Nick’s post a few days back on looking at a Vancouver Skytrain type solution for providing the North Shore with a long-term rapid transit system (as well as other areas, but I think North Shore is the one which makes the most sense initially) inspired a lot of discussion. It also made me take a second look at the issue – especially if the “light metro” can run over the Harbour Bridge (or just beneath the traffic deck?) and could run up the busway without requiring serious earthworks.

First things first, I think it’s necessary to point out that the North Shore has a very high quality, pretty brand-spanking new, Rapid Transit option at the moment – in the form of the Northern Busway. So any rail projects to the North Shore are likely to be a fairly low priority – definitely after the City Rail Link and the Southwest/Airport Line. There’s also a good argument over whether the proposed AMETI busway is really a long-term solution for that part of Auckland (or whether we need to look at rail options) but that’s a debate for another day.

While the Northern Busway certainly has plenty of life left in it, and plenty of spare capacity along part of its route, it has its own weaknesses. It has to share lanes with general traffic over the harbour bridge, Fanshawe Street is getting close to the maximum number of buses it can handle and – more generally – the city centre is increasingly being flooded with buses at peak times. While the City Rail Link will do a lot to help the issue of the CBD being flooded with buses, it obviously won’t do anything about the number of buses coming in from the North Shore – as is shown in the diagram below, which looks at projected bus numbers in 2041 with the City Rail Link: The Albert Street bus numbers can be fixed by running more North Shore services via Wellesley Street, and perhaps the Fanshawe numbers could be decreased a little bit by running some via Cook/Wellington St (although they would have no priority measures between Fanshawe & Cook/Wellington). But generally we’re going to have more than 200 buses an hour from the North Shore coming into the city centre by 2041. That leads to poor operation, significant delays and a pretty horrific City Centre.  Oxford Street in London is a good example of the problem created by so many buses passing through a particular street where you don’t have the width to create a Curitiba/Bogota style of BRT system (and I would argue we don’t have that width in Auckland’s city centre): NZTA’s study into North Shore Rail (which is where the above images all come from) only considered two options for future rapid transit: the current busway or an eye-wateringly expensive full-scale completely underground Metro from Newmarket to Albany. The report says this:

In this section of the report, a comparison is made between busway and rail systems with respect to service attributes, corridor capacity, system attractiveness and transit mode share response. Consideration is also given to differences between the two types of systems with respect to CBD impacts and their role in shaping cities.

Comments in this section regarding rail are made on assumptions of a suburban or metro rail system (otherwise referred to as commuter or heavy rail systems). A comprehensive review of different rail types is not provided here, but it is assumed that rail in the North Shore would be either an electric suburban system, similar to that to be operating on the electrified lines in Auckland, or a metro rail system.

Constructing a light rail system along the Northern Busway corridor would not deliver any benefits over the existing busway system and is not considered here.

I completely agree it would be nonsensical to construct a light-rail line to the North Shore – as it would be an enormous cost for little, if any, capacity benefit as compared to a busway. Furthermore, you would force transfers from feeder buses without providing the speed advantage that comes from a fully grade-separated Metro solution (whether that be traditional Metro or Light Metro).

The NZTA report also chooses a rather strange preferred alignment for Rapid Transit on the North Shore – not quite on the busway route but sort of zig-zagging across it – requiring such an alignment to be fully underground:No real justification for this particular alignment is provided in the NZTA report, although I’m presuming it’s preferred over the busway route in order to connect up existing town centres.

On the city side, the report uses the super-deluxe tunnel idea running beneath the University and Hospital to link further south – something completely unnecessary in my opinion. So really, we can ignore the massive cost that the NZTA report concludes would occur if we tried to create a rail link to the North Shore – especially if the Light Metro option is viable. Somehow getting the line over the existing harbour bridge is surely likely to be around a billion dollars cheaper than a rail tunnel (and if we could sling it under the existing bridge deck we can even keep the existing number of lanes). Secondly, if we can easily upgrade the existing busway to carry Light Metro trains we have a pretty cheap way of getting those trains to Constellation Station. A full Rapid Transit right-of-way between Constellation and Albany doesn’t yet exist, but is in the process of being planned, so could be constructed in a way that’s easy to upgrade to Light Metro when necessary.

