I was under the impression that the location of the proposed Parnell station had been finalised after much to-ing and fro-ing, but recently there has been a push by a local group to change this to a somewhat different location . So now once again it looks like we have two possible sites on the cards. Following on from this recent post I thought I would do a little more analysis on the two main options: the site to the north and the one further south.

The northern station would be on the elevated strip of land between Carlaw Park and Parnell Rise, just before The Strand overbridge where there is an old satellite dish and a small car park currently. Access to the platforms would be from Carlaw Park and Parnell Rise at one end, and Heather St at the other. It has direct access to the street network at these points, and is very close to the Link bus route on Parnell Rise. This is marked in blue on the map below. As I understand it this is ARTA’s preferred location and what was settled on by all parties until recently.

The southern location would be approximately 350m south of here, alongside the Mainline Steam workshops. Access to the platforms would be via a path from Cheshire St with connections to the Domain walking network also. The foot access from Parnell is a bit tricky, as it is a steep route through a series of narrow lanes. Bus access is more or less impossible without a new road being built. This is marked in red on the map below. This was the first seriously proposed site and is currently favoured by the ARC and local groups who wish to turn the Mainline Steam sheds into some kind or arts facility or other public destination.

I have a strong opinion about which of these is best, and I wanted to acquire some data and make an evaluation to see if my opinion is warranted. Luckily there is some very useful data available from the Census. So here we go.

My first step was to plot the location of the platforms and the 500m pedestrian catchment around them. This is a pretty basic way to see who can get to the station on foot within about five minutes or so, it doesn’t take into account the terrain and access issues so we will have to consider them separately. Just looking at the catchments we can see a few patterns.

First of all the most immediate thing is that several sites are easily served by both, including the Parnell Rd main street retail and entertainment precinct and the cluster of high density offices and apartments around it. In addition the two main development sites in the area are accessible from both sites, i.e. the existing development around Carlaw Park and the Tennis Centre and the proposed development of the Mainline Steam workshops.

Also apparent is what neither station services: the museum. It has been proposed by various groups that the Parnell station should be there primarily to access the museum and the other attractions of the domain such as the wintergardens, statuary and the playing fields. But if you look here none of the active parts of the domain fall within the catchment of either site, only the unimproved bush covered gully and a few of the walking tracks. So in terms of a comparison, we can effectively discount those things that are well serviced by both (i.e. the Parnell mainstreet) as well as those serviced by neither (i.e. the museum).

So let’s see what each catchment has that the other doesn’t, I’ll start by looking at catchment of the southern site that isn’t shared by the northern site (i.e. the bit inside the red line but outside the blue line). The most immediate thing is that almost half of that unshared catchment is taken up by the bush and scrub of the lower domain, which isn’t a promising start as there are obviously no residences or jobs in this area and probably little else to attract people there except some great walking tracks. Looking at the other side of the tracks we can a pretty uniform pattern. We do have the southern part of the Parnell village complex and some higher density housing along the rail line and Parnell Rd, but for the most part it is low density detached housing. If I’m not mistaken almost all of the housing stock in this area is quite historic, so there would be little potential for redevelopment at higher densities (either through heritage overlays or people preferring to renovate villas rather than demolish them).

Turning now to the northern site’s catchment (the bit inside the blue line but outside the red line) the land use pattern seems to be quite different. For one on the western side we have part of the university campus within the catchment, in particular the business, arts and music schools. Just north of there is the high court and some associate legal functions. Already this suggests there are quite a few more jobs in the northern catchment, plus of course plenty of student seats. In the centre of the unshared bit of the northern catchment there is quite a mixed use zone, there are plenty of apartments down along Beach Rd and The Strand and several potential development sites. There are also a few jobs in the area in businesses along Stanley St. Looking over to the western part of the catchment we can see some high density housing along The Strand and a large pocket of mixed use apartments, offices and showrooms.

