Follow us on Twitter

Auckland will have the best transit system in Australasia

Warning, this post contains no pictures, no maps, no links, no data and no evidence. It is 100% personal, editorial opinion. If you make it to the end I expect a strongly worded comment in return, whatever your views.

There I said it. In no time at all Auckland will easily have the best transit system in Australasia.

Am I crazy you ask, is this a wind up? Auckland, the traffic choked city with the laughing stock trains and disintegrated “spaghetti on a wall” bus network?  Auckland, New Zealand… right? Right.

So I must be talking about after we build the City Rail Link and a bunch of new train lines yeah, maybe in fifty years when we’re digging metro tunnels and electric driverless buses zip up every street every couple of minutes? No. I mean soon, real soon, in a couple of years at most.

There’s all sorts of myths about Auckland and how public transport won’t work, that it’s too spread out, too low density, too this, too that. They are actually quite wrong, common truisms with little basis in reality, post hoc justifications for the current road centric transport outcomes we’ve been planning and implementing for decades.

Here’s the thing. Auckland is incredibly well suited to passenger transit. It’s just screaming out for it. It’s also not particularly well suited to road transport. But more importantly, Auckland now has the means to deliver the world class public transport to which it is ideally suited. So let’s try and take an objective look at the qualities and nature of Auckland, and how those relate to the efficiency and efficacy of passenger transit.

 Geography and Topography

Auckland was first called Tamaki Makaurau, which translates roughly as “The Bride with a Thousand Suitors”. The name reflects the fact that Auckland has favourable geography that has been contested for hundreds of years.

The reasons the British colonists set up here are exactly the same reasons pre-european Maori did: a strategic pinch point on the land between north and south, blessed with two harbour giving sea access to both coasts, and a variety of bays, inlets and rivers giving cheap bulk transport access (i.e. waka and skiff) deep into the hinterland.

So Auckland’s geography is a geography of pinch points. At a macro level, Auckland is centred on a pinch of the upper North Island. The Isthmus means all transport and trade from Northland to Waikato has to pass through Auckland, a position equally ideal for an ambitious tribal chief or a nascent colonial administrator.

But it also means the same for travel within the city, any trip from the North Shore to South Auckland, or from Westieland to the Eastern Bays, it all has to pass through the same narrow strip of land. There are pinch points everywhere, some bridged, some natural. From the North Shore there are only two ways to access the rest of the city without getting your feet wet, the Harbour Bridge to central Auckland, and the Upper Harbour bridge to West Auckland. That means all traffic leaving the North Shore, be it car, bus, bicycle or llama caravan, has to pass along one of those points. The scenario is repeated to the west, to leave West Auckland you have the choice of the one bridge to the North Shore, the Northwestern Motorway causeway, or the thin strip of land straddled by New Lynn. Out south we see it again, all travel of any kind, except ferry, must pass across one of three narrow points: the Mangere Bridge, the Otahuhu isthmus, or the set of bridges at Panmure.

So what does this mean for public transport? As it turns out, a lot. At a very simple level transport networks are networks of geometry, and the geometry of traffic and PT are somewhat opposite. Road networks are least efficient when all traffic is forced into one place, we call that a traffic jam, a bottleneck. The tendency of traffic is to spread out. The great roadbuilders of Americas Midwest do everything they can to avoid a confluence of freeways. Public transport on the other hand work very well when you already have plenty of people all travelling the same way, it makes it easy and efficient to fill up buses and trains. Natural pinch points are perfect for PT.

Auckland is a city that is fundamentally and naturally perfect for public transport, and fundamentally ill-suited to mass road networks. Despite what the man on the street may claim about Auckland’s unsuitability, the opposite is a simple geometric fact.

The geography of Auckland means the natural success of our rapid transit system is just sitting there waiting for us to realise its potential. Going back to those pinch points let’s consider the opportunity of some examples. Every single trip from East Auckland to the central isthmus and onward to the west or north has to pass over one of two bridges, so everyone making the trip passes through Panmure or Silvia Park, where we already have rail stations with lines heading inbound and out. Over at Otahuhu it’s the same situation, anyone driving, cycling or walking on the motorway, Great South Road or a local street ends up within a few hundred metres of the rail station. At Mangere Bridge it is the same, all trips pass Onehunga station. Likewise from the north, all those trips over the Harbour Bridge run parallel to the busway, in the west they are all funnelled past the rail station at New Lynn. The two missing bits are the Upper Harbour and Northwestern motorway bridges, both corridors where AT have busways planned.

The geography of our city already funnels all long distance trips down to just seven pinch points. Five of those pinch points already have rapid transit lines running through them, while the remaining two have them on the horizon. We really couldn’t have asked for a better place to build rapid transit!

Density, urban form, population

For a new world city Auckland is dense, compact and constrained. Again people will tell you how we’re so spread out, so low density, so this and that. The myths are just that, myths, and the reality of the situation is quite the opposite. Auckland is hemmed in by two harbour, two mountain ranges and a series of hills. It just doesn’t sprawl the way the likes of Brisbane, Melbourne or Perth can, our urban form in contained and contiguous. In fact if you look at the population density of the non-rural area of the city we are tied equal with Sydney for the densest metropolis in Australasia. For sure we are no Hong Kong or Manhattan, but nor do we need to be. The density of our suburbs is more than enough to support very efficient bus and train routes. We might not be able to justify a tube station on every corner, but nor do we need that to have excellent public transport. We can have an exemplary transit system with the existing density and shape of our city.

Despite our density, or perhaps because of it, our population is growing strongly. Our people are breeding and migrants keep arriving. The economy is steady and strong, not so boom and bust as constant burn. If there is one constant we can rely upon it is that Auckland will grow. Our growth begets growth, our good city attracts people, which creates bigger markets, bigger labour pools and more of the things that make our city good, which in turn attracts more. The more urban we become, the more urbane. The more it grows the greater it becomes, literally and figuratively. We need housing, we need development, we need transport, and we can’t do it with sprawl and motoways. As Auckland grows it will grow into its boots. Back in the 1950s we might have been a large town, but now we are a dense and thriving metropolis where driving is simply not desirable in many cases, let alone a possibility.

Governance

This is the kicker for Auckland, not an exciting topic, but a very important one. Since the super city amalgamations we now have all our transport planning, land use planning, operations and infrastructure development under one roof. Well NZTA still hold the purse strings and the State Highway Network, but everything else falls under the Auckland Council family.

This is critical, it means Auckland has the remit to make good plans, and the means to deliver. All of what we see now, the New Network, the rail upgrades, Hop Ticketing, these all floundered for decades until Auckland Council and its subsidiary Auckland Transport were formed.

Head over to Australia and it is surprising anything gets done at all. The mix of federal, state and local government fractures their capital cities and makes implementation a chore. To change a bus route means dealing with an operator who delivers the route, dealing with the state who plans the route, dealing with the federal organisation that funds it, dealing with three or four little councils to move bus stops, all of whom have different ideas on how their streets should look, and what value they place on transit. Here we have just central government and Auckland. While they may not agree, there are only two parties at the arbitration table.

But what about the roads?

It is oft said that what you don’t build is just as important as what you do. This is true, it is hard to achieve a sustainable well-functioning transport system when you spend 90% of the budget expanding the road network. Even if we spent millions more on transit and active transport that would only go so far while we spend so much more on projects that undermine them.

So in the roadbuilders paradise of Auckland what hope have we for the future? Well plenty actually. The simple fact is we’ve already built all the big roads and motorways that we can do cheaply. The isthmus and suburbs are full, all that is left is built out neighbourhoods, harbour and inlets. There are no easy motorways left to build, no roads that it’s easy to widen.

The future of road building in Auckland is a choice of small, localised and efficient improvements, or massive economy-crippling expense. We are already seeing this: a million dollars a metre to widen the motorway through Victoria Park, $1.8 billion for the last few kilometres of the Waterview motorway, proposals for $5.5 billion (with a B) to duplicate the Northern Motorway across the harbour for the net benefit of a few thousand peak time car commuters heading downtown.

For sure the powers that be will continue to double down on motorways, but not for long. The bottom line will bite and we simply will not be able to fund any more. We simply must get smarter with our money. I’m actually confident we will not see a third harbour motorway crossing, if only because the cost is just so extreme.

The age of cheap and impactful road projects is done and gone. From now on we will need cheaper but more effective ways to retrofit transport into our city. This may sound like the fanciful wishes of a sustainable transport advocate, but the pure fiscal reality backs this up. Auckland has built its strategic roading network and needs to move on to cheaper and more effective ways to move people. The only question is whether we can make this shift proactively, or if we need one last gasp with an economic disaster like a harbour motorway tunnel to force our hand.

