With less than a week to go till Prime Minister John Key is expected to announce an earlier start for the City Rail Link, Mayor Len Brown has written a fantastic op-ed on why the project is needed. One of the issues I’ve long thought the CRL has suffered from is that it’s part of the solution to a wide range of issues, not just transport ones. Len covers many of these well in his piece.

Aotea Station Design Platform Oct - 15

You may be surprised to know how long the Herald has been speculating on when or if Auckland will get an underground train system. As is widely known, Mayor Sir Dove-Myer Robinson’s rapid-rail proposal in the 1970s got axed but his wasn’t the first. It actually goes back almost a hundred years in Auckland’s history. In 1923, then Railways Minister Gordon Coates gave his support for a city-to-Morningside underground rail line.

Reading through old files of this newspaper and its then-rival the Auckland Star over the holiday break, I was intrigued at how many times the same arguments for and against have been aired and which sadly resulted in missed opportunities.

A few days before Christmas, I spoke at an iwi blessing for the start of work in Albert St, signalling the start of the City Rail Link against that history of missed opportunities. It was a hugely moving occasion.

The City Rail Link is not just a transport story. It’s also about growing business and creating jobs as well as promoting environmental sustainability. The economic growth that will result will occur well beyond the central city. I have championed this project since my first Auckland Council mayoral campaign because it will be transformational, not only to keep Auckland moving and also to boost the city’s economic and social life. It will rejuvenate many parts of wider Auckland as well as building a great heart for the city.

It is estimated about 120 premature deaths occur in Auckland each year due to air pollution. Vehicles are also the largest contributor to Auckland’s greenhouse gas emissions, making up more than a third of the region’s total. The rail link will move more people out of their cars and into public transport resulting in cleaner air and water as well as promoting more active lifestyles. The move from diesel to electric trains has already reduced our CO2 emissions by 1 per cent.

Auckland’s city centre is New Zealand’s largest, fastest-growing and most productive employment precinct. Its focus is the fastest-growing part of our economy, the service sector – quality professional services, quality hospitality and quality retail. The service sector is people-intensive, so its growth means we need to move increasing numbers of people into and out of the city centre every day.

The number of people travelling to and from the city centre by car has been static for more than 15 years, and now 52 per cent of people commute by public transport. Public transport and walking and cycling are the only way to build the city workforce.

Some people suggest the way we should respond to this is by spreading the growth, and traffic, out to other parts of Auckland. This has been the failed plan for the past 60 years. There is certainly plenty of growth to go around and it is already being experienced in major metropolitan centres across Auckland.

Over the past two years, Auckland’s economy is growing at an extra $3 billion a year adding about 35,000 new jobs per annum. Concentrating certain types of employment in the city centre, however, is critical to maximising its economic value to all of Auckland. The private sector is planning and constructing new office developments able to accommodate 22,000 employees in the city centre over the next six years.

Great research has been done into urban economies over the past decade. One major finding is that whenever you increase the number of workers in an area, the productivity of individual workers goes up. This means that if you increase the number of workers by a certain percentage, you increase economic output by more than that percentage. This is because larger centres enable more specialisation and more interaction between people and firms. So providing for job growth in Auckland’s city centre is critical to its economic future. Public transport is the only way we can deliver the necessary workforce to the CBD.

Britomart station will hit train handling capacity this year. It can handle only 20 trains an hour.

The CRL allows us to increase this to 48 trains an hour. Building the rail tunnel will also divert more than enough passengers to the new Aotea Station to give Britomart enough capacity to handle decades of growth. To reach my vision of Auckland being the world’s most liveable city, we need this to happen and I expect it will soon get the needed additional financial support from the Government.

So while we all know transport and housing are the city’s biggest challenges, the issue dominating everything is that Auckland is on a roll and we are growing fast. In fact our population is growing at 3 per cent a year or more than 800 new people a week and immigrants are continuing to decide Auckland is their destination of choice.

