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Why we need the City Rail Link

I was going through some old draft posts when I came across this from 6 months ago. It was in response to the release of the confirmed CRL route by Auckland Transport in early July. Following the release, two opinion pieces were run in the Herald discussing the project. First there was Michael Barnett who contended that building a motorway for use by a few thousand trucks a day should be the city’s top transport priority. There was also the bizarre ramblings of Jim Hopkins lamenting that rail was an old technology and that self driving cars are just around the corner – a claim we have heard for decades. My fellow bloggers and I felt that the op-eds were a bit one-sided so we decided to provide some balance.

With that in mind, together we worked on the following opinion piece and submitted it to the Herald. Unfortunately to get printed it first had to get through John Roughan, who said it wasn’t topical enough despite the AT announcement and the other two op-eds bagging the project. While it was from July 2012, the majority of it still seems absolutely relevant today, especially following the release of the CCFAS.

Last week Auckland Transport announced their preferred route for a 3.5 kilometre tunnel under Auckland’s city centre – a project known as the City Rail Link (CRL). It’s a big project for sure, and for this reason has attracted much comment around whether it is should be Auckland’s top transport project, or even if it is need at all. I believe that it is and here’s why.

Earlier this year Auckland’s population passed 1.5 million. Over the next 30 years up to another million people – more than the population of Wellington and Christchurch combined – are projected to call Auckland home. But even without these extra people it is already difficult to get around due to daily traffic congestion. Traffic is the biggest complaint people have about the city it’s a drag on productivity and the need to address it is one thing we all agree on.

Over the last 60 years, billions have been spent trying to tackle congestion through new and wider roads. Despite this effort, traffic is still bad and the utopian dream of free flowing motorways grinds to a halt when we all have to use the same system. New and wider roads seem to fill up with cars almost immediately, bringing to mind the saying that trying to cure congestion by building roads is like trying to deal with obesity by loosening your belt.

In 2017, the opening of the Waterview tunnel will complete the motorway network. While this may ease congestion for a while, from 2021 onwards traffic jams are projected to be worse than ever. In addition, it is increasingly difficult and expensive to build new or widened roads in urban areas Therefore we must look at using our existing transport infrastructure more efficiently.

Fortunately we already have a part of our transport network, largely completed, with capacity equal to three six-lane motorways. It’s called our rail network. Unfortunately, we can’t unlock the full potential and capacity of the rail network, because it reaches a dead end at Britomart. That’s like ending a motorway in a cul-de-sac.

Until recently the Britomart bottleneck hadn’t been a problem, due to other constraints on the network that also limited capacity. However, improvements over the last decade have seen people flocking to the trains. Since 2003 rail patronage more than quadrupled – and total public transport use has grown by a third since 2007. At the same time traffic volumes on our motorways have stayed largely the same. We are currently electrifying the rail network and buying brand new, state of the art trains which will further increase the appeal and usefulness of rail – but even with them the dead end at Britomart will hit capacity by 2020, way below the capacity of the network as a whole.

The solution to this problem is the CRL. This tunnel, with three underground stations along its course, provides a fast, clean, and modern way to access the city centre and dramatically shorten commute times. But just as importantly, it enables a spectacular increase in the frequency of trains throughout the existing network benefiting not only those travelling to the CBD, but anyone travelling around Auckland. It will at last provide a real alternative to driving for those that don’t want to, helping to free up the roads for those that do.

Far from sending trains looping around in circles, connecting routes would link through the CRL, allowing one-seat journeys across the network. The CRL will become the rail equivalent of the motorway system’s “spaghetti junction”. It is the vital heart of the rail system and is a prerequisite for any other rail development in the region – without it we can’t even begin to consider rail to the airport or the North shore.

Many alternatives to the CRL project have been analysed. A bus tunnel is more expensive and would require duplicating much of the existing rail network. Elevated options are too destructive, and surface bus options would close off most of the CBD’s streets to everyone but buses, undermining efforts to make downtown a nicer place to live, work and visit while further frustrating drivers.

