One of the main concerns I’ve seen raised about the idea of Light Rail to the airport has been the speed. In particular, that light rail is too slow in comparison to heavy rail, especially along the Dominion Rd section where it is also suggested it could also be held up by traffic. After I wrote about it last week Auckland Transport updated their website with some more details of the project – mostly with details from the video they’ve created but also with new a new travel time comparison as they say the times in the video are now out of date. The updated travel times are shown in the table below and as you can see are even more favourable to light rail, putting it just five minutes slower than heavy rail from Britomart and equal in travel time from Aotea.

Britomart (downtown) to airport44 Minutes39 Minutes
Aotea (new City Rail Link station) to airport41 Minutes41 Minutes

In the blog and other places where discussion about the idea has occurred I’ve seen people questioning the travel times claimed by Auckland Transport. If these timings are accurate I think it makes a significant difference as to the viability of light rail as an option, not just to the airport but potentially for other applications such as to the North Shore, East Auckland and the North West. With this post I thought I would examine the light rail timings in more detail to see if they stack up.

As a reminder this is the route Auckland Transport suggest.

Light Rail to Airport Route - from video

From Britomart to SH20 via Dominion Rd the light rail route is fairly straight and AT say it would travel down the centre of the road in dedicated lanes. They also say light rail would have priority at intersections along the way so vehicles would not often need to stop unless doing so at a station. AT reaching SH20 it would then follow the motorway down to Onehunga for a short section on street before a dedicated section from there to the Airport. In total this route is around 22.6km and at 44 minutes giving an average of 31km/h. As a comparison our current rail lines achieve the following speeds (although AT do need to get them faster):

  • Western Line – 27.2km – 55 minutes travel time which is 30km/h
  • Southern Line – 33.1km – 56 minutes travel time which is 33km/h
  • Eastern Line – 25km – 37 minutes travel time which is 41km/h
  • Onehunga Line – 12.8km – 27 minutes travel time which is 28km/h

To examine the speeds suggested by AT I thought the best option would be to conduct a few case studies to see what other cities manage to achieve. Below I look at five cities that are not too dissimilar to Auckland that have working light rail systems. The travel times they achieve are based on published timetables.


Calgary’s C-Train system is one of most used light rail networks in North America with over 330k trips on an average weekday, about six times what Auckland’s current rail network achieves. The system has two lines that share a central section though the CBD, the Red line is 33km and the blue line 25.7km.


The lines generally run down either in the centre of the road or on one side and are fenced off from traffic and people however they also cross through many intersections at grade. On some intersections where the light rail route changes direction/arterial it is running on they use short underpasses so it avoids the intersection completely. In short it’s a largely dedicated corridor which is not to dissimilar to what we would expect to see in Auckland.

Calgary’s light rail vehicles are capable of speeds up to 80km/h and below is how long each line is and how much time the timetable suggests a trip the entire length will take.

  • Red Line – 33km – 59 minutes travel time which is 34km/h
  • Blue Line – 25.7km – 46 minutes travel time which is 34km/h

Seattle has two light rail lines, one a short shuttle in Tecoma but the main one the Central Link, is a 25.1km line from the Airport to the city that opened in mid-2009. Much of the route is elevated, in tunnels or offline (alongside a freeway) however there are a few significant sections where the route travels down the centre of a road corridor separated from traffic only by a small concrete kerb.

There are 13 stations all up. In the city station spacing is about every 600m but as it gets into the suburbs it expands and becomes more like heavy rail. There is also a 9km section with no stations which would help speeds.

Seattle uses two 29m long light rail vehicles that are coupled together able to carry a combined 400 people – they eventually plan to couple up to four vehicles together. They have a top speed of 105km/h which would be useful on the long spaced out sections.

According to the timetable a trip from the along the line would takes around 37 minutes from end to end. Over the 25km that’s an impressive average of 41km/h – quite a bit faster than all but the Manukau line on our rail network. The single line carries close to 12 million trips a year – what Auckland’s rail system carried just over a year ago but remember it’s only been open since 2009.

Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City runs a three-line light rail system through city streets in dedicated lanes and from what I can tell there is no grade separation. The system first opened in 1999 and generally tracks run down the centre of streets separated from general traffic by a small kerb. Unlike the examples above the system doesn’t have any grade separation at intersections and many side roads cross the tracks along the way. It uses signal priority to achieve a mostly uninterrupted service along the routes. The Blue Line is 31.1km, Red Line 38.1km and Green Line 24.2km.

The system uses similar vehicles to what is used in Calgary and like Calgary they have a top speed of 80km/h. The system currently carries 18-19 million trips a year. According to the timetables the three lines take the following length of time to travel end to end and following that is their average speed.

  • Blue Line – 31.1km – 51 minutes – 37km/h
  • Red Line – 38.1 – 59 minutes – 39km/h
  • Green Line – 24.2 – 46 minutes – 32km/h

So despite not having the grade separation that the systems above have the system still manages to achieve some pretty good speeds.


Houston maybe a famous for its sprawl and massive motorways but it also happens to have an increasingly used light rail line. Its Red Line opened in 2004 was extended in late 2013 to a total of 20.6km. Two new lines opened in May last year but for this I’ll focus on the red line which carries the vast majority of over 16 million light rail trips. The system runs largely on street level in dedicated lanes down the centre of the road separated from traffic with concrete kerbs. Following the line via Google Maps shows an extensive numbers of roads that cross the tracks at points along the journey and it’s not clear if there is any signal priority and this affects the speed.

Houston Light Rail - Main Street Square
Houston’s Light Rail system includes this section through a water feature in the CBD

The system uses light rail vehicles capable of 106km/h but given the station spacing and intersections I doubt they ever get close to that. Trips along the 20.6km line take around 55 minutes giving it an average of 22km/h – a step down from the cities above.

Gold Coast

Lastly one of the closest to home is on the Gold Coast – which I experienced myself just a few months ago. The vehicles are 44m long and can carry 309 passengers and have a top speed of 70km/h

Gold Coast Light Rail - Tram

The system is 13km long and runs in a dedicated corridor which is mostly down the centre of streets and at most intersections it has signal priority. Importantly through areas such as through Surfers Paradise it seemed to be limited in speed to around 30-40km/h for extensive sections and that limits the overall speed of services. At 37 minutes from end to end it also happens to have the slowest average of the examples at just 21km/h.

There are of course many other systems that could be examined but what is clear from the ones above is that there are a range of systems and a range in how those systems are implemented. The systems that tend to have a mix of infrastructure such as dedicated corridors and sections of on street running seem to do fairly well and those systems are also likely to be the most similar to what Auckland Transport are proposing. As such, assuming AT design the system right then a 44-minute transit time from Britomart to the airport or 41 minutes from Aotea actually seems reasonable. Further I would have expected that they’ve calculated it far more accurately that I have.

Perhaps speed isn’t quite the issue that some have made out and we can save $1.2 billion by using light rail to the airport. That might also then let us extend the light rail somewhere else such as the North, Northwest or East.

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  1. There are always examples on both ends of any viewpoint.
    In my personal experience light rail is OK but is not as quick or as comfortable as heavy rail.
    This year I took the train out of Istanbul in Turkey and it was quick with lots of room. 3 or 4 stations along I had to transfer to a light rail system which was so crowded that my party was split between doors and couldn’t see each other which made getting of a real pain as I was the one who had documented our route to the place we were staying. So there were 3 adults and 2 kids with suitcases, large backpacks and prams stuck on this slow and very crowded train. On leaving Istanbul we had to get a taxi it was just so bad. Going down Dominion Road especially during peak hours is not going to be a pleasant experience for tourists to our city.
    Plus I have used the Salt Lake City light rail system and is nice and comfortable but did seem to take forever. I wonder if a heavy rail system along the same route would be faster?
    Also is saving 1.2 billion a real saving ? Will the money go towards further public transport or just disappear ? And are the figures correct anyway?

    1. Our trams will be open through the middle (like the EMUs) so the party won’t get separated.
      Tourists in London have to put up with crowding on the tube, often with suitcases, and they put up with it.

      But the main reason for replying is to point out that there is no $2bill+ just sitting there waiting to be used. The additional cost of $1.2bill for heavy rail isn’t going to “disappear” because it’s not even there to start with. Would you rather have something really nice (light rail) or wait x-years and hope that someone finds an additional $1.2bill because it might be a little more comfortable or a little faster?

      1. Open in the middle does not work when the trams are as crowded as the trams were in Istanbul. We were in the same carriage just entered by different doors and still couldn’t see each other properly or hear each at all because of the crowd.

      2. Yes I know there’s not just $2b sitting in pockets burning a hole while waiting to be spent. It is more to point out the opportunity cost of you did

        1. If money can be found for Penlink, flyover out east or the east & the East / West Link then money can be found for this.
          The opportunity cost for not doing some of the roading projects is money that can be spent on doing right long term connection to the airport.

        2. Matt, it looks like wires got crossed as I was replying to Adam’s comment where he thought that money would be “taken away” and spent somewhere else.
          It looks like you thought I was commenting on your article in general.

          (216 comments as I type this… a record?)

    2. “Will the money go towards further public transport or just disappear ?”

      Next time you go to buy something (a coffee or your lunch), see if you can resist the temptation and have a glass of water instead. Now, the next day have a look at your bank account (or wallet if you are a cash guy). Is the money you would have spent still there or did it disappear? Report back to us with the answer.

      1. Report Back:
        I resist the temptation to buy lunch & coffee everyday and always have water with my homemade lunch due to the opportunity cost to do something else with my money.
        This does not mean I can’t see value is the Opportunity cost in building something right in the first place.
        For example I always buy the best walking shoes because I know they are more comfortable and will last longer or buy the best seats when I go to the theatre as they are worth it.

    3. So you don’t like light rail because it’s too popular and convenient and you’d prefer a nice quiet heavy-rail, heavy-subsidy service? Funding bodies just read your opinion and were swayed toward the opposite view.

      1. Nope, it’s about capacity (trams don’t carry as much people) and number of stops. Lots of stops on an arterial route makes sense for a tram when stepping up from buses but does not make sense when comparing to say the Tube in London

    4. HI I have experienced the same trip to Istanbul AP and totally agree with Adam. Fortunately the other passengers helped us with our suitcases in the crowded Trams.
      The heavy rail to the airport was roomy and much more pleasant.

  2. I don’t really mind whether it is right Rail or heavy rail to the airport – to me, what matters most, is that the route can run without being conflicted by vehicular traffic – i.e. no street level crossings. Ideally, a straight line, very fast line. That’s all.

  3. Looks like AT have realised that the overwhelming preference is for HR so now they are fudging the numbers further to make LR look better. 2 points:
    1) how can it possibly be the same time when it has more stops, has to go up inclines, and isn’t 100% dedicated route?
    2) Most of those overseas examples are on flat terrain with long straights and not many corners.

    1. I am not liking it either Bruce but I do have a LGOIMA away with Auckland Transport asking for their FULL methodology into their light vs heavy rail comparisons

      Going back to doing heavy rail from Otahuhu and using this as a suggested run pattern (can work on frequencies later, I am looking at the routes and stops) I theorise the following
      Britomart via G.I to Airport (via Otahuhu): 30mins if the EMU can hold its speed in between the limited stops
      Aotea via Newmarket to the Airport (via Otahuhu): about the same
      Papakura to the Airport with a transfer at Otahuhu: 35 mins

      I also count four interchanges (bus to rail or rail to rail) (five if you include Manukau, six if you count Papakura when you start playing with Inter City running) thus widening compared to one with LRT

      So speed? Heavy rail via Otahuhu with a limited stop program wins that one (at most 6 stops including terminus)
      Frequency? Heavy rail via Otahuhu wins that one again
      Capacity? Going to be hard to beat an EMU 6 car set holding 750 passengers running every 10 minutes to and from the airport
      Catchment? Heavy rail via Otahuhu given I count upwards of 6 interchanges or transfer points to LRTs 1
      Cost? Heavy Rail via Otahuhu given you dont have the expensive duplication of the Mangere Bridge (again)

      How to serve the South West? LRT to Dominion Road, Mt Roskill Spur to Dominion Road, 10 minute buses down the South Western Motorway with dedicated bus shoulders down SH20A to the Airport or even Mangere Station (gives redundancy capacity)

      So I think the winner is heavy rail via Otahuhu no matter what Auckland Transport is trying to shove.

      1. 1. So your going to put a third main down beside SH1 to allow services to run limited stops?
        2. Light rail likely to be more frequent than heavy rail making it both more useful and probably equal capacity
        3. A decent part of the cost of heavy rail is the part through the airport itself which would still exist via Otahuhu

        1. 1) No and you know that. If anything crossovers between each of the stations from Penrose to Newmarket would be put in place and should be regardless to give the redundancy capacity when a train craps out as they do.

          2) So LRT at 5 mins stopping at all stops along Dominion Road taking 45 mins to the Airport rail via Otahuhu at 10 minutes taking 35 minutes. Right so 400 vs 750 I think we have capacity going to HR there.

          3) A cost upfront we must bear if so if you want the network to serve maximum available catchments as Otahuhu does and if we are serious about Inter City rail later on it serving that. Also as noted costs are still saved from the Mangere Bridge duplication not needed.

          Not all routes lead to the City Centre and if you or AT think that then that is fatal a South Auckland proves that in her commute patterns alone!

          LRT gives rise to that all roads to the CBD thinking
          Otahuhu serves well argubly ALL of Auckland and even Hamilton and Tauranga in due time.

        2. +1 Ben and +1 Again. Both of those posts make good sense.
          I have nothing against LR for appropriate purposed (ie along Dominion Rd etc) but it should not be used to the airport.

        3. 1. With frequencies planned post CRL the only way to get a limited stop service that isn’t held up by the all stopping service ahead of it will be with additional tracks.
          2. Some simple maths Ben, a 750 person EMU every 10 minutes is 750×6=4,500 per hour. A 450 person LRV every 5 minutes is 450×12=5,400 per hour
          3. Costs saved from not building Manukau harbour crossing are balanced out by costs from Otahuhu that aren’t in other options

        4. What is it about LRT allows it to run at greater frequency then MRT? Won’t LRT have double the running costs if it needs to run at twice the frequency to provide the same capacity?