The CRL is the heart of dealing with the growth, with propelling our economy, and creating a future Aucklanders want.

On a related note, interestingly today we also learn that Auckland will be hosting APEC in 2021. Albert St is in the process of being dug up and while the section north of Wyndham will be finished in 2018, about the time the main works are due to start which includes digging out the Aotea Station. I wonder if that section will be finished in time or if this section straddled by a few hotels will be one big construction hole.

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  1. In 50 years they won’t remember Len’s unfortunate sexcapades. They’ll remember him as the first Super City mayor who put the principles of modern urban design and rail-based PT in place so firmly that not all the conservative pro-sprawl politicos of left and right put together could remove them. Len could say, like Fidel Castro, “history will absolve me”.

    1. Even if they do remember it, no one in 50 years will give a sh*t about it. Newer generations are way more liberal than adults now, and sex is just sex. No one cares who sleeps with who. I’m 30, and I didn’t get what the whole big deal was when this ‘scandal’ came out. Just couldn’t give two hoots about it. As long as he’s doing his job, that’s all I care about. I don’t judge people on their personal lives, and I’m sure in 50 years it will be even more so the case. Hell, even marriage and the traditional nuclear family may be extinct by then for all we know.

      1. Traditional nuclear family has existed for roughly a thousand years in western cultures.
        But, of course, this generation is the one that changes it (said every single generation in the past thousand years)
        Marriage is about four thousand years old.
        But, of course, this generation is the one that changes it (said every single generation in the past thousand years)

        Let’s consider: marriage hasn’t retreated, it’s expanded – gay people want it! If the supposedly liberal gay demographic want marriage, what does that say?

        1. If you mean by “traditional nuclear family” being mother, father and children, then I’m not that sure that’s been the mainstay for a thousand years. A 20th century phenomenon perhaps, but multigenerational households were probably the more common setup for the last millennium, and remain fairly common in non-western households even today.

      1. Dove Myer Robinson had a string of sex scandals while in office. Few if any people remember him for that, he’s remembered most commonly and fondly as Aucklands greatest visionary. If anything he’s famous for sorting out the sewerage problem, and his almost but not quite rapid transit plans.

  2. Maybe they’ll try get the CRL done in time for the APEC meeting?! The crl would surely show off Auckland as an ‘international city’

    1. The most optimistic scenarios for the CRL had it opening in 2021, if construction on the main section had started this year. It’s always been estimated at around five-and-a-half years to build. The current projection is for construction on the main section to go to tender this year, start construction in late 2017 and finish in 2022: https://at.govt.nz/projects-roadworks/city-rail-link/project-delivery-construction/

      Part of the problem is that Aotea Station is on the critical path for almost the whole project. Digging it up is one of the first things that needs to happen, and covering it and fitting it out will be one of the last, as the station is needed as a base for the tunnel boring machines the whole time the tunnels are being bored.

      They’ll be pushing hard just to get Albert Street covered up again in time for APEC. Seriously doubt there’s much chance of the link actually being operational by then.

  3. I love how the same old arguments keep coming up against it. It’s especially funny when people talk about how it will be obsolete due to the internet or driverless cars. Surely we’d have seen the impact of the internet on work habits by now if there was going to be one and there are still too many unanswered questions around driverless cars (notably when they will be available for general use) to tell what the impact will be. I just returned from Europe and a bunch of cities were investing in new metro infrastructure. Clearly they know something these commentators don’t.

    1. My take is that they are reinforcing success, doing more of the things that work and produce the results that they desire around increasing the quality of living.

      Some could argue that the money could be better spent elsewhere, but I’m not certain that dreams of driverless cars will deliver the results that are promised, whereas trains in auckland seem to have delivered and look like they’ll only get better.

      1. Reinforcing success is one of the key principles of war. You don’t reinforce a failed attack. Why is it a bad idea in other parts of life?

