Auckland Transport have launched consultation for their Regional Public Transport Plan (RPTP). The RPTP is an important statutory document that lays out how public transport will develop and operate in the region. It includes Auckland Transport’s vision, goals, policies, plans for PT as well as a description for all services they intend to run and the frequencies they will run at.

Historically the RPTP was updated roughly every three years and looked forward for about 10 years, in line with the Regional Land Transport Plan but it was last updated in 2018 and AT say this one will be for 8 years, which may be about getting it back on to that original schedule.

AT’s current plan, consulted on in 2018, looked to turn PT in Auckland up a notch with a range of improvements to services and infrastructure – including the ill-fated Connected Communities. But delivery of that was obviously hampered by COVID and a lack of funding. PT in Auckland is now in a recovery phase but the funding issues are more real than ever. AT are making that issue clearer, like we’ve seen them do with their recent Capital Programme and budget. It appears to be part of a wider push by AT for a change in our transport funding system.

Everyone has high expectations of the PT system, and AT wants to achieve these goals, but the biggest impediment is lack of sufficient funding. If AT is to deliver the improved PT system Council, Government, and many Aucklanders want, significantly more funding will need to be provided.

This is not just a question of sufficient funding, but also of having funding certainty. Currently, uncertainty over funding from Government and Council means that AT’s budgets are only confirmed on a year-by-year basis. This makes forward planning difficult and means contingency planning is required in case of shortfalls. AT is seeking longer-term certainty from our funders, which will benefit our operators and customers.

AT also recognises that the funding model for PT (and transport) needs reform. AT also supports the investigation of new and alternative sources of funding, such as congestion charging and increasing the cost of parking fines, both of which require legislative change at the national level.

It’s not just funding certainty that they’re after but more funding too with messaging that AT won’t have the money to improve services to the level required to meet their mode-shift and emissions reductions goals.

Speaking of goals, in 2019 our PT network hit 100 million trips for the first time since 1951. With the impacts of COVID we’re currently tracking at 75-80% of that level and AT have an aspirational target to achieve 100 million boardings again by the end of this financial year (June 2024). The RPTP’s modelling takes a more conservative approach and suggests we may not get there again till 2026 and that by 2031 we might reach about 150 million trips. To put that in perspective, the Transport Emissions Reduction Pathway (TERP) suggests that by 2030 we need around 550 million boardings to meet our climate targets.

This also suggests they expect an approximate doubling in rail use (compared to pre-covid levels) in the few years after the CRL opens.

These are the wider performance measures they want to judge themselves against. One potential positive is they’re looking to start judging punctuality not just as when a service leaves the first stop on its route but also when it reaches its destination – something far more important for PT users.

AT say their plans for improving PT fall into four broad categories:

  • Service improvements – new services and more frequent services.
  • Major infrastructure projects – this includes like the City Rail Link, busways and other flagship projects.
  • Supporting infrastructure – smaller scale projects like bus lanes or upgrading key bus stops, or making it easier to get to and from PT.
  • Customer experience improvements – better information like apps, wayfinding and other changes that make it easier to use PT.

The delivery is also broken down into short, medium and long term goals.

  • Short Term – now till end of 2024 – fixing the PT network and getting it back to a pre-covid state.
  • Medium Term – 2025-2027 – making changes to support the CRL and other big projects such as the Eastern Busway, the Rosedale station and electric ferries.
  • Long Term – 2028-2031 – broader network improvements and includes changes such as the City Centre Bus Plan.

This map shows the Rapid and Frequent transit network along with where changes or improvements are expected over the next eight years. Many of the bus improvements expected are funded as part of the Council’s Climate Action Transport Targeted Rate (CATTR).

Here are some of the most noteworthy aspects of the RPTP.

Future Rail Services

We covered this in our post about AT’s recent board meeting where this draft RPTP was signed off but it’s worth covering again.

