Categories

Archives

Airport Anarchy

For years, we and many others have been saying that better options are needed for accessing the airport and for even longer, politicians, officials and experts have either wilfully ignored the need to serve one of Auckland’s major destinations with public transport or have actively opposed and sabotaged it. Now the chickens are coming home to roost with roads reportedly clogged so bad that many are missing flights or commenting that it took longer to drive home from the airport than fly to Auckland from Sydney. It seems even Mayor Phil Goff got caught in the mayhem. And things could get worse with the airports busiest days of the year coming up.

The transport planners from the NZTA have pinned their hopes on upgrading the motorway to the airport by grade separating Kirkbride Rd – due to be completed next year some time – but one of the major problems with it is that while it removes an intersection, it doesn’t really add any extra capacity to the road network so going to do bugger all to solve congestion within the airport itself. There are of course some bus options but they suffer from the same congestion as cars.

To really have a chance of making a difference in getting to the airport, we need good alternatives. Perhaps one of the issues we’ve had is that almost all of the discussion is focused on long term solutions, currently expected to be light rail (we don’t need another debate about rail mode in this post thanks). Yet despite this route being a major issue for Aucklanders, in the six years since Auckland was amalgamated, almost nothing has been done to protect the route and ATAP doesn’t suggest anything will be build (from the north) till after 2026. That’s simply too far away.

 

One of the reasons things have come to a head so rapidly has been due to a surge in airport usage. In the 12 months to the end of October, 17.3 million people passed through the airport (domestic and international), an impressive increase of 11% over October 2015.

Essentially it appears that a tipping point has been reached where growth at the airport, along with the heavily auto-dependent development around it, have combined to cause chaos. It now appears to have caused enough embarrassment that authorities are pretending to do something about it.

Transport authorities and Auckland Airport have set up a taskforce to tackle traffic chaos that has led to some passengers missing flights.

The NZ Transport Agency, Auckland Transport and the airport company have established a group to find immediate ways to improve travel times and congestion on the roads and state highways to, from and around Auckland Airport.

Of course, what’s proposed is mostly nothing more that tinkering around the edges.

The taskforce had agreed to accelerate a number of planned initiatives, including:

  • changes to lane configurations at the State Highway 20B (Puhinui Rd) / State Highway 20 interchange before Christmas to increase traffic flows through the intersection;
  • the Auckland Transport Operations Centre will optimise traffic signals to increase traffic flows at peak times on the state highways and airport roads, and publish additional airport-specific travel time information;
  • changes to lane configurations on George Bolt Memorial Drive / Tom Pearce Drive to improve traffic flows to both airport terminals;
  • changes to lane configurations on George Bolt Memorial Drive / Laurence Stevens Drive roundabout to improve traffic flows to the domestic terminal; and
  • deploying special temporary traffic management plans on Auckland Airport’s roads to increase the network’s resilience.

The immediate solutions are in addition to the major improvements already underway to deliver additional network capacity and improve travel times, including:

  • the $140 million upgrade of State Highway 20A and improvements to the State Highway 20A / Kirkbride Road interchange which will create significant extra capacity;
  • the upgrade of the George Bolt Memorial Drive / The Landing Drive / Verissimo Drive intersection; and
  • new bus lanes heading towards the airport on State Highway 20A.

So here are my views on solutions that need to take place.

Long Term – and that needs to happen within the next decade, not remain over a decade away like ATAP suggests, a dedicated Rapid Transit line is needed. As mentioned earlier that is currently planned to be light rail but the government and their agencies are trying to get that downgraded to just a bus connection.

Medium Term – As Patrick pointed out in this post, a quick first stem to getting an RTN style connection to the airport would be to build a busway connecting the Puhinui Train Stations with the airport. This would require a busway alongside Puhinui Rd (SH20B).

Short Term – Here are a few thoughts on some short-term options.

  • Skybus – Skybus operate services to the city with fares of $18. Unfortunately, like cars these buses also gets caught in congestion on the motorway. Further I’ve seen a number of comments in months that the quality of the service has been decreasing. Perhaps Skybus could be encouraged to run more services and with AT/NZTA covering some of the costs.
  • The 380 option – The 380 bus runs from Manukau to the airport via the Papatoetoe Train station which can have trains stopping in each direction to/from Britomart every 5-minutes. This could be a great option but it currently suffers from a few issues.
    • AT don’t market this option very much so many people don’t know it even exists – this could be easily fixed.
    • Last I heard, transferring between the train and bus wasn’t well advertised or signposted – this could be easily fixed
    • Unfortunately the congestion referred to above affects both SH20A and SH20B. With no bus lanes on the latter it means the bus gets caught in the same congestion as the cars.
    • The service is nowhere near frequent enough, only running every half hour during the day and this is an issue that we shouldn’t even have. Back when AT announced the result of consultation on the new bus network that has just rolled out in South Auckland, the ’30’ bus (a new name for the 380) was listed as one of the frequent services that would see a bus running at a minimum of every 15 minutes, 7am-7pm, 7-days a week (as shown below). Yet after AT finished tendering for services this was dropped back to a secondary route running only every 30 minutes, despite AT crowing about saving money. As such, as a first step they should implement the new network as they told the community it would be and improve the frequency of this service back to frequent status.
      • The article says this: “Auckland Transport’s chief executive, David Warburton said AT would continue to focus on how it can increase public transport services to and from the airport “. So I’m sure David will be announcing improved services soon?

