Auckland’s New Network — What comes next?

Right now Auckland Transport is in the process of implementing the New Network (NN). The NN is already operational in the south, and is being readied for implementation in other sub-regions as per the following timetable:

You can view the latest networks for each sub-region by clicking on the links provided at the beginning of this post. For those who don’t know, I should disclose that I was part of the consultant team who worked with AT to develop the original NN way back in 2012-2014. The original network we developed is illustrated below.

The original network shown above has subsequently evolved in response to several rounds of stakeholder engagement and public consultation. This included engagement with existing operators, consultation with local boards, and — finally — consultation with the general public. Moreover, as time has progressed, more detailed information has come to light, such as the land use outcomes associated with Unitary Plan and the NZ Transport Agency’s plans for developing highways and busways. All useful information that can inform the design of the public transport network, albeit information that has been somewhat slow to extract.

The NN has also had to dovetail with other projects AT has underway. I’m not aware of any other city in Australia or New Zealand that are attempting to change so much about their PT system in so little time. In the 15-20 year period starting with the opening of Britomart, Auckland will have developed a Rapid Transit Network connecting to every sub-region almost from scratch; redesigned the ticketing system and fare structure; implemented a new public transport contracting model; and drastically re-structured its services. Somewhat understandably, the desire to coordinate implementation of the NN with these other projects has delayed implementation beyond the initial (indicative) 2016 timeline.

So as we stand on the threshold of implementing the NN, one may wonder what comes next? The answer, in my opinion, is that the NN will be a constant, ongoing project for at least the next 5-10 years.

There are several reasons for this. The first is simply that all aspects of the NN won’t work perfectly right from the beginning, and they should be changed as further information comes to light. In terms of demand, some routes will experience too much while others will see too little. That’s a reason to reallocate resources. In terms of schedules, some timetables will have too much time while others will have too little. The struggle for reliability is ever-present.

Public transport nirvana won’t happen over-night, but it will happen. If we keep working on it. Maybe. But aside from continuous refinement of the underlying network structure, what else might change? The answer to this is both nothing and almost everything. When I say nothing, I am referring to the underlying principles of frequency and connectivity on which the NN was built, and which will allow us to run a more efficient public transport network. These principles are sound and should not change as we go forward. Instead, they should be strengthened and embedded more deeply into our PT network. Every time AT increase frequency, we should be asking whether we can remove duplication.

On the other hand, much about Auckland’s public transport network will continue to change. Let’s list just a few of the major projects that Auckland Transport and others will be working to implement over the next 5-10 years:

  • AMETI
  • City Rail Link
  • Northern Busway extension, including new Rosedale station
  • Extension of electrified services to Pukekohe, and new stations
  • LRT on Dominion Road and Queen Street
  • North-western Busway

When you line up all these projects, you start to realise that there isn’t many corners of our fair city where the public transport will not change fairly dramatically in the next few years. So we will need to get used to PT network changes happening on a fairly regular basis. Of course none of them should be as large as the NN itself, but nor should we delude ourselves that it will end with the NN. The NN is arguably close to the start of Auckland’s journey to PT salvation.

Indeed, such complacency with regards to continuous improvement of Auckland’s PT network is arguably a contributing factor to the situation we are in today. As an aside, I understand the following meme is popular among some of the folk that have long-lorded over Auckland.

Aside from the persistent and ongoing issues with the allocation of resources and reliability, there is one other potential meteor that seems likely to pass fairly close in the near future, and which threatens to destroy the heart of Auckland’s PT network. That is, Auckland has very limited bus capacity in the city centre, in terms of corridors, stop, and terminal capacity. I think it’s fair to say bus capacity in Auckland’s city centre has been neglected for decades, and is now being rapidly squeezed in all directions. The risk is that the meteor of bus volumes brings about a never-ending buspocalypse that in turn suppresses patronage and exacerbates congestion.

Put simply, the volume of buses that need to be accommodated in the city centre is rather high already, and it’s growing. And it’s not just about the corridor capacity: Buses need to stop, terminate, and/or turn-around. In fact, I’d suggest that corridor capacity is almost the least of our concerns, we can always splash around a bit more green paint, e.g. on Wellesley Street. Stop and terminal capacity is more problematic, simply because there’s not much space. LRT will help, but it is something that won’t happen super-fast and nor will it be a panacea when it is up-and-running. Meanwhile construction works associated with the CRL and the Council’s (excellent) place-making initiatives look likely to exacerbate the problems caused by our historical reluctance to address bus terminal issues.

Whether we encounter bus apolocalypse depends on whether AT are successful at changing the way we currently operate buses and manage streets so as to make them more efficient. The NN as it currently stands seem likely to result in higher bus volumes downtown than originally planned. Indeed, changes made during consultation — for potentially good reasons that I explain below — have had the effect of throwing more buses into the city centre, specifically:

  • Removing through-routing — the original NN proposed through-routing bus services between Takapuna–Onehunga, Glen Innes–Mt Albert, and Glen Innes–New Lynn. I understand all three though-routes have been dropped. This both increases bus volumes in the city, and requires more passengers to transfer, which increases dwell-times.
  • Retaining duplicative routes — In some cases, services have been added or retained that duplicate other services, even if they perhaps remove the need for passengers to connect. The most notable is the Outer Link, but there are also a number of peak services that have snuck their way back into the network. In terms of capacity, the latter are particularly problematic, because they directly increase peak bus volumes (by definition).
  • Removing cross-towns — the original NN arguably contained five frequent crosstown services in the Isthmus, specifically: Mt Albert — Glen Innes, Takapuna — Onehunga, New Lynn — Glen Innes, Pt Chevalier — Ellerslie, and Mt Albert — Pakuranga. The proposed NN now contains only one, or arguably two if you include the Outer Link. Going from five to two cross-towns will increase the number of buses terminating in the city centre, and increase the need for passengers to connect between services there.

This should not be construed as criticism of the changes made by AT. Indeed, the changes arguably reflect positively on AT’s desire to respond constructively with feedback. It’s also entirely possible that the changes will increase patronage and/or efficiency in the short term, even if they exacerbate issues with city centre bus capacity in the medium to long term.

But *if* buspocalypse does arise, *then* what should we do about it?

The good news is that AT are aware of the risk of buspoalypse, and have started considering how to mitigate the chance it occurs. Some of their current thinking has been documented in the “Bus Reference Case” report that was published last year, and which was written by my colleagues at MRCagney. While somewhat technical, the report does make for interesting reading, as it provides an indication of the sorts of volumes we might expect and sketches out some possible responses. And when I say response, I am talking about one that considers not just infrastructure, but also other related aspects, such as services, vehicles, and ticketing.

The report notes, for example, that after the CRL the following actions could be taken to reduce bus volumes in the city centre:

  • Re-direct the New North Road (Route 22) service to Newmarket. This would possibly allow AT to drop the infrequent but direct rail service operating between the west and Newmarket, and increase rail services on the main Western line.
  • Eliminate expresses from the West, including Blockhouse Bay to City (Route 195), Green Bay to City (Route 209), Glen Eden Express (Route 151x), and Titirangi Expresses (Routes 171x and 172x). Instead, these routes would terminate at the Avondale, New Lynn, and Glen Eden rail stations.
  • Expand service from the Northwest, specifically Routes 110 and 125x (WEX upon completion of the North western busway); and
  • Eliminate expresses from the Southeast, including Mangere to City (Route 309x) and Papakura to City (Route 360x).

As well as changes to the network itself, the report investigates the potential demand for bus infrastructure in the city centre, especially with regards to bus termini and stop infrastructure around Wynyard, Wellesely, the Universities and Britomart. It’ll be interesting to see what the detailed designs for these areas look like, and whether they avoid off-street interchanges and termini. Naturally on-street would be more cost-efficient, but it does place increased demands placed on city centre streets. Balancing this demand with other place and movement needs will be tricky.

Either way, when we say “city centre bus infrastructure”, it’s fairly clear we are not simply talking about a lick of green paint. If we want to get buses off the streets in the city centre, while maintaining accessibility and growing patronage, then we need to think about where they go. And we may need to spend some money along the way.

In terms of the last point, it’s interesting to compare Auckland with our comrades across the ditch. Both Brisbane and Perth have some serious bus infrastructure in their central city. King George Square station, for example, opened a few years ago and is nicer than most metro stops.

Meanwhile in Perth, construction of the long-planned underground bus station (BusPort) in the city centre was completed in July 2016.

Over here in Amsterdam, they’ve been busy elevating their buses away from the street level so as to improve amenity around central station, while maintaining connections to other transport modes. Impressive stuff, and things that have long been in the works.

None of this is to say that Auckland will neessarily need bus infrastructure of the same scale as the above cities. With a more brutal network structure and more efficient operations, it’s certainly possible we could get by with less hard infrastructure than these cities have achieved. However, these cities do provide a good lesson for Auckland in terms of developing long-term plans for acommodating buses in the city centre. That is something Auckland hasn’t yet managed to achieve, even if it looks like the wheels are starting to turn.

It’s promising that Phil Goff’s election platform and subsequent noises have emphasized the important role for buses, both now and in the future. Getting Auckland’s buses working well will definitely require a level of technical and political leadership that perhaps has been lacking in the past. It may also require that we step on the toes of landowners in the city centre, who arguably have ruled Auckland’s roost for far too long.

What do you think? And if you were AT, and if there was an issue with city centre bus infrastructure capacity, then what would you do? I’d be particularly keen to hear about people’s ideas for the NN as it currently stands, and how it could be adapted so as to reduce bus volumes in the city centre. Which routes would you cut, and why?

And/or what are your ideas for how to improve bus infrastructure in the city centre? Ideas big and small are welcome. If we succeed with our plans for the city centre and public transport more generally, then it’s possible we’ll need some of these infrastructure and service initiatives sooner than we think. I think that’s a good problem to have.

P.s. Feel free to also comment on the proposal to relocate long-distance buses to Manukau and Albany. Grrr. That’s an issue I hope to cover in a future post.

2017 – The Year Ahead

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.

Mass Transit

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.

Rapid Transit

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

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.

Cycleways

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.

 

Waterview

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

East-West Link

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.

Northern Corridor

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.

Auckland Transport

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.

All up, 2017 is shaping up to be another huge year and we’re looking forward to seeing what happens. See you next year

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?

Tweet of the Day: 21st Century City

21st Century City

Not sufficient, but essential: The provision of a high quality spatially efficient Rapid Transit Network in a city may not guarantee city quality and a flourishing urban economy, but neither are likely without one. In this century.

Funding Strategic Transport

With the release of the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) it once again got me thinking about a funding anomaly in our transport system, the Rapid Transit Network (RTN), or the Proposed Future Strategic Public Transport Network as ATAP calls it.

atap-future-strategic-pt-network

The general way in which we fund transport in New Zealand hasn’t changed for decades, if not close to a century. State Highways are fully funded by central government while local roads and public transport (except rail infrastructure) are funded roughly 50% by central government with the other half coming from local governments (by way of rates) – there are a few exceptions that sit outside of this but by in large it hasn’t changed.

One of the reasons for State highways being fully funded is that they are considered a strategic network. They’re the key roads linking regions, cities and towns together throughout the country. Within cities like Auckland they, primarily in the form of the motorways, do the same thing but also link disparate parts of the city. Here’s what the NZTA say about them:

The state highway network provides a strategic roading link between districts and regions. State highways help to facilitate the safe and efficient movement of people and goods throughout the entire length and breadth of the country. They link main centres of population to industrial hubs and tourism destinations. State highways also play an important role in delivering public transport solutions. In our planning, we work to build connections with local networks and maintain the functioning of the state highway.

As mentioned above, ATAP has described future strategic PT network to go along with a strategic road network. This is important as it’s a recognition that high quality PT has a key role to play in Auckland’s future. Here’s what ATAP says about them both:

Auckland’s strategic road, rail and public transport networks are the most critical elements of the city’s transport system. It is essential to maintain and develop strong, safe and resilient strategic networks that can cope with increased demand.

Further information in ATAP describes these strategic networks as the “Backbone”, linking major locations and providing for highest volumes of movement. Here is the proposed future strategic road network. Most of the Tier 1 routes are already state highways or proposed to be them (East West Link) with the biggest exception being Te Irirangi Dr and Ti Rakau Dr.

atap-future-strategic-road-network

According to the NZTA as of 2015, across the country state highways make up just 11.5% of all roads (12.7% by the number of lane km) but in Auckland this is just 3.9% of roads (6.6% by lane km). Yet these roads are responsible for a large portion of traffic with as much as 48.5% of all vehicle km travelled estimated to be on state highways. These figures are shown below.

2014-road-lengths

Because of their strategic status, state highways also get a lot of funding. In the current 3-year National Land Transport Programme (NLTP), across New Zealand state highways are allocated $4.2 billion for improvements and another $1.7 billion for maintenance. By comparison just $465 million is allocated for improving local roads, $1.7b for maintenance of local roads while public transport gets $1 billion, mainly for services – and around half of these figures are paid for by local rates.

A big question going forward is how we’re going to pay to develop that strategic PT network. One fear I have is that the deal for City Rail Link, where the council and government share the costs 50:50, has set a precedent in how we fund the rest of the PT network. Auckland needing to fund 50% of all PT, regardless of how important or valuable it is, while even every minor state highway project gets 100% funding will continue to lead to even more perverse outcomes than we already have.

So, given both the strategic road and PT networks are serving essentially the same purpose, why shouldn’t they be funding the same? Why should it matter what mode is being built if it’s considered a strategic network?

I feel this is going to become a greater and greater issue, especially with the upcoming completion of the Western Ring Route. Once Waterview early next year is completed we will have all the key inter-regional links in place. From that point out any motorway projects within the urban area are just about increasing capacity for local movements.