AT are looking to confirm their plans for how the rail network will operate after the CRL opens, likely in 2026. There are a few changes to the wording compared to the paper that went to the board, pushing out when some of the changes will occur.

When CRL opens, the existing Eastern and Western Lines will be combined into a new East-West line, running between Swanson and Manukau via the CRL stations (Maungawhau, Karanga-a-Hape, Te Waihorotiu, and Waitematā). The Southern Line will operate between Pukekohe, the CRL stations, and Ōtāhuhu. Both the East-West and Southern lines will operate every 7 to 8 minutes at peak times (eight trains an hour, with
exact intervals varying by line), and every 15 minutes throughout the day. Services will remain half hourly in the late evening, because of KiwiRail’s maintenance requirements. The doubling up of the Southern line between Ōtāhuhu and Newmarket means this section will have double frequency.

Some additional trips on the Southern Line will operate, with limited stops, and will be introduced following the opening of the CRL. These will provide a service that will be 10 minutes faster than the all-stops services, from stations south of (and including) Papakura. These services will operate to the CRL stations, via either the Southern or Eastern line, skipping all stations except Puhinui (to enable transfers to Auckland Airport or Manukau). In the longer term (beyond this RPTP), these services will be further improved to become a separate ‘express’ line.

The Onehunga line will also operate between Onehunga and Maungawhau in peak times, and between Onehunga and Henderson at other times, before eventually being extended to Henderson at all times of day. This will enable a direct service between the west and Newmarket. Because of constraints caused by the Onehunga branch line’s single track, this service will continue to operate every 30 minutes at all times of day for the foreseeable future. Passengers wishing to travel between Onehunga or Te Papapa and City Rail Link stations will need to change at Newmarket.

As I said last month, having trains every 7-8 minutes means a total of eight trains per hour on each of the two main lines, an improvement on the six we currently have but trains only every 15 minutes off-peak and 30 minutes in the evening is simply not acceptable for a rapid transit service. The rail network is meant to be part of the backbone of the PT system but this means there will be buses connecting into train stations that will be more frequent that the trains people are connecting to.

As a reminder, this is what their RPTP in 2013 promised for rail services, trains every 10 minutes off peak and every 15 minutes in the evening.

Worryingly, they say it could be 15-20 years before we see those off-peak frequencies improve.

Improving frequencies on train services to be every 10 minutes all-day, for example, will require significant investment that will take many years (into the late 2030s or early 2040s) to deliver.

Other PT Changes

There are lot of changes proposed, some are improvements to frequency, there are some new routes, as signalled in the CATR funding and a few other changes. Here are some of the things that stand out.

  • AT want to build a new bus station at the end of Penlink and would extend NX2 services there from 2027. This would also result in a change to how buses operate on the Whangaparaoa peninsula and at the same time, AT want stop the Gulf Harbour ferry.
  • Also from 2027, AT want to extend the AirportLink service from Manukau to Botany via Te Irirangi Dr as an interim measure before a full busway can be built. This is good to see.
  • AT should be doing the same thing as the AirportLink on other parts of the proposed Rapid Transit Network, such as Upper Harbour. They had planned to upgrade the existing 120 service to at least be frequent but have now scaled that back citing funding difficulties. The RPTP says the plan is now to make it a frequent route in 2025 and also shift it to using the motorway between Constellation Station and Greenhithe. That section is currently done using local roads and is the least reliable part of the journey.
  • AT plan to finally break up the OuterLink next year. This will see the route between St Lukes and Newmarket via Pt Chev retained with the southern part of the loop replaced by the 64 and 65 services.
  • Northcote, which has seen significant housing growth in recent years as part of Kāinga Ora’s development, will finally get a frequent bus route in 2027.
  • At Northcote Point, AT will stop ferry services in 2026 with Birkenhead ferries travelling directly to and from the city instead. This follows a $2.6 million upgrade of the ferry terminal just a few years ago.

There’s plenty more changes so it’s worth scanning through the end of the lists at the end of the document to see if your service is impacted.

