Follow us on Twitter

Why the overhead CRL won’t work, it’s about the catchment

The other day we saw another alternative for the CRL crop up, an overhead line between Mt Eden and Britomart, it isn’t the first time an alternative route has been suggested and it is unlikely to be the last. While I’m sure that those who are proposing it have good intentions I don’t really think the proposal has been thought through, it solves the ‘Britomart problem’ but does so in a way that is unlikely to deliver many of the benefits the CRL does. This is due to the fact it just doesn’t go anywhere near where most of the jobs and residents are so to show this I have put their route roughly on a map along with the catchment within approximately 400m of the station. As you can see there is simply no catchment near what I would call the ‘heart of town’ and that more than anything else is why I think this isn’t a good idea.

  • Blue = Overhead CRL stations
  • Red = Proposed CRL stations
  • Green = Existing statons

19 comments to Why the overhead CRL won’t work, it’s about the catchment

  • Bryce

    Why can’t the CRL go directly up Queen St? Underground of course. Anyone know?

    • Peter M

      Too sharp a bend from the current Britomart station.

      • Bryce

        Figured that would be the case. Next question – if the metro station was relocated to Quay st, do you think that curve would still be too tight?

      • Peter M

        Probably. Only way to resolve that issue would be to have it cut diagonally under the existing station which seems a bit too difficult.

      • Matt L

        Also there would be a bigger problem with grades. Queen St is fairly flat up to about Victoria/Wellesley St but the CRL needs to be climbming as much as possible. The Aotea station platform will be pretty much at the same level as Queen St which means the tunnel would have to be longer and therefore more expensive to get up to the Western line

    • Josh

      Besides the grade and curve issues, hopefully having the CRL running next to Queen Street will give an opportunity for revitalising other parts of the CBD. Right now, most pedestrian traffic is focused solely on Queen Street and I think if we could expand the vibrancy to other areas of the CBD it would be great for Auckland.

  • Mr Anderson

    A really really sharp elevated bend right next to Victoria Park. Geez that’s got to be the stupidest idea ever – why would we ever want to build such a thing?

    One thing the route does recognise is a shift in the centre of gravity of the CBD towards the waterfront, and this is arguably a short-coming of the proposed CRL route. However, the shift to the waterfront can be catered for through a future Gaunt Street station on the North Shore line (or even as a first step a simple shuttle between Aotea and Gaunt Street) and it’s also arguable that the shift towards the waterfront is because that’s where the only train station is how – and having Aotea, K Road and Newton stations will allow those areas to “catch up”, effectively making it possible to get the best out of the whole city centre.

    Finally, I’m sure that parts of the blue route would simply be impossible to build because of grades.

    • Matt L

      I agree about the bend, I put it in as that is what they showed in the Herald graphic. I also agree about the grades, it is pretty steep through there and they are suggesting that the line be built above the motorway. In effect to get to up there we would need a viaduct about twice as high over Victoria park as we have now, I can’t see the locals letting that happen.

    • While there may be a shift in the centre of gravity toward Wynyard, that doesn’t mean the centre will be anywhere near Wynyard. If you’ve got 80,000 employees and 30,000 residents in the Queen St valley, and you create 10,000 new jobs and 5,000 new residents at Wynyard, the centre of gravity is still very much in the Queen St valley.

      That’s not to say that Wynyard won’t deserve its own rapid transit station, just that it certainly shouldn’t get it prior to the core of the CBD.

      • Mr Anderson

        Yes fair point that there’s often such a focus on serving the “new” that we can forget how big the “existing” actually is.

  • tuktuk

    The issue of catchment certainly sinks the overhead proposal….and really helps to crystalise the case for the CBD city rail link and tunnel.

    Its all about selling a value package for the tunnel version of the city rail link. In my opinion, the scheme achieves 3 key things – catchment and city renewal, greater network capacity and a much faster ride in for commuters from the west with city drop off/pick up close to the key areas of employment and study.

    CBD development has spread along the waterfront, but to be the future healthy commercial heart of the nation, Auckland’s CBD also needs to be vibrant and bustling along its north-south axis in a manner that has not really occurred since the tram tracks were ripped up and much of the CBD fringe destroyed to make way for Spaghetti Junction.

    There will be a number of alternative rail based ideas to the city rail link tunnel. Nick R’s plan for a Britomart twin down Quay Street is perhaps the simplest low cost alternative. Backers of the current city rail link and tunnel need to re-focus on the key benefits. Perhaps another way to package the benefits is to group them into “technocrat” benefits, and “populist” benefits and sell them accordingly to respective stakeholders.

    In regard to the faster journey from the west, it should be noted that the Northwestern motorway is going to have a massive capacity increase which will for a while lead to much faster car journeys into town once complete. The western rail corridor really needs that city rail link and tunnel to stay competitive.

