Photo of the Day: Urban Surgery 1970s Style.

Auckland Star April 1973. Back in the Dark Ages it was considered appropriate to near kill the patient in order to help them. In the 1970s Central government transport planners nearly succeeded in killing the Auckland City Centre through the subtle act of flattening its densest and most proximate dormitory suburbs, then cutting it off any still standing from the city, and turning city streets into motorway off ramps. The charm and glory of these multi-year campaigns are still with us today on the beautiful avenues of Hobson and Nelson Sts, the terrible road pattern and wasted landuse of Union and Cook St, and the blighted devalued areas of K Rd and Newton. And of course the violated and severing gullies themselves. The scale of this ‘surgery’ can be seen in this spread.

CMJ AK STAR APRIL 1973_01_800px

The accompanying text is fairly flat and informational.

CMJ AK STAR APRIL 1973_02_800px

It seems the desire for a Tabula Rasa, a blank slate, like those postwar planners had in Europe, was so great that we made our own ‘bombsite’.

Happily now we live in more enlightened times and the next city surgery of scale will be much more sophisticated, the City Rail link which as an incision compared to this earlier work is laparoscopic; minimal invasive surgery. No need to maim the patient. Once done no one will even see it, except for that high value resource of people flooding on to city streets not in a car looking for a parking space. And will supply at least as much capacity as the three motorways that meet at this point do today*.  So the CRL will double the accessibility to the nation’s most concentrated, biggest, and highest value employment centre, and fastest growing residential area, seamlessly. After the recovery from a few precise cuts, that is.

CMJ AK STAR APRIL 1973_03_800

*Show your work, as Peter always says:

CRL 24 trains per hour each way 750 per train [not crush load; that’s 1000] ~ 36k [crush 48k]

M’ways 12 lanes @2160 [1800 vehicles @1.2 occupants] per lane hour ~ 26k

Of course the buses on the Bridge land some 9000 souls currently too.

CRL now consented & Aotea images

The CRL took another step forward yesterday following the good news the Environment court has dismissed the final appeal against the designation for the City Rail Link. That means for the first time since the 1920’s when the first variations of the project were proposed it has an actual designation.

The City Rail Link (CRL) has reached a major milestone with all appeals to its land designation now resolved by agreement or dismissed.

Auckland Transport’s chief executive David Warburton says five of the six appeals were settled and the only appeal that went to the Environment Court has been dismissed.

The designation is now confirmed subject to finalisation of conditions by the Court.

“It’s a big step forward for Auckland. A proposal to extend rail through the city centre has been around for almost a hundred years but has never got much beyond an idea. Now we have a designated route,” says Dr Warburton.

“Early works start in November this year. While there are still some other planning processes to work through in relation to regional consents and Britomart, we anticipate a start on the cut and cover in Albert Street in May next year.”

The CRL is critical to Auckland, being a major economic development catalyst as well as a significant transport investment that will help shape and grow our city” said Dr Warburton.

“Already there is something like 170,000 m2 of proposed or consented development on or adjacent to the CRL route on Albert Street.”

The Court’s decision ends a two and a half year planning process to get the designation for the project.

The now confirmed designation identifies land in the district plan for rail purposes and protects the route for the future.

Well done Auckland Transport for this achievement.

Unfortunately it appears that this news probably dragged on much longer than it should have though. In their article about the result the Herald have also included the decision from the court over the appeal and even for a non-expert like me it makes for brutal reading against the appellants. There are quite a few comments about the conduct and lack of professionalism from the lawyers and expert witnesses. It appears the judge was very much of the view that his time was being wasted by them. Seeing as the same company through its subsidiaries also owns a lot of land in the Wynyard Quarter it could be interesting to see if they take the same approach to designation for an additional harbour crossing.

In related news, yesterday Auckland Transport also released some new images of what the Aotea station will look like giving us our best view of it yet.

