There are a group of 5 rail stations that are about to have work done on them, these are Onehunga, Otahuhu, Penrose, Greenlane and Remuera. Getting these stations upgraded and means we are a few steps closer to having all of the stations on the rail network up to an acceptable standard. The works being carried out are different for each of them but my understanding of them is as follows:

  • Onehunga – The platforms are being lengthened at each end to make them long enough for our new electric trains.
  • Otahuhu – An upgrade to the station, most likely to bring it up to the same standard as other suburban stations.
  • Penrose – Upgrading the main station and some modification to the station building so the roof doesn’t interfere with the wires.
  • Greenlane – An upgrade to the station, most likely to bring it up to the same standard as other suburban stations.
  • Remuera – While the station had some work on it to improve things a while ago, my understanding is that there are a few things to finish off.

note: I have deliberately excluded Mt Albert as that is being treated separately and the upgrade to it will cost more than these 5 combined.

With this post thought I just want to look at the issues of one of these, Greenlane. The station has historically had very low patronage and while the the overall network has seen some pretty impressive growth over the last few years, patronage at Greenlane has been pretty flat and to my knowledge has less than 300 boardings per day and by comparison, Ellerslie has more than 3 times that many. This situation is likely to be from a couple of key reasons, the first is that the station is largely hidden away from both the local road and motorway so there is an unsafe element to it and this isn’t helped by the infrastructure at the station itself with poor lighting and no CCTV etc. Of course the station generally looks pretty unloved but this upgrade should solve some of those issues.

What is a bit harder to solve are some of the other fundamental issues with it. The station is located right next to not only SH1 but also one of the busiest motorway interchanges in the country, the design of the road network rules out the station being fed passengers by passing buses so it really has to rely on a walk up catchment. The problem with this though is the only way to access the station is via a footpath next to that very busy interchange and as the neighbouring local roads are also incredibly busy it means that it is almost impossible to cross them as a pedestrian except for at traffic lights however the closest ones in any direction are a few hundred meters away. This has the effect of really limiting the walking catchment of the station and the image below shows this with the blue lines representing just how far from the station you could get by walking 500m while the yellow circle shows a 500m circle around the station.

Those to the North are of the station are particularly cut off from it due to the motorway like Greenlane East however there is also quite a gap in the South East. Due to the interchange and Greenlane East the Northern part is a bit harder to solve but the South East could be fixed much easier. Another access point to the station at the other end of the platform along with a path alongside the tracks would make a huge difference to the number of homes within 500m of the station. In fact a rough count is that that it almost doubles the catchment while also reducing the distance for most of the other residential properties, namely those on Nolan Rd or Derry St. The path along the rail lines could also eventually form part of a Southern Motorway cycleway, something that is proposed on the regional cycle map.

Interestingly this exact connection actually used to exist, as this image from 1959 shows, I also shows what some of the area looked like before the motorway was rammed through.

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44 comments

  1. Nice post Matt and very good point. Greenlane sticks out like a sore thumb as being surprisingly under-performing. You suggestion would open up much more of a catchment for the station and is a real no brainer.

    In the longer term I wonder when some little local road could sneak down between the houses and the railway line to further improve access and visibility of the station. That would require a bit of land purchase, but could be worth it.

    1. I don’t think it needs to have a local road alongside the tracks but a shared footpath/cycleway would be perfect (fenced off from the rail network of course). If you look closely there appears to be enough space in the rail corridor for a third track so that could be used for the path and even the abutments over Mitchelson St and Walpole St are wide enough that a bridge deck just needs to be added to carry that on. It looks like you could easily get a path all the way down to Main Highway.

      I would also like to see that little bit of land beside the station developed into say apartments/townhouses with access to them off Derry St (so not to stuff up Greenlane East). Perhaps long term we may even be able to cap a few bits of the motorway network and build on top of it to boost the number of people around the station.

    2. It’s probably a place where apartments would stack up financially too, compared to say the outer parts of the network.

      1. Are there examples of this being done overseas where land values are higher than in Auckland? The only example I can think of is Fed Square in Melbourne which is built over a vast expanse of rail line. And I don’t think covering over an existing motorway is the same situation as a designed-to-be-covered cut and cover tunnel.

        This might make sense on the CBD edge. But if it was viable out in the ‘burbs, then why aren’t Londoners covering over the M1?

        1. There are several examples in Germany and Switzerland where they are capping existing motorways to provide parks and/or space to build apartments on. These are all in ‘suburban’ areas.

          Here’s one example of a capped motorway done a few years ago

          http://bit.ly/N1viAJ

          one over a railway line to create a park

          http://bit.ly/OY3r3J

          or a large section of a motorway in Hamburg to be covered to make a park

          http://www.treehugger.com/urban-design/german-autobahn-covered-giant-public-park.html

          another project that has been discussed for some time

          http://www.ggau.net/html/GG13.html

        2. That first example looks very tidy, thanks BBC! Interesting that they all seem to be parks. Not withstanding the motorway widening issue Nick raises below, presumably the concrete wears out eventually and then any buildings built on top will need to be demolished at the same time. That isn’t an issue with buildings built on conventional dirt, and it effectively puts a finite lifespan on the buildings. Maybe that is why all the examples you show have been done for aesthetic reasons. If there were developers who wanted to build over motorways, then presumably there is nothing stopping them making an offer, either in Auckland or in a city with higher land values.

        3. That first example doesn’t appear to have aimed to build a park, as the space created appears to be a waste land. I would say the motorway was covered to make things quieter for local residents and people at the pools.

        4. Fed Square isn’t a very good example. For a start it was a very large capping of a live railway yard some 120m wide (and it wasn’t designed to be covered if that is what you were referring to above), so it was a very expensive project. Secondly most of the cap ended up as public square, art gallery or exhibition space. So a real asset for the city but a very expensive one with very poor financial returns.

          The simple evaluation is whether the cost of decking structure is less than the value of the land area it creates, with a factoring of the value of the land for development (i.e. whether you can only build a single story, or a low rise block, or a skyscraper)

          Obviously that has to do with the complexity of the structure, the value of the land, and the planning and zoning.

          I think there are many cases where we could hand over the air rights to a developer and it would make sense for them to deck the motorway/rail lines and develop several stories above. The bigger problem would be getting anywhere near the motorway corridor. After all, capping and enclosing it is the same as saying “we will never widen this motorway again”. Tough call.

  2. …[Greenlane] has less than 300 boardings per day and by comparison, Ellerslie has more than 3 times that many.

    Minor point, but I would’ve thought Ellerslie was more like 10 to 20 (30?) times as busy. Ellerslie can put on 100-200 people at a stop, and then at Greenlane a few more dribble on. Where are the numbers from?

    There are a couple of other issues with the station too:

    1. There isn’t much access to carparking. I hear there is some space on Nolan St and surrounds, but nothing like the capacity around Ellerslie. I think if your solution could somehow incorporate using the fair-grounds car parking (ie, where the sunday car fairs are held, and which are empty the rest of the week) then there could be massive potential.

    2. Related to the lack of bus linkages, it’s pretty deadly trying to drop someone off anywhere near the station. Most people, I guess, dip into the Shell. But however you do it, it usually involves the driver then having to perform some complicated manoeuvres to then go somewhere useful (try to cross two lanes to right turn onto Gt Sth? Little chance of getting back to motorway, etc).

    3. Security. It’s hidden in a ditch with little visibility. Hopefully the station improvements will address that.

  3. I would contend there isn’t much more parking at Ellerslie because of the local businesses gobbling up most of the street parking available. (I usually find I get shut down quite quickly wheny I discuss this on another blog site!). I know this is about Greenlane but I can’t resist mention of Onehunga needing to be lengthened. Another example of work having to be redone because they probably tried to cut costs in the initial project. And possible disruption to the travelling public as the work is being done.