 

 

 

  • Interim priority lanes – If the NZTA were really serious about improving options, perhaps they could dedicate one of the motorway lanes to high capacity vehicles. This would obviously include buses but could also include other vehicles with a lot of occupants, perhaps T4 and above.
  • Park n Ride – Even if the NTZA got underway now with their plans to widen SH20B, it would be years before that work was finished. We don’t normally advocate for Park n Ride but perhaps in this situation, one along Puhinui Rd, near the whereas it could be justified along with a shuttle – or ideally a much more frequent 380 bus.

Those are just a few thoughts, what do you think should be done to make some quick wins?

132 comments to Airport Anarchy

  • Rob Mayo

    24/7 Bus Lanes ASAP especially along the Puhinui access to the airport and increase the frequency of the Airporter at the same time.

    • Ian

      I think this is a great idea and the obvious fix. To make this a more popular suggestion could allow registered taxis and shuttles to use the lanes as well.

      • Greg N

        Why should taxis [or Ubers] get priority access to bus lanes to/from the airport?
        Because they have paying passengers, so they need better priority?

        Well so are Bus/Train users too and their needs should come first. Needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few and all that.

        Taxis and Ubers are basically SOV’s with a driver, and a string of 50 taxis/Ubers is just as clogging to a bus lane as a string of 50 cars in a bus lane.

        Shuttles and taxi buses – which have say, 4 or more passengers in them, sure, thats fine.

        But mostly empty shuttles and taxis/Uber? no way. They can slum it out in regular traffic, which is just what they are when mostly empty.

        And yes I know that currently taxis (whether hired or not) can use Bus Lanes in Auckland City.
        But just because that applies to most bus lanes currently doesn’t mean it had to apply here. And Grafton Bridge taxi trial ended with Taxis being booted off of the bridge so there is precedent for Bus Lanes to mean “Buses” not Buses plus Ubers and Uncle Tom Cobley and all.

        And in future I can see Taxis and Uber being shown the door from Bus Lanes all over the city once the bus lanes are joined up because they’d become too much of a problem for buses otherwise.

        • Damian

          “And yes I know that currently taxis (whether hired or not) can use Bus Lanes in Auckland City.”

          No, they can’t. The Grafton Bridge example was a (since rescinded) trial.

          • Greg N

            Yes, you are correct, I was thinking of T2/3 lanes, which permit Passenger Service Vehicles (Taxis) whether carrying passengers or not.

            So providing they are proper Bus Lanes [not T2/3/4 etc lanes]] and AT [and NZTA for any State Highways along the route] vote to keep Electric Vehicles out of them, even better.

    • Ricardo

      Simply get the paint out and mark double lanes each way wherever roads are wide enough. Any type of T laning is wasteful.

      • PshemK

        And how would that help with limited capacity within the Airport precinct itself? The congestion is also caused by the fact that the whole area can’t take much more in terms of car movements – simply the local roads are getting full. Bus on the other had (not to mention light rail or train) would not require that much road space around airport itself. So dedicated bus lanes would help greatly here.

  • SH20B is wide enough for most of the length now to convert the hard shoulder to a bus lane each way. Your main snag will be at the main bridge over the inlet but a small issue until the busway is built proper along SH20B.

    • Yes this is true, but like the Harbour Bridge and the Northern Busway, if at least the right of way is clear for most of the journey the improvement can be significant, and the service just attractive enough to start to attract users. Hard shoulders will do for starters.

      In this area AT/NZTA build special little carparks and roads for driving plane-spotters, can’t they also serve their Transit users adequately too? And if they actually made their services to the Airport viable, then that of course would help reduce the extremely expensive traffic burden.

      • And as someone pointed out on Twitter yesterday:
        People so strung up getting to the Airport now they just check in and go to the gate. No spending money at the Airport.

        Put in some decent transit quick wins those people will spend more at the Airport than a car at a car park
        So win win win for the Airport and passengers.

    • Airport Worker

      As somebody who commutes along puhinui road 4-5 days per week in a mix of private car and the 380 bus. I suspect if bus/transit lanes were installed – car commuters seeing buses speed past might be enticed to switch to using the bus. The service at the moment is hopeless and air passengers waiting nervously at Papatoetoe are regularly enticed by taxi drivers exploiting the situation

      Also with bridges there’s another bridge on the route near the corner of Prices road, so shoulder lanes on the existing road might have a couple of pinch points.

      • Hmmm with Prices Road
        Probably an idea at the same time is to duplicate the bridge. Might as well to future proof the SH20B widening and the eventual full busway or Light Rail Line

      • Ricardo

        You guys ever think? Kids, old folks and heavy suitcases clambering into buses. Yep that’ll work….. The people that are able/ included Ned to do that already use shuttles. A train is what is needed.

        • Or maybe the majority of people going to or from the airport at peak times are workers (in the airport or businesses in the area), or business travelers with a cabin bag only, who will welcome the option.
          By the way, how much do airport workers pay for parking?

          • Airport Worker

            Different employers have different arrangements, but broadly it seems as though the burden of providing parking space falls on the businesses operating in the airport environs. Some who need their staff at terminals pay annual fees to AIAL to use their staff areas or the park & ride at Verissimo Drive. Others have space on their own premises but I doubt there are many staff who pay to park directly. I mainly catch the train+bus to avoid congestion on the motorways in Manukau.

        • Sailor Boy

          ” Kids, old folks and heavy suitcases clambering into buses. Yep that’ll work”

          This is the only correct statement you have ever posted on this page. Just like other young, or elderly travelers, those coming to Auckland are perfectly capable of boarding buses.

