Cool animated video of Auckland transport

There’s a cool video doing the rounds on the blogosphere right now which shows the Auckland public transport network working over a 24 hour period.

An animated map of Auckland’s public transport network from Chris McDowall on Vimeo.

Watching it really highlights to me how radial the public transport network is. There are a lot of different public transport services (whether by rail, bus, or ferry) but most of them (with a few exceptions such as the Link) go into the center. They’re like the spokes on a wheel but there’s little to join them up.

In practise, having radial services translates for frustrating outcomes for Aucklanders who want to go from one side of the city to the other. It may not even be a particularly long trip but to get there you have to catch one bus into the CBD and then another out – thus more than doubling the time you have to travel and cost you have to pay.

You also often end up with services that follow very complex routes – trying to get every single person close to their house.

The New Zealand Transport Agency published a paper last year which said that having a grid like network is actually a lot more efficient than a radial or tailor made network. Having a grid means that you can run far fewer buses/trains but get more passengers a lot closer to their destination. Hopefully these diagrams help make that clearer.

However, to introduce a more grid like system in Auckland we’d have to restructure the fares as well because right now the fares effectively discourage people from transferring. For example, if you catch one bus for one stage and then another bus for two stages that’s pretty expensive – more so than just catching one bus for 3 stages. We need a fare system that makes transferring from one service or mode to another cheap.

The integrated ticketing project gives us a fantastic opportunity to look at restructuring the routes and fares of public transport services in Auckland to a more efficient grid like system and get more bang for our buck in terms of subsidies.

Sadly, so far what’s coming out of Auckland Transport doesn’t suggest the government is seizing that opportunity. But the Auckland Spatial Plan is a great opportunity to get these ideas out there.

What do you think when watching the video? Do you think Auckland needs a more grid like network? What other improvements could we make?

20 Comments Posted

  1. Please get rid of “View entire comment” and allow us to just scroll on through without all the extra clicking.

  2. Basically Auckland is constrained physically into three commuting arms outside the central isthmus. These are south, west and north shore.
    South and west could be better serviced along the central rail corridor if all the bus services were used as feeders to the rail system. Such integration would work better with one transit organisation owning and operating all the services. Bus timetables would have to be organised so that the bus arrived before the train going in the most popular commuting direction. Information on train and bus positions and likely arrival times should be available in real time to passengers on the vehicles and at bus and train stops. Tickets should be integrated, cheap and preferably free.
    Free travel is not such a big cost to rate payers if it means they don’t have to own a car. The greatest benefits of public transport will fall on the owners of land close to train stations, especially the owners close to the underground loop. These owners should therefore be rated much higher than other property owners. Paying for public transport with a petrol tax is equitable because the motorist benefits from reduced congestion when other motorists leave their cars at home and take public transport. Bring back the Auckland Region petrol tax, it was peanuts and would have had an elephant’s value in paying for electrification.

    Now two bees in my bonnet.
    The largest area in the southern corridor not well served by a bus/train combination is Pakuranga/Howick/Botany. Buses from this area pass the Panmure railway station BUT DO NOT STOP THERE! An integrated service with a transfer station at Panmure would solve congestion at Panmure far better than the AMETI ditch which is proposed to isolate the Panmure Station further than its present disconnected situation. If you could jump off a bus and catch a train within 5 minutes at this station a Howick/Britomart trip would be up to 30 minutes shorter than the present bus only trip.

    How many European city pairs of the size and distance apart of Auckland and Hamilton do not have an hourly (or more often) high speed electric train service? Why isn’t government rushing to put such a service into place? It might be quite popular in the blue electorates.

  3. Telecommuting takes many forms.
    It does not refer to farmers, or people like me who work at home for myself.
    ONe day at the office per week is the normal stats base.

    But yes, some find it difficult to work from home because there is not enough room, or two many teenagers, or whatever. And they miss the company.
    Hence in the less regulated States of the US, “Remote Office Centres” have emerged – which provide an “office” environment (e.g.a coffee machine) but provide a small office, with high speed broadband access.
    The idea is that the telecommuter walks or cycles or drives to their nearby “Remote Office Centre” and “telecommutes” from tbere. The Centre is a stand alone business, like a hotel. So you might have ten workers telecommuting to ten different locations, around the city, the country, or the world.

    Unfortunately, the rigid zoning is some states makes it hard to put them where they should be, but I understand they are coming round.

    Great places to meet some of your neighbours too.