  4. This is a great piece and the numbers he quotes mean we need to get cracking on building worker accommodation all over Auckland. If there are in progress “new office developments able to accommodate 22,000 employees in the city centre over the next six years”, that’s about 1/10th of the number required if Auckland is going to continue to provide “35,000 new jobs per annum” as it has in the last two. It’s a great thing then that the CRL will help increase train frequencies across all the established lines. Now let’s also get on with that train line to the shore.

  5. I am hoping that the APEC hosting in 2021 will help push the government to actually push this project to completion prior to the event. Win-Win for everyone! We don’t want the world to think New Zealand is crap regarding public transport. (Everyone still remember the botched up Rugby World Cup?)

      1. It’s not about the PT that but about the disruption to the city outside some of the key hotels (Crowne Plaza, SkyCity Grand) and the general traffic impacts.

    1. They’ll use APEC as an excuse to get the East-West Onehunga destroying motorway completed for all the delegates arriving in cars, much as they used the RWC as an excuse to accelerate the pointless duplication of the nearby motorway bridge and approaches.

      1. Pointless duplication? MHX (Manukau Harbour Crossing) was one of the important roading projects that needed to happen. I would disagree with the priority it had over CRL, and definitely argue that it didn’t go far enough on future proofing rail. But a much needed project none-a-less, as will become more apparent once Western Ring route is complete.

  6. Hopefully once the CRL is complete and its benefits can no-longer be denied or down played then there will be overwhelming support for: rail to the shore, rail to the airport, electrification to Pukehohe , NW busway etc.

    1. Tend to agree with your appraisal. Itll be interesting to see if goff and other contenders are willing/able to grab the housing by the scruff of the neck.

      1. Given the Unitary Plan will be live in August that will prove to be an interesting question in the execution phase.
        Pressure would be to both Panuku on Council owned land and the Housing and Development Office (for private sector land) to make sure housing does get under way under the new rules efficiently.

    2. Fairly difficult to keep up with that level of demand with housing, and that comes back to the government’s policies, not the councils.

    3. I’d give Lenny a half tick for transport, I believe we could have got the CRL progressing faster if he had a better relationship with central government.

  7. What’s good to see is that argument on the CRL has been comprehensively won; debate has shifted from “If” to “how and when”. It’s a massive achievement that the mayor can be rightly proud of.

    Think back to just a few years ago and the crap about “Len’s train set” etc that the press was full of; even the right wing attack blogs and Hosking have admitted defeat on this one.

    Electrification has been a bigger success than anyone could have hoped for, and the city is being transformed for the better

    1. Nah. Aucklanders love their cars. You’ll never get them to use public transport.

      Must be true because Steven Joyce said so.

    2. “What’s good to see is that argument on the CRL has been comprehensively won” yes but the real celebration will be when the diggers hit the ground and even bigger once they’ve finished.

      1. Well, they already have hit the ground, in a sense. Albert Street has already seen what will be its last traffic-cone-free day for more than half a decade. But there’s some big celebrating yet to do when the announcement is actually made, and when we start digging for the tunnels proper.

        Realistically, the preliminary works are just going to blend into the main works at this rate – they’ll still be very much in progress when the main work starts.

  8. Yep, you’ve totally convinced me. Also read on Whaleoil we should can the whole thing and give $3bn to Google to get driver less cars instead. Apparently trains are *so* 19th century

  9. I think when the CRL is finished (2021) & LRT on Queen Street & Dom Road (Predicted 2019) the genie will truly be let out of the bottle, unlike DART & Electrification which were important incremental changes over the network over a 8 year period they are not as visible to the public as the former two projects will be.

    My bet will be LRT will be done for Queen Street & Dom Rd 2019 which will be hugely successful & will be added on to AWHC due to public pressure (I prefer Driverless Light Metro but I think this is more realistic), as well as replace the Eastern Busway with LRT for AMETI. It will be LRT for the Airport, the other routes on the Isthmus to be fastracked with potentially the NW Busway being built as LRT instead as well or at least heavily future proofed for it. We would thus have a big LRT Network for the areas not served by legacy rail & for the areas that are that legacy rail will be turned into a great metro system with the CRL & higher levels of ETCS signalling.