Ultimately, I think a wider funding discussion is needed. ATAP doesn’t break down the costs of developing transport too much but does suggest that over all modes there is a funding gap of up to $400 million annually. There will obviously be a lot of future discussion about how to close that gap and those discussions could go on for many, many years. In the interim perhaps it’s time for the government and council to rethink how funding is structured. Here are a couple of ideas:

  • The strategic PT network is treated the same as the strategic road network and funded 100% from the NZTA out of the NLTP, this includes rail infrastructure which is funded directly by the government.
  • Perhaps combined with 100% funding, the development of the strategic PT network is handed over to the NZTA
  • Another option could be that Auckland is given bulk funding for transport and Auckland Transport’s role expanded to including the development and maintenance of the local state highway network and local rail network. This would allow all transport projects in the region to be assessed, prioritised and funded under the same conditions.

What do you think, should strategic PT corridors be funded the same as their corresponding road networks and how would you do it?

October-2016 Patronage

Ridership figures for public transport in Auckland during October are now available and they continue to grow, driven almost exclusively by huge growth on the Rapid Transit Network (RTN) – the rail lines and the Northern Busway.

Compared to October-2015, total ridership this October increased by 2.7% with just under 7.3 million trips taken, but within that figure the use of the RTN has continued its double-digit growth and is up 16.3% (rail up 16.4% and busway up 16.2%). This kind of great growth is to be expected as it reflects the RTN continuing to establish itself as the core of the PT network. Now over 26% of all PT trips in the region happen on the RTN and the RTN will continue to grow in the future as it usage tends to follow a fairly simple and proven formula; high frequency services + high capacity vehicles + dedicated infrastructure = great PT use. The graph below shows the growth in the RTN and the overall PT growth over the last decade or so – at the start of the graph, the RTN accounts for just 10.5% of all trips vs 26.3% now.

2016-10-total-patronage-by-type

But the RTN isn’t the only PT that’s been growing though, ferry use has continued some steady growth, inching ever closer to 6 million annual trips and a milestone that’s likely to be achieved any day now. AT also say the Mt Eden Rd and Onewa Rd bus services continue to see good growth which is positive. The former has seen the introduction of double deckers relieving some of the overcrowding issues that were seen earlier this year while the latter has also seen some improvement, Onewa Rd services are also due for more capacity early next year with AT saying double deckers are due to be introduced on some Birkenhead Bus services in February.

But the good news stories are partially balanced by other parts of the bus network which continue to see declining use. AT say the buses in the southern area continue to perform poorly and with bus services from the west which were heavily impacted about a year ago by the bus stop changes related to the City Rail Link works. It’s possible some of the changes from both the south and the west are a result of people migrating to the rail network.

For the south at least, it will be interesting to see how the numbers change over the coming months in response to the introduction of the new bus network that went live at the end of October. These kinds of changes can often take at least a few months to bed in before ultimately bearing fruit. Even if growth happened immediately we also may not see it unless AT split their patronage reporting out (which I hope they do).

Here is the detailed table they publish with the results.

2016-10-patronage-table

It should be clear by now that growing the RTN is essential to the future growth of PT in Auckland. As such, AT really needs to put pressure on themselves to deliver on RTN expansion because at the moment it all seems to be moving at a glacial pace and the AMETI busway is a prime example of the heel dragging that has plagued the organisation. AT are only just now going for consent on the Panmure to Pakuranga section. The recent ATAP reports calls for that busway to be built as far as Botany within the next decade as well as the first parts of the North-western Busway, but both projects only seem to be in very early stages.

Here are a few other graphs from the stats report that we like to keep an eye on.

Farebox recovery has slipped again but is still well within the target range for the year and we expect to see some improvement from the implementation from the new network.

2016-10-farebox

HOP use is down a little on recent months but it’s positive to see it’s use on buses continue to grow.

2016-10-hop-use

 

Parking occupancy continues to remain high. This is interesting because as you can see both on-street and off-street usage is near the top of their respective target ranges and so based on AT’s policy, suggests prices will need to go up in the future.

2016-10-parking-occupancy

SMART Alignments Observations

I recently read through the Jacobs prepared alignments for AT for the SMART (South-western Multi-modal Airport Rapid Transit) project. In it contains the proposed alignments for HR (Heavy Rail), BRT (Bus Rapid Transit), LRT (Light Rail Transit), as well as a Hybrid option. I would recommend giving them a look but they’re big files so perhaps not on your phone.

HR alignment

The first thing I noticed was for some reason the line names are wrong, I assume this was a mistake. The other and far more serious observation is the lack of a flying junction at Penrose, anybody who passed through here knows that trains can sometimes be sitting for minutes waiting for a free path. And this is with just 8 trains per hour (TPH) each way. I wouldn’t want to imagine the issues at the Penrose junction if trains are running 12-18tph each way. I assume a flying junction would theoretically be possible, though the Great South Road flyover would mean some serious thought would have to go into it, as well as money.

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SMART HR Penrose

The route from there is basically what you expect, some level crossings are trenched, while others just closed. In a separate, low cost option some level crossings are simply upgraded to be safer rather than removed.