Another benefit of the CRL is to help parts of the city not yet connected to the rail network. Take the North Shore for example – by removing many buses from suburbs near the existing rail network, there are a greater number of buses available to distribute across the North Shore. At the same time city streets are freed up and exhaust fumes reduced, improving the overall pedestrian experience. Finally, by giving more people a really attractive alternative it means that more cars can be left at home, freeing up motorways for the movement of freight and for those who prefer to drive.

At a construction cost of over $2 billion, the CRL is not a minor investment but no other project can so profoundly transform Auckland. It is far cheaper than building sufficient new roads, or widening existing ones, to provide the equivalent of rail’s capacity. This is the perfect complement to our existing road system.

We have been talking about the CRL since the 1920s; it’s time to actually make it happen.

As a reminder, here are some maps I previously put together showing the capacity of the transport network pre- and post-CRL:

56 comments to Why we need the City Rail Link

  • The fundamental question is really why capacity, which will sit grossly underutilised through most of the day, should be provided by all, for the benefit of very few.

    Yes it is the same argument that can be made against roads (they are just different technologies).

    The problem is price. Any transport strategy for Auckland that continues to price roads primarily through fuel consumption, not time, place and distance, is flawed. Rail will not resolve congestion. There isn’t evidence of it doing so in any developed city. The only answer is for demand to be moderated by price.

    The same with public transport. There is more than enough capacity in the network for most of the day, but at peak times a relatively small number of people overwhelm it and demand to travel in one direction for a couple of hours.

    In an age where telecommuting and working from home is becoming increasingly affordable, it would make sense to consider what would happen if instead of pouring money into extremely expensive bespoke infrastructure that isn’t needed most of the time, existing infrastructure is priced efficiently.

    That means at peak times, both road and public transport capacity is charged to optimise usage, so at off peak times it is cheaper than it is now. Charging by distance means sprawl is discouraged, but conversely public transport tends to become cheaper per km. Of course walking and cycling will benefit from emptier roads.

    It will shift commuter patterns for some, it will make it most expensive to drive downtown, discouraging car commuting to where it is least efficient, and rail trips to Britomart will be expensive when there is crowding and it reaches its capacity. However, businesses that don’t require such commutes will gain.

    The future will be more intelligent roads and vehicles, and the greatest and easiest leap forward will be pricing. That, along with the continued evolution of the economy by IT/telecoms, will mean that the sheep like process of commuting to towers in central cities will become increasingly anachronistic.

    New rail corridors will be built only if demand and cost warrants it, and the same for roads.

    • Mr Anderson

      Having unpriced (or poorly priced) roads is definitely problematic in terms of creating an optimal outcome. However there’s also a lot of economic research showing that successful and productive cities require high employment densities. In my opinion that’s the biggest long term benefit of the CRL: that it’s our best way to create employment density. Not just in the CBD but in all major centres around the rail network.

      Your “let’s just price people off the road” approach ignores the wider picture of how CRL can shape a more economically successful Auckland.

    • Precisely why I endorse lower off-peak pricing for PT.

    • Steve D

      If you build rail, it always solves congestion, since you ride right past it. You need to actually ride the train for it to work though. Complaining that building a rail line doesn’t make your drive faster is like buying a new computer and complaining that your old one is still slow.

    • We should certainly be much more thoughtful about the pricing of all services and structures that impact the quality and performance of our city. Things we want less of should certainly be priced accordingly. These include:

      Wasteful fossil fuel use
      Unnecessary vehicle journeys
      Poor land use; car storage
      Poor land use; over wide roads
      Vehicle congestion
      Poor air quality
      Carbon emissions
      Traffic noise
      Community severance
      Inefficient Transit services
      Dangerous street design for walkers and cyclists
      and so on

      From this list it is clear that the first things we could do is tax petrol more [blunt but effective], charge more for parking [and vary the pricing at different times], or just restrict supply and let the market price it accordingly, and lower transit fares especially outside of peak times as well ensure that quality services are available, especially of the non polluting variety.