          Just seems to me frequency is a moot point, all the options could run at whatever frequency we desire

        5. Dan C – It is the constraints of the networks closer to the city. I think the maximum frequency to the Airport for HR could only be 10 mins as there would be a limited number of slots through the CRL and through Newmarket – Penrose. LR on the other hand could split down 4 routes through the isthmus and two into the CBD therefore would have a greater ability to run at higher frequencies.

    2. 1. The heavy rail system has plenty of hills and corners to contend with too.
      2. Some of those systems have many corners e.g. the salt lake city network has some quite tight ones

      1. Rubbish, by comparison the HR lines are flat compared to going down from Dominion to Onehunga (and up Queen St).
        Salt Lake City is about as flat as you can get with massive boulevard type roads with plenty of turning space for LR so whilst they have 90deg turns they aren’t sharp and have MASSIVE straights in-between since the ENTIRE city and surrounding suburbs are all built on grid pattern.

    3. I don’t think AT have done anything, as I understand the numbers existed well before this debate kicked off and other than them putting them online, they haven’t made a sound about light rail it the airport.

      1. Matt to be fair the intersection prioritisation will limit frequency somewhat; it won’t be possible to cut off every intersection along Dominion and Queen for most of the time. I have no idea what this limit might be however. Different matter on the fully grade separate sections of course, and IF the other isthmus routes are built then the Airport line’s frequency need not be limited by Dom Rd frequency…?

      1. Considering that the Herald’s editorial is in favour of heavy rail (LOL, as if, they’re just spoiling to make sure neither happens), I for one don’t see a problem. What is with the light-rail-phobia all of a sudden? It’s like someone had suggested a new motorway.

      2. If you’re subtly trying to suggest that AT have paid for this post then you’re wrong. It came about about after looking at something else for another post and thought it would be an interesting topic to explore.

        1. Sorry, i am referring to the Herald article, not this blog. The article “Dom Rd welcomes airport route”. At least the Herald add a disclaimer at the top to indicate that AT paid for the ‘story’

  4. Great analysis Matt. Highlights again just how sloppy the dwell times on our rail system still are currently, and therefore overall run speed. There’s a good 5 minutes to be saved on our main lines if all parties put in the effort.

    1. Yeah it seems the times are comparable only because our heavy rail system is operated pathetically slowly. Where are the time savings promised by electrification?

      1. Heavy Rail can be sped up through the following:

        Door operation at Stations is faster than what it is now
        Dwell times are sped up
        Signalling is a heck of a lot better to allow the trains to get to maximum speed (they are slowed down in the Meadowbank tunnel and again at Penrose)

        Getting the third main built to remove the DL’s off the Southern Line to their own dedicated track.

        1. The NIMT line speed between Quay Park and Westfield is 100km/h not 110km/h. 110km/h only starts from Westfield south (used to be south of Otahuhu before ETCS). The signalling system does not slow them down. More like TSRs for Manukau services. The timetable only slows them down in as much as the quicker drivers/guard combos are now often arriving ahead of time and needing to burn off time at some stations. Once they are confident they can speed up the timetable without affecting reliability, I am sure they will.

          Vector curve is ~800m @25km/h… that is why it feels so slow. Solution, don’t build railways that curve around buildings, that’s what trams are for! Only difference now is that the ETCS enforces this limit.

        2. The tunnel currently has a 60km/h temporary speed restriction northbound for track repairs. Southbound the speed is limited by the approach to the 85km/h curve leading to GI. The EMUs are capable of arriving up to six minutes early on some lines already, but are held back to allow coordination of crossing services at the junctions. What often looks like a tardy TM or slow doors is actually just the crew sticking to the timetable.

        3. xkr, if the EMUs are capable of arriving up to six minutes early, why isn’t the timetable changed by six minutes?

        4. I think in time they will be, but for now they’re probably more worried about getting the Western line frequencies up. Then they’ll see how that plays out. When they do shorten the trip times, it will have to happen on all lines in such a way that the arrivals in each direction at each junction and each terminus are compatible and commutable, and that the resulting timetable makes sense both operationally and to the public. Cutting to the chase, they can’t just knock x minutes off at one end if it means waiting x minutes for a junction or platform to clear. It’s probably complex enough that it might be better to wait until the CRL is done! On top of that, small occurrences like passenger or equipment problems, wet weather, poor visibility etc can easily soak up that spare time, so it’s pretty useful to have it up the sleeve in order to maintain schedule resilience.

        5. Yeah, until the CRL is open there’s a great number of conflicts on our little system. And even after there’ll still be a lot at the Newmarket Junction and the eastern entrance to Britomart…

        6. Patrick has actually made me think… what would be required to not have a fixed timetable but instead set frequencies for a particular time of a day. I think that it would be very hard to achieve as long as we have non-transit trains using the network (like freight and long-distance services) sharing the same tracks, newmarket is another nightmare and any other junction points like westfield and wiri… another thing is that the whole thing is controlled from wellington, where as LTR would probably not be controlled centrally at all – less failure points… so I’m guessing. Skytrain system in Vacouver in Canada, which is grade separated and driverless, can increase frequency of trains at very short notice, say there was an event in the city that wasn’t planned by the authorities ahead of time, they still can provide the extra capacity in the city within 20 minutes of the stations getting filled up, as there is no extra labour they need to get behind the controls. That won’t happen with the proposed system LTR, but maybe in time for North Shore LTR this could well be possible… I’m hopeful.

        7. On the southern line even approaching Vector over the bridge @ Parnell seems pathetically slow, surely could be faster.

    2. Yes a similar comparison with heavy rail would be instructive. If our heavy rail is say 30% slower than international comparisons, should we then deduct 30% from the speed achieved by these light rail implementations to give us a more realistic expectation of what AT can achieve?

    3. Yes so this would reduce the HR line time by 5 minutes (and this is a fairly solid time they have given it since most of the route time is already known). LR on the other hand is unknown and is likely padded/optimistic.

  5. It really comes down to how many stops they’re proposing to have on Dominion road and what speed they’ll be be permitted to do through this busy corridor. If the stops are at current bus stop spacing, I don’t see it being time competitive with the likes if the Seattle example. With the signal priority, will it never get a red light at an intersection? I find that hard to believe. They say there’s signal priority for buses already at present at many intersections, and I see no evidence of that.

      1. Right so if they have 1/2 to 1/3 the current number of stops then the door to door travel time may not actually improve over the current bus system. Sounds like at Auckland Transport “Upgrade” to me.

    1. Some lights have a extra lane that gets a B light allowing the bus to go first. But they don’t seem to change the length of the previous phase to speed up the times.

  6. It really comes down to how many stops they’re proposing to have on Dominion road and what speed they’ll be be permitted to do through this busy corridor. If the stops are at current bus stop spacing, I don’t see it being time competitive with the likes of the Seattle example. With the signal priority, will it never get a red light at an intersection? I find that hard to believe. They say there’s signal priority for buses already at many intersections, and I see no evidence of that.

    1. Some lights have a extra lane that gets a B light allowing the bus to go first. But they don’t seem to change the length of the previous phase to speed up the times.

  7. LRT or rail is not the big issue. The running pattern and stop numbers make the difference. My Amsterdam LRT/Metro commute takes the same amount of time as cycling (~1hr), there are far too many stops. The same line to the airport (near my work) would take well over twice as long as the train (from Centraal Station).

    The train stops twice. The Metro stops 29 times.

  8. It would be great if, at some point, someone on this blog could compare the advantages and disadvantages of light rail compared to bus
    rapid transit in detail. I’m struggling to see why rail is better than busses in *any* form, especially given the difference in cost and how easy it would be to upgrade bus networks with new technologies (self-driving, electric busses, for instance).

    1. The single biggest difference Adrian is that LRT needs 1 driver (at most) for 400+ passengers.

      To get the same capacity by buses you’d need to employ at least 5 buses each with 1 driver – even if they are all double deckers.
      If they’re single deckers, double that.

      So the operating expenses (OPEX) for buses is minimum of 5 times that of a LRT system for the same capacity on drivers alone. Let alone all the maintenance costs on 5+ buses

      This is why AT is looking at LRT in “the void” now – the higher capital costs (CAPEX) will be offset by lower OPEX of the LRT system.

      Yes, with more buses you could run the same number of routes/services – just more frequently, but the bunching effect of doing that will mean no real frequency advantage is gained but your OPEX is now 5 times higher.

      Once we get driverless buses (and LRTs) then the difference in OPEX may reduce, but we’re decades away from that situation.

      1. I’m speculating here, but surely with today’s technology it is possible (and not too expensive) to get several busses to automatically follow each other (with the one in front being driven by a human driver) on a dedicated bus lane. This could potentially also reduce the amount of space busses need.

        “The higher capital costs (CAPEX) will be offset by lower OPEX of the LRT system”—I’d be curious to see the numbers behind this claim, especially in comparison to busses.

        1. The $ numbers are in AT’s business case and not public yet, but they have said that it is on this basis that isthmus LRT will stack up.

          That is by taking a say 20 year view of the central isthmus PT needs, you can trade the lower OPEX of LRT itself (and also of the LRT operator who may not be NZ Bus the incumbent bus only operator there now).
          Against the higher CAPEX costs of rolling out an entirely new PT system (LRT). Currently AT hands hundreds of millions to the likes of Ritchies, NZ Bus, H&E etc in return for running the bus network now.
          Over 20 years, even if not inflation adjusted that a pool of potentially $4billion that will be handed out to these guys.
          If you carve off a portion of that say 25% for the Isthmus bus operations and put it into LRT related spending (CAPEX and OPEX) you can see that AT could easily fund $1B of the LRT rollout just from OPEX savings.

          As for your comment about “platooning” of buses together, all such examples tried overseas generally involve brand new trucks on carefully constructed motorways with inbuilt lane guidance and other systems in the roadway, not “at grade” environments like the Isthmus would be. [no hope of separated busways here anytime soon down the likes of Dom Road]. So your idea is not really a starter in the likely future of the LRT rollout.

          In any case, even if the LRT v platooning buses options were identical over a 20 period, then the LRT option, should still be preferred as it uses renewable energy [electricity] over the bus option will will use at best, hybrid buses.

          Paris (COP21) requires we seriously act to de-carbonise our transport industry. Keeping on with smokey old diesel buses around – no matter how many “driverless” tricks they can perform, is a non-starter and is simply a nonsense for Auckland and for the country..

        2. Do they really believe they can fund the cost of light rail via opex savings?? Do you have a link for that? I will be very interested to see that report.

        3. Thanks for your response, Greg. I’d like to see a bit more of innovative approach from AT around alternative transport options before they settle on light rail—it’s hard for me to believe that it provides the best value for money. But it’s difficult to say without knowing the numbers.

          You’re right that we should prefer electric vehicles, but for the same amount of money we might be able to build a much better public transport network with busses compared to with light rail, and that could lead to a greater reduction in carbon emissions overall.

        4. Matthew W:
          re: seeing the business case – we all would like to see it. But AT keeps all that firmly in their closed agenda sessions, so we don’t see the details, but merely the fact it exists.
          I think the indications from both the TB folk here and from AT’s own comments are that some form of PPP is likely with LRT rather than AT doing it all on its own.
          If so, then the Private partner (presumably a supplier of LRT vehicles) could do a “deal” with AT to get their products on Auckland streets.
          Probably as a form of “advanced technical trial” e.g. worldwide example of LRT operating with less than 100% overhead supply.
          So the actual cost to AT may not be as high as if AT bought the entire system from day 1. Partly because its a trial and also because the LRT supplier is supplying the vehicles at their cost, not with their markup included.

          Well you might think buses can do it all, but its not in AT’s control to directly control/ensure the buses are electric or even hybrid buses.
          Thats the operators decision to make providing they meet the emission control standards and any other requirements, any bus will do.

          Thats partly why we have those small ADL buses running on routes with passenger loads that don’t handle these cramped buses well.
          ‘cos NZ Bus bought a boat load of them and is making us eat their shitty buying decisions with buses that don’t match the profile of the routes they’re used on. Again not much AT can do about that.

          We can’t run new Double Deckers everywhere either, some routes they’re not suitable for (Isthmus routes for one I understand). So we can’t halve the buses that way by going DD.

          So we’re left with running many if not all of the existing single decker buses, which have probably 10+ more life left in them or brand new ones, which cost a lot more than keeping the old ones going as long as possible.

          I think thats partly why AT is doing this, to help “circuit break” the bus owners like NZ Bus from dominating too much of the bus network and to keep them all honest.

          After all I think AT learnt from Auckland District Health Boards Laboratory tendering decision (MedLab v LabTests) that you don’t really want to have all your eggs in a few baskets of suppliers, or worse, have a single dominant player. As that prevents innovation of services longer term.

          As we find with NZ Bus here – after all we only have new hi-spec Double Deckers because AT demanded it. If NZ Bus had they’re way we’d still be all on those old bendy buses.
          Now at least they’re relegated to the school bus/school runs.

        5. Greg,

          Do you have a link to authorative comments suggesting this at all, or about how we are going to get a deal based on a supplier showcasing new technology. This all sounds very weird.

        6. Matthew, of course I don’t.
          This is merely my considered analysis of what I think may be going on. I have no more inside knowledge than you. I don’t work for/with or know anyone who might know more.
          So take these comments as you will.

          But when you look at why AT are going the LRT route and the degree of buggering around with business cases, there is obviously something “out of the usual” being planned here.
          Both with the delivery and with the technology itself. And I mean “out of the usual” in a good way not just “weird” or “likely to cost tons of money” and/or will be half-arsed and flaky.

