09 Nov

“Sensible solution for Auckland Transport is back to the future” 

Best and Worst Bus Stops

The discussion over new Mayor Phil Goff’s decision not to appoint Councillors to the AT Board highlights that “there’s little debate that Auckland Transport’s governance arrangements need reviewing” says the Public Transport Users Association.

“While there are differences of opinion about the solutions, there is widespread agreement about the problems”. “Poor performance on some indicators, a perceived lack of accountability, inefficiencies, a lack of contestable advice – all show signs of typical transport capture with AT”, says PTUA Chair Christine Rose.

“But the most sensible solution may rest in Auckland’s past” says Mrs Rose. “Up until 2010, and everywhere else in the country now, citizens have the value of a broadly representative Regional Land Transport Committee to help shape important strategic transport decisions”. “Everywhere else in the country high-level transport direction is informed by political representatives. But these are supplemented by voices from the community too”. “PTUA recommends that in addition to the two re-established political Board roles, key Board members could also include those mandated for the rest of New Zealand”.

Regional Land Transport Committees (RLTC) elsewhere in New Zealand develop Regional Land Transport Strategies that set out the region’s transport vision and objectives. In Auckland, Auckland Transport already has the legal functions of an RLTC. “It makes sense therefore, to reflect what is essential and works well for the rest of the country. For a Unitary Authority like Auckland, the main transport decision making board (the RLTC equivalent) should include five elected representatives from the Council, one from NZTA, one cultural representative, and one to represent each of the objectives in the 2008 NZ Transport Strategy – economic development, safety and personal security, environmental sustainability, public health and access and mobility”.

PTUA co-ordinator Jon Reeves says there are clearly many voices missing from important transport decisions in Auckland, that are mandated to sit at the table elsewhere in the country. “Where are the voices for those with disabilities or cultural knowledge, or for sustainability?” “Up until the latest decision to axe the meagre two elected representatives, these Board members carried those cudgels. Now even that opportunity is being removed”.

“Ultimately on an enhanced AT Board that takes on the equivalent role of an RLTC, those positions might be filled by sector representatives, such as the AA, the Employers and Manufacturers’ Association, cycling advocate representatives, other advocates” says Mr Reeves. “But we’d be ensuring statutory objectives were being considered openly, as is required elsewhere in New Zealand.” “There’s no case for Auckland exceptionalism and the prohibition against political and community representation here”, he says.

Mrs Rose, who was Chair of the region’s last Regional Land Transport Committee before the creation of Auckland Council and the Auckland Transport CCO, says the monolithic, hostile AT Board edifice would well benefit from more open governance, rather than closing it down. “Inclusive and consensus based decision making is essential for transport governance elsewhere in the country, and it worked well in Auckland until amalgamation”. “We may have to look to the past – and elsewhere in the country

18 Apr

Diesel Train Service Now, Pragmatic Solution To Area’s Growth, Public Say

DMU Auckland courtesy of M KilgourAuckland Transport (AT) continues its consultation on transport options to serve the region’s massive future growth, and locals favour passenger rail transport, but AT’s plans show unsustainable bias toward road based solutions for Huapai-Kumeu, say the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA).

“The high growth greenfields development happening now in Huapai-Kumeu on the North West outskirts of Auckland, is crippling State Highway 16” says local resident and PTUA chair, Christine Rose. “SH16 is a strategic, freight and service industry transport alternative to SH1, but is at a standstill now because of residential sprawl unmatched with decent public transport infrastructure. Auckland Transport are consulting on plans for transport improvements sometime, including new roads and a busway from Westgate into the city, none of which have real timeframes or funding, nor deliver the transport solutions people say they want”.

In the last consultation round, passenger rail solutions were preferred by the public more than any other option. Auckland Transport, to their credit have moved slightly in suggesting an investigation into benefits and costs of electric rail to the area. ”But in effect, we’re no further ahead, with the plans showing bias toward a road-based solutions which have no timeframe, no budget, fail to address SH16 congestion and won’t serve the current growth of Kumeu” Rose added.