      After looking at those things we could certainly look at road pricing.

      However you may be familiar with the image below. This is a map of the underground and overground train services in London, a city that has recently introduced a form of road pricing; cordon pricing to be more accurate.

      Of course it is also a place with very high fuel, registration, and insurance costs for motorists, and an eye wateringly expensive parking market. There are also the on road transit options of buses, taxis, and increasing cycling amenity. Plus regional, intercity, and international trains.

      It does not have cheap transit fares however.

      Why is this relevant? Well if you’re going to price people off the road, or at least discourage them from driving you’ll need to give them some other way to get around. Of course Auckland doesn’t need anything like this quantity of grade separate Transit but it certainly needs some, especially if we are to start pricing for efficiency and true externalities.

  • Sb

    “That, along with the continued evolution of the economy by IT/telecoms, will mean that the sheep like process of commuting to towers in central cities will become increasingly anachronistic.”

    I am getting very tired with this old myth still being repeated over and over again.

    Most of the benefits of Remote/Teleworking have already been delivered. Most people who can/will remote work from home/somewhere already do so.

    I work from home 3 days a week but still need to go into the city office for 2 days. (I take the train)

    I have been involved with building remote working systems since the 80’s so I have a very clear idea of the benefits and limitations.

  • Nick Iversen

    The real question isn’t whether or not the CRL is a good buy. The real question is: if we are willing to spend $3 billion on the city then is the CRL the best use of the money? Given that it simply duplicates the existing link from Britomart to Mt Eden I don’t think its benefits are worth it. The 3 billion is better spent elsewhere.

    • Nick, did you miss the key sentence in the article? “But just as importantly, it enables a spectacular increase in the frequency of trains throughout the existing network benefiting not only those travelling to the CBD, but anyone travelling around Auckland… Far from sending trains looping around in circles, connecting routes would link through the CRL, allowing one-seat journeys across the network. The CRL will become the rail equivalent of the motorway system’s “spaghetti junction”. It is the vital heart of the rail system and is a prerequisite for any other rail development in the region – without it we can’t even begin to consider rail to the airport or the North shore.”

      Sometimes I think no matter what you write, some people are always going to miss the point. How can we make this key message clearer?

      • Sacha

        “How can we make this key message clearer?”

        Cameron, focusing on cross-region travel in practical terms would help. More frequent trains everywhere is a simple way to put it. Not needing a timetable. Being able to fit extra services like the popular airport proposal. Buses that connect with train stations is another part of it.

        In short, just stop talking so much about the CBD and peak commuters. It opens you up to diversions like demand ‘pricing’.

        The line about ending a motorway in a cul-de-sac is great, by the way.

        • But the only people who talk about those aspects are the anti-CRL/PT people as a straw man argument. Of course, they dont forget classic hits like: “Auckland is not dense enough” or “Auckland’s geography is unsuited to PT” or that old chestnut “Aucklanders love their cars too much”. The fact those are patently untrue doesnt seem to phase them in the least.

    • Yawn… The CRL is in no way duplicative… It can only be considered as such if you think it exists solely to get Mt Edenites to the CBD faster.

    • Where do you get $3 billion from? The tunnel itself is $1.8b in 2012 dollars another few hundred mil for extra trains a decade after it opens, grade separation of roads and other components. Also can’t see how you can call it duplicating a link that already exists because at the moment I can’t catch a train through the middle of town, only to the edge of it.

    • Nick R

      Well that is a good question, are there any other ways we could add capacity for an extra 35,000 trips an hour across the region, from Swanson in the far west to Papakura in the far south.