          I applaud AT for looking outside the box of just more buses on the Isthmus. And as the Gold Coast LRT implementation has showed – the public do respond to the idea of LRT way more so than the concept of well its “more buses” (ho-hum). Call the whole LRT concept the zeitgeist, call it topical, or radical – proably all 3, but its clearly relevant to 21st Century Australasian cities like Auckland and Gold Coast.
          And no doubt other cities around the world too.

          Whether the place for a link to Auckland Airport using LRT is the point here, but it relies on having working LRT running down Dominion (or Manukau) Road first.

          Without that step then the current plans for LRT links to the airport are out of whack with what can be delivered.

        7. Greg, the problem is it is never a case of, ceretis paribus, buses vs LRT. We have very recently had a major round of consultation etc in Auckland for bus priority along Dominion Road. The result was shoulder buses with similar priority to what there is currently (i.e. intermittently disrupted, of poor to moderate quality, time limited). Then LRT comes along and suddenly it is being discussed on terms of a very high quality corridor with high priority. Now I know much has been made of the potential for signal priority with LRT but this only one part of the improved corridor proposed. If buses got everything LRT got but without as high quality signal priority, it would still be an awesome improvement. There is no zeitgeist around LRT except in the minds of politicians. Where bus priority is good, rational transport users will follow. No doubt the odd snob will refuse to their own detriment but the amount of such people are small and will diminish with time. Like dowdy old suburbs buses can too be gentrified (and are).

        8. The reason LRT will work in Dominion road is that you can’t just stop and start the LRT “lanes” where you like as you can with buses.
          Therefore once you designate the corridor for LRT, the need to reserve the road space along its entirety is explicit. After all thats how the old trams lines worked.
          Down the middle, with right of way – everyone else, keep off the rails or pay the consequences.

          And as a result it becomes a straight jacket for sloppy/woolly politicians/local board members who won’t make the hard calls when needed.

          Its therefore harder to to argue (as happens all the time with bus lanes when proposed), “well I can’t possibly not have parking outside my business. I need an exemption made here to the bus lanes”.

          Kowtow to that and before too long you’ve got a bunch of bus lane that are not joined up as you find today.

          While AT can designate this or that road for Bus lanes along its entire length, they currently don’t, or when they do, they do it half arsed, so its never joined up.

          Just saying as you do that about bus lanes that “this is all something that should happen as par for the course”, won’t make it so. You actually need to: Take. Road. Space. From. Cars.

          So if LRT is used as a valid crowbar to force that by forcing ROW priority down a road like Dominion Road, so be it.
          We collectively don’t have a lot of tools in our toolbox to change the status quo otherwise.

        9. Mathew W – No the proposal for bus lanes on Dominion Rd was a big improvement on what’s there, basically they would be continuous but unfortunately not all day (although I suspect that might have changed). Also as Greg suggests LRT seen as getting much greater support for change from likes of businesses so things that aren’t as easy politically with bus lanes become easier with LRT – not that this should be a justification, it should stack up in its own right.

        10. There is a system of platooned buses running on electric power with a simple, high reliability guidance system… it’s called LRT. The oft-quoted bogeyman of LRT infrastructure – flexibility – is pretty much irrelevant in my opinion. Dominion Road, Queen St, Symonds St and the others have been the commuting arterials of Auckland for over a hundred years, and that’s not going to change any time soon and render an LRT system obsolete.

    2. The key reason for AT pushing light rail for the isthmus is that there isn’t the space in the city to run as many buses would be needed. As I understand that’s based on some fairly detailed modeling and not just high level calculations

      1. And how does this logic extend to the airport route? The current bus is very fast off peak – does it just need more priority on peak? That might save a billion or two.

        1. There is no immediate plan to build anything to the airport. This work is only happening because AT have been pushed to make a long term decision between light and heavy rail so the airport company can allow for this in their terminal upgrade plans. Light or heavy rail to the airport is a good 20 years away as far as I can see.

        2. Well we can make the space with market clearing road pricing.

          In any case we are not proposing to eliminate buses from the CBD. If we do some light rail and reduce bus numbers, this will be to make room for other buses from other destinations. Once all the currently proposed light rail is built accross the isthmus one assumes we will have space in the city centre for buses as far ahead as we can forecast.

          So by your logic the rationale here is that the airport route is the next best cab off the rank for light rail after the isthmus is done (in some several decades time maybe). Why is the airport route such a good candidate for this? Where is the comparative analysis of other routes?

        3. Can’t be bothered finding it right now but have seen a diagram showing that even with buses from isthmus gone from CBD there are still too many there thanks to all the ones that will be needed from the Shore and other areas not served by rail (heavy or light). Given the huge number from the shore that is arguably more important to address than from airport but this one is being progressed due to the time constraints around the airport’s master planning. Recently AT let a contract to examine what options it will use in future for rapid transit to the shore which will be a key part in addressing that issue.

        4. Yeah let’s go cheap on our transport options. It has worked really well so far in Auckland.

          The cheapness of NZ is amazing. We are able to see the cost of everything and the value of noting.

          It’s a pity this kind of penny pinching doesn’t happen with useless motorways.

    3. You are kidding, right? If I turn up to an airport overseas and there is a rail system (either light rail or heavy rail), I’m almost sure to use it. If I turn up and there is a bus system, no matter how good that system is, I’m going to assume its crap and probably get a cab. Buses are never ever ever anywhere near as good as rail no matter how much you think they should or could be.

      1. Thats an interesting approach. My approach varies somewhat – I happen to use the internet when travelling to new places to research transport options. I have happily used airport buses in such backwards places as Berlin, Melbourne, Manchester, Liverpool, LA, New York and Prague (off the top of my head).

        1. Prague is a great example of why buses are crap. Having lived there for 3 years, you would whizz out to the end of the line at Dejvicka (it has now been extended to Nádraží Veleslavín) and then get on the slow creaking bus that was always caught in traffic. It is one reason why so few people use PT to the airport unless they have no choice.

        2. In a sense, the “flexibility” of buses is their downfall. Rail requires big turning circles, can’t reverse easily, and has to follow a specific (if not dedicated) right-of-way. Whereas buses, because they can easily go anywhere, can recover more easily from traffic jams and optimistic timetables, and don’t have to cost anything extra for infrastructure, can take more complex routes on less predictable schedules.

          There’s always some places, here and there, where a bus can just be mixed with general traffic, or go down a side street, or traverse roundabouts, speed humps, motorway shoulders, and the like. Because it can be, it sometimes is.

          Rail’s big upside here is its very lack of flexibility. With rail, you have fewer of those options. (That’s not to say there are no corners that can be cut). You *have* to spend money on a fixed line, you *have* to travel in a straightish line without doubling back or turning off, you generally have to spend at least something on stations, reducing the number of stops you want to put in. Because it’s less capable of being watered down, it doesn’t get as watered down.

          You can replicate almost all of the supposed advantages of rail with buses, except ride comfort (to a degree), speed (compared to high-end heavy rail), and capacity. But these are somewhat more optional, with buses. And if you get a rail-quality bus service, you start to approach a rail-quality price tag, too.

        3. Exactly right Stephen,
          I made a very similar point here – further down the various threads on this post – yesterday.

          In part because buses are so flexible (and we’re not talking bendy buses), politicians and planners don’t need to think the solution through, they can ram a bus down here, add a partial bus lane and say job done.
          With rails you have think the whole thing through from start to finish and then build it fully.

          Of course, you need buses to build the patronage to make the rails work, but at some point with buses comes a needed step change and you need to move to the next level.
          We’re at that point in the Isthmus void corridors now. Hence why AT is considering LRT there.
          The Airport LRT option just falls off the back of that.

          Also because the politicians and planners won’t make the hard calls on continuousbus lanes along key roads like Dominion road, then LRT is the stalking horse that does – you can’t do LRT like we’ve done bus lanes.
          There is no room for special pleading for businesses to claim they *need* parking outside their business so the bus lanes can’t go in.

      2. Couldn’t we have a bus system that isn’t *anything like* existing bus systems?

        What I want to understand is why train wheels and train tracks are better than tyres and roads. The fact that trains are reliable, comfortable, electric… well, I really don’t see why busses (or vehicles like them) couldn’t be made that way too. And I don’t see why Auckland shouldn’t be the first city to do it.

        1. The only way to do that is give buses the same ROW priority that heavy rail has. And that will almost certainly mean taking existing road space away from private and commercial vehicles.
          That or spend billions building a dedicated busway from airport to CBD.

          If it’s the latter,the cost will bring the argument back round to whether extending HR or building LRT is better value for money

          If, however, you are just advocating more more, better, buses – that’s not really providing any material improvement.

        2. And if its the former? Remember – private cars are an extremely inneficient use of existing road space, what would be wrong with taking road space of them? Market clearing road pricing would achieve this and still allow higher value commercial vehicles better road use access.

        3. In no particular order… Safety, Efficiency, Control/Guidance,. Reliability, Maintenance costs, Reduced environmental fallout…. These are some of my favourite things that rail/wheel systems do better than road/tyre systems.

        4. I would prefer we didn’t take unproven and unused technology in a hope of trying to avoid something we know works, works well and is being pursued by peer cities

    1. There’s an error in that blog post: Wellington to Waikanae is 55km not 85km, taking 55 mins (express), 1 hour (all stops).

  9. Great analysis Matt and good to see this blog shining the light on this conundrum. I think one aspect that needs to be aired is ownership, control and maintenance of the line. The rebirth of commuter rail in Auckland has not been without pain for the parties involved and despite everyone’s best efforts to get on and make it work I am sure there are voices in AT who wish for a network that doesn’t use KiwiRail assets. From that viewpoint it makes much more sense to push for light rail to the airport and the shore under AT’s total control rather than support an extension of the Heavy Rail network. Totally transparency from AT would help clear this concern. And what’s KiwiRail’s view?

    1. Absolutely I think AT want control of the network. They are often hampered by Kiwirail decisions. I understand they’ve even suggested that they should get control of the Auckland network but I doubt that would happen.

      1. My concern is that commuters end up with a suboptimal rapid transit solution because the system promoters have ‘weighed’ the dice in favour of their preferred ‘ownership’ solution much like NZTA favouring their preference for a road only third Waitemata Harbour Crossing.

        1. What appears to have happened is that we have a central city – isthmus problem which needs solving. High capacity, and local roads, and ownership and control by AT. Slow Light Rail (SLR) is a fine solution to it. Unfortunately however it’s been tied to a MRT problem for Mangere and the airport. Untangle the two, and you’ll have a far better set of outcomes.

        2. Good point George…. If LR is only for the likes of Dominion Rd and Queen St then the maximum speed it can legally operate at will be 50km/h. So there isn’t a need for more expensive faster LR trams. However as you point out if they continue to the airport then they would have to be able to operate faster to have any hope of making that journey in a reasonable amount of time.

        3. If it can achieve an average of 25km/h on the Queen St and Dominion Rd section then it only needs to achieve 35km/h on the rest to be at the airport within 44 minutes

        4. and can that be done Matt with stops and the acceleration/deceleration times taken into account?

        5. Well said, George. This looks like an attempted two-for-one deal, where both halves of the deal have to be compromised. If a 35km/h average is all we can expect on a clear ROW, 80 or 110km/h line, what are the chances of a 25km/h average being achieved in an urban 50km/h section with most of the stops? I’d be inclined to estimate somewhere between slim and none. LRT is often quoted as having higher acceleration/deceleration than heavy rail, but if the EMUs are capable to 1.2G performance, but are limited to 1.0G for passenger comfort, why would it be ok to run LRT at higher rates? 466 people being jolted back and forth down the Dominion Rd dragstrip would possibly ask the same thing.

        6. light rail along dominion hasn’t got a snowballs chance in hell of being able to deliver people from the CBD to the airport in a timely manner at the best of times, let alone peak times. It is not realistic to think that all or most of the road intersections along the route would be prioritized in favor of the LRT and provide a green light so that the LRT doesn’t have to stop. Based on the proposed frequency Auckland would be at a grid lock. Just look at the mess AT is in with the current round of level crossings for the western line. Anybody saying that are nuts.. I cant imagine anything worse than getting off an airplane and onto a light rail/tram car and then having to stop at every stop along the way along dominion and through the “international precinct”. the long term solution must not be the implementation of a short/medium solution.

          LRT could work as long as it is separated from the main roads and a dedicated route with less stops, more separation, faster units and better feeder services. (basically heavy rail infrastructure using LRT units) But that will cost a lot of money so would be worth going with heavy rail that can then supplement a bigger/wider network serving the region as the area develops.

          if LRT is the proposal based on costs then it should be shelved until heavy rail can be incorporated. As the previous commentators have said it could be 20 years down the line before the thing is ever built at which point things could have changed. By choosing LRT now we would be locked in unless AT paid the airport a load of money to retrofit, which being realistic isn’t too far from council’s normal modus operandis….

        7. Maybe we should be thinking bigger rather than focus on what will be cheaper (AT an NZTA will do that for us). Despite the wishes of some on this blog I think further sprawl and need for some people who work in Auckland to live in satellite towns is inevitable (all other big cities I can think of have this). For PT to enable this we would need dedicated fast tracks in and out of Auckland such that the Papakura-CBD trip could be completed in around 30mins non-stop.

          Compared to AWHC for the same money could we afford to 4 track the mainline from Britomart via Tamaki to at least Homai (ideally Papakura) + build Otahuhu-Airport link + Electrify to Pukekohe or beyond? I don’t think this is unreasonable for ~ $5bn. Surely the benefits to Auckland of this would massively outweigh the benefit of the alternative i.e. 2km of 6 lane motorway to feed cars into the city?

  10. It would be great to have a table showing times to airport from all train stations and NEX stations via LRT and Onehunga/Otahuhu GET routes.

    It would be interesting to compare times for western, eastern, southern and not just central.

    1. Brendan I just posted the times using via Otahuhu further up.
      The NEX and Western Line (until a Mt Roskill Spur was built) should be easy enough to add on as you just add the relative NEX time to the Britomart to Airport via G.I or Western Line to K Road/Aotea then transfer to the Airport Line from there.