Now if we look at that issue of cost, a fairly good guide would be the Canada Line in Vancouver – which was opened in late 2009 and is constructed to the “Light Metro” standard we’re talking about here (even if it is a slightly different technology to the rest of the Vancouver system). The Canada Line’s route is shown in the image to the left, effectively being a key north-south link across Vancouver, connecting the downtown with the Airport and with the major sub-regional centre of Richmond.

Around 110,000 trips a day are taken along the line, which wasn’t expected to reach 100,000 daily riders until 2013. During the February 2010 Winter Olympics there were well over 200,000 daily trips (who says the Rugby World Cup is the world’s third biggest sporting event?)

The line includes just over 19 km of track, including the 4km spur to the Airport. As you can see from the map to the left, a large chunk of the route is in a tunnel – either cut and cover (between Marine Drive and Olympic Village) or as a bored tunnel (the central city section). The bored tunnel section is around 2.7km long and the cut and cover tunnel seems (from looking at Google Earth) to be around 6 km long.

In total, the project has the following lengths of different types of tracks:

Tunnel 9080 m
Elevated 7349 m
Bridge 614 m
At-Grade 1385 m

In contrast, by my rough calculations a North Shore Line would have around 1.5km of bored tunnel (Westhaven to Aotea Station), around 2km of elevated tracks (if we price the harbour bridge section as being roughly similar to that of elevated tracks, as some strengthening and other work may be required) with pretty much most of the rest able to be at grade – aside from probably a new bridge over Constellation Drive (and a stronger Tristram Ave bridge potentially). On a per kilometre basis, you would certainly think that a North Shore Line could be much cheaper than the Canada Line.

All up it seems that construction of the Canada Line cost around $2 billion Canadian, with the cost being split across a variety of agencies and there being a PPP structure put in place:

The Canada Line was built as a public-private partnership. Funding was provided by both government agencies and a private partner, the proponent. As of March 2009, the entire project was expected to cost $2.054 billion. The premier of BC has furthermore stated that the project is on budget and ahead of schedule. When approved in December 2004 the cost was given as $1.76 billion.

The public contributions to the budget comes from the following sources:
Government of Canada: $450 million
Government of British Columbia: $435 million
Vancouver Airport Authority: $300 million
TransLink: $334 million
 City of Vancouver: $29 million

These sums are all in 2006 dollars, except for the Government of Canada’s contribution which will be paid out when constructed, and is estimated to be equivalent of $419 million 2003 dollars.

The private partner was expected to contribute $200 million, as well as being responsible for any construction cost overruns. As of November 7, 2009, InTransitBC has invested $750 million. InTransitBC is a joint venture company owned by SNC-Lavalin, the Investment Management Corporation of BC (bcIMC) and the Caisse de Depot et Placements de Quebec.

The British Columbia government initially committed $370 million but when the bid came in over budget, they contributed an extra $65 million. TransLink also put in extra money by committing money from the sale of the Sexsmith Park and Ride in Richmond and from the introduction of a special fare in the Airport Zone.

I wonder whether some sort of similar funding arrangement might be looked at for the City Rail Link project.

A North Shore Line via the existing busway and the harbour bridge is around 16 kilometres in length, so a bit shorter than the Canada Line – while the route also involves less tunnelling and elevated structures (and a lot fewer underground stations), so would be much cheaper that way. So it’s feasible the cost of a North Shore Line could actually come in at a price far less than the crazy $11 billion or whatever NZTA suggested the line would cost. That may well make the project viable in 15 or so years time when the city can’t handle any more buses.