The first image is of the Northern end at Victoria St. A couple of things I notice is there’s a ramp from partway down Victoria St directly into the station which is good as means that walking up from Queen St you don’t have to get all the way up to Albert St then back down into the station. Combined with the escalators on the western (uphill) side I could see that becoming quite a popular shortcut to avoid waiting at the Albert St lights. There is also planned to be an entrance directly into the mall and tower development going up on the empty site.

Aotea Station Design North

Moving to the southern end and you may recall this image of the station building which will go on the south-eastern corner of the Albert/Wellesley St intersection. It’s also designed to have a building go above it.

Aotea Station Wellesley St entrance concept drawing

Here’s what it would looks like underground. I’m

Aotea Station Design South

And another view of it, this time from Wellesley St looking at the entrance.

Aotea Station Design Wellesley St

The view from the platform.

Aotea Station Design Platform

Lastly a view of all these pieces together. I like that there’s multiple escalators down to the platform level, something I’m sure will be needed to handle the massive numbers of passengers who will use it daily – remember this will become the busiest station on the network, busier than Britomart is today.

Aotea Station Design Exploded View

You may notice those small objects at the top of the image above, here’s a closer look at them.  They’re skylights built in to Albert St to let natural light in to the station.  This also means there will be some form of median along this section of the road. Given this section is already fairly constrained due to the lowered service lane that isn’t being removed I wonder what this means there won’t be space for dedicated bus lanes along here?

Aotea Station Design Skylights 2

I guess my biggest concern with the station is whether there is enough exits. There are only three for what will be the busiest on the network. Those wanting to go north of Victoria St will have to exit the station then cross the road instead of the possibility of carrying on under the intersection before emerging to the surface. On the southern side there’s only one exit. At the very least it seems like it would have been appropriate to develop an exit into the North Western corner which is owned by the council and has a largish area in front of the building. Given Wellesley St will also be a major bus corridor an exit out to the eastern side of Wellesley might have been useful too as on rainy days could see pour out of the station and straight on a bus for a quick dry trip to Uni. It wouldn’t surprise me if within 5-10 years of opening AT have to go back and add more entrances/exits out to the streets.

AT August Board Meeting

Tomorrow is the next Auckland Transport board meeting and as usual I’ve been through the board papers to pick out the parts that were interesting to me.

The most interesting details appear to be in the closed session and that appears no different this month. Some of the topics are:

  • Newmarket Level Crossing Project – I assume this will be seeking approval to lodge the Notice of Requirement
  • LRT Alignment
  • Deep Dive – Bus
  • K’Road Value Engineering Outcomes – My guess is this is about the K Rd station for the CRL. AT’s project page now says they’re now only going to build one entrance initially and I’ve heard some rumours that it’s the Beresford Square entrance that will not be built. It seems to me this is incredibly short sighted and a classic case of ‘value engineering‘ engineering all of the value out of the project.

K Rd station Beresford Entrance

  • CRL Communication Strategies update – This is likely to be about communication to manage the disruption caused by the CRL construction.
  • Britomart Development update – presumably the bid by Cooper & Co to develop the site behind Britomart

On to the main business report.

