Dominion Rd (Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 7-A10950)
Dominion Rd. 2013
Inspired by Los Angeles Metro’s blog series Then & Now, here is a look at the intersection of Balmoral Rd and Dominion Rd. The historic image is sourced from the Auckland Council Heritage Image collection, and identifies the following businesses:
…showing the premises of Mrs Porter, Dressmaker and Fancy Goods (right);from left in Balmoral Road to Dominion Road: Balmoral Soda Fountain and Confectionery; Powells Prams; Boot Repairer (Charles Leonard); Staceys Cake Specials; Capitol Theatre on Dominion Road.
What’s changed? There is considerable erosion in this area from road widening. As many as ten buildings were removed from three of the four corners leaving swirling slip lanes and leftover green space. Today the area consists of restaurants and a few local services such as a dairy and dry cleaner. The Capitol Theatre was re-opened in 2009.
The tram lines have been removed, but the urban structure of this historic neighbourhood supports some of the highest levels of PT patronage in the city. On weekdays there are more people in buses moving down this street than there are cars.
One project on our Congestion Free Network that appears to have caught the attention of a few people has been what we call the Mt Roskill Spur. We’ve been getting some queries about it like what it is, why have it on the CFN and how much does it cost. The purpose of this post is to hopefully answer those questions. You can see it on the map below.
What is it?
This is the easiest of the questions to answer. It’s a short railway line that comes off the Western line between the Mt Albert and Avondale stations and ends at Mt Roskill. It would have two stations, one at Owairaka and one at Mt Roskill.
Why have it on the CFN?
Before I answer this question let’s take a quick history lesson.
Back in the 1940′s after World War 2 Auckland was starting to develop quite quickly and this was a time well before we started building our first motorway. At the time a huge amount of freight was being moved around the country by rail and that was only expected to increase. Likewise with the city growing it was realised by the railways that there was a strong possibility that there would be increases in passenger trains within the region (early incarnations of the CRL had been talked about since the 1920′s). It was realised that the growth, would put a lot of pressure on the Newmarket junction. In addition the tracks on the inner sections of both the western and southern lines are quite steep which is not ideal for hauling heavy freight trains up in a hurry.
They realised that to get freight trains destined or arriving from north across the city it would be increasingly difficult and so in the late 1940′s designated a route known as the Avondale-Southdown line. The intention was to enable trains to bypass Newmarket by cutting across the lower section of the isthmus. The designation for the line is in blue on the map below but of course was never built.
You can also quite clearly see some elements of the designation in the councils GIS maps. One of the best examples is at the Avondale end where the land for the junction with the western line is clearly visible by looking at the property boundaries. I have highlighted in the image below and just in case you’re not completely familiar with it, the building with the large roof is the Pak n Save on New North Rd.
Building the line has appeared on a quite a number of documents over the years and most recently has included the Auckland Plan and as such has been included in the Integrated Transport Programme however it is considered a third decade project i.e. sometime between 2031 and 2041. The plans do list it as being on the future Rapid Transit Network meaning it is intended to eventually carry passengers however I’ll come back to that point shortly.
Of course the line is yet to be built however within the last decade the NZTA and its predecessors have been busy “completing the motorway network” and SH20 has been extended from Hillsborough through to Maioro St with the Waterview Connection project being the piece that will like SH20 with SH16. Because the rail designation already existed it made sense for the road builders to future proof what they were doing – which was probably helped along by the fact they needed to use some of the rail designation. The short version is that as such the bridges that cross the motorway through this part have also been designed with the rail line in mind and in almost all cases the extra span is already in place just waiting for a rail line to be installed underneath it. This is perhaps most clear at Maioro St (below) where you can see the spans for the motorway between the on/off ramps while there is a completely separate span for the future rail line.
Because the most of the motorway bridges have already been built it means that there is much less to do if we do ever decide to build the line. That should save a heap of money and time in the long run which is always a good thing. There are two bridges which have not yet been built, one is Richardson Rd while the other is Dominion Rd. Adding the already completed bridges to that the fact that Kiwirail already own most of the corridor and it means that it should bring down the cost of building the line substantially although admittedly I’m no engineer. The Road crossings that would need to be addressed to enable a train service like we proposed would be New North Rd and Richardson Rd.
So why the spur?
Well if you look at the second image you can see that to get back to down to sea level from Hillsborough the rail line curves and weaves through the suburbs to the north of Onehunga, well away from the existing rail network. Further while the line is designated and Kiwirail own many if not all of the properties needed, I personally can’t see the residents of these houses being all keen on a rail line going in nearby and I can see them fighting any construction regardless.
Other plans have suggested that the route down to Onehunga might follow SH20 all the way however getting down from Hillsborough is extremely steep dropping by about 60m over 1.5km which would probably be far too much for trains to handle. Further designing and designating a new route down to Onehunga is likely to take an extremely long time and cost a lot of money. So the question we asked is whether there is anything we can do to make use of at least parts of the existing designation without having to wait for the whole thing to be completed. The Mt Roskill Spur was the answer.
What benefits does it have?
There’s no point in building something just for the sake of it and so the next question is if there is any logic in building this line. We think there is. There are a number of different options for how we run trains after the CRL has been completed and one of the options is a three line system where each of the long lines (West from Swanson, South from Papakura, East from Manukau) are paired up with a short run elsewhere on the network. One of the key reasons for this is that joining long lines together (say west and south) makes for a very long route which can suffer from reliability problems as delays can be amplified along the route.