    1. I think (and hope) you’re right. If they implement LRT it will be very successful – the question is will they manage to do it (queue cries of ‘I cant turn right out of Dominion road’!)

      1. I feed on the cries & tears of NIMBY’s nom nom nom, but in all seriousness they will get over it & when they see it makes the area nicer & more leafy they will shut up. Everywhere they build LRT there are always protests then as soon as its done they disappear (Utah) unless the system was built awfully.

    2. Sandringham Road is a better choice than Dominion Road… richer people live on Dom Rd, so Sandringham Rd would create better equity results

      1. Well not really true, but also not the best way to plan transport networks. The key difference between the roads is not socio economic but development potential: much of Dom Rd is already mixed use or commercial unlike Sandringham Rd which is largely single dwelling. This means that there is more chance of LRT on Dom producing a positive development outcome for the whole city through new apartments and business space. And of of course new dwelling supply, especially on this upgraded transport route and of the multi typology (more quantity and smaller land cost per home) actively helps improve equity. And therefore to fight transport poverty and dwelling unaffordability.

        1. Well, from my perspective…
          1. we know poor people more likely to use PT
          2. we know where poor people live
          3. let’s built PT to where poor people live

          Yes, it’s nice to give Tennis Wife the chance to get a quick tram into town for tea at Smith and Caugheys.
          Nicer to give Cleaner Husband a nice cheap fast and efficient tram into town for work at 3am.

          1. I don’t think that’s true.

            There is more public transport use within the more wealthy suburbs, although these areas are generally better served by PT, well appointed PT will encourage use from all range of incomes. (Plus I tend to find the wealthy try to save money on the smaller items better than the not so wealthy).
            Apartment building generally improves quality of life for those with less income, it provides a range of affordability options.
            Dominion Road already has significantly more Public Transport patronage, which rather defies the point

            The other point is, dominion rd buses are approaching capacity, it would be more beneficial to increase capacity within this corridor and re-direct buses.

        2. Why have a transport policy for the poor, why not have a transport policy that helps reduce poverty? A service design for ‘the poor’ is likely to be a poor service. This thinking that PT is only for the poor is in itself, poor.

          1. Why do we have state housing, Patrick?
            Yes reducing poverty is the goal but until then let’s ensure equity through the provision of extended public services to the poor.
            Same as subsidising doctors visits through a community services card
            The rich already have every advantage there is, now you want them to get even more bang for their buck? Building PT to rich areas is like having extra police stations in the rich areas… which happens in the USA but isn’t something I want here.

  10. I like the CRL, I hate Len Brown (zero metres of new bus lane in his first term amongst others…)

    However, isn’t there an inherent contradiction in his speech? If our strategy has “failed” for 60 years, why is Auckland thriving?

    1. Well the clear question is whether Auckland is thriving to the level that it could have otherwise. The second question is when did Auckland actually start thriving, I would suggest it’s only the last ten years or so in concert with the reurbanising, the intensification and the shift in transport and urban development trends.

      Personally I would say the late 90s was the lowest point in AKLs ‘thrivingness’, which coincided with the peak of the cars only suburbs and malls model, and the lowest point for public transport and urban centres.

      1. Late 1990s also saw an Auckland Blues team that had just won 2 Super 12s
        Also saw an Auckland with a brand new and amazing viaduct
        Not sure it was at a “low point”

        1. Indeed, I would consider the Viaduct development as the nominal turning point for the city, the end of the low point and the beginning of the new phase. The first real example of the city being a place where people want to live and hang out rather than a place to be tolerated while at work. Maybe together with the Skytower complex opening.That was subsequently solidified by Britomart, then on to the likes of Wynyard, shared spaces etc.

