Around two weeks ago AT gave a presentation to the Council’s Infrastructure committee which contained a lot of very interesting information about some of the major projects they’re working on. I also heard a segment of the presentation at a talk last week. I won’t cover everything in the presentation as much of the charts and maps are ones we’ve seen before that I found interesting.

The presentation starts by looking at Auckland’s expected population growth in comparison to the growth happening in the rest of NZ using some charts most will probably be familiar with. Just in case you aren’t they highlight that using the medium growth projections out to 2043 that more than half of all population growth will be in Auckland and that growth alone will equal be greater than the current population of Christchurch and its expected growth. What was interesting though was the chart below showing how Auckland has grown compared to the previous population projections and as you can see the projections keep being revised upwards. The 1996 projection estimated Auckland would hit 2 million people in 2063 but the 2013 one suggests it will now be 2033.

Auckland Population vs Stats Projections

As mentioned the growth is comparable to the expected population in Christchurch and the image below shows the land area of all of the greenfield growth (blue) and Special Housing Areas (Orange) from across the region combined into one Christchurch sized mass – I’ve also seen a version comparing it to Hamilton with roughly a Hamilton sized growth occurring in the South, about a 2/3rds Hamilton in the North West and half a Hamilton in the North.

Auckalnd Population growth vs Christchurvh

On the topic of growth this chart highlights just how much is expected to occur in the city centre – which is the CBD and fringe suburbs such as Grafton, Newmarket Parnell, Ponsonby etc. – compared to other parts of Auckland. I’m not quite sure where the boundaries for the other areas are but it’s also interesting to see the second biggest expected employment growth area is in the North West.

Auckland Education and Employment projections

Moving on to some of the more interesting aspects of the presentation, there is a series of maps showing how the Rapid Transit Network will develop over the next 30 years. Now what does that presentation format remind you of? It’s great that AT are now starting to present the information this way as personally I think it makes it much easier for the general public to understand what’s proposed for their city.

AT Rapid Transit Network 2015-2045

One aspect you will notice is the access to the Airport. The map shows both heavy and light rail options as it has yet to be decided which one will be built. Accompanying the presentation was an animated video that showed the options in much more detail including what they would look like between Onehunga and Kirkbride Rd. This hasn’t yet been published so I’ve asked AT when that will happen as it was very interesting. I’ll discuss a little more about this later in the post. Also the more I look at it the more I think it seems natural for light rail to be extended over to the North Shore where it can  then spread out again to provide greater coverage.

On light rail the presentation moved on to AT’s proposal for it on the isthmus. A lot of the justification for it is to reduce the number of buses in the city centre as some corridors like Wellesley St will have over 180 per hour in the peak direction based on current plans. We’ve shown these maps before but they’re worth repeating.s

City Access - Do Minimum

And with LRT in place bus numbers reduce dramatically. One thing I am aware of is that the map below is not be entirely correct as I know the board have decided not to send LRT down to Quay St, instead it will stay on Customs St (and presumably travel down Fanshawe St).

City Access - LRT

It still leaves Wellesley St as a very busy bus corridor but allows more buses from other parts of the city not served by heavy or light rail. Thee impact of not building Light Rail is highlighted in this map showing that bus congestion in the city slows buses down reducing the number of people within a 45 minute trip of the city centre. Interestingly some of the worst affected areas are the North Shore which again suggests it’s probably worth looking at something like LRT to the shore to reduce the reliance on buses.

Note: the map shows that many of the ferry routes don’t seem to be counted. My guess is this the map is based on a combination of walking time and average wait time for a service plus the travel time to a set point in the city centre.

City Accessability without LRT

The next map shows a great representation of how people will access the city centre by mode in the future if current plans are built. As you can see the existing rail network plus the CRL serve the South, East and West through connections with feeder buses. The central Isthmus is served by light rail, many of the coastal communities are served by ferry and the rest of the city by bus.

City Centre Accessability Map

As mentioned earlier, there was some information on the options for rail to the airport. The three images below show how far you would get from the airport on public transport now, with heavy rail and with light rail. As a basis it seems to assume that the isthmus light rail routes have been completed and like the accessibility maps will likely be based on some average wait time and possibly only using normal PT options so no Skybus.