Righto then, so far it looks like we’ve got quite a lot more jobs in the catchment of the northern station site than the one further south, and probably more residents too considering the number of apartments. Luckily this information is collected during the census to quite a specific level, so we can actually find out exactly how many residents and jobs there are in each catchments. On the Statistics New Zealand website they have a handy little map tool that shows you the number of each ‘meshblock’ which you can then use to find the appropriate statistics for those couple of blocks of the city.

So I went through and laboriously identified each meshblock in each of the two catchments, found the right spreadsheets and tabulated the number of jobs and people in each. Adding them all up the results are as follows:

Catchment:                                                                  Number of residents:                     Number of jobs:

Area common to both stations:                                         831                                       2,541

Area in southern catchment only:                                      903                                         735

Area in northern catchment only:                                   2,970                                       3,711

Ok, so there we have quite a difference in jobs and residents which suggests my observations above are correct. Looking at the area common to both potential stations, we see quite a few residents and a lot of jobs in that bit of the city around the Parnell main street. So it looks like a station servicing the mainstreet is a good idea. But looking at the unshared portions of either catchment it becomes obvious that locating the station further north allows it to directly service a lot more people and jobs.

Adding these together we can see the actual 500m catchment of each site:

Station catchment (total):                                 Number of residents:                                       Number of jobs:

Northern station (Parnell Rise/Heather St):                   3,801                                                 6,252

Southern station (Mainline Steam)                               1,743                                                3,276

In terms of servicing existing residents and jobs, these figures show that either site would be worthwhile. But if we had to pick just one based on these criteria it would be the northern site hands down, as it has 2.2 times the population living within 500m plus 1.9 times as many jobs.

So let’s re-cap on what we have established so far:

  • Both of the sites directly service the Parnell main street and the adjacent offices and residences (the southern site via a shorter but steeper and more convoluted route, the northern via a longer but less steep and more legible route)
  • The northern site has the potential for direct bus integration via Carlaw Park Ave or nearby Parnell Rise, and several opportunities for foot access in all directions.
  • The southern site has no potential for bus access, and is limited to foot access through the back streets of Parnell village or the lower domain.
  • Both of these sites directly service the development at Carlaw Park and the proposed development at Mainline Steam (i.e. they could still continue with the mainline steam transit oriented development with the northern station location).
  • Neither site provides good access to either the museum or the other developed parts of the domain.
  • Both sites would provide reasonable access to the university, but only the northern site has part of the university campus within 500m.
  • The northern site is directly accessible to twice as many residents.
  • The northern site provides direct access to twice as many jobs.
  • The southern site has limited potential for intensification and development, while the northern site has several large development sites.

In summary I’d say the northern site is superior in just about every measure, especially in terms of the number of residents and jobs nearby, now and in the future. Considering that either station location would provide good access to Parnell and the Mainline Steam site, there really is no reason to put the station so far back into the gully. Don’t get me wrong, being able to step off the platform and right into a redeveloped arts centre at Mainline Steam would be nice. But that will have to come second fiddle to the extra six thousand residents and jobs that would be within 500m of a train station at the more northerly location.

Case closed… or is there something else I haven’t taken into account? I’d like to hear what people think.

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  1. I am somewhat suspicious of “crop-circle” approaches to analysing things like this, but even with a more sophisticated method of looking at what is within a 500 m actual walking catchment I’m guessing the result might be the same.

  2. That’s a brilliant summary for those of us not overly familiar with that part of Auckland. The breakdown on jobs/people was especially interesting.

    It seems that the only thing driving the Southern site as an option is the Mainline Steam building itself and the desire to have it restored and re-used. And thats obviously very commendable given Auckland’s treatment of its heritage. But it doesn’t seem practical when faced with the advantages of the northern site.

  3. Yeah, just drawing a ring and saying this-is-in and this-is-out is a fairly ham fisted approach, particularly in an area like this where there is some pretty funky terrain issues and the road network and walking routes are all over the shop (I did toy with the idea of mapping out all the possible 500m long routes running along roads and paths then adjusting it according to the terrain, but that would be quite a mission. I wonder if someone could write a program to utilise the Google Maps terrain and route finding components to produce real-life walking catchments.)