    1. Findlay St, Hewson St, etc, are pretty much packed full of train commuter cars by 9/9.30 – and even then, there is plenty of parking on the other side of Main Highway. The walk through Ellerslie centre onto the train is pleasant and quick, so I would certainly say it isn’t a problem. Compare that to Greenlane, where there really isn’t much at all. And what there is, isn’t particularly appealing.

    2. I would be ok with using that existing largely empty car park by the race course but the owners would need to agree.

      As for Onehunga, when you actually look at the history and issues of it you see that what has happened was probably the best outcome. To get the full length station from the start would have needed much more in the way of resource consents which would have held the station up even more than it was and we probably still wouldn’t have it open yet. There is a limit to how close the platform could to the apartments in the north east of the station which has now been resolved with the apartment owners. At the other end there technically needed to be an access way for the power pylon at the south of the site for which there is no other way of accessing it. Safety rules stated that there is a set minimum distance between any road/driveway and the end of the tracks however as this would be so infrequently used an exception has now been granted to get around this requirement. So in short not cost cutting but a case better something then rather than nothing at all.

      1. As long as Onehunga’s platforms are lengthened in time for the new electric trains. A three-car train (the shortest you can run with the new EMUs) apparently doesn’t fit on the Onehunga platform.

  4. As an aside, does anyone know whether Takanini is due an upgrade? Platform was lengthened not too long ago, but improved shelters are well overdue. It must be one of the poorest stations now, yet it has a significant patronage and keeps getting neglected. Having seen suggestions of it moving south to the shopping centre, I wouldn’t want its location moved either. It’s current catchment covers most of the residential area in Takanini and Conifer Grove, and any shift would be at the detriment of most of the passengers using the service – who typically head north for work.

    1. Te Mahia should close. Just look at the patronage stats in the link Peter posted above – no increase from 2003 levels! Little over 150 boardings a day.

  5. Great to hear that Takanini is being upgraded. Totally agree that Te Mahia should close. There are frequent busses along Great South Rd which could be alternatively used to get to Takanini or Manurewa stations. The closure would be welcomed with improved travel times for those travelling from further south of Manurewa. I also think a closure of Westfield and, would be keen to close either Greenlane or Remuera too – again both well served by the bus network.

  6. Yes good post Matt. Why don’t NZTA simply put activated pedestrian crossings across either side of Greenlane Road? Seems like a good way of doubling station catchment.

    1. @Stu Donovan: would that it was as easy as you surmise…. Pedestrian crossings anywhere within a few hundred metres of the Greenlane roundabout/interchange would be absolutely lethal. Drivers are either still in motorway mode as they exit the motorway, or focused on getting onto the motorway, or are trying to negotiate the roundabout without getting hit by vehicles driven by the other two groups of drivers…

  7. Perhaps removing the bushes between the station and the motorway off ramp would also go some way to increasing the visbility of the station and making it feel more safe. But it’s certainly a nice example of way the railways were flung to the side in the search of ever bigger roads and motorways in Auckland.

  8. Adding a couple of extra streets of walk up catchment will help a little but not enough to make much difference.

    I think you dismiss bus transfer passengers too easily. Green Lane East is a major arterial so should have cross town buses running along it, so therefore need a good connection to the RTN.
    Adding bus stops outside the carwash will be quite easy. However the busstop on the northern side will be a long way to walk as they will have to go right back to Great South Road. The best way to fix this issue in the long term is to have direct access from the northside of the highway to the station. And to help trains platform should be extended northwards so trains stop under GreenLane East. This will require a much bigger upgrade so probably something for the medium term.
    I think the station has a bright long tern future though as the caryards along Great South Road are ripe for redevelopment into medium density apartments which will hugely increase catchment of station, and make major upgrades like shifting station north slightly much more worthwhile.

    Another note is the station does get high use for special events. I have been to parties at the Racecourse on Saturday nights and seen hundreds get off at once. Of course no one knew where to go as no signs so me being the transport nerd lead the way as had looked into the station location before.

