2011: The Year People Found PT
Looking back at the big transport stories of 2011
I have long argued: Build it and they will come.
They have. Each month AKT has reported and published the graphs of public transport usage which goes in only one direction – up while Wellington’s has been largely flat.
In the last monthly AT stats for 2011, for November, people using public transport in Auckland continued to take giant leaps – a 9.1% increase in the last 12 months.
Auckland public transport patronage totalled 69,032,572 passengers for the 12-months to Nov 2011, an increase of 5,738,734 boardings or +9.1%.
RWC’s mixed bag
The holding of RWC provided Auckland with numerous transport upgrades but rail use was a mixed bag.
A popular AKT mantra was that if public transport was not reliable, people would not use it after having a bad experience.
We all know how badly Auckland coped with the RWC opening night – with awful scenes played over and over on TV of passengers pulling emergency buttons in overcrowded trains and scrambling up banks to safety while trying to get to Eden Park.
The worst possible advertisement for public transport.
An independent report commissioned by AT said that not estimating the number of people likely to attend the Opening Night waterfront celebrations was the biggest factor in the night’s transport and Quay St fail.
Another independent report put forward transport lessons from the RWC as a whole.
It left a bad taste although subsequent RWC matches fared much better, AT said they reached their goals and thankfully patronage figures continue to rise.
At last attention was being given to growing PT in the much neglected East Auckland with the first contract awarded to Fletcher for work for the weirdly named AMETI project including plans for a busway along the Northern busway concept.
This will be one to watch.
Back to the future
Light rail in the form of old heritage trams arrived at Wynyard Quarter – a sneaky way to introduce real modern light rail eventually.
In the meantime, the battle has finally be won to get the trams going beyond going around in a loop around the Quarter and at least get to Britomart which is now in the planning stages. The Mayor talked about it going up Queen Street.
Despite the sceptics, the heritage trams proved to be a popular attraction especially at the weekends.
Cycling and walking got some attention but never enough for those who are advocates.
NZTA and Auckland Council did not come to the party- at least so far – for the proposed pathway across the Auckland Harbour Bridge but a rally about it attracted keen supporters who are prepared to pay a toll across if it can be built. Cyclists got a taste of crossing the bridge proper in the December TelstraClear cycle race but a taste is never enough.
The bridge itself will be a big issue in the next 12 months wiyj an announcement about whether the next crossing will be another bridge or, as local politicians want it, a tunnel.
An NZTA board paper on the next Auckland harbour crossing emphasised that another road bridge is the cost-effective solution but does not make any recommendation.
Another confidential report referred to columnist by Brian Rudman as appearing in the well informed AKT (thanks Brian!) confirmed bridge traffic is actually dropping.
Walk to work
The hugely popular RWC Fan Trail -10,000 people one night- showed people will walk. Especially if it’s fun along the way and safe.
Sadly after attracting 10,000 to walk to Eden Park, the fan trail concept died and another opportunity to promote walking as an option was lost. There’s a missed opportunity to promote walking as a cheap healthy option and a way to help reduce car dependency.
A controversial city arterial issue moved ahead.
Auckland Transport began geotechnical investigation along Dominion Road to inform the design for the Dominion Road Upgrade project.
Auckland Transport reviewed the project which was begun under the previous Auckland City Council. The project will upgrade footpaths and landscaping in village centres along the route, widen bus lanes and upgrade the road. As a result of community feedback, Auckland Transport has decided it will retain the ability for cars to park in bus lanes outside peak hours.
Anything to do with bus lanes got Aucklanders blood pressure rising and enforcement of Grafton Bridge at times it is bus only continued to cause arguments. I don’t know why the simple solution isn’t taken – ban it to motorists at all times.
Motorways got bigger
Big motorway projects got the go-ahead. Waterview got the nod in a fast tracked process but there remains concern about the ventilation stacks proposed and we’ll have to see how it all works out in reality.
Before it opened to traffic, we got the chance to walk through it.
A question mark remained over the Wellington Street on-ramp.
Hobsonville Motorway was also opened. The burnt orange look that dominates the landscape drew considerable debate.
But any art to dilute the harshness of infrastructure is always welcome even though one man’s art is…
This was the finish of the long-running Sturges Rd rail bridge with its artwork.
Proving more controversial was the $2.1m replacement bus shelter concept for Karangahape Road. Some simply hated it. But the old ones were 40 years old and past their use by date. One upsetting issue though was when they first appeared the shelters blocked the iconic city view.
And also controversial was the late decision to give more shelter to the RWC visitors using Kingsland’s station close to Eden Park. Fair enough but canopies at $2.1m? It felt excessive.
And probably also up for debate next year is the new solar powered electronic display for bus information appearing at some bus stops that do not have the conventional signs. Great for the environment but you have to look into the screen to see when the bus is coming, not glance up. And the DLY DUE bus electronic sign information system continues to be a joke.
Real time information was being introduced on train stations, one train got trialled for Wi-fi, some trains got recorded on board announcements but we have yet to see the concept popular overseas of a quiet carriage when mobiles and loud music are discouraged.
Still this was a year we made visible progress.