    But I think you are right that the results would be more or less the same. They key point I’ve been making for a while is that the southern part of Parnell is mostly bush covered parkland and single story villas, while the northern part is mostly high density mixed use development with apartment towers and office buildings. Fiddling with the criteria of the walking catchment isn’t really going to make much difference in this case.

  4. The most recent news I have heard from ARTA is that parties are working towards a compromise, and that the final station location might be somewhere between the two locations highlighted on the map above. As long as the station isn’t too far from the university, that could be the ideal outcome.

  5. I do like the access the northern site has to the tennis centre (not that events there get massive crowds). If only the powers that be had gone with the idea of a new stadium at the Carlaw Park site – Auckland could have had (with the upgraded tennis centre) the beginnings of a modern sporting precinct, like Melbourne, complete with its own station.

  6. For me the Northern site wins hands down. It would be a pretty easy walk from the end of the station up to the mainline steam site which would also allow more room for development on a decent sized piece of flat land. Also we should consider the redevelopment potential of existing land, you covered off residential land but what about some of the commercial buildings, I really think that the buildings along Heather St could be converted into mixed use type buildings which could actually extend the mainstreet of Parnell, something impossible to do otherwise. The other thing to remember is that Grafton is probably only just a bit further away from the Museum, but it is closer to the playing fields.

  7. I agree this is a very effective way of analysing where stations should go. How long did it take to tally up the numbers Nick?

  8. Great analysis of the issue. The northern station certainly would be more assessible to lower Parnell Road and The Strand. This northern interchange gives good connectivity with buses travelling down Parnell Road. Will work even better with integrated ticketing.

  9. Matt, from what I can see the whole area around the lower part of Parnell and across Stanley St to the start of Beach Rd is ripe for major (re)development. The works going on at Carlaw Park will really set the tone of the area, and with a rail station in place I imagine developers will start to convert or replace a lot of the buildings around Heather St and parts further north. Indeed the Parnell mainstreet could eventually spread all the way down to the station site, as retail and cafes and the like will naturally gravitate to where the foot traffic is. Mixed use is a great idea in my opinion, it means the precinct avoids being empty during the day (residential area) or in the evening (commercial areas). That would really help with the perception of security and safety at the station and the area in general. In terms of Museum/Domain access, I think both Grafton and Newmarket are more or less the same distance away (800-900m as the crow flies) but have the benefit of a basically flat, direct and legible route along existing city streets.

    Admin, it actually only took me about 20 mins, but collating and analysing data like this is what I do for a living. It’s not particularly hard if you know your way around Excel, and anyone could do it with a pen and paper and a little time.

  10. It would be interesting to do a similar analysis of Te Mahia station, Takanini station and a future Walters Road station near the Addison development. I reckon that in the future we do want a Walters Road station, but probably don’t want to keep that AND Takanini AND Te Mahia.

    … although it would be trickier as a lot of the justification with a Walters Road station would be the future development of Addison.

    1. It might be quite easy to do the catchment on outer stations like those, without the need to be very precise you could go up one level and select the larger blocks.
      I guess the companion to an evaluation of the existing patronage base should be some equivalent analysis of potential patronage. You could map out the zoning and lot sizes, look at the existing development and try and put a figure on the potential floor area of new and redeveloped housing and buildings.

  11. Very interesting analysis!
    However, I have 2 points.
    First, I’m missing feedbacks in the sense that “build it and they will come”, in other words, more important than the current layout of the areas is the future “zoning”..
    Second … “catchment” areas is a bit misleading and contradictory with a “network” approach. For a “world class” PT system, it is necessary to integrate rail and buses as they serve different purposes (for example, you really don’t want train stations too close to each other or bus stops too far apart). So, the “500m” circle, although relevant, it is not decisive as not all rail users will walk to the stations (and I’d argue that actually you want the majority to arrive from the rest of the PT network).

