Outer Link First Impressions

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The new Outer Link service started today, so I dragged the family along to the bus stop at Westmere and we took it to St Lukes shopping mall.

Outer Link Map

We got off to a nervous start. The real-time information board at Westmere shops advised that the next “OUT” was “due”, then it flicked over to 9 minutes and then 19. At this point having waited for 15 minutes we phoned Maxx to find out when it was actually going to be turning up. Naturally as soon as we did this the bus turned up.

Although advertised as every 15 minutes it is actually a timetabled service.  “Timing stops” for our sector include Westmere Shops, Carrington and St Lukes.  After a short wait we departed at 11:24.  So teething problem #1 is that the times appearing on the real-time information board at Westmere didn’t even match the timetable, let alone the actual time the bus turned up.

We trundled along in style down Meola Rd. The bright orange Outer Link buses are brand new and are quiet and smooth. They have handy baggage storage, a marked push chair parking area and disabled seating just down from the front door. The seats are moulded to a fit standard size person. This is particularly noticable around your middle if you are a little bigger than the standard size person, and it will be interesting to see how comfortable the seats are for two bigger sized people sitting next to each other.  There are plenty of yellow grab handles for when full standing loads occur.

Like the Inner Link there is an announcement for every bus stop (Miranda Harcourt maybe? We were half expecting an announcement for Donaldson’s Dairy.)  Also announced at certain stops is the message that for time table reasons the “bus may wait a the next stop for a few minutes”. This happened at Carrington Rd, where we waited for 4 minutes, which was a little annoying. It left me wondering if there was a separate timetable for weekday and weekend services, since you would expect the Outer Link to run a bit faster than normal on weekends.  In any case we arrived right outside St Lukes about 25 minutes after departing Westmere, slightly longer than anticipated, but an enjoyable ride nonetheless.

For the return trip home the first objective was to locate the bus stop for the clockwise service. It is poorly signposted, but it is actually on the bus lane on the other side of St Lukes Rd, near the AA and Washworld. Better signage from Westfield St Lukes is really required here. There is also no bus shelter.  The other major issue is the length of time that it takes to cross St Lukes Rd on foot (about 4 minutes after pressing the button). While we were waiting the Outer Link turned up, so I jaywalked ahead so I could tag everyone on and get the bus to wait for everyone (stressing the driver as he was behind time a bit!).  Also the pedestrian crossing phasing really needs to be synchronised here so there isn’t a long wait in the middle of St Lukes Rd, otherwise jaywalking is going to be a regular occurence as people attempt to get the bus and avoid a 15 minute wait.  St Lukes is also a timing stop so there is a chance that the bus will wait, but then again it won’t if it is behind time.

The trip home was pretty quick because we were behind time and we sailed through the timing stop at Carrington. Turning right into Meola from Pt Chev the onboard announcements got a bit screwed up. First it was announced that the next stop was Motat 2 (a new stop), then as we passed the Kiwi Rd stop Westmere was announced, then as we came to the roundabout on Garnet Rd, Kiwi Rd was announced.  Meola Rd is also very narrow – at one point we had to stop behind a parked car to let the anti-clockwise Outer Link bus through. Some kind of parking restriction is really going to be required here soon, which is problematic for the big numbers of people that use the sports grounds on weeknights and weekends.

All in all though it was a good start for the service – I think it will become very popular as there are some really key “trip attractors” on this circuit such as Unitec and St Lukes shopping centre.   Fare-wise I was fortunate in that it is a single stage from Westmere to St Lukes which makes it $4.50 for the family paying by Hop (I think, I need to check). If we had to pay two stages then I doubt we’d use the service for weekend shopping - which makes me think we need a better ticketing product than the $25 family pass currently on offer through the Maxx website.

There is supposed to be a review in six months of all new central services, but I hope this doesn’t preclude the ability to put on more buses sooner than that to cater for demand.