  4. I telecommuted for a while as an office worker/administrator. It was actually easier to be more productive at home. Less time in useless meetings for starters. If the company paid the air fare and accommodation to the office in Wellington they would also be organised to make the best use of my time.
    Definite fringe benefits apart from not having to commute. I did some of my best creative work while sanding the boat!
    It had the disadvantage though of taking over all your thinking time at home if you were not careful.
    Pity you cannot run a ship from a computer at home. Or maybe not. 🙂

  5. Re: telecommuting. I think it depends a lot on the person, but telecommuting’s already well established in some organisations in NZ. I doubt I could ever telecommute in my current state, as I have so many distractions around home and I like to surround myself with things I should be working on.

    At my previous job, we made it possible for people to telecommute a few years ago, despite not guaranteeing IT support for people who couldn’t bring their computers into the office, and making them supply their own internet.

    It was immediately popular for people who live in the Wairarapa, for instance, and prefer to avoid the 1.5 to 2 hour commute to Wellington every day. It’s also popular for parents trying to balance parental leave with work, and don’t always have the flexibility to come into the office. I think one of the good points is that it’s helping the organisation keep skilled and already-trained people around, who might otherwise have to leave and work elsewhere due to other circumstances. There were a few extras we wanted to throw in to help even more, like instant messaging, but legal reasons made that tricky (mostly around records management rules in government).

    They even tried to suggest I could telecommute from here when I discovered I was shifting to Melbourne. I thought about it seriously for a few weeks before turning it down for other reasons.

  6. Hi john-ston. To be fair I’ve heard similar stories. Apparently last July some old wiring came down in the middle of the city loop and everything ground to a halt. They also crashed one of their trains last year thanks to reckless driving.

    The rail operator’s recently changed, and supposedly that’s slowly improving things despite friction with unions etc about ways of doing things, but there’s still a lack of loyalty from users. It’d be appropriate to say that this also adds up to having a lot to do with why so many people prefer cars.

    I’ve only been here a month, and I’m comparing it with what I’ve come from, and only the operational experience. I think they have higher standards than in NZ. Apart from one train terminating early due to a brakes failure. I was on another train to the same place 7 minutes later, and the PA system on every platform down the line would’ve been telling people the service was canceled and the time of the following one. I haven’t seen many problems except for various drinking and disorderly people hanging around the trains, plus one chap probably off his medication running up and down the train, screaming about how he was ready to die before he got off. The lack of officials on the trains most of the time seems to make it easier for that to happen — they’re all on the platforms instead, making sure people actually pay for tickets.

    There’s also been a lot of resistance to the new Myki ticketing system through all the trains, trams and buses, which was about $1.2 billion over budget, like everything else here it seems, and there were problems when it was being piloted. It seems to be working very well now and I use it all the time, but there’s lots of resistance to using the proximity cards and I think 9/10 people I see at railway stations and elsewhere are still using MetCards, even when it means fighting with coin-operated vending machines all the time. I guess more people carry cash here. They’re about to start pushing up prices on the older MetCard system as an incentive for more people to switch. Whichever system you use though, they’re both far nicer (and cheaper) than what I came from in Wellington.

  7. Now here is a Green way to increase productivity and reduce congestion.

    Owen, would telecommuting actually increase productivity? It is a lot easier for the telecommuter to get distracted at home than it is at the office.

  8. Now here is a Green way to increase productivity and reduce congestion.

    Washington Opens The Virtual Office Door

    “Supporters of the measure, including the National Treasury Employees Union and the Telecommunications Industry Association, rightly tout its potential to improve the productivity of federal employees, reduce the government’s overhead expenses, decrease energy consumption and cut carbon emissions. Indeed, the Telework Research Network estimates that if the eligible federal workers who wanted to telecommute did so once a week, agencies would increase productivity “by over $4.6 billion each year” and save “$850 million in annual real estate, electricity, and related costs.” The country would save nearly six million barrels of foreign oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one million tons per year. The bill would enable agencies to continue functioning during emergencies (federal telecommuters saved the government an estimated $30 million per day when D.C.-area snow storms shut down offices last winter), and it would decrease traffic congestion.”

  9. @ liberty. our resources for public transport wouldn’t be so scarce if the government wasn’t pouring $4 billion + into motorways in the Auckland region, some of which will only benefit a tiny number of people (Yes, I mean puhoi to wellsford).

  10. Mike, that is an interesting comment given the level of largely operational problems with Melbourne’s rail network that I have read about over the last couple of years.

  11. We’ve just shifted to Melbourne (from Wellington), and compared with what I’ve come from I’m finding the public transport here to be wonderful. People here complain about trains being 3 minutes late when they’re running every 10 minutes or more on peak and for much of the day, 20 minutes at worst late in the evenings. The problem we had in Wellington, with the “hourly” 23 bus running in such a way that you never knew if it was 32 minutes late or 28 minutes early, seems a foreign concept to them.