The long and short pairing helps address that somewhat while also being useful in providing additional services on the inner sections of each of the lines which is where the most passenger demand is going to be. The Onehunga line already serves this function on the southern line. This extra capacity is likely to be especially important on the inner western line which would suddenly become much closer to the CBD following the completion of the CRL and likely to see a significant boost in patronage. So it effectively helps to balance out the rail network while also providing additional capacity on the existing lines. You can see that AT has been thinking about exactly this from this image on their CRL page which shows the rail network as a three track system. We’re suggesting sending either the red or green route to Mt Roskill.
The second and most obvious benefit is that it would provide two new stations on the network in what are fairly residential areas and the land surrounding the proposed Owairaka station (which would be between Richardson Rd and Maioro St) has zoned to allow for a town centre and the surrounding area has a decent amount of Terraced House and Apartment zoning in the Unitary Plan. It is one of the higher density zoned places in the old Auckland City area (should have been a lot more).
There are also some potentially large benefits to buses. We already know that the Dominion Rd buses can get very busy at peak times and it is one of the most popular routes in the city. These routes are only like to get busier in the future as PT becomes more useful overall. Yet at the same time we know from the City Centre Future Access Study that space within the CBD is going to be extremely constrained due to the number of buses from other areas. That is after-all one of the key reasons for needing the CRL.
This spur helps to improve that situation as the two stations are passed by three different Frequent bus routes (two on Dominion Rd and one on Sandringham Rd). While the rail network goes in the “wrong direction” for a little bit, it will likely be slightly faster from Dominion Rd through to the centre of the CBD so that gives bus passengers the option of a quick transfer to the rail network for a faster journey. Not all will do that but it is likely some will and combined with the patronage from those living in the vicinity of the stations are likely to reduce the pressure on buses, especially on Dominion Rd meaning more space on them for people closer to town.
Some have asked why not extend the line all the way Hayr Rd which also carries a frequent bus route. That could be done perhaps a bit later however by my calculations the rail network isn’t as competitive from a time perspective and there would be the added cost to get the line under Dominion Rd. The map below shows the proposed frequent routes in the area.
So hopefully I’ve managed to explain why it is potentially such a useful but of course the cost is the big question.
How much does it cost?
This is the area where we have had to speculate the most however here are some estimates.
Railway Junction – The Newmarket junction was recently upgraded at a cost of about $50 million however that is much more complex that what is needed here. We’ve estimated $25 million.
New North Rd – This would have to be grade separated so once again we have allowed $25 million for this.
Richardson Rd – While the rail span hasn’t been built yet, it has been designed for so can probably can be done for $10 million or less.
Stations – We don’t envisage the two stations needing to be major ones like say New Lynn or Newmarket but a typical suburban station instead so probably $5m each so $10 million combined.
Tracks – Because the corridor already exists and has been grade separated we expect that the tracks should be able to be laid much cheaper (per km) than other projects. The complete rebuild of the Onehunga branch was in the vicinity of $10 million while the new Manukau branch cost $50 including the station in a trench. As such we think it should cost ~$80 million.
All up that gives us a cost of about $150 million.
I think the rail spur proposed above would be a very useful addition to our network after the CRL is constructed. Not only would it be fairly quick and easy to construct, it would also offer a speed advantage over catching the bus (and probably driving) for those currently living in the southern part of the Auckland isthmus and it would help ease pressure on the need for us to keep adding more and more bus services, by shifting those trips to rail. It would also be likely to significantly ease congestion along both Sandringham and Dominion Roads if the service was attractive enough. A pretty useful “low hanging fruit” I think.
Auckland Transport have released more details about the proposed upgrade to Dominion Rd along with proposed cycling routes that will be roughly parallel to it.
As part of the Dominion Road upgrade, new cycle routes will be created through quieter streets parallel to Dominion Road to provide connectivity between State Highway 20 and the City Centre.
The proposed routes are designed to make cycling an attractive, easy, and safe transport and recreation option for communities around the Dominion Road corridor and will provide local connections to schools and parks.
They will improve safety for cyclists by;
- Providing consistent destination signage and clear road markings
- Slowing vehicle traffic through installing new traffic calming measures
- Removing pinch points by widening footpaths or creating shared paths
- Providing lighting through local parks
Those affected are invited to come and find out more about the proposed cycle routes, talk to our planners and give us feedback to be used in the detailed design.
These public days will be held on
Tuesday 23 July, 3.30 to 7pm at Deaf Society, 164 Balmoral Rd, Mt Eden.
Thursday 25 July, 3.30pm to 7pm at Dominion Road School, Quest Terrace, Mt Roskill.
Obviously one of those dates has passed but if you want more information then see if you can make it to the event tomorrow. They have also released this overview of the works they plan to undertake which includes all of the measures planned for the cycling routes.
The need for a connection between Burnley Tce and King Edward Street becomes so apparent when you look at it on a map like this. I’m not sure when feedback closes so make sure you get some in if you are interested or affected by this project.
You may also see from the image above (and on the full map) that the bus stops are fairly well defined. As part of the project Auckland Transport are looking to rationalise these so they are no longer so close together. It will mean that some people have to walk a little bit further but will also mean that buses will have faster journeys from not having to stop so often.
