There was a useful comment on Nick’s post about the silly buses vs trains argument yesterday, asking if a better explanation could be made around how the City Rail Link benefits the North Shore. I’m going to take up that challenge because I certainly think there’s a general perception that the CRL only benefits those along the existing railway network – which obviously doesn’t include the North Shore.
Put simply, I think there are three clear ways that the CRL benefits the North Shore.
Firstly, by increasing the capacity of the rail network, the CRL should reduce the number of cars and buses entering the city centre from the west, south and east. This frees up space within the city centre to be reallocated to buses from places that aren’t served by rail – particularly the North Shore, the Northwest (SH16 corridor) and the southern isthmus. Buses from those areas should be able to operate much more efficiently if they’re not having to compete for roadspace with buses from places that are served by rail. The same is true for general traffic. A useful way to illustrate this is to compare 2041 “with CRL” and “without CRL” bus scenarios – as shown in the map below and it should be pointed out that this map came from the NZTA as part of their last harbour crossing study: While the numbers and routes are probably out of date now that we have learned a new bus network is being looked at, the key point here is simply a comparison and to think about how well (or otherwise) the two scenarios would work if you were on one of the 246 buses per hour arriving in the city centre from the North Shore (a number that seems impossible for Fanshawe Street to cope with, but that’s another issue). In the “without CRL” scenario (on the right) your bus is competing against a vastly greater (around 240 by my count) number of other buses in the city centre for what will be pretty scarce roadspace.
To cut a long story short, it simply won’t work, the numbers are too large and the city centre would grind to a halt – which really stuffs things up for you trying to get in there from the North Shore. So there’s a pretty clear indirect benefit from the CRL for those on the North Shore trying to catch a bus or drive into the city centre. You’ll be able to get in.
Secondly, that first point leads nicely on to reason two, Job. One of the key reasons why CBDs have formed in the first place is that they tend to be central to the region and therefore have a greater access to the potential workforce. As an example a business based in Albany is most likely to have employees from the North Shore or West Auckland but is much less likely to have people from the South whereas businesses in the CBD tend to have staff from all over the city. There are other reasons as well with things like agglomeration benefits from businesses being located close to each other but the key is that for the CBD to keep growing it needs for people to be able to access it. CBD jobs also have a higher average wage than anywhere else in the city so if we can increase the number of people earning higher wages then both the city and the entire country benefit (remember the government would benefit from this through collecting more business and personal taxes)
The CRL allow for a lot more people to access the CBD from the south, east and west and as mentioned above frees up road space to allow more buses from the other areas not currently served by the rail network, this means better, higher-value, higher-paying jobs both in the city centre and eventually throughout the whole of Auckland will benefit everyone – including those living and working on the North Shore.
Thirdly, the City Rail Link looks increasingly like it’s a prerequisite for rail to the North Shore. We learned earlier this month that the preferred option for joining North Shore rail in with the rest of the network is at Aotea Station – presumably because joining at Britomart creates too many conflicting train movements. Here’s what looks like the plan for North Shore rail’s city end:
Obviously you can’t link with Aotea Station if there is no Aotea Station. I guess there’s the interesting option of potentially doing North Shore rail instead of the CRL, and turning Britomart into a through station that way, but then you don’t get many of the CRL’s benefits actually happening:
- No quicker trips for those from the west
- No improved station coverage of the city centre
- No improved capacity for the existing rail network (i.e. all trains would need to enter the city centre at one point, the CRL really adds capacity through creating a second rail entrance to the city centre)
So if you’re on the North Shore and you’d like to see a railway line happening there one day, and you want it connected (either directly by track or initially via platform-to-platform transfer at Aotea station) to the existing rail network, you need Aotea Station, which means you need the City Rail Link.
In a way I can see why North Shore residents might feel a little aggrieved about missing out on the vast improvements to rail that we’ve seen in recent years and hope to see more of in the future. Nevertheless, we mustn’t forget that the North Shore enjoys a pretty high quality rapid transit route itself in the form of the Northern Busway. Its also worth pointing out that not all people from the north shore oppose the CRL, we saw last week that the Upper harbour local board strongly opposes the project but it is interesting to see that the Devonport-Takapuna local board came out in support of it and the Kaipatiki local board have supported it in principal
I hope this post has illustrated a number of ways in which the North Shore really does benefit from the CRL’s construction – both now (in terms of improved economic performance and the freeing up of city centre road space) and into the future, with Aotea Station making it possible for a future North Shore railway line to link in with the rest of the network in the very heart of Auckland.