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SMART HR Te Papapa

One important change is the Onehunga Station would be moved between Galway St and Victoria St. After passing through the current station site, the line continues over the overbridge currently being removed, and then under the SH20 Bridge to the western side of SH20.

hr-alignment-onehunga-station

As we’ve discussed in other posts, the trench at Kirkbride is not designed to allow HR at road level due to the grades involved, therefore it must go over the top.

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Kirkbride Grade

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Kirkbride Trench

Towards the end is where the real issue arises however, it requires a long tunnel, under the new proposed runway all the way to an underground station by the terminal. The Airport want to lock their plans in now and would be unlikely to allow the line’s construction after the new runway is built. As such this section would likely need to be built before the actual line was funded, this would create a need to accelerate funding either in part or full, not that building it sooner would be a bad thing.

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SMART HR Tunnel Part 1

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SMART HR Tunnel Part 2 (Potential Business Area Station)

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SMART HR Tunnel Part 3

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SMART HR Airport Station

Compare this to the length of Light Rail tunnel needed

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SMART LRT Tunnel Part 1

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SMART LRT Tunnel Part 2

LRT Route Alignment

Light Rail (LRT) is now AT’s preferred mode, so what does the alignment look like. The first worrying thing about the route is the large park & rides, right next to a rapid transit route on land that could easily handle transit orientated development. The very concerning part is at Denbigh where houses would need to be demolished to build the Park & Ride. Surely stations in areas such as this should be more focused on bus feeder services & active mode improvements to improve catchment rather than Park & Rides. At Mangere surely a more mixed use development could occur by the station.

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Denbigh PnR

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Three Kings PnR

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Mangere PnR

The second worrying part is getting onto SH20, where additional homes would need to be purchased & demolished. There are surely many other ways that we could achieve access to SH20 without requiring the demolishing homes, I am sure a transit engineer among us would be able to draw them.

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SMART LRT Access to SH20

Looking at the alignment down SH20, it looks unlikely that both LRT and the proposed Avondale-Southdown line – which the designation is for – could both fit in. Kiwirail allowing AT to use the designation could be a big sticking point for LRT line. However, this route would not preclude an Mt Roskill spur from being built as LRT is only east of the Dominion Rd flyover.

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SMART LRT SH20 Part 1

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Mt Roskill Spur

The LRT route continues down SH20 onto Princes Street with two potential alignments around the Lagoon.

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From there it elevates over the top of the existing station at Onehunga, possibly joining with a future line from Manukau Rd.

lrt-alignment-above-rail-station

The LRT route then travels down the old rail corridor towards the port and above the NZTA’s planned roadsfest. Like at Onehunga Lagoon there are two options, one is next to the motorway bridge and it crosses onto the western Side of the Motorway south of the harbour. The second option swoops under the bridge like the Heavy Rail option.

lrt-alignment-manukau-harbour

Apart from that the route is similar to the video posted by Auckland Transport recently on LRT for SMART.

BRT route alignment

Now I give fair warning, the following images may cause distress, face palming & nightmares. The route starts with an underground bus station at Wellesley Street, it then continues to an at grade Symonds Street station. It’s not clear where the portal is but it’s unlikely to be pretty.

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SMART BRT Wellesley Street Station

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SMART BRT Symonds Street Station

From Symonds Street it continues to an at grade Khyber Pass station before an underground bus station on Broadway. Not sure how I feel about an underground bus station at Wellesley & Newmarket to be honest :/ maybe we can rename it from Broadway to Busway 😀

brt-alignment-newmarket

Next down Manukau Rd, Pah Rd, and Queenstown Rd with well-spaced stations at Clovernook, Bracken Rd, Inverary Ave, Greenlane West, Pah Rd & Mt A Rd where it joins parallel SH20 Southbound in a new Busway where in parts it becomes a literal Sky Bus.

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SMART BRT Connection to SH20

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LITERAL SKYBUS

Similar to the LRT route, it continues down Princes Street into an Elevated Bus Station above Onehunga Station. Then onto SH20 where it has shoulder bus lanes over the bridge and connects to an elevated Mangere Bridge Bus Station, which if you can look closely doesn’t have any Park & Rides which the LRT had?

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SMART BRT Onehunga

Lastly it follows the LRT route until Kirkbride where it transitions a BRT median down SH20A, which is rerouted around the end of the runway, until it gets to Tom Pearce Drive

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SMART BRT Airport Station

Hybrid Option

The last option which is the Hybrid option, it simply combines the BRT from Onehunga, to an upgraded Onehunga Line, this would thus require transferring to/from HR.