    1. Good points both, Luke.
      There is a cross town route on Greenlane Rd coming IIRC on the new transit map posted here sometime ago…? That wants as much integration as possible for both sides on that very busy road.
      And improved destination based routing, like to the race course, is important at all stations.

      1. Actually no, looking at the new transit map included in the meeting minutes the crosstown route goes via Greenlane to Ellerslie, which appears to be the main node for the area.

        Presumably they identified that traffic and bus movements around Greenlane would be a major issue and used Ellerslie instead. Greenlane itself have plenty of service between the rail line and the Great South Rd buses.

  9. I caught a bus from Greenlane hospital to Ascot hospital last week and was appealed how far after Ascot I had to get off.
    I would like to see if a bus stop could be put in the Ascot premises. I think the number the number of workers there justifies a stop. It would be a lot calmer than stopping on the throughfares/highways!! around there.
    One of my ideas is to have a North Shore bus that goes directly from the harbour bridge to Ascot hospital then goes to Greenlane hospital. Peak times only going South and evening going North. Could be used be people working at Greenlane hospital and Ascot hospital and anyone going further South as a quick way to get a South bound train.
    Sound wacky I know but consider 2 lanes of motorway (the Victoria market lanes) have come from the North Shore and earliest exit is Newmarket.

  10. Always impressed by the quality of posts on this site. Auckland Council could learn alot from reading these posts for ideas. Anybody know how Parnell station is going along? Haven’t heard anything in a while.

    1. Thanks. This is what the AT business report has to say about Parnell:

      Station layout and feasibility “optioneering” is underway in collaboration with KiwiRail and the Auckland Council Urban Design and Parks departments. The wider spatial planning is planned to include connections down through the Carlaw Park development.
      Funding submission for the main station works will be submitted mid 2012 with potential construction commencement in late 2012.

      1. Cheers. Ok so it’s delayed about a year. That’s Ok if they get things right and sort out assessibility for future plans and housing that could occur there. Would be usefully to use to get to the tennis at Stanley St.

        1. Nope, it hasn’t been delayed (as yet). The station construction was supposed to start in September this year, finishing about the same time next year. Now I see they’ve started saying “late 2012” which doesn’t give me confidence they’ll start in September as numerous times with any rail projects in Auckland in the last ten years often a targeted date is firstly given and then it becomes early… or late… instead and invariably that has meant a delay. However, in Parnell’s case they can’t afford to delay much because the station has to be completed before electrification works go through there, and the first EMU is slated to arrive around that September 2013 mark, hence that month given as the station completion target.

  11. On second thoughts agree that crosstown services should head south at Great South Road as Ellerslie major employment hub. However do still need to link Remuera into the RTN and Greenlane is the major local node so needs to be fixed up at some point. Had ideas of a service that went Onehunga Oranga Greenlane Orakei St Heliers that filled in lots of gaps and connected suburbs to RTN at 3 points along the way. Would also allow elimination of lower frequency and patronage services that go direct to CBD from the areas.

    I do think we should look into buses that go direct from North Shore to this area of town at some stage, service could exit at Greenlane to service Ellerslie, Penrose and terminating at Otahuhu or Onehunga. Of course the usefulness of this would depend how much quicker this journey would be than changing to rail at Britomart.

  12. Agree with what’s been mentioned. Just want to add that it’s a nicer place to wait compared to Ellerslie when taking into account motorway noise and wind. Looking forward to a re-do and better connections. Fingers crossed one day buses can stop at the station entrance.

  13. http://www.divergingdiamond.com/

    I know that the point of this blog is to let the roads rot, while promoting buses over everything else, but I can’t help but think that improving one of the busiest roundabout in the country would be something good for transportation. It’d certainly give it a chance to be bike and pedestrian friendly.

    My point on here is always that Transport Blog rejects anything that improves transport (unless it’s a bus) because making cars go is evil. My stance is that if you make the network best for everyone, it’ll help the most people in the best ways. Cyclists benefit from more orderly car traffic. Buses benefit in the locations where cars get out of their way quicker so they can get out of their way.

