A number of times over the past few weeks we have criticised both Auckland Council and Auckland Transport for the poor job they’re doing when it comes to selling the benefits of the City Rail Link project, with a result of that being a sometimes pathetically poor understanding of the project’s benefits, what it actually costs, what it will do, what it won’t do, why an overhead option is a silly idea and so on.

As we’re not a hypocritical bunch here, we also felt that while this blog contains a huge amount of information on the City Rail Link project (this post is the 228th to use the tag), we should try to put things all together in a way that’s a bit easier to access and can also find a tricky balance between being simple enough for those not familiar with the project to get a general feel for why it’s so necessary, while at the same time providing various numbers, diagrams, graphs and pictures, along with weighty arguments – to provide some real grunt behind our conclusions around the project’s need.

So we have created a “City Rail Link” page – which you can visit by clicking on the link just under the blog title – or by clicking here. We’ve also set it up so that www.transportblog.co.nz/crl redirects to our City Rail Link page, for really easy access.

The main CRL page has an overview of the project, some bullet points of its benefits, a bit of detail on cost and a summary of where it’s at. Over time the main focus is going to be creating a bunch of sub-pages on the project’s benefits – as well as probably researching a bit more into its rather long and convoluted history (dating back at least as far as the 1920s).

At the moment, there is a sub-page on how the CRL increases the capacity of Auckland’s rail network – but over time further sub-pages will be created on all of the following reasons to build the CRL:

  • To ease the pressure on the city centre’s roading network by reducing the level of future increases in buses and cars.
  • To significantly reduce travel times on Auckland’s rail network – especially for trips from areas along the Western Line to the city centre.
  • To allow higher train frequencies to be operated on all lines of the Auckland rail network.
  • To provide sufficient capacity in the rail system for future extensions (rail to the airport, Avondale-Southdown line etc.) to be possible.
  • To stimulate business activity in the city centre and other rail served centres and generate agglomeration benefits.
  • To stimulate higher intensity residential development around the rail network and reduce the need for Auckland to grow via urban sprawl.
  • To enable a much more efficient and effective bus network.
  • To improve rail access in the city centre.
  • To allow trains to be routed through the city centre and offer one-seat rides between centres on different sides of Auckland.

What we’re asking in this post is basically for a bit of help in relation to the following questions:

  1. Is there anything we’ve missed in the above list of broad reasons to build the CRL?
  2. Is there anything in particular which compelled you to think that the CRL is a really important project for Auckland, and do you think that’s something that should be included somewhere within the CRL page or sub-pages (and what is it)?
  3. Are there any particular blog posts (if you can find the link that’d be great!) that you’ve found really helpful in explaining the CRL in the past, which should be referred to in the page or sub-pages?
  4. If you’re still sceptical of the project (don’t worry, it’s OK), what information are you really interested in finding out more? What issues need to be addressed in a comprehensive assessment of the why the project is needed?
  5. What good information is out there on the internet (aside from this blog) relating to the project – perhaps particularly in relation to its rather long and convoluted history?
  6. What do you think would be really good ways to communicate some of the really key points about the project?

If this goes well, similar pages for other major transport projects might be worthwhile doing.

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  1. Thanks for asking! I hope Len and AT feel free to use this resource…

    1. What’ve we missed?

    Air quality improvements,- increased general health,-> less sick days,-> more productivity etc

    Improves NZ’s balance of payments. Domestic electricity is far > imported oil.


    Do the same thing the roading lobby do- snazzy fly-overs with bland music, sexy 3d images, virtual ride-throughs of the new tunnels and track.

    Hell, we could even chop the budget into bite size snacks to sneak it through like the Western Ring does…

  2. How about a description of the considered alternative schemes to the CRL, and why these schemes should be discounted?

    1. Spot on. Cost is the big issue and so cheaper (and more limiting) alternatives need to be considered and discounted.

      Essentially, countering the “buses are cheaper and better” brigade.

    2. An analysis of the alternatives may have fitted underneath a few of the sub-pages listed above, but I’m starting to think that it probably should be a dedicated sub-page itself – both because it’s really quite interesting and also because it highlights the need for the project.

    1. The argument in the above link is that the knowledge economy is more innovative where there is higher density than in car-dependent areas. This is not a good argument to use because Google and the other high-tech companies of Silicon Valley are all based in suburban office parks with a low PT mode share. Similar companies high-tech are located in PT-dependent San Fransisco but are less well known. The Los Angeles entertainment industry is also located in suburban office parks with low PT mode share. However, something these industries have in common is close relationships with universities.

      It may be better to say that the most likely place for the knowledge economy to further develop in Auckland is in the CBD, close to the universities and in a central location where companies can easily recruit workers from all suburbs. The North Shore residents would be the losers if the airport precinct began to rival the CBD for specialist knowledge-based employment.

      1. I think the meaning of a knowledge economy is broader than what you think it is, but the article has two key issues – productivity and vibrant cities. Figures show that NZers are hard working but are ranked low in productivity in OECD countries, so this article links this fact to research of urban density. It talks about diversity and activity in many contexts. It talks about urban space and those allocated to places of activity and travel and it mentions preserving our natural setting and about a more resilient city. Basically this article explains the agglomeration benefits of having a CRL the way I have thought about it before I started reading this blog.

  3. I think the page is a great idea, but could perhaps be reorganised slightly to present the information in a more easily understood and appealing format for casual readers.
    My suggestions –
    The first thing you see are two big grey, grubby-looking pictures which aren’t very attractive and don’t provide much incentive to scroll down the page. And the second one is a bit redundant. I would produce a single, clean, simple, nice-looking map of the proposed route with the stations included on it. Make it a bit smaller, accompanied by a brief description of the route and stations. Show how many people it’ll carry with a big fat green arrow or something.
    After that you could briefly and succinctly summarise the need/benefits of the project – this is the key information, after all.
    After that, you could briefly summarise the likely cost, progress to date, hold-ups, etc. You could possibly present this key information as a series of “FAQs”. (Why is it needed? What will it cost? Who’ll pay for it?…)
    With all that out of the way, you could then provide more detail about stations, cost breakdowns, pros and cons, etc, in extensive detail, for the transport nerds.

  4. Well done team. Great step forward.
    The ten year old in me has one question – where is all the dirt going to go when they dig the tunnels?

  5. You have done a great job of making visible what this complex project can achieve. Regarding funding for this from central government.. perhaps you could consider undertaking a NZTA profile for this activity to show how it translates in terms of the nationally developed assessment framework and also how it will deliver upon the governments priorities as expressed in the GPS. Ie use their language and framework to show that the activity stands up. NZTA’s investment and revenue strategy forms the basis for assessment
    .. available on either the NZTA website or the new knowledge base. I think you would find that the profile is a High for strategic fit, a High for effectiveness and a Low for efficiency.. a rank of 3 which is on a par with most RONS. Previously the bc had a much higher precedence.. but in order to enable rons.. NZTA has reshaped the criteria to enable inefficient rons to keep above the funding threshold..

    1. It would be good if someone on this blog did a a survey of BCR’s used for projects such as this in other jurisdictions. This could be as simple as a table with tick-boxes for what’s included as a benefit and what’s not. At the next level of detail, there could be a few numbers, such as the discount rate and salvage value. Such as table would show how out of step NZ is from how such projects are assessed in the US, Canada and Australia. I expect it would show that while its BCR is low when assessed according to the road-biased NZ criteria, it would perform very well if NZ updated its criteria to something more similar to those used in other western countries.

  6. Regular contributions in The NZ Herald’s dialogue@nzherald.co.nz to state the benefits of CRL. Local contributions to Fairfax Media papers such as, Central Leader, etc would give wide coverage of this. Radio interviews on talkback radio & online petition to get support on the CRL are other ideas.

  7. I think a reason it would be good to talk about more (possibly reword one of the existing bullet points) is about how this will transform central Auckland and make it a much more vibrant and exciting place to be. Because I think that most people are more likely to be inspired by the thought of Auckland having an awesome city center, than by dry discussions about capacity etc.

    So, things you could talk about the CBD rail loop will contribute to
    – more students and professionals in and around Aotea Square (and the other stations, but I imagine the biggest impact will be at Aotea Square)
    – much higher density living and pedestrian traffic in the central area which will mean it can support more interesting shops, theaters, street art and so on and so on
    – cleaner air and less congested streets and thus a more pleasant environment in the CBD (than the alternatives which are either way more cars or way more buses)

    Because I think it is not obvious to most people that the reason why some areas of Auckland have great cafes, interesting shops and are, in general, nice places to hang out is because they are higher density. People don’t necessarily make the connection between, say, the flats and units in Mt Eden and the relatively high number of pedestrians you see in the area and the interesting shops that area can support.

    They also wouldn’t necessarily see the connection between the HUGE numbers of carparks in Manukau City Centre and the soulless chain shops and the lack of any feeling of a connection to an urban centre or community that you get when you go there. So I think you need to spell that out.

  8. Yes I live in the CBd area myself Lucy and I would love an awesome Auckland CBD. BUT I am also well aware that one of the darts that’s being thrown at this project by those who are anti is the “I don’t live, work or play in the centre of Auckland and such a project is going to do nothing for me living in suburbia”. Therefore it’s important that while we highlight a better CBD as one of the major benefits, we don’t overplay it so much that this project is perceived to only be about the CBD. that would please those who are using the above argument to reject this project immensely. The tone of the page must be that this project benefits all of Auckland in one way or another. I guess it’s a fine balancing act. Maybe the project motto on the page could be ‘A project for All of Auckland” or maybe that’s just a bit too close to the current mayor’s last election campaign! But you get my drift!

  9. On capacity, you need to explain fully, rather than just 21 trains into Britomart. What will frequency/capacity be by line and station.
    And how will the new network operate. On western line Grafton is a major station for hospital/schools and 40% don’t go to CBD ie get off at Kingsland, Grafton,Newmarket. But will they now go around CBD and back? If some through trains, we’d lose std frequency on western to CBD. AT figures show capacity constraints on western back at Morningside post CRL (see Franklin Live video of AT Council presentation). And how do western line west bound circulate in the network?

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