      So Albany to the Airport with a transfer at Britomart onto the Airport Line via G.I and Otahuhu would be:
      Apparently looking at the AT Journey Planner the NEX from Albany to Britomart ranges from 31-37mins. Add five minutes to walk into Britomart and board the train then the 30mins from Britomart via G.I and Otahuhu (limited stops) and the total trip time I theorise is 1:12 hours.

      Papakura to Airport via Otahuhu I already calculated at 35 mins

      From Howick we need dedicated bus priorities down Te Irirangi Drive, Cavendish Drive and SH20B.

    1. Canada Line 35km/h
      Expo Line 44km/h
      Millennium Line 44km/h

      Personal experience of Skytrain’s noise is the same as our new electric trains. Very sharp corners can make them both squeak.

      Re: cost. I don’t know.

  11. If you had all stops Stage 1 in the City, 2 stops down Dominion Rd and all stops from Mt Roskill to the Airport that would be 21 stops.

    17 stops Britomart to the Airport.
    Britomart to Dominion 6 stops, 2 stops Dominion and 9 stops Mt Roskill to Airport.

    An all stops Dominion LRT follows behind the Airport run.

  12. Forgive me if I’ve overlooked part of the analysis, but why is there such a focus on the speed of the two options? Speed is no doubt important, and all agree that HRT is the faster option, but LRT has a significant advantage in the number of people living and working within station catchments, To me this seems to be major distinguishing factor between the two options. Have I missed something, or is there a bit too much of a focus on the travel time aspect?

    1. Ben, LR does have a larger new catchment (when including the Dominion Road+Queen St section – both of which are probably going to be built anyway). However this is only good for people living in central areas of Auckland… it does nothing for those to the South, East, and isn’t much use to those from the North, and does have some marginal benefits to some out West (most would however just catch HR to Mt Eden/(insert Station between Mt Eden and Otahuhu) and transfer to HR to the airport and still save time over changing at Avondale and Onehunga.
      As there is decent capacity over the Manukau Bridge for buses there is nothing to stop a bus connection from Onehunga to a HR station in Mangere.
      Actually another point that hasn’t been mentioned is that the bridge was designed for LR but in terms of RT it would be too slow/single lane…. However if this was just to extend LR over to Mangere to link up with HR then that would be sufficient.

      1. Are you sure that the figures include Queen St and Dominion Road? The figure is 60,000 living and 63,000 jobs within the station catchments. If anything that seems a little low if it includes all of Queen Street and Dominion Road. Are you sure the extra jobs and residents don’t come from the additional stations LRT stations at Hillsborough, Favona, Ascot and Airport Quad?

        If the LRT analysis does include Queen and Dominion that is a shame, as it’s a little disingenuous.

        I’m not sure what the relevance is of some parts of Auckland benefiting from LRT more than others. That’s true of the HRT option as well, and is inherent in just about any transport project. Even the CRL’s benefits favour those south of the bridge – but it’s still a great project!

        1. I don’t have the figures in front of me but that is my understanding.

          Eventually there will be some form of rail to the North Shore (but in the meantime there is the NEX). HR has a catchment of more than half of Auckland’s population if you include those. The only people that won’t benefit from HR (at least directly) are those along the Dominion Rd route (and they will indirectly benefit from less traffic and as mentioned could still connect to the HR where it is built (Onehunga or Otahuhu/Mangere, or LR towards the city and changing to HR which will still probably be faster than a bus during peak times). They will of course benefit the other days of the year they aren’t travelling by having the LR down Dominion Road.

        2. Many of the benefits provided to the rest of the network by the HRT option will also be gained by the LRT option, as passengers will have the opportunity to transfer to the light rail system. So rail passengers will still benefit from the LRT option, just not as much as the HRT option. So we then need to determine whether those benefits (among others) justify the extra $1b+ expenditure on the heavy rail option. I suspect that they do not. I would conjecture that the benefits to the rest of the heavy rail network are captured in the business case already.

          Again, I think the geographical distribution of benefits is, at best, a secondary consideration. The primary factors in evaluating the viability of projects like these should be 1. providing benefits to the community which exceed the project costs and 2. contributing to government transport strategic objectives. Going back to the CRL example – it’s unreasonable to criticise it based on a lack of benefits for North Shore users, because it can be shown that it provides significant benefits for the rest of Auckland (reflected in the BCR) AND contributes to various policy objectives. The same can be said here for the light rail option.

  13. Fast light rail is as good as fast BRT, and slow light rail is as bad as slow local buses. What is being proposed looks to be slower (and thus worse) than SkyBus.

    What AT is planning is mostly the latter. If they were to build a LRRT (light rail rapid transit) system that explicitly focused on getting airport passengers and the people of Mangere to other rapid transit systems, then that would be fine.

    What they could be doing is providing a MRT system with buses that did exactly that. They could even save a billion. Once again, this seems to be driven by AT’s prioritisation of the former Auckland City Council area – hence slow light rail to the city via Dominion Rd rather than rapid transit to Onehunga and Puhinui (and everything south) and Manukau (and everything east).

    1. Yes I have not seen anything that actually sets out the problem rail (heavy or light) to the airport is trying to solve. They need to define the problem before jumping to solutions. The incremental benefit of these options over buses with bus lanes / priority etc appears to be low given the costs.

    2. That is a very good point, what are the goals and objectives for rail to the airport?
      I mean seriously this should the very first thing – what are they trying to achieve?
      Any system which is slower than the current bus system shows that speed is not a major factor from what has been talked about so far.

      1. At the highest level, this is about completing another section in the Rapid Transit Network, and in that sense is not about ‘rail to the airport’ at all. This line, whether bus, LRT, HRT, or hover board, is the south western line, the airport simply supplies a great anchor to this line.

        It is important that critics grasp the importance of whole Networks in their thinking and don’t confine themselves to single project focus. Additions to networks, whether mway or telecoms can have far greater effects than the one route on its own. This is clearly observable in the nascent AKL RTN already, and will get a huge and exponential uplift with the CRL.

        This also explain some concern about possible limitations to the LRT proposal and of course the buses. To be true RTN they need very good speed, reliability, frequency, span, reach, legibility, and attractiveness. Without these features they perform poorly and can be indeed an expensive waste.

        Or a not very expensive but invisible to most and therefore underused system. This is where we are coming from in AKL, crappy old infrequent trains and unprioritised smokey old buses meandering around and held up by all the cars.

        Completing a citywide core of a high quality RTN is actually within reach and entirely affordable in AKL within current budgets so long as we shift those from overbuilding ever more motorways. And would be completely transformational for the city. This is our central thesis here at transportblog. Hence the CFN.

        1. I cant agree with this argument. You are saying we need RTN (why?) and RTN has all these characteristics therefore we need a solution with these characteristics. This rides roughshod over a cost benefit analysis that looks at the actual benefits of any proposal and the costs and makes a desicion. This is the same thinking behind the RONs – i.e. decide where RONs are required (why?), state that RONs must have particular characteristics (dual carriageway grade separation etc) and then coming up with a solution on that basis. It simply isnt an argument it is just a way of pushing through a preexisting belief about what is required.

        2. The RTN is required in order to have a functioning, efficient, and effective city and economy. It is the necessary complement to the layers of road systems, it is a necessary component to enable more efficient use of those systems, particularly when also complemented by clearer pricing signals on these networks.

          Cities require water systems, electricity systems, telecoms systems, and movement systems, AKL is at a size and complexity that our one movement system is now choking and inefficient. It’s quite simple really. If we don’t improve and extend the RTN soon we will be choosing to limit the city’s economic performance, equity [access for all], and quality of life. We will be choosing to live in uncompetitive car drenched inefficiency, and the prosperity of the whole nation will be reduced. NZ needs our one city of scale to perform to its best and this century that means competing for talent and business with other cities in the region.

          Additionally auto-decency is entirely inconsistent with the commitments recently made in Paris by the government to radically reduce the nation’s Carbon intensity.

          Happily this is sort of understood at some levels of our institutions and politics, but combating the path dependency they are on is not easy; hence the terribly suboptimal AWHC, as currently proposed.

        3. What you have written is not an cogent argument, just assertion. I am interested in the why. If you are worried about congestion (your reference to inefficient / choking), the answer is very simple – road pricing. Roads aren’t inefficient, they are simply corridors. We just use them inefficiently.

        4. Matthew W are you saying we don’t need to plan for a rapid transit corridor out through the Southwest? There isn’t one at the moment. I agree the Skybus does a good job of transporting passengers from the airport to the CBD quickly, mainly because it is a reasonably express service taking the shortest route.

          However, it does not provide rapid transit to the Southwest and does not offer connectivity to the airport for other users across the city. While good quality BRT may be an option for the airport in the future, this will not be an insignificant cost in itself as a busway would still need to be built alongside the motorway.

        5. I think buses and similar vehicles will provide for growth over the next 30 years which is about the extent of any ability to forecast what the future might look like. This can either be via congestion free roads (using market clearing road pricing), or as a second best option, bus priority measures.

          We already have a huge amount of latent transport corridor capacity (in the form of roads) in the South West of the city, as well as pretty much everywhere else in the city. Unlocking the potential of our existing road network should be our first second and third priorities at this point in our history before we start thinking about building expensive new corridors.

        6. I agree that this isn’t a problem that needs solved immediately, my reply to one of your posts above alludes to this. However, it would be absurd not to have an Airport that is not future proofed for some sort of rail. As you say that we can’t really predict the future but there have been a number of decisions in the past that have not future proofed and are causing significant problems at present with building infrastructure.

        7. Given the very long time frames, why dont they future proof for both options at the airport. Presumably future proofing for heavy rail will not preclude light rail, so just do that. In the meantime (i.e. the next few decades), why dont we focus on improving the bus connectivity/reliability/speed etc.

        8. Kettle, pot, black much? You assert road pricing is a sufficient answer. I believe it is a good part of the answer, but you seriously think we can price people out of their cars without a quality alternative then you’re simply not facing the front. London, Stockholm, Singapore, the poster children for road pricing, all have extremely mature Transit Networks. And no road pricing is politically possibly without good alternatives, so your view is just armchair theorising, never to happen. Pricing + plus transit = efficient city. Anyway you’re also just ignoring spatial geometry, Transit is booming the world over because of its unique spatial efficiency compared to cars. That doesn’t change with pricing either.

        9. Patrick,

          Road pricing ENABLES a high quality alternative. It provides a congestion free road network on which to run passenger transport vehicles. The space efficiency between cars and buses is an order of magnitude different. There is no alternative needed. If commuters could just squeeze onto the road one day in their cars, there will be plenty of room on said roads the next day on buses (of course someone will need to buy the buses but that beside the point). You have to think properly about what road pricing does. First and foremost it VASTLY increases the capacity of the existing road network.

        10. “First and foremost it VASTLY increases the capacity of the existing road network”

          As Patrick says, on its own, and you know this too but won’t admit it – it won’t – it will only do so, if people perceive there are alternatives to driving, and then they actually use them.

          If everyone simply decides to pay the “congestion tax” as if its a toll and carries on as normal, nothing changes.The roads don’t decongest, the buses don’t run better or faster.

          Real world example of procing on its own: Despite years of ever increasing London Tube fares, the numbers using keep going up, why? there’s generally no other realistic alternative option to the tube for these users.
          They pay the “tube tax” and keep on using it.

          You need the carrot [efficient, frequent PT] and then, and only then, the stick [road pricing]. So that people see there is an alternative, and when priced off the road they will then use it.

          Just waving [or hitting with] the [congestion tax] stick, doesn’t make the donkeys move forward for long, if at all.
          But wave the carrot in front of them [cheaper, faster, more convenient journeys via PT], and see the difference.

        11. Greg,

          Wrong. When I say road pricing I mean market clearing road pricing. That is – road pricing that “clears the market” i.e. prevents congestion. Markets clear, demand curves slope downwards. What the market clearing rate is, is unknown but there will be one.

        12. MW your theoretical economic Puritanism is interesting but pointless. There will be rioting in the streets and with such an inequitable scheme. Market clearing price without viable widespread and joined up alternatives simply impoverishes people out of work, and seriously damages job market competitiveness: It just can’t happen. Anyway what’s your big issue with a transit network: meanness? It isn’t even expensive, we have the core of it already, it’s only seems expensive if we insist on building evermore motorways at the same time….

          Pricing and an RTN = efficient, competetive, liveable, and equitable AKL. And therefore a properous one, and prosperous for more of its inhabitants. Unlike your feudal scheme; one with princes and paupers.

        13. Who is the pauper in my scheme? The people who get to travel on a congestion free bus network around the city? How is that so terrible? Think about a bus network on our existing road network but without congestion and with enough demand to sustain significantly increased frequency and extents. It hardly sounds feudal to me, it sounds great. And far less money out of peoples pockets in tax.

          Why are you trying to paint that as a dystopia? Think about all the people how commute on buses right now. You are saying that a world in which their average commute is vastly improved is a dystopia? What is it like now then?

          Rioting in the streets? FUD if I ever saw it.

        14. Again you just wish away reality: An infinity of buses simply cannot fit in the city. This is why the CRL is underway and LRT likely to follow; capacity and spatial cost. Someone not get a train set as a kid or something; what do hate so much about the thought of Aucklanders on trains?

        15. Each bus is replacing 40 cars – the cars could (just) fit before, therefore the buses will fit easily.

          Couldn’t care less about trains – what I care about is unnecessary multi billion dollar spend ups.

        16. This also explain some concern about possible limitations to the LRT proposal and of course the buses. To be true RTN they need very good speed, reliability, frequency, span, reach, legibility, and attractiveness. Without these features they perform poorly and can be indeed an expensive waste.

          It is my sincere belief that *any* mode utilising Dominion Rd or any other isthmus arterial will lack all of these features, in varying degree.

          South West Auckland needs a RTN, as does East Auckland and West Auckland. This is a mixture of RTN and (high capacity) local route features. And it does not seem designed to link in to the creation of new RTN infrastructure (east, west, and south).

        17. MW yes buses are more spatial efficient than cars, but are still spatially hungry compared to rail, and especially underground rail, which takes up zero street space. And, even with the great help of the CRL we are still projected to have a centre city hopelessly clogged with buses at the current rate. Which, among other things, do get in the way of each other, disrupting their own speed, efficiency, and reliability. Much indeed can be done to improve this with ever more street priority being given to them, and I support that. But hitherto no one has found a politically acceptable way to fill Queen street from sea to isthmus with buses alone, but LRT, with fewer vehicles but greater capacity, and no diesel fumes, is proving politically acceptable. BRT on Queen would require all four lanes while LRT just two, this is no trivial difference, Queen St pavements are already full. There is no contest in terms of city quality, air quality etc between filling that valley with buses or serving the same or more riders with fewer electric LRVs.

          At some point pure theory has to face the actual facts of the real world, and this is one such moment.

          LRT will face capital cost, but then that RoW will be a permanent assert for Auckland indefinitely, and it isn’t yet clear what the opex cost recovery will be like, there is certainly the likelihood that the enhanced appeal and utility of the system will enable it to run at very efficient occupancies, we look forward to that analysis with interest.

        18. The studies I have seen that indicate a clogged CBD are based on a CBD primarily clogged with cars not buses (e.g. the CCFAS). I am talking about replacing cars with buses. Yes diesel buses are a drawback in large numbers. But the net effect is still positive – eg 40 cars less for 1 bus more. In any case my solution would be to phase in plug in hybrid buses over time (they are soon to be commercially available e.g. You then designate areas where the buses run in electric only mode (e.g. the CBD, town centres etc).

        19. If you think CCFAS shows cars are the problem and not too many buses in the CBD then why doesn’t AT just banned cars from the CBD and see what happens?
          There job done, CCFAS delivered 25 years early for the cost of a couple of bylaws and some paint and enforcement.

          So I don’t think that conclusion is right.

          CCFAS showed that buses will be the main cause of other buses running slow. Even with 2 lanes of bus lanes in and out of all the CBD arterials [so no cars in these lanes], the CBD still slows to a slower crawl than it does now for both cars and buses. That indicates that buses everywhere at least in the CBD won’t work.

          So, if we move buses out from the CBD, how do people in the outer suburbs come in to the CBD then with our current hub and spoke system? flying carpet?

          Nope via CRL and LRT.

        20. CCFAS still has the city clogged with cars because it assumed stupid driving inducing billions still get spent things like additional road harbour crossings further incentiving driving to the city. And lo: it is and is being ridiculously fast tracked. If you really care about unnecessary capital expenditure in the transport sector that’s where you should look. A much more real problem than fantasies about future technology [clean buses, that somehow take up no space] magic-ing away cars. You may have persuaded yourself that you are all rationality and have no dislike of rail but your arguments show otherwise. Why not chase the real problem at source?

        21. Greg the CCFAS has something like a 30% increase in car traffic compared to now. Thats huge.

          Patrick, you are resorting to straw men.

        22. No so. If there is a capex problem in NZ transport infra it is because of the overbuilding of traffic inducing kit. You are say ‘if only we remove cars and totally replace them buses all is sweet’. Well any reduction in car numbers needs to start with a policy that currently is trying to shoehorn as many as possible into the CBD, a change which would also, happily, save a fortune in the capex budget, freeing up funding lines for even more spatially efficient and higher quality Transit systems. This is a virtuous circle; but you are refusing to see that, seemingly cos those better Transit systems have steel wheels.

        23. I dont disagree with you about the waste of the AWHC. I was talking about your comment that my argument relies on infinitesimal buses.

          Road pricing will reduce the need for capex across the board AWHC included.

        24. CCFAS may have predicted 30% increase in car traffic, but that was without any references to current or likely future parking charges or how responsive car drivers are about using car parking prices and switching modes.
          The notes from the authors (SKM) commented that parking for cars wasn’t constrained but they said they assumed that parking charges would act as a proxy to constraint (i.e. that when parking capacity runs low, prices will rise). Not that AT would raise parking prices in the CBD to artificially restrict parking. Which is exactly what AT have done.

          The same issue exists with AWHC assumptions.

          The current level of parking charges in the CBD is way higher than AWHC would assume ever apply in 2041 – some 25 years from now.

          So therefore both these studies that assume “infinite” driving demand in to the CBD are clearly wrong, and have been for some time.

          This has two effects – makes driving less attractive, and also stimulates demand for PT uptake, both of which we see now.

          But even with that effect in place, CCFAS also said, you can’t get enough buses into the CBD.

          So your continual denial that we *have* to invest in non bus PT options now [as well modernise the bus fleet] is just as bad as NZTAs “damn the torpedos, [and contrary facts], full speed ahead” approach to AWHC.

        25. Greg,

          “But even with that effect in place, CCFAS also said, you can’t get enough buses into the CBD.”

          That was because the streets were assumed to be filled with cars! What part of that dont you understand?

        26. Including all the multiple-lane bus lanes/arterials for buses only being filled with cars too? You’re dreamin mate.

          In any case if you think its all down to road pricing alone, then if we do nothing more on our PT system we should see less and less cars in the CBD for years to come and buses magically speed up.

          Not just because of CRL works but simply because people stop driving to the CBD and parking cos its too expensive.

          But even if that comes to pass [which is a whopping big if], the buses – even all the DDs in the country won’t be enough to cope with growth in PT demand.
          You’ll need a CRL and a working LRT system down Queen and up Dominion way sooner than 2020 – not just for the CBD sake but also for the likes of Dominion Road/Mt Eden/Sandringham road corridors.

          Whether we need to do it because its the best decision, or AC/AT has no balls to put road pricing in or dedicated bus lanes in or whatever who really cares beyond you?

          The reality is steel wheel based PT is needed in the Isthmus area to handle the existing problems, and also to provide capacity for the problems of tomorrow.

          You might argue that we should not invest in anything except buses – but only NZ Bus holds that view. Everyone else takes a balanced view to our PT network. You it seems cannot.

        27. “Including all the multiple-lane bus lanes/arterials for buses only being filled with cars too? You’re dreamin mate.’

          You are implying that a large majority of the road space was allocated to buses. It wasnt – how could it be there were 30% more cars than at present. They had one double bus lane on Wellesley I understand but they didnt have everything given over to buses. And crucially they assumed a congested system which we would not have with market clearing road pricing. You have been constantly making things up on this thread about special LRT deals, opex costs and god knows what else. Lets stick to reasoned debate eh.

        28. Patrick – you are being unfair on Mathew W to say he has an anti-rail bias. He has made some valid points.

          A principle often argued on this blog is that cheaper high benefit options should be implemented before seeing what large expensive investment is needed. For example it makes sense to build a simple bypass of Warkworth before assessing whether an expensive motorway is needed.

          The same principle applies to Public Transport. We can get huge gains from working existing assets harder, and we should do this before analysing what big expensive investments need to be made. We could get a lot more out of our existing roads through using bus lanes, cycle lanes and road pricing. And we should do this before making big expensive investments. Of course sometimes the constraints in a system become so severe that greater capacity can only be realised through a big investment – like the CRL, but these big investments should only be made after the cheaper high benefit options have been exhausted.

          Now the reality is that there is greater public and political support for glamorous expensive projects than there is for cheaper ones which realise greater efficiency returns. This can make money and support available for Public Transport that wouldn’t otherwise be there. But this doesn’t mean we should lose sight of the value that can be gained from unglamorously working existing infrastructure harder. And just because money is spent so wastefully on roads doesn’t mean we should be so profligate when it comes to public transport investment.

        29. Mathew W, We can get a lot more use out of our buses I’m sure with improved bus lanes etc, but once patronage is really getting up on a route, at some point it must be more beneficial to use something where the operating costs will be lower & reliability is higher. LRT offers that with it’s huge capacity per driver wage $ (& sq mtr) compared to a bus (electric or not).

    3. So you don’t think we need heavy rail either as buses are fine?
      Why not close down all of Auckland’s rail network and use buses?

  14. Hi Matt Thanks for the time investigation – impressive if they can achieve those times. I was hoping the Dominion Rd line might have continued down Dominion Rd Extn Hillsborough Rd White Swan in a loop back to Dominion. This perhaps could be better achieved with feeder buses. I also wonder what use could be made of the designated land for the Avondale to Southdown rail way line. Construction of the light rail proposal would make the Dominion Rd to Avondale spur line very unlikely to happen. As you know I have been a strong proponent for rail to Roskill. Just worried the AT Light Rail Team are not seeing past the old tram network other than the airport proposal.

        1. That’s referring to non-airport light rail, which heads north-west along Stoddard Rd. Airport light rail goes in the opposite direction from that intersection, south-east to get to Onehunga, and from the video screenshot it looks as if it is proposed to follow the existing Avondale Southdown Line designation, probably meaning that it wold be unavailable for freight and hence condemning the North Auckland Line to Whangarei/Marsden Pt etc. to continued marginal status as a freight route.

  15. A note re Calgary. The centre spine along 7th Ave West is for C Train and buses only. So, no, or very limited turning traffic. Unlike Dominion Rd

  16. Portland’s ‘MAX’ LRT is another useful comparison. We used it on a visit last year. Street-level with limited stops and one or two grade-separated junctions in the CBD (but mostly at grade with some priority), then faster alongside the motorway out to the airport.

  17. I’m sceptical that Auckland would achieve a separated ROW to the standard of the C-Train. Especially on the Dom Rd section – they’d have to be ruthless about removing parking, and judging by past parking outcries, AT would end up fatally compromising the ROW to appease the parking panic. They’d also probably have to restrict right turns, which would meet similar resistance.

    As far as comfort and convenience with luggage goes, a lot depends on the width and configuration of the carriages. Something like the BART or C-Train carriages would compare well to our EMTs; something like some Melbourne trams or Toronto streetcars, not so much.

    Incidentally, when I was there a few years ago, Calgary airport transit functioned much like our 380+train – the C-train portion was great, but the buses between the LRT line and the airport were not super frequent or reliable. I have vivid memories of waiting for a bus transfer in an unheated open shelter with -40 wind chill. At least that’s one problem Auckland doesn’t have…

    1. Calgary still doesn’t have an LRT to the airport, although they did spend $500M in building a tunnel when the second main runway of the airport (YYC) was built such that they can install an LRT to it at a later date. They also introduced a bus service from downtown to the airport that runs on a 30 minute frequency. Not a great option as it winds it way through northern Calgary (roughly along Centre St) and is subject to bad traffic at times. But with low oil prices significantly reducing revenue and income taxes for the province of Alberta coupled with several large projects already promised (southwest ring road and the green line (southeast and north LRT)) it is likely to be a long time before this is completed (unless it gets tied into the north LRT line as one of the options being suggested).

  18. All these PT projects regarding transport to the Auckland airport are over looking one factor. Go out there on any given day and spend time watching family members from at least one nationality who fill up their cars ;to farewell or welcome one of their own. – hardly future customers (why would they be?).- I spent an hour or so this morning doing just that – watching these exuberant groups livening up the dawn.

    1. Good grief, will this be the first airport in the world with a rail connection? Will the roads be closed? And, again, this route is not simply about the airport, or even only about travellers at the airport. The Airport is simple the anchor of the line.

      1. I did back-of-the-envelope numbers a while back. If you got 10% of travellers thats about 4k a day and that woukd probably only be 20% of total users. The bulk will be everyday commuters to/from points along that line, with workers in the CBD and airport making up a considerable number.

        Thats why the time differences between LRT and HR dont overly concern me. Only a minority will be taking this end to end.

    2. Mangere station would be quite busy and I reckon it would be the busiest station on the airport line for workers going to and from other places in Auckland.

  19. Are rail services still meant to be sped up in a few months? It concerns me that the video still shows HR as reaching Onehunga at 25 minutes, when that is the current travel time. Perhaps this is where numbers are being fudged, or are we no longer getting the run time improvements?

    1. You’re onto it. Fudgorama. And remember this is a Post-CRL network they’re talking about. There’s no way that a double-tracked, trenched Onehunga line with a proper junction at Penrose and no queue at Newmarket would still be taking 25 minutes post-CRL. They’ve counted the costs of all that work, but not the benefits.

  20. I am still for heavy rail, but if this light rail system gets going, it really needs to have its own dedicated tracks. I suggest elevated tracks up above the middle of the SW Motorway from the Dominion Road exit to Onehunga.

  21. Regardless of how you tweak the speeds, the Achilles heel is the lack of potential connectivity with South Auckland and beyond. Guess the argument is that poor brown folks don’t use air travel but that is fairly short-sighted.

    And surely that catchment combined with the existing South/Central Line and the Eastern Line (would potentially then have direct services to the airport too) is expected to grow in excess of the “black hole” catchment, particularly given that intensification there (as per new Unitary Plan) looks to be weak at best?

  22. I would need to see the BCR and NPV for both projects. I favour the heavy rail, simply because it is Class A ROW and not subject to disruptions such as cars driving on the track or running red lights at intersections and smashing into the vehicles, causing disruption.

    The Gold Coast Light Rail has had a number of incidents where people have started driving on the tracks, and a disruption has occurred, taking the system offline for half an hour to an hour.

  23. “The Gold Coast Light Rail has had a number of incidents where people have started driving on the tracks, and a disruption has occurred, taking the system offline for half an hour to an hour.”

    Interesting watching various YouTube videos on their system last night. With the way Aucklanders drive and park will be interesting to see how we fair with a LRT network, especially to begin with?!

    1. Why would they shut down the system just because a car drove over the tracks? I, like thousands of others, drive over tram tracks every day in Melbourne and no big deal…..

      1. Going into the dedicated/protected areas I guess and can’t reverse with a unit coming behind them etc? As an side it’s interesting they chose such small & slow units. Their stage 2 has quite a lot of dedicated longer stretches, it seems, which could benefit from some more speed. Also I think the colour and shape is not the most attractive I’ve seen for such modern units?!