      A regional network of four new bus ways stretching across the city from the far west to the far south, plus a tunnel to link the together in the centre ? That would cost a pretty penny. Can’t see the point in leaving the rail network massively underutilized just so we can bulldoze a swathe of houses.

      Maybe we could add ten lanes each to the length of the northwestern and southern motorways? How much would that cost? Ten billion? Maybe fifteen?

    • Nick I. Yes that is indeed the question. And the answer is an unequivocal yes. There is simply no project of scale anywhere that is such a bargain: That delivers the value that this one does. I’m not saying it is cheap [although it is considerably cheaper than the 4billion WRR]; I’m saying that what it delivers is enormous.

      For the cost of a 3.5km tunnel the county’s biggest and poorly connected city immediately gets an entire metro system that stretches from Swanson to Pukekohe. Until the CRL is built we will only have the current in-and-out commuter rail system that is too limited in its capacity and frequency to contribute to the city’s movement needs as it should and could. As it could if we could access the existing Right Of Way properly.

      The CRL unlocks all that potential capacity across the entire network. Opening up the CBD terminus is about the whole system and not just the city. I know that this aspect of the project is hard to grasp and critics have difficulty understanding that this project has huge effects way beyond the areas where the new work occurs.

      You could argue that the line duplicates an existing route but only in the sense that the Harbour Bridge duplicated the route from Takapuna to the City via Riverhead. The CRL will be revolutionary for Auckland; it will turn Auckland from the weakly performing overgrown provincial town into becoming the efficiently connected modern subway city it could be. That NZ needs it to become.

    • JohnP

      Saying the CRL “duplicates the existing link from Britomart to Mt Eden” is a bit like saying the Waterview Connection duplicates the existing motorway from Pt Chevalier to Mt Roskill. The letter O is not the same as the letter C. Which could stand for “orsome capacity”.

  • DC

    The CRL is the catalist that Auckland needs. With the CRL & an intergrated timetable and intergrated ticketing the masses will flock. At the moment it doesn’t work. An example is my local train station is 20 mins walk away and the bus takes 6 minutes but delivers you to the station about 10 minutes before the train leaves to go to the CBD. Going home the bus leaves just before the train drops you off. So I drive and pay for parking. I would definatley use public transport if it was timed, intergrated and frequent.

  • FrankSpencer.

    Would be interested in whether any analysis has been done of the optimal use for the CRL stations themselves in the central city, as these have potential in terms of retail opportunities for example. Seems quite common in Europe now for metropolitan stations to have mix of shops and food retail outlets similar to a small mall which provide a good revenue stream for the station owner and also means the station itself becomes an actual destination, e,g, Berlin’s S Bahn network.

  • Steve West

    Perth seem to use clear visuals to show the potential of their “CRL” which seems to be making good actual progress.

    http://www.mra.wa.gov.au/Projects/Perth-City-Link/Gallery/?gallery=12745#Perth City Link – City Square, Wellington Street.JPG

  • jonno1

    A useful summary, thanks. While I don’t dispute any of Matt L’s claims re future capacity/patronage etc, I would love to see some data on where people live vs where they work in Auckland. For example, one benefit proposed is that someone who lives in Glen Innes and works in Henderson (or vice versa) will benefit greatly from a one-seat trip. Fair enough, but how common is that scenario? Why not simply relocate nearer to work (this is different from, ie cheaper than, moving closer to the CBD to reduce transport time and costs, although I did just that some years ago when I had a real job, and it turned out to be financially advantageous).

    As others have said, the working from home concept is a bit of a red herring. I recall Sir Frank Holmes chairing a study about 20 years ago (something with “Future” in the title) and claiming that telecommuting was the way of the future. I was sceptical then and still am, even though the technology has vastly improved.

    • Jonno, census day is coming up on the 5th March which will help – slap bang in the middle of “March Madness”. Can’t get a better date than that to hopefully show how high PT usage has grown since the last census.