Here’s a map of what AT expects the PT network to look like in 2031.

And this gives you an idea of the kinds of minimum frequencies you can expect – it’s a shame they didn’t match the colours to those on the map.

On Demand Services

After trialling it in Devonport, AT have permanently rolled out their on-demand service (AT Local) to Takanini. They say they’re now looking to expand that to more areas with the areas under consideration.

Inter-regional Services

On Inter-regional services AT say they are supportive but only if it doesn’t impact on Auckland. So I guess “transport needs of Aucklanders” don’t include getting to other places?

AT is supportive of improvements to inter-regional PT services, such as the existing Te Huia train service between Auckland and Hamilton, but our focus is – and always will be – on meeting the transport needs of Aucklanders first. Many inter-regional services are currently privately provided (such as InterCity bus services), contracted by Waikato Regional Council (such as Te Huia and buses between Waikato and Pukekohe), or operated by KiwiRail (such as the Northern Explorer train).

Significant improvements to such services are largely outside the direct control of AT. Central Government, through the Ministry of Transport and KiwiRail, has the responsibility to enable further improvements in inter-regional passenger rail services (through upgrades to infrastructure, including new tracks and rolling stock). AT supports these agencies in investigating and delivering improvements to service levels, so long as any improvements do not disadvantage the operation of our existing services for Aucklanders. We will work proactively with these other agencies to find solutions, and to integrate inter-regional services with other local services where practicable and as funding allows

Future improvements if AT have more money

As noted at the start, AT make a

AT advocates for things that we know will make the most significant difference to the way we serve our customers. We have evidence from our market research, and the response to improvements we have already made, that the changes below would result in increased use of, and satisfaction with, the PT system. If more funding for both operating services and the necessary infrastructure to support them were available, we would like to:

  • Improve the all-day frequency on frequent routes from every 15 minutes to every 10.
  • Add more routes to the frequent network.
  • Expand the hours of frequent network operation from 7am – 7pm to 6am – 11pm
  • Increase the base frequency on connector routes from 30 minutes to 20 minutes.
  • Significantly expand the rapid transit network.

I wish AT would put some cost figures around these dreams so it was easier to understand the level of funding that might be needed to get our PT network up to the level it should be.

Consultation is open till August 17.

Is there anything in the RPTP that stands out to you?

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  1. Is there anything in the RPTP that stands out to you?
    “Matiatia terminal precinct upgrade (2026)” in the “Rapid and Frequent Transit Network 2031” plan.
    Does anyone know anything about that?

    1. I am aware that something needs to be done to improve facilities at Matiatia and this has been the case for some time. Is there some reason that you think this shouldn’t be the case fraggle?

  2. I guess what stands out to me is that AT is playing victim to “funding” pressures while refusing to take the planning approach changes to divert money from high-carbon activities.

    It’s not what you have, AT, it’s what you do with it.

    1. Imagine if they tried bus lanes in Botany instead of smashing down hundreds of houses to lay even more tarmac!

  3. One of their planning reviews where they just take the last document and move all the start dates forward because they haven’t actually started anything? Imagine if they were remunerated on meeting their targets like a public company!

  4. Have you done a recent critique of the Takaanini On Demand service, GA? Is there data available to do so?

    Every single on-demand service I dug into didn’t make sense, being high cost per ride, unscalable, and poor from a mindset point of view – cementing car dependence. Each one should either have been a timetabled service (and if the On Demand service’s extra funding had been put into improving the existing timetabled service instead, it would have grown patronage) or it should have been a subsidy for certain users to use a taxi.

    1. I can’t see why they would have east coast bays as a possible trial area. A big chunk of it is already served by a frequent or connector services (though our connector services seem to be regularly downgraded in their frequency).

      1. The Hamilton Flex night service (on-demand) service is showing ~’2.5 passengers per booking’.
        There is no data on cost per trip, I would be interested if any one has information on what a good outcome is for on-demand service is.
        see page 19 Waikato Regional Council Regional Transport Committee Agenda Date: Monday, 12 June, 2023

    2. There is an on-demand service operating in the Tawa suburb of Wellington.

      According to official sources it is succeeding and is set to be extended to Porirua.

