It may be a shorter week than normal but there’s been a heap of news. Here’s some of the things you may have missed.
In a bit of self-promotion about the rise in public transport usage, Auckland Transport revealed that NX2 services will be increased and extended to the Hibiscus Coast.
Last year AT added an additional 13% capacity at peak times to the busiest bus corridors and more services are on the way.
“We’re adding an additional 20 NX2 peak services, these will be express services from Hibiscus Coast station to the city, they’ll start later this month. This will improve travel time for Hibiscus Coast customers by taking away the need to transfer at Albany.
“It will also increase capacity for people who use the service from other busway stations.”
Last year bus patronage grew at almost 9% and ferry passenger numbers were up 2%.
Meanwhile, the first 3 of Auckland’s new trains have arrived. “The trains are currently being tested and certified meaning we can run larger trains during the morning and afternoon peak.”
The remaining 12 will be here before the end of the year bringing the fleet to 72.
That AT are adding so many more services is a testament to the popularity of the busway but at the same time I do worry about making our system even more peak focused. This is because peak services can be extremely expensive to provide as the buses and drivers needed to operate them may only be doing one or maybe two trips a day. I wonder how many extra off-peak services we could have added for the same cost.
Rail Operator Tender
AT are once again looking to re-tender the running of trains in Auckland.
“We have the determination to reinvigorate the region’s rail services. With the City Rail Link to be completed in 2024 and the other recent rail upgrades just announced by central government, the future of Auckland rail is very bright.
“The current rail operating contract for Auckland metropolitan services has been in place since 2004. We’re now to undertake a tendering process for a future rail franchise agreement.
AT has made the decision to move towards a more integrated operating environment for rail services, this will see the incoming rail operator having greater responsibility and control for service delivery for the next phase of rail public transport growth in Auckland. This will add to the momentum already evident in the growing passenger numbers.
AT tried to do this in 20145 and after shortlisting three companies (Kiwirail, Serco and Transdev), gave up and just renewed Transdev’s contract.
Police on bikes is something we’ve seen before but it has tended to have more of a novelty factor to it. That could be about to change as they’re set to trial e-bikes in four cities from next week.
On 12 February selected officers in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin will take to the roads on e-bikes to trial them as a new tool to help keep our roads safe.
“Police is trialling e-bikes in four districts to engage with the public and help keep people safe,” says Inspector Gini Welch, Acting National Manager for Road Policing.
“Biking is becoming a more common way of getting around with easy manoeuvrability through traffic, and e-bikes are an environmentally friendly option.
“The idea of Police on bikes is not a new concept, however our focus is much broader now, especially in the area of road policing and crime prevention. And having e-bikes mean our officers also have a little extra power when they need it.”
Police is going to trial e-bikes in four city locations over four weeks to assess the potential benefits they could bring to policing and public safety in central city locations.
“Having officers on e-bikes gives increased visibility of Police in our communities, making us more accessible to you and contributing to people in our communities feeling safe and being safe.
“The bikes provide an opportunity to undertake road policing prevention activities focusing on distracted drivers (cell phones) and people not wearing seatbelts. Another appeal of the bikes is they will help us deter crime such as vehicle theft, burglary, and disorder.”
After the trial a formal evaluation will be completed and the potential for further operational use will be considered.
Being on a bike is one of the easiest ways to spot drivers using cell phones.
Following the worst December in more than a decade for road deaths, there was some positive news in January with the number of deaths down considerably on the last few years. In total 21 people lost their lives on our roads during the month. That’s 21 too many but is down on the last few years, which from 2016 to 2019 saw 34, 31, 36 and 32 people die.
Toot and wait more
We don’t have too much of an issue with people tooting in Auckland but perhaps we could find some other use for it.
Watering the motorways
The irony levels were high this week after it it turned out that it’s been so warm recently that the NZTA have had to water the motorways to keep them cool enough.
SH20 SOUTHWESTERN MWY, NORTHBOUND – 4:30PM
Extra caution is advised between HIllsborough Rd and Dominion Rd as crews work to cool down the road surface, due to warm temperatures. Slow down and drive with care past the scene. ^MF pic.twitter.com/5RKHC6oYwb
— NZTA Akld & Nthlnd (@NZTAAkl) February 3, 2020
It’s a little surprising that it’s the motorways being watered and yet at the same time we don’t seem to have too many issues with heat restrictions on the rail network.
New council CEO needed
The Auckland Council are now on the hunt for a new Chief Executive after Steven Town, the incumbent, announced he was stepping down.
His role at Auckland Council had been due to end in December, but yesterday Town told the mayor and councillors he would depart early.
He leaves the biggest job in local government, heading a council formed following the merger of eight local bodies in 2010.
Prior to the council, Town was NZTA director for Auckland and Northland and perhaps one disappointment was he was too hands off with the likes of Auckland Transport. Hopefully whoever replaces him will take a more active role in transport outcomes, such as pushing back against AT delays to changes like pedestrianising Queen St.
Stop driving to the city centre
There have been a number of articles recently effectively complaining about the impact of all the construction in the city centre.
Auckland office workers yesterday spent up to 40 minutes stuck in traffic getting out of a busy side street due to roadworks in the CBD.
“It was a nightmare,” said Newstalk ZB newsreader Niva Retimanu.
She spent 38 minutes in the morning getting from her job at NZME to Victoria St, a distance of a few hundred metres along Graham St
We know that already just over half of all people arriving in the city do so by public transport, walking or cycling (or scootering). Perhaps what’s surprising is that the ‘non-car’ modeshare isn’t higher.
In my opinion, Auckland Transport and the Council need to be much clearer in the message that if you want to go to the city, don’t drive. They also need to be doing more to take advantage of the disruption and ensure that changes like temporary closures become more permanent.
This is becoming even more important as next month the closures step up another level with the entire Albert/Wellesley St intersection closing till next year for City Rail Link works.