Currently, bus stops are generally located at 200m to 400m intervals. The project proposes to consistently have bus stops along the corridor at 400m intervals, which means pedestrians are within four minutes walk of a bus stop once on Dominion Rd.
The proposal seeks to ensure that bus stops are located as close as possible to the village centres to emphasise their importance as a destination. The exact location of each bus stop is still to be determined and the public will be able to give feedback on bus stop locations during the detailed design phase.
The map below gives an indication as to the locations compared with what exists now. One of the features of the map above and below is the suggestion that of a higher quality type of bus stop in key locations. This sounds like a good idea to really help highlight the main locations along a route, especially those bus stops that will act as transfer locations.
Personally I think the proposal seems fairly good but it is bound to upset some people.
An interesting press release came out from the NZTA today.
NZTA funds support upgrade of busy Auckland commuter route
The NZ Transport Agency has approved $1.14m in funding to help in the design of a significant upgrade of one of Auckland’s busiest commuters routes to improve travel for bus passengers to and from the CBD.
The $1.14m is a 53 percent share of a $2.16m design project led by Auckland Transport to improve a 4.2 kilometre-long public transport corridor along Dominion Road, a key section of the bus route between Auckland International Airport and the central city.
The Regional Manager of the NZTA’s Planning and Investment group, Peter Casey, says the NZTA has identified the Dominion Road upgrade as a strategic project to help improve Auckland’s public transport system.
“Supporting Auckland Transport and Auckland Council deliver key projects like this has winning advantages for people. They get more choices about how they travel, and improvements in public transport will help reduce the number of cars on roads and motorways and ease congestion,” Mr Casey says.
The design phase of the project will take about a year. In that time, plans and costs for the upgrade will be finalised. The key feature of the project will be an extension of dedicated bus lanes already in place along Dominion Road. The upgrade is planned to deliver several benefits for people:-
- More frequent buses and a two minute reduction in journey times along the road
- Increase the number of people using buses during peak hours by 82%
- reduce the number of people travelling by car during peak hours by 20%
- provide parallel cycle routes to make cycling safer
Auckland Transport chairman Dr Lester Levy welcomes the NZTA’s funding announcement.
“Dominion Road is one of Auckland’s iconic roads and Auckland Transport is delighted to have received NZTA funding to enable us to move into the detailed design stage of the project. Once complete, the Dominion Road upgrade will see bus services improved, village centres upgraded and through the parallel cycle routes, improved safety for cyclists travelling to and from the City,” Dr Levy says.
Mr Casey says support for this first stage of the upgrade complements other public transport projects the NZTA helps fund like the improvements to the city’s rail system and the introduction of integrated ticketing.
In the three years between 2012/15, $3.4b will be invested in the Auckland region’s transport systems through the National Land Transport Programme. The NLTP is a funding partnership between the NZTA and local authorities like Auckland Transport and Auckland Council. The region’s committed and recommended investment includes $1.6b for state highways, $968m for local roads and $890m for public transport. The investment includes funding for Dominion Road when re-construction of the route starts.
There were two things that caught my attention. Firstly let me say that this is a positive thing but I found it odd as I can’t recall ever seeing a press release from the NZTA about funding the design stage of a local project before. The funding agreement usually goes on behind the scenes and the agency doesn’t make a song and dance about it. In fact for a local project, it is normally Auckland Transport that makes the announcement and a brief mention is made of the funding arrangement. This makes me worry that perhaps this announcement is just a PT washing exercise. Of course it could be the start of the agency communicating more but time will tell.
The second and perhaps more important thing that caught my attention was impact that this project is likely to have on public transport. When the current incarnation of the project was announced last year, some of the key features were that the bus lanes would be extended through intersections rather than stopping short like they currently do.
This release suggests that those extended bus lanes will take two minutes off the journey time along the road which is according to the current timetables, a reduction of around 7% (current trip time is listed as 30 minutes). Even more impressive is the suggested increase in peak bus patronage of 82%. I’m not sure what time period that is over but it is a fairly massive increase. Dominion Rd is without a doubt already our best bus corridor outside of the Northern Busway. At peak times the bus lanes are moving far more people than the general traffic lanes do and that will obviously only continue to increase. To put things in perspective, Dominion Rd buses move about the same amount of people as the Northern Express does.
This upgrade will likely only continue to cement Dominion Rd as one of the most prominent PT routes in the city.
A week or so ago I wrote a post about how I think we can make sense out of ferries in the mix of Auckland’s public transport system. I think my key conclusion was that ferries do make sense in certain locations and we should try to take advantage of where they do make sense rather than pushing new routes all the time. Another piece of the public transport jigsaw puzzle is light-rail (or trams). In a number of ways light-rail is actually quite similar to ferries – it has its ardent supporters, it’s pretty expensive (although more in terms of capex while ferries are expensive in terms of opex) yet it also probably makes sense in some circumstances.
Let’s look at those circumstances, firstly by seeing what light-rail’s general advantages and disadvantages are compared to other modes. This is reasonably well summarised in a useful Australian Transport Study that highlights the importance of mode-neutrality when assessing transport projects (in other words, finding the best solution and recognising that all modes have a role to play in the right circumstances):Definitions of different modes is a much debated area, particularly when we’re discussing the “in between” modes of bus rapid transit and light-rail. In my mind there’s effectively a gradation of different types of both technologies – ranging from both buses and trams running in mixed traffic right through to Northern Busway style style bus operations or completed grade separated light-rail.
