus priority measures proposed to support the CRL works.
We’re in the height of summer and that means we’re getting lots of cruise ship visits. In past years there has been some disruption caused to ferries as a result of those ships but this year it has seemed more significant than usual.
An Auckland ferry service provider has asked authorities to urgently intervene following service disruptions caused by cruise ships.
Cruise ships berthing in the harbour at downtown Auckland have meant four Fullers 360 ferry services have been cancelled in the past week, preventing hundreds of commuters from getting to work on time.
There has subsequently been plenty of discussion thrown around as to who’s at fault for this but one thing is certain. Like buses and trains, we need ferries to be reliable if we’re going to get a lot more people using them.
While we’re on the topic of ferries, it would be interesting to know why AT think it is acceptable to still be running some ferries to a holiday timetable.
Housing and Transport costs
A couple of interesting articles out of the US about the relationship between housing and transport costs.
The first out of Texas highlights that Houston, famous for its lack of planning rules which has seen the city sprawl massively across the countryside, is now more expensive than New York once you also consider transport costs.
For decades, Houston has been a city with one of the nation’s most pragmatic sales pitches: Move here for big-city opportunities at a small-city price. Not a fan of swarming mosquitoes, punishing hurricanes, and soul-melting moisture? What if I told you that you could barricade yourself away from all three inside a sprawling single-family home on one acre near good schools and golf courses for under $200k? Still not sold? Two words: “backyard grotto.”
Though we don’t have up-to-date grotto figures, several million people found Houston’s sales pitch compelling enough to move to the Bayou City in recent decades, with the region gaining 1.1 million residents since 2010 alone, according to the Greater Houston Partnership. Outside a few ritzy pockets intimately tied to oil prices, the city evolved into a sprawling mass of suburban affordability—a Levittown on steroids for the new American South.
Unfortunately for prospective Houstonians, a crucial downside to all that sprawl has arisen, one that has nothing to do with catastrophic flooding. While the seemingly endless suburban growth has traditionally offered the city the veneer of affordability, the sprawl has also spiked transportation costs, so much so that the city’s combined transportation and living costs now place it on par with New York City (cue the early nineties Pace Picante sauce commercial).
The second article looks at some of the hidden costs of suburbia that people don’t often think about and that includes having to buy petrol more, in part because it’s often the only way to get around.
I’ve lived most of my life in the suburbs.
I was raised just outside Washington, DC, in Alexandria, Virginia. My wife and I settled in Glendale, California, a few miles from the center of Los Angeles, and now we live in a suburban neighborhood a short train ride from Manhattan.
If living most of my life in suburban areas adjacent to major cities has taught me anything, it’s that suburban living can be extremely expensive, and often in unexpected ways.
This week an interesting web-app showed up in some social media feeds which allows you to quickly map out travel times of various modes and at different times of the day. This presumably uses PT schedule information as well as some so way of estimating driving/cycling/walking times. I pulled this quick map together from the app showing public transport, cycling and driving distances within 30 minutes if you left from outside Britomart at 5pm.
I suspect the driving distance is a bit too long with the cycling and even PT distance a bit too small but it does highlight well the general issue we have. If we’re going to get a lot more people on public transport we will need it to be much more competitive with driving.
SH20B upgrade starts
The NZTA have started work on widening SH20B which is part of the overall project to get a fast and reliable bus connection between Manukau and the Airport as the first stage of a busway that will ultimately extend to Botany and maybe beyond.
Construction is starting on improvements to the SH20B road corridor that will benefit people using public transport to get to Auckland airport and the surrounding area.
The $70 million SH20B Early Improvements project, led by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, will provide additional bus and high occupancy vehicle lanes and new walking and cycling facilities between Pukaki Creek Bridge and SH20.
The lanes will support a new bus service every ten minutes between the airport, Puhinui Station and Manukau. Work to upgrade the Puhinui rail and bus interchange is already underway in a separate project led by Auckland Transport.
NZ Transport Agency Senior Manager Project Delivery, Andrew Thackwray, says the new lanes are expected to open in 2021.
“The priority lanes will integrate with improved transport facilities within the airport precinct, along Puhinui Road and at the upgraded Puhinui Station interchange to provide people with more reliable and timely travel choices to and from the wider airport area.”
The biggest issue I have with this is the lanes will only be transit lanes and not dedicated bus lanes. The risk with this is that buses may still get held up once they reach the Pukaki Creek Bridge just before the airport as a bunch of cars and taxis ahead of them try and merge with all the general traffic. Allowing these cars to share the lane seems like a classic case of slavishly following the model instead of doing what’s right.
The other issue with that is these lanes are being paid for out of the public transport budget but longer term the intention is to replace them with a dedicated busway, at which time those lanes will become general traffic lanes, a case of the NZTA using the PT budget to ultimately pay for more roads?
St Lukes Cycleway upgrade
Construction starts today on a series of upgrades to the St Lukes Cycleway to improve safety.
The main improvement is four new raised crossings which will make it safer for people on foot and on bikes.
The Transport Agency and Auckland Transport are designing a transport system to protect people from death and serious injury. In this case, the raised crossings significantly improve
safety by slowing traffic down. The safety improvements also include:
- a Copenhagen-style raised bike lane southbound from the overbridge to Duncan MacLean Link
- cycle phasing at the controlled crossings
- extending the traffic island by the westbound motorway off-ramp
- improved lighting.
That’s for another week and if you’re in the upper North Island, enjoy the long weekend, but be safe.