  12. GOP, I think it is pretty clear that there are a lot of opportunities for further development around the northern site which is all zoned for mixed use, unlike the southern site with is largely surrounded by park and historic housing. Presumably building a quality station would see a lot of development growth around it (who wants to pitch in a buy an old warehouse building down that way?…mmmm capital gains)

    I understand what you mean with the network approach and connections, another benefit of the northern site is the fact it can connect directly with the link bus Parnell Rise and possibly others on Stanley St/Beach Rd. However I think it is important to recognise that Parnell will be primarily an ‘inner city’ station rather than a suburban station. Here the walking catchment is paramount, both for residents and people accessing the Parnell/Mechanics Bay area for work, study or play. With Britomart on one side and Newmarket on the other, the area is well served by interchange opportunities anyway, and you’d be hard pressed to design any bus route in Parnell that didn’t pass through Britomart or Newmarket immediately before or after.

  13. “I did toy with the idea of mapping out all the possible 500m long routes running along roads and paths then adjusting it according to the terrain”

    Did that for a traffic assessment I worked on once. Was a bitch to do and to cad up – and that was even though I stuck an “indicative” on the resulting figure to cover my lazy ass.

    Good article. Let’s hope sanity prevails. I like the idea of the mainline steam shed, but that doesn’t override the transport needs of Auckland. A good walking path along the railway line could also mean that an “ArtStation” kind of event place t mainline steam could be – guess what – within 500m of a new rail station.

    1. From what would be the end of the platform it would only be about 250m up to the Mainline steam sheds

  14. Why use 500m catchments today and the other day? The experience in Wellington suggests that people are quite happy to walk a kilometer (distance from the station to the civic center) or more from the railway station. At 5km/hr, 500m is only six minutes walk and that doesn’t sound much at all.

  15. I think you’re right that 500m is fairly short for a flat direct walk, but I think in this case it might be prudent to underestimate a little because of the terrain and the street network. Because it’s quite steep around there and navigating the streets would require a fairly indirect route you’re gonna end up walking more than 500m to get from the border line to the station.

    To walk from my house to my local station is almost 800m, and I do that a couple of times a day without it feeling particularly far. I think 1km route length is reasonable (its only ten minutes or so on foot) especially for destination stations where people are going to work or uni. But if you mapped out 1000m along the routes people could actually walk along it probably wouldn’t get much further than the 500m radii as the crow flies.

  16. I think the pedestrian bridge over SH16 needs to be a vital part of that station design. The current road layout not very pedestrian friendly so i don’t know if we would want to encourage large numbers of uni commuters.

    Anyone like to estimate a ballpark cost?

  17. It would cost about the same at the one across the northern motorway at Akoranga station, if anyone can put a price on that.

    I don’t know if a bridge is essential, but definitely some upgraded links. A footpath from the new business school plaza down to an improved pedestrian crossing at the intersection of Stanley and Alten Rd would go a long way.

  18. “It would cost about the same at the one across the northern motorway at Akoranga station”

    The bridge over from Jacobs Ladder to Westhaven that NZTA are building was costed at several millions, $4million I THINK, but that was quite arty too, and longer, I guess.

    But I agree that it would be (almost) necessary to have a bridge for the station to connect well to the west. More so, since a station would sit on the higher level, having a pedestrian bridge could mean that one has to go up only once – sweet solution to several issues.

    1. The bridge could be used as a selling point for Parnell residents. For a slightly increased distance to the station (compared with the mainland steam option)they would receive improved foot access to the Uni, Court and the city beyond them.

  19. I’ve been considering this bridge idea, and there doesn’t seem to be any logical place to put it. The problem is there is a bunch of new buildings on the eastern side, while the western side may or may not be bowled for an extension of SH16. It’s hard to find a spot that doesn’t involve getting down to street level, then climbing back over the bridge, then going back down again.

