Auckland City Council has produced a very interesting policy document on improving transport in the CBD. The whole document is here, with a council agenda item that provides a summary able to be read here. The document as a whole is well worth a read, and outlines a pretty exciting and refreshing approach to transport in Auckland’s CBD.

One of the most useful things highlighted in the report are current transport trends – in particular the growing number of people catching public transport into the CBD and the reducing numbers of people driving to the CBD each day to work: So officially now of those working in the CBD more catch public transport than drive to work every day. This is a useful statistic to mention next time someone tries to disparage public transport: imagine twice the number of traffic lanes into the CBD, imagine twice as much of the city dedicated to carparking – that’s what would happen without public transport. We pretty much wouldn’t have a CBD for all the roads and parking buildings.

Looking at future trends, it becomes pretty obvious that there’s going to be huge pressure on trying to get more people into the CBD via public transport – as remember we have little, if any, way to increase roading capacity into the CBD: With around 33,000 public transport trips into the CBD at peak times at the moment, and almost all additional trips by 2031 and 2051 into the CBD also being by public transport, that suggests we’re going to need to at least double the PT capacity over the next 20 years. The argument for the CBD rail tunnel becomes pretty clear.

The study is certainly worth reading through. I’m pretty impressed by the vision – we just need to make sure it happens.

Share this


  1. There is a small issue with this data, or at least the reporting of it.
    They chart refers to 32,000 *people* using private transport, but the text refers to 32,000 *vehicles*. As we know vehicle occupancy is around 1.2 people each so they could be out by 20% depending on which is actually correct. Kinda sloppy for a council!

    To put this into percentages:
    If it is actually people the are taking about:
    46% Private vehicles, 47% public transport, 7% walking and cycling (or 46% less sustainable vs. 54% more sustainable).

    If it is actually vehicles they are talking about, the proportion of people is more like:
    50% private vehicles, 44% public transport, 6% walking and cycling (or bang on 50-50).

    But either way it’s good evidence for the value of public transport. This proportion is only going to improve too: it’s not like they can realistically increase roading capacity to or within the CBD to any great extent. So barring some massive carpooling drive or a drastic reduction in car size almost all the project growth will have to come on the back of public transport. If they actually want to double the number of jobs and residents as projected, they’d better hurry up and build the rail tunnel (and/or a bunch more bus lanes and ferry routes).

  2. Too bad that developers are rarely politically active creatures. And thinking 5-10 years ahead is too long for their short-term financial horizons.

  3. I was one of the 1,500 in 1991 living in the CBD. We had to bus to Newmarket for supermarket shopping (oh horror!) and no Link then either. Not sure whether living in the CBD will become more enjoyable with 54,000 others in 2051.
    Isn’t employment moving way from the CBD over the past decades? Or does it include all home-workers and telecommuters living in the CBD too?

  4. The *proportion* of employment in the CBD has decline, but numbers are still growing in the CBD overall. That is simply a product of Auckland getting larger i.e. the number of people employed anywhere except the CBD is increasing faster than those in the CBD, which you would expect for a city growing outwards. However the CBD is still easily the single largest employment area in the region, and that is unlikely to change.

  5. I am suprised how they can come up with growth figures. There must be a max and min number, instead of having 154,000 Jobs and 54,000 Residents. With the construction of the CBD rail loop, accessability will be better, which would hopefully improve the livability of the city, more so than without the rail loop. I would like to see data showing what the CBD will be like with and without the rail tunnel in 2051

    1. The reported growth estimates will no doubt be the mean figures of a wider confidence interval. And presumably they are an estimate based on past growth trends plus a little forecasting around population demographics. I doubt those forecasts take into account any constraints on growth such as a lack of transport access, lack of building sites etc.

      I just can’t see how they could even thing of doubling employment and residences in the CBD in the next 40 years without major public transport improvements. As I noted above there is almost no scope to widen any roads in the CBD, so the current capacity is basically it forever.

  6. Interesting to see just how little rail features in the peak hour traffic. Public transport accounts for almost 35,000 peak hour trips, but only 6,000 of those are via rail. That leaves the overwhelming majority by bus and ferry. That is probably because buses go just about everywhere while rail lines don’t. So is Auckland better off investing in bus improvements (busways, bus lanes, etc) rather than rail projects? After all, we can extend rail to the airport and tunnel under the CBD. We could even tunnel under the harbour and north to Albany. But we’ll almost certainly never have more than a single line out to West Auckland, meaning that everyone except a handful of people living right next to the stations on that single line will need to either change between bus and rail or park and ride.

    Vancouver seems to survive with an extensive bus network and almost no rail. Are they a good example for Auckland?

    1. Obi, the thing is that Auckland’s CBD doesn’t have that much ability to handle significantly more buses. Many of the main bus routes into the CBD are near capacity, and the CBD is quite choked with buses as well as cars in the PM peak particularly.

      Vancouver doesn’t have an extensive rail system, but it is exceedingly well used. Many bus routes feed into the Skytrain lines rather than running into the CBD and out again. We should copy their example.

