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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.

September-16 Patronage

Auckland public transport patronage for September is now available and sitting on a Shinkansen racing across Japan seems like the perfect time to write about it.

Compared to September 2015 there is once again a marked difference between the modes with AT reporting the following high level results for the month:

  • Total – up 3.4%
  • Bus – up 0.4%
  • Train – up 13.8%
  • Ferry – up 6.7%


The more detailed breakdown is shown below


Once again you can see that with bus, it’s the busway that continues to be pull up the numbers up with stellar growth. With Ritchies now running all but two buses in the peak as double deckers, hopefully we’ll see this fantastic growth continue. AT also report that they’ll be adding more NEX services to the peak in January and February head of March Madness to help cope with expected demand and ongoing growth.

But the growth on then NEX also means that the results on other bus services remains poor. AT have said in the past this is partially due to a range of issues such the CityLink buses no longer being free, buses from the west not being as attractive due to the changes with the CRL works and poor overall performance on buses in the south, something we should hopefully see some improvement on as a result of the new network.

On trains there are continues to be strong growth but the percentages in recent months do appear to be starting to reduce from the regular 20%+ we were seeing for a couple of years. But we did expect this to happen eventually and in reality it’s odd to be seeing 20% growth as a normal thing. What’s worth pointing out though is that even though growth as a percentage is slowing down a bit, it’s primarily due to being compared against a higher base. In total numbers it remains high and on an annualised basis we’re continuing to add over 2.7 million trips a year as you can see in the graph below.


What’s also worth noting is the results for the different lines. Following the long awaited increase in frequency on the Western Line it continues to grow well and on an annualised basis has now passed 6 million trips. It’s worth noting that just 9 years ago the entire rail network had fewer trips on it that.

At the same time the Southern Line only had 4% more trips than September 2015. I wonder if what’s driving this is the same as affecting buses or if there are other issues such as capacity constraints. AT do say they’ll me making some slight changes to how they run trains from this month which will see another 3-car set freed up which can be used to help increase capacity.

There is planned to be a new timetable in March which will see services sped up and which will free up two more 3-car sets to increase capacity. AT say the March timetable will finally see the electric trains on the Southern and Eastern line running faster than the diesels that they replaced. On the Western Line speeds will be about the same as they were and can’t be faster due to the safety measures needed around the way too numerous level crossings.

For rail, on an 12m rolling basis there are now over 60,000 trips being taken on weekdays.

Ferries continue what has been some solid growth and while most of it is on the except services (Devonport, Waiheke and to be soon to be formerly Stanley Bay), as a percentage growth is strongest on the contracted services which is an area AT have been improving services. With some recent improvements to Half Moon Bay and Pine Harbour, and the new Half Moon Bay ferry terminal under construction, we’ll hopefully see these results continue to improve.

On to some of the other PT metrics, punctuality seems to be a mixed bag. Overall it is improving but has been declining on ferries. Over the last year or so, AT have standardised all of their punctuality metrics to focus on the time the service departed its origin destination. I don’t agree with this way of recording results as it feels like a convenient way to make the results look better than what most people experience, especially for buses which often get caught in congestion. As a comparison, for rail AT still show the percentage of trains that arrive at their final destination within 5 minutes and that shows 96.3% of trains on time vs the 98.6% based on departure time.


Since the introduction of integrated fares, farebox recovery has fallen a bit. This was to be expected but is still will within AT’s target range for this financial year. NZTA’s farebox recovery policy means it needs to reach 50% by June 2018 so at 49% it’s still looking pretty good. One positive thanks to the increasing patronage is that the subsidy per passenger km for rail continues to improve. We should also start to see it improve for buses from November with the New Network in South Auckland saving AT around $3 million annually.


HOP usage continues to improve, with 84.5% of all trips in September being via HOP. What is interesting is the steady increase in HOP use on ferries. I wonder if this is mainly due to the increase in contracted services.


Overall we’re continuing to see some positive results. Now back to the rest of my Shinkansen trip.

Postcard from Japan: Hakone Day Trip

My wife and I are currently taking a couple of weeks holiday in Japan. I’ll post more about some of the urban aspects later but I thought I’d start with a day trip we took to Hakone that ended up in us using eight different forms of transport.

We were staying in Tokyo in Harajuku so the first step was to get to Shinagawa. Staying only a couple of minutes walk from the local station and then super frequent services every couple of minutes on the busy Yamanote Line – which stops at Shinagawa – this step was easy.