  • Te Atatu Rd – Construction has now begun and will is due to be completed in February 2017
  • K Rd Cycleway – AT say ‘ concept design for stakeholder input is planned for the end of 2015.’ I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with.
  • Nelson St Cycleway – According to the report consultation is due to start any day now on phase 2 which for Pitt St and north of Victoria St. The main issues is whether it uses Nelson St or Hobson St to get to Fanshawe St and down to Quay St. I personally think they should do both options.
  • Beach Rd Cycleway Stage 2 – Construction is due to be completed by the end of this month with a public opening ceremony for 18 September.
  • Otahuhu Bus-Train Interchange – Construction is due to start in mid-September and due to be completed in June next year before the rollout of the new bus network in October.
  • Manukau Bus-Train Interchange – AT are increasing the capacity of the interchange from 16 to 25 bays although two will be for bus layover. They say the key reason for the change is that the various inter-city bus operators will move from the CBD operate from there. Presumably this means that inter-city bus users going to/from the CBD will have to transfer to a train at Manukau. Particularly at peak times this might actually end up a faster outcome.
  • Parnell Station – Works on the platform are due to be completed in October but there is no date yet for when it will come in to use. Also of note is the old Mainline steam sheds are currently being demolished as the site was recently sold to a retirement village company. There’s a bit of an irony in that we will end up with a retirement village on one side of the tracks and Student accommodation on the other.
  • AMETI (Reeves Rd Flyover) – AT say a joint review between them, the council and the NZTA of the timing of Flyover and the busway from Pakuranga to Botany has been  happening with final discussions around funding options due to happen in August/September. The recommendations from the review will go to the AT and NZTA boards in October and the Council Infrastructure committee in November. I wonder how much they’ve taken in to account the Basin Reserve Flyover decision, in particular as they’ve said the Reeves Rd Flyover won’t improve things unless they also replicate similar solutions at Waipuna Rd and Carbine Rd.
  • Mill Rd – The hearings for the Notice of Requirement start at the end of the month. They say there were 286 submissions of which 216 were pro-forma ones in opposition.
  • WiFi on PT – AT will extend WiFi to all PT modes and vehicles – we saw WiFi as a requirement for new buses last week. AT are already trialling it on trains and it was available on the special service they put on for the EMU celebration just over a week ago. A trial will also begin on Gulf Harbour ferries and the Northern Express soon.
  • Active Modes Survey – AT say they’ve surveyed 1,600 Aucklander’s about walking and cycling along with their motivations and barriers for doing so. The high level results are completely unsurprising with concerns over safety from sharing lanes with cars continuing to be the largest barrier to more people cycling.
  • Rail Service Performance – there is a fairly lengthy comment about the performance of the rail system.

Service delivery (or reliability) is the proportion of trains not cancelled in full or part and arrive at their final destination. Punctuality is the proportion of trains that were not cancelled in full or part and that arrived at their final destination within five minutes of the scheduled time. Presented below are the services scheduled (blue bars), total services operated on-time (yellow line) and punctuality percentage (red line) trends.

There was a significant improvement in performance recorded during the month, partly reflecting the changes implemented from 20 July which saw the replacement of diesel trains with EMUs on all lines except on the non-electrified section between Papakura and Pukekohe. The operation of a single common fleet type removed many of the restrictions that previously existed that had complicated service recovery by allowing trains and crews to be swapped between lines thereby limiting the adverse impacts following service disruption.

For Jul-2015 service delivery (reliability) was 96.6% and punctuality was 83.7% compared to the 12 month average of 96.0% (94.9% last 6 months average and low of of 92.9% in April) and 83.1% (79.2% last 6 months average and low of 73.6% in June).

For the period 1-9 August, performance improved further with reliability at 98% and punctuality at 89% across 3,766 services.

A number of days in mid-August have seen performance at more than 99% service delivery and 90-95% punctuality.

While only a few weeks into the full EMU operations, service performance improvement is encouraging and supports the decision to introduce earlier the full EMU services. A joint team of AT, Transdev, KiwiRail and CAF are now focused on delivering the planned improvements

Rail Service Performance - July 15

  • Some other PT comments:
    • The first Howick & Eastern double decker arrives in the first week of September.
    • The first of the new bus shelters have started has been installed. It appears that the focus is on getting a number rolled out on the Hibiscus coast in preparation of the new network which rolls out in October
    • AT have asked Transdev and Kiwirail to review the timetables for the Pukekohe shuttle after complains the transfer time between services was too short.
    • On the roll-out of more bus priority they say that over the last month:
      • Onewa Road T3 lane (city bound) – went live in July
      • Park Road bus lane (hospital to Carlton Gore Road) – consultation completed; construction due to commence in September
      • Parnell Road bus lane (St Stephens to Sarawia Street – outbound) – consultation completed; construction due for completion in August
      • Manukau Road/Pah Road transit lanes – internal consultation completed – consultation underway
      • Great North Road bus lanes (New Lynn to Ash Street) – final concept plans completed – consultation completed
      • Totara Avenue signal removal – improvements to New Lynn bus interchange; construction completed and live
      • Esmonde Road bus lane – construction to commence September.