    And changing Greenlane to a Diverging diamond may have benefits (if the Diverging Diamond people are telling the truth). And my point on AT and NZTA is always that they don’t consider anything new. It’s more roads, more buses, more trains. More of what we have that doesn’t work.

    Why not start trying things that work. In a spot like Greenlane, it’d even be significantly cheaper, as the space required is smaller, and we could use the leftover space for safer pedestrian and bicycle access.

    1. What an odd comment on a 3-year old post.

      Where have we said we want roads to rot, quite the opposite, we expect roads to be maintained to a high standard and we want improvements to them for things like safety and catering for other modes.

      The point of the post is about improving the catchment to Greenlane station, not at changing the interchange which based in other recent ones would be $50-100m for probably not that much gain.

      1. I was actually looking for an AT or NZTA site to comment on the Greenlane intersection, but I didn’t find any, but this site popped up, even with the old post, as one of the first in the search, so I figured I’d throw it out here and see what people think.

        And from what I’ve seen on here, the comments are all about improving mass transit to the detriment of everything else. If we made roads better, people might use them, and make traffic worse (a fallacy that I’ve only ever seen spread by overt road-haters, but I’ve seen on here more than once). http://www.congestionfree.co.nz/who-are-we which is explicitly anti-road claims to be run by transportblog, and from what I’ve seen that aligns quite well with the comments I see on both.

        “changing the interchange which based in other recent ones would be $50-100m for probably not that much gain.” Right, so since it’s just roads, not catchment to mass transit, we should let it rot, as every $0.01 spent on roads is wasted, when $80,000,000,000 on mass transit is a good start, even if nobody actually wants it.

    2. Diverging diamonds are in effect just linear clover leafs. They suffer the same weaving problems accordingly. Not a good fit for Greenlane, traffic is too high.

      Plus they are totally nasty for anyone on foot or cycle.

      1. You must know the guy who made all exits not exit-only, and have the lane end 200m from the exit. Absolutely horrible for traffic, but eliminates the “weaving” from the entrance before, since once you are on the motorway, you don’t have to change lanes until the lane ends. Exit only lanes work much much better than the silly system that dominates Auckland traffic.

        Weaving would be much , much better than the design we have now.

        Clover leaves aren’t a problem for weaving. Their main problem is the cost. Why do they cost so much? Because they take too much space. The only two cloverleaves I’ve seen are single-petal leaves, rather than a full 4-leaf clover, where they get their name. And they are in places where land was “free” when the road was built. Papakura and far-north North Shore. Lincoln road is no longer an example.

        And the “weaving” problem is only a problem on the high-speed portion. The DD design would have no impact on SH1, so weaving wouldn’t be a consideration. A real cloverleaf would have the entering NB SH1 traffic join SH1 south of the exit. To exit from NB SH1 to EB Greenlane, you would have to cross the WB Greenlane traffic entering NB SH1. The DD is a replacement for the lights/roundabout, and the traffic entering and exiting SH1 would be unaffected. There would be no crossing of traffic on SH1. The only “crossing” would be at the lower speeds of Greenlane, and most of the time there, light controlled, so it’s a “turn” not a “weave”.

        So DD, compared to a cloverleaf, would have no weaving on SH1, and take significantly less real estate.

        And DD would be significantly more friendly to foot and cycle traffic than today’s roundabout.

        So I don’t see the drawbacks you assert for it at Greenlane. It’d certainly be better than the current road, and probably better than anything that’s been proposed for the replacement.

  14. I see the old Greenlane station yard has been fenced off with temporary fencing. Does anyone know what this land is going to be used for?

    1. The signs and Wilson payment machine ($1 for 12hrs) were removed the other day and the fencing is being removed today. A Wilson carpark for less than a month.

      Most days it was empty of cars probably peaked last week with 5 cars which is surprising considering the surrounding streets there is minimal available parking.

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