Could Auckland have something like this running on a couple of major city routes before this decade is out? The AT board is to decide later this month how to proceed with its Light Rail plan and with what sort of pace. Everybody it seems loves trams, but why now and why there? What problem are they addressing? In a follow-up post I will discuss the financial side of the proposal.

CAF Urbos Light Rail for Utrecht
CAF Urbos Tram recently ordered by Utrecht

First of all lets have a look at Auckland’s situation in general terms. Auckland is at a particular but quite standard point in its urban development: 1.5 million people is a city. The fifth biggest in Australasia; behind Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth. But on the location with the tightest natural constraints of the group; squeezed by harbours, coasts, ranges, and productive and/or swampy farmland, it shares the highest density of the group with Sydney in its built up area. And is growing strongly. It also has the poorest Transit network of the group and consequently the lowest per capita Transit modeshare [although the fastest improving one].

So these three factors scale, growth, and density are all combining to create some serious pressure points that require fresh solutions especially on existing transport routes, and particularly on the harbour constrained city isthmus.

This pressure is on all transport infrastructure, at every scale from footpaths [eg Central City, Ponsonby Road]; the desire for safe cycling routes; on the buses, trains, and ferries; to road space for trucks and tradies, and of course road and street space for private vehicle users. Transit demand in particular is going through the roof and this is way ahead of population growth and traffic demand growth, especially at the higher quality Rapid Transit type of service where growth over the last year has been at an atsonishing 20%.

This is to be expected in a city of Auckland’s current state as Transit demand typically accelerates in advance of population in cities of a certain size, because of the universal laws of urban spatial geometry, as explained here by Jarrett Walker;

This problem is mathematically inevitable.  

As cities grow, and especially as they grow denser, the need for transit generally rises faster than population, at least in the range of densities that is common in North America.  This is completely obvious if you think about it, and I stepped through it in more detail in Chapter 10 of Human Transit.  In brief: Suppose a particular square mile of the city doubles in population.  Transit demand would double because there are twice as many people for whom transit is competing.  But independently of that, if density is higher, each person is likely to find transit more useful, because (a) density creates more disincentives to driving and car ownership while (b) density makes it easier for transit agencies to provide abundant and useful service.   Those two separate impacts of density on transit, multiplied together, mean that transit demand is rising faster than population. Again, go to my book for a more extended and thorough argument.

And that this means that the infrastructure needs of our growing city is likely to be ‘lumpy’. Big long lasting kit that is costly and disruptive to build become suddenly urgent:

As transit demand grows in a growing city, it hits crisis points where the current infrastructure is no longer adequate to serve the number of people who want to travel.  Several major subway projects now in development are the result of transit’s overwhelming success using buses.  I’m thinking, for example, of Second Avenue in New York, Eglinton in Toronto, Wilshire in Los Angeles,  Broadway in Vancouver, and Stockton-Columbus in San Francisco.

Broadway, for example, has local buses running alongside express buses, coming as often as every 3 minutes peak hours, and they are all packed.  In that situation, you’ve done just about everything you can with buses, so the case for a rail project is pretty airtight.   In all of the cases I mention, the rail project usually has to be a subway, because once an area is that dense, it is difficult to commandeer enough surface street space, and we tend to have strong aesthetic objections to elevated lines in these contexts.

As driving amenity is very mature in Auckland there is very little opportunity to add significant driving capacity to streets and roads to much of the city at any kind of cost, and certainly not without a great deal of destruction of the built environment. This has long been the case so in a desire to solve capacity and access issues with a driving only solution we did spend the second half of the last century bulldozing large swathes of the Victorian inner suburbs into to make room for this spatially very hungry mode. This solution is no longer desirable nor workable. Below is an image showing the scar of the Dominion Rd extension citywards and the still extant Dom/New North Rd flyover. These were to be the beginning of a motorway parallel to Dominion rd to ‘open up’ or ‘access’ the old isthmus suburbs.

1963, Dominion Rd flyover in the foreground
1963, Dominion Rd flyover in the foreground

Where we can’t nor want to build ever wider roads we can of course add that needed capacity though the higher capacity and spatial efficiency of Transit. Most easily with buses and bus lanes. There are also potential significant gains to made at the margins by incentivising the Active modes with safe routes especially to Transit stations and schools and other local amenity.

However as Jarrett Walker describes above there comes a point where buses, through their own success, cannot handle the demand as the number of vehicles required start to become both less efficient and more disruptive than is desirable. At this point demand can only be met with higher capacity systems with clearer right of ways. Such systems require expensive permanent infrastructure and are never undertaken lightly.  The CRL, being underground, clearly fits this definition and is due to begin in earnest in the new year. And although the physical work and all of the disruption of the CRL build occurs in the Centre City, the capacity and frequency improvements are to the entire rail network, and therefore much of the city: West, East, and South.

But not everywhere. Not the North Shore, not the North West, and not in ‘the Void’, as AT call it, the isthmus area between the Western and Southern Lines. Shown below in purple with the post CRL Rapid Transit Network. This area has a fairly solid and quite consistent density, housing about the same number of people as West Auckland, around 150,000. Note also the South Eastern Busway [AMETI] plugging directly into Panmure is very much a kind of rail extension for the Transit-less South-East, as is the Manukau spur further south.