      1. If we’re going to double the number of people working in the CBD and our bus and motorway networks are at or near capacity, then we need to grow the rail network from 6,000 peak time passengers to around 80,000 (*). Is anyone proposing a rail system that could manage this sort of growth and capacity? Could three CBD stations handle that many passengers at peak time? That means almost 30,000 arrivals for each station over a 2 hour period, with a peak within that around the 8:30-9:00 time. That might mean 20,000 arrivals per station per hour, or around 6 people per second. That’s a lot of escalators and ticket gates!

        (* All things being equal, we’d double public transport passengers from 35,000 to 70,000 and car occupants from 30,000 to 60,000. But we don’t want to and can’t double car traffic, so rail is expected to shoulder the 35,000 extra passengers plus the 30,000 who would have driven under the “all things being equal” scenario, totaling 75,000 extra plus 6,000 already using the train makes a grand total of 80,000 peak hour rail passengers.)

        1. Rail can handle some seriously high numbers. Let’s say 8 car trains at capacity, you’re probably looking at 1000 people per train. 24 trains per hour in each direction through the tunnel – that could be 48,000 per hour. A North Shore Line would be in addition to that, potentially bringing another 20,000 per hour into the CBD.

          So theoretically it’s possible. I just hope we don’t go cheap on designing the CBD tunnel stations.

        2. Using my earlier figure of 30,000 arrivals per station at peak time, and assuming a daily figure of 40,000 arrivals total, you’re looking at 80,000 entries and exits a day. Maybe 23 million a year, given that weekends will be far less busy than on weekdays. Compared to LU that is significantly more busy than the modern station at Canada Water (11 million) but much less than the vast modern Canary Wharf station (44 million). But then pokey old Leicester Square handles 38 million a year. So it looks manageable, altho good design and proper specification will mean the stations are either a joy to use or hell on earth at peak times.

          If you’re talking about 24 x 2way trains per hour on the southern lines and 20 x 2way on a northern line, then we’re probably going to need 2 x 2way CBD tunnels. Because 44 trains per hour per direction would be a lot even by London standards and Aucklanders would have to be much quicker getting on and off trains than they are now. It’d probably be easier to build the stations with platforms for 4 tunnels each, rather than try and retrofit a second pair later.

  7. Well the CBD rail tunnel needs to be built and I would fully support rail to the Airport and Botany, but I totally agree we should aim to double our kilometers of bus lanes and increase their operation hours. Also increasing frequencies must be done and I think there are places like SH16 and SH18 that would be well suited to BRT

  8. Interesting, things are going to get to a point where there HAVE to be massive PT improvements Auckland wide or 3 – 4 hour motorway jams, they just can’t fit any more roads through the CMJ cost effectively…

    1. I think more realistically development would be directed away from the CBD to other areas – to Auckland’s detriment as there are significant economic agglomeration benefits of having a strong CBD.

  9. Obi, One thing to consider is that rail trips are on average three times longer than bus trips. So while the number of trips is relatively low the actually ‘work done’ by the rail network is about three times greater than it appears.
    And yes I think that bus feeding to rail and ferries is the way forward, particularly as a five minute transfer to a train could save the traveller twenty or thirty minutes vs. the bus only trip, plus take five or ten buses off the road (and out of the CBD or other centres). As an example, even to shift the existing minor level of rail patronage to buses would mean about 120 additional buses coming into the city in the peak. That theoretical increase of 80k passengers would require more than 1,500 additional buses though the CBD at peak, or one every 13 seconds for two hours!
    Vancouver has an excellent intergrated bus network that Auckland should strive to replicate, however it does also have four main metro rail lines (and a couple of branches) that feed their downtown. This system gets more than 80% of it’s patronage from connecting buses. As an example of how well this works, Vancouvers four lines and 47 stations get almost double the patronage of Melbourne’s 15 line system with 216 stations. The difference is in the fact that almost all Melbourne’s rail patronage comes from walk up with a small proportion of park n ride. Auckland should look to follow the Vancouver model for a cheap, efficient and effective transport system.

    On capacity:
    There are currently three inbound tracks to the central city in Auckland. At fairly standard levels of signalling each of those could handle 24 trains an hour, or 72 in total. A full six car EMU will be able to carry just on a thousand people when chockers. One issue it there are three inbound tracks and three outbound tracks, but only two tracks planned for the tunnel through the middle. This means that to use our *existing* network to capacity 1/3 of services would have to terminate somewhere outside the CBD tunnel (i.e. the Strand or maybe Newmarket, unless the tunnel is built to bypass Britomart rather than rob it of capacity 🙂 ).

    So once the electrification project is complete and the signalling upgraded the existing tracks could bring around 70k people an hour into the CBD, providing there are enough trains available and there is sufficient capacity to run them through or terminate (i.e. this would require the CBD tunnel plus additional terminations at the Strand). Across the two hour morning peak bringing one hundred thousand people into the CBD by rail would be feasible without any major improvents beyond the CBD tunnel. Without a CBD tunnel about half that would be possible, but only if half the trains terminated before Britomart.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *