Categories

Archives

Has AT scaled back Light Rail?

I keep a fairly close eye on many of the documents that come out of Auckland Transport and recently I’ve been noticing a change in some of them in regard to light rail.

When first announced last year AT proposed four light rail routes across the Isthmus to “fill the void” – the central isthmus area between the Western and Southern rail lines. Within the void are some of Auckland’s original tram suburbs and as such some of the city’s busiest bus routes. AT predict that at current levels of growth the streets in the city centre will soon become a wall of buses and so using higher capacity light rail on some busy routes would help in reducing overall volumes of vehicles on city streets. They proposed to light rail on Sandringham, Dominion, Mt Eden and Manukau roads. That would then free up more space for buses from other areas such as the Northwest and the North Shore.

At the time they produced this map showing how the light rail plans might fit in with their other plans for rapid transit across the region.

RTN + LRT

Those four routes would enter the city using either Queen St for the first two mentioned and Symonds St for the latter to. The timing was also be spread out over a few decades so it wasn’t going to happen all at once but they showed all the routes anyway.

City Access - LRT

The map above also shows light rail travelling via Quay St before going to Wynyard. Late last year the AT board agreed to go via Customs St instead. Given my experiences with buses through that area I think this is the right decision.

Later AT also started thinking about using light rail to the airport and that was added to the maps too. Four light rail lines can also clearly be seen in the staged Rapid Transit maps which AT have been showing around a lot lately.

AT Rapid Transit Network 2015-2045

But in recent times I’ve started noticing some changes in the way AT talk about light rail and it seems to coincide with the project getting more scrutiny from the likes of the NZTA and the Ministry of Transport.

A recent presentation to the council’s Development Committee had an updated version of one of the maps above. The presentation was talking about the next study/document to be created looking at the central city – known as the Central Access Plan. As part of that AT included a map showing the potential investment programme. As you can see only the Dominion Rd light rail corridor is shown properly although there is also a faint Sandringham Rd line too. Missing from the map are the Mt Eden and Manukau road routes.

CAP - Potential Investment - LRT

Now a new version of the Rapid Transit map has been published by the herald and it too only shows two light rail corridors.

Rapid Transit Map

The Dominion Rd route makes a huge amount of sense as it is the busiest of the routes and while it may not look like it, the Unitary plan actually allows quite a bit of development pretty much all the way down the corridor through the use of mixed use zoning. But Sandringham Rd is also included too. My guess is the building the Dominion Rd route will also necessitate supporting infrastructure like depot’s which would be shared with the Sandringham Rd route and as such it likely means the cost of laying tracks down the road is much lower compared to doing so on the Mt Eden/Manukau roads routes.

So what about the other two routes?

The AT website now only lists these two routes mentioned above and does so with details such as the distance and number of stops for each section (Wynyard to Britomart, Queen Street to Dominion Road, Dominion Road and Sandringham Road). Now the only mention of the other routes is:

Wider light rail network

A wider light rail network could add 2 corridors along Mt Eden and Manukau Roads, converging on a second spine along Symonds Street.

This does seem suggest that AT have scaled back their thinking or plans for light rail and bumped Mt Eden and Manukau roads off the immediate agenda. This could be due to potential funding pressures or just more detailed investigations into the proposals but either way it would be good for them to say just why this has happened.

 

As an aside it’s good to see the Herald finally publishing a map showing the plans for the rapid transit network. It’s something they should have been doing a long time ago and if not them, AT should be pushing it a lot more including making it and the details behind it more accessible on their website. They and the council have also started showing how it develops over time rather than at one point in the future – just like we did with the Congestion Free Network which is great to see. Perhaps they should make an interactive version, something a bit like this.

71 comments to Has AT scaled back Light Rail?

  • Stu Donovan

    I have to say: That’s a pretty sweet looking RTN network.

    I appreciate there’s some hard decisions to be made on details, e.g. technologies, specific alignments, and timing/funding. Also a lot of work required on the frequent bus services and walking/cycling links needed to support this RTN.

    But on paper it looks like a really useful network for accessing most of metropolitan Auckland relatively quickly and reliably. And it’s useful simply having a long term plan for Auckland’s PT network, because this can now start to inform AC’s land use planning, i.e. the next iteration of the Unitary Plan (yes, it’s almost time to start thinking about that!).