RTN Void
The Void

These three major areas will still be relying on buses. The CRL, New Bus Network, and Integrated Fares will enable and incentivise more bus-to-train transfers that expand the reach of the core rail network and that this will help limit the numbers of buses going on all the way to the city. But this is primarily for the South, South-East, and West of New Lynn, there will still be an ever increasing number of  buses with from the remaining areas converging on the City Centre. AT calculates that we need to act now to cut the bus numbers from at least one of these major sources to leave room for growth from the others, and all the other users and uses of city streets. [More detail on this in Matt’s previous post, here].

The North Western is currently getting more bus priority with the motorway widening, and hopefully proper stations at Pt Chevalier, Te Atatu, and Lincoln Rd [although NZTA and/or the government are showing little urgency with this aspect of the route]. Also priority improvements to Great North Rd and further west too. The North Shore is the only one of the three with a Rapid Transit system [which also should be being extended now], and while there is still plenty of capacity on the Busway itself, like the other routes these buses are constrained once in the city. This leaves the very full and frequent ‘Void’ bus routes as the ones to address with another solution first.

So essentially LRT for this area has been selected because of the need:

  • for higher capacity and efficiency on core Isthmus bus routes
  • to reduce bus numbers on these routes and especially in the central city
  • adds Queen St as an additional high capacity North-South city route
  • for extra capacity both before and after CRL is operational
  • to address Auckland Plan air quality, carbon emissions, and resilience aims
  • to enable major public realm improvements along routes, especially Queen St

and possibly because:

  • it may be able to be financed as a PPP so helps smooth out the capital cost of building both projects [more on this in a follow up post]
Above is a schematic from AT showing the two proposed LRT branches. The western one leading to Queen St via Ian Mackinnon Drive from Dominion and Sandringham Roads, the eastern one down Symonds St from Manukau and Mt Eden Roads, some or all routes connecting through to Wynyard Quarter. More description in this post by Matt.
It is worth noting that this area, The Void, gets its very successful and desirable urban form from this very technology; these are our premier ‘tram-built’ suburbs. With all the key features; an efficient grid street pattern, mixed use higher density on the tram corridors, excellent walking shortcuts and desire lines. So what the old tram made the new tram can serve well too.
Auckland Isthmus tramlines
Auckland Isthmus tramlines
With all door boarding and greater capacity LRT will speed more people along these routes with fewer vehicles and lower staffing numbers. Frequency will actually drop from the current peak every 3 minutes down to 5 or 7 minutes [I’m guessing]. This along with the narrower footprint required by LRT is a big plus for other users of the corridor. But the huge gain in travel time comes from improvement to the right of way and intersection priority that can be delivered with the system. Stops are presumably to be at intersections, instead of midblock as buses are, so the passenger pick-ups are coordinated with traffic lights.
But best of all for this writer is that LRT is a tool to drive enormous and permanent place uplift. The removal of cars and buses from Queen St, improvements to New North and Dominion Rds, hopefully including that intersection itself, a fantastic new Dominion road with the potential for real uplift to premier status.  It will spur the redevelopment of the mixed uses zone all along Dominion Rd. This is real place quality transport investment. And all of course while moving thousands and thousands of people totally pollution free and with our own mostly renewably generated electrons. Breathing in the Queen St valley will become a fresh new experience.
Light Rail in Queen St 1 - Nilut
We all look forward to hearing the proposed details of the routes and of course the financials. I will follow up this post with my understanding of the thinking on this next.
Light Rail in Queen St 2 - Nilut
Finally it is very good to see that there is no dispute over the necessary solutions to Auckland’s access and place quality issues, just the details and timing. Auckland Transport’s map above is pretty much the same as our solution in the CFN. We are delighted that AT are planning for four light rail routes were we proposed one.
There are of course plenty of debates to had about further extensions to the Transit networks that this proposal invites; LRT in a tunnel from Wynyard to Onewa, Akoranga, and Takapuna? Then up the Busway? From Onehunga to through Mangere to the Airport? Along Grey Lynn’s apartment lined Great North Road, to Pt Chevalier, and the North Western? Panmure, Pakuranga, Botany, Manukau City Airport? Which of these need to be true grade separate Rapid Transit and for which are bus lanes or busways a more cost effective option? Are their others that would be better suited to extending the rail network? Is there enough density elsewhere in the city to justify other LRT routes?
CFN 2030 + Light Metro
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    1. a) What’s “medium rail”?
      b) Are you really asking or are you one of those concern trolls who shoots down every PT advance with WHAT ABOUT THE SHORE?
      c) You know that we need the CRL to build capacity on the network before we build the North Shore (or Airport) line, right?

  1. I don’t love trams and neither do most of Auckland given that most people drive and don’t use public transport (yes they haven’t seen good PT so you can’t blame them). There will not be much public support for them (except for a tiny but vocal minority) so politically I don’t think it will happen without lots of trouble and compromise (making the final result worse).