    The best I can come up with is just over 200m long and has a kink halfway along, even then it requires two property purchases and still only gets halfway up Alten Rd.

    What do people think?

    1. I like the position in jarbury post (“A University Train Station”) – Its just over 200 meters long and eliminates the extremely steep bit of Alten Park.

      These three issues will have to be overcome:
      – A few trees will have to be moved/removed in the park
      – It crosses a lot used (owned?) by the police
      – It requires the station to be built on a (new) bridge (expensive and may require line closure during construction)

      This station will loose a lot of Uni traffic when the CBD tunnel is built so it must also cater well to the local residences and businesses to justify its likely high cost

  20. Scott, my one issue with Jarbury’s bridge is that is assumes the station could be built spanning Parnell Rise and/or The Strand. I think that is highly unlikely due to the expense involved, they will no doubt build it on a patch of clear flat land like the satellite site or further back at mainline steam. So if that is the case then your elevated foot bridge is almost 500m long to get from the satellite site to the corner of Alten Rd and Wynyard St, and requires a few corners to get around the existing buildings. We also need to factor in the fact there would probably be a lot of resistance to any foot bridge crossing any private property (as the owners would want to develop their entire site), or any structure on the western side of Stanley St (as a motorway trench is planned through here in the future). That leaves relatively slim pickings, it has to go over the road corridor, rail corridor and/or perhaps university land… but still be cheap and as direct as possible.

    Good point about the bridge needing to work for local residents and businesses though.

  21. Whilst Nick’s article is a nice piece of analysis, the terrain and access issues for both sites nullify the jobs and residents numbers to a large extent. My view is that very few people who work or live west of Stanley St or north of Parnell Rise are likely to use the a northern Parnell station, unless there was a major investment in improving pedestrian access from those areas. Stanley St, The Strand and Parnell Rise are major roads, and are busy at all times of the day. They can only be safely crossed on foot via the signalised crossings, and the waiting times are interminable.

    The fact of the matter is that the railway line through Parnell is at the bottom of a steep gully, so any station along it is going to a require a trek to get to and from. Only the keen types will bother, the rest of the residents who use public transport will continue to catch the Link bus, despite its obvious disadvantages when compared to rail.

  22. I don’t think the station will be used by residents particularly much in the short term, more like people coming to Parnell. Once the city loop is there and perhaps a few more lines then it will be more of an ‘origin’ station.

    Right now Stanley St is a busy traffic sewer, but once they build Grafton Gully stage 3 the whole area will be let out of limbo, the role of Stanley St will no longer be a motorway on ramp and the various abandoned buildings and empty lots will be developed.
    I used to walk through that way quite a bit when at uni, there is actually only one crossing you need to make which isn’t too bad. A little attention to the pedestrian amenity would go a long way.
    I guess my point is the lower site has a heap of potential even if it is a bit crap now, while the upper site will always be much like it is now.

  23. In the wider scheme of Auckland PT it may be better to hold off building this station and re-assess it post CBD tunnel

    If the Parnell station was built it would access to uni (or half of uni) from its list of advantages as this will be already be catered for by the Parnell station (and its expensive flashy footbridge). We know that main need for the CBD tunnel is to eliminate (reduce) the Britomart bottleneck but the bulk of the public will see it as improved access to the bit of the city they work/live/play in.

    I don’t really support this view but it raises an interesting point, is it worth sacrificing components of our transport system to improve the political case for large expenditure.

    Am I being to harsh on Parnell?

  24. I think it might be the opposite, we need to do everything we can to boost patronage and demand now. This Parnell station will be a relatively cheap way to grow a lot of demand, and as more people use the system greater the call for expansion becomes.

    As Jarbury has pointed out in the past, nothing like thousands of screaming commuters (read: voters) stuck in jam packed trains with no chance of relief to get the ball rolling on the CBD tunnel.