    • But cant that same argument be made for any form of transport and even more so for our auto dependent transport system? Opponents of the CRL often state that it will be useless as it will only serve people travelling to the CBD. As you have rightly stated, that is not the case at all and in fact the rail network post-CRL will offer (especially low income) workers a much more effective way to travel through the city (not just to it).

      Right now people live in Takapuna and work in Ellerslie. I dont know too many people who have moved to be closer to their job. And once people have children their choices are limited even further because removing a child from a school is a big decision. Then there is the issue that your partner already works close to your home and he/she is the main bread winner.

      Also, what about if someone lives in Manurewa and works in Kingsland? The difference in the cost of housing is likely to be massive. As has been pointed out on this blog, no bank takes travel cost into account in assessing a mortgage application, so saying that you will save $10,000 a year in travel costs wont encourage the bank to lend more for a house in a more convenient neighbourhood.

      • Gian

        I also think younger people are unlikely to work for the same company as long as previous generations did. We change job more often, therefore we can’t move close to job, because we don’t know where the next one will be. That’s why we need a reliable transit system that would allow us to travel to different places

        • Absolutely agree.

          And also, what about casual employees, temps and contractors? Casual temps are often in the lower paid brackets so they are now forced to drive all over the city for their work. Then they often pay for parking.

          A lot of young people with the great IT and technical skills NZ needs are contractors and might change project every 6 months. Those young people are stuck with moving around via our incredibly inefficient auto dependent transport system. No wonder they are leaving for real, transit oriented cities overseas.

          • Gian

            and lets not forget that PT also enhances your social life. How many times my fellow workers denied stopping for a drink after job because they have to drive and they have to “beat the traffic” . To then stop at the bottle shop and drink at home.

    • The question of “why not simply relocate nearer to work” grossly simplifies the transport ‘question’ to the point where it becomes irrelevant. People travel a lot more than just getting to work! That would only be useful where one person per houshold travels to work, and only to work each weekday only, and continues to travel to the same workplace across the lifetime of their housing choice. Take any given household and most members will travel from it each day, often several to different workplaces, perhaps some to school or university, others to shop or entertain themselves or whatever. Over fairly short time periods those travel demands change, people change jobs, graduate from high school to university, try out a different yoga class or whatever. Basically our jobs and activities are much more liquid than our housing. Could we expect a whole household to coordinate moving every time one member changes their travel needs? The only way to do that would be stalinist style worker dormitories next to factories, and families that never live under the same roof.

      As a question of geometry at a regional scale, the best way to minimise travel distances is to concentrate all the trip ‘attractors’ and or origins at the centre of the region. On average that would result in the shortest travel distances. There is no point closer to everywhere else than the middle, that is basically why CBDs exist. The idea that we can spread homes and jobs out all over the place ignores that simple fact of geometry.

    • jonno1

      All good points, thanks. I was really just wondering whether such data are available, and it sounds as if the census will provide them, even though it’s just a snapshot. The comments above suggest that household relocations are relatively difficult due to demographics, and I agree that people generally don’t move home on a whim (easier if you’re renting). But I did read somewhere that average tenure is around four years, so someone must be moving frequently (I’m guessing young and/or single, rather than families).

      On the geometry aspect, the petal concept is what optimised delivery routes (eg couriers) are based on. It could also theoretically apply to a household being intentionally located in the centre of its various daily activities. So while the CBD is the nominal regional centre, there’s no reason why satellite centres can’t exist too, even if one of the household destinations is an outlier.

      • Greg N

        Jonno,
        There was a study done by the Department of Statistics in the early ’90s that compared the turnover of residents in the Central Auckland Isthmus area by checking what address they were in at the earlier census and then compared it to the next one.
        As I recall in many Census Area Units they found the entire populations had almost completely left and been replaced i.e. “turned over” in the period between censuses. They estimated about every 7 years people moved house on average. Of course, some folks may have moved house but stayed in the same area e.g. for schools so didn’t leave the area completely, but their address had changed between each census. And other folks don’t move much between.