According to the fountain of knowledge that is Wikipedia:

  • The Yamanote Line is a circle line around central Tokyo linking many of key destinations, playing a similar role to the Inner Link in Auckland but on a much larger and busier scale. According to that fount of knowledge that is Wikipedia, it is one of the busiest lines in the world with an estimated 3.6 million trips every day. That’s more people than the entire London Underground carries (3.4 million a day). Tokyo’s fairly extensive subway network is mostly located within the ring of the Yamanote Line
  • Harajuku station is a fairly simple affair with just a fairly narrow island platform. Even so it is estimated that over 70,000 people use it daily, that’s more than our entire rail network on a busy weekday.

After a brief 16 minute journey, we were at Shinagawa and from here we could transfer to a high speed Shinkansen to allow us to cover the 70km distance to Odawara in just 27 minutes, reaching top speeds in places of around 270km/h.

  • The Tokaido Shinkansen line – between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka – is the busiest (and most profitable) high-speed line in the world. Every day more than 430,000 trips are taken on it. There are multiple service patterns that run and has have trains in each direction every few minutes
  • Shinkansen on some lines can reach over 300km/h and the Chuo Skinkansen (maglev) under construction is expected to run at over 500km/h



At Odawara we purchased a pass allowing us to use all other different transport modes listed below. We transferred to small local railway to start our journey up into the hills to the town of Hakone-Yumoto. This train is effectively run as a shuttle service following a river valley up to the hills and taking only 15 minutes with a couple of stops along the way. From about 26m above sea level at Odwara, Hakone-Yumoto sits at 108m. It was a midday on a Saturday and the service was fairly busy, like a morning peak in Auckland.


Upon reaching Hakone-Yumoto it was a short hop along the platform to change to the Hokone-Tozan Mountain Railway. The three car trains that are used are able to climb up the steep sides of the mountains at grades of up to 8% (rising 1m for every 12m travelled) but it definitely doesn’t do so very fast with speeds of only around 15km/h. It takes about 40 minutes to cover 8.9km and along the way there are a handful of stops at mountain villages. There were a couple of switchbacks along the way to help it get up the mountain and which also served to allow trains to pass trains heading in the opposite direction. Winding through the steep bush clad hills the railway was apparently designed to be as hidden as possible.


The train was full of passengers for the ride up to 553m above sea level at the town of Gora.


At Gora it was a transfer to a furnicular for a trip up the side of the steep mountain. This is about 1.2km over which it rises 214m to Sōunzan. The transfer from the mountain train to the furnicular is easy and part of the same building.


At the top of the furnicular it was then a transfer to a gondola to reach even higher up the mountain to the tourist area of Ōwakudani.


Ōwakudani is a geothermal hotspot and is famous for the cooking eggs in the sulphuric hot springs which turns the shells black.


Not a scene from Lord of the Rings but works to stabilise the side of the mountain


The shell might be black but they still taste like normal eggs

From the side of the mountain it is also a great spot on a good day to get views of Mt Fuji. It just so happened we had a great day for it.


After bite to eat it was time to continue and a second gondola takes riders down to Tōgendai on the edge of Lake Ashi. From there we transferred to one of three pirate ship themed ferries that run along the lake. I have no idea why they are themed as pirate ships but they are. We also had some fortuitous timing, the ferries only run every 40 minutes and we arrived with about a minute to spare, a perfect un-timed transfer.


At the other end of the lake was Moto-Hakone where we took a quick break before boarding the last new mode of the day, a bus. It also happened to be the least enjoyable because it was a small bus, smaller than the stupid small ADL buses NZ Bus use, and was also completely packed with people. They seemed to have a moto that you can always fit one more person on – although even that had its limits. This wasn’t helped by the buses only running ever half an hour and meant that some people got left behind. To go with the cramped conditions, the route was through some mountainous terrain with steep hills and frequent sharp bends.

After getting very personable with others on the bus for about 45 minutes – especially when someone sitting at the back wanted to get off – we arrived back in Hakone Yumoto. From there it was simply a reverse of the first three legs to get back home.

Here is a quick map of the journey


Back at Odawara we had a little wait for our Shinkansen back to Tokyo. The stations are each designed with at least four tracks so that stopping services don’t hold up ones that aren’t stopping. While waiting a number of services in each direction flew past at speed

Scenery wise, it is very reminiscent of various places around the centre of the North Island, which is why I guess Hakone has a sister city relationship with Taupo.

It was mostly just a day of travelling but it was enjoyable and despite not really being planned and using lots of different services, the transfers seemed to work fairly well. I know a few readers have done this trip too, if you have, what did you think of it.