Auckland’s transit renaissance

We are in the middle of a revolution the likes our city has not seen since the mid 20th century. It may not feel like a revolution, because it’s fairly slow and we’re wading through the middle of it, but it is happening. Road use per capita is dropping while transit use is exploding, albeit the former from a very high level and the latter from a tiny base… but the winds of change are blowing.

Consider what we have now, an unintegrated legacy bus network focussed on moving workaday commuters to the CBD with a little welfare coverage on the side, a  crippled lumbering rail system, separate fare products for everything, unreliability, poor service span, little frequency on the weekend, etc, etc. To be blunt what we are used to in Auckland is the textbook of what not to do, worlds worst practice public transport.

But consider what is coming up. An entirely redesigned transit network, rebuilt from the ground up to provide an integrated grid of connecting routes that run frequently all day and most of the evening, seven days a week. A completely overhauled rail system with brand new trains, directly integrated with the buses to form one region wide network of fast rapid transit stretching out into the suburbs. We will have a single simple fare structure with no penalty for transferring, with the liberating connectivity that brings, and we will have frequency and reliability gains. In short we are shifting rapidly to the world’s best practice transit network.

Sure, we won’t have an underground metro system or skytrains, or whatever. But we will have a transit network that gets within five minutes walk of every house in the city, that never requires you to check a timetable or wait, and that allows you to easily connect to rapid transit for a fast trip across the region any time or day of the week, or to another local route to easily get between any two suburbs around. It hardly matters if you are getting on a street level bus or a tube train, if they both come frequently, connect readily, and provide a fast and useful trip.

We may not have quite the same high profile infrastructure, but we will have the network, the service, the outcome, the usability.

But what of the Australian cities? Surely they have better PT?

In some case and some aspects yes, but none of the Australian capitals will have the perfect storm of conditions we will. I only have a passing understanding of the situations across the ditch, but as I see it none of the aussie cities are as well placed for excellent transit as we are:

  • Melbourne is perhaps the most railed city in the new world. It is thick with transit infrastructure, sixteen rail lines, a four track underground city loop, plus the world’s largest tram network at street level. And the worst bus system I have ever seen, the poorest integration. It is a city the rests on the rusting laurels of the previous generation. In my old neighbourhood the tram line stopped on a corner in the suburbs about 1500m from the train station in the town centre. Why? Because they were built around a hundred years ago by competing companies that didn’t want to cooperate. Ten decades later they still don’t. Two major rail routes just far enough apart that they might have been on other sides of the planet. It’s fine if you live inside the tram network or along the fingers of railway, but for the other two thirds of the city the situation is dire. Because of their masses of infrastructure, they can’t look at their network overall, the operation, the usability, falls to the wayside. Melbourne has huge potential but it also has huge inertia to overcome. They might get there, but not before Auckland.
  • Brisbane is a city with a very strong CBD and some rail lines and gold medal busways feeding to it… but they generally just take commuters on weekdays and little else. It’s a much less useful system overall. The reason for that is the shape and form of Brisbane, it is very spread out and suburbanised in a way Auckland could never be, it’s just that much harder to make non-commuter PT work there, even if the demand cropped up. They have battles between buses and trains, they don’t have the structures to integrate their network. The fact that they are proposing to build a double decked metro tunnel with trains underneath and buses on top underlines their inability to coordinate. They are soaked with roads and freeways, and have plenty of room for more.
  • Sydney is perhaps a big mature example of what Auckland should avoid. They also have lots of trains, multiple underground stations, plus dozens of ferry lines and a lot of buses. They spend their money on billion dollar train links and light rail schemes but can’t get the basics of their local buses right. Try getting around the suburbs on a weekday evening without a car. Sydney could also be a great transit city if they went back to the fundamentals and started from the ground up, but from what I understand of NSW politics that is unlikely to happen.

So what of Auckland in comparison. We shall become the leapfrog city. As they say when you are at rock bottom you can only go up. By virtue of starting low, without inertia or expectation, and with a fundamental base of qualities that support transit, we will surpass our Australian peers. I predict that within the next ten years Auckland will have the highest number of PT trips per capita of any city in Australasia. It saddens me to see reports coming out that can’t see the coming confluence of ideal factors, and Auckland Transport responding by lowering their targets.

So what do we need to do to make it reality?

Well, not much actually. We are blessed by natural and intrinsic conditions that support transit, we have a robust economy and strong population growth. Most of all we don’t have much choice but to shift to a more economically and socially sustainable transport system. The conditions are there, the groundwork done. All we have to do is implement the plans that we have right now. It’s about that simple.

