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The Howick/Botany Line

A couple of posts ago I talked about the transport issues facing East Auckland. In particular, the lack of rail transport out there has created a part of the city that is incredibly car dependent. It also suffers from very slow bus services, and a lot of traffic congestion.

So what is the solution? ARTA have indicated the potential for a “Rapid Transit Network” line that would run on a┬áManukau-Flat Bush-Botany-Pakuranga-Panmure route. I think the current proposal is for this route to operate as a busway, utilising the wide median of Te Irirangi Drive for its southern portion, and then I assume a lot of property acquisition/tunnelling will be needed for the part between Botany and Panmure (ie. when the line swings to the left). I would be disappointed if this was built as a busway, unless it was obvious that the busway could be easily upgraded to a train line. There are a number of reasons for this:

  1. Buses are generally less of a quality ride than trains. The Northern Busway would have been built as a train line if there had been a way of getting the trains over/under the Waitemata Harbour.
  2. Buses would either have to terminate at Panmure and throw a lot of people onto potentially already overcrowded Eastern Line trains, or continue to the city via existing roads – which would pretty much negate most of the time gains that would have been achieved from spending many hundreds of millions (at least) on the busway itself.
  3. Buses on a busway will inevitably travel slower than trains (80 kph v potentially 130 kph). Therefore a potential 35 minute train trip from Botany to Britomart may be 45-50 minutes as a busway, negating much of the gain over people driving.

So I would definitely recommend building it as a train line. Obviously the cost would be greater, and you would have tricky bits like how to get the train line from Manukau City to Te Irirangi Drive (probably would need a very expensive tunnel underneath the Southern Motorway). The map below shows a couple of options for the line’s route.

howick-line-v2

The southern part of the Red Line is probably fairly set in concrete, except for a variety of options that would link Manukau City with Te Irirangi Drive. After Botany, the red option shows a possible option that would follow ARTA’s identified RTN route “roughly”. The advantage of this route would be that it’s a fairly direct link between Botany an Panmure, that the Ti Rakau Drive area is proposed for widening anyway so it’s possible that a rail reserve could be created as part of this process. Its disadvantages include that it runs through a largely industrial area for much of its route (the eastern half of Ti Rakau Drive) and also that much of the Howick/Highland Park area would be very poorly served by rail still. Ultimately its coverage isn’t great, so therefore I don’t think that’s the best option.

The Blue Line option pushes the railway line further north, and therefore improves its residential catchment. A station at Cascades Road would allow for feeder buses and a park n ride to serve Howick and Highland Park much more realistically. On the down side it’s probably likely to be more expensive, as the terrain through Pakuranga Heights is quite steep and would require some tunnelling. I don’t necessarily think that it’s the ultimate solution either.

After much discussion on the bettertransport forums a few other ideas got thrown about. The idea of linking into the existing rail system nearer to Glen Innes than Panmure was an interesting one, with the big advantage that it would reduce travel times even more (a more direct route from Botany to Britomart) and would serve a greater part of the existing suburban area (Farm Cove, Highland Park & Half Moon Bay) than the other proposals. However, it would also possibly have the greatest cost, due to the need for a big bridge from Farm Cove across to Glen Innes, and would not serve Pakuranga. The bridge across Tamaki River might also be a difficult one to get consent for, as it would have a pretty major negative effect on residents located at either end of it. The environmental effects might be fairly significant too. Saljen off the forums suggested a variation of this route that manages to avoid most houses, sticking to a couple of streams that cross the Pakuranga area. That route is shown in green below, with potential feeder bus routes shown in other colours.

howickfeeders

This route I think could offer a journey time from Botany to Britomart of about 26 minutes. Compared with the 90 minute bus trip or well over an hour in a car (at peak hour) this would be an amazing improvement. I think that a lot of people would use such a line due to the amazing time advantages. Obviously some pretty big obstacles would need to be sorted out though. Would it be OK environmentally to run the line along a number of the area’s streams? Would it be feasible to build that kind of bridge across the Tamaki River? Would the effects on residents in the vicinity of the bridge be acceptable? What would the whole thing cost?

I know that a line such as this is many years away from even being planned in a concrete way, but I do think that a line serving this part of Auckland is well overdue. I also think that the Ti Rakau Drive route shouldn’t be thought of as the only option. There are at least two other routes that I think could offer even greater benefits.

5 comments to The Howick/Botany Line

  • Patrick Davis

    How about a Chicago style ‘L’ elevated train. Even built along the streams, their footprints would only be marginal. Then the ‘L’ could continue on down surface streets with only minor impact – at least compared to conventional on surface rail. Bonus wouldn’t have to build expensive tunnels or trenches.

  • jarbury

    Along the streams I think that you could find ways of ensuring the footprint was fairly minimal – even at surface level. I think that building elevated structures are pretty expensive, more so than trenches but less so than tunnels. I suppose that the topography of the area would determine whether, and to what extent, tunneling was necessary.

  • sam

    I live in East Auckland (Howick, Meadowlands, Botany areas) for many years; the lack of any feasible public transport outside of the area was stifling. If you want to go anywhere, buses are hardly an option. This is the most well thought-out proposal I’ve ever seen for the area.

    Really, it only leaves one question – why aren’t you in charge? :P

  • Well Sam, this wasn’t actually my idea – thank someone on the bettertransport.org.nz forums who goes by the name of “Saljen”. The problem with this idea is cost – this line would not come cheap.

  • Dan C

    A great proposal, the 2nd map with the green line would suit the area very well, this could also be extended upon with a future line link going from botany to the southdown / penrose area. It would be so great to have something like this in place. For the daily commute and also imagine meeting friends in downtown auckland for a meal, then shooting home to Botany in 26 mins, relaxed and not having to watch how many drinks you’ve had.

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