I guess this is just one of those ones we should have on high rotate. The advice from the North American consultants in 1965 for Auckland at the height of the sprawl era was this: ‘a co-ordinated bus and rail Rapid Transit plan‘ to go along with the gradual construction of motorways. How prescient this looks as the following 50 years have shown how inefficient and expensive a monomodal autodependent transport plan is for cities.

De Leuw Cather_Highway Report

And now as we finally inch towards the partial delivery of just such a system it is plainly obvious how rational it is; ongoing 20% growth on the Rapid Transit Network settles the long running claims that it would never work in Auckland.

It is extraordinary that the government claims Auckland Transport and Auckland Council don’t have a good plan. It’s only the same plan that we’ve always had, but have never been allowed to implement. First because the various councils ‘couldn’t agree’ but now because there is insufficient ‘alignment’ with the government’s plan, which is undisclosed in any holistic form, but clearly is just more motorways everywhere. The Auckland plan, is evidenced, popular, already working, but starved of cash.

To 1986 and beyond…


And here, on a projected future motorway map you can see the core rail part of the ‘coordinated bus and rail Rapid Transit plan‘:


*Thanks to the excellent Auckland Library archive.

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  1. Mis-alignment, indeed.

    The bottom of the 1st page says it all and suggests what Bridges considers is missing but for which he can’t actually verbalise when asked.

    “transportation surveys.. comprehensive origin-destination survey, traffic volume counts, motorway and street inventories, screen line and cordon counts, travel time studies and parking studies in the Central Business district. Analyses of these…”

    So what we have had here is a laundry list of “reports” and “studies” followed by analyses, but no action.
    The Governments of the day simply cherry picks the answers it wants (and ensures it gets those answers by the studies it commissions).
    All still going on today, some 50 years after that report was written and finalised.

    Bridges response over his issue with the councils plans, reminded me then and now of the scene in the movie “The Castle” where he is asked by the Judge to show where the Australian constitution forbids the Airport from being able to take the Kerrigan’s and their neighbours houses for the airport expansion as planned.

    All he can say is [in effect] “its against the vibe of it”. And can’t explain further what that means or what he means by it.

    All I can say to Bridges, is “Ya must be dreamin’ mate” if you think you need more time for more studies to gather more evidence to show what the existing studies already show.

    However, unlike the movie, where a better lawyer actually used the vibe argument in a more technical way to win against the airport, there is no such outcome for Bridges here.

  2. Great to have this reminder of the De Leuw Cather Report presented to readers of this Blog and particularly the visuals of the original. Auckland has got its planning so wrong over the last fifty years.

    I was also interested to note that the latest issue of Metro calls Simon Bridges. our new Transport Minister ” a study of anxiety and vanity” and believes he is the classic example of the Peters Principle (i.e. one step beyond his competence) and that Bridges responses to date suggest that he barely understands the problems or the proposals. On television he stated that we don’t need a railway to the airport at the time the Council Plan was adopted. The Council hadn’t even asked for one – what a clown!

    And with transit passenger trends clearly evident, poor man, he is just defending the indefensible

    1. The really alarming thing about the Minister’s attack on the idea of rail through Mangere to the Airport, which was repeated by the PM to the Property Council at a breakfast address reported in the NBR, is that they are attacking the idea of reserving a corridor the could be used for some form of Rapid Transit in the future, that’s all. Not the spending of any money on construction.

      Identifying and reserving corridors is the prudent and economical thing to do. The vast majority of the cost the AMETI project is simply buying the land and buildings on the route. To have reserved that land when it was cheap farmland decades ago would obviously have been better.

      The greatest failure in South East Auckland was not that a rail line wasn’t built in the 1960 there, but that an extremely cheap corridor wasn’t set aside for future generations to choose to do something with.

      It is frankly outrageous that the government feels the that the most important issue in Auckland today is to close off future options, especially as the costs of not closing them are negligible. They really are showing some very peculiar priorities with regard to Auckland. They really are doing their best to appear single mode obsessed and unreasonably hysterical about even the prospect of rail: http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/the-plot-against-trains

      1. +1

        It’s a crime how little attention has been paid to fairly important aspects of city planning by our actual city planners over the years. Vast attention paid to things like the colours of roof tiles, but zero regard to street networks and transport rights-of-way: decisions that will affect the city for centuries or millennia to come. There’s often not even any thought to what happens when the next suburb out gets built: look at Torbay and Long Bay for example: there’s only two streets that connect, despite there not being any geographical barriers. Or Millwater, which seems to have been almost deliberately designed to make sure there’s no sensible route to put a bus through.

