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The Mercury Lane entrance decision

Auckland Transport have released a previously confidential board paper – that’s surprisingly short on detail – behind their decision to only build the Mercury Lane entrance to the Karangahape Rd Station instead of also building one at Beresford Square. In total the change is expected to save around $30-40 million.

Karangahape Station Entrance Mercury Lane 2

The Mercury Lane Entrance

The report states that while the station has always been shown to have two entrances they only ever intended on building one initially. When and why that decision was made is unknown – I assume as a way to save costs and perhaps stemming from the time when they were trying to get out of building the station altogether. They go on to say that a single entrance will be enough to cope with expected demand to the area out to beyond 2046 which is likely where their projections end. It’s this kind of statement that raises flags with me as it suggests the level of demand is some kind of pre-determined outcome rather than a response to what’s built.

K Rd station entrances

 

It has always been assumed that the Beresford Square entrance would be the primary one however AT say that while working on the reference design for the station a “value engineering initiative” identified the option of changing the order around.

K Rd - Full Station Cut Away

Other than the cost saving two of the key reasons highlighted as justifying the change are

  • That there is a lot of potential for development around the station entrance.
  • That it would be more difficult to get the space needed to dig out the Mercury Rd entrance at a later time while they say this can be done at Beresford with “relative ease”

Starting with a base design of building the Beresford Square entrance the engineers then came up with six options for the entrance

  • Option 1A a value engineered option of option 1 where Beresford Square is constructed first with vent and escape stair in widened footway in Pitt Street future proofing for Mercury Lane.
  • Option 1B as option 1A but with no future proofing for Mercury Lane.
  • Option 2A Mercury Lane entrance constructed first with vent and escape stair in Pitt Street with future proofing for Beresford Square entrance.
  • Option 2B as for 2A but with vent in a median in Pitt Street and escape stair in Beresford Square
  • Option 3A as for 2A with no future proofing for Beresford Square.
  • Option 3B as for option 2B with no future proofing for Beresford Square.

To identify what is the best option they conducted a multi-criteria analysis, the results of which are below. The two cost metrics seem to have a set score out of five but for the other criteria it appears they have averaged the score of different members of the CRL design team.

K Rd Entrane Multi-Criteria Analysis

The results show that options 1A and 2A have the best scores when you ignore the cost criteria however options 2A and 2B perform better when the cost is added in.

The next table takes each areas and doubles the rankings in each area in a separate test to see how the results change.

K Rd Entrane Multi-Criteria Analysis - weighted

When you look at the the results with costs added option 2A comes out on top which is the option they have gone for.

There are a few other comments in the report that are interesting/odd.

The Cross Street link between the LRT proposal in Queen Street and the CRL station entrance in Mercury Lane provides part of an integrated public transport solution for the precinct.

and

Cross Street has been identified for providing a shared space environment encouraging pedestrians to use this link between the CRL
entrance in Mercury Lane and the LRT stop at the top of Queen Street

It’s odd that they talk about using Cross St as a link between the CRL and LRT stations being as part of an integrated PT solution but seem to ignore any idea of integration with buses – which would be much easier with a Beresford Square entrance. Cross St is also a place that would need a lot of private sector investment to make a shared space really work.

A few people in recent posts about the images have commented on the grade of Mercury Lane, this is what is said about it.

The gradient of Mercury Lane has been raised as a potential issue. The current gradient varies between 1 in 9 and 1 in 13 between Karangahape Rd and the station entrance. This gradient is no worse than the gradient of Victoria Street and Wellesley Street from Queen Street to the location of the station entrances to the CRL Aotea Station.

Lastly it seems one of the justifications for the change is a claim that the patronage catchments have been raised. This appears to be based simply on looking at the coverage of some concentric rings shown around the station (below). For a project of this size it seems like an awfully simplistic measure. If you gave the image below to someone who didn’t know anything about Auckland or the CRL they’d probably question why even both with the Aotea Station even though it is forecast to be the busiest on the network.  Each of the stations have quite different pedestrian catchments and it seems odd they didn’t take walking viability into account.

The potential change to the patronage catchment areas to the CRL has been raised. If adopted, the Mercury Lane entrance increases the distance between Aotea Station entrance and Karangahape Station entrance by approximately 200m and reduces the distance between Karangahape station entrance and Mt Eden station entrance by 200m. The overlap in 800m and 1200m catchment rings are shown in attachment 2 to this paper.

CRL station catchment rings

It may be better than no station at all but I remain unconvinced of having a single entrance down in Mercury Lane. In my view build the station once and build it right, with both entrances.