    I’m personally not crying a river for the loss of LRT on Mt Eden and Manukau: If the initial lines are sufficiently successful then the need for expansion is a nice problem/opportunity to have. And the initial lines will do a lot for the city centre in terms of bringing bus volumes down to manageable levels, so would probably deliver the bulk of the benefits.

    One (minor) criticism: Does anyone else think it’s funny to show the purple cross-town rail service on this sort of strategic network map? I would have thought it was more about quality of infrastructure, service levels, and network structure/interchanges than it is about the minor details of potential operating patterns in 30 year’s time. Just seems like a trivial/inessential detail to show here …

  • Yes good to see AT’s evolving network thinking expressed visually, which is always the best to communicate this intention. I’m delighted they followed our lead with this. I expect a new iteration at some stage to include a rail RTN to and through the Shore too, as we have asked for this to be analysed through the ATAP process.

    But the greater challenge is now to re-structure our curious funding habits into something more rational, into a system that actually makes this map able to become a reality. Instead of funds being allocated by mode they need to be allocated by need, by value. So no longer should State Highways automatically be 100% funded from the NLTF and rail capex not able to be, for example. But rather, at least in AKL, all projects should face the same criteria and receive a proportion from central and local government on an equal basis. A sort of ‘bulk funding’ of transport in AKL, administered by NZTA and AT.

  • Matthew W

    The western north shore sticks out as being a bigger void than the void on those RTN maps.

    • alan j

      The really big void is in the far east, there is no rapid transit planned for these suburbs at all.

      AMETI at Pakuranga is 10kms away from Howick / Bucklands Beach. 100,000+ people left without good options.

      It’s all too isthmus centric

      • That’s cos Dick doesn’t believe his constituents use PT.

      • JimboJones

        The far east are getting what they vote for: big fat roads, overpasses, and motorways. Hardly fair for the far east to have new roads and new PT while the isthmus gets neither?

        • alan j

          The super city and a region wide plan is supposed to deliver proper services based on need. The stupidity of a single councilor shouldn’t come into it.

          It’s the worst served area in the region and it needs fixed urgently

          • What’s not shown in these maps is what will be a myriad of supporting routes and bus lanes. AT are already taking about bus lanes up Pakuranga Rd as far as Highland Lark. Kaipatiki has bus lanes up Onewa Rd. While not a full busway they do allow for significant improvement and extension of the system. Onewa Rd really needs a station on the busway though

          • Yes AMETI needs to be extended to buslanes to Highland Park. And be funded sooner.

            Local politicians at all levels in the south east have, for many decades, caused the area’s transport problems by insisting on a private car only system. The resultant congestion and frustration is as inevitable and wasteful as it is unnecessary. Adding choice and spatially efficient capacity to and through Pakuranga is urgent.

            And this highlights the distortions caused by our mode based funding criteria. Because AMETI is not on an NZTA designation it can only be half funded by NZTA, unlike the Northern Busway, or of course any state highway. This distortionary bias must be fixed. The need here is profound.

        • TheBigWheel

          Yes they get what they voted for out there. What’s hardly fair that their preferences for big fat roads in the far east means their big fat cars jam up the inner east / isthmus arterials and motorways. Which the rest of us have to pay for.

        • Nik

          I think that the number of interchanges between buses and train at Panmure might change the way some voters think about transport in that part of the city for the next electoral cycle.

      • Rich

        Look no further than Barry Curtis and Dick Quax with their roads only approach. No help to that area of Auckland is deserved based on governance.

    • patrick M

      Yes seems a rather large omission since the Kaipatiki Local Board area is the 5th largest by population in Auckland – http://www.stats.govt.nz/Census/2013-census/profile-and-summary-reports/quickstats-about-a-place.aspx?request_value=13612&tabname=.

      • Nick R

        Perhaps, but most of those people live with a couple kilometres of the Northern Busway, and over two times as many people live in the isthmus void (which has Albert-Eden and Puketapapa in it ) than Kaipatiki. That isthmus void isn’t far off having the population of the whole north shore living in it.

        • AnalogKid

          Being a couple of kilometres away from the Northern Busway is of no use at all when that’s 2 kilometres via Onewa Road, and there is no Northern Busway interchange at Onewa Rd.