  • Alex F

    The first most obvious solution is to create a dedicated bus corridor on both SH 20A and 20B and the roads leading to the airports. Then start planning for rail, and bring it further forwards than the ATAP intends it to happen. And the government need to get into the ring on this too, as they have done reluctantly with the CRL.

    • Jon_K

      I agree – Get the bus corridor in *now*, built to handle light rail and laid along the final path.

      The only problem is, knowing how Akl has a history of falling short on the last leg, we’ll probably have them muck up the interchange at each end… This is obvious stuff and surely it wouldn’t take very long to have this consented, designed and built? The airport should also be “encouraged” to contribute to assisting their customers transit needs.

  • The quiet halving of the 380 frequency after consultation (where no one said; ‘whoa, give us less frequency, that’s too much’) is exactly the kind of thing that limits bus ridership, and shows that there is, still, nowhere near the focus on the bus customer at AT that there should be.

    At least double this frequency, fix the quality of the route, the quality and legibility of the connection at Papatoetoe, and urgently fix the legibility at the terminals. Currently it’s a secret, but then it is also currently not very good. So sort out the service then the marketing.

    While getting on with a real interchange at Puhinui, and 24/7 bus lanes on 20B.

  • evanjames

    Problem is that no-one foresaw the development of a major commercial sector around the airport, and this is only going to be exacerbated by new housing initiatives around the stonefields site. And the problem isn’t helped by the fact that Auckland airport is becoming busier and busier – there are now four A380 flights a day into the place. A busway between Puhinui and the airport would certainly be a good short term solution for airport only passengers, but it would probably do little to solve problems in the long term – let alone the short term.

    • ‘no one foresaw’!? It’s been planned for decades. What has lead to this is MoT, NZTA, and successive governments, kidding themselves that Auckland is special and that the laws of geometry don’t apply here, and we can both grow and disperse the city and have everyone always drive ever further and this will be fine…. no consequences, not even the plain one of too much traffic. Duh.

    • The development around the airport has been a key part of the airport’s strategy for years, so has the expansion of the number of airlines flying to Auckland. These things didn’t just happen. They were hoped for

    • JBM

      This is one of the funniest things I’ve read on this blog. No-one “foresaw”??? I remember in 1994, Auckland airport had a model of the future growth of the airport into 2025 with a huge airport industrial area in the model. As a kid, I always used to go up there just to have a look at the model. It was up on the 3rd floor in the corridor towards the public viewing areas.

      Auckland airport have planned the growth of this whole area for over 20 years but they and the government and the then councils have never genuinely planned for mass transport to the area.

  • Robin

    Sure it’s been suggested and dismissed before, but can someone remind me – what would be needed to upgrade dairy flats airfield to take some domestic load, exploiting the northern busway a bit. I remember in Europe easyjet used to land in basically fields and still call it Venice for example!

    • Why would you use Dairy Flat over Whenuapai.

      Also I think Dairy Flat will eventually be housing based on Unitary Plan

      • Robin

        Well I assumed whenuapai belonged to Air Force and they might not want to give it up. Isn’t dairy flat already public?

      • Nathan L

        Dairy Flat would need to be upgraded considerably, as it is in a rural valley with a tiny, narrow runway and not much facilities. Ardmore or Whenuapai would be much more realistic.

        There were already plans a few years ago to close the Air Force base at Whenuapai, so they might give it up.

        • Ian

          Might not even need to close Whenuapai Air Force base. Marlborough airport inn Blenheim shares the RNZAF Base Woodbourne.

          • Glen

            As does Newcastle Airport in Australia, which is a reasonably busy airport. There are also lots of airports in the U.S.A. with Air Force or Air National Guard facilities co-located.

            Ongoing RNZAF operations at Whenuapai would not be any hindrance to civil aviation in and of itself, it would all depend on whether the necessary arrangements could be made.

      • Bigted

        Why is there even a discussion on alternative airports when we can’t get mass transit to the current one? It doesn’t matter if it is Dairy Flat, Whenuapai or Ardmore they will service more than their local area as it will be up to the airlines if they fly to that airport or another one so we will then need mass transit (something that AT is struggling to do) to multiple airports.

        • Agree, it would also spread any future expenditure on rapid transit between two airports, which would likely result in sub-optimal solutions at each airport.

        • Dgd

          There is a discussion simply because of the traffic disaster and rubbish PT to Mangere airport. There looks to be no solution to this thats not 20 or 30 years or more away. Farting about with road widening, making bus lanes and an unwillingness to do the job properly with an HR link to the airport probably means a second airport at Whenuapai would be very attractive. Certainly for anyone travelling to/from the NS and west Auckland.
          An HR link from Kumeu or RT busway from SH16 to Whenuapai looks a simpler task than PT to Mangere.

          • Bigted

            “a second airport at Whenuapai would be very attractive. Certainly for anyone travelling to/from the NS and west Auckland”

            The airlines will be the one choosing which airport they use so there will be travelers from the NS and west Auckland still needing to travel to Mangere but also there will be travelers from everywhere else that will have to travel to Whenuapai. It is a hell of a transfer from domestic (if your domestic airline uses Whenuapai) to/from International (as this will stay at Mangere). Lets sort out the transit to the current airport before there are any extra airports to have to get to/from.

      • Gary Young

        I can recall the last time Whenuapai was suggested for upgrade to a domestic civilian airport. To put it mildly the idea was not well received by home owners on the North Shore.

      • Bryce P

        North Shore airfield is still an airfield under UP. It is suitable for domestic passenger use and is already being used in this way with Barrier Air running flights from Kaitaia to Nth Shore, and transferring passengers to shuttles that use the busway.