The Regional Public Transport Plan, with its totally revised network design, will set the snowball rolling. It’s actually exactly what Auckland needs, no more no less. And that is the crux, we have plans that are realistic, implementable, affordable and most importantly, will be very effective. The RPTP draws on all of Auckland’s strengths of geography, topography, governance, planning and operations and does wonders within that context. Most importantly, it doesn’t rely on major new projects or significant changes to funding, travel culture or a huge shift in travel patterns.

Ok sure, it’s not slam dunk in its own. We need to make sure the supporting things like integrated fares on HOP and a range of fairly minor infrastructure and interchange upgrades can happen. Oh and more bus lanes. Plenty more bus lanes. Bus lanes on every frequent transit route. In my opinion that is the one missing aspect that needs to be brought forward, but luckily they are actually very cheap and incredibly effective, as long as we can get over the political hurdles. Slowly but surely we should be buslaning our main arterials all over.

Longer term, we just need to complete the CRL based upgrade of the rail system, and follow through with the provisions of the Unitary Plan. Maybe a new busway or two, or light rail, on a couple of extra corridors as suggested by the Auckland Plan and the City Centre Masterplan. I actually think all these things will accelerate once the RPTP network is deployed. I’m not sure if anyone is anticipating quite how revolutionary it will be, how much demand for PT use will be realised in such a short time. But in general we don’t need mega infrastructure to get world class transit, Good planning, network integration and governance will do it. If we can implement that we will have a transit system that is more efficient and more useful for daily travel than any other system in Australasia.  If we follow that up with the CRL and other such projects we will blow them out of the water.

67 comments to Auckland will have the best transit system in Australasia

  • Marty McFly

    Well, got to the end and you were right “no pictures, no maps”
    Other than that, good post

  • I would add that it’s not just you who thinks this. I’ve heard the same thing from some Australian PT experts too.

  • Ari

    Nice vision. I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t end up there. Just need more citizen groups to put the pressure on AC/AT to make it happen and to keep informing the public who don’t have all the info.

  • Christopher T

    Can’t disagree with a thing. The only thing holding the revolution up is the National party’s apparent ideological preference for single occupancy motor vehicles, the aggressive cupidity of freight operators, the vested interest of Ministry of Transport/NZTA/AT traffic ‘planners’ and the disinterestedness of lazy Aucklanders who have become so inured to SOVs that they hardly know how to walk. Once we’ve gotten over these minor impediments, then Len’s your uncle.

  • Surprise. The Herald has a clear POV for the CRL, still it’s better than their previous position; ignore it hoping it will go away: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11261633

  • I’ll believe it when I see it – strongly-enough worded for you? :-)

    jj

    • TheBigWheel

      I’ll second that.

      Nick, I think you are right to note Governance as a key driver.

      The trouble is that when “NZTA still hold the purse strings and the State Highway Network” this is where it can all go wrong. What does the NZTA’s governance look like?!

      Roads, as JSK will no doubt remind everyone tonight, are there for people, not cars. Including cycling, which is a key component of most good urban transit systems.. and which doesn’t get a look-in in your post. Though if we are aiming at “best in Australasia” the bar is pretty low in that regard ;-)

      • Oh yes, current policy won’t turn AKL into Vienna. But they are a necessary first step. As we improve Transit provision completing the streets for all modes becomes a more reachable task. We are already in the foothills of this mountain. Onward.

      • Well yes, I have stuck to passenger transit in this post. I’ll let someone consider walking, cycling, freight, parking, more efficient use of traffic, etc.. Personally I’m not as confident with those.

  • HelgaA

    It was impressive to see how many of the 1200-strong Robb lecture audiences this past week, walked out to Symonds St and straightaway caught a bus.

  • “If we follow that up with the CRL and other such projects we will blow them out of the water.”

    True. There isn’t a city of Auckland’s size in the world that wouldn’t jump at the chance to get a near city-wide Metro system for the cost of a 3.4km pair of single track tunnels!

    But also if we don’t, or if it takes too long, the capacity constraints that are already showing are going to get very very serious.

  • Stranded on the North Shore

    Love it.

  • George D

    So what do we need to do to make it reality?

    A change in leadership at Auckland Transport. A Mayor who is actually committed to things (rather than changing his tune depending on the audience) and a couple more councillors with this vision. Radical restructure of the NZTA. A change of Government.

    Not much, really.