    It’s also a very radial transport design, though. Trains and trams all radiate out from the CBD. A couple of weeks back, I spent 90 minutes on 2 trains to get to somewhere that would probably have been a 25 to 30 minute drive sideways at the most if not less, and part of the frustration with public transport is also the frequent slowness and stopping where a car would just race through. There seem to be buses that go around the edges in certain places, but they’re harder to understand if you don’t know exactly where you’re going and how to identify when you’re near where you want to be. (This could probably be addressed if someone tried hard enough, though.)

    Ticketing’s a million times better here, too, since everything’s combined and there’s no penalty for switching between services. The transport zones overlap by a large enough amount that we managed to live somewhere that means my wife can get to her work on a zone 2 ticket and I can get to mine on a zone 1 ticket. Once monthly passes are factored in, it’s working out to roughly $4.00/day total for transport, and even without passes it’s still capped quite low so people tend to just hop on and off all day. Ticketing and cost was one of the major things that put me off using public transport in Wellington, but at least in Wellington I could walk everywhere instead and it was actually interesting to walk around.

    And yet people here can’t understand why we’ve been considering not having a car, which I think is because it simply takes so long to get somewhere on public transport any time you want to go around the outside and avoid the centre. I’m actually starting to agree with them having now experienced it a few times.

  12. John, you don’t need free fares to attract passengers – you need a good quality competitive service. Indeed, free fares might cause more problems than it is worth.

  13. John,

    Since then we’ve had a couple of discussion documents on free fares

    No such thing as free fares. What you are calling for is fully subsidised travel for all by the rate and tax payer.

    Add this expense to the long burgled worker why dont you.

    We who are working can easily afford it. Not.

  14. “we’d have to restructure the fares as well” – we were debating in 2008 what fares would attract passengers. Since then we’ve had a couple of discussion documents on free fares and another is stalled. Any thoughts on how to move this forward? Maybe discuss again in Auckland this weekend?
    Hamilton copied the Christchurch Orbiter bus. It’s the only Hamilton route that gets overcrowded, maybe because it’s also the most frequent.
    Auckland needs more bus priorities eg traffic lights which stay green till the bus in the queue has passed.

  15. No doubt you’ll argue both are good, but this is about allocation of scarce resources. Which comes to objectives.

    Liberty Scott, it might be worth it to point out that according to the CBD Loop report, the surface streets of the CBD would run out of bus capacity by the early 2020s based on current growth patterns. Obviously buses have their place, and I agree that more needs to be done to improve buses, but we must also agree that in the case of Auckland, a rail spine is needed if only to provide sufficient capacity.

    For the cost of the rail boondoggle, the bus network could have been enormously enhanced with priority measures, express buses and be orbital as much as radial.

    It depends on what your enhancement aims are. Taking one extreme, the Northern Busway cost around $300 million. The Central Connector (which is basically bus lanes) cost around $50 million. Obviously things could be done for less money, but the question is what would your enhancement aims be?

  16. The issue is deciding what your objectives are. Describing a solution in advance of the problem isn’t the way to do it. Is the objective about reducing congestion, for example?

    Of course you highlight exactly the problem of pouring absolute fortunes into a rail system that reinforces a radial system.

    For the cost of the rail boondoggle, the bus network could have been enormously enhanced with priority measures, express buses and be orbital as much as radial. (Rail can’t even begin to affordably do that).

    No doubt you’ll argue both are good, but this is about allocation of scarce resources. Which comes to objectives.

  17. Auckland might be able to have a deformed spider web system, but that would be about it. Even then, the rings would probably be limited to two rings – the existing 007 run, and then a corridor made up of the existing 130 and 008/009 run.

    About the best improvement we could make to the Auckland bus system is improving frequencies to a minimum of once every fifteen minutes – that would make the service reasonably convenient for users and would attract more of them. Also, it means that ad hoc transfers would be a lot easier. Another improvement would be tidying up the short workings and Express patterns. Dominion Road has thirteen different working patterns – that could be easily reduced to five (two Express, two all stops and one short working) without causing problems for passengers. Of Auckland’s nearly 400 bus routes, about a third are short workings.

  18. A compromise might be radial plus ring routes, which locally are effectively a grid. Christchurch has a radial network but with one complete ring (The Orbitor) and one half circle sort of line (The MetroStar from Halswell to Brighton via Hornby and Merivale). These two do get reasonable patronage.


  19. Of course its radial.

    That is because employment centres determine the viability of public transport and for the last fifteen years Auckland’s planners have tried to force a mononucleic model of Auckland that requires that all roads lead to the CBD.

  20. Music to my ears. This grid approach is what differentiates a public transport system from an effective public transport system. It is what Auckland needs.

    It needs to be fully integrated, cooperative and efficient. By all means contract out the running of the services to private companies but only do so if they are required to operate to a clear and cohesive plan.

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