Accessability to Airport Now

With Heavy Rail you can definitely get much further

Accessability to Airport Heavy Rail

And the light rail version which connect to the isthmus routes via a connection from Onehunga to Dominion Rd on a route alongside SH20.

Accessability to Airport Light Rail

There are some odd things with these maps, for example as I understand it the idea with the light rail option is only the Dominion Rd route would go to the airport which means a transfer for those using the other lines. Why then can you get further up Manukau Rd on LRT when Heavy Rail is much faster to get to Onehunga.

There is more info in there in the interests of time and space I might leave some aspects to another post.

All up a very interesting presentation.

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  1. Very interesting preso and good summary of the questions. The travel travel time maps “to the CBD” and “from the airport” are especially good.

    Thinking about the “from the airport” maps.. anyone like to create one with the TB proposal of heavy rail to Otahuhu (using the same definitions, which I guess must include waiting times?) I would guess this would turn large parts of Central and East Auckland orange.

      1. I quite like the Britomart – Otahuhu (via Southern and Eastern Lines) to Airport heavy rail option as it seems to give best bang for buck given the Otahuhu Transport Interchange is right there as well for feeder buses. It seems Auckland Transport are short selling us with this entire LRT thing to the airport from the City rather than using the more efficient and higher capacity heavy rail system that for the most part is already in place for half the route needed.

        The South and Howick/Botany would be later served by its own light rail system going east to west from the airport to Manukau to Botany to Pakuranga and finally terminating at Panmure in due time as well seeming the South is taking the bulk of population and employment growth outside of the City Centre.

        1. Yes, I like the Otahuhu option too, and gives much better Airport access to Eastern and Southern Auckland. We need to have this option considered alongside the other two

        2. An Otahuhu-Airport junction does horrific things to the capacity between the junction at Otahuhu and the junction at Westfield, though. Maintenance, speed and resilience would all suffer exponentially. Any minor failure would result in almost network-wide shutdown. Like the one on Monday morning times 1000. Easily swept under the carpet by armchair commentators, but a major problem for the people who actually have to make it happen and keep happening. The Onehunga route has its issues, but it doesn’t add massive new ones to the network that never go away.

    1. Interesting too that they have managed to slow the trains down in this comparison, the following is from an earlier AT report, and places all the City Centre stops within 45mins of the airport, which of course completely shifts the numbers:

      1. Yes I noticed that. Maybe they included average waiting time for a train – but to be more than 45 mins, you would have to have an average waiting time more than 10 minutes, which is a 20 minute frequency. Or maybe they included maximum waiting time?
        I think waiting time is where LRT starts to shine. With significantly lower running costs you could be looking at 5 minute frequencies or better.

      2. Yeah, that airport map did seem strange, as I have always found that Airbus/Skybus will get you into town in 45-50 mins consistently (and there’s not even bus priority for a lot of the route). Yet according to the current map, I shouldn’t get any further than Onehunga in that time?

        1. Those maps show door to door travel times, including walking, waiting, transfers and walking again. Not just in-vehicle travel time. If the time in vehicle is 45 mins then the total journey time is probably over an hour.

      3. There’s obviously some egos and pre-determined outcomes involved. If you look at this purely in terms of outcomes and costs neither rail option stacks up. I agree with Glen that the Skybus almost always takes less than 45 minutes to the CBD, even at peak times. So why not just subsidise the service so that it costs far less than the current $28 return? Or you could go with rail and spend vastly more to get a significantly longer journey time. But hey, it’s a train, and they’re pretty cool.

        1. Significantly longer?

          The train time is 35-38 minutes onboard and would justify a service every ten minutes. That works out to be less than 41 minutes. I don’t think you could catch the Skybus anytime 6am-9pm and make time that good. The train is faster, more reliable and cheaper to operate.

  2. “We have to do better”
    -> accepting 45 minute commute times on PT is not good enough. AT needs to set a bold goal – maybe 90% of Auckland within 30 mins PT of the city centre – then get the investment to achieve it.

  3. It is near criminal that appallingly myopic decisions by NZTA and others [yes Manukau City Council] have so restricted the RoW through Mangere that unnecessary cost is burdening the obvious and logical extension of our existing and now upgraded rail network through that severed suburb and to the airport.

