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Making Light Rail fast enough on Dominion Rd

Following on from my post a few days ago on light rail being preferred to the airport – which has been one of the most commented on that we’ve ever had – by far the most common concern is around the speed of light rail, particularly on the section along Dominion Rd.

I’ve taken a look in the past at what other cities who have built similar light rail systems to what AT are proposing and I found that a number of them are capable of the speeds suggested. But of course they aren’t Auckland so I thought I’d take a quick look at some of the things we know that AT are proposing that will help ensure light rail will be quick and reliable along this important corridor.

Fewer stops and more direct route

Buses along Dominion Rd between the Southwestern motorway and the centre town have almost 30 stops to pass along the way. There are of course bus lanes along a lot of the route but they stop short at key intersections which can cause delays. Before light rail came along, AT had planned to lengthen these bus lanes right to the intersection to help speed up buses further. The current timetable shows travel times between Denbigh Ave close to the motorway and the city taking between about 23 minutes and 41 minutes depending on the time of day.

With light rail Auckland Transport plan to significantly reduce the number of stops along the route with just eight on Dominion Rd itself and only 10 to get to the same point in town. Of course one down side to some residents is it means they may have to walk further to get to a stop. For light rail it appears they’ve effectively picked one stop in the main centres along the route with intermediate stops between them.

You can see the difference in the two in the map below. Fewer stops means vehicles can travel faster as they’re not constantly accelerating or braking.

Light Rail Dominion Rd stops vs Bus

Buses can also suffer from dwell time issues from boarding and alighting passengers. It is possible to address some of these, such as restricting cash payments, allowing all door boarding which could speed up buses a bit but off line ticketing and fast boarding are a fairly standard feature of light rail so provided that AT implement it properly that will help compared to the current situation people compare to.

In addition to fewer stops, you can see from the map above that light rail takes a more direct route to the city and so has fewer intersections to negotiate.

Intersections

Buses currently are at the mercy of traffic lights and at the big intersections with long cycle times this can slow them down and cause buses to bunch. When bus frequencies get too high it results in there almost always being buses waiting to get through lights, which is often a leading cause of them bunching and is not good for operations or passengers.

One reasons we heard AT were for looking at light rail on Dominion Rd in the first place was that it allowed fewer but much larger vehicles to run. The advantage of that is it allows for signal priority to be effective and so depending on how it is set up, it could mean the light rail never has to stop at Intersections other than at its stations. Again that could end up being a significant time saving.

On a related note, we know that light rail will be able to skip one major intersection with AT have suggesting that they will tunnel under the K Rd ridgeline as part of building that part of the line. I believe this is mainly for operational reasons – removing a steep part of the hill – but it will also benefit travel times.

K Rd LRT Underpass

Centre running protected route

Running light rail down the centre of Dominion Rd means it won’t get held up by cars turning left into side streets or driveways, parking to run into the shops or drop someone off/pick them up. Cars would only be able to turn right at specific intersections and not when a light rail vehicle is around. It is also common for the light rail corridor to be protected by a raised kerb to prevent cars from accessing the tracks or using them as a median, in much the same way that kerbs are used to stop people driving in cycle lanes. Examples include the Gold Coast as shown below and Seattle.

Light Rail In Gold Coast

A raised kerb can also be seen in some of the concept images AT have released in the past such as this on of Ian McKinnion Dr

Ian McKinnon LRT

 

When you combine all of these elements it means that light rail is able to travel down Dominion Rd pretty much completely unimpeded by other traffic and only needing to stop a few times along the way. The speed limit for light rail would almost certainly still be 50km/h but even if it could average half that, it could travel the 7km between the centre of town and SH20 in just 17 minutes. As a quick comparison, in the same timeframe leaving from Britomart would be at about Ellerslie – although admittedly we expect AT go get that time sped up a bit.

Once the route reaches SH20 the LRT route appears to be almost completely separate from traffic with the exception of a small section in Onehunga and so for most of it could easily travel at up to 100km/h if the vehicles and tracks were designed to do so – and that has been suggested by AT in the documents they’ve produced so far.

Light-Heavy rail to Aiport Travel Times

This gives me confidence that for LRT at least, the times AT have suggested are realistic but I’d add that a lot depends on just how well they implement everything.

179 comments to Making Light Rail fast enough on Dominion Rd

  • Matthew W

    Regardless of what they end up doing down Dom Rd, I am now thinking a busway from the bottom of Dom to Puhinui Station via the Airport has to be the best option. From Brito it will be faster than LRT via Dom to go via Puhinui and similarly from anywhere else on the Southern Line. The link to Dom would pick up the isthmus catchment. The complete loop would add resilience.

    Low floor, multiple double door articulated buses with plenty of standing room.

    • stu donovan

      Interesting option. Maybe consider starting your bus from new lynn and you’d tap into the western pt catchment as well?

    • However Rapid Transit through the Southwest is solved, it isn’t going to happen soon, so AT need to as an interim measure sort PT access to the Airport by making the bus-train actually viable. This means full bus lanes and ten minute frequencies either for the 380 to Pukekohe, or a new service to Puhinui. And with upgraded station facilities and ped access.

      Both stations have great train service, but long weather exposed climbs to the platforms which are not good for transfers. Way finding at Pukekohe is very poor too.

      • Matthew W

        I agree. If you look at the plan I have outlined (and yes it could be LRT or upgraded to LRT in the future), and you commit to it as a long term option then you can stage it by first investing a decent amount into a Puhinui/Airport corridor now. The road corridor along there is very wide with few intersections so it would be cost effective to build a dedicated PT corridor now. The only significant cost I see would be a bridge over the estuary but even that would just be a simple duplication of the road bridge and need not be particularly expensive (around $7.5m)

      • Simon C

        I usually use the train from Britomart to Papatoetoe and then the 380 Airporter. The decision to not this to every 15mins in the new network was disgraceful.

        Also given the interest in transport to/from the Airport I’m surprised transport Blog hasn’t done a piece about the 380 Airporter from Onehunga to Auckland Airport. I tried this last year just for interests sake. Now I’ve travelled to and from a lot of airports around the world and this is probably the worst transit experience I’ve had. Thank goodness I gave myself heaps of time to be safe and that the flight was just a domestic one otherwise I would’ve missed my flight! The fact it stops at just about every bus stop around Mangere means it’s a local bus and defintely NOT an airport transit bus. As far as using this bus to go to between the airport and Onehunga, Its name is a total misnomer. If AT was in anyway serious about this bus being a respectable airport transit option it would drop most of the bus stops this bus currently stops at. How can a bus that is essentially a local service double up as a fast, reliable airport transit option? Answer is it can’t.

        AT needs to have a bus that does the local job, and then the 380 doing the airport job properly.

    • Bigted

      Matthew as long as it doesn’t ruin the Avondale to Southdown rail corridor it sounds like its not a bad idea. It will end up with rail (probably light) on it eventually like the plans that some have for the northern busway.

  • Steve N

    Dear AT, please make the K Rd underpass wide enough for cycle lanes.

    Personal disclosure: I recently moved to inner Mount Eden, so LRT is a massive benefit for me. However, I’m surprised the stops at Tawari Street, Eden Valley and Dominion Road Junction (I think that’s what AT called them) are so close together. I would have thought two stops instead of three would have been adequate.

    • Yes then there’s a big gap skipping Eden Tce. The New North Rd one is to sort of connect with Mt Eden Station? Or NN Rd buses?

      View Rd and Valley Rd likely busy, especially on game days…

      • Steve N

        The map on the Airport LRT story a few days ago had a very low res map but it looked like the Dominion Road Junction stop was more towards Haslett Street /Minnie Street intersection, giving that desolate stretch of Dom Road some purpose.

        Tawari Street area seems ripe for more apartments replacing low quality commercial/industrial. So I can understand why a stop there makes sense.

  • Nick R

    Anyone noticed how this light rail to the airport line is exactly the same alignment as the dominion-airport line on the old Robbies Rapid Rail scheme?

    I guess good things take time?

  • mfwic

    How will people cross Dominion Rd? Does the raised LRT line become a defacto pedestrian refuge? If it does then where do pedestrians go when a tram comes? Take a look at the Australian example above. there is not a hope in hell of fitting that into a 20.1m road reserve so does that mean widening and knocking out the old shops?

    • Nick R

      People will cross the road far, far easier than they do now. Currently you have a steady stream of traffic, little to no median, cars turning and pulling out all over the place, and at peak times a second lane of buses rolling thorough every minute or two.