          Not quite sure what winning the rugby has to do with urban vitality, although people attending the games certainly does. I do wonder what attendances are like for regular matches at Eden Park and Mt Smart, could we say that the rail improvements to the stadiums has had a noticeable impact on crowd levels.

          1. Attendance has fallen through the FLOOR at Eden Park for everything but internationals.

            Super rugby has seen declines. NPC games that used to pack out Eden Park (well, 30k) now have 5k. Domestic cricket except that 20/20 rubbish is empty, I can remember early 1990s there being 500-1000 people at the game for the first class games.

            Most AUcklanders today are hipster fans who only care about the ABs and the Black Caps. Couldn’t even have named Colin Munro before he got selected for the BCs. Not real sports fans

          2. Armchair psychology here but I can see a link between the city becoming a far more interesting and varied place and the general fall in interest in sports.

          3. Exactly. Success or otherwise of some sports team is likely irrelevant to the development of the city, however this ‘failure’ may well be a sign of an enriching of the culture in a place; no longer a single pursuit obsessed…

        2. The Crusaders were in the final after their city had just been flattened by an earthquake. Not sure I see the correlation.

          Of course the Viaduct succeeded. There was nothing on the water before that – it was just a confirmation of the fact that Auckland was absolutely awful in terms of urban form by the 1990s. Now that other stuff is opening Viaduct is struggling.

          1. yes, the Viaduct is struggling so much there are no lines outside the clubs on Friday and Saturday nights
            except… there are? and k road is much more dead despite being the delight of the modern intelligentsia
            and yet… k road absolutely thrived between about 1997-2006 or so… when Auckland was some sort of feral cesspool according to you guys. i can remember it being absolutely packed

            Hey, wow, some of your allegations about the social life of Aucklanders are incorrect?

          2. Well I act for clients who own bars and restaurants in the Viaduct and I can tell you it is a struggle. Of course some bars have queues on Friday/Saturday night otherwise they wouldn’t survive at all. Contrary to popular believe that doesn’t mean the bars are making a lot of money as the rents are very high and the places are quiet a lot of the time.

            In hospo, areas come and go. Right now Britomart and Wynyard are making things very difficult for the incumbent areas like K Road and the Viaduct.

    2. Sort of. Think it is more accurate to say that the old strategy (only adding road supply) has reached its limit. The benefits of the 60 year massive road build are at peak, and the disbenefits of trying to continue it are increasingly dominating. The contradiction of induced traffic is fully in force in urban areas; it is congestion building, the negative impacts on urban form it enforces (it’s dispersive anti-agglomerative effects), other externalities, pollution, cost, ect. So now we need to add the missing complementary networks.

      I would also argue that he’s right in that Auckland’s performance has in fact been poor over this period, especially at the height of the sprawl years, and that its dynamism is new and a function of its recent more urban intensity, and clearly we need policies that support that trend (ie not the old ones).

      1. But “adding new roads” is only a teensy tiny part of Auckland’s “strategy”
        Auckland is thriving. A roads-only strategy may have led to a suboptimal result, but it’s not failed.
        You understand the difference between “satisficing” and “optimising”

        I just dislike it when politicians say “X is a failure” when it’s not.Could Auckland be better? Yes. Is Auckland already awesome? Yes. Is Auckland better now than it was in 1980? Questionable. Is population / economic growth the only sign of success? Questionable.

        I agree with you that we need more PT and no more new roads, but I come about it from a less ideological perspective. I honestly don’t give a s*** how we move people around, but I want them moved quickly, efficiently (cost and resource), and conveniently (i.e. when the f*** am I getting my godamned bus at the right time to get me to town? I’ve been whining about it on TB for years and nobody from AT has done anything). I think geometry means that has to be PT, but if someone could show me that private cars did it better, I’d want more roads.

          1. A good city is one in which incomes are high, prices are low, people are happy.
            Auckland today has a lot more choices than it did, but also a lot more problems. No, crime isn’t higher, but other antisocial behaviour is. That’s not because individual people are worse today than in 1900, but because there are simply too many of them.