          A secondary loop on the Shore along Onewa to Highbury and then up the Gelnfied Rd corridor to connect with the Albany Highway would go a long way to filling the Kaipatiki void. That final section of Glenfied Road gets just as choked as Onewa Road in the mornings, there isn’t enough provision to get to other locations on the Shore (apart from Takapuna / North Shore Hospital) via the current PT network.

          • Nik

            There is a certain amount of shortsightedness that removing the station from the original build has caused, the question is really whether the local community want to put it in or the is the religion of the car too strong for that part of the city.

            Won’t Skypath change the way people think about getting into the city when it goes in.

          • Trundler

            What use would a Onewa Road station on the Northern Busway be? How would you get there, there are not many houses that close to it, and if you were to take a bus there from Birkenhead or Beach Haven, what advantage would there be to changing, except to go North which surely is a very small number of people?

            What we need, as somebody else suggested is trams around the likes of Birkenhead and Glenfield (and same on Eastern side of motorway) feeding onto either a light rail spine or connecting to a heavy rail spin.

          • Matthew W

            “There is a certain amount of shortsightedness that removing the station from the original build has caused, the question is really whether the local community want to put it in or the is the religion of the car too strong for that part of the city.”

            This part of the city already has one of the busiest bus corridors in the city.

          • patrick M

            Re Mathew,

            Yes one of the busiest bus corridors in the city… just like DOMINION RD!!!!

          • Matthew W

            Exactly Patrick M, and over the next thirty years we have a whole lot of corridor reprioritisation (and less importantly circa $1B in vehicle tech investment) for one corridor, and what for the other?

          • Stranded on the North Shore

            @Trundler : Onewa Station would’ve been very helpful for people of Kaipatiki going north and vice versa. South-wise, it would also give options for transferring to a more frequent buses going to Ponsonby, University, Hospital and Newmarket. Also some routes could be rearranged – for example Northcote routes could do a loop collecting passengers along the way and dropping off people at Onewa for transfers… If you think about it, then Akoranga and Smales Farm (as well as Constellation but not as much) do not have much residential catchment either. Lastly, Onewa station, if cycling storage was provided would provide a nice place to transfer from cycle to bus for even a greater catchment.

  • JimboJones

    Where is the bulk of the cost of running light rail down Mt Eden road? Is it the changes to Mt Eden Road, to Symonds street, or the running stock?
    I’m picking that Symonds street is the biggest cost. If Mt Eden light rail were to connect to dominion road (perhaps via view road), that might be a lot cheaper – even if that is just a short term solution.

    • Nick R

      The rolling stock is a smaller component of the cost, the main bit is digging up the road to relocate services, installing the tracks and power systems, then reconstructing the road again.

      Mt Eden Rd is a little longer and a bit more wiggly than Dominion Rd, so it would cost a little more that double to add it on.

  • Bruce

    Looks like in that last graphic they got Redvale and Silverdale around the wrong way.

    Also doesn’t look like the North Shore is going to get any kind of rail be it LR or HR within 30 years (or anything at all bar the busway from out west). What a joke.

    • The busway needs to go right into Orewa, not to Grand Drive. AT need to stop building the stations in paddocks for park’n’ride. Walk up / ride up and local buses is far more economical.

      • Nik

        What would be the next stop after Orewa?

        If it’s Warkworth, then I’d argue that an alignment next to the Motorway is good, but if the anchor is Orewa then you’d be right.

        • Bryce P

          As far as NEX services go, a ‘line’ all the way to Warkworth is a step too far. Any Warkworth line makes more sense to terminate at Silverdale.

          • Linz

            NEX down into the heart of Orewa makes total sense. A proportion can continue on to Warkworth, increasing frequency as demand grows; or local feeder, via Hatfields and Waiwera.

            Totally agree that terminating services in a paddock outside town is seriously nuts.

      • Bruce

        Don’t mind if it continues down Grand Drive into Orewa but yes it should go along the motorway and have a park n ride on relatively cheap land there (mostly for commuters coming down from the North).

        • Build park and rides further up north and create Warkworth to Akl connections. AM and PM expresses to the city with off peak services to the NEX station at HBC.