    However it is still regrettable that AT are so determined to only proceed with ‘their’ Light Rail network post CRL that they are taking every opportunity to lean on the scales when presenting analyses between the options. We get that they aren’t enjoying the intermediation with other players on the Rail network, but that last map above surely requires some mad frequencies on all those LR lines and seconds perfect transfers to be credible?

    So it would be good to see the proposed running pattern for LR to airport and the network?

    Do agree with however that taking all those LRVs currently planed to terminate at Wynyard across the harbour in their own tunnels [or bridge?] to Takapuna + Milford, to Glenfield, and up the Busway makes crazy sense. In a way this is simply the same logic as the CRL; inner city terminating services offer a huge opportunity to balance the system and the access by extending services you’re already running: Change that central Shore area to green on the mode map.

    That would delay the need for more road lanes across the harbour for decades; allowing us to see what all the technology changes in the automotive world mean before blowing $6b on such a risky and dated looking plan.

    1. I actually think it is a waste of time even thinking about airport options right now. Lets get an LRT line up and running, get a proper feel for timings, popularity, frequency, etc. Then decide whether it is a viable option to the airport.

      1. The reason it needs to be decided now if the airport are finalising their long term plans and investments and need to know how things will work within their land as light and heavy rail have very different alignments and impacts. I’ve been told a decision is needed within a year

        1. I’m quite surprised the airport are even considering rail, won’t that dent their parking income!
          I guess LRT could always use a heavy rail alignment within the airport – but most of the cost advantage of LRT might be diminished.
          Would be interesting to know the cost differences between the two solutions. If there isn’t much cost difference, heavy rail is a no brainer. If the cost difference is enough that AT could do something else significant with the difference, then LRT might stack up.

        2. Don’t think they have a choice is they get the growth they predict in both passengers and employees in the area.

          The cost differences I’ve seen are substantial, heavy rail being about 2X the cost which is in part due to
          1. The NZTA stuffing up Kirkbride resulting in a more expensive solution being needed
          2. Heavy rail being longer and more underground due to things like grades needed to deal with the second runway. LRT stays with the road alignment.

        3. Interesting. I wonder if it is cheaper to underground Dominion road LRT (or Manukau road, etc) than to install heavy rail at the airport. That would probably result in similar journey times as heavy rail, and we would also get an awesome underground rail line to the Isthmus.
          I think AT are wise to at least look at these trade off’s rather than just doing heavy rail assuming there is nothing better.

        4. Waddayamean? AT like NZTA before them now seem to be jumping through burning hoops to avoid any rail investment post CRL. The capex difference with LRT is of course seductive, if real, but please can we take a long term view on this, and be sure we are making accurate comparisons?

          Now in places, particularly the isthmus, and Matt and I agree across to the Shore, the evidence supports this. However the case at the much greater distance of the Airport is much less convincing. Especially as there is the real RTN of rail half way there already, just crying out for this extension to balance services, the increase in asset utilisation of this potential extension is significant. The scale of the vehicles, their speed and direct already existing service, and so on.

        5. So as I understand it the costs are around $700m for light rail, and $1.4bn for heavy rail? If we do go for light rail how much would it cost to upgrade it to heavy rail latter? Also it is really annoying how the NZTA e.t.c. were shortsighted and stuffed heavy rail up, particularly with the Mangere Bridge and Kirkbridge road intersections. However will it feasible if we craft the timetables carefully to have two single line pieces of track (one around Kirkbridge Road, and another over the Mangere Bridge) and still get the frequencies we want/need?

        6. No more like $1b vs $2b. Most of heavy rail costs come from having to be largely tunneled within airport area while light rail can stay at ground level

        7. We better hope they go for heavy rail. This whole light rail thing is really short sighted and really annoying me.

        8. This is a similar arguement to whats going on in south east queensland with heavy rail vs light rail to gc airport.

        9. Don’t know too much about the Gold Coast. But I was thinking they should do both. Extend the heavy rail line from Varsity Lakes down to the Airport. And eventually the light rail further down the waterfront past the Airport to Tweed Heads.

        10. that connection does look good on a map, but the topographical conditons really are challenging. Hills, estuaries, etc etc.

    2. Agreed. Airport needs to be proper HR (be it Otahuhu or Onehunga). AT can have their LR for the isthmus and with a connection at Onehunga would work but there is no way in hell the actual airport line should be LR… what a joke!