Small Steps Giant Leaps Campaign – Better Timed Transfers


Panmure Interchange

We often talk about the big projects, networks, as well as game changing best practice regulations. However what about the small things, low hanging fruit where for cheaply i.e. not for 100s of millions of dollars we can achieve with a “Small Step” a “Great Leap” for the people the project & area it effects, part 3 is about the difficultly of transfers in the off peak.

During the peak, transfers are not to bad, lots of bus routes have 10-15 frequencies, as well as the trains. However during the offpeak transfers become difficult, because of timings. Here are 3 examples

  1. The Southbound Southern Line service on the Weekend departs Newmarket the same time the Westbound Western Line is scheduled to come into Newmarket, meaning a 30 min transfer wait is required as you always miss the transfer.
  2. The Eastbound service from Britomart leaves 1 min after the Western Line arrives on the Weekend, if you know this, putting yourself strategically in right carriage, and know to run, you can just make it if Eastern TM is onto it, however if not you will usually miss the service which means 30min transfer wait.
  3. A person I knew wanted to head to the Airport from Avondale, the original plan was they would catch 008 to Onehunga & then 380 to Airport, however the 380 left one min they said before 008 was timetabled to arrive. Again 30min transfer wait.

These types of events really put people off, and make people not want to use PT on off peak except for direct to destination services. While in the long run Auckland Transport should fix these issues through the introduction of the New Network with many routes including the trains having a service every 15mins 7-7, Monday to Sunday. However the New Network won’t go live until later next year for Central, East & the North Shore, the 380 also is still only has a 30 min frequency service in the New Network. I also can’t see how they can run a train every 15 mins Monday-Sunday 7-7 due to the Eastern & Southern Lines sharing the tracks between Westfield to Wiri, this would mean in this section 8TPH would be running each way, now this is fine for passenger services we run 12TPH each way during weekday peaks on that section, but the question would be when &  how easily would KiwiRail fit in it’s freight services without a third main in that section?

While it was good to see the Westfield-Wiri third main in the indicative projects lists in the first decade, we still have no idea if this means it will funded tomorrow, 2018, or even 2028, it is an ATAP ASAP for me, but whether it is for AT & Government I am not sure.

In the meantime, we could make peoples lives easier if in the next timetable adjustments, we tweaked a few off peak services to better connect to each other like the examples above.

So what do you think?

Does CRL “complete” Auckland’s heavy rail network?

The ATAP final report includes a 30 year vision for Auckland’s strategic public transport network. It is a substantial expansion of what we have today and quite closely resembles our “Congestion Free Network” developed in 2013:


ATAP generally goes out of its way to avoid making a call on the specific mode of new strategic public transport projects, instead using the phrase “mass transit”. However, it does show CRL as the only expansion of the heavy rail network (in red) with all other new strategic PT routes presumably being something other than heavy rail. Elsewhere, ATAP notes the need for ongoing investment in upgrading the existing heavy rail network over time to provide for growth in passenger and freight services – but not an “expansion” of that network.

This is quite a change from the 2012 Auckland Plan, which envisaged heavy rail to the Airport, the Avondale-Southdown Line and, in the longer term, rail to the North Shore. At times we have also seen the Mt Roskill rail spur being considered as another useful (if relatively small) expansion of the heavy rail network.

This change appears to have occurred on a relatively ad hoc project by project basis, rather than as part of an overall strategic plan, which I think sits behind much of the discomfort that people have felt about Auckland Transport decision to progress light-rail, rather than heavy rail, as their preferred strategic public transport mode to the Airport. It is worth thinking about this shift at a network level, in particular at the question of whether further expansion of the heavy rail network is likely. If not, it seems that CRL may actually be the end of the heavy rail network – rather than a key catalyst for its expansion.

Compared to other PT modes, heavy rail has some advantages and disadvantages:


  • Very high capacity
  • High speed
  • Can leverage off existing network


  • Very demanding geometry leading to high construction costs
  • Creates severance when at surface level

For Airport rail, the capacity requirement of heavy rail wasn’t really a factor, due to relatively low projected passenger volumes – around 2,000 southbound trips in the morning peak in 2046 (compared to around 10,000 peak trips coming over the Harbour Bridge today in the morning peak):


While I think actual use will be much higher than this (models tend to substantially under-estimate future public transport use) it will still be well within the capacity capabilities of other modes like light rail. Therefore, the comparison really came down to a speed vs cost trade-off, with the high cost of serving heavy rail’s much more demanding geometry making this trade-off clearly fall in favour of light-rail.