    • sausagechops

      Waitakere City Council pretty aggressively promoted Whenuapai as an alternative Domestic Airport along with Infratil (with many of the other Auckland TAs having shares in Auckland Airport it was opposed quite aggressively too, including by some concerned residents groups who may or may not have been supported by thier AIL shareholding Councils), to the extent of promulgating a plan change to maintain the existing Defense Force regulations should the site be made available, initially as some sort of joint use.

      IIRC this plan was more or less scuppered by the National Government saying they would reverse the previous plan to consolidate Air Force operations at Ohakea and ?Blenhiem (maybe Chch?) and keep operational field in the Auckland region, and BTW no discussions regarding joint use would be entertained. (Despite Whenuapi needed a significant spend on runway upgrades to the quickly constructed wartime runway). This was at the time that neighbouring Hobsonville was closed (only used as SAS & Helecopter squadron base as there had not been flying boats for many years), and whenuapai was next on the block.

      Whenuapai was also Auckland main civilian airport (post war) untill the opening of Mangere.

    • Not sure Auckland is really big enough for two airports. Melbourne has only gained a second relatively recently, while Sydney is only now looking at building a second.

      Having two airports would split domestic flights meaning there would be less frequency at each airport. This would be inconvenient for business travelers as there would not be as many options for changing flights at the last minute, while passengers transiting from international to domestic would either have to wait longer for a connection or have a very inconvenient transfer between airports.

      There is no reason that with good rapid transit Auckland Airport couldn’t handle significantly greater passenger numbers than it currently handles.

      • JBM

        Totally agree. A second airport anywhere in Auckland is just lunacy. Auckland has nowhere near the population base to support 2 airports. The authorities simply need to get on and build mass transit rail to Auckland airport. Problem solved for the next 100 years.

    • Simon C

      As airline reservations agent I can tell you one of the challenging things about making bookings for people with onward domestic flights into China through Shanghai or into Japan through either Tokyo or Osaka, is that all three cities have secondary airports where the vast majority of domestic flights leave from.

      These secondary international short haul and domestic airports also happen to be on the other side of the city (as per Whenuapai in relation to Auckland Airport) from the main international airport thus ensuring at least a 2 hour transfer from one airport to the other and therefore pretty inconvenient for many travellers, especially if they’ve come off a long flight to start with. We need the same kind of situation in Auckland like we need a hole in the head!

  • Ari

    From what I’ve seen, it only a PM peak problem anyway, when all the workers go home at the same time and clog the roads.
    It isn’t helped by the fact that access to the airport is constrained to a single lane with cars just driving in circles.

  • 01anthony

    The bus lanes are ready to go most of the way from the Puhinui Road area – insanely daft and stupid that they haven’t been put in yet. The airport in Auckland has been growing and growing since it was opened. There’s been a few road improvements to the area over these years, but there is still not 1 public transport priority piece of infrastructure there.

    Is the Council (via its shares) earning too much from the parking revenues to care? Has there ever been a solid plan from anyone in a Central or Local Govt agency actually try and address this?

  • Geoffrrey

    Just in case you thought this problem has come as a surprise to everyone …. let’s travel back in time 11 years to this : An airport Access study ! http://www.aucklandcity.govt.nz/council/documents/districtplanmanukau/changes/pc14proposedapp23.pdf

  • TheBigWheel

    Short term. Build a rail link to Puhinui. Just do it.

  • Ben

    “Essentially it appears that a tipping point has been reached where growth at the airport, along with the heavily auto-dependent development around it, have combined to cause chaos. It now appears to have caused enough embarrassment that authorities are pretending to do something about it.”

    Nail on the head completely.

    Auckland Airport might as well be in the third world for all the government and council competence thrown at it. I regularly use the airport and drive from Waiuku, so getting there is always painful unless I make a 5am start. Getting home is worse, mainly thanks to NZTA’s genius concept of squeezing six lanes into two at SH1 southbound in Manukau. I’d imagine going North towards the city would be far worse.

    Yes, I would park at Papakura, catch the train, and change onto a bus at Puhinui providing there was a regular service and a bus lane on 22B – in the short-term; even two mode changes would be preferable to the current mess. In the long-term the priority has to be a rail link ; as you demonstrate, passenger numbers are clearly on an upward trend.

  • Pol

    The SkyBus really has gone down hill over the past while. Now you have to either transfer from a shuttle to the main bus at upper Queen St or drag your bags from Britomart up the hill. Service from the airport is no better with poor real-time information and drivers and ground staff openly arguing in front of passengers over whether or not they are to travel via the domestic/international terminals or via Dominion Rd/Mt Eden Rd. Added to this you have decals on the windows making it very difficult for passengers to see where they are along the route. Wifi seems to be more stable though….

  • Steven Lee

    Some longer term possibilities I could imagine – Perhaps high speed ferry services running out from the Airport to service the developing southern suburbs such as Wattle Downs, Pahururehure Inlet, Karaka, Clark’s Beach etc.
    Or better yet the ferries could run from those southern suburbs and continue past the airport to stop at Mangere Bridge, Onehunga, Lynfield/Waikowhai Park.
    It would certainly help to give all those suburbs mentioned another option of PT instead of heavy reliance on private vehicles.

    The ferries stopping at airport could also connect passengers to a larger bus/LRT route that can take passengers north up SH20 to either Onehunga train station or continue up SH20 along the Waterview tunnel to wherever they need to get to, or they can just continue east along Puhinui Rd as they currently do.