        1. +2. Millwater is a clusterf**k of a design. Long Bay is too. The developer should have been required to purchase the 2-3 houses needed to connect the development up with existing roads better.

    2. Seems to me that Bridges (and the whole Govt) are pinning all their hopes on driverless vehicles rapidly making conventional public transport obsolescent, thereby removing any justification for investing in this ‘dying mode’ at this time, and instead, somehow justifying the ploughing of most transport funding into the RoNS.

      Two points:
      1) This is a massive gamble. If driverless tech does not sweep in with a rush as Bridges expects, the Govt’s policies will be seriously misallocating resources and holding the country back.
      2) If driverless tech does what the pundits are predicting, there will be LESS need for motorways, not more.

      Reminds me of how a few naïve Ministers in the British Govt obstructed further rail electrification for years, in the belief that hydrogen fuel cell-powered trains were just around the corner and these would render conventional electrification unnecessary. Well no other European country bought into this delusion, and it set back a much-needed aspect of Britain’s railway development by about 10 years.

  3. In this plan they had rail to North Shore and other places like Howick. How I wish this pushed through

  4. Ahh, the De Leuw Cather plan. If only. . . .!

    They did a similar one for Wellington which, if properly implemented, would have seen our regional rail system extended at least as far as Newtown, with the warning that “if this is not done by 1986, vehicle congestion will be such that major sums will be necessary to expand the roads. . .” [paraphrased].

    Needless to say, only the motorway-parts of the plan were ever progressed.

    1. Most of the motorway plans south of the Terrace were never completed. We would have had a spag junction around the war memorial and the basin would have disappeared. Imagine how little congestion there would be if it got built, but never mind… Also if it was built, there would be no need for the six lane arterial road on the waterfront.

      The rail tunnel would only be built to Courtney Place, however I don’t get how it would be built because it has some very challenging geological constraints.

      However, in the 1963 Comprehensive Transport Plan by De Leuw Cather, it did say the motorways should be built first – a complete opposite of the Auckland plan.

  5. The original draft had a motorway interchange at Eden Park. The planners in the US had seen a big open area on the aerial photo and used it for an interchange. I heard the original report was so bad the deLeuw had to fly out to recover the situation.

      1. From two guys now retired who I am not naming. One was at the National Roads Board and one had a long career at the ARA. They told me the draft was obviously done without too much reference to constraints in Auckland. The US people claimed the motorway ramps proposed and now built around the motorway ring were not feasible, they had a longer route designed for 60mph that used more land (although Patrick might have preferred it as it was further from the CBD). Elsewhere much of what was in the draft was restating what was already proposed. So they complained and the boss came out from the US and rewrote much of it.

        1. “The US people claimed the motorway ramps proposed and now built around the motorway ring were not feasible”

          Not feasible can mean not recommended/impractical as well as “impossible”.

          The “US people” were probably advising us in their way not to saddle the CBD with a god awful moat, but we ignored them anyway thinking they meant the latter when they meant the former …

  6. > De Leuw, Cather & Company
    > 1256 Market Street, San Francisco, California

    Of course, San Francisco *did* adopt a similar plan to the one De Leuw proposed for Auckland – BART would open less than a decade later, with one station just a block from De Leuw’s office.

    Today, that street looks like this, with dedicated lanes for light rail and bikes. It’s interesting to wonder what Auckland would be like today if we’d followed their recommendations, but it’d probably look not a million miles different to San Francisco.

      1. It must be nice believing that Auckland is perfect and that all decisions in the past on Auckland’s urban for and transport were inevitable, made for exactly the right reasons and led to fantastic outcomes. Completely out of touch with reality, but it must be nice.

        Whereas any city that didn’t follow that pattern is a sh!thole that struggles to make it as a city – so far you seem to regard Vancouver and San Fran as falling into that category.

        1. So, Market Street SF went through a bad patch, then came back up again. What has that got to do with De Leuw Cather & Co?
          I seem to remember Britomart being pretty seedy before the new station was built, also.

  7. Looks like the engineers had the right idea from the get go, but it was the planners and politicians who led us astray

  8. Simon Bridges and John Key’s talk of “alignment” quite clearly means: “we want more of a roads-first focus in your Auckland plan. We don’t give a stuff about rail. Once you agree with us, we’ll be aligned”.

    1. No not even. What they mean is: “look we have a surplus to deliver and we can’t make it if we spend money in transport so let’s pretend we’re doing something but talking meeting and blaming the council”.

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