    Speed – Trams aren’t really faster than buses because there is a speed limit, frequent stops.

    Trip Reliability – with no grade separation and traffic lights which eat up most the travel time, the trams will be stuck in traffic like everyone else for large parts of the trip. No better than buses. Also if one bus breaks down, another comes along. If a tram breaks down, the whole line is screwed.

    Cost – Trams aren’t cheaper than buses at least initially because of all the start up costs, but operationally I would expect them to be more efficient.

    Flexibility – Trams have no route flexibility, but hopefully they can be reassigned to other adjacent routes. Buses can drive around obstacles, trams have to drive THROUGH obstacles 🙂

    Capacity – Trams have much greater capacity.

    Frequency – You need lots of these expensive trams/drivers anyway? Buses can get the same frequency cheaper.

    Comfort – Trams win hands down and is probably the only factor other than capacity that trams have to their advantage but this is probably the last on the list of these factors.

    Patronage – apparently trams improve patronage, though I can’t confirm that. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was because of increased comfort and because “poor people” use buses, but “normal people” take trams.

    Urban form – In terms of developing land in a good way, then trams are a visible commitment to PT and gives confidence to denser developments that benefit from better PT. Buses can disappear overnight.

    Safety – My guess is probably the same between buses/trams. But I have seen several nasty spills by cyclists slipping on the tracks down at Wynyard Quarter.

    Anyway, it’s just another expensive toy that some overpaid person saw overseas and they want to duplicate it here using my money. For the record we should NEVER have removed the trams in the first place because they make sense when you already have them. But putting them all back in seems like a huge cost that isn’t worth it. Shouldn’t we be focusing our tiny PT budget on opening up new areas to better PT to get better bang for our buck, rather than spending on areas that already have ok PT coverage?

    1. You are making a lot of assumptions there Ari. We haven’t had any information either way, but are you certain they will have frequent stops, be stuck in traffic, etc? They are calling this light rail, specifically, and not ‘trams’, which suggests the higher end of the spectrum to me.

      As Patrick suggests above, too much frequency might be part of the problem. A bus every five minutes is great. A bus every 30 seconds, which we are approaching on some corridors, is a nightmare to manage.

      1. Of course Nick, plenty of assumptions with the primary one being that grade separation will never happen due to the cost, thus trams will have to fight with other traffic just like buses. The pictures of trams down Queen St doesn’t look grade separated to me. If you grade separate buses you get just as good service too.

        Jeff. I said most, not all Aucklanders. If we kept our trams like Melbourne did, of course we would want to keep them because they would be well integrated into our way of life. But they aren’t now. So most aucklanders would have no opinion of them unless you tell them they have to pay for them even if they don’t use them. The OP suggested everyone seems to love trams.

        1. NZers do love trams when they use them overseas. Anybody who has lived in or visited great tram cities like Melbourne or Prague knows how great they can be. And light rail on its own ROW is even better. I used that in Rouen and Bucharest and it works brilliantly.

          “I don’t love trams and neither do most of Auckland given that most people drive and don’t use public transport” – You could also use that logic to say that Aucklanders don’t like self driving vehicles, as neither are available in Auckland.

          Before 1955 Aucklanders loved trams as they got them all over the city. There was huge resistance to having them removed.

        2. There aren’t that many traffic lights on Dominion road between Mt Roskill and the City Centre. Apart from traffic lights, tram stops and the odd rogue pedestrian, I don’t see that trams would have to stop that much. They might not have grade separation, but I doubt that general traffic will be allowed to drive along the tram tracks so they will never have to queue behind cars unlike off-peak buses and even peak buses at certain spots.

          When you combine the time savings from the more direct route (Ian McKinnan + Queen Street instead of Mt Eden Road + Symonds Street), less stops, no cash, no queueing with cars, and multiple doors for boarding, I think it will add up to significant time savings (maybe up to 50%).

          1. When I have seen light rail in Europe, “grade separation” might mean just a 20-30cm raised concrete slab that the rails sit on.

            Now because Romanian drivers are f%&king crazy, drivers would mount these and drive along the tram tracks to save themselves 10secs. Witness this idiot (i.e. average Romanian driver):

            Ot taxi drivers who were often drunk (if you were lucky, only drunk!):

            But this wasn’t legal and actually didn’t happen that much.

            This is in contrast to the trams, which ran at street level and would get caught in the traffic. Bucharesters did not like these trams but loved the light rail because of its grade separation.

          2. “Grade separation” means one thing going over or under another. What you folks are talking about is an “exclusive right of way”, ideally with a kerb or other physical buffer to discourage entry of cars into that ROW. At intersections, this becomes flush again, with trams protected by traffic lights as they cross. Old-school stuff, perfected over a century, works great.

    2. Well said Ari. You mention safety and bikes skidding on the tram tracks. This was one of the reasons the old tram tracks were removed. In those days there were a lot more people, particularly students, riding motorcycles and so many more accidents because of the tram tracks.

      1. Bollocks. I rode all the time in Chch and had to negotiate the tram tracks. It really isn’t that big a deal once you are used to them and learn the correct angle.