  • JimboJones

    I don’t think people want to transfer if they are going to the city, so to me the 380 bus is really only for people going to south auckland. Useful but I don’t see it being a genuine fix.
    Outside peak SH 20 is almost always free running (or will be once roadworks done).
    I think the main problem is a lack of bus lanes in the airport itself. There seems to be room for this. Should be 24/7
    Then add 24×7 bus lanes on either dominion road and/or mt eden road, change the skybus to only use one of those roads, make the skybus public with standard fares, and make it go to britomart.
    This is the best short term fix IMO.

    • James

      This is the best short term solution by far, although I’d add having a T4/Rapid Transit lane on SH20 as well. My inclination is to always consider the bus as the first option, but reject it occasionally depending on how far away I am from it, or whether I’ve just missed one, or whether the traffic is going to be just as bad regardless so decide on an uber instead and therefore have some relative comfort. If the bus service was almost 100% guaranteed to have a clear journey to the airport or back and therefore be able to stick to a timetable (and, if it was public and therefore paying integrated fares as a bonus!) I’d take it 100% of the time, there wouldn’t even be a choice to make. Its got to be the most cost effective and quickest short term solution until some sort of rail (light or heavy) comes into existence.

    • ‘people don’t want to transfer’ People already transfer, from their cars to shuttle buses, so they can only seen $20 a day instead $50… or similar.

      Run the bus to Puhinui like a shuttle, in fact just merge it with the terminus transfer bus in a constant terminal-terminal-business park-Station, service, 10 min minimum, well communicated, with great secure all weather physical transfer at Puhinui, and 24/7 bus lanes and it’ll take off. With a little marketing. Integrate with HOP.

      Of course the poor span of the rail service will then become an issue, but bring that on, as it’s long overdue that that improved.

      • While I think a link via Manukau is the best short term option. I wonder if congestion in the airport precinct will still cause issues. For example if you have a rapid express from the two terminals to Puhinui or Manukau with an on time connection to a train service. You would still to deal with peak hour traffic at intersections at some point, plus within the precinct.

        Also Puhinui would need some terminal upgrades if it was used. Not really a good first view of NZ for tourist – some dinky concrete platform with no cover.

      • Having no train is a bad first impression as well. Driving will immediately show you our crappy street design along Manukau Road, and crappy driving culture. For me that was the first time I ever saw pedestrians waiting on the centreline of a 4-lane roadway.

        Parking is not that expensive though. Even the most expensive option (valet parking) is under $40 per day. If you use one of the parking lots further out, prices are between $5 and $10 per day. If you’re not travelling alone that is cheaper than taking the Skybus, and usually a lot more reliable. But I can imagine that option may go away as land gets developed.

      • Sounds like a good idea to me. The 380 route only ending up a 30 mins service was I guess was due to lack of bus lanes, would never be cost effective & just result in bus bunching anyway.

      • JimboJones

        Yes some people will transfer if it saves them significant money. But they would rather not. I personally tend to pay the extra and park at the airport as do a lot of people.
        I think a decent direct bus should be as quick as bus / train without the need for the transfer.

    • Simon C

      I live in the city and I’ve taken the bus then train back to the city plenty of times. Transfers are fine as long as the connections are good and anyone with a decent brain understands that. And going back to the city I’ve always had a train come promptly. The problem transfer is the one to the airport where the timetable has the bus just leaving as the train pulls in ensuring a long wait for tye next bus.Of course having this bus running at minimum every 15mins like everyone on here agrees should be the case (and shows how brainless AT can be) would solve that issue. Making a rail link will take time even if the diggers were ready yesterday but a busway given the political will can be done pretty quickly and should be.

      I just came back from a 6 week European holiday and going through Arlanda with a huge sign above its baggage carousel showing the Arlanda Express and the Slogan “20 minutes to Stockholm” just reminded me Auckland (and its airport) has some way to go.

      *OT but Auckland Airport’s dining, areas to connect electronics for work or personal use, and it’s wifi are also poor compared to the likes of Stockholm Arlanda & Munich. Even Kiev and Tblisi had better free wifi.

  • Ian

    The other issue for the airport is it’s own capacity. The international terminal is already unable to physically handle the aircraft and domestic is just a zoo.

  • The challenge is that you’re got perverse commercial incentives at play and as long as they exist the airport will remain under capacity both aeronautically and in ground transportation.
    It is answerable primarily to shareholders who view it as a dividend bearing stock and therefore it is incentivized primarily to make a high profit as goals in the benefit of wider (i.e. non-airport company) interests such as providing a welcoming gateway.

    The problems:
    1. Airport makes about 10% of its money from parking, and it therefore stands to lose money if there is a good transport alternative.
    2. It doesn’t cost the airport anything to have mildly dissatisfied passengers (i.e. angry at running late; bussed from the plane to the terminal) as there is also no competitive alternative (and don’t start on alternate airports – the reality is a single big hub is better) and it costs a lot to build new infrastructure which reduces profit.
    In both cases profit is reduced and shareholders aren’t happy, so there is no incentive for the company to do either of these things.

    Someone earlier noted that if people start becoming so late that they can’t use the retail then that will have an impact, which is likely true as retail accounts for about 30% of the airport’s income. But by the time that incentive applies the transport situation has to have become very bad. In other words, there is no incentive to invest in advance of demand.

    Until the commercial situation with the airport changes this is what we have to live with, and I sincerely hope that the free-marketeers late for their flight and stuck in a traffic jam appreciate that this situation is of their own ideological making.