    • Too harsh George; the bigger brake on achievement is the government policy including their direction of NZTA. AC and AT are intensely constrained by this at multiple levels. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t poor decisions and projects at these levels too but without this pressure these would improve profoundly and or become much more insignificant. Follow the money.

    • I don’t think the NZTA are the problem. I would say that by in large they are ready to do the right thing but are being held back by government policy requiring most of their cash go to motorways.

      • George D

        I do think NZTA are the problem. In my experience in the last few years they have been singularly unwilling to deal with the public, and have been unwilling to compromise on even small parts of roading plans. They invent projects.

        I don’t doubt that there is a confluence of agendas, but NZTA are as much part of the problem as anyone else.

  • Waspman

    This is quite a positive piece given we didn’t even see an extra metre of bus lane in AC’s first 3 years and the barest of amendments to timetables for PT. @George D, the mayor maybe but two steps backwards (if that’s possible) with a National party stooge mayor instead, Change of government unlikely unless things like polling and media reporting get a lot more transparent and objective. And its a change of government that is required above all else otherwise its more of the same motorway mania and stuff all else..

  • Greg N

    “Warning, this post contains no pictures, no maps, no links, no data and no evidence. It is 100% personal, editorial opinion. ”

    Ah its just like every NZ Herald Editorial I’ve read then?

    But unlike the Herald’s editor(s) , that write their editorials, this one has good analysis, a clear, justified position, and well argued reasoning of the situation and desired outcomes.

    So well done Matt, good post.

    Now lets hope AT management and board, NZTA and the MoT wake up and smell the coffee on this one.

    Seems Brown is starting to take the gloves off with CRL funding, so maybe we’ll see action sooner than later on that one too.

  • Auckland has the potential to have the best PT system — that I agree with. But time and time again AT has shown that they don’t seem to have the systems in place to ensure good day-to-day delivery of PT services. To this day there are several morning peak services on my local bus route that consistently arrive 20-30mins behind schedule. This has been an on-going issue for several months now with no action by AT nor the operators to rectify the serious timekeeping issues. I’ve lived all over Auckland (Kohimarama, Grey Lynn, Papaotetoe, Pakuranga, Kelston and Mount Albert over the last 5 or so years) and the one consistent issue is that the bus service is poorly scheduled. Kohimarama was pretty bad because the buses there still run to a timetable last updated in the late ’90’s (which even Stagecoach, in around 2007 or so, was forced to admit needed to be retimed and in the 5+ years since nothing has been done by ARTA nor AT). Every feedback I’ve sent on to AT is met with the response of “Whoops sorry, we do hope you catch the bus again soon”. In other words, they don’t seem to care. My fear is that the new bus network will be implemented with fantasy timetables that is impossible to achieve in real life. Sadly there’s no point having an awesome bus network without having some sort of process in place to ensure that the day-to-day service delivery is of a high standard. AT has the former (an awesome bus network which I think is really well designed) but not the latter (robust day-to-day service delivery processes). I’m hoping AT proves me wrong but history hasn’t been kind to them.

    • -Buslanes, we need full buslanes on all major routes, and until they’re there there’ll be no hope of reliability, whatever the self-reported stats say.

      • Stu Donovan

        yes we do. Starting with upper Symonds Street. The fact there’s not already bus lanes there is a travesty of transport priorities in this grand ol’ city of ours.

  • Stu Donovan

    I agree with you Nicolas; Auckland is ideally suited to public transport and improvements already in the planning pipeline will take us a long way towards having the best PT system in Australasia in the next 5-10 years. I’m not sure they’ll get us to the point of being clearly the best, but the second tranche of projects that is justified by the success of the next few years (whether it be CRL, northwestern busway, major bus lanes programme) will get us over the line.

    However, I think there’s a need to reflect a little more on what we mean when we say “best”. Are we talking about most *effective*, which might reasonably measured by PT trips per capita or overall PT mode share? Or are we talking about most *efficient*, which might be measured by subsidy per passenger (or passenger-km) or cost recovery? My gut feeling is Aucklands need to have both 1) the highest PT trips per capita in Australasia and 2) the highest farebox recovery before it can lay claim to being the “best”.

    How’s that for ambition?

    • The vital metric that I’d like to add to that list is the system that enables the best, the highest quality, city. We simply cannot improve this city while trying to sort the movement issue only by trying to stuff more cars through it.

      • Stu Donovan

        I was focusing on metrics that are internal to the PT system and therefore are readily influenced by how we manage the latter.