        It certainly didn’t stop Christchurch being the 2nd cycle city in the world until the 1950s along with having a full tram network.

        1. Having grown up in a tram city in Europe, the “Cyclists were one of the reasons trams were removed!” argument for Auckland is seriously ridiculous. Both in the sense of that having played a role, and in it being a major safety hazard on its own.

          That said, in a recent discussion I had with Axel Wilke (a cycling expert from Christchurch) he made the very valid point that one of the ways in which tram designs can be made much better for cyclists is by keeping them in the centre of the road. If you constantly return them to the edge of the road for stops, you are forcing bikes to cross the tracks at exactly the wrong angle.

          Since we aren’t building a touristy design where stops have to be off-line from the traffic lanes like in Christchurch or Wynyard, our trams will very likely stick to the centre of the road for most if not all the route, thus massively reducing any remaining slip risk for people on bikes. Speaking for Cycle Action Auckland and myself, I can’t but be enthusiastic about this project.

          1. If you are unable to deal with tram tracks when riding I would suggest you are being insufficiently attentive and are likely to face all sorts of other threats too.

            The city with the world’s biggest tram network also has a huge cycling culture, Melbourne, which suggests that this is a non-problem.

            Furthermore we certainly will be encouraging the addition of separated cycle infrastructure to added when the tracks go in, and the LRT routes are likely to themselves separated where ever possible so it is likely that riders will only ever need to cross tracks at intersections, and therefore at right angles to the line.

      2. I assume the light rail will be running up the centre of the road, not the edges? So you will not be riding a bike along the tracks, just crossing them (shouldn’t be an issue should it).

    3. Gee, thanks for speaking on my behalf. I love trams and look forward to seeing them in Auckland central. An assumption of my own: I don’t hear of too many people who go to Melbourne and say “I hate those trams, get them out of here”. Bring ’em on so we can use them.

    4. Wrong, even the most anti PT people I speak to seem to like the idea of trams (except you it seems). In fact I would say the most opposition to light rail will be from pro-CRL people (e.g. Len Brown) who see light rail as a distraction to implementing the CRL.

      1. If light rail proves a distraction to the CRL (or a further cause of delay) then it should be down-prioritised. The CRL is urgent as the lack of it is seriously compromising the effectiveness of the whole existing rail system.

        However the light rail as proposed it is a completely separate entity so I don’t see why it should prove a distraction.
        The biggest blockage to all public transport progress is the National Government and its policy to impose a roads-only prescription everywhere.

          1. Unless you’re involved in funding, in which case you could see the money as PT funding vs Transport/road funding.

            I’m not saying that’s how I view things, but it is a possible interpretation, which is why the messaging is so important.

      2. I live in Melbourne now and non-grade separated trams are a nightmare. Buses are much, much faster and once you have grade separation they are more efficient, cheaper, more reliable and faster.

        Also, re. comfort – trams have a lot fewer seats. Have fun standing up all the way down Dominion Road.

        Life lesson – once you grade separate, you may as well stick with buses.

        But as usual, bright shiny things that make us look more like Europe win over from any practical logic on here.

        1. I wouldn’t judge all LRT vehicles by Melbourne’s standards of Trams. Trams and LRTs are like Chalk and Cheese in terms of comfort and operations.

          As for standing – well there are a lot of folks who would love to stand up all the way down Dom. Road right now – if only they could get on a bus going their way first.
          Currently those buses streaming past are all full, so they spend a lot of time standing allright – at the bus stop, waiting for either a bus without a “BUS FULL” sign on it, or the sack for being late to work too many times.

          Yes grade separation may be the answer to save the buses from themselves, but there is no road space [or the billion+ it would cost] to allow this to be done there in the Void.
          So what do you propose? Forget about the 150,000 residents of the void and just say to them “forget PT, just drive instead”?

      1. I didn’t say no one wants it but not everyone loves them either, they don’t have any particular feeling about them at all. And probably not like them if they have to pay for something they can’t use because its on the other side of the city they never go to. Like I said before we should never have taken them out in the first place, but I just don’t see the benefits of bringing them back. Yes I’m not fairly covering every factor but I’m fairly certain you can increase patronage by cutting prices rather than buying more expensive vehicles. There are few factors that trams have advantage over that can’t also be achieved with buses.

        I do think they are terribly expensive in terms of what they deliver and the devil is in the details. How do you grade separate several kms of roads that have thousands of property accesses? Ban right turns along the whole of Dominion Rd? Talk about consenting nightmare. Imagine the Beach Rd Cycle way down the middle of the road. People will be stuck doing u-turns all over the place, getting stuck in front of trams and all sorts stupid crap drivers do.

        It’s a great idea in theory but in practice I think it will end up delivering a poor result, way past deadline and far-over budget.

        1. I’d expect that we’d leverage the learnings from Melbourne, a city not completely dissimilar to Auckland.

          Somehow they seem to manage not to have road chaos involving trams/LR too often.

        2. “And probably not like them if they have to pay for something they can’t use because its on the other side of the city they never go to”

          I agree, only things I can use should be paid for. Things on the other side of the city that I’ll never use shouldn’t be.