    In my opinion, the airport should not be allowed to be a private entity. It is outside the bounds of free-market competition simply because it would be impossible for a new-entrant to come in an significantly compete. Therefore it is a utility and should belong to us all, and at best be a non-profit.
    And finally this is far from unique to Auckland. One of the banes of my existence in the last few years was immigration at LAX where wait times were heading towards two hours, but where the only incentive for the airport or the federal government making it any faster is airlines starting to get angry at missed connections – but even then, where else are those (particularly international) airlines going to go?

    • Disagree with your second point – the airlines are the airports single biggest source of revenue and they have a significant influence in airport company decisions. The airlines are not happy about the current situation as they have to deal with dissatisfied customers and also delayed flights due to crew stuck in congestion.

      Also a non-profit publicly owned airport would effectively be a subsidy for air travelers from ratepayers as it would be a huge amount of capital tied up not earning anything. Given air travelers are generally better off than average this would be a transfer from everyone else to those of us who can afford to fly regularly.

      I think the port company is a good example of the down sides of 100 % public ownership. Personally I would prefer the airport company being 51 % council owned so it has a controlling stake, with the remainder listed on the stock market.

  • AKLDUDE

    Puhinui would be less than $1B (the billion dollar+ figures were for Onehunga or Otahuhu). Puhinui is almost entirely over greenfields and is a much shorter distance. It is an option that can be done in the short term (dig a trench at the airport itself cut n cover) the rest is mostly greenfield so is easy to build on, it is however a long term option in terms of it’s longevity. If the South East goes ahead with LR or whatever then that doesn’t matter as it will connect at Puhinui and/or Manukau.

    • I doubt it would be done for less than $1B, a cut and cover trench is not insignificant, IIRC one of the big costs of the HR via Onehunga was going to be cut and cover trenching and double tracking the existing Onehunga line.

  • JBM

    Simon Bridges is dead against any airport rail (of any kind) until the time when he is on his way to the old folks home. Anyone who is familiar with the airport area knows how clogged the arterial roads there gets every day in the morning and afternoon peaks. It is not just the airport users, it is all the workers who work in and around the airport area. This whole employment area has grown exponentially over the past 20 years because Auckland airport has planned it that way. Yet not a single real plan for public transport NZTA or AT (yet). It is an afterthought. Surely the Auckland airport can make money off a train station at the airport as well as the loads it makes off the rip-off parking prices there?

  • kris

    Short term problem solved. Run a rail/bus service from the city to Papatoetoe by rail and non-stop bus service from Papatoetoe railway station domestic and international terminals under ‘Airport Connector’ brand using a special combined bus/rail fare from the city to the airport. Since 380 services stops at all stops from the airport to Papatoetoe, the express service would have only 2 stops from from Papatoetoe rail to domestic and international terminals and have no impact of existing 380 services. Tickets for this service can be available from both terminals, Britomart and from all AT ticket offices and approved resellers. There is on reason why ‘Airport Connector’ fare can be stored in the AT Hop system for AT Hop users.

    It makes sense to use rail to Papatoetoe rail, as it is the quicker option and would not be subjected Auckland notorious traffic hiccups.

    • Seems completely pointless. The 380 doesn’t fail because of the number of stops it makes, its problem is the lack of bus priority and frequency, these don’t need a separate service to solve. There is already a single fare from the Airport to the City.

      • kris

        The 380 takes to long to travel from Papatoetoe rail to the airport as it picks up and drops off local passengers on route. An express service from Papatoetoe rail to the airport would be quickers as there is only 2 stops on route being domestic and international terminal. The rail/bus option would be quicker option as rail from city to Papatoetoe rail is not subject to the Auckland’s notorious road congestions.

        • Simon C

          What a load of rubbish! I’ve taken the 380 heaps of times between Papatoetoe Station and the airport and v.v and it rarely stops between the two. Infact when I’ve taken it it’s always had a good run. Now between Onehunga and the airport is a different story and I’d agree 100% there. Tried that once out of interest and never again! Slowest PT to airport experience ever!

  • The Real Matthew

    My understanding of what is actually happening is that traffic is being diverted into the Airport precinct area by roadworks.

    As is usual in Auckland there has been not adjustment to traffic flows despite the totally obvious impact of re-diverting traffic. We see this all over Auckland. Traffic gets diverted but there is no change to light phases and congestion is created. It’s transport 101 but it proves too much for our authorities.

    The notion that light rail is going to solve this problem is almost laughable. It will be largely unusable to locals as we have such a limited catchment on our rail system and many tourists head straight out of Auckland anyway. Those that stay here need to get a car to travel around New Zealand and are also highly unlikely to utilise the rail service.

    Cities like Toronto have far busier airports than Auckland and manage without rail.

    • Which roadworks is causing traffic to divert into the airport precinct?

    • Damian

      Ah, the magical solution! “Just change the traffic signals and things will improve”.

      Guess what, Auckland Transport and NZTA have been fiddling with traffic lights for decades, removing (or never building) pedestrian crossings, adding slip lanes, increasing the average cycle times to 2 minutes or more… and the congestion is still there. Failed thinking.

      Of course eople like you then respond with “MORE ROADZ”. Which is just a costlier way of failed thinking.

    • JBM

      As usual the resident village idiot comes out with his dinosaur solution yet again. Rail will never work because all the tourists want to get out of Auckland as soon as they arrive and therefore they need cars? haha. Riiiight.