70 comments to The Mercury Lane entrance decision

  • Bruce

    I notice there doesn’t appear to be a costing on how much extra it would cost to build it in future (just the savings of not building it now). So they might save $30m now but have to cough up $60m (in today’s dollars) in a decades time.

  • Christopher T

    This is the sort of dodgy, cost-cutting thinking that has characterised Auckland’s approach to public transport for a long time: the ‘we only need four lanes on the Harbour Bridge’ sort of thing. Airy comparisons of the Mercury Lane and Victoria Street gradients is no justification for cost-cutting and this proposal really has to be audited by a disability advocate. Renders that depict the rather dark, narrow and sloping Mercury Lane as a gently sloping boulevard don’t exactly convince. I’m not altogether unsurprised by the fact that the Board haven’t called a halt to this proposal, but they really should. And before they endorse I strongly recommend a site visit; it might change their mind.

  • Chris R

    They just don’t seem to understand the demand that having a proper network will create. Just like they underestimated demand on the Western Line. It’s the old ‘Aucklanders love cars’ thing again – as if we have some kind of mystical, inseverable link to our cars and will never make different transport choices no matter what the circumstances. We’re not that different from New Yorkers or Londoners or Torontonians – give us decent public transport infrastructure and we’ll use it, in droves.

    And I love the comparison of Mercury Lane to Victoria/Wellesley Sts. So there’s another station with a less than ideal gradient on some approaches. That must mean it’s a great idea to choose a steep gradient over a relatively flat one for your only entrance!

  • The idea that Mercury Lane Station is better because it is further from the Aotea Station and closer to the Mt Eden Station and therefore offers more coverage is absurd. Mercury Lane simply closer to the motorway; there is no additional patronage that can come from this place. Was this ‘value engineering’ done overseas with just a few low res maps? Or did the budget not actually run to even one site visit. Beresford Square is close enough to cover all the sites up to the m’way severance, as well as those on its side of K Rd. Where are the fine grained maps showing actual walk-up catchments?

    Metro Stations should never be a secret, Merc Lane is a fine secondary entrance, but it is clearly a poorer primary one compared to Beresford Square [but yes cheaper]. It is hidden. Most concerning is the ‘no demand for B Sq is the beyond 2046’ line; that is effectively never, and probably self-fulilling because only the cognoscenti will even know there is a station in the vicinity. ‘Value engineering’ is clearly another weasel word for cost cutting; it isn’t about value at all.

    I agree about the potential for uplift in the whole area from K Rd to the M’way; I ran a post-grad Urban Design studio paper on this area last year, it is real and this station entrance would help. However it is clear that unless the one-way rat-run streets are not slowed and made about local access and not as through routes such uplift will struggle to work. The street network needs overhaul with all the land hogging and speed inducing sweeps taken out of them. The downhill one-way of Merc Lane is the biggest problem; and would be a killer with a shared space and station entrance half way down because of the speeds it induces [the whizzing car in the render is indeed accurate].

    B Sq station integrates immediately with current bus routes, Mercury lane will link better a with possible future Light Rail route….develop the Merc Lane Station then, in the future when LR is real, meantime we all have to use the actual buses.

  • TheBigWheel

    Development potential / place-making / customer experience all very well.. where’s the risk assessment of having only one exit? Gonna be a lot of people down there at times, with plenty of alcohol in their veins.

  • Steve W

    “Build it once and build it right.”

    The Auckland Harbour Bridge lesson is there for all to see.

    Maybe if we elect a different government in 2017 the Beresford St station can be added back in. They won’t have turned the sod yet.

    • Max

      To be honest, I think it can be added in as late as 2-3 years into the construction program. So plenty of time to turn this around, and thanks to TB for leading the charge.

  • Hein

    Big big mistake. Visibility of the CRL and train network in general will be so much better with both entrances. The customer experience part needs to be rated so much higher. Building Beresford square entrance right from the start, as well as Mercury Lane will encourage more rail patronage, and encourage more people to visit the area. This would be great for local business!
    Saving a mere $30 million now is not justifiable, to me, when considering what you lose by not having both entrances from the start.
    And that gradient comparison with Victoria and wellesley streets? Haha, me and my girlfriend had to laugh at that reasoning too. “It’s no worse than…”? Please… It’s exactly that kind of thinking that means Auckland will never be world class. You should be of the mindset “it will be best if we do…x… as opposed to …y…”, rather than comparing something to a non-ideal situation. I thought that kind of thinking was out-dated.