            Supercities are disasters waiting to happen. One 1mt blast over central auckland would basically destroy NZ. Wouldn’t be the case if we were dispersed

          2. Auckland wasn’t great but in the 80’s Queen St etc were actually quite busy up until the dizzy heights of the ’87 crash.
            Not many cities anywhere in the world were that great in the 80’s though… a lot of it is times have changed (more choice, availability, quicker distribution, etc for things like movies, electronics, goods etc). Even London wasn’t very pleasant in the 80’s.

          3. @ Bruce: “Not many cities anywhere in the world were that great in the 80’s…”

            Well actually I thought Oslo was great in the 1980’s. As was Stockholm, Vienna, Berne, Paris, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Amsterdam,. . . . Even pre-unified Berlin!

            All non English-speaking. All years ahead of their Anglophone counterparts. Not dragged down by the same stupidity-factor.

      2. I agree.

        60 years of road building in the extremis had reached its natural apogee. If the city had been allowed to mature in a natural growth pattern urbanisation would have dominated with expansion relegated to an afterthought and we would have seen real benefits of agglomeration. If we had just freed up the building restrictions in the city and inserted better urban networks we would be now experiencing a densification driven construction boom.

        But we didn’t do that, we did something disastrous. We locked off the small amount of required expansion, drove up the price of land and made densification unprofitable. It is hard to envision a city more ready for urbanisation than Auckland and yet our council has prevented it. Our building rate is pathetic, the stuff we do have is mostly in-fill single dwelling and we have created a totally unneeded car centric exurb in Pokeno.

        1. Yup, Angus, but I increasingly think we are mostly still in a sub-disasterous situation, depending on what we do now. The last 20 years have seen 70% up and 30% out, despite the terrible anti-intensity regulations. We are now poised to either do a whole lot of stupid sprawl and dump motorways or a whole lot of transformative new infensification and new Rapid Transit instead. The future is unwritten and the zeitgeist has not been better for change since the last revolution in the 1950s.

          While this means a reversal of direction from that last big sea-change, it doesn’t mean what was built since then is lost. It is accumulative, not substitutive.

          But we are at a defining moment in our city’s story, and one we last experienced at the launch of the current status quo; the 1950s dawn of the motorway/sprawl age.

          1. The only choice is between development, whatever it might bring, and preventing development. All the signs point to Auckland being in need of way more urbanisation than expansion, but nobody can guarantee sprawl won’t occur.

            The problem is the rate at which development hasn’t occurred. The Australasian market is in a constructive boom, Auckland lags performance by about 50% overall and by about 70% in apartments. I reckon if we let it happen, expansion would surge outwards 2x as fast as now and we would be building upwards 3.5x quicker.

            We do stand on the cusp*, just needing to relax control and let it happen.

            * of course if China collapses next week all bets are off, we will have missed out on all the boom.

  11. Just a brief mention of rejuvenating areas and more on delivering the workforce to the cbd. I think with the station changes the rejuvenation benefits have gone.

  12. Don’t worry Early Commuter, the underground nature of Aotea and Karangahape Stations will allow them to double as bomb shelters – on the off-chance any regime has a spare megaton for and the desire and capability to drop it on Auckland.

    1. I think the “Auckland’s full” brigade have really jumped the shark after that post.

      Let’s all disperse to the provinces in case someone decides to nuke Auckland!

  13. Goosoid, this is intended to be provocative as opposed to rude, the Viaduct’s problem is that it’s uncool. It’s heaving with lurching, learing white middle-NZers. It’s no surprise that Metro gave the best Bar accolade to Golden Dawn. The better establishments are imports from Wellington, which does bars in ways that AKL could emulate (though not convinced by the Matterhorn). But maybe the culture here is too geared to those lurching, learing white middle aged middle-NZers.

    1. funny because ask any “white middle-NZers” females and they will tell you they avoid the area because they are sick of constantly being hit on, groped and leered at by some of Auckland recent overseas imports….

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