        Maybe I’m a little tactical in my thinking, but I generally take it as given that a PT system that was more effective and efficient in terms of the performance indicators outlined above would also support a high quality city.

    • Trick question Stu! They would all measure the same as far as I am concerned. Yes effective in terms of PT trips per capita and mode share, and yes efficient in terms of farebox recovery or similar.

      But they come hand in hand. Sure in some oil rich emirate they might be able to pump money into achiving effective PT without it being efficient, but our reality is different. If we want it to be effective it has to be efficient. That’s another way of saying that for the only way we can deliver a network that is effective and well used is to efficiently plan and allocate resources.

      An efficient network = a useful and functional network = a well patronised network = a network with good fare revenue = a financially sustainable operation = a high farebox recovery ratio.

      • Stu Donovan

        I agree. But they are important in terms of providing somewhat objective measures of when we can declare “victory”. While I trust your professional opinion, I would like some independent indicators ;).

        • Well you’re the economist, you tell me! I’ll stick to measuring success on boardings. Basic, but what is more revealing than the number of people who use it.

  • Riccardo

    You conspicuously avoided mentioning Perth. Which lets your pitch down considerably

    • Yes I have left out Perth, never been there nor studied it. Also left out Adelaide, Gold Coast, Cairns, Dawin, Newcastle, Geelong, Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton, Dunedin and Tauranga.

      But from what I can gather (correct me if I’m wrong) it suffers much of Brisbane’s fate, a very good commuter system for getting people to the CBD (right ticketing, excellent fast train lines, full feeder bus system). Outside of rail it appears to have a difficult sprawling bus system to serve difficult sprawling suburbs.

  • mfwic

    You suggest that Governance is a winner with all the factions under one roof. I think that is a bit optimistic. For actually getting things done Transit NZ was successful because they were fairly small and ignored everyone else. My experience of AT is now you get dozens of people showing up at meetings and there is always at least two who will try to stop a project no matter how good it is.

  • The new network plan is excellent, but requires a great deal of infrastructure to allow for transfers. I believe the ultimate
    challenge will be for AT to stick to its guns on keeping the plans as close as possible to the 1st draft. There has not been a great track record of changes being made without a raft of back downs following customer feedback, even with low complaint numbers.

    This is a great plan which could be undone by the politically senstitive environment AT sometimes has to operate in. I hope they show the fortitude required to see the majority of the changes through. Let’s get rid of the 1,000+ route variants that look like a can of spaghetti, ask 10% of people to travle slightly further to main corridors with incredible frequency, or transfer and watch the patronage grow astronomically!

    Also – totally agree with the bus lane requirements on major corridors. Manukau Rd and Great North Rd are other good ones (after Dom, Sandringham, Mt Eden etc). After taking a bus from Panmure to CBD last week after a freight train broke down – I’d add that into the mix also (Greenlane to Nmkt – crazy!).

    • Evan

      Manukau Rd desperately needs bus lanes/priority, I think nearly every bus doesn’t stick to schedule which makes it very infuriating most of the time.

    • David T

      “keeping the plans as close as possible to the 1st draft”
      I assume you’ve seen the second draft? There’s a substantial difference to the first draft in some areas, but not necessarily changed for the worse.

  • Riccardo

    “While they may not agree, there are only two parties at the arbitration table.”

    The logic of this is sound – but not sure where it takes you.

    NZ is a small, possibly too small, sovereign country, that was offered, and refused, membership of the Australian federation. It is probably unable to defend itself from anything but the most minor incursions.

    Australia’s federation has plenty wrong with it, as has been pointed out. But not sure that allying 6 separate colonies into a federation, and ensuring governance of the remaining continental landmass is covered, was worth sacrificing so that people have fewer transport planners involved. There is a unfortunate vibe, felt more keenly in Australia than NZ, that NZ would expect to be saved by Australia if something went wrong. This plays into the vibe that NZ is having the benefit of ‘closer relations’ without the costs.

    The EU too, has its critics, but the members saw the advantage of a United Europe outweighed the many problems with it.

    • NZ is indeed small (although still more populous than about half the countries in the world and larger in area than two-thirds) and indeed unencumbered by an unnecessary federal bureaucracy. What good would that bring? We have a national government, and in Auckland we have regional government. What we have done away with are the petty fiefdoms of local councils. A city like Auckland doesn’t need to be split up into seven separate and arbitrarily defined councils. Same way Melbourne doesn’t need to be in 28 separate ‘cities’ and shires.