          Of course if everybody takes that view there could be some issues.

          Or we have an informed collective conversation about what are the important projects for the whole city.

          People claiming to speak for others don’t help that conversation.

    5. “I don’t love trams and neither do most of Auckland”.
      Great! I’ve been looking for someone who knows what “most of Auckland” thinks. Can we look forward to your dispensing wisdom on all the other important matters of the day?
      We should get together as I know what most of NZ thinks. True. They think the same as me of course – just like you!

      1. Glad to be of service Harry! Everyone knows that everyone who lives outside Auckland are ****** **** ****** so I stick mainly to knowing Auckland’s opinion as that is hard enough.

        1. Ari, hopefully you can help me too? I live outside of Auckland, and so therefore I am ****** **** ****** . Not sure what that is, but thank you, I’m sure. Apparently you’re “good on knowing what Aucklanders think,” but I am not sure what I think. Could you tell me please, so I know whether I am in favour or against it? Thank you….

    6. Ari we have the evidence of the new trains right now inAuckland and the HUGE increases in pax they are bringing. We can be confident that new electric LR vehicles will be at least as attractive to customers, especially as they will come with right of way improvements. That is garunteed as a result of the cost of digging up the corridors- they will so be improved for that expense. So higher capacity, fewer vehicles taking a narrower slice of street than buslanes do…. There are clearly more positives on your balance sheet above for LR. And don’t forget; quiet and emission free, so great for street life, and Queen and Dom Rd are almost entirely one long retail strip which will be getting a huge upgrade with LR.

    7. That’s all good when current buses are maxed out capacity wise and can’t physically fit more in the city within the next decade. What’s your solution? People stop catching PT?

    8. The advantage of route permanence is that it gives the confidence to make real investments and developments in the area.

      1. I don’t totally disagree with this point, but nobody who’s ever tried to realign a bus route or move a bus stop would describe them as “impermanent”. There’s an incredible amount of resistance to any change in public transport routes.

        1. Good point – just happened in Palmerston North (new, better proposed routes voted down in favour of the current confusing ones).

        2. They’re not perceived as permanent enough to drive investment like LRT or rail routes, yet they’re difficult to redesign when needed. Both sets of disadvantages and neither set of advantages…

          (Side note: it really bugs me when people talk about the ‘flexibility’ of buses to respond to various unspecified ‘changes’ as a reason not to invest in rail or LRT. As if the isthmus suburbs are likely to become an unpopulated desert whose buses need to be reallocated. And funnily enough, people like a bit of certainty and permanence in their public transport.)

  2. As an aside where is the pressure or incentive to move businesses out of central Auckland thus allowing shorter commutes within outer communities?

      1. Not to mention you’re ignoring the large and increasing population of the inner city, people who previously only had to walk to work will now need to commute if businesses moved out. As Nick R points out, there’s already an incentive to locate out in the fringe somewhere, i.e. cheap rent and lots of empty land, however, businesses are willing to pay the cost of locating in the centre, and pay higher rates and higher rents – this isn’t something being forced upon them by council. There’s been dozens of articles on here discussing what many of the reasons are.

    1. There are plenty of market incentives and pressures to do that. For example there is a heap of cheap land zoned for business out in Albany and east Tamaki. The fundamentlal problem is it tends to make commutes longer and traffic worse, because people generally don’t have the freedom to live/work/study all in the same neighbourhood. You get people living in Albany driving to East Tamaki, and people living in Botany driving to Albany, etc. Sometimes it works for one member of the houshold, but not the others. Or people get a house next to work, and their job moves. Do they up sticks and move the whole household across town, or do they leave the job and find something else nearby, maybe not quite as good? …or do they line up on the motorway and drive across Auckland every day.

      In simple geometric terms the centre of the city is the one point closest to everywhere. Not to say that everything has to be downtown but it’s the reason that big businesses want to set up there, the have the best access to the widest pool of talent in the region. Fonterra might decide to build its headquarters in Papakura, but they’d basically cut off half the people in Auckland from working there. Very few people from the North Shore or West Auckland would apply for a job there. In the centre it is reasonably accessible to everywhere, rather than well accessed from one smaller part of the city and much worse from most of the region.

      1. Fonterra is busy moving from the CBD all the way to WQ. In doing so they are bringing Fonterra Brands NZ HQ in from Takanini to join with them. They are hardly likely to be doing this on a whim. I bet rental costs in the new building will be way higher than at the factory in Takanini, but obviously they see value in it- I suspect to do with alignment and recruitment more than anything else.

        1. You are being naive Conan.

          This is all part of a conspiracy between Transport Blog, Cycle Action Auckland, Gen Zero, the Green Party and the United Nations (under their evil Agenda 21 world domination plan) to manipulate poor defenceless corporates and trick them into moving to the city centre.

          It’s all spelt out for you on this very well written, well informed and balanced blog written by someone who is obviously very intelligent and completely in touch with the real world:

          And if you don’t believe that you are a Communist and hate children. Don’t question it! *puts on tin foil hat*

          1. Ah, this is a spinoff of Jordan Williams’ Taxpayers’ Union. But why is a woman fronting as the Auckland local body mouthpiece of a young man who said to Cameron Slater: “If [women] didn’t have [genitals] there’d be a bounty on their heads”?