 

And finally, here are finally “controversial” benefit cost ratio tables from the report, first the main one with Costs & Benefits assuming a 6% discount rate, and the second testing against 4% & 8%

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SMART BCR’S

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SMART BCR’S with Discounts

Light Rail by-election stoush

On the weekend, the Labour Party, as part of the Mt Roskill by-election campaign, announced their intention to fund 50% of the cost of the proposed light rail line from Wynyard to Mt Roskill via Dominion Rd, one of the routes Auckland Transport first suggested in January last year.

The government have responded with both barrels, accusing Labour of pork-barrel politics but also quite worryingly, reverting to with many of the same arguments and contempt they showed for the City Rail Link – and we know how that worked out.

The Spinoff were clearly thinking of many of the same things I was on the issue yesterday but here are a few others in no particular order.

Government already agreed improvements were needed

One of the oddest aspects of this whole debate is that the government, through the recent Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP), have already agreed an upgrade of the road is needed. The main report says this about central access:

Access to this area is physically constrained, and there is competition for limited street-space between vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and public amenity. This means it is imperative over time to move more people in fewer vehicles. This requires a continued modal shift towards public transport, walking and cycling.

Although bus efficiency improvements can help cope with increased demand in the short term, there are limits to the extent to which such improvements can continue to provide sufficient capacity. A mass transit solution will be required in the medium term. Key criteria for determining the best long-term solution should be the ability to meet projected demand in a way that integrates with the broader strategic network, provides for and stimulates ongoing growth along these corridors and in the city centre, and delivers value for money.

In the supporting information they also say:

Based on current forecasts, we concluded that the constraints in central Auckland can be managed through bus efficiency improvements for the next 10 years. Efficiency improvements over the next decade include continuing the roll out of double decker buses, changes to bus stops, and improving the routes taken into the central city.

On that basis, we concluded that a higher capacity mode, possibly light rail, is likely to be required on the central isthmus in the medium-term (2028-2038), and subsequently extended to Auckland Airport.

So the report talks about the need to move more people to catching PT and that more buses are only short term solutions.

Perhaps the biggest problem with ATAP, and what is reflected highly in this situation is the timing. As we’ve discussed before, ATAP relies heavily on old school transport modelling, the same stuff that has regularly over estimated driving demand and well underestimated the growth in PT use. That means many of the PT projects are likely to be needed sooner than ATAP suggests and light rail down Dominion Rd is probably the most likely of the proposals to be pulled forward. This is also partially confirmed by the table below showing the two main packages assessed as part of ATAP. Light Rail is teetering between decade 1 and 2 depending on the package suggesting at the very least it will need to be near the start of decade two.

atap-major-package-differences

Rapid Buses

In his interview with Radio New Zealand yesterday morning Prime Minister John Key was trying to pour as much cold water on the project as possible. He did highlight that Mass Transit was listed in ATAP as a second decade project that could mean light rail but that the Transport Agency are also looking at bus options. The term Mass Transit as used in ATAP is deliberately ambiguous as the reality is, some members of the government and their various agencies have an almost allergic reaction to the term rail. Some believe that whatever a train can do, a bus can do too, and do it cheaper.

The reality as it’s always been. is that we’ll need a mix of modes and it depends a lot on the route. In some. cases heavy rail is needed, in others light rail will be fine but in most cases buses will do the job well.

Dominion Rd is already the busiest bus corridor outside of the Northern Busway. The issue is that just chucking more and bigger buses on Dominion Rd – and other roads on the isthmus – isn’t a long term strategy for the simple fact is that there’s only a limited capacity on city streets to be able to handle those buses plus all the rest from other parts of Auckland. According to the Central Access Plan, the business case for Light Rail, Symonds St is already over capacity and that only gets worse as more buses and demand get added over time.

Symonds St Bus Numbers

Symonds St Bus Numbers

Unless the government and their agencies address how putting more buses on an already over capacity routes, they’re just wasting everyone’s time.

“Buses use roads”

John Key also reverted to this old chestnut during his talk on Radio NZ to defend his government’s investment in so many roads. It’s a line they’ve used many times before but as with previous times it is fundamentally flawed. The issue is that buses need to be able to pick up and drop off passengers and that happens on local roads, not motorways like the government have focused on. As such you’re not going to see any AT services running through the Waterview tunnels, or on any of the widened motorways. The big exception to this is along State Highway 16 west of Pt Chev however there, the government and their agencies refused to build a busway to enable buses to work properly. The upgrades aren’t even finished and not building the busway at the same time is already looking to be a massive and costly blunder.

The real reason for the government opposition?

I’ve long wondered if the real reason the government have often been so reluctant to support rail projects is they know they’ll actually be too popular and everywhere will want one. This is a point Stephen Joyce himself raised in his opposition to the plan – which has also served to see it discussed much more than it probably would have otherwise.

To say nothing of every other electorate in Auckland looking for multi-billions in new railway lines.

