My fellow bloggers and I were having an interesting – and unresolved – debate over the weekend that I thought probably deserved a post. The debate was about whether we should build a train station on the Western line at Dominion Rd. I’m going to go through some of the pros and cons of the idea.
After the CRL has been completed, Mt Eden station is almost certainly not going to be needed unless we start running some peak only services from the west to Newmarket – but that is a debate for another post entirely. That would means for someone heading towards the city the first stop after Kingsland would be the new Newton station which would have an entrance roughly opposite the intersection of Mt Eden Rd and New North Rd. This has the impact of shifting the station entrance further north by ~400m meaning some people who are currently within easy walking distance of the train station will no longer be. That in itself probably isn’t such an issue as not many people currently use Mt Eden station and it is near the bottom of the list in terms of boardings due to being less frequent and direct compared the two bus routes of Dominion Rd and Mt Eden Rd.
However I’m sure any Dominion Rd bus user will be quick to point out that with the exception of a few express services, Dominion Rd isn’t as direct as it could be. Most buses take a detour down View Rd and Esplanade Rd before joining Mt Eden Rd to head towards the CBD. By comparison car drivers race (and they do) down Ian McKinnon Dr towards the CBD. However Ian McKinnon Dr didn’t always exist prior to that (and even after the motorway style interchange was built) the only route was up New North Rd and down Symonds St. I have heard the Dominion Rd buses and other traffic were diverted to View Rd to enable construction of the interchange but the buses were left there once it was finished, out of the way of the car drivers.
The question some have raised is whether we should change how Dominion Rd buses work and instead of sending them via the current route, if we should instead send them down Ian McKinnon Dr and Queen St to their destination. This is a similar route to what some of the express buses do. The advantage of this is that Dominion Rd users going to the CBD would get a much faster travel time but the downside it there would be effectively no opportunities for interaction with other routes (link excepted) until the buses reach Wellesley St. For the new network which is based around the idea that by accepting transfers for some journeys, we can vastly improve the reach and quality of the frequent bus network that could be a serious an issue.
As such a station where Dominion Rd crosses the rail line could be extremely useful as a transfer point on the network. It would give people coming particularly from the west an easy way to transfer onto Dominion Rd services. People from the Dominion Rd area travelling to places like Orakei could also benefit through a quick connection to a train on the eastern line. Due to the road and massive interchange I’m guessing any station would need to be to either the east or west of Dominion Rd rather than directly under it – although more on that soon. To give an idea, these boxes show roughly where it could happen.
Personally I lean towards it being on the western side as on the eastern side it might be quite tight between the over bridge and the CRL portals. Of course the western side might invoke the memory of the Inner West Interchange that was proposed as part of the CRL however that was proposed as a four track station to be used to turn trains around and has since been removed from the project. This would be a simple station with side platforms so quite different.
One of the other potential benefits is it could potentially provide rail network overage to the areas North-west and South-east of the interchange which are currently just outside easy walking distance to either Kingsland or Newton stations. The lines on the map below radiate represent how far someone can walk up to 900m from a station entrance with each progressively darker colour representing another 150m and showing those areas not covered.
In terms of the number of people that might benefit by now being really close to a train station, it might shift 2,500-3,000 people into that category which is good however many of those are already fairly close to Kingland or Newton anyway so not all are an addition to the rail network catchment. Perhaps one of the biggest opportunities to get more people in the area would be to actually take down the interchange and return it to a normal intersection and in the process possibly freeing up as much as 30,000m² that could be used for redevelopment. That would help in significantly humanising the area as well as probably helping to address housing supply issues. If built at the same time, the station may be able to be put partially under the road over bridge.
Overall I would say the primary benefits of such a suggestion are to Dominion Rd bus users (for the quicker trips to town), the wider PT network from having additional connections and the redevelopment opportunities if we were to remove the interchange
Don’t build it
Obviously the other side of the argument is the idea that we shouldn’t build it. This comes about for a few key reasons and the first one is due to time.
From what I’ve seen the western line acts quite differently to the rest of the rail network in that has many more people who use stations all along the network for trips i.e. Glen Eden to Mt Albert. This is in contrast to the rest of the rail network on which patronage is almost exclusively CBD focused. Even so the vast majority of people using the western line are heading to the CBD, Newmarket or Grafton and as such the peak loading point – the place on the line where trains are carrying the most people – tends to be east of Kingsland. With the CRL the CBD focused trips are likely to increase substantially due to the much faster journey times the CRL provides.
Even with our new much faster electric trains, every time one needs to stop at a station it will add about 1 minute to the journey time after the time spent decelerating, dwelling at the station and then accelerating back up to speed. This is important as it means if we were to build a Dominion Rd station the majority of western line passengers are going to be held up and over lots of people, that will quickly add up. In reality this time could add up even higher as one of the most annoying features of the Western line is its very close station spacing meaning trains act almost like a slightly beefed up local bus service. This close spacing means trains often aren’t able to reach their full speed and speed is one of the biggest advantages the Rapid Transit Network is meant to have. A station at Dominion Rd would be roughly 900m from both Kingsland and Newton.
The next major thing against a Dominion Rd station is that not all stations are created equal. As with the walking distance map earlier in the post, there are a number of people who would be technically closer to a Dominion Rd station but who would choose to walk further to use the Newton one instead. The reason for this is that Newton would offer a greater choice of services as it would be served by all lines and even if just being used to head down the hill to the CBD, Newton would have higher frequencies. In effect Newton will have a much greater pull than Dominion Rd does.
In addition on the surface Newton would also serve as an interchange with buses heading down Sandringham, Mt Eden Rd and New North Rd so could very much turn into a bit of a transport hub. This would further increase the pull of Newton. Arguably while using Ian McKinnon Dr is faster, there is much greater benefit to be had by continuing to send Dominion Rd buses via the route they currently use (or via New North Rd) and therefore being able to link all of these various services together. It would also help if when building the CRL we also built a decent surface level bus interchange in the area.
Lastly there isn’t any reason why the removal of the interchange and redevelopment of the land around it couldn’t happen with this scenario too. The catchment of both Kingsland and Newton stations could also both be helped by a few pedestrian connections which would extend the reach slightly and with the plethora of buses through the area there is a lot of frequency and connectivity on offer.
I favour not building it but what do you think?