The high costs of serving heavy rail’s demanding geometry means that heavy rail is most likely to “stack up” as the best option when we’re looking at a corridor with extremely high demand (i.e. beyond what might be able to be catered for through other modes) or where we can utilise the existing network.

North Shore rapid transit is potentially an example of a corridor which is likely to have very high demand in the future – because it is the only connection between a very large part of Auckland to the north, and the rest of the region. Early work a few years back suggested heavy rail as the preferred option, but more recently this appears to have shifted – illustrated by ATAP’s strategic PT network map linking North Shore rapid transit into the proposed Dominion Road LRT line. I know Auckland Transport are currently looking at different rapid transit options to serve the North Shore once the Northern Busway hits its capacity limits. I suspect the main question will be the trade-off between the extra capacity you get from heavy rail against the much higher costs of having to regrade the busway, along with the challenge of how it would link into the rest of the public transport system.

Importantly, even if the CRL does “complete” the heavy rail network and we don’t see major new lines in the future, there’s major upgrade of the network we have that will be required over time. Most obviously this is to separate passenger and freight services, but over time I see the need to separate local and express passenger trains – especially as the southern greenfield area grows. Therefore, ATAP’s $3 billion 30 year rail programme is almost certainly on the light-side of likely future investment in the heavy rail network in Auckland.

Central Access Plan – Mass Transit for the Isthmus

In July Auckland Transport stealthily uploaded a 97 page Programme Business Case on the Light Rail page of the AT website. Due to ATAP (Auckland Transport Alignment Project), the Unitary Plan and City Rail Link (CRL) has gone a little bit under the radar.

So what is it? Technically while Light Rail is one part of the business case, the document is called the Central Access Plan (CAP) & deals issues identified in City Centre Future Access Study, which was even with the CRL CBD bus corridors would reach breaking point due to bus congestion/numbers on Wellesley & Symonds Streets.


Bus Numbers with CRL 2041

It looks to be part of a wider scope of studies/works about providing transport access to Central Auckland, they being the CRL which provides good access for the West/South/Inner East, the North Shore Rapid Transit study, which I assume is looking at a need for future rapid transit options either standalone or as part of AWHC project in the foreseeable future, and the Northwest Rapid Transit Project which one would assume is the Northwest Busway report due April 2017 prepared by Aurecon. 

Access to Central Auckland

Access to Central Auckland

The area the Central Access Plan looks as if it trying to address is Void, which has been mentioned on this blog before, the isthmus area between the Western & Southern lines. This area consists of some of Auckland’s major arterials & bus routes – Mt Eden Road, Sandringham Road, Manukau Road and Dominion Road.  

The Void

The Void


The study identified 3 major problems

  • The inability to meet current and projected transport demand on key corridors will sustain unreliable travel and poor access to productive central city jobs
  • Blockages and delays in central bus services worsen travel times and customer experience for those using public transport
  • High and increasing traffic volumes on residential and inner city streets create adverse urban amenity and environmental effects.

The study also notes that “There is already a substantial problem now with buses frequently late and full, resulting in passengers being left behind. Projects and initiatives such as the City Rail Link (CRL) and the New Network, largely with double-decker buses, will provide substantial additional capacity, but the underlying growth in projected demand is so great that most bus routes and the associated terminals and bus stops will have reached capacity by the early 2020s. The stress on the system at that time will be such that only the introduction of a mode that can move more people in fewer vehicles and that can use the sole under-used City Centre corridor – Queen Street – will provide more than very marginal relief. While measures to optimise the use of the bus services and reduce demand through promoting active travel are integral components of the proposed programme, they only ‘buy time’ before the extra corridor must be brought into use with a higher capacity mode. They will help to make conditions more tolerable as demand continues to grow and before a step-change can be introduced.”

CBD Street Capacity

CBD Street Capacity

The below graphs show the buses per hour needed on each street, the Orange shows unmet demand due to over the realistic capacity of buses on the corridor.

Wellesley St Bus Numbers

Wellesley St Bus Numbers

Symonds St Bus Numbers

Symonds St Bus Numbers

The below map shows the Business as Usual scenario, with the red areas no longer within the 45min PT Commute of the City if speeds decrease by 31% (This was a KPI in ATAP)

Areas within 45 CBD PT Commute

Areas within 45 CBD PT Commute

To try & mitigate the 3 problems above they first tested 6 options against the Do Minimum Network (The Do Minimum Network included CRL/AMETI/Busway to Albany, Puhoi-Walkworth, as well as Southern/Northern Corridor Improvements.), the options were (Please note these are the Plan’s Pros/Cons, I don’t necessary agree with all)

Option 1 – Do Regardless which includes: Auckland Cycle Network – $200m, More Double Deckers – $80m, City Centre Street Improvements – $30m, Footpath improvements – $15m, Bringing forward Te Atatu and Lincoln Rd stations – $10m, Implementing off board collections, traffic signal changes, more cycle parking and bus shelter improvements – $2m

Pro: Buys Time & minor increase of capacity.