  • Nicholas O'Kane

    I’m just really hoping they scale back (or ditch) light rail to the Airport, and build the heavy rail extension of the Onehunga line instead. Anyone knows when this decision will be made? Also how come the Favona Road station can’t be built on the heavy rail route? I also want Auckland Transport to take another look at building the heavy rail line via Otahuhu.

    Regarding light rail the plans for the isthmus light rail are very new, and we still have no idea how they plan to pay for it. Construction of the Mt Eden and Manukau Road lines wasn’t due to begin for quite a while anyway and if the Dominion and Sandringham Road lines are very successful (as I am highly confident they will be) there will be alot of pressure for other lines to be built.

    Also regarding the large route map, I do hope to see by 20145 not only heavy rail to North Shore, but an eastern suburbs line from Glenn Innes to Botany via Highland Park, and eventually to link up with the Manukau line by going down the middle of Te Irangi Drive, as this blog has advocated in the past

    • Ben T

      Nicholas, regarding the light rail for the airport, it will be on the cards up until they decide due to it servicing the ever growing airport business district. The heavy rail option goes out and comes back in for the terminal station so won’t reach this area. When majority of the regular users of this line will be to work or live in the area, you’ve got to consider both. And for anyone who is wanting to get to the airport it will always take time to get from where you are to the airport. especially if you live in the north or north west and you have the need to be at the airport at least 2 hours before your international flight.

      if Botany Downs were to get rail it would be light rail replacing the AMETI bus lines. heavy rail certainly wouldn’t connect to Glenn Innes. if anything it would come from Panmure as this is an area that acts as an interchange station and Glenn Innes is more of a destination station, based on the current layout of the area.

    • Dave B (Wellington)

      Agree +1 (with Nicholas O’Kane). Heavy rail is the way to go for these major, arterial PT routes.

      Interesting that many European cities (also Melbourne) with tram networks connecting the CBD and inner suburbs also have heavy rail routes connecting the CBD with outer suburbs and satellite towns. The two systems perform quite distinct functions but in Auckland we are in danger of confusing and compromising these functions.

      Same problem with certain ideas for light rail in Wellington. If it’s a major arterial corridor and heavy rail already exists for a substantial part of it then the same heavy rail should form the needed extension.

      • Adam W

        Ditto +1.
        light rail to the airport is a cheap solution which is slower than the current road option.
        Every international city which has heavy rail that I used overseas is far better than bus / light rail options. e.g. Rome, Istanbul, London, Paris etc.

    • Jamie Walton

      Agree +1 (with Nic and Dave).

      As has been discussed on this blog some years ago, a direct heavy rail line from somewhere in the vicinity of Glen Innes to Highland Park to Botany (and on to Manukau, and possibly a branch continuing South-East to Ormiston and the other large future growth areas in the South-East) would provide a much more direct route between the Eastern suburbs and the CBD (and the North and West as well), instead of doing a big U-shape – going south to go north (silly) – via Panmure. The current layout of the network pattern is due to the current infrastructure we have now; with new infrastructure comes the opportunity for new, better, more direct, faster layouts and network patterns. As Patrick keeps saying, these routes really need to be planned for now and protected with reservations in the future growth areas before they become a hodge-podge of cup-de-sacs, arterial roads and shopping malls with no clear gaps for RTN lines. The cost of not planning for this now is many billions of dollars later.

      The rapid electric rail plan of the late 1940s included a line from Orakei through the back of Mission Bay, Kohimarama, St Heliers, Glendowie, across the Tamaki estuary to Bucklands Beach, then on to (what is now) Highland Park and through the back of Howick to (what is now) Botany and Otara to Hunters Corner and Papatoetoe (which could have then joined a line from Papatoetoe to the Airport under some of the later rapid transit schemes of the 1950s (Halcrow-Thomas) , 1960s (De Leuw-Cather) and 1970s (some versions of Robbie’s). Because Auckland was planned to be a more compact urban area under the post-WW2 metropolitan development plan, areas further out in the South-East (such as Flat Bush) were to remain productive agricultural land, forming part of an encircling green belt around the compact urban area. After the November 1949 general election, the electric rail plans were sidelined, and repeatedly sidelined over the following decades, in favour of motorways and sprawl. Imagine how different Auckland would be if the enlightened immediate post-WW2 plans had been implemented: compact city, short journey times, better walkability, much less pollution, etc. – i.e., what AC is trying to achieve now, for 2045 … 100 years later.