        Can;t think its any less frequent now than it was back then some 20 odd years ago.

  • Ben S

    LScott is right – massive over-capacity for all but a few hours a day. And the price argument sounds valid too.

    Maybe it would actually make more sense to ditch the new CRL stations and just run the link straight through to Bmart – so in effect it becomes an express as soon as it hits Kingsland (eg city-bound).

    Then you connect to an upgraded local area PT network (local light rail at about $20 million a km) to get where you want to finally go.

    You start looking at the break-out cost of delivering someone to Aotea Station from BMart or vice-versa – all 800 metres of it and it’s pretty nuts. Heavy rail is better suited to longer haul/fewer stops type journeys – that’s what it’s designed for. Trying to dress up the CRL like some de facto underground transit system ain’t making much sense to me.

    • Why only a few hours a day?

      You only need to look at the S-Bahns of germany or the RER, that is precisely what the City Rail Link will turn our network into. They are used all day every day and yes, they are a hybrid transit system mixing commuter rail and underground. It works perfectly.

  • “massive over-capacity for all but a few hours a day”

    Like almost every motorway in the city too then.

    But overcapacity only if the new amenity fails to attract new users. And we know from every real improvement to the service in Auckland that if we provide it utilisation grows. What hasn’t been growing over the last seven years is road use. And this project will so vastly increase the utility of the whole network by increasing frequency, number and variety of direct through town journeys, and the utility of the new city stops. It is not unreasonable to expect a dramatic lift in ridership once this is open. A lift like the one that occurred in Perth after a similar project. In fact it is all but certain. Auckland is agglomerating now. Read the CCFAS; this is about need. Doing nothing is always an option; but it simply isn’t responsible in this case.

    The idea to build just the tunnel is worth a look given that so much of the value is in the network effects and underground stations are expensive. Let’s see: you’d have rocks in your head not to build Aotea which is certain to become busier than Britomart being as it is at the centre of the densest workforce in the country, but anyway, it’s cut-and-cover at this point and it would only be more expensive/near impossible to build it at a later date. It would simply be very poor planning to try to force more people through Britomart, especially as so many will be heading up town anyway. The network needs more city stops and it is much better to distribute these than than try to force everyone to Britomart.

    How about the other two? Well there is an argument for getting the line open as quickly as possible, with Aotea Station, and build K’Rd and Newton in turn over a slightly longer period. We have discussed this with engineers and it isn’t impossible but there are pros and cons, and possibly additional costs. I’m not against the idea as it spreads the capital cost as well as the demands on a fairly specialised workforce. But these two stations have a great deal of value in regenerating their neighbourhoods so I do think they are important parts of the project. So delay but not cut.

    How long a journey do you want? Is Pukekohe not far enough away. If you are worried about the perfect mode for a city there is nothing much worse than the private car as the dominant movement system in a city. Handy for a small provincial town, but not a city. Electric rail is pretty ideal as an important part of the movement mix for a city of Auckland’s size and form. Oh and look, we’ve got a ROW already to exploit; let’s be clever and economical and make it work properly.

  • Gary Young

    Libertyscott; I’m a tradesman. I look forward to your suggestions as to the best way for me to telecommute.

    • Bang on. Tradesmen and transport vehicles will really benefit from the CRL as it will free up space for you to get around the city more efficiently and cut down on your overhead costs.

      It is easy to see that cutting 20 minutes off your journey to a job has far more economic benefits than Mum getting her two precious snowflakes to work in her giant SUV 20 mins earlier. Or an office worker driving his/her vehicle on exactly the same route every day to exactly the same place.

      If Auckland achieved a target of 60% of people driving to work (from 87% now) by 2025 that would be a massive achievement and completely change the city. Then tradesmen like yourself could deliver your vital services in a much more efficient way that will let you make more of a profit.