  4. One other observation; isn’t there a mismatch between the earlier population growth information, 2m by 2033, and the timing on the RTN/LRT maps, decent network not till 2045?

    Have to get get on with it with a bit more urgency don’t we?

    1. We seem to get another set of maps every year showing what they ‘will’ build, but no actual attempt (or budget) to start building it.
      Not so long ago they were talking about LRT up Dominion road by 2019 – wouldn’t they need to start work next year? Shouldn’t they be looking at ordering trains for it now? Shouldn’t they have a final design by now? Or at least a budget for it?
      There seems to be a lot of talk with not much action; integrated ticketing, new fare zones, new bus network, double decker buses, more bus lanes, new bus shelters, cycle lanes, etc – they’ve been talked about for years – they are easy – and they are still not done.

  5. Exciting to think of the possibilities! Any chance going forward you could upload the images in higher quality? It’s hard to make out detail, especially text. Thanks

    1. That’s as good as I could get sorry. Follow the link at the start to the the source which is low quality. I did manage to get some of them a bit better from an different presentation but even then it it was low quality.

  6. I have the feeling that we will end up with LRT to the airport via Onehunga as the first solution and then 15-20 years later heavy rail will be put in via Otahuhu.

    Different routes will be used to allow different catchments to be served, tying different communities into Transit at different times.

  7. Does anyone notice the similarity between the population growth projections in the first slide and the MoT’s 20 million rail trips by 2020 graph overlaid with the current rail growth?
    That rail growth one is looking very similar to the current population growth shown on that chart.
    Agree the rail one is on a lower basis, and only for the next 5 years, whereas the population one is over the next 50 years.

    But perhaps there is a co-relation between the two charts more than that they “look similar”?

    Perhaps the MoT [and the Gov’t] should study Aucklands population growth stats as well as traffic stats a bit more before assuming we’ll only just meet the 20 million rail trips as year by 2020?

    No chance of the housing crisis going away soon then with those kinds of growth numbers, we need record levels of house building, just to stay still. Let alone get ahead of the curve [for once].

    And the same goes for the PT – AT have to really put their foot on the accelerator here, that 2045 network will be needed in 10 to 15 years, not 30 years.

  8. I’m a bit surprised by how little coloured area there is around the train stations on the accessibility map. And that the rail to airport is still supposed to take almost an hour.

    It appears someone doesn’t like trains.

  9. Still no plans for meaningful rapid PT improvement east of the Tamaki river I see. Just the existing plan for the low speed bus way in a decade. Not remotely good enough.

    1. You can talk to Maurice Williamson, Jamie-Lee Ross and Dick Quax. As far as I’m aware they don’t want any of this PT stuff and would rather spend the money building the Reeves Rd flyover, another flyover for Carbine Rd and then expand Pakuranga Rd into a state highway and then spend millions bulldozing a motorway through their suburbs. They’ll never stomach taking road space away from cars for rapid transit.

      I say we leave them behind and they can enjoy 2 hour commutes and no parking.

      1. What a local councillor thinks doesn’t matter, that’s why we have a mayor and a transport organisation supposed to look after the entire city.

        The east is very poorly served and isn’t getting better, AMETI isn’t fit for purpose. Too slow, too many stops. Not a proper rapid transport busway

        1. Well that local councillor and the local MPs have been lobbying very hard direct to the minister to have the Reeves Rd project handed over the the NZTA as they want it built sooner. As for the AMETI busway, it isn’t built yet and not sure it’s not the Northern busway but it’s also through a suburban area and not next to a motorway. Not sure how you’d make it any faster without fully grade separating at massive cost and even more severance.

        2. full busway level of service is possible without grade separation, viz Sydney’s Liverpool to Parramatta busway, where when a vehicle had to enter a public road, advance loops sent a signal to the controller and there was a full green for the bus when it arrived at the intersection,crossed traffic to enter a 24/7 bus lane

          I saw this in action prior to the busway opening and it seemed to work well

          this technique can equally apply to trams or LRT where needed or as an interim measure

  10. Why on earth do they show Akoranga to Britomart as being part of the rapid transit network. Part of this route still doesn’t even have bus lanes!