      A raised concrete median with LRVs every five minutes or so, gives 4.9 minutes out of every five as clear and easy way to get across. And on the likes of Dominion Rd you’ll be able to see a couple of kilometres in both directions so it will be super easy to tell if a tram is coming or not. What’s more if one is coming one way you just step to the other side, you can be confident exactly where the vehicles will run because it’s on rails.

      As for fitting it in a 20m road corridor, you don’t think they might have checked that already? Or were they just sitting around waiting for clever old Mfwic to tell them the blindly obvious.

      It’s fine, 6 to 7m for light rail, 6 to 7 metres for traffic lanes and 6 or 7 metres for footpaths and kerbs.

      • Bigted

        So you replace the buses with LR and expect a different result.

      • mfwic

        So Nick do you know that is what AT are expecting or are you just assuming since people are in positions of authority then they must know what they are doing? Is the plan to allow free crossing over the tracks all along Dominion Road? Since I once draw up an option for LRT along there I can assure you the Big wide Australian option wont fit. I will repeat my question in case someone who actually knows anything can answer. Will there be free movement across as shown or will they widen to make it safer?

        • Everyone routinely wanders over the tracks in Melbourne… why would it need to be be different here?

          Both the foamers and traffic engineers not coping with this model, I suggest you pop across the ditch for a look.

          • mfwic

            Most LRT metro systems are fenced on the bits outside of the CBD for the simple reason that people get killed. This is not an academic article but it will give you the gist. Check out the Circles of Death graphic for Light rail. They have it safer than motorbikes but considerably worse than trains and buses. http://www.caranddriver.com/features/howre-ya-dying-fatality-data-from-various-types-of-transportation-feature .
            If there are queues of cars and pedestrians crossing between them then it would be crazy to run trains at 50km/h without any pedestrian refuge. You might think that works but there will be plenty who don’t. My guess is that they will consult options with no fences and then put them in anyway.

          • Sailor Boy

            I’m almost certain that those stats are per vehicle mile rather than per passenger mile.

        • Scott Elaurant

          The tram/LRT systems in Adelaide, Gold. Coast and. Melbourne all resolve this by having traffic signals with a ped phase at one end of the platform. This is usually placed to line up with a side road intersection (i.e. You put the LRT stop adjacent to an intersection.)

        • Nick R

          Yes I do know Mfwic, and no they have no plans to change the road rules to ban people from crossing Dominiom Rd, nor are they planning on fencing off the LRT running way in the street corridor. Nor are they planning on installing a big wide Australian road in a one chain Auckland street.

          • mfwic

            Just as well that nobody ever cycles on Dominion Road. By your numbers they would have to share with trains or pedestrians or ride in a 3m lane with cars.

          • Nick R

            I agree that’s an issue, but it’s no different to the status quo. Right now you can ride in a 3m bus lane at peak times, or in a 3m traffic lane next to the door zone off peak.

            At least the LRT removes the door zone issue.

    • JBM

      You can simply cross whenever there is no tram coming. This isn’t a heavy railway line. It is light rail. Crossing the lines is fine. I’ve done it overseas. However, there are usually rules that you have to use a pedestrian crossing if you are near one (say 20 metres within reach of one). Otherwise, look left, look right, look left again and then cross. Simples.

      • mfwic

        I guess that is the issue. It is a system that is trying to be everything. A low impact distributor and a metro system. It will never be both. If you want a good metro then build a separate corridor system from the existing southern line and run them as trains to the airport. If you want a safe local system then go with lines down the middle of dominion Road but accept it will need to be fairly slow. From memory it is these mixed tram systems that have high fatality rates.

      • Bigted

        There is little difference in crossing lines whether they are there for heavy or light rail or for that matter rail not currently in use is no different. I cross heavy rail lines all the time but like other rules they need to written for the lowest common denominator and there will be people that won’t be able to tell the difference between HR and LR so will assume all rails are treated the same, before you know it there will be pedestrians all over the rail network.
        Being hit by a LRV at 50kph will be little different to being hit by any other rail vehicle doing 50kph.

        • Nick R

          …or a car or truck doing 50km/h, which is exactly the situation on every road in Auckland already.

          • Bigted

            Trucks and cars can both swerve if necessary and rubbers on ash felt stops a lot fasted than steel on steel, while the traffic is stationary and LRVs come along at 50kph do you think people will see them be they wander across but it will be ok because like JBM said “This isn’t a heavy railway line. It is light rail. Crossing the lines is fine.”

          • Damian

            Modern LRT are designed to have car-level braking decelerations. And in the vast majority of all pedestrian-vehicle crashes avoided, it’s the braking distance, not a “swerving manoeuvre” that saves the pedestrian.

          • Bigted

            Damian the swerve is on when necessary but something that a rail vehicle doesn’t have as an option, like I said before and in case you missed it I will say it again “rubber on ash felt stops a lot fasted than steel on steel”.

          • Sailor Boy

            @Bigted no metter how many times you say it, it doesn’t make it true. You need to cite some sources.

          • Damian

            “rubber on ash felt stops a lot fasted than steel on steel”.

            And there’s the nonsense again.

            – Rubber on asphalt stops as fast as the specific brake system is designed to handle.

            – Steel on steel ALSO stops as fast as the specific braking system is designed to handle.

            I happened to have studied this as part of my university time 15 years before, and even then, new LRT was capable of matching average car braking deceleration.

          • Bigted

            in an emergency situation when hard braking is applied something that weighs as much as probably a bus (or two depending on how long the LRV is) running steel on steel is not going to have a chance at stopping like a car that will weigh a small fraction of the weight and have the advantage of the friction of rubber on ash felt.

          • Matthew W

            Given the multitude of real world examples of street running examples of Street running light rail, can I just ask that we be empirical about this question. I have not heard about major death tolls from light rail. If you have evidence to the contrary, plaease provide it. You not going to answer this one by working it out from the coefficient of friction of steel on steel.

          • Sailor Boy

            http://www.siemens.com/press/pool/de/feature/2014/infrastructure-cities/2014-09-S200/sf200-sanfrancisco.pdf

            1st comparable model that I found, emergency braking at 2.24m/s2, we design roads for heavy vehicles breaking at 2.55m/s2.

          • mfwic

            Matthew W- The data you asked for is here. http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/sites/rita.dot.gov.bts/files/NTS_Entire_13Q4.pdf You have to scroll down to Table 2-33 where they separate out Transit deaths per 100 million vehicle miles. In 2008, the last year of data, buses were 3.3 fatalities per 100 million miles, heavy rail was 4.6 deaths per 100 million miles and light rail was 16.7 per 100 million miles. In year 2000 light rail was 42.3 per 100 million! How ever you cut it running light rail is not as safe as buses or heavy rail.

            Check out the video below of pedestrians and trams in Amsterdam to figure out why that might be.

          • Matthew W

            Thanking you mfwic, I just learnt something.

          • mfwic

            You’re welcome. To keep that in perspective fatalities are still rare events and random. LRT is quite safe, just not as safe as heavy rail. If you factor in the passengers then the death rate per person is even lower again for heavy rail as the trains carry more people. Light rail in a protected corridor should be just like heavy rail. The issue is how to design it into a street environment where people might not be paying attention to what is going on. If they dont have enough width to provide a safe place for a pedestrian to stand clear of the train then I expect the safety auditors will simply recommend fences. A good design has a gap between the two rail lines just in case someone ends up between them. The Gold Coast system is a good example, they have around a metre. It also gives you somewhere to put the poles. The cool thing about LRT is it can be a metro and it can be a local distributor but it can’t be both at once. In case you hadn’t guessed my view is heavy rail to the airport should be protected and given that heavy rail is always a cost minimisation problem it should be the shortest route to the existing lines.

          • Matthew W

            Do you not believe the BCR for heavy rail, or just think it will improve one day? Given we are worried about cost I don’t understand how we have got this far without looking at bus based solutions but that is just me. Bus to heavy rail being the most obvious first step I would have thought.

            But I must admit I can’t believe they have assumed bored tunnels for heavy rail costs. That’s just silly.

          • Nick R

            Ok, so based on some quick sums and those rates, we could expect one fatality every eight years with an airport LRT line.

          • ‘The cool thing about LRT is it can be a metro and it can be a local distributor but it can’t be both at once’

            Yes it is all about the quality of the RoW, of course. But that’s just the thing here. LR can in fact be each at different times along its route, so yes it can’t have the speed on the street sections that it can on the fully grade separate ones, but it can at times have each.