  25. Nick R’s analysis is consistent with patronage forecast comparisons of the two sites undertaken by ARTA officers a couple of years ago, which showed that the main patronage flows would be to/from the university from either site. However the northern site had something like 2100 am peak alightings by 2016 whereas the southern site only had about 1200.

    In addition the gradient of the railway at the northern site is much more suitable for a station than the southern site where the gradient is something like 1 in 45 (compared to ARTA and KiwiRail’s standards which specify a a maximum gradient through stations of 1 in 100)

    Unfortunately, as is often the case in Auckland local government issues, all of the above logical reasons for choosing the northern site seem to be of no account when politicians get involved..

  26. Interesting, so the ARTA assessment predicted almost double the number of alightings at the northern site, while the census data indicated approximately twice as many residents and jobs at the northern site. I guess that validates the technique to some extent.

  27. I think another thing to consider would be another station on the eastern line around the strand, making two stations in the area instead of one. This would lend more weight to the southern Parnell station as, along with an eastern line station near the strand, a southern Parnell station would help cover the area more effectively. A couple of new, or tidied up platforms on the eastern line with walking access to the strand would be useful for all the proposed development down there along with a vector arena stop. The southern Parnell stop covers Parnell proper with easier terrain to deal with before finally getting your hands on a capuchino.
    The northern Parnell stop is more central but the terrain is very confining. I dont think it would be as effective as a google map view might suggest.

  28. Hi Saljen, as someone who used to jog through there I believe the terrain around the northern site is far more forgiving than at the southern site for getting up to Parnell. It is a very steep hill with an indirect winding route between the mainline steam sheds and Parnell Rd. Heading up Heather St from the other site is a little longer but less steep and a straighter route.
    For getting anywhere else apart from Parnell Rd the northern site could be a lot easier, provided some good pedestrain links can be made to Parnell Rise and through the Carlaw Park redevelopment. At the southern site there basically isn’t anywhere else you can go except Parnell Rd and Carlaw Park.

    I quite like the idea of a station near the intersection of Quay St and the Strand on the eastern line, but I don’t know if it would be popular enough to bother. Handy where there are things on at the Arena, probably pretty poorly used any other time as half the catchment would be taken up by the container port and rail yards.

    1. “I quite like the idea of a station near the intersection of Quay St and the Strand on the eastern line, but I don’t know if it would be popular enough to bother. Handy where there are things on at the Arena, probably pretty poorly used any other time as half the catchment would be taken up by the container port and rail yards”.(Nick R)

      Yes, it wouldnt have any northern catchment, but either southern line station doesnt really have a southern catchment with the domain being there.

      …but I think it would be worthwhile. My reason is that I used to live on St georges bay rd and that road is kind of a gully to which the main suburban part of Parnell funnels into.
      IMO this would be the most accessible and comfortable site for the main residential part of parnell. Parnell rise is a steep climb up the road from north-west to south-east but it is also a steep perpendicular to that. Most of residential parnell would have a steep climb up garfield st or pehaps ruskin st to get to either of the stations on the southern line, and so imo the st georges bay rd(eastern line) station would be the most accessible for suburban parnell.

      Though I think it would need the cbd loop to be sufficiently effective.

      I think it would have two roles, firstly as a station for the residential part of parnell and then vector arena. The location of the southern line station would be chosen to complement the eastern line one. Im not strongly in favour of one or the other but I think the question should be thought of as the location of two stations and not one.

  29. As someone who both lives and works within the section that is covered by the 500m radius from both tunnels I am very familiar with the area and consider the northern site superior (even though it would be less convenient for me personally). Cheshire St is very narrow, has a narrow footpath on only one side of the road with no simple option of widening or putting another on the other side of the road, it is steep up to Parnell Road and would require significant signage for people unfamiliar with the area. The northern site provides superior linking to Parnell via Heather St as the road is not so steep and the footpaths are wider. A direct pedestrian link to the Business Park at Carlaw Park is also possible whereas the southern site would require a more roundabout route.

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