  11. While I get the point of the “combined Auckland growth” graphic (and it’s certainly a lot), I’m intrigued that the “Christchurch Urban Area” fails to include Belfast, Halswell/Aidanfield/Wigram, and all the coastal suburbs out to Sumner – none of these would be considered “satellite towns”.

    (I suspect that a number of people might also point out that a reason for the struggle to get some of that Auckland growth underway is because the equivalent of HALF the Chch Urban Area is currently being rebuilt within Chch…)

    1. Basically the Christchurch urban area map is crap -you are not comparing apples with apples. If Christchurch urban area includes all the areas in commutable distance/time like Auckland’s does then its population rises by 30%. Christchurch is very quickly become a medium size city of over 1/2 million given current growth rates. Why this blog keeps underestimating its size and growth patterns I do not know. But it doesn’t do the site any credit given its otherwise creditable practice of articles being based on evidence and facts.

        1. Patrick I am not personally upset. I know I get a fair hearing from transportblog but these sort of mispresentations if they go unchallenged harden to become accepted facts.

          The facts are that Auckland and Christchurch are the two biggest and fastest frowing urban areas in NZ. They both have challenges. One with unaffordable housing the other with a missing centre and both have a historical PT deficit.

          Working together not undermining the other is in my opinion the best strategy to resolve these challenges.

        2. Brendon the use of Christchurch is not to denigrate Christchurch but to point out the massive scale of growth in Auckland – that over 30 years it’s about equal to our second largest city.

        3. No argument about the population growth data from me; my point was that a large chunk of the *existing* population in Chch are getting housing rebuilds at present, and I was wondering whether that was impacting on the ability of Auckland to be able to generate its needed housing requirements (due to constraints on labour, material, etc).

        4. Yes that will be a factor although I hear less so now as supposedly some activity is starting to drop off. As things settle down guessing we should see a bit of a shift north of tradespeople

      1. “Why this blog keeps underestimating its size and growth patterns I do not know.”

        Brendon, can you point us to a concrete example where we have done this? I’m not aware of any examples of Transportblog talking down Christchurch. For reference, here’s a list of the posts tagged as “population growth”:

        And here’s a list of posts tagged with “Christchurch”. Note that the only posts we’ve run that are _critical_ of what’s happening in Christchurch were written by you!

        We talk more about Auckland because that’s where we live, but that hardly amounts to “undermining” other cities.

        1. I think transportblog authors has been quite respectful to Christchurch. Certainly recently. In the past I have had to correct population and growth numbers. Also their was a negative attitude -blaming us for the extreme sprawl that is occurring. Rather than seeing the bigger picture that this is how people are reacting to recent events but Christchurch would prefer a better urban development system that created an affordable high amenity city with choices for walking, cycling and PT.

          Also in general because the transport pot is limited and dished out by central government there is a competitive element from each region for why their region deserves more funding and other regions need less. So it is no surprise that the likes of AT use arguments, pictures, graphs to this end. Probably we in Canterbury have our own biases too. The rest of the country certainly think we are one-eyed…..

        2. Matt L. Predictions for the next 28 years are extremely unreliable. I think the purpose of the graphs and images is more about advocacy than accurately predicting the future.

  12. “And the light rail version which connect to the isthmus routes via a connection from Onehunga to Dominion Rd on a route alongside SH20.”
    Would be interesting to see what it would look like with Heavy Rail to Onehunga from the airport and connecting to LR for the isthmus routes. I bet it would be even better coverage.

  13. as Matt notes the accessibility maps are a bit suspect given information provided. If heavy rail is quicker to Onehunga, then it should have more accessibility along Manukau Rd than LRT yet those maps show the opposite. Is there not also an option where you take Dominion Rd LRT to Onehunga and then connect with heavy rail to the airport from there?

    1. What makes you think heavy rail would be much quicker to Onehunga? Both would have a dedicated corridor, its not that long a distance for top speed to make a difference. I would say light rail would be quicker as it should be more frequent so the average wait time for a train would be much less.

      1. Few reasons, light rail has additional stops on the way to the airport slowing it down – but which AT count towards it’s catchment to argue it’s a better option. Heavy rail has two stops after Onehunga, Mangere Bridge and Mangere before the airport terminal. For light rail they added stops at Favona, Ascot Rd, airport commercial area.