          2. You left out the Auckland Council, apparently they have fallen under the spell of the Agenda 21 Taliban Hilter Youth and are going crazy with the ratepayers’ money as a result.

            But Jo and the ARA will break the spell and save us all.

          3. I can confirm one thing, there was a very noticeable and sudden increase in congestion in the evening peak on SH1 southbound just before you cross the bridge, early this year.

            Maybe that had something to do with the road works in Albany? Of course that doesn’t sound as cool as conspiracy theories.

    2. So should we also bring in a law that you can’t work anywhere that is more than 5kms from your work place? That means you are effectively now not living in a proper city but a small town – as I assume you would also want really low densities. Therefore the number of businesses within that distance would be very low.

      And that rule would have to apply to everyone in your household.

      If you don’t do that then the two options are:

      1. You displace your household/family every time one of you moves jobs to be closer to it. So your kids all have to change schools, your partner will also have to change jobs to the new area. Plus now you can’t keep using any of your recreational facilities either as they will also be in the old area. Or do you intend to drive across town to use those?

      2. Everyone just drives all over the place creating congestion everywhere at most times. Kind of like Auckland now. Then we can spend billions “fixing” the congestion be widening roads and destroying the urban environment.

      Which one do you prefer?

      If short commutes are so important and the benefits of a larger employment market so unimportant, I can’t understand why you would choose to live in the only real city in NZ. Move to New Plymouth and have virtually no commute. Or are there no jobs?

    3. Nice idea – we could even claim dis-agglomeration benefits. Whatever back-of-napkin number needs to be made up. We can do it!

      1. Sorry, but am I the only one who thinks that interacting with concern trolls whose only aim is to disrupt discussion and sow FUD as if they were legitimate partners in discourse is playing right into their hands? If it were up to me Ricardo’s 1970s style pro-roads chaff would be deleted on sight. It wastes time and energy which could be used discussing REAL issues.

        1. hmmmm, I’m not so sure, many more read this blog than comment on it, it’s important to address some issue for balance with the silent reader in mind.

          I’m also not so sure that it’s useful to try to label every commenter and aggressively attack them either.

    1. It ends up too expensive. You usually need to widen the median to put in the pylons with sufficient crash protection, so you need to realign the whole motorway. At any overbridge or interchange your monorail ends up being 15m in the air to clear it all, and the stations end up quite large elevated structures hanging over a motorway, like a couple thousand square metres of concrete deck up in the sky. It also makes walk and bus connectivity quite a hassle if you are in the middle of a motorway. In the end its just cheaper to run busway/tram/train alongside the motorway in the corridor and underpass the interchanges, like they did with the northern busway.

      1. Sure does. I’m sure they are plenty of cities in the world from whom we’d be able to get a good price on a disused or removed system. That or flying cars. It’s the future after all.

          1. That’s brilliant, you need to click through to the SHM article, they were on Gumtree for $3000 each. No word on whether they sold…

            Also a key quote from the Wikipedia entry:

            “Light rail would have been $20 million cheaper to build, service more passengers per hour and cost 40% less for a ticket, but the monorail system prevailed.”

          2. Sydney’s now, thankfully, defunct monorail was the brainchild of a spectacularly compromised right-wing ALP politician, Laurie Brereton. His mania for the project saw an ALP lord mayor (Doug Sutherland) and the Council of the City of Sydney sacked and replaced by commissioners and was a significant contributor to the eventual demise of the Wran/Unsworth ALP administration. Aside from being as ugly as all hell it was severely dysfunctional. Went on it once and have to say it was a disappointment in every possible respect; the people mover at Gatwick airport was a lot more exciting.

  3. Transit on rails is always more user friendly for strangers – you can tell at a glance where they are going whereas circumvolutary bus routes are often confusing for users. And when there is a double line you know you can always get back with surety.

  4. The universal laws of urban spacial geometry? I am not sure if that is an appeal to authority or or an appeal to nature. The only counter I have to that statement is my favourite fallacy the appeal to the stone. That sounds ridiculous!

    1. So Mfwic has it ever occurred to to wonder why any cities exist at all? Why on earth do we bother with the things if they don’t actually have advantages? If you look up from your lawn mower for a moment you’ll also note that they are globally, culturally, and temporally universal. That is they exist everywhere, in all cultures throughout history. And they do all fall to pattern.

      They are entirely about attempting to maximise wellbeing within the bounds of space and time. They are about spatial and temporal efficiency. And there is a constant juggling act going on between these two. The valuing of time savings in transport evaluations is a sign of this, though the failure to also measure spatial efficiency as well leads to the privileging of dispersal and the inevitable wrecking of those very time savings. Which also is the answer to your earlier failure to understand the role of Agglomeration Economies. They are an attempt to price spatial efficiency. Traffic engineering, as most practise it in NZ, is only half a discipline, it would seem. It can’t comprehend place and the economics of space.