“Meanwhile, we’ve got an existing railway line, railway station, and diesel rolling stock that can be used tomorrow on an uncongested, dedicated route. With smart timetabling to meet the rest of the regional rail network, this service could start tomorrow, with marginal additional cost” says Mrs Rose. “Surely that’s a better deal for ratepayers and residents than living with crippling congestion for decades until ‘if and when’ budgets and plans are developed?”.

Both Mrs Rose as previous chair of the Auckland Regional Council’s Transport Committee and PTUA co-ordinator Jon Reeves, have been involved with successful rail campaigns such as that which brought rail back to Onehunga. Mr Reeves says “that campaign showed that there will always be opponents of rail development. But in using existing railway lines, diesel rolling stock, and platforms, we save ratepayers money and increase capacity on roading networks for important freight and service vehicles, and we can provide a decent, truly congestion free public transport service now, not in 20 years when it will be too late”.

PTUA propose a ‘Western Connector’ rail service initially offering hourly rail services between Huapai and Swanson from 6am to 8pm daily. This shuttle will connect with the wider Auckland rail network in the exact same fashion as the successful Pukekohe – Papakura rail shuttle service. “The beauty of our solution is it can start immediately as everything is in place and ready to go. Only the will of Auckland Transport is blocking Huapai, Kumeu and Waitakere residents and ratepayers having a rail service.”

The rail service will also encourage visitors to Huapai and Kumeu villages and the cycling community will benefit as they can transport bikes right out west, which is impossible with buses.

“We know the community overwhelmingly see rail as a pragmatic solution to their existing transport needs” says Mrs Rose. “Now we just need to convince the authorities that the public are right”.

As a side note, voices further north are pushing for a total upgrade of the rail line from Swanson to Whangarei to enable tourist passenger trains to operate at faster speeds. While the concept is slightly different to the “Western Connector” commuter service for Huapai, it shows that there is a growing desire by the public for an upgraded rail service, after 40 years of government initiated decline of the passenger rail system.

The Public Transport Users Association are planning a public meeting at the end of May as part of their campaign for rail services to Kumeu. Discussions are underway with Auckland Transport Chairman Lester Levy in the hope he can attend.

Please take the time tofill out or PETITION at the end of the article?

ENDS

Helpful Links

Western Connector proposal details : http://ptua.org.nz/1/2015/03/western-connector

Western Connector Kumeu proposed timeline

23 Mar

Easter Warning For HOP Card Users

No rail for airport

The Public Transport Users Association is warning Auckland Transport HOP card users to be careful this long weekend as they could be overcharged for fares on Rail Replacement buses.
The PTUA brought the issue to the attention of Auckland Transport after faulty HOP card readers on rail replacement buses and connecting trains over Waitangi weekend overcharged passengers.
Jon Reeves, Coordinator for the PTUA, said “We have warned AT that passengers HOP cards have been illegally overcharged on long weekends when rail lines are partially closed down for maintenance, possibly by hundreds of thousands of dollars collectively. AT have not responded to our concerns, so this weekend the PTUA will be checking the fares for HOP users on rail replacement services. If any illegal overcharging occurs then we will be laying a complaint against AT with the Commerce Commission for breaching the Fair Trading Act by charging higher than advertised fares. Aucklanders have been promised a smart HOP card to make transport easier. Unfortunately, it has turned out the HOP card has made it easier for overcharging users and AT have not been forth coming correcting the issue”.
AT needs to advise and refund HOP card users, who are most likely unaware they are being overcharged by as much as double the published fare.  Reeves says “The PTUA have lodged an OIA request and are waiting for AT’s response to find out how many HOP card passengers used rail replacement services in the past 14 months, and how many were overcharged.
The PTUA are asking passengers to check the fare deducted from their HOP cards on journeys this weekend which use buses as full or partial replacement for train services. If they believe they have been over charged, please contact the PTUA with details. HOP card users should pay particular attention on these services which could overcharge your account:
All services on the Western Line will be replaced by rail buses from Good Friday (25 March) to Easter Monday (28 March).
All services on the Southern, Eastern and Onehunga Line will be replaced by rail buses on Good Friday.
Trains are operating between Sylvia Park and Britomart on the Eastern Line on Saturday 26, Sunday 27 and Easter Monday 28 March. All other services will be replaced by buses.
All services on the Southern and Onehunga Line will be replaced by buses on Saturday 26, Sunday 27 and Easter Monday 28 March.