  • Thinking about this from another perspective, if the development potential is a key factor then why not charge developments for cost of entrance. What’s the development potential of that area behind K Rd, 5k, 10k? Build both and charge the $30m difference as a development contribution to those developers that will benefit massively from having a station entrance at their door. At the figures above that’s only $3-6k per apartment

    • mfwic

      I agree. We should be building this the Amercian way. The Government seizes the land either side of the alignment, hands it over to the railway company gratis so they can cut it up and sell it off to make their profit. Fund the whole enterprise with big loans from Britain and then the managers of the company liquidate it and buy it personally and leave the British out of pocket.

  • Greg N

    The whole exercise was done on the basis of “either one or the other” of Beresford or Mercury entrances, not both at once, so of course you are merely shuffling the deck chairs.

    Since both these sites are needed to actually build the CRL, it makes sense to finish the job off and put the stations in, the additional cost will be a rounding error across the whole project budget anyway.

    And as Matt says, charge developers access rights to plug into the station and solve the problem that way.

    With Metro stations, more entrances is better for all.

    These stations are not like motorway on/off ramps where the fewer the better for those using it.

    Talk about not thinking outside the (station) box AT.

  • Tony L

    Value judgements and value engineering, cost cutting circles on aerial photos with no sense of topography entwined to stimulate a poor decision………it all comes down to someone not doing their home work in the first instance? An underground in Auckland’s topography was always going to be an expensive proposition. Thats why it hasnt been done here or any other hilly city. San Francisco for instance keeps its underground to the flats, becomes surface where there are hills. With the Beresford station, six stories subterranean it was always going to be expensive, the deepest station on the network ? I would hazard a guess this won’t be the last example of knee jerk editing when pricing starts coming in. A shame for Beresford and the city as it there was potential to create a truly urban space with highly visible and integrated PT further activating the K rd, Gt North ridge renaissance.

    • The deepest station has already been nixed, Newton. K Rd is actually the only underground station; Briotmart and Aotea are just subsurface, cut and cover, and Mt Eden is in a trench. We used to have engineering ambition in this country; we built a power station in a rock cavern under a lake.

      30 million is 1.5% of a 2b project. There must be economies of scale in doing right at once.

      The hopelessly inaccurate patronage models are no doubt feeding this. They are incapable of understanding change.

  • Graeme Easte,

    Given that the Aotea Station platforms will be at about the same level as Queen Street has no thought been given to an extra entrance via a (more or less) horizontal connection (possibly using people movers) rather than require people to climb 25-30 metres up hill to Albert Street then descend back down a similar distance underground?

  • I’d suggest the AT board do a site visit, with half of them in wheelchairs and the other half pushing prams, and have another think.

    • THIS.

      Also, they need to walk to the proposed entrance locations from points 800m away (straight line/concentric circles, ie some of them from the other side of the CMJ motorways in the case of K Rd, others swimming from the middle of the harbour in the case of Britomart)

  • Warren S

    I recall Steven Joyce and John Key glowingly springing the additional funds for NZTA to construct the Arras tunnel in Wellington which was a favourable outcome for that city.
    Now is the time to for them to do the same for their home city and spring the funds for the Beresford Square Station.
    Do it once – do it properly!!!!!

    • Dave B (Wellington)

      Arras Tunnel? Favourable outcome? This $124m white elephant has achieved NOTHING in traffic benefits that simply closing the Tory Street/Tasman Street intersection would not also have achieved. And although the link between these two streets has technically been restored across the top of the tunnel, it is now part of the new Memorial Park, heavily traffic-calmed and no longer a major traffic thoroughfare. What Wellington has got out of this project is a nice new park, but at a STAGGERING COST if this is the only benefit (which it is, however the spin doctors might try to re-frame things). And one is left to speculate which other more-worthwhile projects have been shunted aside by this piece of largesse. The National government’s claim to fiscal prudence went totally out of the window with this venture.

      • Warren S

        I didn’t know it cost $124 million but visually the forecourt over the tunnel improves the sense of place leading up to the War Memorial, Carillon etc and I like the fact that the cars are pushed underground out of sight and mostly out of hearing.
        So to me the outcome is better than any Basin Reserve flyover would ever have been.
        I do agree however that the Government needs to overhaul its transport spending priorities and fast……………… Their current expenditure pattern is wilfully shoddy to say the least.