    Coming back to the whole idea of elevated railways, one can see that architects might get excited about the enhanced sense of travel that results from an elevated journey. While not cheap (US$7.6 billion), the Dubai railway does look spectacular. Should the idea of an elevated railway be taken up by a future North Shore rail link?

    One other thing that is clear is that whatever happens west of Britomart, there seems a good excuse to bowl the ugly Downtown buildings directly across the road from Britomart and replace with something better that allows more sunlight onto the square while at the same time fitting in and around rapid transit infrastructure. The other thing to remember are those concealed Light Rail ramps along each side of Britomart.

    • conan

      “In regard to the faster journey from the west, it should be noted that the Northwestern motorway is going to have a massive capacity increase which will for a while lead to much faster car journeys into town once complete.”

      The capacity increase is all in the west. There is no extra capacity into the city. Given at peak times the traffic is pretty heavy and you are adding an extra lane of extra traffic (2 lanes from the tunnel city bound, which merge into one as far as St Lukes, after that it isn’t clear what happens, but there is no more space for extra capacity in CMJ) I think you will find the opposite will happen and car journeys from the west will take longer at peak.

      • good point… yes the rush up to the squeeze will be accelerated, basically increasing driver frustration and calls for more lanes everywhere….. The CMJ is done and all but choked at the peaks.

  • Tuktuk, while agreeing with your list of benefits of the CRL the absolutely vital and King Hit outcome is perhaps so obvious that it gets overlooked: over and above simply allowing twice the capacity through the Britomart throat by joining up the two ends of our current setup the CRL in fact creates a real rail network in Ak for the first time. Being able to run trains through the CBD to and from different parts of the periphery transforms the system away from a limited in and out CBD centric model to a more region wide service. This may seem counterintuitive but by building in the CBD we are actually making it into a city wide system for the first time. And one that will both unlock the existing potential in the existing rail right of way and offer opportunities for further expansion. Especially to the growing Wynyard quarter and then on to the North Shore. For example like this:
    http://transportblog.co.nz/2012/04/20/the-cross-future-pattern-for-auckland-rail/

    So getting from Britomart to the western line as directly as possible and through the important trip generating heart of the city is a non negotiable core of the programme. Wandering out west just because that provides an imaginary above ground route is no advantage. Slightly cheaper maybe, but no real use.

  • tuktuk

    Patrick re: your quote – ‘joining up the two ends of our current setup the CRL in fact creates a real rail network in Ak for the first time. Being able to run trains through the CBD to and from different parts of the periphery transforms the system away from a limited in and out CBD centric model to a more region wide service’.

    Yes agreed there, it is also perhaps the most difficult to sell as “populist” benefit. People perhaps aren’t getting their head around why spending money in the CBD will actually benefit the whole region.
    That is where your X network is such a useful visual sell – http://transportblog.co.nz/2012/04/20/the-cross-future-pattern-for-auckland-rail/

    Another way to demonstrate the benefits is perhaps to ask the question of how Auckland’s motorway network would function without Spaghetti Junction. Spaghetti Junction of course being the key to the regional motorway network. In the same way, the city rail link will become the key to the regional rail network. Unlike Spaghetti Junction of course, the CBD rail link and tunnel will also help the CBD. Win/win.

  • Anthony

    The map above is missing Grafton Station catchment.

    Queen St down from the Civic also has the ligar canal below it, so probably not a cheap prospect for rail.

    I’d been wondering if this elevated rail proposal might include a Gaunt St station?

  • Christopher T

    Using the Docklands Light Railway in London today – a fascinating example of ‘cheap and cheerful for the proles’ Tory public transport policy – I was struck by how utterly ghastly it looks as it snakes its way overground; how it totally stuffs up the urban landscape while making it possible for bankers to get to where they had to be (from the nicer parts of London) in the late 1980s (when it started operating) in order for them to screw the world. Overground public transport proposals are not only retrograde, they’re stupid: not only do they detract from any sense of streetscape (something entirely alien to most New Zealand architects and planners) but they create an entirely negative environment (noise, inconvenience, dead space, graffiti, etc, etc). Again, it’s a case of tunnel or nothing; the CBD link has been recognized as something that has to be done for near on a century, let’s just build it now and work out what else has to be done once we’ve managed to increase capacity by an order that no one has really contemplated, which will, as we’ve seen in Perth, happen.

    • DavidByrne

      I can’t start to even think about how controversial it will be if there’s a serious proposal put forward for putting the CRL overhead. At a time when there’s been discussion about removing the Vic Park viaduct and even the ramp at the bottom of Hobson St, to add further overhead infrastructure seems to be a controversial and engineering-centric response to a problem which needs solid public support. World’s most liveable city . . . hmmmm.

Leave a Reply