  24. From the video still, it looks as if the light rail proposals will follow the route of the proposed Avondale-Southdown Line between Stoddard Rd and Onehunga. The primary purpose of the ASL is to allow future freight trains from North Auckland to bypass Newmarket, something that will be essential if they are to operate during the hours when passenger trains run. If the ASL alignment is proposed to be used, I hope that this will be taken into account.

    1. Particularly if possible plans to move car shipping to North Port along with the Navy (while moving containers to Tauranga) go ahead. I have mentioned it on this blog previously but I’ll quickly outline the best outcomes of this plan:

      1) Close Ports of Auckland except for cruise ships and certain local shipping needs (transfer Car shipping to North Port and Containers to Tauranga)
      2) Close Devonport Naval Base and relocate to North Port (Whangarei)
      3) Build the short link from the Northern Line in Whangarei to North Port (Marsden).
      4) Build the new Whangarei Airport between Whangarei and Marsden (dual-use Civilian/Military)
      5) Close down Whenuapai and relocate the Air Force to Marsden and Ohakea.

      1) Free up approximately 3000 homes in Auckland (from Navy, Air Force, POA staff relocating) helps with the housing shortage.
      2) Free’s up hundreds of hectares of prime land for housing (Naval Base, Air Force Base) and land for other uses (Waterfront Stadium etc, commercial)
      3) Takes hundreds of trucks and hundreds of cars off Auckland roads each day
      4) Saves the Government big $$ in wages for military living more cheaply in Whangarei, and in cheaper operating costs (most deployments are North so half a days sailing time each way). Not too mention providing a huge boost to the Northland economy and generating a lot of jobs up there (reduced benefit numbers)
      5) Gets the Northern Line back up and running properly – possibly even a future passenger service. Gets freight onto rails rather than trucks for the most part (both North Port and Tauranga – Tauranga could also justify electrifying the line meaning the likes of Pukekohe gets electric trains…and a commuter service to Hamilton).
      6) New airport in Marsden also allows larger planes to operate to Whangarei (currently restricted to smaller aircraft) this would boost that economy and possibly even operate as a 2nd airport for Auckland for Low Cost Carriers to Brisbane for example (if the rail line is upgraded should be able to take a 2 hour train to the airport from Auckland or a 2 hour drive).

      So many birds, not so many stones. Winner for Auckland, Northland, Tauranga, (and possibly Waikato) and the whole country benefits too.

      1. Moving the Navy to outside Auckland is not a good idea.
        There are other effects which people just don’t consider, the main one being that people who join the Military like to be in Auckland like the rest of us Aucklanders, and with the major closure of Papakura Army base in the 90’s this left Devonport as the only major military base in Auckland. The air force base out west is not that big.
        The military has enough retention problems as it is without sending the Navy up north.
        This can actually have quite a big impact on people and there willingness to stay with the Navy.
        It’s a great use

        1. Considering sailors spend about 4 months in the year at sea on average and then have a month of per year that leaves them with 7 months in Auckland. Most of the Navy personnel that I know use every opportunity to get out of Auckland (a lot go to Coromandel or up North anyway, and most are originally from outside of Auckland so go home). Cost of living in Auckland is out of control (hard on Navy pay to own a house in Auckland and renting is also expensive, Whangarei by comparison is very cheap – and places like Warkworth are only an hour away which are only an hour from Auckland anyway). With the money the Navy saves on housing costs etc they could probably even afford to pay more which would help with retention.
          Having a military base in the middle of a large city doesn’t make a lot of sense. If you were concerned about Natural Disasters etc the government could look to store more supplies and equipment in Auckland (which would actually be more effective). If a volcano were to erupt in Auckland (which there is a high probability of that happening in the next 200 years) then the Navy could be completely stuffed! Whangarei by comparison is geologically sound (no earthquakes or volcanoes that are active or expected to be). Whenuapai could keep the main runway for emergency purposes (that would still allow half the base area to be sold off for development).

        2. In my experience with people in the military including those in the Navy it does make a difference and can not be discounted because it does not seem real to you.
          And there is no way pay increases will be enough to ‘help with retention’ as NZ pays it military per’s a low wage, just like nurses and many other professions.
          And there are many sailors which are not posted to a ship and will not spend any time at sea during a year, it all depends on their trade. So a 4 month average clearly shows you don’t know what you are talking about to be honest.

        3. Adam, not everyone in the Navy is a sailor and that is who I mentioned. Sailors do however make up a large amount of Naval personnel. A lot of workers in Devonport are actually contractors for companies like Babcock etc or consultants etc. You would still keep on one or 2 of the IPV for the reserves. Could build a big lot of apartments a la Princes Wharf with their own ferry to Stanley.
          Sounds like you’re trying to be a wannabe about the Navy or speak on their behalf when you don’t.

        4. I just think there is lots of low hanging fruit in the intensification around Auckland’s major transport’s hubs and on major arterial routes that could easily solve the housing problem before we look at the Navy Base.

        5. Question, what is the real importance of our military, I mean what could it actually fight off. Isn’t the navy basically a glorified coast guard with enemy number one being the evil foreign fisherman nicking muh fush which means at worst I would have to resort to battered chicken instead with my chups. Do we really need an Air Force & the Army apart from maybe the engineers (Disaster Relief) , some officers (Planning, and training Reserves), the SAS (To put down the rebellious Tory backed Stuart Island pretenders & the Reserves (If we really had to defend ourselves).

          The question is why should we waste tax payer dollars for bases on prime real estate instead of building homes, something we are short of instead of housing guys who basically are the fush theft police.

          Does the USA/China/UK etc. need a strong military I guess, but like Lichtenstein that hasn’t had an army or been in a war since 1866 I think their strategy is the better for NZ whose main threat is the idiots in Wellington anyway

        6. For an island country like New Zealand that relies on the sea so heavily, I would argue that we need to be able to maintain a strong awareness of the trade routes we rely on for our income. This requires a strong air force and Navy. I think of expenditure on defence as analogous to an insurance policy. You receive the cover you’re willing to pay for. For sending 1% of GDP we get a small naval combat force, a decent naval patrol force, limited sealift and resupply, tactical and strategic air transport, an airborne surveillance fleet, special forces, engineers, infantry, QAMR, territorials and the like.

          I don’t think anyone argues that the risk is to NZ directly, and in any case I don’t think thats how the above is organised. As a small country NZ relies more than anyone else on an international rules-based system of order respecting organisations like the UN and The Commonwealth.Because this is so important to our stability it’s in our interest to ensure that challenges to this system are met, and we have the ability to play our part internationally to support the system. Our efforts also play no small part in our ability to win things like places on the Security Council.

          We play the right side of the issues and all of the above equipment is used to support things like; aid relief to the islands a la Vanuatu last March, anti piracy/narcotics missions in the middle East over the last eighteen months, training Iraqi soldiers to fight ISIL, resupplying Antarctica, patrolling New Zealand’s waters, and that’s all in the last twelve months. I put it to you that our forces have done a huge amount of good in the near past, and are well worth that 1% of GDP.

          If you genuinely don’t know what the services do I suggest checking out their pages on Facebook. This is well and truly OT, sorry.

        7. Strong awareness of trade routes, we don’t play a part in them that is done by giant shipping companies from Denmark, Germany & America. The UK, Chinese, French & US Navies protect the trade lanes in their own interest so we can free ride just like dozens of other neutral countries. Training Shia Iraqi troops to go oppress Kurds and fight in a 1000 year long sectarian conflict against the Sunni Majority north which are using weapons given to them by the USA and also stolen from Shia Iraqi’s who dropped them and ran last year. Do we really want to be involved in the mess the Great Powers have created in the Middle East since Sykes Picot 1916. Lets flood the area with weapons and support dictators who kill the intellectuals which then we turn on because they don’t look good on CNN using Chemical Weapons or invading countries we like more. Resupplying Antarctica that’s really useful except the other nations already spend lots of money on the area so do we really need to also have our own base. Anti Narcotics, another great invention of the USA the grand old war on drugs, its not like anti harm policies & helping addicts work better than throwing them in jail, oh wait. Pretty much you told me that we spend 1% on GDP aiding Great Power Imperialism, Corrupt Governments, the failed war on drugs & supplies for people to play with penguins. I stand by my claim of waste of money nothing more than Fancy Fush Theft Police.

        8. Harriet you sound like someone who has a single belief that you are right and no amount of evidence or facts will let you see others view point.
          Comparing our military to the mess in the middle east is not helpful. The fact our military is training troops is because of the Government of the day.
          Any first world nation needs to have a military to be shown as a good citizen – to be taken seriously in discussions overseas like in Paris recently requires others to see NZ is willing to it’s bit – even if it is small; and keeping a military is an important part in showing the rest of the world that NZ will step up if required.
          I notice you don’t mention the amazing work done by our military in the Solomon’s recently or in Bougainville in the 90’s. The people who live in these islands have peaceful lives because of the work done by our military; or would you prefer Bougainville to go back to the mess it was in beforehand where a civil war killed 15,000 people? A small but strong military is a must for any first world nation and head in the sand stuff is just ideological nonsense .

        9. Alex brought up our role in the middle east it was a valid point. Except it isn’t a small military, I am going to ditch the satire and use pure economics now

          Our defence budget is nearly as big as the transport budget only just behind. Over the next ten years if spending remains the same that is $30 yes 30 Billion Dollars, to put that money in context it could do all the below if the money was moved from Defence to Transport
          1. Build in Auckland the CRL, Southwest-Airport Line both East & North connection, all four LRT routes, a Northwest & Northshore including Silverdale Light Metro, a Southeast Line & electrification to Puke, adding the stations at Drury & Pareta. Also included upgraded stations including full cover, seating, screen doors & bike parking, $17B Conservative
          2. Build LRT in Wellington to Airport via CBD centre. Upgrade all the stations and increase rolling stock. $3B Conservative
          3. Upgrade the main freight network including electrification to Hamilton, more double track/passing loops on NIMT & ECMT, upgraded axle loads for the rest of the network as well as opening more network up for big box containers. 3rd main in Auckland. $3B
          4. Christchurch Rail both LRT & Heavy Rail routes tbd including CRL Underground station to CBD $4B
          5. Hamilton Suburban rail Cambridge – Te Awamutu via CBD & Airport & Huntly to Morrinsville via CBD & Waikato Uni $3B-4B
          So we could build all that be eliminating defence spending alone, not saying get rid of all defence spending but it begs the question do we really get value for money? 30B is a lot.

      2. A couple of quick notes about moving the Whenuapai/Devonport facilities. There would be a very significant cost in establishing these elsewhere. It ran into the billions for the plan to move Whenuapai south under the last government. I believe this was one of the reasons it was dropped by the present government. Don’t underestimate the amount of highly specialised equipment and associated facilities at each location. I suspect that a 2007/8 cost in the area of one billion for Whenuapai alone would equate to over three for the construction of a brand new airport, air force facilities, associated supporting buildings, accommodation for these thousands of people as there is very little in the way of housing in the vicinity of Marsden. Not to mention berthing, loading, armament storage for for the navy, a drydock, the list literally goes on and on.

        The potential move of Whenuapai was assessed to have a markedly negative effect on retention of experienced personnel that had established lives in Auckland. Given that the navy is in the midst of a recovery from the defence cuts five years ago any speculation would detract from that process.

        Government personnel are paid the same regardless of where they are stationed in the country. Moving these facilities would not change the wage bill one iota. Government does not pay rates on crown land, on which all defence facilities reside.

        1. I just scrap them, save nearly 3 Billion a year and double the transport budget gives me a lot of PT & Cycling that does.

        2. Good posts Alex.
          The other thing about military is that you do need to spend on it to be part of the “club”. If you don’t then you are out of it and that has implications that are far more wide-reaching than just military issues (business deals, NZ interests etc).
          Regarding our capability, whilst our military isn’t very large and doesn’t have much in the way of offensive weapons systems we still have some capability. Our 2x frigates have worked as part of multi-national fleets (particularly in the Gulf), they have anti-surface, anti-aircraft and anti-submarine (ASW) capability. Remembering that not many nations are able to project power far from their bases does give us some benefits there (in the short-term it would be very difficult for China for example to send an entire fleet down to NZ but they could send some nuclear subs to cause mischief).
          Into the future it is likely that we will regain some offensive capability with drones which are a lot cheaper to purchase and operate than fighter jets.

          As for the issues with relocating, Devonport land is prime real estate that would fetch big $$ which would offset a lot of the costs of setting up at Marsden. Likewise land is valuable around Whenuapai (has doubled in value in the last few years). Most of the old defence housing (and the bases themselves) are getting pretty tired and will need considerable expense to either restore or replace etc also.
          Having a combined RNZAF/RNZN base in Marsden (not forgetting that Whangarei wants to replace it’s airport anyway) would have considerable savings. The dry-dock is over 100 years old and is becoming obsolete for many vessels (can still currently fit the frigates in). Would be good for NZ to have a larger dry-dock suitable for commercial shipping also. A lot of the specialised equipment can be relocated. Armaments would be an interesting issue. Firstly having a large armament store (Kauri Point) that isn’t up to international safety standards located in a city is not a particularly smart idea. This land is also available to be used for housing (or a park etc) if relocated.

        3. Is being part of the “Club” which I don’t think relies on Military at all btw (I don’t think Obama went NZ has only one frigate now no TPPA) worth 30 Billion dollars over the next 10 years?

        4. ‘The military is used for only training purposes. ‘
          This is the type of emotive statement with no supporting evidence which is not used on this blog, and clearly shows you don’t know what you are talking about.

        5. Interesting Adam that you don’t debate my points, just post a nothing post to Luke. Justify why we need to spend $30b over the next 10 years which is nearly as much as our transport budget on Defence. All you mentioned was one mission where maybe 15000 were saved and made an ad hom saying that I am a person who always thinks I am right which is an opinion. But our military supports the US whose sanctions this country supported for 10 years from 1990 to 2000 lead to the deaths of between 100,000 – 400,000 people mostly children in Iraq alone. So what we spend 30B a decade to stay in the cool club who were responsible for that. Take your club & your arms, I will take the 30b dollars and invest it solving our infrastructure issues giving people better access, better cities, and clean air.