My general opinion is that in mixed traffic there’s little, if any, advantage to be had from running a tram or light-rail vehicle compared to a bus – as the capacity of the corridor is not determined by the vehicle itself but by the amount of congestion in that lane. At the other end of the scale once we’re talking about full grade separation it seems that light-rail once again doesn’t offer too many advantages over either a busway (which will be a cheaper) or heavy rail (which may be of similar cost but will have much higher capacity). Vancouver Skytrain style light-metro systems are a different issue entirely and have been covered extensively previously in posts that I’ve made.
The most obvious improvement to make as bus patronage grows along a route (or where there’s potential for fairly high bus patronage) is to install a bus lane. By separating the buses from general traffic, the capacity of the lane increases pretty dramatically while reliability and speeds of the bus services also improve a lot. With bus lanes being cheap and quick to implement, in the vast majority of situations probably the most important thing we can do to improve our public transport infrastructure is through extended, new and improved bus lanes.
However bus lanes only suffice up to a certain level of use – something which in many ways was the key finding of the City Centre Future Access Study’s Deficiency Analysis. In terms of buses per hour this is shown below:
Once you start to push the limit of a bus lane the results are fairly ugly:Before I go on to discuss the different options for what to do when a bus lane hits capacity I think it’s worth noting the difference between high frequency bus corridors where a large number of buses converge on a particular street (think Symonds Street or Fanshawe Street) compared to a high frequency bus corridor where frequencies are high of a single route (think Dominion Road north of Mt Roskill). Analysis tends to suggest that simply adding more and more buses in the latter situation hits a limit where it’s not really adding much value anymore as the buses tend to get in each other’s way as they’re all trying to do the same thing but not achieving it particularly well. Of course you can run local/express splits to reduce this problem but once again eventually you’ll hit a wall.
Now moving on, once a basic bus lane no longer has sufficient capacity there are a few options for what you can do about it – and the right solution is likely to depend on the circumstance:
- Upgrade to a higher-quality BRT bus based system. This could involve median bus lanes, a semi-grade separated median busway (like proposed for AMETI) or a full grade separated busway (like the Northern Busway between Akoranga and Constellation).
- Build heavy rail. This could involve a new line completely or extensions to existing lines. It could be underground, at grade or elevated.
- Build light-rail. In this scenario I’m thinking about something that runs at street level in its own lanes but isn’t grade separated at intersections.
What’s probably going to make or break which of the three solutions above is most appropriate will be a number of criteria – the most important in my mind being the level of additional capacity required, the nature of existing infrastructure and the land-use impacts of the option. Oh, and of course the cost. Let’s explore this with a few case studies.
In the case of the City Rail Link project, future growth in public transport demand to the city centre effectively overwhelms the bus network (and the rail network at a later date) requiring something to happen in order to retain high quality access to Auckland’s city centre and around the region. Enhanced bus solutions don’t really work because our existing infrastructure only has a busway to the north whereas railway lines spread out west, east and south – as well as not working due to the capacity required (which would take away too much road space to provide for with buses alone) and also the land-use impact (widened approach roads throughout the isthmus). Light-rail doesn’t really work either as it’s of insufficient capacity and doesn’t integrate with the existing infrastructure.
In the case of the AMETI busway corridor, heavy rail is probably cost-prohibitive due to the need to get across the Tamaki River, while light-rail gets stuck between the need for a lot of feeder buses into Botany and then heavy rail connections at Panmure and Ellerslie at the route’s potential other end. In this situation the busway makes pretty good sense.
In the case of Dominion Road’s long term future, things start to get interesting. Because of the corridor’s significant heritage and character value, large-scale widening for a massively upgraded bus solution is unlikely to ever be feasible. Even widening the existing bus lanes outside the retail centres along the route proved to be impossible to make ‘stack up’. Heavy rail is clearly infeasible at street level or elevated and is almost certainly cost prohibitive underground – so light rail starts to look like it could be worth exploring further. Further potential aspects in favour of light-rail on Dominion Road include its huge potential as a high-intensity mixed-use corridor where amenity of the street environment is important as a shaper of land-use patterns. Plus the route is potentially well anchored at the city end by putting the tracks down Queen Street (probably via Ian McKinnon Drive) and at the southern end by a future rail station/bus hub – so it’s likely to be a single route without any deviations or branches.
Perhaps in summary we can try to distill a clear rationale behind situations where light-rail might make sense for Auckland. I think it’s in situations where demand along a single corridor (rather than where a number of corridors come together) can no longer be efficiently provided for by standard bus lanes and where land-use factors make either enhanced bus priority options or heavy rail infeasible or cost-prohibitive.
In my mind this is a fairly difficult test to pass and I don’t actually think any corridor in Auckland at the moment (perhaps except for Queen Street) would fit the criteria. This will probably annoy some, who want to run trams everywhere and anywhere, including seemingly with mixed traffic along Ponsonby Road. It might annoy others who think that light-rail is an expensive folly which doesn’t make any sense in Auckland. If I annoy both sides of the debate then I’ve probably got it just about right.