      However some commenters on this Wellington.Scoop article are questioning the official interpretation of its “success”.

      1. Alan’s reply there makes this seem similar to every other so-called “success” story I’ve heard of. In some highly car dependent towns in the US, each On-Demand service in turn has reduced the viability of timetabled services incrementally. The cost of On-Demand, for what it was providing, couldn’t be sustained, until eventually residents were left with no network to speak of. There’s an analogy with addictive drugs there, I’m sure.

        The only exception I can think of is in a really dysfunctional planning system, where there is NO public transport or taxi service at all, and health funding or a charity, or an employer or some other organisation has put on a service to fill a gap for a particular user. Sometimes the local council steps in with some co-funding to step it up into an On -Demand service for more of the community than just the original targeted users. I wouldn’t want to bag the council officers who manage to harness this external funding and augment it – it’s a great thing to do in a crap system. However, there is an analogy there with life-saving medicine for a terminal case.

        Every situation I’ve seen would be better if they used:
        – a network of timetabled services, or
        – a taxi service, subsidised for disadvantaged people (where very remote).

    3. I would like to see the data for the loop buses that run around Pukekohe to and from the train station before I would rule out having an on demand service there. Most of these buses seem pretty empty. The 394 to Papakura station of course is reasonably full the few times I have used it but of course it is filling in for the train at the moment. When the train eventually resumes I am hoping it will be retained as it services some useful destinations. I hope that the on demand vans are all electric as they were with the original Devonport trial

  5. I couldn’t see light rail mentioned anywhere in this article,but further digging into the summary,says it is not included ,because it has no funding, and wouldn’t be finished before 2031,so is out of scope.
    Isn’t it finally time to “put this flagging horse out of its misery”,it’s hoovering up cash that could be much better directed.
    Northwestern residents ,the motorway bus interchanges are as good as it gets for you,till 2031,then presumably planning on something better,maybe 2041.
    As in all things,funding is key,$60 (rates)per week,per household,doesn’t provide many services. I guess this is AT,living within its budget,but is not aspirational.

    1. Light Rail is a bit like Connected Communities. Expensive, nothing gets built and it buggers up every other initiative.

    2. “wouldn’t be finished before 2031” – but wasn’t it going to be finished before the America’s cup? I guess they didn’t say which one…

  6. This is very much a Wayne Brown and Mike Lee influenced Auckland Transport proposal.

    Lacking aspiration, cruelly stuck in another short term cycle with a particularly short sighted council (half of them physically not just allegorically).

    Given the mayor’s venomous style it is no wonder that AT is not shouting from the rooftop.

    We seem to be stuck in the eternal denial construct that says “bury your head in the sand, the air is probably cleaner there”

    Unfortunately we will already live shorter lives than our parents, due to higher exposure to noxious gases, a consumptive society, and the bubble that the private motor vehicle has enabled every human, and every family unit to protect itself.

    The science has always been there, and it is no longer contested, only ignored.

    We are constantly reminded about HOPE, but there needs to be some political will to convince us that there really is. Auckland Transport is an important part of our city’s democratic representation and it needs to be able to show true leadership despite Mike Lee.

      1. clearly, a 4-6 lane highway is not resilient. Let’s go with 8 lanes then! Go big or go home 🙂

  7. Hmm still not looking like a winner for the West, with the NW bus improvements meaning someone traveling from the city home in the evening will have a potential 25 minute wait for a “frequent” bus at the Lincoln Rd off ramp.

  8. The thing that caught my eye, by dint of being the dog that didn’t bark in the night:

    What’s the plan for how people get *to and from* public transport without adding a car into the mix?

    On p48-49, AT lists improving the walking and cycling/ micromobility networks around public transport hubs in the timeline… as “aspirational”.