  • Ian

    I read the email that came through the other night and the thing that annoys me is they say the Southern zone will experience the greatest increase in urban area, jobs and dwellings, but almost nothing is being done about public transport in that area. The railway will be electrified all the way to Pukekohe, and there will be a couple of new bus loops, but nothing like the multiple extra lines going in the North-West zone, or multiple light rail lines going in the Central zone; despite these regions not coming close to the same growth expectations. What gives?

    • LR is best understood as a very mature bus line. Build up the demand via buses then these routes will qualify for LR. Otherwise strengthening and improving the core RTN, in this case the rail line, with upgrades, more and better stations, higher frequencies and longer spans, is exactly the right way to proceed. Along with that work, the key gaps in the new parts of the south are frequent bus routes to the RTN stations, these need to go in early in my view to help shape the development pattern to being more Transit oriented.

      • Nick R

        I disagree, I think LRT is the heavy rail you build for passengers when there isn’t any freight or intercity traffic, or perhaps the metro you build when you can’t afford a metro.

        People seem to automatically equate light rail with streetcars/trams. If you read through ATs webpage on the topic, they are talking about proper light rail, not buses on rails.

        • The same can be said of buses, though, too. The Northern Busway (well, the segregated 41% of it) is just light rail on rubber tyres.

        • Dave B (Wellington)

          Yes, but the proposed LRT in Auckland will be predominantly on streets. That is what categorises it as not-very-rapid-transit.

          The cost-difference between heavy rail and light rail (or light metro) on its own right-of-way is not that great. Too much conservatism is bandied around in these comments regarding heavy rail’s alleged lack-of-ability to cope with gradients. The CAF units have been specified to enable a good set to push a failed set up the proposed 1 in 26 of the CRL. Any re-profiling of, say, the Northern Busway necessary to accept heavy rail is likely to be much less than people tend to suggest. It doesn’t have to be flat!

          Likewise with curves. Heavy rail can cope with fairly tight curves (e.g. 95m radius Vector curve), but at the cost of speed. The same speed-penalty will apply to tightly-curved light rail as well, for the same reasons.

          If the aim is to provide a rapid, high-quality ride then the costs of achieving this will be similar for both LR and HR. The big saving with LR is when it shares its route with existing roads, but the advantages of rapidity and uninterrupted running are seriously eroded.

          • Nick R

            Yes in the road corridor, but in its own dedicated full time lanes, with zero traffic, no conflicts at driveways and smaller side roads, and signal priority at all signalised intersections.

            You’re assumption that it is not very rapid transit is assuming it’s an old tram trundling down the road.

            Here is a question for you, if it never shares with traffic, only stops as regularly as a train or metro, and has full priority at intersections then why do you think it will be slower than a train?

          • Dave B (Wellington)

            Nick, for LRT in the road-corridor to be as fast as segregated heavy-rail it would have to be able to run at main-line speeds and be free of pedestrians as well as all other traffic. This would necessitate the road effectively becoming a rail corridor, with all the fencing, exclusion and severance required by heavy rail. It is not possible to superimpose this on the likes of Dominion Road.

            If it was limited to 50Km/h then perhaps the fencing, exclusion and severance requirement could be avoided, but it is not my understanding that exclusive use of the corridor is being considered. As soon as it has to mix with other traffic, cyclists, pedestrians crossing etc, the effective speed will drop further. And at only14m kerb-kerb for much of Dominion Road, it is difficult to see how can LRT be completely segregated from these other functions. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I just can’t see it.

            The Blue Line in Los Angeles is an instructive example of an LRT line that runs partly on its own right-of-way and partly on public streets. The contrast in speed between the two environments is huge, in spite of the LRT having its own dedicated lanes when on the street. (See a comment I wrote about this earlier in the year http://transportblog.co.nz/2016/01/13/perhaps-light-rail-is-fast-enough-afterall/#comment-194917 )

          • Bruce

            Because top speed for LR is 80km/h and that is pushing it (it would not be particularly comfortable to ride in at that speed either a bit like riding in a minivan compared to a coach). Our EMUs can do a speed restricted 110km/h and in reality could probably do 130km/h if a suitable piece of track was built (ie straight and good alignment)

          • Dave B (Wellington)

            “Top speed for LR is 80km/h” . . . . Not necessarily true Bruce. It totally depends on the design of the vehicles and track. It is quite possible to design light rail vehicles which handle well at 100Km/h (e.g. the “Tram-trains” in Karlsruhe, Germany). However the real question is, “What speed is it appropriate to design for, within the environment through which the service will run?” If it is not appropriate to run in excess of 80K, you wouldn’t bother specifying a vehicle design capable of doing this.