 

CRL Funding Agreed?

PM interviewed at EMU celebration

In what looks like a sign that the ‘alignment’ project between the Auckland Council and the Government on transport may well just be falling in the right direction, the following data line was discovered by Luke in a Treasury funding ‘pipeline’ spreadsheet:

Treasury CRL funding

The full document is here.

Matt and I certainly were subjected to a veritable barrage of winks and nods from senior people from both sides of the alignment conversation at the recent EMU delivery celebration so perhaps this is what they were hinting at. And, as I commented earlier the PM was unusually unequivocal about the ‘loop’ in his speech too. And Len was both very upbeat and didn’t, unusually, mention the CRL from his turn at the lectern despite the PM’s presence.

PM speaks at EMU celebration

Has Luke found a scoop?

I am not clear on the status of this pipeline spreadsheet, but it just may be that Luke’s diligence has unearthed something interesting.

[champagne is on ice]

CRL targets August 2015 – six-monthly review

Every six months the Ministry of Transport produce a monitoring report on how Auckland is performing against the targets the government set for work to start prior to 2020 on the City Rail Link. As a reminder

On 28 June 2013, the Prime Minister announced the Government’s commitment to a joint business case with Auckland Council for the City Rail Link in 2017 and to providing its share of funding for a construction start in 2020.

The Prime Minister also stated that the Government would consider an earlier business case and construction start date if it becomes clear that Auckland’s CBD employment and rail patronage hit thresholds faster than current rates of growth suggest. The two thresholds are:

  • an increase in Auckland CBD employment of 25 percent over the February 2012 estimate (the baseline), which is half of the increase to 2021 predicted in the 2012 City Centre Future Access Study ; and
  • rail patronage is on track to hit 20 million trips a year well before 2020.

The reports are in August and February each year based on patronage to the end of June and December. So far the reports have been extremely underwhelming, especially in relation to patronage. The first one in December 2013 essentially predicted that Auckland would never make the CRL target. The second one in August 2014 and the third one in February this year predicted that patronage would grow till about 2017 then taper off.

With a new report due soon, I thought it would be worthwhile do give my take on the report if I was writing it for the minister.

CBD Employment

We remain unconvinced that CBD employment is a particularly useful measure of the need for the City Rail Link. Even if just as a measure of demand for travel to the CBD, there are many other factors – such as parking costs and availability, public transport offerings – which can and are changing travel demand.

Data on CBD employment is produced annually and isn’t due from Stats NZ until later this year. At this stage we’re not expecting any significant change in employment numbers as research from Colliers International shows that the Auckland city centre continues to experience historically low vacancy rates. They say prime office space has a vacancy rate of just 1.4% compared to a 20 year average of 8.2%.

We do note that a number of new builds are due to be completed in the next year or two and since the last update, a number of very large projects have been announced or made significant progress towards starting construction over the next few years. In addition many of these projects are along the City Rail Link route.

CRL Growth Corridor

Rail Patronage

Auckland Transport’s rail patronage data for the year to June 2014 shows patronage of 13,916,822 trips, an increase of 2,481,737 or an increase of 21.7%. This is ahead level needed to reach the target by 2020.

2015-06 - Rail Patronage vs Govt Target

Over the course of the Ministry’s monitoring reports the rate of patronage increases has actually accelerated. We expect that high patronage growth will continue for a number of years yet as the full impacts of rolling out the electric train fleet, the new bus network and integrated fares are rolled out. Extrapolating the trends witnessed in recent years shows – as Auckland Transport have in the chart below – that patronage could hit the 20 million target as early as mid-2017. The chart plots the extrapolations out to 2020 however we expect capacity constraints to prevent patronage rising too much above 20 million trips.