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32 comments

  1. I’m still not convinced that going for a light metro style system for the north shore is the best idea but for the purposes of when I refer to rail it will be to either conventional heavy rail like we have or light metro like Nick raised the other day.

    I think the purpose of the NZTA report was to try and link as many of the major destinations on the shore as possible in one line as that would help to encourage its use more but I think that in the end it would most likely just follow the busway corridor. I also think that the line should come into Aotea station as in the first stage where it could terminate until it was decided where it would go from there while also waiting till the money and demand were available to extend it further either hooking back into the existing system or heading off somewhere else.

    I also don’t think the costs you have stated are that different from what we would have here for a project of that size even with conventional heavy rail. There are two very good comparisons we have, first is the New Lynn trench, it is about 1km long and cost about $150m including the station and other works (like adding additional road crossings), the thing with the trench though is it is in a very difficult geographical position due to the soft clay soils in the area. This required very specialist equipment to be brought in and would definitely have increased construction costs.
    The second example is from the predicted costs of the CRL, in this case the cost of a cut and cover tunnel from Britomart, under the Westfield site and up Albert St to Victoria St is costed at ~$80m, this is a distance of about 650m so it gives us a per km cost of about $125m but again there are some pretty tricky sections here including reclaimed land and building foundations to worry about.

    If we use these two examples and guesstimate a cut and cover tunnel cost of $130m per km then for 19km of line we get a total cost of $2.4b or when converted into Canadian dollars $2b which is the cost Vancouver paid for the line even though theirs included some sections that were probably cheaper. To me this indicates that it will end up costing us pretty much the same whether we go for light metro or heavy rail.

    The big cost of course will be in the tunnel under the harbour (I just don’t think using the bridge will be practical) however even then there are some interesting developments that have been happening. China has recently opened a few bored tunnels that have both 3 road lanes and have a rail line in the same tube, this has been achieved by using a bigger TBM and if we could do something similar then getting a motorway crossing might mean we get a rail tunnel at the same time (or at least ready to go when we can get the shore side sorted out). Interestingly it appears that the NZTA are now interested in this as they are making a trip to China in November to look at this and are also paying for Len Brown to go with them.
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10759100
    “The NZ Transport Agency has also invited Brown to join two of its senior managers who will soon head up to China and Hong Kong to look at cutting edge multi-modal harbour tunnels”

    1. Matt I think the Light Metro cost difference happens on the North Shore because we can run huge sections of it at grade along the existing busway – without the massive earthworks that would be required for conventional rail. Hardly any of the Canada Line is at grade.

  2. “On the city side, the report uses the super-deluxe tunnel idea running beneath the University and Hospital to link further south – something completely unnecessary in my opinion”

    Yes, why would you want to connect thousands of workers, patients, students, researchers, teachers, doctors and nurses to the public transport system ?

    1. Mainly because they’re already on it. The hospital has a huge number of buses that go past it every day and is a short walk from Grafton Station. The University will be a short walk up from Aotea station (and Parnell, if it were better located). The University also obviously has a huge number of buses travelling past it.

      It’s not that the tunnel’s a bad idea in dreamland where we have endless money, but in the real world it’s unnecessary.

      1. I know it’s dreamland, but that connection would be pretty quick, useful and cool, saving everybody the need to spend their lives traveling slowly around Vector arena.

  3. So where are the passengers on the 246 North Shore buses heading ? Surely some might be heading for the Grafton Hospital or University.

    By hardwiring the tertiary hospitals & university campuses (NS, CBD, Manukau) there are productivity gains to be made. Generally if you double size you get a 10% productivity gain. A 10% gain on billions each year in expenditure, is hundreds of millions of savings. Yes in dreamland I’m unsure why we would spend hundreds of millions on a tunnel lasting 100 years that results in hundreds of millions in savings each year, but in the real world it make sense.

    You will notice this is a trend in RT project overseas.