Cost: $340m

Option 1 - Do Regardless

Option 1 – Do Regardless

Option 2 – Non-Financial Demand Management which included reducing parking supply in CBD, all lanes on Symonds (Past K’ Road) & Wellesley during peak would be bus lanes, more aggressive cycle/walking upgrades due to removal of parking.

Pros: Improves Bus Efficiency, more space for Active Modes, does not preclude further options & reduction in pollution.

Cons: Effectiveness Short Lived

Cost: $540M (Not sure if Do Regardless Cost is Part of each Options Cost or Not)

Option 2 - Demand Management

Option 2 – Demand Management

Option 3 – Extended Bus Network which turns Queen Street into a surface busway for Dominion & Sandringham Road bus services as well as changes to other routes.

Pros: Increase of Capacity & Bus Efficiency, Removal of General Traffic from Queen, Buys a number of years before further intervention.

Cons: Lots of Buses on Queen Street, effective short lived without bus terminal capacity, restricts future interventions, high cost.

Cost: $920M

Option 3 - Extended Bus Network

Option 3 – Extended Bus Network

Option 4 – A Mt Roskill Spur using the Avondale Southdown Corridor with two stations at Owairaka & Mt Roskill.

Pros: Low Impact due to using rail designation, provides extra capacity on inner west stations, buys time before further intervention, some reduction in buses, does not affect further intervention.

Cons: Short lived, low train frequencies adds to travel times, longer distance for Dominion Road.

Cost: $540M

Option 4 - Mt Roskill Spur

Option 4 – Mt Roskill Spur

Option 5 – An LRT Network which consists of 5 stages. Stage 1: Mt Roskill via Queen Street & Dominion Road, Stage 2: An extension to Wynyard Quarter, Stage 3: A Sandringham Road LRT Line via Queen Street, Stage 4 & 5: Three Kings via Symonds & Mt Eden Road LRT, Onehunga via Symonds & Manukau Road LRT.

Pros: Provides necessary capacity, travel time improvements, removes high level of buses from CBD, removes traffic from Queen Street, increase of public space.

Cons: Cost & potential impact on general traffic in isthmus.

Cost: 3,740M  

Option 5 - LRT

Option 5 – LRT

Option 6 – The introduction of a Bus Rapid Transit System with a CBD Bus Tunnel.

Pros: Provides necessary capacity, travel time improvements, removes buses from CBD surface, increase of public space, North Shore services can use tunnel.

Cons: Extremely high cost, large tunnel portals & potential impact on general traffic in isthmus.

Cost: $9,540M

Option 6 - BRT Tunnel

Option 6 – BRT Tunnel

AT then put each option against criteria with a ranking of 1-5 for each, the total was the average score with LRT coming on top as best option with a average of 4.4/5 compared to the next highest option the BRT tunnel at 3.7/5.

Cap Option Evaluation

Cap Option Evaluation

After concluding that LRT was possibly the best way forward, they looked deeper into the option, the first observation they made from the models was that “a second light rail service pattern using Symonds Street, Manukau Road and Mt Eden Road may be required towards the very end of the 30 year period. Allowance has not been made for this service pattern in the IP owing to the level of uncertainty in forecasting so far out as noted in ATAP.” So in the time frame they would only be looking at Cost/Benefits of two of the LRT Lines, Dominion Rd & Sandringham Road

Dominion Rd LRT had a Cost Benefit Ratio (CBR) of 0.7 – 1.9 if land value uplift was included, this allowed the potential of a Mt Roskill Spur to be potentially added to the package. The Cost of Dominion Rd LRT including Wynyard Quarter was $1,367m.

Dominion Rd & Sandringham Rd LRT had a CBR of 0.5 – 1.1. However they say this should improve due to it being able to be staged. The cost of Sandringham LRT they have estimated at $500m.