      Not sure what national defence has to do with it, yes due to our alliances with Australia and the United States we would expect some help if someone (who?) decided to invade. But lets be realistic here, if anyone is invading New Zealand they are doing so after the fall of Australia anyway.

      • Riccardo

        “what national defence has to do with it, yes due to our alliances with Australia and the United States we would expect some help if someone (who?) decided to invade.”

        The list of suspects is pretty short.

  • Guy

    Nick R, a wonderful piece, written from the heart. I’d vote for you, after hearing that! Only trouble is, some glaring holes in your argument.
    “I predict that within the next ten years Auckland will have the highest number of PT trips per capita of any city in Australasia.”
    Hmmm, yes, there are already a few other cities well ahead of Auckland there, including the obvious one in New Zealand – Wellington. You want high PT trips per capita? You have it here in the capital already. Miles ahead of Auckland. Of course, being number one means that we have only one place to go, and that is down. Tragic lack of foresight and investment means that is the likely route we are going to take down here. Building the humungous Transmission Gully project means that they will let more cars into the city, and PT will inevitably suffer.
    But at present, those pinch points you speak of – are present in Wellington at a far greater influence than Auckland has. The city here is actually so narrow at one or two points that we only have room for PT and cars in one direction – we can’t physically get them returning back through the other direction, which makes for a great PT spine through the city.
    Please come down to Wellington. Ask Patrick – he loves this city too.

    • exaucklanderinsydney

      Auckland would need approximately 150m combined annual trips to catch up to Sydney or Melbourne on per capita basis (Sydney is just over 500m). I would love auckland to achieve that but i think it would be extremely difficult to achieve in 10years as you claim

      • Nick R

        Correct, that represents about 8% growth per annum above population growth. I think that is entirely reasonable given we are coming from rock bottom but have a perfect storm of network and infrastructure enhancements lined up. Auckland is rapidly shifting from zero to hero on every aspect of its transit system and the net effect of that will be far greater than the sum of its parts.

        Sydney is planning to fix up one bus corridor with light rail, Auckland is fixin up every single bus corridor in the city. Melbourne is planning some rail rationalizations, Auckland is rolling out a brand new fleet, tripling the all-day frequency on all lines and running it seven days a week, and implementing a region wide feeder bus system.

        Sydney and Melbourne would have to do some truely amazing things to match the level of per capita improvement that Auckland is about to achieve.

    • Nick R

      Indeed Guy, there are many cities currently ahead of Auckland on trips per capita, most in fact. However none of these cities is sitting on the cusp of a total and complete overhaul of its transit system, like Auckland is.

      I love Wellington and have been there many times, a properly urban place in the centre. Yes it currently has per capita trips 40% higher than Auckland, and sure it has those key pinch points. But for whatever reason it’s not growing very fast, and in the past few years the trips per capita have been going backwards. Auckland’s has been growing already, and we haven’t even seen the new bus network, the new trains or the new integrated fares. Sorry but it won’t be long at all before Auckland overtakes Wellington and shoots right past.

  • Malcolm M

    Auckland probably has the best scorecard in Australasia for destinations on the rail network:
    – most of the tertiary education (especially once Manukau campus opens and the Newmarket university campus opens)
    – 2 major hospitals
    – more than half the regional shopping centres

    Tertiary education forms an anchor to the PT systems of many Australasian cities. PT-accessible campuses save parents from having to buy and run a car for their student, while for higher education institutions PT saves having to dedicate large tracts of land to subsidised parking. Hospitals are huge traffic generators right through the day, with staff, patients and visitors all making trips. Regional shopping centres are probably not major PT destinations for mums buying the weekly shopping, but for staff, those wanting entertainment such as movies, and singles who are only buying small amounts, having major shopping centres on the PT network reduces the need for a car.

    • Riccardo

      You are kidding. Sydney has tertiary institutions on rail, with Macquarie Uni having its own underground station.

      I hope this optimism around AKL is right. It should have ridership roughly the same as Brisbane, going by pop.

      • Yes by pop it should be about the same. But once you consider density, geographic spread and the alternative road network, Auckland should be much higher than Brisbane.