Auckland Harbour Bridge Pathway Launch

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The team at getacross.org.nz have been unflinching in their determination to build walking and cycling access across the Harbour Bridge. The design concept will be launched on Sunday August 21st, 3:oopm at the new Karanga Gateway Plaza, Wynyard Quarter.

More information at www.getacross.org.nz

Waikato Trains Now! Public Meeting 22nd August

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The Campaign for Better Transport will be hosting a public meeting in Hamilton:

  • Monday 22nd August, 7:30 pm.
  • Methodist Centre, 60 London St, Hamilton

Come along and hear what local MPs and political parties have to say about passenger rail and public transport in Hamilton.

MPs and candidates from all the major political parties will be speaking. For more information contact

As AKT reports, yesterday the rail service moved a step closer with more than 40 people, including rail party members, councillors and members of parliament, departed Frankton Railway Station on a Silver Fern train.

The Silver Fern about to depart from Frankton

The Silver Fern about to depart from Frankton

The train terminated at The Strand railway station in Parnell, which has been under consideration as a possible end point for the service.The rail working party was established last September following strong public interest for a passenger rail service.

As part of its investigations into the feasibility of a service, the working party has been exploring detailed timetabling options, infrastructure requirements, and costings prior to making a decision on a preferred option.

Silver Fern Test Run for Hamilton To Auckland Rail Service

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Media Release From the Campaign for Better Transport

Regular rail services using the recently refurbished Silver Fern railcar could be the outcome of a trial run this Friday August 12, believes the Campaign for Better Transport.

For the past several months a number of local councils have been working with KiwiRail and other parties to explore options for a daily passenger train service between Hamilton and Auckland. A working party will evaluate using the iconic Silver Fern via a chartered test run, arriving at Auckland’s Strand railway station at 10:40am Friday, before delivering its final recommendation.

Members of the Campaign for Better Transport will be making the train journey to Auckland. “We welcome the opportunity to take the trip,” says Waikato Trains Now! campaign manager Rob George.

“It has been a long time coming and it is good to see some tangible action, even if this trip is only a proof of concept run. We are confident that the merits of the service and public demand will ensure it is the first of many”.

This working party is expected to deliver its final recommendation to the various Councils by early September.

Meanwhile, the Campaign for Better Transport will continue to build public support for the service. A major public meeting on Hamilton public transport issues and the rail service will take place on Monday 22 August, 7.30 pm at the Methodist Centre on London Street, Hamilton. MPs and Candidates from all major political parties have been invited to speak at the meeting.

[ends]

Timetable:

10:40 Silver Fern arrives at the Strand Railway Station

11.10 Depart The Strand Railway Station for Britomart

11.25 Arrive Britomart

Funding Transport In Auckland

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In a Herald article last Friday, Transport Minister Steven Joyce came out with the following straw man argument:

“I don’t think anyone would buy the suggestion that that very, very expensive project should just be paid for by road users,” he said.

In response, Transport Minister Steven Joyce is right,  but no-one is suggesting that the CBD Rail Link should just be paid for by road users.

However Minister Joyce must be aware that public transport infrastructure can significantly benefit road users, and on that basis some level of funding commitment from the National Land Transport Fund, which raises $2.8bn annually from petrol excise and road user charges, is entirely appropriate.

The precedent for this is the Northern Busway. This quarter billion dollar project was jointly funded from the National Land Transport Fund and the North Shore City Council and has eased congestion levels across the Harbour Bridge to the significant benefit of motorists.

Similarly the CBD Rail Link will not only double capacity of the entire rail network and offer significant travel time saving benefits to public transport users, but it will also benefit road users as well by taking a significant number of cars off the roads at peak times.

Contrary to what Minister Joyce says, Auckland City has already established that no roading based solution will offer anywhere near the benefits of the CBD Rail Link.

If Minister Joyce insists on having sole discretion on how our fuel taxes are used, he needs to work constructively to find alternative transport funding solutions for Auckland.


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