At the Auckland Transport Board meeting earlier this week, I did a presentation on behalf of the Campaign for Better Transport on airport rail, making the following points in a “one-pager” to the Board.
1. In our view the Jacobs “SMART Indicative Business Case | PDF” report underestimates the potential catchment of heavy rail, we assume because of the arbitrary requirement for a single seat journey to the airport.
On this point, the following from p.83 of the report shows the catchment for the heavy rail option. It clearly does miss out stations on the Western line, as well as the yet-to-be-built K Rd and Parnell stations.
2. We consider that some of the costs of heavy rail attributed to the airport heavy rail option will most likely be incurred anyway – in particular work required around level crossings.
3. We consider there is a high risk that the predicted Dominion Road journey times for light rail are overly optimistic, depending on the degree of separation from general traffic.
4. Implementation of either heavy rail or light rail from the north of the Airport is likely to be decades away and very costly.
5. Putting aside the report’s assessment of heavy rail vs light rail, we note that the three key problems identified in the Jacobs report do not have to be addressed by a single solution:
a) Constrained access to the Auckland Airport will limit economic growth and productivity;
b) Limited transport choice undermines liveability and economic prosperity for the Māngere-Ōtāhuhu area; and
c) Unaffordable and inflexible planned transport investment constrains access to the Auckland Airport and surrounding business districts and Māngere-Ōtāhuhu area
As is so often the case with any project, defining the problems you are trying to solve is paramount. The SMART study has some useful points, but it is flawed as it is implicit that a single solution must meet all three problems. By redefining the problem, the Puhinui solution emerges as an option to be considered.
6. We ask the Board to take the same approach as ATAP in measuring transport effectiveness. In the context of Auckland Airport, the measure would be the potential catchment of public transport users within a 45 minute radius of the Airport. This should not preclude transfers between modes to meet this target and should therefore necessarily examine the option of a transfer at Papatoetoe or Puhinui.
7. We note that the Jacobs report identified that 7,350 daily commuters originate from Manukau and the east, twice as many than that originating from the north and central Auckland.
This was the point that Patrick raised in this post back in August. The Jacobs report helpfully included this map on p. 36.
8. The current Airport 380 bus service connecting at Papatoetoe to rail services yields a fastest possible PT journey time of about 49 minutes from Auckland Airport to Britomart. However, there are a number of issues associated with transferring at Papatoetoe: frequency of service; ease and legibility of transfers, and the lack of a RTN quality right-of-way.
49 minutes is my own personal best for a trip from Auckland Airport to the CBD. It was a bit of a fluke as the 380 arrived at Papatoetoe about 1 minute before the train arrived. “Legibility of transfers” is a reference to the same bus stop being used for both Manukau-bound and Airport-bound directions of the same service. Moving the transfer point to Puhinui would have a positive impact on reducing the CBD – Auckland Airport journey time, but it will be absolutely critical for any new service to be much more frequent than the current half hourly service and it would have to be in its own right-of-way to avoid the ever increasing congestion along 20B.
9. It is timely to bring to the attention of the Board that NZTA is currently planning a widening of 20B along the Puhinui Rd alignment for general traffic.
In actual fact Auckland Transport officials were already aware of this, but in the past Auckland Transport have had to play catch-up with New Zealand Transport Agency. Hopefully there will come a day where Auckland Transport advance public transport projects ahead of the NZTA’s road building exploits. AT have even gone as far as looking at catchments and alignments of what could be the Botany Line, which are shown in these two illustrations that were supplied to us.
1. As a matter of urgency, AT should work with the NZTA to designate a rail corridor east of Auckland Airport on the 20B alignment with a connection to the main trunk line. This designation work should also consider extending further east to include Botany.
2. Immediately establish a bus shuttle service between Puhinui Station and Auckland Airport, preferably with bus priority measures.
3. Auckland Transport should continue with designating a rail corridor between Onehunga and Auckland Airport.
That final point is important. The residents of Mangere and surrounding areas deserve decent rapid transit as much as anywhere else in Auckland, and they really have been short-changed by successive organisations failing to plan a rapid transit corridor. Perhaps if the main CBD – Airport connection is decided to be via Puhinui, then alternative alignments could be looked at between Onehunga and Mangere that have greater catchments and, potentially, could be a bit cheaper and quicker to implement too.
The presentation was received by the AT Board without much in the way of comment. It will be very interesting to see how AT evaluate and prioritise a Botany – Puhinui – Airport Line against all the other transport projects going on, including Dominion Rd LRT. When you look at the potential catchment of the Botany Line and consider that it will probably be cheaper to build, it wouldn’t surprise me if it ranked higher than Onehunga to Auckland Airport rail. The simple service pattern that would also result from a transfer at Puhinui is also extremely compelling – every Southern or Eastern line train connects to Auckland Airport, both from the north and from the south. We will have to wait and see where this heads now.