    2. mfwic – it’s not an appeal to authority or nature when the claim is made with a logical theory behind it, as it is here. You can disagree with the theory, but simply writing it off like that is… lazy.

    3. Ok I can accept there are some universal laws. The second law of thermodynamics for example or Newtons: law of gravity, law of cooling, 1st law of motion, second law of motion, third law etc. Keplers laws are probably universal. But you just have to be kidding me. Urban Spacial Geometry? Most people don’t even consider that a thing let alone there is a ‘universal law’. People only write that sort of shit to try and kill of the possibility of dissent! Universal? Bullshit!

      1. Perhaps you could read the article on the laws of spatial geometry and then ttry to provide some counter examples to disprove them as laws?

      2. Jarrett Walker had a really good discussion of this issue. Well worth a read:

        “Universal” might be over-stating it a bit but “universal given the physically plausible range of technologies” is a bit clumsy. Basically, the key features seem to be:

        (1) Physical space is rivalrous – i.e. if I am occupying a space or moving through it, you can’t _also_ by there at the same time
        (2) It takes time and resources to move through space – this constraint is implied by both Newtonian and Einsteinian mechanics
        (3) People value social interaction / trade with each other
        (4) As a result of (2) and (3), there are benefits to concentrating activities in space – call it knowledge spillovers, supply chain linkages, benefits to specialisation, whatever
        (5) Because of (1) and (4), the price of space in places with concentrated activities (i.e. cities) will be high. (This “price” may be expressed in land markets, or, if other rules limit the expression of prices in markets, through other means such as exchanges of favours, bureaucratic corruption, etc.)
        (6) (2) and (5) imply that in cities there is an imperative to move people not just _rapidly_ but in a _space-efficient_ manner. This means that it’s almost inevitable that you will invent something like grade-separated rapid transit.

      3. OK so I have taken the time to read it and I accept the complaint that I should have read it before commenting. Maybe calling them ‘Interesting observations” might be better than “universal laws”.

  5. Im in gold coast right now and the tramline they’ve added in the last 4 years is excellent, well used, looks amazing and is very efficient.

      1. Exactly my point.. a badly design street will force cyclists to cross the tracks at acute angles(Edinburgh).

        Auckland Transport need to design the street so cyclists cross at 90 degree to tracks…

        “The key difference in Amsterdam is that bicycle facilities exist that often direct people riding bicycles to cross streetcar tracks at safe angles.f”

    1. If you can ride a bike, you can pretty easily navigate tram tracks. They can be a dangerous if you have thinner tyres – but you either buy thicker ones or make sure you cross tram tracks at 90 degrees. Simple. I’ve had more problems hitting the lip of the rail as I cross over and having it puncture my tyres.

  6. I suspect that trams are more acceptable for politicians and the general public compared to buses. Maybe it’s nostalgia or maybe people just like the aesthetics of it all. If the trams were grad-separated, as they surely have to be, people will like that over a dedicated bus lane or bus way even though the cost would be greater. Perhaps, for Auckland to get a proper PT network, like the CFN, then it has to be trams rather than buses for purely political or aesthetical reasons.

    1. Aesthetics are real. If people like something they will use it. Why else do car companies spend so much time and money trying to design, build, then persuade us that their one is the best looking, coolest machine on the planet?

      We are seeing ‘aesthetics’ at work with the EMUs, the quality of the machines is a contributing factor to their appeal. The exact sam thing will happen with LRT too. Of course performance is vital too. A hopelessly infrequent or unreliable but beautiful machine with wifi and baristas won’t work anywhere near as well as one that is also always there and on time.

      And an additional part of the aesthetics are the aesthetics of place and here the electric aspect of the system is hugely important. This is beautiful. And beautiful for the city and our economy and our resilience.

      1. Yes very good point, the EMUs are already showing this effect. Same train line, same stations, same route, same times, same, er, unreliability… but much aesthetics much easier on the eye, ear and nose. Patronage going up bigtime.

      2. “Why else do car companies spend so much time and money trying to design, build, then persuade us that their one is the best looking, coolest machine on the planet?”

        Not just car companies, Apple and others collectively and individually spend amounts of money to achieve the same, that would be no less than the GDP of a small Caribbean Banana Republic.

        “Aesthetics are real. If people like something they will use it.”

        Not only will they use it if its nice, they will often go **out of their way to use it** if they really like it.
        Hence why folks on the Southern line stations between Penrose and Newmarket have been flocking to use the Onehunga trains.

        “And an additional part of the aesthetics are the aesthetics of place and here the electric aspect of the system is hugely important.”

        And don’t forget that one of the promises here is that it will be able to run without needing overhead wires everywhere – another important aesthetic **and operational** consideration.
        And even if that makes the system more expensive to build its a good compromise to keep the streets free of visual clutter of overhead wires.
        Overhead trolley bus wires is part of what makes Wellington look so damn “messy”.