      • To be fair, once you travel outside the cities, you pretty much need a car. People visiting from overseas usually don’t want to spend heaps of time on these buses and (mainly) waiting for those buses. If you like the outdoors, you also really need the flexibility of having a car so you can change plans if it rains in one area. Most places are unreachable without a car anyway.

        OTOH judging from the amount of taxis on Manukau Road, many people are heading to the city after landing.

        For locals it’s a harder problem to solve, given the tiny coverage of the rapid transit network. It will just be too slow for most people. From Takapuna or from Birkenhead—that’s hardly out in the sticks—it’s about 1:30 minutes (*), plus any time you spend walking to your nearest bus stop with all your luggage. Driving will be faster than that even if you get stuck in congestion for an entire hour.

        (*) that’s scheduled travel time, let’s assume that with proper busways buses will actually make the trip in time.

        • JBM

          I get that, but Auckland does have quite a high number of tourists who visit Auckland for Auckland as well. Also, the normal local who simply wants to get to and from the airport without being stuck in traffic for hours on end. However, my main point is that an airport line would not only service the workers working in the airport area but the residents of Mangere as well. Big growth areas in housing in these areas. Especially for first home buyers if they can get in.

          • Not just about tourist either. Business travellers are important. Both local and overseas. For example my mother was travelling to Wellington today for business on a 10.30. Even from Onehunga she plans to leave by 8.30am – just in case. ie. Either she waits in the traffic or she waits at the airport. Exceptional at the moment due to the roadworks.

            But go forward another 5 years and increased number vehicles will probably look at lot like what the route is like with the current construction.

    • Mike (the longstanding one)

      TRM: you don’t seem to be aware that Toronto has an airport rail link.

    • Bigted

      The Real Matthew Toronto Pearson International Airport does actually have a rail link, it also doesn’t have a commercial area the size of airport oaks that half the traffic has to exit via the airport and has a multi laned motorway effectively right to its door.

    • KLK

      “Laughable” is trying to talk down the catchment area of rail, especially with the new bus network and integrated tickets transferring even greater numbers to trains. And that is before you consider that this particular line would be brand new rapid transit where nothing even remotely similar exists now.

      Bringing SW Auckland into the RTN (whether that be from Onehunga or Otahuhu/Puhinui) would, alone, flood this line with riders – they are smack bang in the middle of the two largest employment hubs in the country. How many airport-hub workers would this take off the road every morning and afternoon? It would be huge.

      People are too focused on the tourists. It would be a commuter line. But, in saying that, capturing just 10% of the traveller market (a conservative estimate) would deliver you on average an additional 5000 riders a day.

      And as always, none of the above stops people taking the car or bus, if that is more convenient for them.

    • Harrymc

      For goodness ake! This guy TRM spots great loads of nonsense:
      https://www.torontopearson.com/en/toandfrom/upexpress/#
      Toronto has a rail link!!

  • Matthew W

    Given the high value trips associated with passengers trying to catch planes, together with the very limited entry and exit points to the airport, simply rolling out some toll gantries could be a good short term solution. I understand from the media coverage that a lot of the issues relate to people using SH20A and B as a rat run. A toll would help to reduce this.

    • Bigted

      Matthew don’t believe everything the media tells you. The main issue with SH20A is the currents roadworks at Kirkbride Road and the issues around SH20B is one lane in and one lane out that every traveler or worker from the airport/airport oaks area that needs to go south of Mangere has SH20B as the most direct route..

      • conan gorbey

        Agree with you here Bigted, just a casual look at a map would raise the question ‘Rat Run from where and too?’. And if it is heavily congested the rat runners are unlikely to continue using it. My very anecdotal observations from spending a couple of days at the airport recently that the traffic on 20B seems to be mainly from the carparks for staff at the maintenance and freight areas to the east of the terminals. Wonder how successful a staff shuttle would be?

        Kirkbridge Road and the roadworks further along SH20 once you’ve cleared the airport seem to be a major contributor to the traffic issues in the area. It’s ironic that a project that is projected to save 2 mins (IIRC) on average on a journey to the airport is itself causing so much congestion.

      • Matthew W

        If its a road works issue, a toll will help with that too.

  • PshemK

    Probably a number of people’s been having an ‘I told you so’ moment since last Thu. But the story keeps repeating itself – growth is planned, encouraged and finally – arrives and catches NZTA and AT by surprise. I suspect other places that currently grow quickly in Auckland (like North-West) will wake up in similar mess in a few years time. Having only a few years between elections (both local and nation-wide) doesn’t help here a lot – the sort of investment and planning exceeds the thought horizon of most of those elected.

  • kelvin

    Puhinui road is the best short term solution.

    However for political reason AT may try to reject all options so that the ‘only’ viable option – light rail via dominon road is chosen.

    • DavidByrne

      My understanding is that light rail via Dominion Road has already been chosen, and that there’s no longer any further investigation of heavy rail being done. As I understand it, the decision needed to be taken prior to the commencement of the Kirkbride Road underpass as heavy and light rail would have required different technical solutions there. While the debate of heavy vs light rail is highly emotive and will go on and on without doubt, it’s now a pretty futile discussion.

    • Bigted

      The congestion on SH20B (Puhinui Rd) shows exactly why LR via Dominion rd is not a viable option as no one that is currently using Puhinui Rd and only a few of those using SH20A will find it even a remotely useful option.

      • Sailor Boy

        Surely that makes Dom Road better than LRT becasue we can afford the Puhinui link too if it’s LR.

        • Bigted

          We won’t need a LR link to Puhinui if the rail link is to Otahuhu (for a fraction the cost).