It’s not just Auckland that will want them either, I can imagine Wellington, Christchurch and maybe a few other cities wanting rail investment.

Why only half Labour?

A key part of Labours policy of supporting Light Rail is that they’ll pay for half of the costs with Auckland paying the rest. This is the same as what’s now happening with the City Rail Link. Yesterday Mayor Phil Goff raises a point I’ve been meaning to write about since ATAP, why should Auckland pay half. I’ll discuss this issue in greater detail in a separate post but there are a couple of key issues I have.

First, the government’s contribution would come from either general taxes or from a reformed National Land Transport Fund. Even based on that 50:50 arrangement Auckland actually contributes about 68% of the costs because an approximately 36% of the governments contribution would also come from Auckland, as that is Auckland’s proportion of the national economy  economy. So while paying for 68% of these urban Transit project Auckland will still be contributing 36% of the cost of every State Highway everywhere else in the nation. In effect this is using transport capex funding as a kind of city penalty; a way of redistributing from Auckland rate payers to the rest of the nation.

Second and a point also raised by Phil Goff yesterday, why should Aucklanders be stumping up 50% for a national scale project. Auckland’s Strategic Road network (the motorways) are all paid for, 100% by the government. ATAP also agreed on a Strategic PT network as shown below with the Dominion Rd route clearly visible. I’d argue that the strategic PT network should for the most part be funded the same way as the strategic road network.

atap-future-strategic-pt-network

 

The project is a PPP

One aspect missing from the current conversation is that the project isn’t expected to be funded like most transport projects. It has been previously discussed that this would be built and operated as a PPP, something the government have said they want more of. While in most cases PPPs are just another name for debt, with transit systems and the right incentives it might help encourage the private operator to also boost development along the route to make the project even more successful.

Some certainty is needed

Upgrading Dominion Rd has been an on again, off again discussion for the last 20 years and upgrading it is way overdue. As the local business association pointed out yesterday, they need some certainty as to what’s happening

The Dominion Rd Business Association has today called on both the National and Labour parties to stop playing politics over the future form of mass transit along Dominion Rd, saying that businesses along the 7km iconic strip want certainty over what transport will look like over the coming years, not political posturing.

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Mr Holmes says the uncertain future for Dominion Rd has been a constant source of worry and confusion for businesses and landlords alike, holding back any significant investment in the area.

It’s time that Mayor-elect Phil Goff, Auckland Council and Auckland Transport work constructively with political parties across the political divide to come up with a definitive answer for mass transit in Auckland.

Given the history I don’t think that’s too much to ask

 

 

Regardless of whether light rail or some other form of better buses happen on Dominion Rd in the future, as ATAP points out, some improvements are needed to happen now. The bus lanes have too many gaps, especially through the town centres, they don’t run for long enough each day and double deckers are needed.

Rethinking Airport Rail

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.

rail-catchment

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.

AIRPORT Commuter movements

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.

380bus

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.

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Desired outcomes:

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.

A Quay Park stadium?

The concept of a downtown stadium is back in the news again, with new mayor Phil Goff proposing a site on the rail yards next to Vector Arena. It’s interesting that this keeps coming up, my theory is that the public are beginning to recognise the importance of well-located infrastructure and the value of centrality and good transport links. Perhaps a stadium is an easy focus for people to think about issues of location and accessibility?

In this post I wanted to explore a concept for how a stadium here might work, particularly from a transport and urban form perspective. Naturally this is a controversial topic so please bear with me and put issues like funding and whether we actually need a new stadium or not to one side. I’ll go on the record saying it’s unlikely to be an economically sound prospect, but let’s indulge ourselves a little and think what it could be like if it were.

So the Quay Park location. I think this site has three main things going for it for a stadium;

  • Location: It is located downtown, well just on the edge of downtown and walking distance from more or less everything the city has to offer. This includes a lot of hotel rooms, a lot of restaurants and bars, and indeed a hell of a lot of parking, most of which is highly underutilised outside of nine to five weekday times.
  • Acessibility: It is centrally located within the Auckland region, giving the best access from all over. In particular downtown is the centre of the regional transport system. All the motorways, the rail lines, the bus routes and ferries converge on downtown Auckland. Our transport system delivers about 100,000 people to central Auckland every morning, so the same system can easy handle 40,000 stadium patrons.
  • Existing land uses: Currently the old rail yards are underutilised land with the ability to actually construct a stadium there. There are few other pieces of land big enough anywhere in Auckland, let alone downtown where you can do all manner of sports games, events and concerts at any time. However right next door is the Vector Arena which has already set a precedent for what the Quay Park precinct might be all about.