Extraploated Patronage Growth Trends

While we expect patronage to reach the 20 million target in advance of 2020, we do see some potential risks to that – although it is worth pointing out none of these risks relate to demand for rail trips. The two biggest risks are:

  • Capacity of the rail system – Despite the extra capacity provided by the new electric fleet, there are already reports of capacity constraints emerging. These will be exacerbated by future growth including the changes resulting from the implementation of the new bus network. We recommend that the government urgently enter into discussions with Auckland Council/Transport about the potential of buying additional trains.
  • The City Rail Link enabling works – The enabling works will see the main entrance to Britomart closed as part of the works to start building the CRL. It is unknown if this will have any impact on patronage from people looking to avoid the disruption. Conversely it is possible the enabling works may have a positive impact on patronage as a number of other city centre roads will be adjusted to also handle AT moving buses off Albert St during the construction period.

Assessment

Rail Patronage growth has been strong and remains on track to reach the target needed for an earlier start to the CRL.

Employment has been stymied by a lack of available office space however that looks set to change over the medium term as a number of large developments in the city centre become available.

We believe the government should urgently re-consider it’s timeframes for the project with a look to getting it under-way as soon as possible. The longer it is left the greater the number of people and businesses will be negatively affected by crowded trains and construction disruption.

 

A Lesson from Buenos Aires on Explaining the CRL

A video from Buenos Aires with a great visual style explaining the benefits of a rail project that will open up the city’s regional rail network much in the same way the City Rail Link will for Auckland. It’s clear enough that even if like me you don’t speak Spanish, you can understand what’s proposed.

I wonder if AT could do something similar showing the CRL and their light rail plans

More on the National Land Transport Programme

Last week the latest iteration of the National Land Transport Programme was announced. This is largely a business as usual plan, dominated by the big spend on a few massive state highways projects. However there are a few things to be celebrated, especially for cycling, and even more in the language and thinking in the supporting documents. This was repeated at the launch too, especially in the words of NZTA CEO and AT Board representative Geoff Dangerfield, and NZTA Auckland/Northland Regional Director Ernst Zöllner.

BRITOMART JULY 15_3344

The high level aims are all strong and commendable. The focus on ‘economic growth and productivity, safety, and value for money’ are incontestably valuable. If they were to add ‘resilience, energy security, and environmental performance’  it would probably be a perfect list. But of course this is really set by the Government Policy Statement.

Dangerfield was his usual clear and persuasive self, setting a high level context and skilfully bating away questions. Zöllner was particularly articulate about both the dynamic nature of the situation in Auckland and the unformed quality of Auckland’s PT networks; especially the incomplete nature of the core Rapid Transit Network. Both noted the strong growth of PT ridership numbers, which will see a rise in the PT opex spend.

Here’s what the agency says about the Transit and Active modes, in the Providing Transport Choices document:

NZTA The role of PT.
And
NZTA Economic Growth through PT

All incontestable good sense, and exactly the sort of points regular readers here would recognise, especially the emphasis on the value of the high quality own-right-of-way Congestion Free networks of rail and dedicated busways.

People using public transport on high-quality public transport services with a dedicated right of way, like the Auckland Northern Busway or metropolitan rail networks, can now enjoy fast, efficient journeys on comfortable modern buses and electric trains, while freeing up road space for other people and freight.

There remains, however, some considerable daylight between this analysis and the actual projects being funded. This is especially the case with the comparatively tiny sum of $176m for Public Transport Capital Works in Auckland out of a total $4.2 billion spend over the three year period in the region [~4%] and $13.9 billion nationally. This sum [half of which is from the Council’s Transport Levy] will bring much vital kit, like the Otahuhu, Manukau City, and Te Atatu bus interchanges. But is a long way from fixing those big gaps in the RTN network. In response to my questions on this they quite reasonably countered that some funding for bus capex is in other budgets, notably under the AMETI programme, as part of the North Western massive highway works, and the Northern Busway extensions.