          • Nick R

            Dave B, it will be. It won’t mix with traffic, pedestrians or cyclists. It will be in its own dedicated physically separated lanes, just like the plans, renders and text on the website state. So yes, I presume a 50km/h top speed still applies on Dominion Rd, but apart from that it will have a clear run only ever stopping at stations to let people on and off. I might add top speed isn’t very important where you have fairly regularly spaced stops as you never hit it anyway. Take the western line for example, it spends very little time a higher speeds as its almost always accelerating or decelerating. Given LRT can accelerate and decelerate faster than HR, an urban rail line with the same alignment and stops would be faster with LRT, unless it had very widely spaced stations.

            I don’t get why you are all speculating about what it wont be when they have already said what it will be.

          • Dave B (Wellington)

            Agree with what you say Nick, in theory. In practice, despite exactly the separation and priority you describe for Auckland’s proposed LRT, other cities that run Light Rail in streets do not achieve anything like the rapidity possible with a segregated main-line railway. It is one thing to produce nice-looking plans and renders, but quite another to fit this into the real world. https://at.govt.nz/media/1137218/Light-Rail-on-Dominion-Rd-illustration.jpg

            It is not true to generalise that “LRT can accelerate and decelerate faster than HR”. Always this is a matter of what the vehicles are designed to do, and also how they are operated. The CAF units are capable of much greater acceleration than the 1.0m/s² they are limited to, but someone in their supposed wisdom decided that this is the max that train-passengers would find comfortable. Odd, when you consider that the specification for Auckland’s new buses demands a minimum acceleration from 0-20Km/h in 4 seconds (=1.4m/s²)! http://transportblog.co.nz/2015/08/20/ats-new-bus-tender-requirements/ And there is no acceleration-limiter to stop a bus driver flooring the pedal and sending any un-braced passengers spinning down the bus.
            As things are, the CAF units can achieve 0-80K in 400m, so there should be no difficulty in utilising their higher-speed potential between typical stops, if they are driven to their potential. The fact that Auckland’s new electric trains are not driven to their potential is a tedious and convoluted story, but one which could equally apply to any new light rail system also.

            I really look forward to a Dominion Road LRT service, but I don’t think it should displace the concept of heavy-rail connecting to the airport. Different functions needing different approaches.
            See http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11569198

          • Adam W

            I agree with everything you say Dave B!

          • James Clarke

            I heartily endorse all of Dave B (Wellington)’s points here.

          • I could be wrong but I don’t think anyone on here has suggested LR vehicles are going to be hoofing down Dominion Rd at 80 kmh. The reason they are proposed for Dominion Rd is to solve two problems – the number of buses in the CBD and future issues with too many buses on Dominion Rd.

            Although I personally prefer HR, none of this precludes LR from being a good solution travelling at higher speeds on dedicated corridors.

          • Bruce

            +1 Well said Dave.
            LRT is great down urban corridors like Dominion Road but it has no place for routes to places like the Airport or to the North Shore.
            Even out East to Botany etc should probably actually be HR if they ever build that. Have a standardised core network and have the LRT running in between these in high density areas or where buses are at capacity.
            The thing is that planning needs to not just be for the next 20-30 years. It needs to be planned for the next 50-100+ years.
            Eventually the North Shore will probably have about 3x it’s current population in the 50-100 year timeframe. Roads and LRT won’t cut it. Likewise the Airport is expected to be about 4-5x busier in 50 years. That would be around 50,000-100,000 passengers alone heading out there per day plus another 30,000 airport staff and another 20,000 in the businesses around the airport.