16 Dec

Passengers Dealt Double Blow For Christmas

SuperGold_Card_image

An unexpected gift is being delivered to Auckland public transport users just in time for the holiday season. Auckland Transport will increase the cost of purchasing new HOP cards from $5 to $10 from Friday, 17 December. As yet, no justification for the increase has been provided to passengers.

The Public Transport Users Association opposes increasing the cost of the HOP card, particularly at a time when AT should be encouraging people to choose public transport over cars. PTUA spokesperson Jon Reeves says that “while AT have been doing some great things for PT users, this completely unjustified increase is more proof that one arm of AT doesn’t know what the other is doing – and public transport users in Auckland deserve better”. This decision has been questioned by public transport lobbyists across the board because it makes no sense.

The increase follows last week’s announcement that Kiwirails’ Northern Explorer train service between Auckland and Wellington will relocate from its current home at the Britomart Transport Centre to the extremely inconvenient Strand platform at the former Auckland Railway Station, over 1.2 km from its present location in Downtown. CLICK HERE for the recent NZ Herald article.

Kiwirail say a free shuttle service will operate between the Strand and Britomart, however the PTUA are concerned this service will only be temporary. Comment from large tourist operators in Auckland suggest they are unhappy about the impact these changes will have on their customers, and have stated they will keep the PTUA informed of any issues that arise following the changeover. CLICK HERE to read more.

The PTUA has received emails from Paul Reidy, Kiwirail CEO, and Gavin Rutherford, Head of Kiwirail Scenic, but it is clear they seem to be surprisingly unaware of the damage the relocation will do to the appeal of the service. Arriving in the centre of downtown Auckland is a significantly more attractive conclusion to a 10.5 hour long train journey, however “being dumped in the middle of nowhere, with no public transport links, after that long journey, is not the smartest solution they could have come up with” Reeves says.
“I have challenged Gavin Rutherford to join me on the 23 minute walk with two suitcases from Britomart to the Strand, to see if he still truly believes it is a convenient distance for passengers to negotiate. He has failed to reply to that request.” Jon Reeves said.

The PTUA suspects Auckland Transport is behind the Kiwirail decision to relocate the service, and have asked for confirmation from AT that it has not asked Kiwirail to leave Britomart. No reply has yet been received from AT management. PTUA concludes that AT do not support long distance rail, and that the organisation has become disconnected from what best serves the public in this case.
This Christmas, the anti-public transport options being offered by AT and Kiwirail leave much to be answered for.

ENDS

More from the NZ Herald

20 Jul

Pukekohe Electrification Needed

Image courtesy of M Kilgour

Today hails a massive step forward for Auckland rail passengers with electric trains rolled out on all lines. However, Franklin passengers have yet to share the joy of full electrification as it stops short in Papakura.

The Public Transport Users Association would like the Government to come to the party and put up its share of funding to have electrification extended to Pukekohe, or even Tuakau/Pokeno.

PTUA-Jon-Reeves-PukekoheJon Reeves, PTUA Coordinator, says “the only reason why Pukekohe passengers have to change trains at Papakura is because the Government has not funded the logical extension of electric rail services to Franklin. Compared to building the Takanini motorway interchange around $200 million, the estimated $110 million to extend electrification 18 kms from Papakura to Pukekohe is extremely affordable for the Government and will benefit the huge growth in population and passengers.”

The PTUA would like to see the new Hunua MP, Andrew Bayly, actively lobby the Government for immediate funding approval. Auckland Transport has already undertaken in-depth studies and the Benefit to Cost Ratio stacks up. Passengers are now encouraged to actively start contacting their local MP to let him know that Franklin deserves electrified rail services now. “The time for fobbing off Pukekohe rail passengers with excuses is now over. Action and leadership from the local MP is now needed seen and heard” Reeves said.

new-auckland-transport-at-electric-train-no-good-for-pukekoheThe PTUA is also concerned that the diesel rail shuttles operating to Papakura require extremely high quality performance on the part of Auckland Transport (AT). With Pukekohe passengers now having to change trains at Papakura the onus is now very much on AT to deliver perfect train time keeping. AT need to ensure all rail shuttles connect seamlessly into the network. “The last thing we want to see is Pukekohe passengers arriving at Papakura just as the electric train to Britomart departs or vice-versa” Mr Reeves said.