However the two Busway sums do not result in the construction of even one metre of additional RTN. For the Northern Busway the previous minister deleted construction of the proposed extension from the accelerated motorway package [a loan to be met from future NLTF], so all we are left with is ‘future proofing’ and no one can ride on a busway that has only been future proofed for. On the Northwestern we do get the improvement of bus shoulder lanes and a station at Te Atatu; but no RTN. AMETI is the best of the bunch, but that’s only if the proposed BRT does happen instead of the place-ruining flyover that appeals more to some entitled voices there.

Then we come to the great problem that the National Land Transport Fund is barred from investing in rail infrastructure yet Auckland is now showing the huge value of using this separate network for moving increasing numbers of people completely outside of traffic congestion. And some RTN routes are clearly best served by rail. Just as well the Council has the courage to just get on with the CRL first stage by itself so at least this vital gap at the heart of the RTN is getting a start.

The case for near term investment in PT and especially for completing the RTN can be summarised thus:

  • current demand growth of 20+% on Auckland’s Rapid Transit Network,
  • the RTN is showing improved operating cost effectiveness as it grows,
  • the strongly voiced value the agency sees in quality PT networks especially their positive effects on traffic congestion and economic growth,
  • the well known relationship between what is invested in and what then grows in use plus the positive externalities of increased PT use,
  • and the observed sub-optimal nature of the city’s current PT networks in both quality and extent, ie the clear opportunities for improvement.
So despite the good work being undertaken by many in all our transport agencies: NZTA, AT, and MoT, there seem to be structural problems that are leading to important opportunities being missed in our only city of scale. It is this context that I wrote to NZTA Auckland and Northland Director Ernst Zöllner with concerns about two specific projects that embody these issues. As this post is already quite long I will run the letter tomorrow morning in a follow-up post…

New bus lanes for CRL disruption

Auckland Transport announced yesterday (interestingly only on social media) that there have been no appeals against their consent to start works for the City Rail Link in Albert St. That has cleared the way for work to start in November on moving stormwater pipes – the first physical works needed to deliver the project. As the Herald reported yesterday the actual process of digging the tunnels will start in May next year and will also involve closing the Chief Post Office building down for a few years while the foundations are moved to accommodate the future rail lines.

Changes to Britomart

The works will necessitate a new entrance being created at the rear of the CPO. Here is a concept image of what it will look like

3D view of temporary Briotmart station CRL2

The works will also see a number of streets affected by the construction works – especially Albert St. AT say this will affect more than 5,000 bus trips per day and as such a number of bus routes will have to be changed. Importantly they say they’re prioritising PT in the city during this time saying it is “to provide an effective and efficient way to move the most people in, out and around the city.” It’s good to see AT making this clear.

To prioritise these routes it means AT will be adding in a number of new bus lanes in the city centre as well as temporarily removing on-street car parking from some locations. An overview of the on street changes expected are shown in the image below.

On Street changes for CRL works

There are more detailed maps about just where the changes will occur here.

In total around 77 carparks are affected and given the amount of off street parking generally available I doubt this should have too much impact. Of course people will likely quickly adapt to it being gone so in a few years perhaps those parking changes could become permanent. There are also changes to six loading zones.

 

These works will undoubtedly be disruptive for the city centre however the end result will be transformative for all of Auckland. It enables a huge increase in frequency and capacity of the entire rail network making it more viable to a wider range of people. It also frees up space on city streets so that more buses from areas not served by rail – and in future light rail – can be run, again benefiting not just those going to the city centre. It is also the catalyst for massive growth and it’s no surprise that so many major projects have been announced along the CRL route.

CRL Growth Corridor

And provides a large redevelopment opportunity at Eden Terrace

Mt Eden TOD

In addition to all of this it also opens the way for a whole host of projects to further improve the city centre. Projects such as improved footpaths on Albert St, the Victoria St linear park, the new public space outside the CPO.

Of course the biggest question that remains is when the government will come to the party and fund their share of the project.