  • John Polkinghorne

    As a bit of an indication of local development potential, there’s plenty of development happening on the northern side of K Rd at the moment, and none on the southern side. It’s a ridgeline topography which gives the northern side great views and potential. From the Development Tracker, that’s:

    Western Park apartments
    Hopetoun Residences
    8 Hereford Residences
    Urba Residences
    Unistay Central
    Oasis Apartments
    Summit on Symonds

    And I’m being conservative – looking just slightly further off K Rd, there’s a few things happening around Scotia Place/ Queen St/ Symonds St too. Plus of course Beresford Square has a slightly larger existing catchment, it’s not just about growth.

  • George D

    Never any money to do non-road projects properly. Yet Auckland Transport will throw away $100 million on the flimsiest excuse to widen a motorway.

    Who are these people? Why do they think it’s okay to slash projects that will transform Auckland, and throw away our money on things that keep it the same?

  • Matthew W

    Hiding away stations is par for the course surely. The Newmarket station is virtually invisible from Broadway.

  • “”That it would be more difficult to get the space needed to dig out the Mercury Rd entrance at a later time while they say this can be done at Beresford with “relative ease” “”
    This indicates to me that they are aware of the need for a Beresford St entrance but think they can ‘save’ $30m by leaving it for another generation to pay for. But as others have already noted, it will no doubt cost $60m then and we have apparently learned nothing from building the harbour bridge.
    Personally I don’t think we’re building enough stations anyway, but maybe there’s a secret CRL 2.0 hidden away somewhere that they’re planning to get my grandkids to build/pay for.

      • You mentioned this in your linked post (from 2012):

        “In recent discussions with the Council’s head of Urban Design Ludo Campbell-Reid he mentioned that the new owner of the empty site between Elliot and Albert St is keen to integrate the station exits into the retail floors his proposed tower which will bring people onto the new shared space of Elliot and Darby Streets and level with Queen St at the Station’s northern end. There will of course be exits further west for those heading up hill [maybe even up to the coming Federal St shared space and Sky City] and at the southern end on Wellesley Street where the Council owns property on two sides of that intersection.”

        Has any of this come to fruition? An entrance via the Darby/Elliot St corner would seem to be a no brainer but I’m guessing the new new owner will now be saying “valuable retail space” and looking for some ‘compensation’ similar to what Precinct Property got downtown.

        • I can’t imagine any developer of that site doesn’t want tens of thousands of customers through one of its retail levels…. but these things are probably tied up in negotiations, and also AT can’t rely on the project happening on time so must proceed with its own entrances while hoping to get a great outcome in places it can’t control as well.

      • Tony L

        What both maps show is the inefficiency built into the CRL. The City is too small for two central loops tunneled through the CBD. The CRL should have just gone from Britomart directly through to Wynyard made a right turn to connect to a North shore tunnel or a left turn cut and cover to link into existing Southern corridor adjacent Motorway eventually linking into western line further along the route. No expensive tunneling, all at a reasonable gradient and within reasonable distance to currently proposed stations. All CBD surface movement via trams like in the old days and rail dealing with wider regional movement. Done without all the expensive engineering. All comes back perhaps to small mans complex….. we must have a CBD underground to be a grown up city. Rubbish. We must have efficient and affordable movement options, great design, robust processes and leadership.

        • No Tony. That’s a map I made, there is nothing lacking in the CRL that requires it’s twin shown above; that is but an intellectual exercise that I doubt I’ll see built, but then you never know….

          ‘What both maps show is the inefficiency built into the CRL’ Lol. Nothing is more efficient than underground urban rail transport; totally avoiding street congestion and offering incomparable capacity. It takes up a tiny footprint and brings huge value at every point it surfaces [cf highways; the reverse]. Yes it is expensive to build, but once it is built its value delivers massively for the economy that hosts it, thrives on it. It is the very definition of spatial efficiency. By all means say it takes investment, but it stretches all credibility to claim that it is ‘inefficient’.

  • George D

    Okay, now being constructive… Say they do this. How do we make the best of it?

    The obvious solution is to pedestrianise Mercury, allowing much better pedestrian access. This station should be being used by thousands per hour. Mobility-impaired access will need to be provided through a lift and escalator system bringing people up to Karangahape. The Karangahape-Mercury intersection will need to be narrowed and a large entrance abutment created to allow transition into this area from Karangahape. There is no way that corner is currently fit for this purpose. This should eventually be followed by pedestrianising Cross St, demolishing the parking building there, and selling the land for development.

    • Yes, all of that. But the traffic engineers will get seriously huffy; Mercury Lane is considered the access for emergency vehicles form the Pitt St Fire and Ambulance Stations. They designed this street layout on the premise that that area must remain undervalued and underused. After all proper people are all in the distant suburbs, the old inner city is just for speeding through.