A good site then, so on to the concept. What I’m proposing is a stadium sat just east of the Vector Arena and the old railway building. It would be a tight fit, requiring a rectangular field for football codes only (sorry cricket, but Western Springs looks great anyway) and a relatively compact full bowl to get in seating for 40,000+ people at maximum capacity. I like the concept of having two tiers of seating, with the lower level being used for smaller games and events and the upper only opened for blockbuster test matches. That way the place feels full and lively no matter the draw. The model shown in the photos is San Marmes Stadium in Bilbao, although I did shrink it slightly as San Marmes can support over 50,000 seated spectators.

stadium-test6

In addition to the new stadium I’d propose that the grand old railway building next door be re-purposed at the same time. Instead of student accommodation that wonderful building could be reconfigured into a small to medium size event space and function rooms. This would result in a sports and events precinct with three key facilities, the large open stadium, the medium size enclosed Vector Arena, and the smaller Old Railway event space.

Now there is of course the existing Quay Park rail junction, The Strand station and a stabling facility to deal with. My plan is to build the stadium over the junction triangle, with a large pedestrian concourse level around the three facilities on a deck over the rail lines. I suppose this would be the time to grade separate the junction too, presumably by keeping the eastern line at a lower level longer while the Parnell branch runs over the top as it does today. This way all the rail movements, together with servicing and truck access to the three buildings, would be tucked away underneath a broad pedestrian plaza stretching around the stadia and linking it to the surrounding streets.

One could walk to the stadium from Quay St or The Strand, but also on new lanes alongside Vector or the Railway Building, or down a new lane in between. These lanes could be filled with bars and eateries to serve the three event facilities and the general public. Working in some offices and even apartments in and around the precinct could be a good idea too, to get extra value out of the development even when there isn’t a game on. You could even consider having the outward facing sides of the stadium full of commercial space, with several floors of offices taking advantage of the north facing harbour views.

So on to the transport. Number one is the excellent walking connectivity the stadium precinct would have to downtown and the surrounding neighbourhoods, by virtue of the elevated concourse wrapping around the three buildings.

stadium-test-10-max

The second part of the transport concept would be the double road frontages, one on the north side to Quay St, and the other on the south side to The Strand. These two roads could be enhanced as boulevards to separate through traffic and local movements, potentially even separating a SH16 extension alongside the stadium. In any case, both of these road frontages could be staging areas for buses and coaches, taxis and VIP parking, as well as access to the undercroft loading docks and service areas. I don’t propose any general parking on site, for a start people can use any of the multitude of parking buildings in town no more than ten minutes away, and secondly spreading this traffic demand across the city is far better than concentrating it all in one peak.

Thirdly, the rail. I’m suggesting a new Quay Park railway station immediately east of the stadium, and directly linked to the pedestrian concourse at one end, and The Strand overbridge at the other. I think this could do with three broad island platforms with six tracks and there is room for something this size. Two of these tracks would be used as a regular stop on the Eastern Line to and from the city (which once the CRL is built, also runs through to the Southern Line). This gives regular access to nearby offices and apartments, and during an event at the stadium or Vector you can simply increase the Southern-Eastern line to peak frequency to move a lot of people to the site.

The next two tracks would be used for intercity services and regional express trains. With the main CRL line on the next platform over this would allow Quay Park to be the main rail terminal for trains from the Waikato and the Bay of Plenty, without clogging up Britomart or the CRL. Naturally during big Rugby games these intercity platforms would be very busy also.

The final two tracks wouldn’t be used for regular trains, but they would be used during events to bring the Western and Onehunga lines in to Quay Park. I don’t propose diverting these lines via Quay Park routinely as that would add far too much time over them continuing to use the curve between Parnell and Britomart, but during events the extra access and capacity would be useful. These could be event only special trains from the West, or during events you could simply bounce the whole main line in and out like we do at Newmarket today.

stadium-test7

In summary, Quay Park station would be a new ‘metro’ stop on the main line between the east and the city/south all day, every day, while during events up to six platforms worth of trains could serve a huge amount of customers. According to a quick calculation such a station could accommodate sixty or seventy trains an hour in total, potentially enough to singlehandedly deliver a capacity crowd to the stadium in under an hour. There would also be a big benefit for operations on the CRL. Extra peak frequency could be staged from the station to pick up commuter crowds at Britomart, while the extra platforms could be used for interpeak stabling during the day on weekdays (assuming no blockbuster events happen 9-5 on work days).

All of this would be very expensive of course, with a lot of local opposition and competing schemes… and one must consider the value of this over simply working with the existing stadiums we have. However, it looks like the location would work well and the outcome would be great on several levels: a new premier stadium anchoring a combined sports and events precinct, a new rail station and terminal for local and intercity trains that also improves CRL operations, and fixed up local roads and streets to greatly enhances the Quay Park area and stitch it in between downtown and Parnell.

As always, let us know what you think in the comments section below.