    And, improving bike parking gets a mention… but only for “investigation”, and only at rapid-transit hubs and ferry terminals.

    I’m no expert in public transport network planning, or climate-emergency mode shift, but:

    Surely safe, inviting, convenient all-ages, all-abilities access to and from public transport is, like, not just an additional detail to get around to eventually, but kinda fundamental to the whole concept of public transport?

    1. If you can’t drive there, madam, perhaps you are not an AT customer. And AT is a customer-focused organisation.

      1. AT though is often leg tied by regressive local Boards. In Devonport, AT wants to address a “legacy parking” scheme that is inconsistent with AT’s current parking policy. The Devonport Takapuna Board, elected on “a fresh approach” ticket is demonstrating that it wants anything other than that.
        AT wants to implement P120 zones and parking permits that cost $79 per year – hardly the stuff of revolution. It appears that this is way too much for most of the Board to stomach.
        Devonport will be one of the first areas to suffer coastal inundation.

  9. Total lack of joined up thinking / funding between service enhancements and supporting bus priority. There is no point adding frequency if journey times and reliability are poor – the “frequency is freedom” mantra only works if it’s also “reasonably fast and reliable”. Can’t see any point in adding frequency, at great cost if the associated infrastructure isn’t a constituent part of the case for change.

  10. I have always thought that central government needs to get rid of its central transport agency. (Waka kotahi)
    And pass all transport matters over to regional transport agencies, in Auckland’s case AT would be responsible for main highways funding road user charges fuel tax and tolls etc, state highways will become regional highways.
    A similar situation will also apply to Kiwi rail.
    And only local elections will dictate our transit matters, which will mean rural areas will get better roading and urban areas will get better public transit.
    The main reason for this would be to enable people to vote for what there region needs for transport without compromising on other political policies like health education justice etc.
    It would also help reduce the rural urban devide in politics and reduce the uncertainty with our short but extreme political cycles.
    It might also get more people voting in local elections.

  11. Rail: should be every 5mins during peak, 10mins off-peak, and a maximum of 15mins any other time.

    For a city of over 1.5m, anything else is unacceptable. AT have no clue or just don’t care about PT.

    1. Yes this is sad, post CRL after all that investment. It’s a common thing apparently to invest a lot in rail only to run it at some lame frequency.

      1. If KR really are the reason for 30min evening and 12tph max on Western Line (ie no more than today) then they (ie central govt / SOE) really need to be the focus of lobbying efforts in the first instance. Message that KR standing in the way of maximising multi bn investment by Auckland and govt etc. The level crossings safety point is 100% BS – it’s just about traffic flow. Yes AT need to push KR harder but direct pressure on KR is also critical. Only once that is sorted can the pressure on AT to run base 10min frequencies etc ramp up. There is still time to sort it.

  12. So once again NW Auckland gets completely shafted. No form of RT at all beyond Westgate. Riverhead, Kumeu, Huapai, Waimauku, Helensville can all just sod off according to AT it seems.
    If only there was a very quick, cheap and easy fix to this situation… like I dunno a train line… oh wait there is (and it’s just had millions spent by government upgrading it).
    Grab the now unused DMU from Pukekohe and put them into use to Huapai (Swanson shuttle) for starters and get it up and running before eventually getting some BEMU/bi mode trains and sending them all the way to Helensville.

    1. Oh, sure, an hour or more from Huapai to the central city and an hour and a half from Helensville, via a long and winding 19th century route that doesn’t even go to Westgate.

      Yeah, nah, that’s absolutely perfect as a long term rapid transit corridor for the northwest. Can’t see why anyone would even consider a sub-40 minute journey via the SH16 corridor, there’s no need for rapid transit there and no reason at all that people would want to get places quicker! Who even cares about Point Chevalier, Te Atatu and Royal Heights anyways?