      And they can’t rely on getting through to Symonds St, or Newton Rd cos these are traffic sewers and will likely be gridlocked…. so it goes.

  • Richard A

    Put simply, I think Beresford would be a grand entrance and prominent just off Pitt St. Mercury Lane entrance looks like a seedy hideaway.

    • David B

      I agree – and Bereford Sq is closer to where people live and work. It could become a premium public space for meeting friends and holding public events. On the face of it there seem to be many reasons that, if we are only to have one entrance, it should be here and not Mercury Lane.

  • Matthew

    Pretty much the cost of an idiotic pre-republic flag referendum. I choose the station. Beresford Square is flatter so it will surely be preferred by patrons?

  • Grant

    The only redeeming reason I can see is from there recent email which states: “. It also takes the station closer to where an earlier Newton station was planned, bringing in much of this commuter catchment….”. I agree though, build them both!

  • I think they need both a Bereford Sq entrance, but also a 3rd entrance surfacing further along K-rd around the St Kevins arcade area (maybe even integrated with St Kevins arcade), so it can be made with low gradent ramps for accessabilty (wheelchairs/prams/elderly etc, which should also be cheap as its just concrete no elevators/escalators etc) and then delivers people a short walk from the top of myers park, and from there a green space walk all the way down to aeota square.

  • Grant

    Could it be not so much a cost cutting exercise as a “it’s in the too hard basket AND too much else to do anyway AND K’Rd is just going to be the poorer cousin to the Aotea/Queen St area.” kind of thinking.

  • nonsense

    It’s as simple as these dudes are going to be dead by the time their stupidity becomes blatant to the wider public. Anybody remember the names of those that decided to cut on the bridge lanes? No, exactly. But they looked responsible at the time

  • kelvin

    Get the developers on bereford square to contribute some money, in return they can build on top of it.

  • Surely this also a matter of governance. I hope the Waitemata local board and councillors strongly question this decision. Given the $30m “saving” – really only $15m assuming 50% government contribution, it’s the worst example of knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

  • harrymc

    Mind bogglingly short sighted: so par for the course then.
    I’ve used metro systems in many cities and they always but always have multiple entrances. The reasons are quite simple: safety and making it ACCESSIBLE!
    $30 million? It’s chicken feed. Although it would pay for 3 pandas.

  • So it is 200m from Beresford Square to the Mercury Lane entrance (2 minutes walk) and a set of lights to cross (average cycle time is 2 minutes so average pedestrian wait = 1 minute) .
    Three extra minutes for every user coming from the north! Three minutes is a pretty large difference if you only travelling 10 minutes (Morningside or Parnell). Quite sure $30m has been spent on roading projects with less time savings and comparable number of users.

  • Is there overdesign in the Berrisford Road entrance that is bumping up the costs ? The image shows an escalator taking passengers about one third the way up, after which it seems to be stairs and lifts. Since it is an island platform surely lifts could go direct from a gated ground level concourse direct to platform level, which would remove the costs of the angled tunnel and escalator. The vertical shaft needs to be built anyway, so equip it with 2 large lifts holding 50 people and one small lift holding 10, and this should be sufficient for 3000 people per hour.

  • As someone who used to live on Howe St, I always thought the beresford Square entrance was very convenient, it’s a bit of a blow they are only planning to do mercury lane first…

  • Chris

    Hopefully there will be another access point to the Mercury Lane entrance at the East St / Galatos St intersection. I could see Galatos St extended over the motorway one day, connecting to Abbey St.

    • There is a good laneway network through to East St there, as you can see on the plan in the post, currently they are used for carparking, of course. That must change. There are great development opportunities on this whole slope down to the motorway.

      The topographical issue is that the whole area slopes to the south, this suggests that buildings should get taller and taller as they go down the hill, shading the m’way is no problem, and happily this works well with both the height restrictions across the area and the existing buildings of value which are lower and at the K Rd edge. So new higher rise in valley meeting the historic buildings on the ridge, to sort of level off the top of the built ceiling. Apartment towers merging to midrise to laneways across the site forming courtyards at the back of the K Rd shops. More height and volume between Cross St and Motorway.

      Calm and narrow the streets back to Victorian form and scale; take out the late 20thC speed inducing sweeping curves and reduce their footprint.

      Although, as ever, so much depends on the current ownership pattern; is it a patchwork of uneconomic small sites, or are there big holdings passively held by churches or others? Landbankers, or active developers? Any role for Panuku?

    • Galatos to abbey with a connection to the ex nelson st offramp. What was the reason they didnt connect into that from galatos in the first place?

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