Reason for Poor Off Peak Transit Frequencies, and Freight Getting Held Up? Ask NZTA and Mayor Phil Goff for Stalling the $75m to make it happen

We can have all day frequent transit services tomorrow, if Goff and NZTA sign the cheque

The OJ might have not have been noticed at the Auckland Transport – Auckland Freight Plan launch yesterday but what was noticed was a particular conflict between freight and passenger movement at a key time across Auckland.

But before we start some questions to ponder:

  1. Have you ever noticed that our frequencies for our transit services is between 2-15 minutes at peak time but a lousy 20-30 minutes (average) in the off peak, evening and weekends
  2. The Southern Motorway is more jammed up than what is was Pre Covid
  3. Freight is constantly getting stuck worse than ever before
  4. Why do I need to read a timetable to catch an off peak transit service? I thought we were meant to be the World’s Most Liveable City?
  5. What is exactly stopping all day frequent transit services in Auckland?

For any one trying to travel around Auckland outside of the peak hour using transit know that our frequencies are sub-standard for a City our size. This does not even cover the lack of all day bus lanes like that for Airport to Botany Rapid Transit Stage 1 but that is for another day. We also know that freight is moved very inefficiently in Auckland owing to also (and rather ironically) our off peak transit frequencies being again sub-standard. It was also discovered that Auckland Transport could support all day frequent transit services tomorrow – if the money was made available to allow it. So what is going on?

Covid-19 and going Post Covid triggered the situation where a lot of office workers would work from home or eventually a remote office in a Metropolitan Centre. This trend is continuing and will continue but our transit system does not support this. See at the moment our transit system is still geared towards the twin peak hours from Monday to Friday in the City Centre. It was never designed to allow for greater off peak travel including a worker working from their remote work place and then travelling to HQ in the off peak for a meeting then returning back to their remote work place. I did this pretty much yesterday catching a peak service train to Auckland Transport HQ for an event then catching an off peak service to return to South Auckland where my work is based. The train trip up was fine, the trip back was not owing to having to match things around a timetable rather than just showing up and off we go.

Now I could have driven to the Auckland Transport event yesterday but that was a 70 minute trip by car and 40 minutes back let alone me contributing to said congestion which has gotten really bad on the Southern Motorway in the mornings (also the fact it is longer as well in terms of time). This significant congestion is harmful to productivity both people and freight and to the environment. So what can we do about it?

Congestion Profile

One thing the Auckland Freight Plan did show was the Traffic Movement Profile typical across Auckland.

Auckland Movement Profile (Pre Covid). Source: Auckland Transport

We can see the main conflict is in the morning peak when light, medium and heavy freight trucks are conflicting with general (and transit) traffic. Road space is a premium at best even with transit lanes in position along key areas of the transport corridor. Given our Industrial Complexes are not likely to move, and on-demand delivery is likely to grow something has to give. I.e either we move the initial freight bulge out of the morning peak and into the inter-peak (which already has high amounts of freight movement) or we move that general traffic morning peak bulge into the inter-peak and effectively flatten that particular bulge.

Given Auckland is not yet a 24/7 economy and commercial has not embraced night deliveries like overseas (where civic services like garbage are also carried out) our best option this decade is flatten out that morning peak bulge with general traffic. I.e get more people travelling in the inter-peak rather than the morning peak.

The good news is we already have latent support of getting more people to travel in the inter-peak with workers either working from home, a remote office, or starting at a later time say 10am. But this has created problems of a lengthened morning peak period (most likely owing to poor inter-peak transit services). Working local also means support to local retailers in the area which can mean localised congestion by both the person traveling (owing to a lack of off-peak transit) and freight needing to deliver goods (remember where the movement profiles are).

Support better inter-peak transit services, supports better freight efficiency

I have been told there is a Business Case before NZTA, and Auckland Council that would if fully funded allow our transit services to run at least every 15 minutes all day, every day. The cost is $75m to allow for this. The problem?

The business case is being held up by Auckland Council and NZTA themselves!

Effectively if we wish to continue to support the following then Council and NZTA need to get a hustle along and sign the $75m cheque to allow all day frequent services:

  1. Support those working from home or a remote office – who might want to commute to HQ in the off peak for whatever reason
  2. Support local town centres who are booming from (1) but do not have great frequent transit access to them in the off peak
  3. Allow better efficiency for freight movement as we are spreading the load in terms of moving people around. I.e allowing more efficient use of the road corridor through smoothing the general traffic movement curve in the morning

To help the inter-peak and freight we will need more bus lanes operating all day every day like Airport to Botany will have going. That is 6am until 7pm seven days a week to help the inter-peak transit services along. In some cases like State Highway 20B a few of those bus lanes could also take freight (thus become freight lanes) between 9am and 3pm to help freight keep moving as well – especially our larger freight vehicles moving between the industrial complexes and transport nodes like the Inland Ports, and Port of Auckland.

Eventually commercial and logistics will need to adapt as the City moves towards a 24/7 economy. That is commercial receiving goods before the morning peak, and logistics moving away from paper and pens in tracking orders.

Spatial Planning wise is another post in itself to get better efficiencies out of freight and the freight network. But the quickest bang for buck that would return its entire investment very quickly is for Mayor Goff, and NZTA to co-sign the cheque for $75m to allow Auckland Transport to fund all day frequent services across our transit network.

Frequency = FREEDOM, for people and freight

One thought on “Reason for Poor Off Peak Transit Frequencies, and Freight Getting Held Up? Ask NZTA and Mayor Phil Goff for Stalling the $75m to make it happen

  1. That’s right. The improvements to rail has stopped in the recent years.

    The frequency especially off peak has been poor.
    Journey time is also poor. For example after the eastern line tracks has been replaced, the journey time actually increased from 16 minutes to more than 20 minutes.

    It appears AT does not have any more motivation to improve the rail. Conspiracy theory suggest they want to nerf heavy rail to make light rail easier to sell.

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