We talk a lot about trying to improve our city and on of the most common things is about making things better for pedestrians. Invariably that tends to involve doing things that reduce or even remove the vast amount of priority that we have given to vehicles, particularly parking, through improvements like shared spaces and street upgrades. The latest upgrades to be announced were a few days ago for Dominion Rd. One thing that really frustrates me when we talk about street upgrades though is the reaction that comes from business owners to theses suggestions.
Dominion Rd is one of those places that has planned to be upgraded for years, the previous incarnation of the plan came out in 2010 and one of the main reasons it never went forward as suggested was that it proposed to remove all on street car parks. The local businesses in particular were incensed about this and even though more parking was going to be added to some of the nearby side streets to make up for it, they claimed it would kill their businesses. Of course they are happy with the current proposal that retains on street parking, the Herald reports today:
Dominion Road Business Association chairman Chris Hammonds says at the moment buses have to merge back into traffic because the lanes are not continuous.
He says the upgrade is good news for both bus passengers and motorists.
Chris Hammonds says bus lanes that run 24 hours per day, seven days per week, would cripple business along the road.
He says keeping the lanes only operating at peaks times will ensure customers are still able to park near the shops they want to go to.
What these people continually fail to realise is that it is not cars that go shopping, it is people. I don’t know a single person who would expect to go to a shop on Dominion Rd, or pretty much any road for that matter, who expects to be able to get a car park right outside of the shop they are going to. The key for these people to improve their businesses is to not only provide things that people want but to get more people going past their doors. More people will equal more sales and that has been proved today by the release of a study on the impact the shared spaces have had on Auckland. I reported back in May that Fort St had been a success on a number of levels however at that time some of the economic impacts were still being assessed. Here are the key findings of the study and while it refers to shared spaces, I am fairly confident that there would be similar results for other street upgrades:
- Spending has increased by 65 percent and hospitality spend in the area has increased by over 400 percent
- 91 percent of surveyed users and stakeholders were highly complimentary about the new shared space environment, compared to only 17 percent pre-upgrade
- Vehicle volumes have dropped by over 30 percent.
- Vehicle speeds have reduced by more than 25 percent.
- 75 percent of delivery services found it ‘much easier’ to make their deliveries
A 65% increase in spending is a massive increase, especially in the current climate and is largely down there being more pedestrians. So the next question is how we get more people to Dominion Rd. The reality is that to get significantly more people to the area the only practical way to do so is by improving public transport which means not just upgrading the lanes for use in peak times but also by making public transport more attractive off peak as well. Having buses have to merge in and out of traffic only serves to make them slower than cars and therefore unattractive. That probably might be as much of an issue on some streets but Dominion Rd is perhaps the premier bus route in the city (aside from the busway) and it has a lot of buses. To get an idea of how many buses are expected to be travelling down there in the future during the day we can have a look at the draft RPTP.
Thats 18 buses an hour in the peak and 12-14 buses and hour off peak so there is the potential for a lot more people to get to and through the area. Add to that likely school bus routes, private tour buses, motorcycles and bicycles and that lane is going to be fairly busy while also transporting a lot of people. Instead of fighting to destroy the bus lanes outside of the peak hours, perhaps these retailers instead should be pushing AT to introduce the proposed fare zones faster that would allow people to get off a bus, quickly do some shopping and get back on another bus without being penalised. That would help encourage more people to stop off and shop and what’s more it would do so without using up a single car park but its seems some of these retailers are going to have to be dragged into reality kicking and screaming.
Interestingly on the topic of retailing and cars, Patrick found this letter from 1976 from a shop owner who when talking about the city centre notes that is being strangled with cars and that it will die without more people being able to easily access the city and he notes the only way for this to happen without adding more cars is by developing the mayor Robbies version of the CRL.
The last line:
‘Let’s face the real issue- Either BRING THE PEOPLE INTO THE CITY WITHOUT CARS or LET THE CITY DIE’.
Is the really important point, the city very nearly did die, in fact for a whole lot of businesses it did die, but now has thankfully come very much back to life. Which is what is so frustrating when we hear of retailers fighting to keep car parking or streets dominated by driving, the evidence just doesn’t support this view. As Patrick observed in this post:
This may seem counterintuitive to shopkeepers but there is a clear inverse corelation between car numbers in the central city and its vitality.
And by ‘vitality’ he means commercial vitality; business. Only people buy things, and people will be in retail areas if they are good places to be and easy to get to. Sure some things are hard to take home without a car, but this can be dealt with either by offering delivery or by the fact that there is still a huge amount of parking around Dominion Rd. But the bigger issue for a traditional strip like Dominion Rd is the same as for the central city, retailers there have to offer something other than what is offered at the big malls, which is largely a bland and predictable experience of near identical chain stores with lots of parking. Dominion Rd has developed its own character and enhancing this is surely the best way to entice more and more of those people on those buses to hop off and spend some money there than to try to replicate the suburban mall experience. Being unmall-like is a key competitive advantage of Dominion Rd, and another is having an incredibly high- and rising- number of people on those buses just waiting to be enticed off and into the shops.
Check those figures for the shared spaces in the city above and remember that not that long ago retailing in the CBD was consider all but over.
Auckland transport has released the latest plans for improving Dominion Rd, here’s the press release:
Dominion Rd bus lane and village centres upgrade approved
A major upgrade of Dominion Rd to create peak hour bus lanes along most of the road and upgrade its three village centres has been approved by Auckland Transport.