  • Ben S

    Looking at the current CRL plans, the Aotea Station would be better located in a zone at the south-western end of Federal St/Mayoral – even where the central police station is (which is a building with zero merit btw). Then it would be roughly equi-distant between Newton and Britomart and serve both K Rd and mid-town.

    • Better for stations to be where people are than for them to be perfectly equidistant,

      • Ben S

        The equidistance part is merely a function of serving a wider catchment & therefore saving a half billion or so by having one less station, not necessarily the point of the exercise…

      • Mr Anderson

        I think we’ve agreed that there’s scope for looking at staging of Newton & K Road stations. In terms of whether you could do away all together with any of the three stations I tend to think not:

        1) Aotea is really in the heart of the CBD with good access to the Universities and the highest concentration of employment in the country. The most important station and likely to become much busier than Britomart.
        2) K Road is in an area very poorly served by the rail network at the moment, which means that if you don’t have a station there you probably need to continue to run many more buses from west & south Auckland into the city than you really want to. Also plenty of redevelopment potential between K Road and the motorway which a station could as a the catalyst for.
        3) Newton station is probably the one that adds least value in terms of transport access, but it has the most redevelopment potential, which once again the station could act as a catalyst for.

        In terms of importance I’d probably go Aotea, K Road and then Newton.

      • Greg N

        Its a must for stations to not only be where the people are, but also where the people need to get to, so that the destination and getting there by PT become “de facto” partners.

    • …or serve neither Midtown nor K Rd very well.

  • Jon Reeves

    Libertyscott, a few of the major Swiss employers allow telecommuting, but only 1 day per week. The other 4 days of the week the need to be in their offices and use the rail, tram and bus networks.

    I work as a Key Account Manager for a global recruitment agency, however, all the jobs we work on, high earning positions, are based in offices in cities. I am sure Auckland will not buck the trend before Switzerland, France, Germany or all the EU. So telecommuting dreams will be in YOUR dreams for decades to come. Auckland needs the City Rail Link now. It does not need myopic thinkers.

  • Changes in communications technologies have not led to a reduction in movement demand by people nor to the decline of cities despite the predictions of the sages of every age. The introduction of reliable mail services didn’t cause this, nor did the telegraph, the telephone, the fax, email, video conferencing, skype, texting, twitter, or what ever else you’ve got. Cities and travel demand continue to flourish. Almost all people like and need to be with other people and will find any excuse at work and play to achieve this.

    The only technology that has come close to harming the success of cities is the car. It may seem counterintuitive but it’s true; while cars are clearly useful for bringing people together when this is attempted at scale and concentration [ie in cities] the infrastructure required by these space hungry devices does serious harm to the city as a place for human contact. Cars in cities are isolating devices rather than communicating ones.

    Anyway, people may work at home, they always have, but they won’t stop moving and congregating. The idea that more people working at home [even if it is happening more than before] is a reason not to build a modern Transit system assumes that Auckland only has dormitory suburbs and big office towers and the only people travelling are all commuters. This is in no way an accurate picture.

    The other great technological red herring is driverless cars; these will not change the spatial logic of cities, a logic that says that fewer cars makes for better and more successful urban places. I guess proponents of last century’s big failed idea, the sprawling auto city, like to feel and sound futuristic while peddling their failed ideology….

    It is clear that all this talk of distant utopian technology is just used to try to justify the status quo. Funny when the proven, available and affordable, clean and [especially in NZ] green, and largely automated technology of electric trains is what we need. Oh, and a smart phone; there’s a perfect match.

    • Kent Lundberg

      Great comment. And evidence increasingly shows that telecommuting workers also locate in and around cities. We are social animals, plus it’s efficent for work.

  • Nick Iversen

    No doubt that the CRL will be beneficial for Auckland. But my question has not been answered. Could we spend the $3 billion in a better way? For $300 million we could build a whole new Britomart and with the change put in a train line to the North Shore. Seems to me that a tunnel under the harbour would be more useful than one under the city. Or light rail to even more places.