            That is in essence the claim the designers of this proposal are making. That they can, on this one long route, offer three different performance typologies: The Transit Mall of Queen St, like on Bourke St in Melbourne, Mixed Street running on a separate median like in Seattle, and completely separate train-like RoW between Mt Roskill and the Airport, slipping back into slower more accessible passages in Onehunga and at the Airport precinct itself.

            So we have to decide whether this is convincing, especially because if it is, then the advantages are great, both in lower cost of not having to build 100% separate route, and in the direct access that the slower sections offer. LRT can take you to the front door in a way that a train can only do underground or up in the air. And not just in the city, but up Dom Rd too, in the heart of Onehunga and the Airport precinct. Note that the LR proposal offers more stations around the Airport so will be better for non travellers in that fast growing commercial area than the HR proposal.

            I was very sceptical about the claimed running times until looking at comparable examples overseas, and seeing the proposed stopping pattern and understanding the intersection priority. But to some degree still think the Airport issue is something of a red herring, in the whole section from Mt Roskill through Onehunga and Mangere to the Airport is really straight forward. That will obviously work, it is almost all fully grade separate, I suppose the only question mark there is one of long term capacity, but then that just means increased frequency on a largely free route. No problem.

            We know how Queen St will work; there are good examples across the ditch. I have no issues with that at all and am certain it will be the making of that difficult gully. Frankly what are we waiting for; it’s a no brainer, get the cars out and give it over to the massively effective modes of pedestrians and a high quality high capacity clean LR system.

            No the issue is Dominion Rd, how well will it functioning on that halfway house? So far I like the look of what they are proposing: The centres are well placed on that strip the stops look almost ideal for distance but also being where the most intense uses already are, and so on. But we guess we really need to see it at greater detail.

            Happily the most likely way this whole will proceed is by building the Queen St and Dom Rd section first. I don’t see a problem with this, even if it struggles to hit the sweet spot on Dom Rd, there will be plenty of time to tweak it before any extensions are added. And AT will have every incentive to make it optimal because there surely will be no Airport LRT nor Shore LRT, if that doesn’t work really well.

          • Matthew W

            Yeah that is how LRT works in Manchester, different speeds on different sections. It came about as a result of a lack of funding for an undergound rail line. So they converted heavy rail lines to light and had city centre street running. Now they have a bunch of lines in various configurations. Seems to be very effective. I always wondered why we didn’t look at converting our rail network to light rail and had a street running city centre cross like Manchester. In the end we ponied up for the tunnel so no need.

          • Errol Cavit

            mfwic: Transit deaths per 100 million vehicle miles.
            So to compare with buses moving the same number of people over the same route, do you then need to factor in the ratio of bus to LR vehicle journeys required?

        • The answer to that is freight. We were/are still using it for freight. Freight saved the rail RoW in AKL, in this we are fortunate in that the motorway builders would have grabbed it all before we got a single tram, I can assure you.

          The one problem with conversions is that you have to go where the Victorians decided to go. In many ways our existing rail network is just that. This LR plan is the first one to propose a different route, one to respond to current and planned demand rather than to just an inherited one.

    • Trams are predictable: fixed route that doesn’t have the ‘butt swing’ issues that buses do.

    • john smith

      I don’t understand the concern. How do people cross Dom Rd at present? Go to the nearest signalised intersection, or jaywalk. How will they in future, with light rail? Go to the nearest signalised intersection, or jaywalk. The jaywalk option will obviously be much safer with a central LR easement: you’ll be trying to dodge one tram every few minutes, rather than cars coming at you every few seconds.

      Or is the problem that someone is proposing to reduce the number of signalised intersections? I don’t see any need for this, providing the LR is given priority as has been suggested.

  • Andrew

    I recently experienced Bordeaux’s Ligne B tram having stayed near its France Alouette terminus. While in terms of catchment that’s totally different without a big anchor at the outer end like this Airport line will have, in terms of right-of-way it’s quite comparable with on-street running in the centre (mixed with peds and bikes, and crossing cars, running at slow speeds), protected ROW on inner suburban streets (crossing cars but with otherwise exclusive ROW and signal priority, medium speed, 50km/h) and exclusive right-of-way, mainly on pristinely mown grass, further out including through the middle of a university.

    Speeds were good. But the signal priority and right-of-way protection both helped make them faster *and* more reliable. It basically felt like a surface-running metro.

    • Scott Elaurant

      I caught the Gold Coast Light Rail last December and my experience was similar (sans French architecture!). It was 13km, street running at 60km/hr, with priority at traffic signals. There were over 20 sets of signals on the route and the LRT only got stopped 3 times.

  • Alex

    Election time! I will only vote for those who support fast tracking public transport project just like this, and slimming down or totally canning road projects that are totally unnecessary (looking at you East-West).
    If only the government and the council fast track transit projects like they fast track roading projects, our Metro would be looking amazing.

  • Adam W

    The big obvious clear failure here is connection to the Heavy Rail network.
    So anyone coming from Pukekohe or Swason has to carry there bags from K’rd road or Mt Eden station ? Just stupid.
    The focus just on the City for an Airport shows there no high level thinking and a focus on some key objectives i.e. travel from the CBD to the Airport and just damn the rest of Auckland.
    Still think using the existing heavy rail network which is only 10 km’s I believe from the airport is faster and easier plus future proofs PT to the Airport.
    The Light rail arguments just don’t hold muster – especially since we don’t actually have a LRT system and having used LRT in Istanbul last year from the airport I can tell the experience was a nightmare – crowded with my family in different carriages cause we couldn’t all fit together with our bags along with the crowds – very upsetting for my young kids I can tell you.

    • mfwic

      Yes but AT are not in the business of planning transport from where people actually live to where they actaully want to go. They are assuming everyone will start or finish their trip in a single very big building in the CBD.

      • Bigted

        and that is the reason there are still so many cars on the roads.

      • Nick R

        Yeah, except for that whole New Network thing where they reorganised the entire bus network to remove all the direct express buses to downtown and replace them with frequent links between neighbourhoods and their nearby shopping centres, town centres and employment zones, and connections to rapid transit for onward travel across the region.

    • Chris R

      I don’t imagine they’re planning to can the 380 from Papatoetoe or whatever its new number is, so that will remain as an option for travellers coming from the south, with a southern-eastern second LRT line to Botany as a potential upgrade. Dominion Rd-Airport LRT, like the Airbus/Skybus, will serve the isthmus and transfers from the north and west. (Incidentally, if I was coming from the west, I’d probably stay on the train till Britomart and transfer there.)

      • Grant

        Yes looks like new route 30 identical to 380 apart from slightly larger operating hours, but still the same silly 30min frequency! Don’t think I’d chance catching an international flight betting on just one bus that might be way late or not turn up, would have to ensure there for the earlier one as well.

        • Chris R

          I know, it should be 15min frequencies at least. And reliability’s not great at peak times, so I often don’t want to risk it on my way to the airport. It could easily be improved with better frequencies (which would also be handy for locals going to Manukau or Onehunga), an improved connection between the train and the bus stop, and a few strategic bus lanes – it boggles my mind that they haven’t done it, because that’s the obvious solution for PT to the airport from the south in the short term.

  • Bigted

    There is only one way to make LR fast enough along Dominion road and that is for it not to run on the road.

  • Thanks for this info. I’d be interested to see modelling of travel times under light vs heavy rail vs bus if any has been done?

    [case example: I live in Mt Albert close to train (and use PT a lot). I’ve looked into taking the train to Mt Eden and bus from there to airport but the numbers don’t work (time and $). Car wins. Would LR/HR tip the balance?]

  • Ben

    If you want to make LRT faster and reliable in Dominion Road, your gonna need to have an elevated track that is not in anyway going to be affected by the traffic.

    • Ricardo

      Another voice of reason.

      • Nick

        Wow, what a conversion! Ricardo now crusading to ensure that efficient PT modes aren’t held up by cars. Well done, what caused the change?

    • Matthew W

      Why? There are plenty of international examples of at grade dedicated corridors on arterial roads.

    • Damian

      Lol. Sounds a bit like the people trying to stop CRL at the last minute by proposing monorails to Wynyard and then up the western CMJ.

      Make something a lot more costly, less usable and harder to consent – just to avoid having the CARS be constrained in any way by the changes needed to get an at-grade LRT flowing fast.

  • Jay T

    Heres an idea. Why don’t they first build the Dominion Road LRT and see if it stack up in reality first, before committing to an all Airport LRT Line. Dominion Road will be the setback for this Airport LRT Line. If this can be proven to be effective then whats stopping them from extending LRT all the way to the airport. If it does not stack up and slower than expected, then scrap connecting LRT to airport and stick with extending Onehunga Line to airport or even Otahuhu-Airport

    • That will almost certainly be the case; the Dom/Queen LRT plan works entirely on its own terms; doesn’t require the proposed Mangere/Airport extension to make sense.

      The bigger plan is clearly stageable. Especially with North Shore option added too.

    • Nigel Owen

      This is why a HR rail option to the airport should certainly not be ruled out when we haven’t even built LR yet.
      If LR is built is stages then it potentially could start to reach a large catchment area that could be very useful for a link to the airport. A Link between the airport and the city centre is great for tourists and people who live in the city. But for everyone else ideally you will want to be able to catch something from close to where you live.

      • Jay T

        Yes thats correct. Heavy Rail should have never been ruled out the table. Heavy Rail can still be the most economical and reasonable reason. As we have already learnt, AT predictions should be taken with a pinch of salt. Im pretty sure Dominion Road would be too popular on its own without it connecting to the Airport.

        • In a normal situation you would make the decision closer to the time, the challenge here is the airport want to redevelop their property and need some level of certainty as to what’s happening. They’ve said a heavy rail station needs to be built under the terminal so they need to know now whether to include it or not, and if they are then AT likely has to pay for it and the land they need reserved

          • Well it isn’t entirely clear why AKL should entirely submit to AIAL conditions rather than the other way round?

          • Patrick – presumably because it is AIAL land, and it is a majority privately owned company, so it really is AIALs and only AIALs decision to make. Probably an example of why it really should have been maintained as majority owned.

          • Damian

            Council still holds over 20% of the stock, don’t they? They may well be the biggest shareholder. No, they can’t force them to do something (short of getting the govt to pass a law, I guess), but corporates usually do listen to their biggest shareholdders…

          • Yes, I think it’s around 20 %. They would certainly have some influence, but not if it significantly impacted the returns for the other 80 % as their representatives on the board would likely bloc vote against it. I think requesting AIAL delay redevelopment would definitely impact on returns as probably would trying to retrofit an underground station at a later date.

          • Yes one of stupider previous mayors, Mr Banks, flogged of a big chunk of our airport shares for bugger all, a figure below the subsequent dividend income IIRC, in a fit of ideological purity and C+R pandering logic.

          • In fairness I think even if the Airport was 100 % council owned there would still be a lot of pressure to get this decision made now. The airport needs to upgrade soon and if decision was made to retrofit HR later it would cost us either way, either directly through rates or through a significantly reduced dividend if the Airport Company were to undertake the work.

    • Simon C

      Thank you for being a voice of reason Jay and Nigel. Yeah we haven’t even built light rail up Dom Rd yet. let’s get that done for starters.

      Jezza, of course doing anything, new or retro-fitted costs money. That hasn’t stopped many airports retro-fitting rail or new lines etc to them. Airports periodically make changes and sometimes very major ones.

    • Dan C

      They have not committed to building light rail to the airport, what makes you say that? Where is the funding package? Where is the project delivery plan?

      What AT and NZTA have done here is commit to not building heavy rail to the airport.

  • Jean

    There are a lot of bus commuters along Dominion Road who may not be able to walk that further distance for reduced LRT stops. The stops are too far apart for them. A lot of non peak passengers are gold card who only go a couple of stops. What happens to these people? Are there also going to be short hop PT options on Dom Rd, and indeed other main routes, to cater for these dedicated PT users who often do not have any other choice of transport?

  • Jon Reeves

    Before running off and singing the praises of AT and their light rail plans. Why not get into how they have mislead Aucklanders and “up-costed” heavy rail? Isn’t that the objective thing to do?

    • Jon feel free to show that to be the case.

      Would be good however if you resist couching whatever information or arguments you have in terms of a conspiracy. Facts and reasoning is more persuasive.

      • You would have to be blind not to see the trumped up costs. A massive bridge over Neilson St to provide grade separation, despite double track grade separation already existing there. Elevating the railway above the motorway, yet amazingly finding space for light rail on the ground, even though trains are no wider than LRV’s. The list goes on.

        • Nick R

          Both the light rail and the heavy rail have the bridge over Nielson st.

          HR is significantly wider than LR and requires an even wider structure clearance gauge. If you disagree you might have to take that up with Kiwirail.

      • Simon C

        Patrick you know full well that when it comes to figures AT have a history of getting it wrong. Onehunga Line re-opening being a case in point that this very blog itself has happily brought up a number of times in various articles since its establishment. I wouldn’t say that modelling accuracy has been a strong point of that organisation. I may be wrong but I have a strong suspicion that in the case of the Onehunga Line re-opening like with this issue there was some deliberate cooking of figures to try and swing the decision. I can’t help but feel you are being over-trusting of At’s reporting.

        • Stu Donovan

          Don’t forget that modelling is different from costs. I believe the demand estimates for Onehunga were a bit low, but the cost estimates were about right (correct me if I’m wrong).

    • I ran some initial calculations on running heavy rail to the Airport via Otahuhu including Panuku and Housing New Zealand undertaking urban renewal in the Mangere area that would be a consequence of value uplift caused by mass transit running in the area. You can read that here https://voakl.net/2016/06/30/airport-heavy-rail-via-otahuhu-botany-line-our-airport-lines-a-redux/

      At the same time I still favour Light Rail as well – for the Botany Line which Auckland Transport has suggested to run from Botany to Manukau to the Airport connecting the east to Manukau and the Airport. But I believe AT should whole hog the Botany Line and forget the AMETI bus way and just go Light Rail all the way forming up the full Botany Line including a spur from Pakuranga to Highland Park.

      In the end both heavy and light rail have their place in Auckland just not the way AT sees it but rather and ironically how Len Brown sees it.
      I did see on Radio NZ today that the Mayor stated that the Governing Body will make the decision on what goes to the Airport.

  • Matthew W

    A stop spacing question. Why does the vehicle type dictate a change in stop spacing? Why dont we go to limited stop spacing on Dominion Road for the buses as well if it would be beneficial in terms of trip times?

    • Well vehicle size does have a bearing on this. Huge bus bunching would result from wide spaced stops, as well as the need for big stations with double bus lanes each way for buses to overtake each other, as so many buses are needed to match the capacity of larger LR vehicles.

      As always with urban transport spatial efficiency is the key but most misunderstood issue.

      You earlier dismissed that image from Buenos Aires but the point it makes still holds: without substantially demolishing each town centre on Dom Rd I can’t see how BRT can fit…

    • mfwic

      The vehicle type doesn’t dictate stop spacing. When AT say they want to upgrade PT on Dominion rd they mean make it easier for AT. That means remove 2/3’s of the stops and reduce the frequency of services by putting in larger vehicles, in this case light rail. From the PT user’s point of view they will have to walk a lot further and wait longer for a vehicle to arrive.

      • Nick R

        Walk about 100m further on average from the lightly used stops (busy stops are still in the same place, so no further at all for the majority of existing users) to get a transit service that is far faster and infinitely more reliable, and connects to a much broader range of destinations, with plenty of capacity so you’re not left waiting at the bus stop, and a more comfortable ride once you are on board. Those poor passengers being forced onto brand new light rail transit, we should stick to congested slow buses that you can’t even get on at peak times, much better for the customer eh?

      • mfwic. You make a fool of yourself with these comments. Of course everything in Transit design involves trade-offs. Wider spacing; faster service, but longer walkup. You know this. You also know that people will walk further to catch a better service. What makes a better service? A myriad of factors, including its speed!

        • mfwic

          You really have hit on the solution to Auckland’s transport problems there Patrick. AT could get rid of 2 out of every 3 bus stops all over Auckland- just think how much faster the buses would be! Also if they used double deckers everywhere they could halve the frequencies. Or is it just trains where you think longer walks and lower frequencies are an ‘upgrade’?

          • Sailor Boy

            Longer walks to a faster service at a turn up and go frequency is best practice the world over mfwic.

      • I’d walk further for something that then stops less often, I’d also accept a lower frequency if it was running in a corridor that allowed more certainty over the timing so I knew roughly when to leave home.

        Also as someone who works in the CBD I’d appreciate a few less buses lumbering around.

    • Can have longer stop spacing and that was the plan with the former bus lane improvement plan. The point of the post is to highlight that it’s different from what exists today – which is what people seem to be comparing things to

  • Wellington Commuter

    All these measures, fewer stops, more direct route, restricting cash payments, allowing all door boarding , priority at Intersections and centre running protected route could also be provided to improve the bus-based service … they are all listed as measures of the ITDP Bus Rapid Transit Scorecard.

    When you combine all of these elements it means that light rail is able to travel down Dominion Rd pretty much completely unimpeded by other traffic and only needing to stop a few times along the way” … yes and this doesn’t also work for Bus Rapid Transit along Dominion Road because …

    • Yes many of the things could work with buses too but more buses don’t solve the issue of there being not enough space on city streets for more buses

      • Wellington Commuter

        Most BRT systems are based on bigger vehicles operating on a matching corridor configuration … just like Light Rail.

        • Busways carrying the same capacity are usually a lot larger and often need multiple lanes at stations etc, something not possible on Dominion Rd.

          I understand other options have been looked at but not found to to work. We know there are people involved who are desperate to find a non rail solution but they haven’t been able to.

        • Nick R

          Yes but a bigger bus is twice the size of a regular bus, while the LRVs AT has in mind are six times the capacity of a bus. Why does this matter? Well it means you can run a lot of LRVs and still give them priority through intersections.

          • Matthew W

            I’m not convinced the intersection priority thing gives a lot of value to the passenger. The argument is – for LRT you have fewer vehicles so you can give them intersection priority, but you cant give every bus that turns up intersection priority. But presumably you can still give each mode a similar amount of cycle time prioritisation.

            So what that means is you would still have the same throughput of PT passengers but they would just not be prioritised so their travel time in the vehicle would be slower. But these routes are high frequency “throw away the time table routes”. So frequency matters just as much as in vehicle travel time when it comes to average trip times. And these things will simply offset each other. The only reason you cant have as much bus signal priority is because there are so many of them, which means you get on the bus faster. You are either waiting at the stop or in the bus…

          • Matthew W

            Also isnt it funny how we can implement signal priority for LRT but not for buses on routes that have similar frequencies (a lot of existing arterials have bus frequencies in the range that is proposed for LRT, and those that have higher frequency could still have some priority). Another one of those things that are magically enabled when you change the vehicle type.

          • Matthew it’s that spatial thing again. Giving one or two [one each way] LRV priority is very different to trying to give the same for every bus that rocks up to the lights for an equivalent number of passengers.

            Well that is if you care at all about the other users of the intersection; ie we do want the other directions to have a go.

          • Matthew W

            I understand that point Patrick. We are planning on running LRTs up to every 3-4mins as I understand it. There are plenty of arterials with that level of PT vehicle frequency. So why no priority?

            And for higher PT vehicle frequency arterials, you could still have some priority. You would just have an algorithm that would prioritise the first bus to turn up in a few minutes but not the third one in a minute. That would also help relieve bunching.

            So why not a peep from our decision makers about using this technology to improve the PT quality for our existing arterials until we get a change in vehicle type? (Which is effectively “never” for most of our arterials).

          • Nick R

            Matthew, you may not realise but Auckland already has a system installed on its buses to give the priority, they automatically bring forward or extend a green phase to prioritise the bus. It’s been in place for years and operates every day.

            The issue comes with higher frequencies, in short if you prioritise buses on one phase you need to have a cycle or two subsequently where you extend the other phases to recover. In many cases those other phases have buses on them too. The end outcome is anything more regular than about four minute headways makes the priority system functionally useless.On the likes of Dominion Rd you have more than one bus per cycle you can’t prioritise buses. On Symonds St where you have one every 20 seconds you clearly can’t prioritise them either. Bus priority doesn’t work on our busiest corridors, it only works where you have several minutes gap between each thing you want to prioritise.

    • Max

      Two key factors

      a) because buses need a much wider right of way. Look at the very first picture of the previous blog here (http://transportblog.co.nz/2016/06/28/light-rail-preferred-to-airport/). Notice the trams are almost touching? That’s not artistic license. A busway ROW would need at least a metre or so more. In tight town centres, that can mean the difference between yes and no for a project.

      b) as has been shown too many times to count in history, if you build something that can easily also take cars on it, there will eventually be a lot of pressure to put cars on it. We already have the government putting electric vehicles on the Northern Busway as a plan. Light rail can be changed less easily, mucked up less easily, once built. It gives a lot more certainty for develper’s investment around the stops and mode change.

      So yes, buses could be improved a lot with some of the things mentioned. But they wont quite get there.

      • Matthew W

        The right of way isnt that much different for 50kph from what I have ascertained. It is about 3m min for both bus and LRT. As for the second point, you could argue that is a feature not a bug to have flexibility (not that I want cars or other vehicles using busways). Your argument is that future decision makers will be less competent than current decision makers but that may or may not be true. As for certainty, a median busway down the centre of the road (which requires the road to be reconfigured and which has specially built stops) should give just as much “permanence” as LRT.

        • Matthew buses will need to overtake at stops; that just isn’t the case with LR, also LR fits in the city; more and more buses don’t. It’s spatial.

          • Matthew W

            If they need to overtake at stops then clearly that requires additional width. (When is that needed on Dom Rd? Not any time soon. Symonds St maybe in a couple of decades? There is actually quite a lot of room on Symonds St if this was needed in some places) That wasnt what Max was talking about though.

            I think Wellington Commuter makes a good point and personally I would like to see AT start walking the talk and installing some median PT corridors on our arterials. The reason they aren’t is because they dont seem to want to do it unless it is coincident with the conversion to LRT and they dont have the money for that. Come on AT – do what is in you power now! It is the old 80/20 rule.

          • Now you’re just carry on an obstinate ‘buses and LRVs’ are the same argument. They aren’t. Both are great, and needed, but are different in important ways; in vehicle capacity, in required width, and in acceptability.

            One really important feature of the Dom/Queen plan is that it opens up a whole new high capacity route into the city centre. One hiding in plain sight: Queen St. A valley that people simply will not accept being full of buses, and, along the way its frees up other places like Symonds and Wellesley St for buses from other routes. This is a win/win for all travellers, and the city, and is not ‘anti-bus’ or ‘pro-rail’, but horses for courses.

            Anyway it’s starting to look like AT may have got it right as both the rail-obsessives and the bus ideologues are frothing so they may well have hit the perfect balance!

          • Matthew W

            Acceptability? Come on is that a real thing?

            Ok you are saying we have an arterial we can only use light rail on because the inhabitants of that particular arterial have specific preferences and veto powers that dont apply to the inhabitants of every other arterial in Auckland. Well then light rail it will be I guess! Doesn’t really satisfy the ideologue in me though 🙂

          • Yes it is, especially in Queen St. Anyway too much of anything is unacceptable, cars, buses or trains. So we put them underground or whatever. Too many buses is already an unpleasant fact in parts of Auckland now, but often lost in the general unpleasantness of too many cars… And un-understandble to Wellington state apparatchiks and suburban-ophile theorists.

        • Grant

          Matthew W, what is it about LRT you are so opposed to? The FIT better and require less drivers per passenger saving money meaning cheaper to run and/or can run more services. Are you a bus driver or bus drivers union head or something?

          • Matthew W

            No issue, but have yet to see an objective word on the matter from our decision makers. Apparently LRT has special powers – it can go down (wide) roads that buses cant, it can magically allow us to create median PT corridors, can widen stop spacing. It isnt cheaper, if it was we wouldnt be having this conversation. For some reason when it comes to PT people start thinking CAPEX and OPEX funded by different kinds of non interchangable dollars. It is a bit weird.

            What I am is FOR decent PT down our arterials in Auckland and I havent seen much movement on that yet.

          • Nick R

            You are right to an extent, even if you are being sarcastic. On very busy corridors LRT can move more people in a narrow corridor than buses. Buses can move a lot of people but when you get a lot of them you start to need indented bay stops or double bus lanes. One light rail vehicle every three or four minutes moves the same as a bus every 30 seconds. But if you buses need to stop for 45-60 seconds each then think about what the stops need to look like.

            Likewise at terminals. To avoid bunching you need recovery time, something like five minutes per vehicle on a medium length route. Bunching isn’t due to delays, it will naturally happen unless you have recovery. With a bus every 30 seconds you need ten bus bays to do recovery in. Then you have to turn then around somehow. At least that takes a large roundabout, but in most cases it means driving around the block.

            With the same amount of capacity with LRT you only need two positions to do recovery for a vehicle every three minutes, I.e. Just either side of a normal stop. As they are double ended they don’t need to turn and can switch back the way they came.

            So yes, high capacity LRT fits a lot better in corridors with limited space, it’s not magic, just the characteristics of the mode.