          • 01anthony

            but extending from Puhinui / Manukau / East Auckland makes so much sense?

          • The value of extending from Manukau/Puhinui is that it is a solution that can be implemented in stages. Short term = train to bus/express shuttle service with bus lanes where appropriate. That is just some construction but mainly an allocation of resources (buses), scheduling and marketing problem with a (likely) positive outcome.

            You can then leverage that then existing investment and scale up. Rapid express train service from CBD to Manukau onto express shuttle? Extend the rail line. They all add to the above option.

            Nothing else suggested offers anything in the short term.

          • Sailor Boy

            “(for a fraction the cost)”

            Qualified experts who have spent far more time on this than you have proven your assumption wrong.

          • Matthew W

            One issue that may make the prwvious Jacobs study redundant is it didnt assume market clearing road pricing in the base case. Now ATAP has concluded with toad pricing in decade 1, it should be in the base case of all studies for Auckkand transport projects.

            Its going to be interesting to se how it affects the next few business cases that come out.

  • Sacha

    Airport CEO is ‘understanding’ about the situation his company has played a large part in engineering over the years by resisting public transit options because those carparks pay soooo well. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11767855

  • Vance Barrett

    So we’re wanting to introduce a whole new transport system to the airport when we already have heavy rail to Onehunga and Puhinui?
    Brilliant!
    If the track was laid across the harbour when the new Mangere Bridge was built and track was laid while the new Kirkbride underpass is being constructed we would be well on the way to having rail to the airport.
    Instead we’ll be debating it for years to come.

    • Nick R

      Heavy rail cannot fit with either, so that would have been a monumental waste of money.

      • I think Vance was suggesting that it should’ve been designed to fit at the time (so it wouldn’t have been a waste of money, it would’ve only been a small increment over the money that was spent on the road projects – i.e., much cheaper than trying to build a separate route years afterwards – alas, NZ/Auckland seem incapable of doing that (maybe the politicians’ families have shares in the construction companies, has anyone checked? (is there any other logical reason for wasting so much money by missing these obvious opportunities for cost-sharing and cost-saving?))).

        • Nick R

          Yes this is a common issue that has two causes. Firstly there is no clear and confirmed plan for every corridor. Secondly, projects are under pressure not to spend extra money or waste money. So coming along with a motorway project where there is nothing that says rail is going to go here there is zero reason to do anything to support that. Sometimes NZTA will invite AT (or predecessor organisations) to pay in to secure some space or add to the design to future proof for something, but historically they have neither had the desire to do anything, the policy/plan to do anything, nor the money to spend.

          Bear in mind that when talking about something like the Mangere Bridge duplication, that was opened in 2010, built 2008 to 2010, based on planning and design work done 2005 or earlier. We’re talking about decisions made over a decade ago.

          • Thanks Nick, yes, a common issue, but I’m confused about the causes you give:

            Firstly, I have planning/policy documents from the ARC showing rapid transit (rail) “is going to go here” to the airport from the 1990s, and ARA documents from the 1960s-1970s showing similar (albeit the 1960s documents showed rail from Papatoetoe to the airport). I’m talking about decisions made 20-50 years ago, so it’s not something new that was sprung on MoT/NZTA/AT at the last minute.

            (I find it difficult to believe that nobody in authority knew about this, when I knew about it from my bedroom when I was a kid.)
            How come they didn’t have a copy of these planning/policy documents, when they were being given away at libraries (I think some even came to me in the post)?

            Secondly, the point I think Vance was making is it costs say 10-20 times more to do it later than to do it at the same time, so I don’t see how it would be wasting money to do it at the same time; surely doing it at the same time would be saving ratepayers and taxpayers (from whom all the money comes) 90-95% of the cost of doing it later – that’s a huge cost-saving, not a waste. Surely that would be financially-prudent public policy (and would make sense to voters too).

  • Mark

    Anyone know the proportions of traffic in the area, ie airport precinct workers, travellers, through traffic, trainspotters etc? I used to travel MB to Wiri Monday to Friday and some of my trips would be via Airport area. Would also quite often pick up or drop off travellers. I also think that AIAL has a quite legitimate case for a 2nd runway and has to factor that into internal transport planning.

  • I recently took the Skybus from Mt Eden Station to the Airport. A very quick 25 minute run, with only one stop enroute, getting me there 14 minutes early. Runs 24/7, and every 10 minutes during the day. A mass-transit airport service, already in place, fast and convenient.

    Just needs to be extended to Puhinui. Maybe start lobbying Skybus to do that?

    • Nick R

      Don’t even need Skybus for that, you have the 380. Wouldn’t take much to get that going at 10 minute headways. But really a few missing bus lanes aside, getting to the airport isn’t a problem, and isn’t the problem.

  • Medium (and maybe long term solution): The distance between the airport and Puhinui could also be bridged by a people mover (even a gondola). It would be something like an internal connection in the airport to its mainline train station. I don’t know what it would cost, but probably not much more than dedicated bus lines and much more efficient at moving people. Also, it could be fully automated.

  • A quicker way, especially out of the airport, would be to turn left into Ihumatao Road then right into Otuataua Road (I think I have the spelling right) follow that through to the Kirkbride Road lights, hang a left and then follow that road through to the motorway on ramp roundabout. I Quite often work in the area and find that quite an easy – and scenic – route to take between 3 and 5.30 pm

  • evanjames

    I can be done southbound as well, but turning right out of Ihumatao Road would be a problem, so the best course would be to turn left and go round the Verissimo Drive roundabout.

Leave a Reply