The $47 million project also includes new cycle routes through quieter roads either side of Dominion Rd. Construction is expected to begin in early 2014, subject to NZTA funding approval.
Dominion Rd is one of the few transport corridors in Auckland where there are more bus passengers than drivers in peak hours. It carries about 2.2 million bus passengers a year, three per cent of the entire region’s public transport trips.
Dominion Rd’s current piecemeal sections of bus lanes will be joined up to create continuous lanes in peak hours between State Highway 20 and View Rd. The bus lanes will also extend through intersections, which they do not at present. On-street parking will be retained at other times.
The bus lane operating hours of 7am – 9am for the northbound lane and 4pm – 6pm for the southbound lane will not be changed as part of the upgrade. However they will be reviewed as part of a planned region-wide review of bus lane hours.
The project will help improve the reliability of buses on Dominion Rd and increase its capacity so it can deal with an expected growth in travellers. A 30 per cent increase in transport trips is predicted along Dominion Rd.
A review of the project allowed Auckland Transport to reduce the potential cost of the project by about $50m. This will be achieved by keeping the bus lane widths at 3m north of Mt Albert Rd, meaning expensive service relocations are not necessary. Between SH20 and Mt Albert Rd, which requires widening to create new bus lanes, they will be 4.5m.
Auckland Transport board member and Albert-Eden Cr Christine Fletcher says at this stage the benefits of widening the bus lanes were not great enough to outweigh the significantly higher cost.
“This upgrade will still deliver big improvements to bus reliability and travel times, as most of those come from having continuous bus lanes. It also means much needed upgrades for village centres and safer routes for cyclists.
“There is huge demand for the funding available for transport projects in Auckland, so the savings from this project will be able to be put to good use elsewhere.”
Albert-Eden Cr Cathy Casey says: “I am delighted that Auckland Transport’s board has listened to the people on Dominion Road and that the village centres of Mt Roskill, Balmoral and Eden Valley are to get their long awaited upgrades including new footpaths, trees, street furniture, pedestrian priority, and lighting improvements. Footpaths along the length of Dominion Rd will also be upgraded.
“It has been a long road to hoe for Auckland Transport but it is worth it to get Dominion Road right!”
The village centres of Mt Roskill, Balmoral and Eden Valley, will get upgrades, including new footpaths, trees, street furniture, pedestrian priority, and lighting improvements. Footpaths along the length of Dominion Rd will also be upgraded.
Albert-Eden Local Board Chair Peter Haynes says the board is pleased that a start to the long-awaited work on Dominion Road is finally within sight.
“The uncertainty caused by delays over the years has held back the development of the road, it has the potential to be one of Auckland’s great thoroughfares.
“We welcome the upgrading in the village centres and of footpaths, pedestrian crossings and refuges between the centres. We are pleased that there will not be wholesale widening of the road, and that the plans to make the road into a highway like Balmoral Road are buried in the past.
“The board will work with Auckland Transport to see that local people are fully consulted on these plans, and to determine safer alternative routes for cyclists.”
Puketapapa Local Board Chair Richard Barter says the board is pleased with the outcome.
“The board acknowledges that the goal for the project is to improve bus services so appreciates the Auckland Transport Board’s support for the streetscape upgrades along Dominion Rd. This will further encourage the use of public transport and will be a boost for local business as the villages along the route will become attractive destinations.
“The decision will create certainty for local residents who have been waiting for many years for the upgrade of the Mt Roskill Village.
A commuter cyclist, Mr Barter says the safe cycle routes planned to run parallel to Dominion Rd will encourage local people to try commuting by bicycle.
Public information days to update the community on the plans will be held on Saturday 17 November in Mt Eden and Wednesday 21 November in Mt Roskill. More information, including a video showing concepts for the upgrade, is at www.aucklandtransport.govt.nz.
Its good that the bus lanes are being extended right up to the intersections but it seems odd that on what is one of the busiest and most successful bus corridors in entire region, a route that carries more people at peak via bus will still only be in operation for four hours a day and that outside of those there will be on street car parking. To be fair, this partly isn’t Auckland Transports fault as the local businesses still seem to think that it is cars that come in and buy things and not people. I do hope that once the street is upgraded that perhaps AT embark on a programme to change both of these aspects. They could remove 5% of the on street parks per year while also extending out the bus lane hours on a gradual basis so that people can get used to it. Personally I would love to see trams put back down Dominion Rd with them in the centre of the road but it will be a slow process to convince the business owners that allowing more people being able to get to the area easily will benefit them.
Here is a video that AT has made showing what it may look like.
And an idea of what Mt Roskill may look like
I do know that some people are annoyed that there are no dedicated cycling facilities being included on the road. While many commuter cyclists are probably still going to use the road, the thinking is that two other routes will be created for more recreational cyclists on the streets that run roughly parallel to Dominion Rd. Fellow blogger Kent offered this little nugget of analysis on the situation:
- Any infrastructure needs to be be built from the cbd out, without gaps- what has been built is a joke
- Dom rd is a uniquely successful PT route.
- Dom road, in many places, has special urban fabric that should’t be further compromised
- Catering to all modes, would jeopardise one, or both of the above
We are going to be doing a separate post that focuses solely on the cycling proposals along with some suggestions so if you are thinking of firing a shot at AT about it, hold off till we get that post up. One question that AT haven’t answered yet though is what they now plan to do with the $50m they have saved but that was budgeted for in the long term plan, that could build a lot of alternative cycling infrastructure in other parts of the city.