          • James C

            The new Otahuhu interchange design has a good example of recovery and turnaround facilities for buses. The rail equivalent being as simple as the double tracked dead end at Manukau.

    • Buses need a turning circle, which is fine in the outer suburbs but can result in unreliable timetables if they have to go around a couple of blocks in the CBD.

      • Matthew W

        The only reason that would result in unreliable timetables is if you didnt have bus priority around that route – and why wouldnt you.

        • For buses terminating at the bottom of Queen St the turning circle would probably have to involve Commerce St, Quay St, Gore St and Customs St and bus priority (especially for what would be empty buses) would likely conflict with other requirements, such as pedestrian phasing and just the general appeal of those places with frequent empty articulated buses moving through.

          • Matthew W

            Well my proposal would be to have buses run from Queen down Customs to Anzac Ave and Vice versa. So no loop to speak of, continuous routes that go down one corridor and back up the other. So yes I agree – lets keep the buses on the arterials and off the alleys (but give them priority).

          • Where ever you do it you’re going to end up with walls of idling buses downtown, and that just isn’t acceptable. So you start planning to put them underground, which has got its own issues, and of course is really expensive. So you might as well build the permanent rail solution instead.

            Yes the ideologues in Treasury, and the neolib think tanks, and blowhards in the paper, will all rent their clothing and demand more studies like they did with the CRL, but these are the facts of the matter: Cities are all about the economics, and yes, the aesthetics, of space.

  • Grant

    One thing, is by the time the hardware for a LRT route is implemented even better LRT vehicles & technology will be available. They should not discount getting the fastest ones possible for the full segregated sections (mainly towards the airport end?) when they can really hoot to make up some time.

  • Don

    The best option for speedy service is to remove all cars from Dominion Road.
    Dominion Road will become a Busway – then AT will say why put LRT on that route…..
    I can see ATs logic.

  • Kelvin

    Parts of dominion road are not wide enough to allow LRT to have exclusive space in the middle, as illustrated in the above diagrams.

    It would also mean cars cannot turn right into small streets.

    • Matthew W

      What diagrams? Where does it not have the space, it is four lanes wide now?

      • Exactly Mathew; four lanes for BRT, or two lanes for cars and two for LRT. You decide.

        • Matthew W

          If you really could bestow me dictatorial desicion making powers I’d give you your damn LRT. (Seriously, happy to lead coups if required).

          • Just needs longer term thinking; the cost is up front in the RoW, moving services mainly, then there’s a permanent route, will change land use and value along its length. Shouldn’t be a difficult thing to get done in a booming city and at a time of structurally low borrowing costs.

            We just have our institutions full of people with little understanding of cities through time. Short-termism rampant.

          • Matthew W

            Status quo bias and a lack of indepedent critical thinking seem to be rampant is how I would put it.

  • Gary Young

    The map at the top shows the suggested LR line winding round the Wynyard Quarter. Will that incorporate the existing but currently unused heritage tram line?

    I would really like to see that loop of track extended along to the Ferry terminal and Queen St. and in the longer term down Tamaki Drive.

  • Martin B

    I’m jumping ahead a bit here, as the details probably still need to be worked out, but a few questions come to mind:

    1. If allocating priority signals to LRT, there is either the option to give the light rail a green light to allow it to cross the intersection 1st, and then allow other vehicle traffic in the same direction to go though, or to allow all vehicles travelling in the same direction to have the green light at the same time.
    If the 1st option, it does mean a longer signal cycle that could delay other traffic. if the 2nd, then the issue arises around right turning traffic potentially blocking the light rail line whilst awaiting for opposing traffic to clear, or preferably to use a hook turn as in Melbourne. However, this also presents issues if there are too many vehicles waiting to turn right which then backs up and delays other straight through traffic.

    2. The other consideration is if the LRT to the airport represents the beginning of the end of any further major expansion in the current heavy rail network. Having a heavy rail link to the airport would have formed part of a significant, albeit incomplete, network and therefore provide further impetus to continue to expand this network to provide a complete solution. LRT was, up until now, seen as an upgrade for the bus network where capacity constraints were being reached. This decision now places LRT as a viable alternative to heavy rail, and therefore may be more widely considered as a heavy rail option in other future decisions. It will require sound planning around the integration of the networks, as an increasing number of trips will require use of a number of services, particularly if the origin or destination is outside of the city.

    The North Shore was always going to be a challenge for a heavy rail solution, due to the grades and challenges in connecting to the existing network. The question now arises as to whether we design around a LRT solution, but make it heavy rail upgradeable in key areas e.g. maintaining the option for a connection at Aotea station, making the AWHC large enough to be able to take EMU’s etc, or do we design and build around LRT and forget heavy rail for the shore moving forward?

    The south east also provides an option for LRT, as proposed as a potential extension in the AT paper. Further extension as a future upgrade of the AMETI busway then provides a further connection to the heavy rail network.

    The key variable thrown into the work now is the reliability of the transfer’s. Current trips might require a bus journey to a transport interchange and then a train journey to your destination. However, in the future, it might require LRT, Heavy Rail and Bus. Whilst at Peak times, this will be fine with 10 minute frequencies, at off peak there could be reasonable delays if the timetables are not carefully planned. Nobody likes turning up to see the train or bus pulling out of the station and then a 20min (or longer) wait for the next one.

    These are some of the key items for AT to consider as they navigate the challenges around planning for integration of LRT into their network.

    • Bigted

      If anyone doesn’t like turning up and seeing the train or bus drive off and having to wait any amount of time for the next needs to plan better.

      • Sailor Boy

        Because that works so well at getting people to use public transport. It works even better when you build a high frequency grid that is based around the concept of transfers to provide better city wide coverage at the same cost.

        • Bigted

          no mater how frequent PT is there will always be someone that turns up an sees it drive off, they just need to plan better and be there earlier.

          • Sailor Boy

            Or, you can design transit to make it useful so that person who stepped out of their meeting at 1.05 as the 1.05 bus was leaving only has to wait for the 1.10 bus.

    • James C

      I always saw the Airport/SW line as the last frontier for heavy rail in Auckland, so these developments make it look like the CRL is actually final act. All that would be left are extensions beyond Swanson and Pukekohe, maybe Waiuku, but no grand new lines unless Ports of Auckland goes elsewhere. East, north and north-west look far more like jobs for LRT or light metro, given the available routes, connections, lack of freight tasks. Retaining some kind of upgradeability option to heavy rail would be great for these potential future lines, but it looks more and more like the LR spectrum will be able to provide competitive capacity when the time comes, without needing to directly interface with the heavy rail network. I find it interesting to consider the “network balance” complications that the various heavy rail extension options invoke. The proposed CRL running pattern shows good balance between Onehunga(/SW) and Western, also Southern and Manukau. Adding a North Shore heavy rail line that stops at Aotea is then an outlier, unintegrated and unbalanced. Running that through the hill to the Southern line would be fantastic and really complete the network, but then one of the other lines would be the odd one out – Manukau or Onehunga/SW. A sixth line would restore the through-running, full-frequency balance, but I can’t think of any viable opportunities with catchment and geography to cover. By the same token, a continuous LRT line from the Airport all the way through to the Shore would carry this balance to the new mode. North-west somehow through to south-east, the same. It’s an exciting prospect that goes some way to mitigating that I think abandoning SW heavy rail is a big opportunity missed.

      • James yes. Extending the O-Line through Mangere to the airport is very tidy for the rail network. It provides a good balance for the Western line, with a very efficient running pattern. [And possibly even then running to the NIMT south of Wiri but with South facing links only for a Hamilton service that even terminates at the Airport- but I digress]. I too regret that earlier short sighted and arrogant roading decisions have encumbered this with so much cost.

        But that’s it. This system will be full relatively soon. Earlier I have proposed the CRL II that you mention above under the university between Parnell and Aotea Stations for a Shore Line, but I now realise that the Shore needs to be on a new network.

        My current thinking is that this can be an extension of the proposed LRT system, which also makes for an elegant and efficient network. Capacity concerns can be covered by ensuring that the tunnel can be converted to Light Metro late, or that a second LRT route up the western side of the city, either surface or cut and cover, can be added. I expect the Shore RTN to be huge; the speed and directness to the city coupled with the population growth north of the bridge will ensure that. The lower capital cost and running flexibility [surface + grade separate], and stageability of LRT makes it much much more possible than the alternatives. It is important however that the huge advantage of driverless operation is also factored in.

