Following on from yesterday’s post about possible future projects that would make up Auckland’s rail network, in this post I’m going to put them all together to give us an idea about what infrastructure there would/could be. I’m then going to start looking, only conceptually for now, at the kind of service patterns we could run on this future network. As always, I don’t know the answer, I don’t have a perfect future network laid out in my mind – I’m just trying to stimulate discussion, debate and perhaps at the end of it all have some kind of future network that is generally agreed upon as the way forward. Of course that’s probably quite unrealistic to expect agreement, but one can always hope!
In the comments thread of yesterday’s post there seemed to be general agreement that the series of projects I had come up with was a pretty comprehensive list. There was a fair discussion about whether some would be built as busways or rail – both making up rapid transit, and this is a fair point as we have not yet even built either the AMETI Busway or the Northwest Busway, so it seems vastly premature to be thinking of the day when those busways may need upgrading to rail! Putting together projects listed in the Auckland Plan and you end up with rail infrastructure shown in black and busway infrastructure shown in blue (I’ve taken a few minor liberties):
The above map, of course, creates more questions than answers – how to connect the southeast leg of the Airport Line with the Southern Line? How to get North Shore trains through the city centre? What to do to service Takapuna? How do you get the Avondale-Southdown Line to link up with the Southern Line? How many connecting options do you provide at Onehunga? So, a whole pile of questions around those connection points – something that I may need to work through one by one in future posts: A particularly interesting question is if you ever did upgrade the Northwest Busway to rail, would you want to somehow join it with the Western Line by way of a (probably tunnelled) connection around St Lukes Road? Or do you run a fairly close parallel route to the north of the Western Line?
Now if we shift onto looking at how we might use this infrastructure to provide a really top quality rail network, I think a good place to start is by looking overseas. There are plenty of possibilities: run a whole pile of circular routes, run many different point to point routes, run a pile of branches that come together in the central area then branch out on the other side of the city, and so on. The Outer Link discussion makes me think that loop routes are perhaps to be avoided for operational purposes, so let’s leave aside the whole pile of circular options for now. The next step is to look at how this is done internationally with the kind of commuter/metro hybrid system that Auckland’s rail network is.
There’s CrossRail, being built in London:
RER A & B in Paris:
The BART System in San Francisco:
One thing common to all these maps, all these lines and all these systems, is the way in which you have effectively one main line which splits out at each end, running through the centre city. Even many lines in Metro systems do this – the Piccadilly and District Lines in London, many of the routing groups on the New York subway, even the often discussed Canada Line in the Vancouver Skytrain system splits at its southern end. The reason behind this approach seems fairly obvious – demand is always likely to be highest in the inner parts of the system so you want to have high frequencies there, which you can achieve by effectively bringing together a pile of branches to offer that frequency. In the more outer areas you typically want your service to reach a lot of places, but those places are less likely to provide sufficient demand to justify the kind of frequencies available on the inner part of the network.
We already see this approach a bit in Auckland, although more in terms of where the trains begin/end their run rather than through branching. Western Line trains begin/end their run at Henderson, Swanson or Waitakere – because there’s less need further out to offer such a high frequency of service.
In the longer term, I can’t see Auckland being able to cope with the BART-like system, which is basically just a single line with a splits at each end. It seems like we’re likely to need/want a general ‘north-south’ line and a general ‘east-west’ one. Previously a lot of options proposed on this blog have looked at west-south and east-Onehunga/Airport routings, but those typically seem to work best only without the North Shore being thrown into the mix. Here’s a possible north-south route grouping: Within this grouping there’s obviously a couple of service patterns. To ensure that neither are too long, I’d say the obvious two services are Papakura/Pukekohe to Takapuna and Albany to the Airport, with both services overlapping between Penrose and Akoranga on the core part of the north-south network. How this gets through the city centre is, of course, a very interesting question – something to come back to in a future post I would think.
East-West route groupings are a little more complicated, especially if we want to include a SH16 Northwest route linking into the Western Line. Heading east we obviously have the existing eastern line and then a southeast line (if it doesn’t stay as a busway in the longer term). This creates the following ‘east-west’ network: To ensure the system is not too “CBD focused” there are a couple of obvious “cross-town” routes that join together key metropolitan centres – with the northwest one probably being a busway: In my next post I’ll look at putting all of this together into some kind of future service plan – as well as a progression plan towards the final plan.