        1. But equally LRT would acellerate faster, from what I’ve seen on vehicle data, and would have shorter dwell times with multiple doors and level floors?

        2. Yeahhhhhh…. people trying to get luggage out of a narrow tram past other passengers and down to street level is going to be faster than on a wider train with level platforms…. :/
          With new rails there is no reason why HR couldn’t be hitting 110km/h compared to 80km/h at a push for LR.

        3. Who said anything about narrow trams and getting down to street level? Maybe you should check out ATs light rail page to see what they have in mind, it’s light rail not trams!

        4. LR is still trams. Just nice air conditioned long ones. They are still narrow compared to HR trains and are slower both in pure speed but also journey time due to not having a dedicated ROW for half the journey unlike HR.

        5. Erm, a standard LRV is 2.65m wide, while our Auckland EMUs are 2.76m wide. well OK, that does make them only 97% as wide!

          Anyway the chart above says the difference is about ten minutes, it’s not your grandfathers trams they are talking about.

        6. Heavy rail has bigger loading gauge, greater clearances on structures etc. Personally I don’t know the exact reasoning for it but that’s the regulations.

          Also heavy rail has much lesser grade abilities than motorways or light rail. The kirkbride trench is something like two times as steep as heavy rail can handle.

    2. As above, you’re assuming heavy rail is quicker to Onehunga. I doubt there would be any significant difference on a dedicated corridor section.

      1. Nick, even if there’s no speed difference the maps look out of synch with information provided on relative travel-times.

        For the sake of the argument assume same travel-time to Onehunga. Why then, does the LRT map show much more accessibility up Manukau Rd? Are they assuming LRT to LRT connection is faster than heavy rail to LRT?

        Really? You would expect that much difference in connection time between LRT and heavy rail? The maps don’t seem to align with data provided, or at least there’s some unstated (and important) assumptions giving rise to the differences.

        1. Presumably because the LRT is faster to get to manukau rd, I assume because the LRT stops are closer the airport, and it’s faster to change between two LRT lines that to go from a heavy rail station to a light rail station?

  14. Interesting presentation Matt. Thanks for reposting it. A couple thoughts:

    1. That population forecast map is interesting, especially in light of Stu’s post on transport forecasting yesterday. It looks like there might have been a bit of a structural break in Auckland’s growth patterns in the early 1990s – i.e. going from the moribund 1970s and 80s to the current boom days. The 1996 forecasts didn’t seem to capture that change, but more recent forecasts have been closer on the money. I wonder if that reflects a change in forecasting models at Stats NZ?

    2. The graph of actual or forecast travel time to airport by mode is a really interesting one. When I’m travelling to the airport, I’m less concerned with the average travel time than the variability of travel time. I.E. I don’t really mind having to get on the bus ten minutes earlier, but I _really_ don’t want to run the risk of arriving two minutes after check-in closes. Airbus already looks pretty good against taxis/cars on that front. It could be even better with some targeted changes to bus lanes.

  15. The fact remains that that LRT network is notional. There is a good chance, I believe, that we will see a Queen St and Dominion Rd line start within a few years, but that full four line system that this comparison relies on? It’s not only when but also if they occur.

    The rail system is already there, growing and ready to serve this route with a current and future service patterns that only enhance the whole network and provide a direct, reliable, and legible route to and through the centre of the city with multiple links to other modes.

  16. We have EMU’s that can cope with CRL grades. How can the airport offer up anything that is worse? Even LRT will have to go under the 2nd runway, right?

    How are the costs of both projects formulated? Is the price of LRT from the end of the proposed Dominion Rd line? How does this connect into Onehunga from SH20 alignment? Is a station on / next to SH20, away from the town centre, proposed?

    Re: Width of corridor. The AM’s are 2.76m wide. A Bomardier Flexity2 is 2.65m wide. Are AT saying the Kirkbride underpass is so narrow that 22mm (difference of 2 units) is not viable? This seems completely bizarre.

  17. LRT to the Shore, as an extension of the LRT lines, doesn’t make as much sense as it seems as much of the cross town Shore to city traffic, CBD excepted, heads south to Penrose and Tamaki. Presumably this has been proposed as AT (and NZTA) really want the AWHC so see this as potential to add to the current bridge as a sop to spending $6B.

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