      • Malcolm M

        Riccardo you’re right about Macquarie Uni having its own train station, and I’ve seen it heavily used despite being one of the newest stations on the network. UNSW is still not on the rail network, but it’s on the plans for light rail. So a few years ago only one of the big three (Sydney Uni) was on the rail network. In Melbourne Monash and Latrobe Uni’s are both off the rail network and rely on bus connections. In Adelaide only the CBD campuses of UniSA and Adelaide Uni have rail, with Flinders Uni reliant on bus and car, while in Perth none of the uni’s yet have walk-up rail, and are reliant bus connections with train stations. In Brisbane neither UQ nor Griffith Uni are on the rail network, but have busway connections. So as a proportion of student places, Auckland is already ahead of other Australasian cities for walk-up rail. While shuttle buses work well they require extra $$$ and can limit capacity relative to a campus being on its own train station.

        Likewise with hospitals, as a proportion of hospital trips (staff + patients + visitors) I expect Auckland’s potential for walk-up rail would be higher than most other Australasian cities.

        So provided AT can actually get the services operating reliably as customers would expect, the geography and destinations should work toward a rapid increase in patronage. When there are press stories about train and bus overcrowding on the new network, it will shift the political landscape toward PT. Get ready for 6-car trains all day to cope with demand.

        • MrV

          Even with 6 car trains what is the capacity per train? Maybe 800 at best. Nobody wants to talk about the required signalling upgrades to run the trains at a decent frequency either. Let alone proper freight seperation.

          • Nick R

            Rated at 750 with a leisurely standing density but could easily crush load to over 900. Units are also designed for conversion to metro style longitudinal seating in the future.

            What required signalling upgrades? The signalling system is completely brand new right across the network, all sections are bidirectionally signalled for three minute headways. I suppose we could go to ETCS2 for two minutes if that isn’t enough for you.

            Freight separating is under way with the third main, the first part of which is already built and the rest allowed for with recent works on bridge spans and new stations.

  • dave B (Wellington)D

    Wellington need a CRL of its own, instead of a $2.4 billion RoNS.

    • Riccardo

      As i said earlier. It is Wellington that needs Britomart. A single trench or tunnel, maybe 1km long, deeper into the centre of town.

  • Barney

    First things first. I don’t own a car so I travel everywhere by AT and my idea would be to get existing system up and running. So let me recount my travels today
    I traveled from my home in Glenfield to Hibiscus Coast. The up journey required changing for four buses and the down journey three buses. All of the buses were all in good running order, spotlessly clean, the drivers were all good drivers and from civil to very friendly (North Star). One bus (BTL) was 15 mins late arriving and one (Ritchies) left 3 mins early. The up journey took two & half hours and the down journey 2 hours so that is four and a half hours traveling for the day.
    By car it would have taken me 20 minutes each way so I guess that this is the answer as to why people take their cars.

    • Exactly the sort of thing that starts to work well with a properly designed network. With the New Network you’ll be looking at one bus from Glenfield to the busway, then the extended NEX up to silverdale and Orewa. Without knowing your origin and destination it’s hard to say, bit you could be looking at a single connection to make your trip, between two buses that both run frequently seven days per week.

  • MrV

    Typical Auckland, talking a big game, but up to FA. Auckland has a long road to travel to make PT anywhere near as convenient as it is in Melbourne/Sydney. Not that the latter don’t have issues, but they are far more likely to be funded and have more regular network improvements made. Contrast with Auckland where everything becomes a drama that the rest of the country has to put up with.

    • Nick R

      MrV I can assume you have no idea what is happening in Auckland with a comment like that. Auckland is currently doing more for it’s PT than any city in Australia.

      PT in Melbourne and Sydney isn’t convenient (I’ve lived in both cities so I know first had), at least not for about 2/3 of each city outside of the core. The Auckland Regional Public Transport Plan revamps every single transit route in the city, redesigning the whole system as a proper integrated network. That is already funded, or rather it hardly needs funding because the planning and design is already done and paid for. Both Sydney and Melbourne are miles away from that, all they do is plan expensive but greatly limited infrastructure projects without looking at the efficiency of what they have.

    • The only reason the City Rail Link is “a drama that the rest of the country has to put up with” is that the current government is unwilling to admit that it’s a project that’s necessary now, not in a decade’s time. Wellington’s new electric trains were nearly completely paid for by central government, whereas Auckland has generously been given a loan whilst also being denied any new funding streams with which to repay said loan.

      Don’t want Auckland’s public transport issues to be a drama? Given the current muppets the flick come September. Until we’ve got a government that pays more than lip service to improving provision for any modes other than cars and trucks, it’ll continue to be more of the same.

  • DL

    I like your sense of humor.

  • BranePowerGuy

    Good clear thinking, great combination of vision and practicality, backed up with research and analysis. Three thumbs up.

Leave a Reply