Mangere/Airport Rail 2.0

Below is AT’s proposed post CRL rail running pattern. Quite complicated, with some peak only services and an infrequent 3tph [trains per hour] Henderson-Grafton-Otahuhu crosstown service. One feature of this design is that the 6 tph Swanson-CRL-Onehunga service [core Western line service] has every second train stopping at Newmarket, so it becomes 3tph from there to Onehunga. This is because the branch line from Penrose to Onehunga isn’t able to take any higher frequency, but also because there probably won’t be the demand on this little line to balance that of the whole of the western line, unless it is to be extended. And at 12tph there is plenty of action south of Newmarket- a train every 5 minutes each way.

Post CRL running pattern

Another notable feature is just how important Otahuhu is becoming. It’ll have 18tph both directions at the peaks; a train every few minutes each way [correction: actually 21 tph in the peak direction]. A frequency only matched by the Centre-City underground CRL stations. So it will be a great place to connect; that frequency kills wait times and connection anxiety, but also it offers a one-seat ride to everywhere on the network bar the last three Western Line stations and, unlike Newmarket, there is space for an expanded track layout for all these train movements [plus dedicated freight lines]. Add the fact that as you read this, thanks to the Council’s Transport Levy, a bus interchange station is being built there too, it’s becoming a real busy hub.

So picture this; How about adding the heart of Mangere and the Airport to the list of direct Otahuhu rail connections?

MANGERE-AIRPORT LINE

The Line

Here’s how it could go, there are a couple of options at the northern end, but otherwise around 9km of track over flat terrain pretty direct to the Airport. And, importantly some very good points along the way to serve the local community and add catchment to the service. On the map above I am proposing new stations at:

Robertson Rd

Mangere Town Centre/Bader Drive

Montgomerie Rd

Airport Terminals

The first two are close together but serve communities separated by SH20, and both are on good perpendicular bus and bike routes to expand that catchment. Mongomerie is also at a junction for good bus connection and is in the middle of the growing employment area north of the Airport. So residential, employment, and the community, education, and retail of the Mangere Town Centre too. Importantly this would act as a way to reconnect the community flung apart by the motorway severance. More on local impacts below.

Otahuhu is 25 minutes from Britomart, a number that should come down when AT and their operator sort out their currently overlong dwell times, and would be around 10 or so minutes from the Airport Terminals. 35mins from the heart of the city? Even cabinet ministers from the provinces would see the point of that congestion free journey when [say] going to meet us at the Ministry of Transport or NZTA in the city. But also such a fast and direct service would make taking it by connection from the North Shore viable, improving options for what is currently an expensive and congestion prone journey by any mode.

And in terms of running pattern it’s already sorted: send all 6tph of the western line on to through the CRL, Otahuhu, Mangere and the Airport. An immediate 10min all day frequency, through the busy Ellerslie and Newmarket hubs, direct to Remuera and Parnell, all the city CRL stations and every point on the Western line. Easy transfer at Otahuhu for every other station and connection point on the network. Uber to any station on the network with your bags, and you’re on your way in comfort and at speed right to the Terminal, and out of the vagaries of Auckland traffic and cost and hassle of parking. Personally I would prefer that transfer to the one people make now in their thousands at Airport Park’n’Rides.

Or if it’s preferred the 3tph currently intended to stop at Newmarket plus the 3tph of the crosstown service on from Otahuhu to make up the frequency. That looks overly fiddly and illegible to me, but that’s not important for this argument; the point is that Otahuhu in fact looks like a better point to connect Mangere and the Airport to the rest of the city than Onehunga, for both speed of service, and onward connections. And the added bonus of improving network efficiency by simply extending existing services.

Local Community

Of course the route is not free. the section between the SH20 interchange and Otahuhu station goes down a highway designation that NZTA still probably want and that the locals recently fought to keep as it is. Here:

Mangere Central

It is possible that the local community, if treated fairly and with respect, may see the advantages for them in having to this line in their midst. It is substantially different from a highway in terms of width, noise, pollution and benefit. The current residents would need to be rehoused to their advantage and the line would have to come with high quality and numerous crossing points and increased community access to the new stations and other destinations. It could be a catalyst for a whole lot of improvements in the area. But I can’t speak for them.

Otherwise it just faces the same route issues that the one sourced from Onehunga has. The refusal by previous decision makers, especially Manukau City Council, but also NZTA, and ARTA, to future proof adequately in their plans here means more expensive elevated solutions will be required over SH20A. However we are assured that the current Kirkbride Rd works allow for that and that the Airport company is similarly preparing for such a line. Otherwise it doesn’t look to face any unusual engineering challenge. Only the standard political and financial ones.

Interestingly here is report by BECA for ARTA from 2008 that features this route, with exactly the same station placements [can’t be too illogical then]. That found that Route 2B, as they called it, scored well:

BECA @B

BECA Airport Rail

But the report is complicated by the inclusion of the Avondale-Westfield line. One I never seen the point of in passenger terms and can not picture an efficient rail running pattern for, and that is only there because of an ancient freight designation. Also I find it odd that the report doesn’t analyse routes it terms of how services would use them.

Avondale-Onehunga-Penrose, and further, looks like it could be a more useful Light Rail service, once AT have their ‘four finger’ routes all ending along this line. The rest of the report is very dated and I’m sure would use very different ridership projections now.

I am confident about the utility and therefore the appeal of such a fast and direct line for Airport customers and employees, especially with such good onward connections and a turn up and go frequency. So long as the Sydney pitfall of putting a punitive fare on the Airport Station is not applied. Add the local residential, employment, and student catchments and bus connections, and this looks like a strong option without either the slow winding route from Onehunga, or the cost of crossing the Mangere inlet.

There is still the problem of the conditions that the Airport company are demanding; in particular a more expensive undergound route to future proof for a second runway to the north and to keep it out of the way of their new terminal plans. However AIAL also predict huge rises in passenger and associated business volumes at and around the Airport which means that they are going to find other more valuable uses for land than just car parking. And, despite the heroic showering of money on State Highways if this growth is still to only be served by single occupant vehicles and buses stuck with them then these roads and the local ones in the area are not going to work. A really effective Rapid Transit route and service is only going to be needed here with increasing urgency, and nothing will give the capacity and time competitiveness like hooking into the existing rail network that is already much of the way there.

Yes the capital investment will not be minor, but the outcome is both a permanent and extremely valuable for both the city’s efficiency and resilience. It will also add efficiency to the operations of the rail network, increasing utility and cost effectiveness by working those existing assets harder. The always senseless claim that ‘Aucklanders won’t use rail’ or other forms of public transport, has been proven wrong beyond any doubt since recent improvements and booming ridership numbers.  It really is time for certain groups to drop their blinkered knee-jerk rejection of this mode, as it is based on historic conditions and experiences that no longer apply in the new Auckland, and as it really is the best tool for this important job.

Like the Rail Network the Airport appears to be on a trajectory for 20mil passenger movements a year by 2020: It is long overdue that we get these two critical systems linked together for their- and the city and nation’s- mutual benefit.

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The future of Eden Terrace?

Last year Auckland Transport announced it was dropping the Newton station from the City Rail Link in favour of a redeveloped Mt Eden station. Some of the key reasons cited included:

  • That heritage and view shaft restrictions severely limited the redevelopment potential around the station. Also much of the redevelopable land probably has easier access to the K Rd station with the entrance to Mercury Lane.
  • It allowed them to build a grade separated junction instead of a flat one (like all the other Auckland ones are) which is better for reliability.
  • It saved around $120 million

On the first point they noted the restrictions around Newton aren’t present around the Mt Eden station so there’s the potential for a lot of development. This is especially the case seeing as a huge chunk of the area will be dug up to build the tunnels leaving lots of vacant land available.

An image in a recent presentation shows how much the area could be developed once the CRL has been completed

Mt Eden TOD

That could represent a substantial number of dwellings. It would be interesting to know how much money raised from the redevelopment and sale of that land could contribute towards the cost of the overall project – something I don’t think is able to be included in the business case.

This is image if the potential street pattern that was shown when the change as announced

Mt Eden Station Plan

And an idea of what the redeveloped station might look like.

Mt Eden Station Artistic Impression