In this last post for the year, I want to look at some of the things I think will be big discussion points during the year as Auckland continues to transform into a better city.
City Rail Link
With works now well underway on the first sections of the CRL the project will remain a strong talking point in 2017 as we follow its progress. We start the year with changes at Britomart with the new temporary entrance coming into use. Early in the new year the CRL team are expected to put the rest of the project out to tender.
Well also be focusing a lot on what happens to the streets after construction is finished. The works so far have shown the city can still function well with the significant disruption that’s occurred already and so we believe there’s an opportunity to vastly improve them for pedestrians, not just put them back as they were.
The government don’t like the idea of Light Rail on Dominion Rd but begrudgingly acknowledge the need for more rapid transit capacity. So in ATAP, they referred to the idea as ‘Mass Transit’ and said the NZTA would be looking at bus alternatives before confirming what would happen in the future. This work is already well underway and I’d expect it to be released early in the new year. We know AT had already put a lot of work in before deciding on the Light Rail option, including analysing many bus alternatives. So to be credible, this new study will have to show how it deals with the issues, like city centre street capacity, that led to AT picking light rail in the first place.
If they ignore those issues, it will put Light Rail on the same track to existence as the CRL did with the government and its agencies producing competing and often incomplete analysis before finally agreeing with the project.
The issue of congestion around the airport is also likely to be a big factor and one I think will only increase pressure on politicians to get this addressed.
I expect we will hear more in 2017 about how AT plans to develop the Rapid Transit Network. At the very least the Northwest Busway which was identified in ATAP as needed in the first decade. We know AT have already been doing some work looking at this. I also think we’ll hear more about other RTN projects such as AMETI and how to deal with electric trains to Pukekohe, either extending the wires or using battery powered trains.
New Network Rollout
In 2017 we are will see the roll out of the new bus network in West Auckland in June followed by Central Auckland a few months later.
Parnell Station and new rail timetable
In March the new Parnell Station is finally due to open. The old Newmarket Station building was moved to the site just before Christmas and is being refurbished as part of the station. The opening comes alongside a new rail timetable that AT say will speed up services – although that may be only by a couple of minutes so not the significant improvements that are needed.
Government elections will likely be a strong point of discussion in the coming year, especially in the latter half as voting draws near. It was of course made more interesting by John Key’s sudden resignation a few weeks ago. Transport is not usually a major talking point but we’ll certainly be watching it. Housing is certainly shaping up to be a massive issue though so it will be fascinating to see what impact that has.
We’re expecting to see a lot of progress on cycleways this year we move ever closer to mid-2018 cut off of the Government’s Urban Cycleway Fund. Some of the ones due to start this year include
- The Nelson St extension from Victoria St to Quay St
- Quay St extension to The Strand
- The next sections of the Eastern Path
- Ian McKinnion Dr
- Franklin Rd
We’re also hoping to see progress on Skypath this year now that the consent issues are out of the way.
After around 5 years of construction, in April the Waterview connection is finally due to open. It will be fascinating to see just what impact the project has as there’s a very high chance it will cause significant congestion, especially leading to the city.
SH20a – Kirkbride Rd interchange
The grade separation of Kirkbride Rd and SH20A is also due to be completed in 2017
The hugely expensive East-West link is going to get a lot of attention in 2017 as it moves through the consenting process. The NZTA lodged applications for consent just a few weeks ago and the EPA process needs to be completed within nine months of that. A lot of mainstream media focus will be on the Onehunga area where there is a lot of opposition to what the NZTA have proposed.
The Northern Corridor will also be going through the same process as the East-West link but so far there hasn’t been anywhere near the level of opposition to the project, especially seeing as extending the Northern Busway is now a key feature of the project.
Auckland Plan refresh
A big discussion this year will be the refresh of the Auckland Plan, the 30 year strategic plan for Auckland. Since the first Auckland Plan around six years ago, we’ve made significant progress on some issues, such as the CRL and Unitary Plan but we also face a lot of new challenges, especially around the provision of housing. It will be interesting to see how much the vision for Auckland changes.
We’ll obviously be following closely what happens with Auckland Transport in 2017. One big thing to watch is that AT will be hunting for a new CEO this year.
— Simon Wilson (@simonbwilson) December 21, 2016
All up, 2017 is shaping up to be another huge year and we’re looking forward to seeing what happens. See you next year