      1. Point Chevalier isn’t West Auckland.

        And the problem is, West Auckland isn’t being given the choice of meaningful improvements in the SH16 corridor. Remember how light rail became a busway became some bus lanes then became some painted shoulders and shelters with no seats at off-ramps? That’s it, that’s all that’s on offer.

        At this point I’ll take the addition of an extra service further out West over the dying illusion that something actually might happen to bring proper rapid transit out West before I die. Perfect is the enemy of good enough, but perfect has to have a hope in hell of ever actually happening.

  13. I can’t belive they aren’t even considering planning any rail north/west until AFTER 2031. For a city of our size, rail as either a metro or as LR should be our priority

    1. And Council’s website says:

      “The TERP provides formal direction that Auckland Council and Auckland Transport must follow in all of their activities. This includes updates of key planning and funding documents such as:
      – the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP)
      – the Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP).”

      That would include the Regional Public Transport plan, too.

  14. Well I mean in 2017 they planned (and promised) light rail for the isthmus by 2021. Plans aren’t worth shit if you don’t follow them.

  15. The planning framework (simplified) on page 7 sums up the mess of plans and stakeholders quite nicely.
    Its great there is a purpose statement but I struggle to see how the RPTP can be “the key document that sets out the future of public transport planning and investment in the Auckland region” when it only looks forward 8 years to 2031.
    On page 13 a position on congestion charging is given suggesting the government need to make a policy change.
    Page 20 says there is not enough funding to meet targets.
    On page 25 they say they plan to reach 150m annual passenger trips by 2031.
    On page 26 it says PT boardings need to increase to 550 million a year by 2030 to meet TERP.
    This document is a plan to fail. It simply does not contain any attempt to achieve targets or lay out what is required.

    1. It’s more expensive to move people on a ferry than a standard bus. It also doesn’t have many / any stops along the way. Whereas an NX2 extension connects destinations along the entire corridor.

  16. The revelation that tunneled light rail has disappeared is a cause for celebration. Auckland will be a much more prosperous supercity without digging into a pothole of financial burdens. This is a testament to the integrity and foresight our city council possess over the bureaucrats at Wellington.

    AT should throw a party – eg. free for all fireworks and BBQ – at their HQ in CBD. Well done to all those who canned tunneled light rail a reality.

    1. lmao, typical selfish car nutheads. sure, throw a party, but in a few decades you’ll be choking and starving on your own words, because your selfish individualist-obsessed ideology has condemned homo sapiens to extinction. 90% of Aotearoa’s original native forest destroyed for wasteful profit-addicted dairy farms and ever-wider motorways constantly at risk of slips. The permafrost locked into a feedback loop of melting and releasing millennia-trapped CO2 and ancient viruses. The Amazon rainforest being deforested past its tipping point. The oceans heating up and threatening catastrophic changes in the major sea currents + worse hurricanes. 50% of all species to go extinct by the end of this century because climatic change is happening too fast for evolution.

      remember, when you’re suffering your last and grasping for someone else to blame… this one’s on YOU. think about that before you throw a stupid anti-public transport party.

      1. Calm down m8. Tunneled light rail was overkill for what we needed and Surface Light Rail would have hit the 80/20 rule bang on. If you actually care about that stuff in that paragraph of hysterical alarmism you’ve typed out, you should be hoping we get the surface light rail option, which could be built across the entire city for the same money they want to spend on the tunneled option.

        One is going to be a lot better at addressing those issues than the other, and it ain’t the tunneled option.

        1. you’re a fool in thinking we ever even had a chance of solving climate change in a liberal capitalist society. Capitalism enables the greedy individualistic animals to take power and force their ideology on everyone and everything

          The great filter theory always applies to any sentient species that evolves. there is no point in fighting extinction.

        2. Spare me your common room debate tedium. You might be happy to sit around and bitch out any semblance of progress but others are not.

          But if you want to go back to pants-pooing hysteria while the rest of us have an adult conversation about how to improve things, then perhaps you should find some new talking points. Those ones are stale and boring, and not much of a contribution if that’s all you’ve got to offer.

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