AT says there is issues with the modelling however for the following reasons which do not allow a proper case to be made

  • The constraint of requiring a fixed land use for the evaluation is a flawed assumption, as without additional capacity for travel to the City Centre, the ability to deliver the land use is compromised.
  • Similarly, for the people that are ‘crowded off’ the public transport services, there is likely to be a second order effect on general traffic as some of them would be forced back to car travel, making it even less efficient in the process. The performance of the road network would also be expected to degrade over time so potential benefits further in the future are likely to be under represented.
  • Large public transport projects where a step change is being made represent a significant investment up front, but offer comparatively modest benefits in the early years. However, for a number of reasons there is a need to make that investment at that point in as there are no feasible options to allow continued functionality without the investment.
  • The reliability improvements that come with almost completely segregated travel need to be explored further, particularly as the EEM currently caps them at the same value as the travel time savings.
  • The non-transport benefits, such as increased tourism activity in the City Centre would further contribute to the overall economic benefit of the IP.
  • Land use value uplift has not been estimated in detail but based on overseas examples is potentially large. Further assessment will confirm the magnitude of these benefits.

These are now the same graphs as before but with the Programme Interventions

Wellesley St Bus Numbers with Intervention

Wellesley St Bus Numbers with Intervention


Symonds St Bus Numbers with Intervention

With ATAP released the other day, it should be noted they in the Indicative Projects List have said that Bus Improvements may be able to last until the 2nd Decade 2028-38 period before a Mass Transit system may need to be introduced, I am not sure ATAP & CAP are on the same page regarding this, and this issue may potentially need more investigation.

So what do you think?

Small Steps Giant Leaps Campaign – Better Britomart Transfers



We often talk about the big projects, networks, as well as game changing best practice regulations. For a while I have wanted to create a small campaign about the small things, low hanging fruit where for cheaply i.e. not for hundred of millions of dollars, we can achieve with a “Small Step” a “Great Leap” for the people the project and area it effects. My first post was on expanding access to Sylvia Park Station, this one targets one is about transfers at Britomart.

This post will be short & simple, but it will make a huge difference to people transferring at Britomart. At current the normal platform use of Britomart is

Platform 1 – Eastern Line

Platform 2 – Onehunga Line

Platform 3 – Southern Line

Platform 4 – Spare

Platform 5 – Western Line

This layout is awkward due to the main transfers between lines being between the Eastern & Western, this means to transfer the passenger has to walk all the way to the other side to transfer, often rushing due to the timings of the trains. On the weekends for example to transfer from the Eastern Line requires you to be at the front carriage, hope the Western is on time and to run to platform 1, or be doomed to a 30m wait. The main transfer at Britomart is between the Eastern & Western Line because transfers between the other 3 lines happen at Newmarket.

So what is my proposal, my proposal is that the Platform use of Britomart be changed to

Platform 1 – Eastern Line

Platform 2 – Western Line

Platform 3 – Onehunga Line

Platform 4 – Spare

Platform 5 – Southern Line

This layout would

a) Make transfers between the Eastern & Western Line easy.

b) Make no difference to Eastern Line passengers travelling to Newmarket as the Western Line goes to Newmarket as well.

c) Transfers to the Onehunga Line from the Eastern Line would be a little more difficult, however the transfers are likely to be very low & Platform 3 is only a little further away.

Moving the platform use would be low cost, and not cause to much trouble as this has been done before. However it would make the passenger experience just a little easier & if we can do that shouldn’t we.

So what do you think?

The Victoria St Linear Park: Why it is vital, but not really a park.

This is one of a series of posts I intend to do about about the city streetscape we ought to be able to expect as a result of the CRL rebuild.

This one will describe the Council’s plans for inner western Victoria St, around the CRL portals, because it seems they are not well understood, especially by some at Auckland Transport, based on the recent release of a proposed design from the CRL team that appears to completely ignore the agreed streets level outcomes. In further posts I will:

  • Consider this problem; transport professionals dismissing place quality outcomes as frivolous or unnecessary, or as a threat to their authority, as a professional culture issue.
  • Have a close look at some of the bus routes through the City Centre, as these are often highly contested by multiple parties, and have a huge bearing on road space requirements



Last week Councillor Darby sent me a whole stack of work done by the Council on the Linear Park, I will reproduce some of this here, but I urge everyone interested to follow the links below; there’s a huge amount of multilayered work showing how the proposal was arrived at and just how important it is:

  1. The Green Link
  2. Aotea Station Public Realm

The first point I would like to make is that I am talking here about the finished outcomes not the interim ones that need to accommodate work-rounds of the street disruption caused by the construction of the CRL. This is about the early 2020s; what is best for when the CRL is open and running, when the new buildings going up, and about to go up, in the city are occupied, and the pedestrian demands are many times greater than currently. It may seem a long way off, but contracts are being agreed now, and if we aren’t careful we will find ourselves locked into poor outcomes that will prove expense to fix. And, remember, this is dividend time; when the city starts to reap the reward of all the expense and disruption of building the CRL itself. This is an important part of why we are doing it: to substantially upgrade and improve every aspect and performance of the whole city as possible, including its heart. Transport infrastructure is a means to an end; not an end in it self.

