Feb-18 AT Board Meeting

Today is the next Auckland Transport board meeting and the one where they’ll make a decision on whether to accept the appalling budget staff have produced or send them back to the drawing board.

But the budget isn’t the only discussion at the meeting. As usual there is a closed session where all the interesting stuff is talked about and report from staff on many of the pieces of work underway within the organisation. This month there’s not a lot of items of direct interest in the closed session. It mainly consists of a number of budget related items and some specific property leases.

As for the business report, as usual I’ve gone though it and picked out some of the items I found interesting. They’re below based on the order they appeared in the document.

Notices of Requirement – In a section talking about notices of requirement there is mention of the East West Link and saying that the final appeal is due in early 2018. I guess the final decision came out too late to update the report but it’s surprising that there is no mention of the government and NZTA relooking at the options for this.

There is also a mention that the Airport will be lodging a notice of requirement for their second runway and that it is expected to be publicly notified in February.

Ferry Strategy – This was mentioned last month but there’s a little more detail this time. Particularly that it confirms that the “proposed Auckland Ferry Strategy 2017-47 will be included in the 2018 review“. That raises the questions such as, what was wrong the 2017 strategy to begin with and is this just a case of someone not liking the results of the 2017 version so wasting more time and money on trying to get a different outcome.

HOP Concessions – Loading a concession, such as tertiary or SuperGold, has been a real pain point and source of complaints in recent years. AT say they’re about ready to trial this with University of Auckland Students and it should reduce the process from 4 to 1.5 minutes. It also appears they’re working to enable loading of concessions through the mobile app as well as other improvements such as being able to automate concessions for 16-19 year old students.

CCTV – One of the interesting developments last year was AT rolling out automated cameras to help enforce the Fanshawe St bus lane. AT are now rolling this out on the Grafton Bridge too and let’s hope other bus lanes get similar treatment.

Newmarket Crossing – The new bridge to Cowie St, to allow the closure of the Sarawia St level crossing is now well underway, as you may have noticed if you catch the train through there. AT say that road traffic is expected to start using the bridge in May and all works are planned to be completed by the end of June.

Eastern Busway – Finally some positive news on this key project. A decision on the consent for the busway section between Panmure and Pakuranga is due mid-February. AT have also started the procurement process for the works. Design and consenting works have started on the rest of the busway from Pakuranga to Botany too, although this includes the Reeves Rd Flyover.

Network Optimisation – It feels like that whenever AT want to be seen to be doing something they talk about network optimisation. Here’s the latest incarnation of it.

Following recent focus on optimisation by the Mayor’s office, Ministry of Transport and The Transport Agency (NZTA), a joint AT/NZTA project was initiated to determine how Network Optimisation might be accelerated for Auckland. The project intends to focus on building on existing work and ramp up efforts on One Network and multimodal optimisation.

A Project Governance Group consisting of Senior Executives from AT, AC and NZTA has been set up and is in discovery phase. Its aim is also to identify and deliver one-network demonstrator projects, develop the co-delivery model and resource plan, finalise KPI’s and funding models.

City Centre Travel Times – ATs monitoring of travel times as part of the CRL works continues to show that closing a major arterial has a positive impact on traffic movement in the city. Only Customs and Quay streets are slightly slower and AT say that is due to giving pedestrians more time.

New Network – As I mentioned the other day, the Isthmus and North Shore networks make up about 60% of all bus and train ridership so getting those the new network rolled out in those areas is key. They’re both due this year with the dates now set as:

  • Isthmus – 08 July
  • North Shore – 30 September

Rail Timetable – There’s a substantial update on the train timetables and what’s planned. In this it notes the next changes are in July but in the section on the Newmarket Crossing it says August.

AT has made number of journey time improvements, including dwell times, since the EMUs were introduced in 2014 to free-up three three-car units; by introducing improvements made in October 2016 and again in March 2017.

AT negotiated a dwell time reduction in the Transdev contract extensions. These dwell time and associated journey time improvements are targeted for implementation progressively in July 2018, January 2019 and August 2019. This is targeted to free up at least one additional unit in the AM peak.

The proposed train timetable, for introduction in July 2018, has been submitted to KiwiRail for modelling and further analysis. The submission includes:

  • Improved journey times across the Southern, Eastern & Western Lines, including further reduced dwell times.
  • An increase to three trains per hour, from 0700-1900, across the Southern, Eastern & Western Lines at Weekends, and Public Holidays, up from two trains per hour.
  • Pukekohe Shuttle services would continue to operate three trains per hour during the Morning and Afternoon peaks, with an increase to two trains per hour during inter-peak periods and at weekends, up from one train per hour.
  • Later night services on Friday evening’s.

KiwiRail had expressed concern around the revised timings of services in the key Wiri to Westfield corridor, however this has since been addressed.

AT is proposing to introduce a further January 2019 timetable, which is currently under discussion with Transdev and KiwiRail, that would build on the journey time and dwell time improvements from the July 2018 timetable. Other options being considered with this, include:

  • Introducing further ‘Limited Stop’ services across the Network.
  • A further increase to weekend services across the electric network, to four trains per hour.

Improvements are welcome but it sounds like it will be another year before we get to having ‘frequent’ services on the rail network outside of peaks. It would also be better if we could get some later services on all nights, not just on Fridays. However, I’m not thrilled about the prospect of introducing more ‘limited stop’ services across the network. While it saves a little bit of time, usually only a minute or two, it does so at the expense of frequency and convenience. The only stations I can think could be skipped without dropping frequencies too low would be Middlemore and Papatoetoe – Puhinui is needed for connections to Manukau and Otahuhu for bus network connections.

Bus Priority – The report mentions a paper called the Strategic Bus Priority Plan which was approved by the board in October and that they are starting a project to implement it. There is no mention of what’s in the plan but given the name, we can expect it means more bus lanes which would be welcome news. It is also noted that AT signed off on resolutions to extend the hours of operation for 40 special vehicle lanes (bus lanes or transit lanes) covering almost 60km. However, two of those, Onewa Rd and Lake Rd, have already been put on hold due to a couple of vexatious local board members.

That’s all for this month.

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