The PTUA will be at Pukekohe station surveying passengers at various dates and times over the next few months to collect feedback about the rail shuttle experiences. Passengers are also encouraged to fill out our online General Passenger Survey. This can be found at www.PTUA.org.nz

Today hails a massive step forward for Auckland rail passengers with electric trains rolled out on all lines. However, Franklin passengers have yet to share the joy of full electrification as it stops short in Papakura.

The Public Transport Users Association would like the Government to come to the party and put up its share of funding to have electrification extended to Pukekohe, or even Tuakau/Pokeno.

Jon Reeves, PTUA Coordinator, says “the only reason why Pukekohe passengers have to change trains at Papakura is because the Government has not funded the logical extension of electric rail services to Franklin. Compared to building the Takanini motorway interchange around $200 million, the estimated $110 million to extend electrification 18 kms from Papakura to Pukekohe is extremely affordable for the Government and will benefit the huge growth in population and passengers.”
The PTUA will be at Pukekohe station surveying passengers at various dates and times over the next few months to collect feedback about the rail shuttle experiences. Passengers are also encouraged to fill out our online General Passenger Survey. This can be found by clicking HERE.

 

16 Jul

Western Passengers Face Rail Cuts

waitakere-ripped-offWestern Passengers Face Rail Cuts. Commuters, communities and ratepayers are angry at Auckland Transport’s axing of all Waitakere trains from tomorrow.

After 133 years service the last commuter train will roll out of Waitakere station all because of an outdated, over-inflated report commissioned and signed off by the Board of Auckland Transport in early 2013.

The Public Transport Users Association has highlighted to the Board the many errors which worked against retaining Waitakere Station and extending commuter services to the growing North West Auckland communities of Huapai and Kumeu.

Auckland Transport’s Board decision rejecting rail services to the North West had nothing to do with benefiting passengers, nor the communities in the Nor West. In fact it will potentially turn many rail passengers off public transport all together. Since that report we’ve also had a Special Housing Area confirmed and more in the process for Huapai and surrounds. All these developments plus the flaws highlighted by the Public Transport Users Association defy logic for cutting back Auckland’s rail network at Waitakere, the first cut back of rail services in over 30 years, affecting one of the fastest growing areas in the region.

The PTUA has surveyed hundreds of passengers over the past 6 months who use Waitakere and Swanson stations. The fundamental reason why passengers have ceased using Waitakere station is the clear mismanagement by design on the part of Auckland Transport. “AT’s own data reveals the huge scale of train cancellations designed to make catching trains at Waitakere a gamble”.
“Passengers never know if they’ll get to work or school on time, or be able to get home in the evening. The bus replacement option is a joke, slow, inconvenient and unable to carry bikes, pushchairs or wheelchairs for disabled passengers” says Christine Rose, Chair of the PTUA.

DMU Auckland courtesy of M KilgourThe PTUA has proposed the “Western Connector”, a regular diesel rail shuttle, between Huapai and Swanson connecting with the electric rail network. This is exactly the same concept as now operates at the southern end of the line between Papakura and Pukekohe and a good interim service until one day when electrification can be extended further west. “Trains are significantly faster than buses from Huapai to every single Western Line destination, including Newmarket, especially with recently announced added delays to the North Western bus service.

Jon Reeves said, “Auckland Transport should be a champion of the public transport user! AT’s continuing disservice to the rail passengers of Waitakere and further West is anything other than putting customers first.”

Due to a continuing campaign by the PTUA, Auckland Transport recently has decided to take another look at developments in Huapai-Kumeu and public transport needs. “PTUA has asked AT to advise us of the scope of the review. We want to make sure they do not use the outdated, flawed report as reference again and that they include a review of our common sense Western Connector proposal” says Mr Reeves.

“Every Local Board approached and the Auckland Council Infrastructure Committee agrees with us and our concerns. It is now time for Auckland Transport to prove they listen to the community it is supposed to serve.” said Reeves.

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