        6. OK Harriet;
          You seem to be confusing our Government with our military and Luke’s comments didn’t have evidence backing it up.
          During the time period you mention of 1990 to 2000 NZ’s military was banned by the USA and was not involved in any military training or deployments, so I don’t believe you can say the military follows and support the American policies in the middle east during this time.
          If you don’t like the current deployment in Iraq change the Government don’t disband the military – more on that below.
          There are those on the extreme right who believe NZ should not have a stated funded health system, and we should have an insurance based system like in the USA, and at a local level there are those who believe funding of the arts like the Art Gallery is also a waste of money. Scrapping the health system would free up a lot of money for transport infrastructure and scrapping art funding would reduce rates; extreme views be they from the right or left of the political spectrum such as scrapping the health system or the military would not create a New Zealand most of us would want to live in.
          Some facts about hour military for you:
          I’m not sure what this ‘club’ you are talking about; but I am talking about NZ’s reputation as a global citizen who is willing to stand up when required.
          There are people in other parts of the world who are in a better place because of the actions of our military, for example going back 100 years, the town of Le Quesnoy in France was liberated by New Zealanders and this is still recognised today even through there is no one left alive from the battle and ANZAC Day is commemorated in this small French town because they appreciate the 1918 Kiwi’s who liberated there town.
          Coming forward to recent history, there is a whole generation in Bougainville Island who knows peace after the previous generation lost 15,000 people. The civil war was ended because of a truce signed at the Burnham Military camp in NZ & our soldiers were a big part along with Australia in helping enforce this peace at the beginning. The fact you see little importance in this is cruel and callous and I’m sure the people in Bougainville appreciate our efforts. Also don’t forget our soldiers who put themselves on the line, NZ’s first combat death since the 70’s happened in Bougainville and ignoring their contribution is also cruel and callous.
          An example on being taken seriously on the world stage is when NZ when nuclear free in the mid 80’s. One of the reasons it was taken seriously is because we had a military which stood up when required on the global stage. So other countries couldn’t just say NZ was going nuclear free because of it’s belief’s and was hiding behind Australia for protection – this was a country who didn’t mind fighting the good fight if required but simply didn’t believe nuclear weapons were required and were a serious risk to our planet. That message would have been seriously diluted without our military.
          Speaking of going nuclear free; and this is a big point – since then for over 20’s year’s NZ was banned from all US military actions. So effectively NZ was completely banned from this so called club you are talking about. Whenever there was military training that involved American forces NZ was not allowed to join in. This was big for our military as it does lots of activities with Australia, UK, Singapore etc. and there were a whole lot of joint activities NZ missed out on as soon as the USA was involved because of our nuclear stance. This has only stopped under Obama.
          During this time long period our military was most definitely not supporting any American policy. The five eyes is some weird club NZ was in during this time, but this is not our military forces.
          Even being banned from any US military activities for over 20 years didn’t stop NZ stepping up and helping in Bougainville, Bosnia, Solomon’s etc. New Zealand had a large deployment of around 230 people as part of RAMSI in the Solomon Island in 2003 again restoring peace after a civil war. Again I think you will find the people of the Solomon Island appreciating our military.
          So I think the spend on our military to a good investment as being a country is not just about ourselves but helping our neighbours in times of crisis that go beyond natural disasters.

        7. Yes Harriet. Let’s all just sit in a circle and sing Kum by yah while resource hungry China/Indonesia decides a defenseless NZ appeals. Meanwhile because we haven’t been pulling out weight our former allies decide not to lift a finger to help us.
          Nice one. Shows you have absolutely ZERO understanding of military matters or how the world works. Didn’t realise Greenpeace was sponsoring blog posts.

        8. You haven’t justified $30b dollars, comparing scraping the Healthcare system to scrapping the Military is beyond ridiculous. Health is something that effects New Zealanders every day. The Military spend most of their time doing basically nothing, our Defence force makes little difference to the average New Zealander. The Health System would beat the Military every time if you put it up to a BCR. The New Zealand military made about zero difference to the outcome of WW1 & I don’t see why getting involved in a war to do with Austria-Hungary & Serbia in another war of European Nationalism & Imperialism on both sides is something to be proud of. At least we can be proud of our ANZAC’s who invaded another country Turkey because the UK stole their battleships, wait can we be proud of invading another country. I wonder if the Polish would be happy if the Germans came over to Poland every year to celebrate Wehrmacht day. How many people were murdered by the South Vietnamese authoritarian corrupt government with the support of the NZ military or people. What about Black Saturday, 28 December 1929 when NZ personal killed & wounded over 50 people including children using machine guns, or after when they ransacked villages chasing more peaceful protesters down in Samoa. Nationalism clouds people judgement to such wrongdoing, the real heroes are everyday people who make live a little better in the smallest of ways, not men who volunteer to kill people miles away for the sake of the club & a flag living off the hard working taxpayer.

          Bruce do you really think China is going to come and invade New Zealand, or is it just a projection of your fear of people with different coloured skin driving that thought process. The belief that China would invade NZ is akin to thinking the movie Red Dawn was a realistic invasion possibility. This is Call of Duty Geopolitics now rather than the real world.

        9. Harriet, the answer is yes to the threat from China or Indonesia or whoever. NZ has vast resources which we as a nation have decided not to use for the most part to protect the environment and those resources. An invader would not. While our military alone would not stand a chance, because we have what is known as collective defence with our allies it would be foolish for one of those other countries to attack us. We have collective defense because we pull out weigh (however many would argue our defence budget is actually about half what it should be). As allies it does open up other avenues for cooperation and assist with business deals etc. some countries choose to go down the neutral path and for most of them they spend a lot more (as they can’t rely on support). We have duties to assist our pacific neighbours which our military does regularly. We also have Antarctic operations to do, not too mention protecting our fisheries and search&rescue. When spending on social welfare runs at many multiples to defense spending in this country or the billions of dollars leeched from our country by foreign nationals and corporations I think your target is in the wrong place.
          Clearly you have absolutely NO idea what the military does.
          Oh and BTW Turkey chose to side with Germany in WWI and since it was effectively total war they were a very valid target. Your example of Poland would be more accurate if you were talking about them celebrating beating the Germans in the end (albeit then being taken over by the USSR).

      3. Bruce I agree with much of that list. Navy to Northland should clearly be looked at, clear regional development opportunity. And what a great waterfront development that would give us in Devonport; apartments on the harbour, but here’s an idea, how about building zero car parking, wouldn’t want to upset the current users of Laker Rd now would we. Include some carshare spots, but its so well connected to the city [and Waiheke by sea, and proximate to Devpo itself… I bet the apartments in converted navy building would still lease for a fortune, and more than cover the cost of the move.

        1. +1 indeed. There are a lot of single/2 level buildings there that could make way for apartments. There are some accommodation buildings that are fairly recent which could be converted. Could be a little Wynyard/Hobsonville Point type development with cafe’s etc and would of course boost foot traffic in Devonport.

    1. There’s nothing I despise more than an argument in bad faith. All the “but but but BUSES!!!” commenters here clearly don’t use buses on a regular basis. They’re just anti-PT, or in particular anti-the kind of CFN that a modern city needs, because they prefer a John Roughan megalsprawl out to Warkworth and Huntly. Sadly, only Matthew W is honest enough to say so – the others are just using concern trolling to sow FUD.

      1. Of course you are right Daphne. What we really need is to spend billions to get a slower trip to the airport while at the same time removing half the stops on Dominion Rd so all those people who get the bus into town can walk further. Just think of how shiny those new trams will be, that’s all that matters.

      2. Well I certainly dont have a preference for megasprawl. I am genuine in my questions/views about buses. Noone can really give a straight answer about why buses are overlooked.

        What I really think is: Buses have a stigma associated with them because of their history as being the primary PT mode in car dominated cities (so are only used by a small sub section of society), and primarily because they have typically been used in situations with little or no priority. In addition routes have in the past been designed for coverage, compromising speed in the process, and they have traditionally been implemented as individual routes, not as a networked solution.

        So. Decision makers (particularly politicians) dont want to back incremental bus based solutions – not sexy enough, no positive headlines in that – no automatic approval from low information voters. No for them it is better to massively ramp up sending on hideously expensive vanity projects.

        On the other hand options that are truly value for money basically involve reprioritizing road space from low value uses (cars) to high value uses (buses). But thats hard – car drivers might get grumpy. So politicians prefer to continue throwing the dosh into their mega projects.

        Now, I am also a hater of arguments in bad faith. And that is what I see here from the so called pro-PT folk all the time. What I think is these people think in line with the politicians – that it is easier to overspend on a sexy, superficially popular solution than to show some leadership and explain why the more cost effective solutions are better. But they dont want to be honest and say this, hence all the weaselly reasoning we see about why buses arent an option, or more commonly why buses are even addressed in the discussion..

        1. Wwll right now (interpeak) the timetable says 42 minutes, you also have to add the wait time (5 minutes) so no, the bus is not faster than either option.

        2. The biggest single advantage that everyone gives buses is their (route) “flexibility”.
          But this also is its greatest weakness. Which you seem to ignore.

          Because it allows planners and their masters – the politicians, to avoid the need to think the whole problem through end to end.

          So they say “we don’t need to cover everything off now, as whatever problems arise the buses can work around it, they’re flexible”.

          And/or “We don’t need continuous full on bus priority here, here and here, it can mix it with the normal traffic, we can stage it out as and when needed”.

          You can’t do that with LRT or HR, you can’t stage it like that, you have to plan the stops, the corridor, the priority, the route, the whole thing and actually build it like that before the first train runs.

          So they say now “We don’t need a dedicated corridor, or priority at lights. Buses can do everything that rails can”.

          Yes maybe they can, in theory, but not as well, or cheaper, or faster, or for as many passengers.

          The largest capacity a single bus can carry is a double decker at 80 people – per driver/bus. We can’t platoon those together, we can’t have triple or quadruple deckers. WE’re pretty much fixed to having 80 or so people on a bus as a maximum.

          And that means the cost of that bus and driver is not spread thinly enough.
          Making buses ipso facto, more expensive to operate “per-trip” than any larger (rail) vehicles like LRT or HR (EMUs) – pretty much no matter how loaded the bus is, or how prioritised and continuous the bus priority is.

          A 3 car HR EMU can carry many times more people than a bus can, for the same driver cost. AT proposed LRTs can carry even more per driver than a 3 car EMU.

        3. So your argument is that buses are bad because politicians and planners allow them to be run in bad ways, which they dont or cant do with other modes. Well I am not really arguing at that level – I am arguing for what would be best assuming we have people to competently implement it. But thank you for your honesty – it ties into my thoughts above this is all about what is politically popular and damn the ratepayers!

        4. Well Matthew, suggest you go off and live your little white ivory tower of perfection then.

          The real world where most people live, requires compromises and choices and every decision has costs and consequences, and not everyone makes the optimal choice, every time, for the equal benefit of everybody.

          So because we live in that world, people often can and do, what they think they can get away with. Poor and sloppy bus networks easily allow the politicians to do exactly that.

          After all they generally only want/need to look as far as the next election, no further.

          As Robbie found back in his day, the best (or even a good enough) system can be trumped by gutter politicians of all ilk and size.
          Its the reason also why after Robbie, Auckland PT system got into the mess it did – too much short termism from all the mean minded politicians in all the little “I wannabe king” fiefdoms that made up the 8 or City Councils that formed Auckland Council plus ARC and who knows what else. Its also why AT is a CCO – to keep the politicians out of the decision making. Too bad we seem to have got a bunch of [former] politicians running AT these days.

          So what do you suggest? Get rid of all politicians? Ok, so then what?

        5. Quick reply off top of head:

          The quality or otherwise of the service is heavily influenced by whether it has its own, segregated right-of-way or not. This is true of buses just as it is with trains.

          For sure, a quality Bus Rapid Transit system on its own right-of-way with no external impediments could provide a service which could possibly rival an equivalent rail system (anyone seen Bogota’s impressive “Transmilenio”?), however the cost of doing this is likely to be comparable with rail, particularly considering whole-of-life.
          And with the best will in the world, buses particularly if diesel-powered just do not cut it with modern, non-polluting electric trains.

          Anyone want to try telling any of the many continental-European urban-transport administrations that have successful rail-based systems or else are currently planning or installing them, that they would be better-off with buses? Prepare to be laughed out of court.

  25. I get the feeling the heavy rail example NZTA is using is ‘slowest possible’ and the LR ‘fastest possible’. Cutting station dwell times to an internationally accepted standard would shave about 5 minutes off heavy rail to the airport (as Patrick mentions), and any incidental ‘car vs anything’ prang or snarl up would stop the LRT dead, or at least slow it down.

    And I just don’t buy the argument that ‘signal priority’ is an acceptable compromise for a transit system that aspires to move people en masse over long-ish distances. You still have to stop, and signal priority often saves bugger-all time depending on when you arrive in the traffic light cycle.

    It’s a penny-wise, pound-foolish approach in my opinion. We’ve half-arsed PT for too long in Auckland, in spite of recent improvements. Why not do rail to the airport properly?

  26. Give me heavy rail through Onehunga to the airport like London, Sydney. However, ways need to be found to make the entire route at grade. The above grade sections will increase the costs of construction too much. Light rail will be great in the suburbs but not for an airport run.

  27. I believe our heavy rail speed still has space for improvement consider its dwell time and super slow speed on intersections. Do we have a international average speed for heavy rail?

    1. I agree about the slow dwell times at stations. Maybe it’s time to get rid of the train managers. They don’t do anything when there’s conflicts because it’s not part of their job. There may be an element of fashion with the trains and the appeal of the new electric trains but there’s always a danger that if people start losing patience with slow journey times they may drift back into their cars.