        We are rightly discussing the next Network, rail fans and bus fans, and yes there are plenty of both, shouldn’t feel so upset by this, both those systems will continue and grow too, it’s just our little city growing up. Exciting times. Important we make the best big moves now as we are setting the course for more than a few decades.

        • James C

          The more that is revealed by AT, the more it seems that all these things have been steered this way from quite a long time ago. Obviously the current issues with making SW heavy rail a viable prospect go back at least as far as the duplication of the Mangere motorway bridge. The idea of NS rail connecting to a notional Aotea station go back a fair way and so does the Te Irirangi Drive LR concept. I’m increasingly sure that NS rail for example will be driverless metro, was always going to be, and will ultimately connect to another currently imaginary line (maybe east, maybe SW) and that at some point the street running gaps will progressively end up underground or overhead. That should keep us busy for quite a number of decades to come!

  • What about the following heavy rail Auckland to Airport route:

    Route southbound from city to Airport:
    Start CBD, travels south on North Island Main Trunk (NIMT) to South Western Motorway overpass over NIMT at Wiri
    Line branches from NIMT directly south of South Western Motorway and turns westward across existing quarry
    Line crosses Rosscommon Road opposite number 133 and runs through property 133 Rosscommon Road
    Line turns southwest to northwest, crosses McLaughlins Road opposite number 41 and then runs through numbers 41 and 43 McLaughlins Rd
    Line traverses greenfields area south of Puhinui Road and crosses estuary reach to south of Puhinui Road bridge
    Line extends through Auckland Airport area first on north side of Laurence Stevens Drive, then crosses to south side of Tom Pearce Drive
    (Tom Pearce Drive/Puhinui Rd roundabout would need to be relocated further north)

    From a cursory view, this route seems to avoid major road crossings, or uses existing grade separations. Apart from the airport area, only Rosscommon Rd, McLaughlins Rd and Price Rd require road-rail crossings.

    Additionally, the route generally avoids demolition of existing structures. 133 Rosscommon Rd is a yard with no major buildings. Most of the route is greenfields or brownfields (quarry) and the south side of Tom Pearce Drive is wide and open.

    • Sailor Boy

      If you just wanted to get a line to the airport and didn’t care about making it useful, or fast, that would be a really good option.

      • Airport rail is more useful from Wiri than Onehunga, as it means trains can get to the airport from both north and south (and east!). The Onehunga option was limited to north only. Accessing as many routes as possible is key to making it work, as airport travellers are from all over Auckland, and indeed most of its workers are from south. Much cheaper too, so it wins hands down IMO.

        • James C

          The question of a south-facing link is a total red herring. There isn’t the population, the destinations, the travel connections, or the accommodation south of Wiri to warrant abandoning a more direct route to the bulk of all those things towards the middle of the city. Even if there was, reinstating the southward link of the triangle at Penrose is a piece of cake. AND it would connect the same or better with Manukau. A Wiri/Puhinui link only makes sense in addition to the onehunga one, not instead of.

          • Bigted

            James I think you will find anyone airport bound from the south would not have a direct service but would transfer the same way that they are ready do to go to Manukau (or Sylvia park, Panmure, GI etc), Onehunga or any western line destination already, it opens up the airport to the whole of Auckland without making the trip any longer (than the Onehunga option) from the north/Britomart.

          • Nick R

            And so does the bus from Papatoetoe that is there already, or indeed the far cheaper and more useful LRT line via Puhinui that AT seem to have in the back of their minds. I’d like to see them step up the 380 bus to every ten minutes or so to start with, then progress to an LRT line from the airport to Puhnui and Manukau, for eventual extension to Botany and perhaps beyond.

            I could see the day where Puhiui ends up a singinficant interchange from the southern and manukau lines, and even from trains from the Waikato and Bay of Plenty, where passengers hop a direct and fast shuttle to the airport (or Manukau and other place for that matter).

          • James C

            Yes, Puhinui is starting to look like a real contender for the kind of treatment Otahuhu is currently getting, just with different modes interfacing. The vestigial railway land surrounding the current platform is going to come in very useful. It’s almost mysteriously underutilised, with that strange dogleg in Puhinui road around Bridge St and an inexplicably dramatic set of pedestrian overbridges. The prospect of an intercity platform there is a real imagination stirrer.

  • Dan C

    Current bus stops are far too close, but i think they have gone a tad too extreme removing them from the section between Balmoral and Mt Albert Roads.

    Mt Roskill shops to Lambeth for instance is 1km. Anyone living halfway bewteen the stops, Say halfway up Duke St or Haig Ave is looking at 1km walk. The section north from Lambeth to Balmoral is about the same.

    If you put an extra stop on the section between balmoral and and mt albert roads, you’d have one every 650ms which will increase walk up coverage considerably, most houses would be within 800m of a tram (assuming same spacing on Mt Eden and Sandringham).

    It’s not like Lambeth is a ‘town centre’, it’s all residential on Dom Rd at that point. With 650m spacing you’d have them around about Foch and Halesowen which are at least blocks of shops (former tram stops?).

    The stops north of balmoral to valley rd are about 650m, so I think they’ve got it about right there.

    Are they sacrificing Isthmus commuters to avoid heavy rail to the airport?

    • Sailor Boy

      It is *very* sparse through there, but everywhere on Haig Ave is within 850m of a station or a bit less on Sandringham Road and everywhere on Duke St is within 800m of either a Dom Rd station or a Mt Eden Road stop.

      • Dan C

        Well it’s impossible to say without reference where the tram stops on Mt Eden Rd will be. But if well took the halfway point of Duke St where it intersects Parau, and assume those east would be closer to a Mt Eden Rd stop, and those west would be closer to the Dom Rd stop, that’s a 1.0km 13 minute walk.

        https://www.google.co.nz/maps/dir/-36.8955191,174.7446725/-36.90083,174.7494576/@-36.8977574,174.7439671,17z/data=!4m2!4m1!3e2?hl=en

        They could stagger the stop on Mt Eden and Sandrigham, such that for instance if Duke is the worst case on Dom, then it’s the best case on Mt Eden, and people west of Parau would actually be closer to a stop on Mt Eden. But that wouldn’t work in most places because then you wouldn’t get the stops at the village centres on those streets.

        • Sailor Boy

          I had the station about 150 m South of your spot on Dom Road, but still 1km maximum distance for basically any point between Dominion, Sanringham and Mt Eden Roads is pretty damned good for the quality of service proposed.

          • Dan C

            walk for 15 mins, wait 5 mins for a tram… worst case, but that’s what you have to plan for. 20 minutes before you’ve even got on the tram. I’d be at work already on my bike 🙂

    • Yeah I reckon they’re down a stop in the city and one on Dom, and through any consultation they’d likely get added back in….

  • John Lawson

    Has anyone looked into narrower trams to allow space for passing loops and for pedestrian crossings at other points? Then stop spacing could be left as at present and semi-fast trams could provide for the longer distance travellers.

  • James B

    What about keeping the New North Road underpass whilst demolishing the ramps and replacing them with an intersection similar to Symonds/Wellesley? You remove the conflict from traffic travelling straight through the intersection essentially meaning only traffic turning right from New North Road to Dominion Road conflicts with the light rail.

  • Jon Reeves

    Well done NZ Herald for the outstanding editorial today

    http://m.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11666503

    I support LRT down Dominion Rd. But not as a service to the airport – especially when the report by AT is absolutely full of holes and “up-costing” to undermine heavy rail.

    • Nick R

      Well The Herald are, as usual, sloppy with their fact checking and wrong. I guess it’s an editorials prerogative to be wrong, technically they aren’t news and don’t have to be true.

      These sorts of comments are clearly false, LRT will not trundle, it won’t stop at intersections, and it will be quick. Quicker than many parts of our supposedly fast heavy rail lines.

      “Light rail are modern trams that trundle along the centre of roads, stopping at intersections like the rest of the traffic as well as at their platforms. They are not quick. ”

      And Jon, unless you have some evidence of “up costing” and “full of holes” you’re nothing more than the ranting manic in the street claiming to anyone who will listen that the government is conspiring to persecute them. Evidence please.

    • Bruce

      Yes, HR via Puhini sure does stack up in terms of the cheapest option to get HR to the airport (and in reality it would probably be nearly as fast from the city as a line via either Onehunga or Otahuhu and certainly faster than LR).