    • pete

      As already noted, where does the $3 billion figure come from Nick? As Matt L has already pointed out, the CRL comes in at $1.8 billion.

    • See my response above Nick, there is no other way you can get the benefits of the CRL for the same money. The City Centre Future Access Study looked at some sixty different options at a broad level, and in detail at heavy rail, light rail and bus alternatives. None had close to the same benefits for anything like the same price.

      No you could not build a whole new Britomart for $300 million. Britomart was build when it was derelict at the station site and abandoned rail yards on the approaches. There is no where else in the city that would be so easy to build in. Plus a second Britomart wouldn’t have half the benefits the CRL does unless you built a new tunnelled set of tracks out of the CBD, at which point you’re spending billions anyway and might as well do the full CRL.

      A rail line to the shore would cost the best part of three billion, and while it would be a boon for the Shore itself it would do absolutely nothing for the rest of the city. I don’t see how a line servicing 1/6 of the city could be more useful than a network servicing the other 5/6ths. The priority must be with the majority, not the North Shore at the expense of everywhere else!

      Forget about the “tunnel under the city”, that misses the point entirely. The CRL is no more about getting people to the city centre than Spaghetti junction is about getting people to the city centre. Sure in both cases they make it much easier for folks to go directly to the part of the CBD they want to go to, but there are much greater benefits across the network than just serving city commuters.

      Currently we have a rail network of three main lines and two further branches, this network is more or less at capacity because of constraints at the core. We don’t need more lines at the moment, we just need to relieve the core to use the lines we have properly. The system constraint means each line can run a maximum of around six trains an hour. Build the CRL and that increases to around 15 trains an hour. There are plans to extend the Onehunga branch through Mangere to the airport, to extend the electrified rail further south, to look at new branches and extensions in the west. These can’t happen until the core

      Why light rail? Why spend money building more rail lines in parallel to the ones we have, when we already have a rail network that is clogged at 1/3 it’s potential capacity?

  • Sacha

    Thanks, Nick – perhaps someone can copy this paragraph to the site’s main CRL pages?:

    “Currently we have a rail network of three main lines and two further branches; this network is more or less at capacity because of constraints at the core. We don’t need more lines at the moment, we just need to relieve the core to use the lines we have properly. The system constraint means each line can run a maximum of around six trains an hour. Build the CRL and that increases to around 15 trains an hour. There are plans to extend the Onehunga branch through Mangere to the airport, to extend the electrified rail further south, to look at new branches and extensions in the west. These can’t happen until the core”

    You can see why I’ve taken to calling it the Core Rail Link.

  • TheBigWheel

    The *really* fundamental reason why we need the CRL is of course nothing to do with capacity, it’s all about energy. To enable Auckland’s economy to continue to thrive, sustainably, while using less of it.. in particular less of the imported fossil fuel kind of energy. As Patrick memorably said “the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment”.

    Even if we assume for a moment that we could squeeze sufficient numbers of so-called “intelligent” autonomous piloted cars of the future (whether ICE, hybrid or EV) along our streets to get everyone around, the idea that we can afford it in energy terms in the long run is frankly absurd. The word “intelligent” is really misappropriated in this context.

  • Well that seems to be justified, spending a whole lot of money on the roads and still ending up in traffic jams does not justifies that investment. You wont be needing to upgrade a newly railway track since there is no other traffic in its way, to support my opinion how many times we have updated our railway track as compared to our roads, well there is no comparison railway needs fair bit of on going maintenance but roads are consistently updated. and still roads are mostly jammed with traffic, for example a small train can easily accommodate 120+ people to a single destination all in one time involving no traffic blocks :) but 120 travelling by cars and buses will take far more space on the roads, delays as per traffic as well as far more noise created by the vehicles and more combustion pollution to the atmosphere. ill go with upgrading the Rail Way, good long term time and money saving investment :)

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