Second is to suggest that it has been perhaps a little unhelpful that Council called this reclamation of city street a ‘Park’. I can see why they have, this is a repurposing of space from vehicle use to people use, and it does offer the opportunity for new high quality design elements, which is similar to what happens in a park. But I think this undersells the full complexity of what is happening here. There is a great deal of functionality and hard rationality in this scheme, as well as the promise of beauty and the city uplifted.

The place to start is the CEWT study [City East West Transport Study]. This set a very rational and ordered taxonomy of the Centre City east west streets, concluding that Victoria St’s priority will need to shift to a strong pedestrian bias, be the only crosstown cycle route between K Rd and Quay St, and enable a reduced but still efficient general traffic load:

CEWT Preferred Option

Note that east west bus movements are kept to Wellesley and Customs Sts. This greatly helps Victoria St’s space location as shown below. It is becoming clear that AT now want to return buses here. I believe this is a very poor idea, and will unpack why in a following post. So many poor place and pedestrian outcomes follow directly from trying to get both buses and general traffic trough inner Victoria St, and it is still a very hard street to try to shove buses through in terms of their own functionality, and that of the other general traffic. As well as leading to the total deletion of the only Centre City east/west cycle route. Here is how it was shown in CEWT:

CEWT Victoria St

Now turning to the newer iteration from the docs linked to above. The key issue is that the sections of the ‘Park’ around the station entrances on Victoria are focussed on pedestrian capacity rather than place amenity:


Not a park as in a verdant garden, but largely hard paving for efficient and high capacity pedestrian movement under an elevated tree canopy. Very much an urban condition tailored to met the massively increased pedestrian numbers that we know will be here. Particularly from the CRL itself, but also from the rapid growth and intensification of the whole city centre as it builds up around them, and of course the considerable bus volumes on Albert and Bus or LRT on Queen St. At the core this is simply classical ‘predict and provide’ that surely even most unreconstructed and obdurate of engineers can understand. Meeting projected pedestrian demand; not just an aesthetic upgrade, though why we wouldn’t do that while we’re at it, I can’t imagine.


Because this station sits directly below the greatest concentration of employment in the whole country, as well the biggest educational centre, retail precinct, hotel location, and the nation’s fastest growing residential population, we can expect these entrances to immediately be very busy. The plan on opening is for there to be 18 trains an hour each way through this station all with up 750 people [or even 1000 when really packed] alighting and another load boarding, all milling a round; waiting or rushing. And mixing on the streets with all the other people not even using the system. This will make for a very busy place. Their will be thousands of people walking around here at the peaks. Many more than those  that use the entire Hobson/Nelson couplet in their cars over the same period. This will need space. Furthermore urban rail systems are very long term investments, what may be adequate for the first few years of the CRL is unlikely to sufficient for the years ahead, let alone decades. There is a clear need for the space for this human traffic to be generous to begin with, to err on the side of spare capacity. This really is no moment to design for the short term, once built that tunnel isn’t moving.





So has any work been done to picture this demand? Yes. Though to my inexpert eyes this looks a little light:



In particular the pedestrian traffic heading north, ie crossing Victoria St looks underrepresented. There will be no entrance to the station on the north side of Victoria street. Everyone heading that way has to come out of one of the east/west exists and crossover at street level. The document above does at least point out the pinch points between the exits and buildings on Victoria. And it is these that AT must be planning on squeezing further to get four traffic lanes back into Victoria St. One lane comes from deleting the cyclists, and the other must be from squeezing pedestrians passing the stations entrances. Just don’t AT; therein lies madness, very expensive to move a station entrance once built. And frankly a 5m width here between hard building edges is already tight and mean. Somewhere in AT the old habits of not really expecting people to turn up and low use of the very thing the agency is building seem to have crept back up to dominate thinking, and all for what? Vehicle traffic priority. The most spatially inefficient use of valuable street space in the very heart of our transforming city.