      Here’s what I think should happen seeing as how they have no interest in Otahuhu option and Onehunga is now going to be too expensive.
      Build a spur HR line from Puhinui/Wiri to the airport (with the airport building the necessary underground station for it (to be built large enough to allow double-track with underground platforms for 4 trains (future-proofing and all that).
      Build LR along Dominion Road (and the other isthmus routes eventually) but not to the airport.
      HR from Wiri would save around $600m off the cost of LR to the airport (and that is just for the LR from Onehunga).
      Probably the best solution for $$. Get a proper HR line into the airport with a quick service to the city (while still giving good options from the South). It also protects the ASL for future freight HR if needed.
      The only loser out of this is Mangere. Nothing that couldn’t be fixed with improved bus services linking in to Onehunga or through to the NIMT Otahuhu train station. Long term if the demand is there they could then build LR across .

      To summarise: Auckland Airport gets proper Heavy Rail (with space for baggage and a quick route into the city (or the other rail destinations) for a relatively cheap price.
      Auckland city gets LR along Dominion Road.
      Auckland saves about $600m which is probably enough to pay for the other LR isthmus routes (or to build LR from Manukau through to Botany).

  • Rita

    if the LRT does not have to stop at intersections, I assume they must have a green light and everybody else has a red light. Notwithstanding the massive reduction in capacity by the likely removal of turning bays and lanes at intersections. Dominion Road is going to be carnage and grid locked for anybody going near it.

    I really don’t understand how they think they are going to squeeze two new LRT lanes along an existing corridor that is already clogged up. I don’t buy for one minute that once the LRT is in that everybody will be using that instead of the car which will offset the reduction in capacity. Is there any details or proposed layouts of what the Walters Road intersection may look like?

    • Rita, I imagine they will have a green light and and the straight through vehicle lanes on Dominion Rd would also have a green light as well, so it wouldn’t necessarily add a phase to the light cycle. More likely the tram would just have some form of control over the lights, by sending a signal so the that the lights are phased for straight through running as it approaches each intersection. Also Dominion Rd currently has one vehicle and one bus lane for most of it’s length, so all it would be is replacing the bus lane with a LR line, there would still be one traffic lane in each direction. Not sure what their plan is for lanes at intersections.

      • Bigted

        Outside bus-lanes that are parking during off peak so if the LR runs down the centre the bus-lanes become general traffic lanes so no parking available, if LR runs down the current bus-lanes there will also be no parking Dominion rd businesses are not going to be giving up the on street customer parking without a fight.

      • Ronald

        Jezza, I don’t understand the point you are trying to make. You are saying the LRT will have an on-board system that generates a green light? Doesn’t this mean that everyone else will be on red? I also assume that other vehicles wont be able to use the LRT lanes when its running? Based on lane capacity I would have thought that the LRT would reduce overall capacity of the lanes rather than having buses and cars use it all of the time, not to mention the increase inefficiency at intersections for turning traffic.

        What is the frequency of the LRT and how much red time will other people have? Is this the same shambles that is building up with regards the removal of the level crossings for the heavy rail lines around the city?

        • Ronald, I could be wrong as I haven’t seen any intersection layouts, but I would have thought a tram running through an intersection along Dominion Rd, would not conflict with vehicles who are also travelling straight on Dominion Rd in parallel lanes, they don’t cross each other so they could both be on green. It’s only traffic that would be crossing the LR tracks that would need to be on red.

          As for the lanes, it basically takes a lane that is currently a bus lane and turns it into a LR lane, that’s not a loss of general traffic lanes.

          • Ronald

            jezza, that is correct, straight through traffic will run at the same time. But how much of the time will the green light be on this direction? How much chance will people on the side roads have to carry out their movement if the LTR is continually getting the green light, in both directions as the LRT going in alternative directions wont meet at the intersection at the same time.

            With regards the loss of lanes, this depends on how they do it as to whether they blow out parking or blow out the general traffic, refer Bigteds post a bit further up. I would have thought that a lane open to cars, trucks and buses (including room for turning without blocking other traffic) will have much more capacity than a dedicated LRT lane.

            Again going back to the original premise is that is great if you can use the LRT but who cares about everybody else.

          • Dan C

            A tram every 5 mins at peak. Means one tram every 2.5 mins counting both directions. So for a few seconds every 2.5 mins you will have to give way when turing in or out of side streets. Could be easier than at present were there is a bus every 1-2 mins.

            As for timing at the lights, i dont see why e.g Mt Albert road traffic would be held up any more than at present. They currently have a red light when dom rd has a green. Its just that the timing of the lights changing will be in sync with a tram approaching.

          • Ronald – Dan C has covered off the frequency side of things.

            Regarding the loss of lanes, you are right there will be some loss of utility to car users. Firstly, the demise of car parking, however this is a major arterial, not a place for people to store their private possessions, although I agree with Bigted in that this will be contested. Secondly, through the two general traffic lanes in each direction at major intersections becoming one general traffic lane and one LR. There will always be trade-offs, however priority should always be given to any mode that is able to move more people in the same space (LR) than those travelling in cars.

            With capacity, it’s not my areas of expertise, but I would have thought prioritising LR with it’s much greater capacity over private vehicles would actually increase the roads overall capacity to move people through an intersection.

          • Ronald

            Jezza, That sounds a bit anti-car. You say that priority should be given to the mode that can move the most people rather than those in cars. Shouldn’t that be that priority is given to the space that can move the most people regardless of mode? Do you think all of he transit lanes should be removed? If everybody car pooled they would be a huge reduction in traffic

          • No, I’m not anti car, I use mine quite frequently. You’re right, I should have stated it as priority should always be given to any mode that is able to move more people in the same space than a mode that moves less people in the same space. However, it’s common knowledge that LR can move considerably more people in the same amount of space than a car.

            No, I wouldn’t remove all transit lanes (I don’t think Dominion Rd has any anyway), however the nature of dispersed living and employment makes carpooling very challenging and i don’t think it should impede higher occupancy vehicles such as buses and LR.

          • Julie

            Jezza, LRT may have a lot more capacity than cars but the utilisation will be much less. Outisde of peak the PT system is for the most part empty. Which means you will have lots of empty LRT carriages driving around the place with the whole system clogged up to the eyeballs. Over the course of the day it is a waste of usable road space that could be used by others..

          • Dan C

            Currently, outside of the peak Dominion Road is massively clogged up by parked cars. Swapping that for a LRT line should be a massive improvement. No longer will dom rd drivers blocked from crossing balmoral rd because the cars ahead are crawling looking for a park, or worse, blocking the whole road while they parallel park. Furthermore i would expect many off peak drivers to switch to the tram once it has its own lane. I would never drive during the peak because the bus is so much quicker, but on weekends the opposite is true.

  • john smith

    mfwic 30/6 8.47pm on transport accidents by mode, light rail vs bus: To draw any conclusion from these figures you have to consider the different risk exposure. Risk exposure is (approximately) the number of conflicting movements. That increases as the square of the traffic density. If in some time period 100 people cross a road that 10 vehicles drive down, you have 100×10=1,000 units of risk exposure. If 200 cross a road with 20 vehicles, you have 4,000 units of risk exposure.

    I hypothesise that the difference between light rail and bus in accidents per vehicle-mile could well be largely explained by the fact that trams, compared with buses, would tend to exist mostly in more congested inner areas of cities, thus with higher risk exposure.

    • James C

      The fact that the data is presented in terms of “vehicle miles” rather than “passenger miles” is massively skewing the picture in favour of the lower passenger density modes. It pretty much invalidates the comparison in my view.

  • john smith

    Optimum stop spacing: there’s a good discussion at http://www.ptua.org.au/myths/nonstop/
    It’s a tradeoff between walking time for people getting on and off and delay to people who stay on board. As you would intuitively expect, optimum stop spacing is closer in central areas where more people are getting on and off at each stop.

    The assumed goal is to minimise total travel time, including walking, for everyone. But there are different interests that that doesn’t capture. Most people may be willing to walk further in return for a faster, more frequent service, but the pensioners who only want to go two stops won’t like it. In this light, stops up to 1 km apart do seem rather sparse for the Dominion Rd environment.

  • john smith

    Possible speed of a transit service with separate easement and traffic light pre-emption to ensure no delays except station stops: from Denbigh Ave to Wellesley St city (7 km), with 10 stops, should take about 14 minutes.

    Assuming line speed 48 km/h, acceleration and braking 1m/s/s (this is normal for metro trains, and is quite conservative for a bus or tram) and dwell time 15 seconds. The time lost in acceleration and braking, compared with running at line speed over the same distance, is about 15 seconds, so each stop costs 30 seconds in total. The relevant equations are s=at and d=(att)/2, where s is speed, a is acceleration, d is distance, t is time.

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