Whenever there is a large transport project like the CRL, or probably any large project for that matter, the responses tend to fall into four categories.
- The enthusiastic supporters and you can put us in that category
- Those that don’t really have a view either way and this probably covers most of the general public
- Those that object to the project and we can probably put the government in this group
- Those that could be classed as fence sitters or who think they know better
For this post I am going to look at that last group as while they publicly support the project, they don’t back this up with their actions and this is usually manifested in one of two ways. The first is putting caveats on their support by saying things like that now isn’t the time and that we should wait for the economy to improve but of course they find some other excuse when that happens. The second way is by acting as ‘concerned’ individuals or organisations who try to create an uncertainty about the project in the eyes of the general public by questioning some parts of it like the route or the technology used. It is exactly this kind of uncertainty that has been instrumental in holding public transport in general back since the 50′s as while individual groups are bickering over particular aspects of PT the roading groups have clearly and consistently called for more motorways.
It is in this last camp that I would count both the AA and Steven Selwood of the New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development (NZCID). Both have suggested that the CRL should move westwards to take into account the planned growth at the Wynyard Quarter while the NZCID have also said the tunnel should to closer to the Universities. Selwood has also said “If you don’t serve those areas with rail then you must add the costs of buses or light rail,” he points out. “What’s needed is a ‘whole of life, whole of city’ analysis”. So lets look at the two locations identified a bit more closely.
Wynyard is obviously one of the key growth areas for the CBD over the next decade or so but just how big will it be. Research conducted by PWC for the Waterfront development agency suggests that eventually 13,000 people will be based in the area and another 7,000 will be living there. Those are some decent numbers but how do they compare to the rest of the CBD, pretty poorly actually. Stats NZ shows that the three area units that make up the CBD currently contain over 80,000 jobs. What this means is that if we were to divert the CRL via the Wynyard Quarter then we would potentially be making the journey slower for majority of passengers who are going to the core of the existing CBD which has a much bigger catchment.
A better solution for the mean time will be the extension of the existing tram line across the viaduct and on to Britomart. Buying a couple of modern trams to run on these tracks and we have probably sorted out the transport needs for the area for a while and at a much cheaper cost than what Selwood is suggesting.
Long term there is another solution but that is at the bottom of the post.
The universities are a huge part of the CBD, not only employing a huge number of people but of course teaching tens of thousands of students so it is understandable to suggest a station nearby them however the image below shows a 500m walking distance from the 3 stations closest to the universities. As you can see a 500m walk does cover parts of AUT however it falls just short of reaching the University of Auckland but is it enough to justify diverting the route of the CRL, I don’t think so.
Once again just as with Wynyard I think the is another long term solution to this.
The long term solution
So what is the long term solution? It is something we have discussed before and is how we connect the future North Shore line to the rest of our network. Any line from the North Shore would pass through the Wynyard Quarter and AT confirmed in their presentation the other day that it would connect at Aotea. The Auckland Plan also takes this view.
My understanding is the main sewer line for the western half of the city passes under Victoria St so it means A rail tunnel would most likely be under Wellesley St and from there could pass under the university where there could be a station before going on join the existing network at Parnell. Linking the North Shore line and the Southern lines to create one route while the Eastern and Western lines would link through the CRL to form a separate route. With these two routes we would get pretty good coverage all of the key points in the CBD along with much of the region. To me this is a far better option than trying to make the CRL into an all things for all people type project and it only requires that we design the CRL in a way to allow it to happen (which seems to be what AT are doing).
Eventually we can hopefully work our way towards something like the image below for a network of high capacity, high frequency, congestion free routes. Just imagine how much more PT would be used if we had this even today, let alone with another million people in the city all trying to get around.