Here is a cross section of the road at the Valley Rd and Balmoral shops:
It wasn’t picked up much by the media last week, but the one truly new piece of information that was revealed in Auckland Transport’s announcements on the City Rail Link was the inclusion of something they’re calling the “Inner West Interchange”. It’s highlighted in red in the picture below:
In many respects, the inclusion of the Inner West interchange answers a few questions that we’ve been asking on this site for a while now, particularly in relation to the scenario where the eastern link is not constructed. A big question that we were all thinking about on this site related to how some of the trains would be turned around, if they’re unable to travel directly between Newton and Grafton directly.
Without the eastern link, the rail system effectively becomes like a single line, from the west, through the CRL before branching off into a number of lines at the other end of the CRL (eastern line, southern line, Onehunga line, Manukau branch). As you obviously don’t need to run anywhere near as many trains in total on the western line as you do on all those other lines combined, you need somewhere to turn some of the trains around. After much discussion and debate, I think (and pipe up if you disagree fellow bloggers) everyone writing on this site is of the opinion that the eastern link is necessary.
With Kingsland Station and Newton Station being relatively nearby (not to mention Mt Eden station, although its future seems far from certain given the bizarre location it’s shown at in the image above), it would seem as though there are two choices:
- Build the eastern link and therefore don’t build the Inner West Interchange Station
- Don’t build the eastern link and therefore build the Inner West Interchange Station
Let’s take a bit of a close look at the area this station seems to be located:
The yellow line is 200 metres in length, which I presume would be about the requirement for an interchange station – if trains were going to be held there for any length of time before turning around to head back through the CRL. I also imagine the space requirements here in terms of width are going to be fairly extensive. Remember that we’re going to have two tracks coming out of the CRL tunnel plus the existing two tracks heading towards Grafton and Newmarket. As some trains will be turning around here you’re going to need at least four tracks and platforms: two for through trains and two for trains that will be turning around to head back through the tunnel. Presumably that means four tracks all the way between this station and the southern tunnel portal – not the prettiest thing to plop in the middle of the inner suburbs one would think.
One possible positive out of this station, however, becomes apparent when looking at the image above – it’s right next to that horrible interchange between New North and Dominion roads. With an incredibly busy station on its doorstep, we could demolish the defacto motorway interchange, narrow down the roads to something a bit more normal and create a really fantastic little transit-oriented development node. The whole section of New North Road between Mt Eden Road and Kingsland is ripe for large-scale redevelopment – and the station here could be the catalyst which enables that to happen.
Overall though, given the choice I think I’d take the eastern link. We can find other ways of removing the defacto motorway monstrosity without compromising efficient operation of the whole rail network.
This is a guest post from reader Axio
Peter’s post on the future of driverless light-metro got me thinking about whether there are alternative alignments where an automatic metro could be used, and I felt that it would be a cost-effective solution to mayor’s vision of rail to the Airport and the North Shore.
Many proposals presented in this blog focus on connecting a North Shore line with the City Rail link by crossing at right angles at Aotea station and tunneling under the university to come out somewhere on the Eastern line. This minimizes the additional infrastructure needed on the city side of the link. However tunnels are very expensive and if an elevated metro is used then we might find that we can achieve much more substantial system for a similar cost.
This alternative considers a line from Takapuna through to the Airport. This would be a driverless metro elevated along its entire length, except possibly the harbour crossing. The proposed alignment is illustrated below.
The benefits of this alignment are many:
Obviously this provides rapid-transit to the North Shore, Mangere, and the Airport, meeting the strategic goal. It brings Takapuna onto the Rapid Transit Network (RTN), which is useful as it has been identified as a commercial centre in the Auckland Plan. This also makes the CBD much more accessible from western South Auckland.
- Leverages the most effective part of the Northern Busway by providing a high frequency connection at Akoranga. If most buses terminated at Akoranga then the lowest capacity and slowest section of the busway (the harbour bridge and CBD) would not be required for the bulk of trips.
- Replaces overcrowded bus routes on Dominion Road, and in doing so takes the pressure off Symonds Street. It also allows Dominion Road to retain its on street parking which was a sore point during the submissions into Light Rail on the corridor.
- Connects into the existing rail network at Onehunga and Mt Eden (depending on where stations are placed following construction of the City Rail Link).
- Provides another access point to Eden Park along Bellwood Avenue.
And overall it brings together parts of Auckland that are presently quite separate as far as transit is concerned.
For automatic metro the line requires its own right of way which would be achieved largely using elevated rail. As most of the line is above road corridors, this would require a viaduct composed of single columns about 4.5m high with the rail deck around another metre higher. Stations would be spaced every kilometer or so. As mentioned earlier the harbor crossing may be tunneled, and the section along SH20 could be at ground level in places.
There are some challenges inherent in the alignment and terrain. The section east from Hillsborough Road to sea level will be quite steep and probably require a viaduct that extends well east of where SH20 flattens out in order to reduce the gradient. Similarly the section through the CBD will be quite steep, although with a station in the middle the slow speeds due to gradient will be less painful to passengers. Getting through the CMJ can be done using the old Nelson Street off ramp from the Southern Motorway followed by a viaduct over the CMJ once clear of K-Road. The corner at Wellesley and Hobson is quite tight, although the radius exceeds the 35m mentioned as the limit for this type of metro as shown.