  4. The point is that the costs for heavy rail or light metro are actually quite similar so it most likely won’t matter which technology is selected as they will cost us a similar amount. I also don’t buy the NZTA’s suggested costs for rail on the shore as we can see by their suggestions that each rail station would cost double what the each of the two really deep CRL stations will cost that their estimates are way off. Most of the busway route is relatively flat and not something that would particularly trouble an EMU that is also designed to work on the CRL, this isn’t to say we could just lay down tracks and run trains but I suspect the level of work required to convert it is being substantially overstated. It wouldn’t surprise me if the NZTA’s preference is to have an alternative route so that the busway would be empty which they would happily take off our hands to use for carpool or truck lanes.

    My other point is that for perhaps only a little extra cost we may be able to get a multi modal tunnel where the road tunnel is built and the rail tunnel is included in the same tube ready for when we can build the network out.

    At the end of the day I personally I think that even if it cost a little more we would still be better going with heavy rail as it could allow us to eventually hook it up into the rest of the system which can give other benefits and with the exception of linear motors, all the rest of the technology benefits listed in the light metro post could be built into our current system if we wanted them to be. Also remember that any line over the shore will likely be 20-30 years away at best through which time rail technology of all forms will change

    1. Matt L, the busway is certainly not ‘mostly flat’, it doesn’t have an inch of flat route along it! While I agree the amount of work required for conversion is probably being overstated and that the full heavy metro concept was a complete hatchet job, at the end of the day you can’t argue that these light metro options don’t have far less grade and curvature constraints than out EMUs will.

      The busway was designed and built cheaply for buses, in reality that means they did as little work as possible to fit the alignment in without impacting upon the motorway at all. A good example of this is the Tristram Ave viaduct, a hump backed monstrosity that has compound vertical and horizontal curves. This would need to be completely replaced for suburban rail.

      Beyond the harbour crossing itself, other issues on the route for conventional rail are:
      -The curve around Onewa interchange (probably irrelevant if a tunnel is used)
      -The hump between Akoranga and Northcote Rd. A rise of 15m elevation in 320m (1 in 21)
      -The viaduct over Wairau Rd, apparently not strong enough for the weight of heavy rail.
      -The grade between Wairau Rd and Tristram Ave, at one point it drops 5m in 82m, or 1 in 16
      -The Tristram Ave viaduct as mentioned above
      -The grade on the north side of Tristram Ave, similar to that on the south side
      -The grade from Sunnynook station to Constellation. This rises from 20m elevation to 75m over 1,377m, even with a tunnel cutting directly through the hill between the two stations this is still 1 in 25.

      Even assuming 1 in 25 is a feasible grade suburban rail would require (by my rough estimates) three separate deep cuts each with pair of retaining walls to stop the motorway collapsing into them, two viaducts demolished and replaced and a new 1.4km long tunnel, just to refit the existing alignment. That’s certainly possible, but not cheap. On the other hand buses, trams or light metro can handle these grades out of the box.

      I disagree “that the costs for heavy rail or light metro are actually quite similar” for the existing busway corridor. Heavy rail would require at least several hundred million worth of earthworks and structure in addition to modifying the stations and laying the tracks. Light metro would only involve the cost of modifying the station and laying the tracks. That’s before we start to consider the extension to Albany, which has huge grade changes along the way.

      Suburban rail in the busway is a project to be priced in billions. Light metro could be half the cost, or even less if it can be piggy backed onto the existing or new crossing.

      1. Also I’d just like to add that driverless operation, the ‘killer app’ of dedicated light metro that gives such great operating cost and frequency benefits, cannot be used on any line that shares any part of it’s route with non-driverless trains. That rules out the all of the existing network and the proposed airport route, unless these lines were duplicated with a pair of tracks for dedicated rapid transit.
        Yes driverless heavy rail does exist, but if we built it it would still be limited to the Shore line and any new lines. Through routing to existing lines would not be possible.

        1. Nick – I’m not saying that you would be able to straight away lay rails down and run normal trains over them but the works needed to get the busway up to being able to handle trains won’t be that hard. If a 1km long trench in soft soils costs $150m then a few cuttings, embankments, two bridge replacements and stations over 4-5km won’t be billions. I agree that getting under the hill at constellation will be a bit more expensive and that it definitely gets more expensive towards Albany but it isn’t impossible and I believe the costs of construction would actually work out quite similar.

          Also once again driverless operation is not a ‘killer app’ for light metro seeing as it can be done on heavy rail as well. Just because it isn’t used on mixed use lines now I would bet that by the time is built, likely to be at least 20 years away, that it will be pretty commonplace. To me the limitation seems to be a human one rather than a technological one. Also lets not forget that by the time this is built there will be a third main from the port to Papakura to take freight trains and quite possibly the SAL to get them away from Newmarket and therefore the inner parts of the Southern.

          Another thing to consider, the western line duplication cost about $400m out of the entire DART budget of $600m (the rest was spent on Newmarket, Onehunga and Manukau). It also included the New Lynn trench and while the corridor was already there, most of the formation was only designed for a single track so had to be built up to allow the second one. This required numerous cuttings, retaining walls and embankments as well as replacement of all the bridges along the route, many of which also required new foundations and complete replacement of most of the stations. Some of the bridges that were fully replaced include the ones over the Whau River, Henderson Creek and North Candia Rd and would be similar in size to the ones on the busway. All up about 19km of new formation and track along with replacment of almost the same amount of existing track so much longer than the busway. So based on that perhaps ~$500m to get from Akarana to Constellation, I consider that a good deal for the extra conectivity that gives us.

  5. “Oxford Street in London is a good example of the problem created by so many buses passing through a particular street where you don’t have the width to create a Curitiba/Bogota style of BRT system”

    Oxford St has the Central Line running underneath it. The number of buses isn’t caused by a lack of a rail route.

    1. I think the point of the initial post is that if you cram too many buses onto a street without passing room, you can end up with bus gridlock. I think one of the problems with Oxford Street isn’t that there aren’t any obvious alternative routes you can funnel a lot of buses down.

  6. As I mentioned in Nick’s thread, one of the interesting things about the development of this line was there was an option of two possible routes. The other route was along the Arbutus rail corridor, a single track line that stretched from the Fraser River in the south to False Creek in the north (just short of the Vancouver downtown peninsula). The Vancouver light rail lobby argued vigourously that a light rail line should be built along that corridor, rather than the more expensive Skytrain option. The problem was that the Arbutus line was travelling mainly through suburbs, (and one suburban shopping area), so the Cambie Street option was considered to connect up more “activity centres” (like Vancouver City Hall, the hospital, the Oakridge mall etc – the items marked in light blue text on the map).

    Both the Canada line and the original Expo line have their own dedicated bridges across the Fraser River. If it wasn’t deemed feasible to put a light metro on the existing harbour bridge, I wonder what the cost of a rail-only bridge would be versus the proposed second harbour bridge?

  7. I think it makes perfect sense to use a ‘metro’ style system for the Northern busway. In fact, in future, wouldn’t it be reasonable to suggest that the metro rail could follow around the the Shore, along the North Western and through Ponsonby / Grey Lynn to connect to the line downtown somewhere?
    Also, I wouldn’t bother with a short term rail adaption of the harbour bridge. I would rather see a lane used solely for buses as an interim measure until a ‘rail only’ tunnel could be built. This would provide a ‘cheap’ short term solution while reserving cash for the long term solution.

  8. “A North Shore Line via the existing busway and the harbour bridge is around 16 kilometres in length, so a bit shorter than the Canada Line…” And for similarly less tunnelling than the Canada line you could run the line via Takapuna without a spur.

    Icebird made a point about YVR “As I mentioned in Nick’s thread, one of the interesting things about the development of this line was there was an option of two possible routes.” I think this is interesting — they chose the more expensive option requiring tunneling because it made for a more complete line that ran _through_ and connected denser places that were goign to grow. We should contemplate that ourselves.

    I’m obviously in favour of running via the peninsula. Roughly that adds about 4 km of tunneling over the 4.5 km of tunnel on the current plans. But at least if people think that’s too much or don’t want to see the wide open spaces of the peninsula intensified, then surely it’s better to loop from the busway into Takapuna, through, and back again than having a spur?

    How are people from Takapuna or anywhere on the peninsula expected to take the train north? Simliarly how are people meant to connect with the upper harbour busway for example to Takapuna? Are we really expecting people to catch a bus through the peninsula’s congestion to the Takapuna Station, wait twice as long for a train as you’d otherwise have to because the frequencies are split by the spur config, then ride the train one stop south, then wait twice as along again for one heading north to Albany or wherever your destination is? This doesn’t seem reasonable to me. It’d be solved by either running the line up the peninsula or at least looping into Takapuna so the line isn’t split with a spur. The loop would add maybe 2km of tunnel over the existing 4.5 km.

    If you want Takapuna to be an important centre on the North Shore the line must run _through_ it. I’m really concerned than doing it the absolutely cheapest way we can will look exceptionally short sighted in future. Kinda like a harbour bridge with only four lanes or a Britomart with only two tracks.

    1. I disagree. I think the Devonport Peninsula is already pretty dense compared to most of Auckland. A lot of houses were built on small sections and even more have been subdivided. I also would point out that Devonport has amongst the best PT on the Shore. Ten minutes to town from two ferry terminals and a half hour bus to Takapuna. Sure getting to Albany is a pain, but I would argue that simply extending the bus along Anzac to Akoranga would solve a lot of problems. Even if doing a Newmarket with the trains or short running a service from Albany to Takapuna would be far more cost effective than your plan.

      1. “I think the Devonport Peninsula is already pretty dense compared to most of Auckland. A lot of houses were built on small sections and even more have been subdivided.”

        Eh I clearly have a different idea of density 🙂 I’m talking multi story 4 up one down type buildings at the core nodes along Lake Road surrounded by a fringe of terrace housing, with Hauraki and Takapuna seriously intensified to a Vancouver level, going up ~12 stories or more.

        1. I said, “compared to most of Auckland”. It’s not dense by international standards but compared to west and east Auckland and the southern part of the isthmus it is dense. Your plan would be unfeasible without destroying the unique fabric of Devonport. You wouldn’t do this to Ponsonby or Parnell. There are plenty of other areas in better locations that would be suitable for the type of development that you favour. Not I don’t disagree with apartments but I do disagree with the loss of heritage that you are adovcating.

          1. When you say “destroying the unique fabric of Devonport” are you referring to the whole 6 km long peninsula or just Devonport? Because note I’m not talking about Devonport really but other parts of the peninsula such as Hauraki and Takapuna area for the most density, then nodes around along Lake Road such as Narrow Neck etc.

            “You wouldn’t do this to Ponsonby or Parnell” Actually I would. Rows of houses each on their own section don’t interest me that much from a heritage perspective, and there’s a heck of a lot of it so I don’t see the issue with replacing some of it with medium density buildings and terraced houses.

    2. Erentz, one of the benefits of this light metro concept is that with high frequencies and quick turnarounds, we can run multiple lines on a given piece of track and turnaround terminating trains is no more time than it takes to stop at a normal station.

      So a spur track to Takapuna could still effectively have lines run “through” it. I’ve been doodling with a arrangement that actually has two lines using it, one that heads down the main through the CBD, the other that heads up the main to Albany and the upper harbour (A third runs from Albany to the CBD direct, i.e. each section of track has two routes on it). If this was the case you could get from any station on the Shore to Takapuna direct, plus also any station to the CBD direct.

      With headways of only a few minutes there is no problem waiting for the next train that is going where you want to go. We could run trwo lines out of the Takapuna spur at 5 minute headways each and still have space to double frequencies.

      The key issue I can see with going via the Devonport peninsula (population 23,000) is that you miss the Northcote-Birkenhead-Beach Haven axis (population 45,000). The Auckland Plan has two large intensification corridors in Birkenhead and Northcote, and no intensification in any part of the Devonport peninsula. I can’t see how building 4km more tunnel to service half the population and no intensification is a good idea.

      1. Thanks Nick. The thing about the Northcote-Birkenhead-Beach Haven axis (sounds a bit ominous) is the transfer. Are we suggesting these people would catch a bus to the other side of the Onewa interchange then get onto the train there for a one stop ride into the city? In my mind it would seem more sensible, faster, and easier just to continue those busses into the city on buslanes rather than terminate them at Onewa and force this transfer. Bus/train transfers do seem reasonable at other stops because they’re further away. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say the Onewa stop is an ugly stop in the middle of nowhere with no pedestrian catchment and no intensification. So intensification that may happen elsewhere along the Northcote-Birkenhead-Beach Haven axis will still be completely dependent on buses. So how would rail along this alignment benefit intensification plans in those areas?

        Re: “The Auckland Plan has … no intensification in any part of the Devonport peninsula.” I know! And I think it’s crazy and short sighted and can’t work out why. Only arguments for not intensifying parts of it seem to be that people don’t want to change the character of the peninsula despite the fact that there’s quite a large area of roughly 6 square kms to work with, it has good connected street network compared to the rest of North Shores network which is a pedestrian nightmare. Only other areas that look at good are those around Lake Pupuke but they’re more difficult to link up with a high frequency/high quality transport line.

        1. Devonport has one lane in and one lane out. Even now this is over capacity.
          Barry’s Point Road and Anzac Street could be turned into a high density node as could the area behind bounded by Anzac, Lake and Esmonde.

        2. “Are we suggesting these people would catch a bus to the other side of the Onewa interchange then get onto the train there for a one stop ride into the city?”

          I’m suggesting that people would transfer to get on a rapid transit line at that point, be they going to the CBD, Takapuna, Albany or somewhere on the other side of the city. But yes, I think people headed to the city would transfer at Onewa if it meant they could be at Aotea station in about five minutes (5km averaging 60 km/h including one intermediate stop), with only a few minutes wait time at maximum.

          Yes Onewa would be a transfer station with almost zero walk catchment, but so are all the existing busway stations except Sunnynook and they seem to do just fine. A transfer station at Onewa would benefit intensification plans in those areas immensely, by making them only a few minutes bus ride away from the rapid transit network.

          Intensification is one thing, but we have to look at where people already are to begin with. There are 45k people in that bus catchment already, we need to trade that off against the potential for a ToD that might end up with 1k living in it (if it were a big one). My approach is to plan for stations at transfer points and existing centres first, then look at intensifying around those nodes. For example why bother bowling half of Devonport to intensify when there is already few acres of empty land right next to Akoranga station?

          1. “For example why bother bowling half of Devonport…” I’m not really talking about the little bit of Devonport at the edge, when people say Devonport do they mean the whole 6 km long peninsula? It’s a big area to me, with only pockets of valuable heritage.

            “…to intensify when there is already few acres of empty land right next to Akoranga station?” Problem with intensifying around all these busway stops such as Akoranga for example is that those few acres of empty land have a giant motorway interchange running through it. Hardly a nice place to intensify and live. For example in Vancouver (which this post is chanelling) the metro lines don’t go anywhere near motorways. (Partly due to good far sighted planning in not having many motorways in the first place.) The intensification in Vancouver is all in downtown and the west end, or around main corridors like Broadway, or around stops on the skytrain and canada lines. These stops aren’t in the middle of a motorway interchange. (I find motorway infrastructure interesting but no way I want my apartment to overlook one.)

          2. I’m talking about the whole peninsula, there is no empty land there, nor any obvious place for redevelopment IMHO.

            As for Akornaga, the site I had in mind was the golf driving range and reserve between Akoranga station and Takapuna. The motorway is about 75m away on the other side of a wetland corridor, sure, but hardly right through the middle of it.
            That site alone is 25 acres. If we include the light industry of Barry’s Point that’s a total of 55 acres. That’s about two-thirds the size of the Wynyard Quarter currently occupied by a driving range and a bunch of sheds.

            An apartment there wouldn’t need to look out over the motorway, most would look toward Shoal bay and over to the downtown waterfront, back to lake Pupuke or across the Takapuna skyline to Rangitoto. I would consider an apartment overlooking the harbour, 1km from Takapuna and next to a rapid transit station quite a nice place to live myself.

            Another good example would be Sunnynook. If you are really intent on demolishing houses to intensify the why not bowl the 20 or so cheap houses that sit between the station and the shopping centre and build up there? Much better than destroying villas in Hauraki Corner. And then there is Albany, bags of empty land.

            Why look to the oldest, densest and most established suburbs in Auckland for intensification where there is stacks of empty land, disused industrial and characterless suburbs to pick from?

          3. Oh and just one last thing. Despite their ToD and intensification drive in Vancouver, 55% of Skytrain customers get to the station by bus and 15% park-n-ride. There are bus feeders connecting to every single one of the stations. If we assume all the rest walk (some will cycle and get dropped off of course) that’s still less than a third coming from walk-up.

            If we are indeed channelling Vancouver then bus feeders will still supply the lions share of patronage. We can’t ignore a quarter million Shore residents who all live within a ten minute bus trip of the corridor, in favour of a few thousand that might live in a new intensive development.

  9. Nick, the busway structures were designed to allow for conversion to light rail, NOT to least cost standards

    as per my post on Harbour Bridge traffic counts, the bar graph of person counts shows that on the basis of moving people rather than vehicles (something it seems NZTA STILL has to get their heads around) there is clear justification for a dedicated bus lane across the bridge, possibly shared with Ponsonby traffic.

    when planning the Central Connector, we looked at ways of getting Shore buses through to Newmarket via the universities and Symonds St, the big problem was turning and stopping space in Newmarket allied with potential service unreliability

    1. I dobn’t think that is quite true SteveC. More like the busway structures were designed to not present a major obstacle to light rail conversion.

      They busway structures were obviously designed cheaply for buses (with some token look at clearances for overhead line etc), with perhaps the assumption ‘anything buses can do is ok for light rail’ thrown in, which is more or less the case.

      If they were actually designed for light rail then we wouldn’t have the ridiculous viaduct over Tristram Ave that curves in two planes at the same time. That was obviously a case of least cost, a longer viaduct could have been straighter and almost completely level.

  10. I wonder if moving the Chelsea Sugar works would be financially viable. Afterall the main reason for the 43 metre clearance is to accomodate the sugar ships. If these could be moved to use the regular port and trained to a new inland refinery it might allow you to sling a rail line under the bridge thus eliminating the need to take two lanes of traffic and providing a lower gradient.

  11. it’s not just Chelsea, James, it’s also the naval ammo dump at Kauri Point and super yachts from Hobsonville, some of these can only pass under the AHB at low tide

  12. To my mind the biggest advantage of replacing the busway with rail is all the buses that were currently flying down the busway to the cbd and back can be put into use as feeder services from the suburbs to interchange stations. Feeder services are still greatly lacking for the suburbs.
    I can’t see how growth can sustain too many more buses arriving in the cbd. Eventually you run out of room to offload passengers, and because of the way buses offload (one behind the other, not parallel) you quickly run out of room.

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