          • Nick R

            Dave, I think you are both overestimating the speed of heavy rail in Auckland, and underestimating the potential of light rail. So a few examples. Right now our brand new CAF units take 28 minutes to get from Britomart to Onehunga, a distance of 12.8km. Thats an average speed of 27 km/h. Not especially fast.

            By comparison, take the Link Light Rail in Seattle. The section where it runs down the middle of Martin Luther King Junior Way is like what we might get on Dominion, dedicated full time LRT in the middle with traffic either side (the Seattle example has two or three lanes either side and we would have one, but same diff, see here: https://goo.gl/maps/pPD7Nue9sQF2). From Mount Baker to Ranier Beach stations, the Link LRT covers 7.6km in 13 minutes, which equals…. 35 km/h.

            How does it do it? Well several factors: a generally straight, direct and level route; widely spaced stops (over 1km); dedicated physically kerb-protected lanes, signal priority at major intersections and restriction on cross traffic at minor intersections and driveways. Speed limit is 35 miles and hour which is about 55km/h. My question is whether there is anything there that we couldn’t have on Dominion Rd? Maybe somewhat closer stop spacing and slightly slower top speed, but the rest of it seems perfectly feasible.

            So in this real world example, street corridor light rail is over 20% faster than our heavy rail. And here’s an interesting point: Britomart to Onehunga is almost exactly the same distance via Queen St and Dominion Rd as it is via the Onehunga line railway, 12 and a bit kilometres. There is a very real chance that LRT could be the fastest way to Onehunga from Downtown.

          • Dave B (Wellington)

            That road (Seattle’s Martin Luther King Jr Way) is over 22m wide kerb-kerb measured from Google earth, as against less than 14m for Dominion Road. It appears to be designed much more as a traffic-artery with much less side-friction. I don’t think it is a fair comparison. Now maybe by some jiggery-pokery, the same LRT performance can be achieved in Dominion Road. I hate to be one who proclaims “it can’t be done”, but the “maybe” is certainly hanging over it.

            As for heavy rail speeds, unfortunately the present Auckland scene is not a good showcase, and particularly the Britomart – Onehunga route. Apart from the abysmal station-dwell times which have yet to be got on top of, there are a number of restrictive speed limits which simply reflect a network done-on-the-cheap and without long-term planning. It is my hope that we will (soon?) move away from the fixation that only roads get the grand-scale improvements, and some serious money will be applied to rectifying the heavy-rail network’s shortcomings.

            But as things stand, you may be right. LRT (assuming it is not bedevilled by the same torpor as our heavy rail) may possibly be faster between the city and Onehunga. Nevertheless it is important not to underestimate the potential of heavy rail and overestimate that of light rail!

          • Nick R

            Sure it’s a wider road, but only because it’s got multiple traffic lanes. Take one off each side and you’ve got the width of Dominion Rd.

            The traffic lanes and side friction are irrelevant, they key thing is the traffic has nothing to do with the LRT because it is physically separated. Build the same in Dominion Rd and it will perform the same.

            Yeah so it’s a sad fact that our heavy rail is a bit slow and windy. Indeed they can make it faster but not that much faster. That’s the true comparison what our heavy rail would do versus what our light rail would do.

          • James Clarke

            Britomart-Onehunga has had some recent changes that can already make it a 23 minute trip when some everyday impediments are removed (like waiting for other trains and holding to schedule). With dwell time reduction, double tracking, level crossing removal, a junction upgrade and a timetable to match, well under 20 minutes is possible. Some of that is likely with the CRL, and the rest if an Airport/SW line comes to pass. Using the current timetable as an example of future operations is to undersell the network’s
            potential by quite a margin.

    • jezza

      Greatest increase and greatest quantity are two different things. Also the Southern Zone already had the best existing RTN capability in the city with a double tracked rail line running down the middle that was in place before we even began this programme to improve public transport a number of years ago.

      What lines are you thinking the southern zone should have?

  • Luxated

    I’ll admit to being somewhat ignorant to the transport demands in the isthmus, but my main concern about this is that Symonds now lacks any (announced) plan for a proper PT ROW. I suppose some of the bus routes could be moved to Queen once the LRT is in to ease the pressure but that’s just kicking the can down the road.

    On the airport I’m fine with LRT through Onehunga but it can’t be the whole solution. If LRT to the airport is the way to go (and NZTA seem to have thoroughly borked any chance of HR on that alignment) then serious planning should go into something like Patrick’s proposed Otahuhu connection. The catchment of these two routes doesn’t significantly overlap and, combined with AT’s proposal for RT between New Lynn and Onehunga, would strongly tie our second largest employment area (and major national/international hub) to the RTN.

    (Sidenote to the above it would also be desirable for the Wiri route to go in so future regional rail can route through)

    While I’m on this train of thought, since Pukekohe electrification seems to be on the never never. Wouldn’t a better solution in the interim be to install the southern connection and terminate the Pukekohe services there? It brings the train directly to a major centre, provides connection between Manukau and the south and provides single transfer journeys to the eastern line as well as the southern.

  • sailor boy

    This needs to be so much closer than thirty years

    • Stu Donovan

      yes but I’d suggest we don’t get too het up by timing. The more important thing to signal is the alignment and network structure, because that enables a whole lot of more detailed design work.

      Timing can change rather quickly once demand and funding planets align. A shift of around one decade is fairly normal in the scheme of transport projects, and if things go well then many of these projects could well be brought forward.

      I’d see this as the 1) most of the PT network Auckland needs 2) being somewhat conservative on timing. The latter’s ultimately rather flexible for reasons noted above …

      • Yes this is about the what, the when can be much more easily adjusted once the value of the plan is better understood. 30 years is far too timid for this programme given mostly of it is either already there or is already underway and will be largely done in the first five years(CRL, AMETI). The real missing item here is rail to the Shore, which ought to be the next major harbour crossing, and therefore will clearly be there well within 30 years.

  • mfwic

    I am right in thinking that in 30 years time the Mt Roskill rail designation will be 100 years old and still no tracks laid. Maybe we can ask Heritage NZ to protect the designation as an historic site of social importance so nobody could lay tracks.

    • They’re finally building a road through Paraparaumu and Waikanae on the designation for the Wellington-Foxton motorway originally made in the 1940s. Maybe you just need to give it some more time.

  • robincole

    Thirty years to do something that could be done in 5-6 years. Which is how long it took to construct the Waterfront Line, Strand Station and downtown railyards.

    • Dave B (Wellington)

      3 years to consent and design, 2 years to construct, 25 years to procrastinate and dither around while they focus on ‘more important’ roading projects?

  • Harriet

    Wouldn’t take to much stock in the maps ffs I’ve seen AT still release CRL maps with Westfield.

    I support HR to the Airport for a few reasons the LRT projected speeds are bs and thus heavy rail does better. They estimate catchment on walking distance when the whole point of the new network is to expand station reach through feeder services and lastly the industrial area that will be built east of the airport on that farm land needs freight rail access or it will just be another truck filled east tamaki clusterf*ck.

    Also why they even consulting and releasing maps when ATAP will decide the capex mix anyway

    • Bevan

      Here, here! HR to the airport for the love of all that is good in the world! That analysis of HR v LRT to airport is deluded.

    • Bruce

      Good call Harriet. The cost of HR from Manukau to the airport would not be much different at all to LRT since it is through farmland that is flat for the most part and it is only a short distance. Do it once, do it right. HR and get those trucks off the road!
      Eventually when there are rail services between the Tron and Auckland people will be able to switch at Manukau to another train to the airport.

  • Would it not be better to reroute the Queen St light rail line through Newton?

    • Stu Donovan

      probably not.

      Seems better to leave Dom/Sandringham Rd pair on the more direct alignment, with buses picking up the Newton corridor at least until Mt Eden/Manukau Rd LRT pair are ready to rumble.

    • Nick R

      That’s the classic trade off with this sort of plan, directness vs. connectivity. Do you go through Newton to get an extra stop in a place people might want to go, but add in a longer route with more turns and intersections that could be quite a bit slower for those going to other places.

      I’d suggest its not worth it, given how constrained that part of town is. Especially given the amount of buses that move through there, hard to fit LRT lanes and bus lanes through those narrow streets as well as maintain a vehicle lane each way.

  • jezza

    I wonder if Sandringham Road is ahead of Mt Eden and Manukau Rd’s is because LR from Queen St to Kingsland at least will be needed to move passengers off the Western Line during CRL construction as I doubt it will be possible to maintain 10-min frequencies through Mt Eden during this period.