This brings us to the big question: what will it cost? In this case I will just look at the section from Wynyard to Onehunga as costings for heavy rail north and sound of there can be found in other documents and provide a reasonable indicator of cost (particularly to the north where the cost is largely due to the tunnel).
The Vancouver Skytrain provides the most useful estimates as it is the system on which this is based. South Fraser Blog quotes On Track: The SkyTrain Story which indicates the cost for the elevated only section is around $47million per kilometer in 2012 Canadian dollars. At the present exchange rate this comes out to about $60million per kilometer so the line from Wynyard to Onehunga, at around 14km, would have a baseline at $840 million. Building above a road corridor would likely increase the cost, and we also have to deal with the special viaducts at the CMJ and Onehunga. Finally that estimate does not include the cost of the trains.
Compared to the Waterview Connection and the City Rail link this project, at a little over a billion dollars, is relatively inexpensive given the area it provides service to, although obviously much of the benefit would come from the un-costed sections from Wynyard to Takapuna, and Onehunga to the Airport. It does also have the ability to be built in sections with each section providing significant benefits on its own. For instance Wynyard through to Bellwood Avenue would provide a different place for Dominion Road buses to terminate, and still connect the Isthmus and West to Midtown and Wynyard.
The cost not-with-standing, an elevated metro has a significant downside, visual pollution. A 5.5 metre viaduct will stand-out in all but the CBD, and as Dominion Road has something of an iconic status this visual pollution may be unacceptable. There are alternative corridors through the isthmus such as Sandringham Road which would have the benefit of being closer to St Lukes, a major attractor, but increase the overall cost and the journey time from the North Shore to the Airport.
Finally, while this line is intended to complement the City Rail link, it does have potential to stand on its own, providing rapid transit access to Midtown from the central slice of the city (from the Airport to Albany) and the West, assuming a transfer at Mt Eden. However it would not be connected to the East of the city, and so its benefits would be reduced without the City Rail link.
Fantastic aerials of the the biggest urban motorway junction in Australasia under construction. From the Whites Aviation collection at the National Library:
1968, Dominion Rd flyover in the foreground
Auckland City used to just flow into its surrounding inner suburbs. Weirdly, as seen above they started with arguably the daftest part of the whole plan: The massively over engineered Dominion Rd/New North Rd flyover. Some engineer was allowed to get more that a little carried away that day. Ah: Brave New World.
1966. Newton. George Courts on K'd on the Left
Site clearance already beginning; anticipating SH1 being shoved right through town. You can see why K’Rd was such a successful shopping precinct; direct connection with its community. Plus of course being at the heart of the well used tram network.
1967. Domion Rd flyovers, looking west
Unusual view. Western Line on the left. Easy to see how out of scale the Dom Rd flyover is, and needlessly complicated. The scar of the pointless destruction of community that is to become dumb little mini-me motorway of Ian McKinnion Drive on the right.
1969. Symonds St in centre. work starting on SH1 through the city
Work begins. Check out the on-street parking. They’ve got to go somewhere if this is the mode you invest in. A big additional but uncalculated cost of the auto-dependent choice.
Not sure of the date 1970s. The full CMJ sandpit.
Fantastic print. Whites clearly invested in some better kit by this stage. A Hasselblad maybe; looks like it could be the great 40mm Distagon, or possibly the 38mm Biogon on the SWC, developed by Zeiss and Hasselblad as an aerial reconnaissance camera for the Luftwaffe in the 1940s! [A fact you don't see in their advertising]. And still great. Happy to be corrected, if anyone knows. Forgive me for indulging my inner camera nerd.
CMJ, with gardening
Severance at its best; no way across to K’rd now, hey guess what?, it’s never recovered commercially.
CMJ_lost street pattern
1950s "Master Transport Focal Point"
And how they sold it. Doesn’t look like much does it? A few little lines, nothing that’ll totally cut the CBD from its inner suburbs and nearly kill it for example. The text talks of tunnels. Yeah well that would have been much better, human life could have continued so much better if the surface hadn’t been reduced to a few car dominated bridges.
A fine monument to central planning. South Seas Soviet style. This whole effort was planned and built by government apparatchiks in Wellington immune to any input from the locals, including the local elected officials.
Well there you go: How modern Auckland was made by a city engineer with the phrase: “It’s a technical matter”. Never let the pricks get away with that one again.
Edit: Just added the accreditation for the photos
- Auckland motorways, Dominion Road interchange. Whites Aviation Ltd : Photographs. Ref: WA-67442-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://beta.natlib.govt.nz/records/23121284
- Newton, Auckland with motorway construction on right of Grafton Bridge. Whites Aviation Ltd : Photographs. Ref: WA-66170-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://beta.natlib.govt.nz/records/23119567
- Auckland City, including Southern Motorway and Eden Crescent. Whites Aviation Ltd : Photographs. Ref: WA-67026-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://beta.natlib.govt.nz/records/22595451
- Motorway junction, Symonds Street, Auckland. Whites Aviation Ltd : Photographs. Ref: WA-68574-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://beta.natlib.govt.nz/records/22792353
- Auckland motorway construction, Newton, with ‘spaghetti junction’ roads. Whites Aviation Ltd : Photographs. Ref: WA-74702-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://beta.natlib.govt.nz/records/22722332