  28. Service-speeds on heavy rail tend to be easily-defined and are determined largely by track-geometry and station-spacing.
    Service speeds on light rail depend much-more on the type of route chosen – e.g. Own-right-of-way/segregated, Own right-of-way/shared intersections (with/without priority), Shared right-of-way/general traffic, Shared right-of-way/pedestrian mall, etc. This will very-much affect average speeds and run-times, extra to the effects of track-geometry and station-spacing..

    Los Angeles’ Blue Line LRT presents an interesting contrast between the different route-types, all in one line.
    The central section largely with its own right-of-way is much faster. The on-street sections feel painfully slow by comparison (albeit that the LRT has a dedicated lane).

    Let’s see if this reproduces legibly:

    . . . .STATION. . . . . . . .Km. . ..Time/min. . .Av Spd (Section). . . . .ROUTE TYPE
    Long Beach . . . . . . . . 00.0. . . . 00 . . . . . . . .n/a. . . . . . . . . . Street (Separate lane/median with many intersections)
    Pacific Ave. . . . . . . . . 00.5. . . . 02 . . . . . .16Km/h . . . . . . . . Street (Separate lane/median with many intersections)
    Anaheim St . . . . . . . . 02.0. . . . 07 . . . . . .17Km/h . . . . . . . .Street (Separate lane/median with many intersections)
    Pacific Coast Hwy. . . 02.8. . . . 09 . . . . . .24Km/h . . . . . . . . Street (Separate lane/median with many intersections)
    Willow St. . . . . . . . . . 04.8. . . . 14 . . . . . .24Km/h . . . . . . . . Street (Separate lane/median with many intersections)
    Wardlow . . . . . . . . . . 06.3. . . . 16 . . . . . .46Km/h . . . . . . . . Own right-of-way/median with few intersections
    Del Almo. . . . . . . . . . 09.8. . . . 19 . . . . . .69Km/h . . . . . . . . Own right-of-way/median with few intersections
    Artesia. . . . . . . . . . . . 13.0. . . . 22 . . . . . .65Km/h . . . . . . . . Own right-of-way/median with few intersections
    Compton. . . . . . . . . . 15.4. . . . 25 . . . . . .48Km/h . . . . . . . . Own right-of-way/median with few intersections
    Willoughhbrook. . . . . 19.1. . . . 29 . . . . . .55Km/h . . . . . . . . Own right-of-way/median with few intersections
    103rd St . . . . . . . . . . 20.7. . . . 31 . . . . . .50Km/h . . . . . . . . Own right-of-way/median with few intersections
    Firestone. . . . . . . . . . 22.7. . . . 34 . . . . . .39Km/h . . . . . . . . Own right-of-way/median with few intersections
    Florence . . . . . . . . . . 24.3. . . . 36 . . . . . .49Km/h . . . . . . . . Own right-of-way/median with few intersections
    Slauson. . . . . . . . . . . 25.9. . . . 38 . . . . . .47Km/h . . . . . . . . Own right-of-way/median with few intersections
    Vernon.. . . . . . . . . . . 27.5. . . . 41 . . . . . .31Km/h . . . . . . . . Own right-of-way/median with few intersections
    Washington. . . . . . . . 29.3. . . . 44 . . . . . .37Km/h . . . . . . . . Own right-of-way/median with few intersections
    San Pedro St . . . . . . 30.8. . . . 48 . . . . . .22Km/h . . . . . . . . Street (Separate lane/median with many intersections)
    Grand . . . . . . . . . . . . 32.2. . . . 52 . . . . . .22Km/h . . . . . . . . Street (Separate lane/median with many intersections)
    Pico. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33.2. . . . 56 . . . . . .16Km/h . . . . . . . . Street (Separate lane with many intersections)
    7th St/Metro centre. . 34.4. . . . 58 . . . . . .35Km/h . . . . . . . . Own right-of-way (tunnel)

    1. That seems like a very good comparison. On that basis the AT numbers only make sense if they are prepared to build fences on Dominion Road on either side of the track to stop pedestrians crossing and grade separate the intersections. If not then their numbers are nonsense.

      1. Or if they simply put it on a kerb and ban most right turns on Dominion Road and achieve 90% of the benefits of your proposal for half the price.

      2. Fences are not possible, especially in Queen St, but then with almost silent vehicles, speeds are clearly affected, anyone know the average speeds of trams in Bourke St, Melbourne?

        Or for that matter the casualty rate?

        1. Max speed along Wellington’s “Golden Mile” had to be reduced to 30Km/h because too many folk were getting hit by buses.
          Rapid transit and pedestrians don’t mix. If it’s to be rapid it needs to be segregated. If it’s to be safe around pedestrians it won’t be rapid.
          Basic fact.

        2. Even with 30 km/h on Queen and 50 km/h on Dom Rd, we can still get LRT Britomart to the airport in under 40 minutes.

  29. I still don’t see how its wise to run Airport rail through dominion rd, its already a busy PT corridor which Light Rail is supposed to alleviate yet we are throwing mangere and airport users into the mix too. Also there would need to be several stops (currently there is about 15 for bus, so id assume there will be at least half of that) on dominion road to give enough decent catchment to remove the bus services. Knowing the route the service will have to stop at all stops especially in peak times, not to mention there is no way it would be running anywhere near as fast as heavy rail, due to more restrictive speed along much of the route and a potential greater amount of stops. Light rail is great for the ishtmus and a linking dominion roads route with onehunga would be a great idea to provide a connection but heavy rail in my mind is the best choice to serve mangere and the airport for the majority of Auckland, not to mention it would result in double track of the onehunga line bringing it more inline with the rest of the network.

    1. Agreed. The trouble with all of this discussion is that when you put all your transport alternatives on the same route (Dom Rd, Bus, LRT, cars, tradies, emergency vehicles, etc) then you are asking for trouble. You can tax cars etc till the cows come home, but you are asking for a total ballsup if something obstructs that route. I’m amazed that commonsense is yet to surface and those with a few clues consider supporting a different route, or a different layer (i.e trains up on pylons). That would minimize impacts if obstructions occur (and they will, anyone who thinks they won’t is a fool).

  30. I find myself warming to the idea of light rail, provided Dominion Rd really can be transited quickly. If the rest of the line is like Calgary’s off-street network, then it’s essentially the same as a heavy rail line, built like a railway, with 80km/h speeds. So very little difference, bar the Dominion Rd section.

    My question is this: Given that any crash between an LRV and motor vehicle will likely result in a temporary shutdown of the route, how well will the LRV’s and road vehicles be separated? Will pedestrian’s also be kept clear of the tracks, given that any being run over will result in a shutdown of several hours to enable a serious crash investigation? Normally, to reduce the chances of the above things happening, LRV’s will be driven much like a bus, keeping the speed down and slowing at points of heavy vehicle and pedestrian activity. And that adds time.

    1. Your “built like a railway” point is an important one. If we want those high speeds and smooth ride, the vehicles and infrastructure will cost accordingly. People like to look at 60km/h prices and ask for 100km/h performance, but it just doesn’t work that way. This, along with the unnecessarily flash space-age stations and flyovers for Africa shown in the HR video makes me doubt the validity of the estimated price difference. If simple sheltered platforms and at grade crossings are ok for fast light rail and they’re OK for most of the Western and Southern lines, why does the Onehunga/HR proposal have to look (and cost) like something out of Star Trek?

  31. As others have said, the choice of mode LRT, Light Metro, Metro Rail is ultimately less important.. provided it has its own corridor as much as possible, which it can whizz along quickly enough. Frequency, route, even on-board service such as wifi is more important, frankly.

    In terms of route, the proposed line seems a good place to start.. provides RTN connectivity to Mangere and the “central isthmus void”.

    I’d be interested to know what the next stage could be: how about the “east Auckland void” and connections south via Puinui? Presumably the airport will make provision for tracks to head out that way and not just build a dead-end?

    Whether it’s LRT or Metro Rail you’d think it would make sense to build the curves / gradients / corridor width to cater for either option…

    Anyone know what gauge is proposed for the LRT tracks?

  32. Excellent update Matt.
    Firstly surprised about the slow speed of our heavy rail assets, which suggests I should support fully the light rail proposals.
    Better transit services for lower costs, which I am in favour.
    Again our problem is CBD centric, there are a lot of folk who come from the south to the airport area.
    I would like the savings to go to a connection to Wiri or Papatoetoe, so a loop service to the southern line is provided for, which could eventually go East to Botany.

    It is my understanding that light rail will have the same track gauge as heavy rail, so will it be possible for trams to run alongside trains on our heavy rail tracks?
    Can anyone answer that question?

    1. I imagine “different grave” in PR’s reply should be “different gauge”, with KiwiRail being 1067mm and AT’s proposal likely to be 1435mm (though 1000mm gauge trams are common in places like Switzerland). Different power supplies (KiwiRail 25kV ac, AT 750V dc) is not a major issue, as the multi-voltage light rail vehicles in Karlsruhe and elsewhere demonstrate, and KiwiRail’s Auckland network already has the required good safety management system in the form of ETCS.

    2. There’s also the issue of platform heights: LRVs are low-floor so they can be boarded from close to street level. Heavy rail stations on the other hand have relatively high platforms.

    1. Just be aware that the Cato Institute and Randal O’Toole are advocates, not disinterested analysts. Wording like

      “The willingness of many rail advocates to support highcost, low-capacity rail lines calls into question the entire rail agenda”,

      “Critics have questioned the social, environmental, and economic benefits of all forms of rail transit. But the fact that so many cities are building high-cost, low-capacity rail reveals the bankruptcy of the entire rail transit movement” and

      “While the cost of constructing rail lines is often well publicized, rail proponents never acknowledge the future costs of maintaining rail lines”

      is not what would be expected to appear in a paper written from a neutral standpoint.

    2. @ Logan

      Links to a paper by Randal O’Toole, an outspoken critic of new rail systems, particularly LRT. Very much in the ‘buses can do it better’ camp. Consistently downplays the benefits of rail and loves to parade the less-successful rail systems to prove his point. Views roads and buses through rose-tinted spectacles, claiming that continued investment in them will always produce the best outcome with nothing possible to go wrong.

      He obviously doesn’t know what that particular prescription did for Auckland, or if he does then be sure he will re-package reality to fit his theory.

      1. Actually no, that’s being a bit hard on Randal O’Toole. He would certainly be an advocate for things like the North Shore Busway. But he would probably argue that Auckland should have only busways and no rail at all.

    3. Cato is a Libertarian Think Tank, its not they are for roads or against rail. Its more they just are against anything that costs the tax payer. They would ditch Federal Highway Funding if they could get away with it. I like Cato though on lots of stuff but Americans don’t get Market Urbanism 🙁

  33. I’m on board with light rail as the “waiting for a Labour/Green government” option. Comparatively quick and cheap to lay, and not too much wasted spend if a heavy rail loop supersedes the Mangere leg in future. Also unlike the heavy rail option, it introduces a new commuter route which strengthens the network as a whole.

  34. Maybe we should be thinking bigger rather than focus on what will be cheaper (AT an NZTA will do that for us). Despite the wishes of some on this blog I think further sprawl and need for some people who work in Auckland to live in satellite towns is inevitable (all other big cities I can think of have this). For PT to enable this we would need dedicated fast tracks in and out of Auckland such that the Papakura-CBD trip could be completed in around 30mins non-stop.

    Compared to AWHC for the same money could we afford to 4 track the mainline from Britomart via Tamaki to at least Homai (ideally Papakura) + build Otahuhu-Airport link + Electrify to Pukekohe or beyond? I don’t think this is unreasonable for ~ $5bn. Surely the benefits to Auckland of this would massively outweigh the benefit of the alternative i.e. 2km of 6 lane motorway to feed cars into the city?

    1. Puke express i.e All stops to Puhinui Station (Transfers to Manukau) then express to Brit is not necessary for AT to build since the 3rd main is already top priority for Kiwi Rail to build anyway.

      You have plenty in your budget as IPT only lists 3rd main from Brit to Papa at 520m (You don’t need four tracks except maybe Westfield – Puhinui as the express is focused on CBD in morning & home afternoon) Puke electification including the stations is less than 180m, Airport Line is 1.6B realistically so you have only spent just over 2B be more ambitious 😀

      1. The 3rd main is a priority because it gets slow freights out of the way of passenger trains. If it’s to be used by express passenger trains, what happens to the freights?

        1. The Express like most express services would be peak only, Kiwi Rail wont want to move freight during the peak period even with the third main thus you could use it 7-9:30 & 4:00 – 18:30 and it wont make that much of a difference to Kiwi Rail. The Third Main is necessary for Kiwi Rail because interpeak frequencies are getting higher & after CRL will be higher still.

        2. Amomgst other freights, KiwiRail’s prime NIMT freight trains, timed to meet market demand, arrive at Southdown about 0800 and depart about 1830, so the assertions that they won’t want to move freight at peak times and that not being able to use the 3rd main at those times won’t make much difference to them look highly unlikely.

  35. I have a concern re the light rail option…The incline from Hillsborough Rd to Queenstown Rd is fairly steep… How will Light Rail handle this?

  36. The lesson here is that you can come up with any rational argument you want for HR and AT will reduce the forecast times for LR accordingly. It is Pythonesque. Soon light rail will arrive 10 minutes before it departed.

  37. After reading about the planning of the MRT in Singapore, I’m thinking a lot of the LRT (tram) routes really need to be put underground, probably largely cut & cover, or they could be elevated where noise and privacy aren’t problematic e.g. crossing the western motorway.
    “then Prime Minister of Singapore came to the conclusion that an all-bus system would be inadequate, as it would have to compete for road space ”

    A bus system is the same as LRT when it comes to competing for road space.
    Without knocking over a whole lot of buildings, there isn’t enough space to reintroduce LRT (& cycle lanes) without large political backlash and increase in congestion. All the existing roads and alternative routes are congested for much of the day. The major intersections are the worst spots, so at least those should be underground.

    If an area is clogged with buses, the cost of LRT underground is an easier sell if it replaces the buses and road space is freed up.

    “The network was built in stages”, similarly LRT could be opened station by station, radiating out from the CBD and railway stations, preferably in the direction of areas flagged for more intense development

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