      3. Totally agree that aesthetics are real – beauty is after all one of the transcendentals – and it is important that we have a beautiful city. Who wants to live in Soviet planned town?
        I think it is a lot easier to get people to agree to trams than it is for buses because of aesthetics rather than purely economic or practical reasons. Look at all the furor over bus lanes along Mt. Eden Road, Dominion Road, and even Ponsonby Road. But I have not heard the same “my business will be ruined” brigade in regards to trams. I think this means that the chances of having new dedicated bus lanes that are grad separated are actually very low. However, grad-separated trams is very likely and there is probably a lot of support amongst the general public. This probably means that PT supporters probably should get behind trams rather than buses. In the end I think trams are better but probably aren’t the way to go for AK right now.

        1. “But I have not heard the same “my business will be ruined” brigade in regards to trams”

          You will, when the shop brigade realise that LRT means an end to all that free roadside parking outside their shops, just like the bus lanes do.

          1. I’m,sure the shop-owners in St Kilda absolutely rue the trams that take away vital transit space 😛

            Seriously, the tram model would work brilliantly for Tamaki Drive. Most people would welcome the chance to get rid of car parking on the seaward side of the road anyway, at least a tram is only a visual obstruction when it’s passing by.

    2. I think you have a point, Tom. Many potential Transit users of the middle and upper classes will no more ride a bus than they will drink Lion Red at a pub which also has a TAB.

      1. While not disagreeing, surely the Northern Busway proves that even that is a hurdle easily overcome with the lack of congestion borne of grade separation (all 41% of it)?

        1. yes I also wonder where this meme of “rich people don’t ride buses come from”. I’ve lived in Auckland, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, and Brisbane. In all these places I’ve found people on high incomes riding the buses, especially when it is reliable, frequent, and speedy, as per NEX.

          I agree LRT looks cool. But the aethetics of new double-decker buses is also pretty cool too, IMO.

      2. Maybe it has something to do with the under-investment in usable transport in some of the more well-off areas? I’d have to case three buses to get across the Panmure Bridge. I live in Glendowie. We recently got ‘improved services’ but all AT did was change the bus times on the schedule because they couldn’t get the buses to run on time to the old one. Do you want to guess if that’s actually fixed the problem? There hasn’t been an increase in frequency or anything helpful yet, but hopefully it’s coming.

        I know well-off people in this area who simply refuse to use it because a lack of integrated ticketing made getting somewhere that isn’t on a direct route (i.e on Tamaki Drive or Downtown) via service transfers extremely expensive and counter-intuitive. What’s even less likely to help remedy the situation is using your own personal agenda to attack people for not using a service that realistically hasn’t been a workable option for them. They sit back and watch places like the North Shore get bus ways and think “They really don’t give a shit if we use PT or not”.

  7. What we have to bear in mind is that, whilst Aucklanders may love the idea of trams, they dont like giving up road space. In fact we know the exact outcome of this given we have just been through the process of realocating Dom Rd road space. So dont expect high priority for the trams.

    1. There are already bus lanes along the length of Dominion Rd, trams in their place would actually use less space and allow cycke infrastructure to be built in addition. The reality is the vast majority of people travel through here on public transit as it is.

  8. When we talk of trams we always think of Melbourne, and most people think the trams are great but some have reservations. I think we should aim much higher than Melbourne because:
    – We can design our network for today’s standards, we are not inheriting an old tired system and routes
    – We shouldn’t have the levels bureaucracy of public transport Victoria. AT should be much more nimble (believe it or not)
    – We probably don’t need overhead wires, we will have a complete set of brand new trams
    – I hope we will have pretty much complete separation of trams from vehicles with the exception of traffic lights.
    – All of our lines should be the same standard

    1. About 2/3 of melbournes tram routes are fairly shit, but the 1/3 with their own dedicated lanes are great.

  9. Y don’t they use this light rail to get people to the heavy rail network instead of running all these tracks into the cbd?
    It is an idea, likely will add time to the city commute but will be more practical for general Auckland wide travel.
    Lol maybe even wack a tram route on the north shore. Between the busway and takapuna to keep them happy.

    1. Because the heavy rail will already be quite full carrying suburban passengers. They need more tracks into the CBD because they need more capacity into the CBD.

    2. John M yes that is a possible future role, but it is a task that will be done fairly efficiently with buses in the New Network. For a bus route to be upgraded to LRT it would need, like the Dom RD route to be hitting capacity. Also as I say in the post this area is not currently served by Rapid Transit, these routes are designed to deliver a ‘close to Rapid’ high quality service for an area without a RTN line to connect to.

      In fact one of the best things about the proposal is that it adds a new high capacity route into the City Centre that currently is not available for any volume. It may appear to be a surprising one given it has always been there: Queen St. Currently Queen St is only used for local traffic; the City Link, and shuffling drivers around [exception: the Airbus]. With this LRT proposal Queen St becomes a high capacity inward and outward bound route, plugged into the Void, and its 150,000 people, and businesses and attractions. So it adds capacity and variety to the existing and coming [CRL] connectivity of the City Centre and the whole wider city.

  10. Two things:

    1. Don’t buy CAF – there is more to the EMUs than meets the eye, or the press.
    2. How about attributing the map from Quail – I’m sure that it is still in copyright.

  11. The map comes from Quail Maps of NZ Railways.

    Something about the CAF guys struggling with their product. I’m surprised you hadn’t heard.

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