The extra wide pedestrian space that the Linear Park provides doesn’t just have value immediately around the station portals. Stretching up to Albert Park and the University beyond to the east and up on the flat plateau of western Victoria St offering a good pedestrian route to the new offices and dwellings on Victoria St West and Wynyard Quarter beyond. But as the distance increases from the big sources of pedestrians then the condition of the amenity can become more place focussed and more planting and ‘lingering’ amenity can be added, yet it will still need to primarily serve these Active Mode movement functions well:


And it is important to acknowledge this is a ‘substantial change’ from present condition. The Council recognise, and it is impossible to disagree, that there is nothing to be gained by trying sustain the status quo here. The CRL is brings huge change to the city and  how it is used and this needs to be reflected in very nature of our streets as well as in our travel habits:




The Centre City Cycle Network is hopelessly incomplete without some way to access both the Queen St valley and Victoria Park from the Nelson St Cycleway. And if not on Victoria then where? Not with all the buses and bus stops on Wellesley St.

And lastly, other than the never fully successful Aotea Square there has been no new public realm in the City Centre since the Victorians set out Albert, Victoria, and Myers parks. There are now many more people living, working, and playing in the city than ever before, and other than repurposing, or burying, motorways, or demolishing buildings, the streets are the only chance to provide quality space for everyone. This is so much more valuable than slavishly following last century’s subjugation to motor vehicle domination. We know better than this now. Vehicles will fit into whatever space we provide and people will flood the rest. And the later is the more valuable street-use for a thriving, more inclusive, and competitive, and sustainable urban centre to lead the nation this century.




Could Morningside Drive Level Crossing be Closed?

Morningside Level Crossing Incident

Morningside Level Crossing Incident

After another unfortunate incident at Morningside Level Crossing, once again questions have been asked of our level crossings. Morningside Level Crossing alongside Walters Rd in Takanini have achieved a sense of infamy over the years, some incidents have been covered below in the media, and as anyone who with any HSEQ background will know for each Incident there will be countless more Near Misses.

This post will look into the feasibility of closing Morningside Level Crossing to traffic, however still creating grade separated access for pedestrians/cyclists to the station on each side of Morningside Drive, understanding in tight budgetary circumstances that fully grade separating the crossing for all modes may not be feasible.

The area in question is below

Morningside Crossing Area

Morningside Crossing Area

Removal of the Level Crossing to traffic would hinder three major groups, each which could be mitigated

  1. Users trying to access St Luke’s Mall via Car.
  2. Bus Users for routes 220, 221, 222, 223, & 224 some who may use the service for access to St Luke’s Mall.
  3. Residents who use Morningside Drive Level Crossing to Access New North Road.


Users trying to access St Luke’s Mall via Car

The closure of Morningside Drive may not adversely effect these users, at current St Luke’s is also accessible by two parallel major arterial routes, St Luke’s Mall via St Luke’s Road & New North Road, as well as St Luke’s Mall via St Luke’s Road & Sandringham Road.


Bus Users for routes 220, 221, 222, 223, & 224 some who may use the service for access to St Lukes Mall

Under the New Network these routes have been simplified into 1 the 22, this service could easily diverted down New North Road which is better placed to have Bus Lanes due to its 2 Lane-Flush Median-2 Lane layout & according to AT documents have planned Bus Lanes as part of the Central New Network.

New Network Central - Bus Lanes

New Network Central – Bus Lanes

The users wanting to access St Lukes Mall will at glance lose out from doing this of course, however would they? The New Network suggests not, under the New Network 22 users have the ability to transfer onto 1 of 3 Services heading to/past St Luke’s Shopping Centre, these are the Outer Link, 202, & Crosstown 6. Both Peak & Off Peak these services have the aggregate of 10BPH each way, therefore someone transferring at New North Road from a 22 service would have a wait maximum of 6m, or on average around 3m for a transfer, with Simpler Fares now in place transfers no financial penalty exists.

Also in the New Network, the old 233 which is now the 24 no longer goes past St Lukes Mall at all. So in conclusion Bus Users wanting to get to St Luke’s Mall may not be worse off  due to more likely Bus Lanes speeding up travel times as well as not being subject to delays at the level crossing which will only worsen when the CRL is completed and train frequencies increase further. Users of the 22 not intending to go to St Luke’s Mall will also benefit greatly due to not having to divert via St Luke’s.

St Lukes New Network

St Lukes New Network

Residents who use Morningside Drive Level Crossing to Access New North Road

These residents may also not be to impacted due to being able to access New North Road via Sainsbury, or having 4 local routes to access Sandringham Road as can be seen by the map of the area above.

So in final conclusion, it would be feasible to close one of Auckland’s most infamous crossings to traffic due to other options existing, as well as the New Network having sufficient services to transfer to if the 22 was changed to follow North New Road instead of Morningside Drive.

What do you think?