This is the last in a series of six posts, looking at a collection of articles written by Sir Dove-Myer Robinson in the mid 1970’s promoting and clearly trying to build support for his rapid transit plan. They come from a booklet I stumbled across while in the Takapuna Library one day. The first post is here, the second here, the third here, the fourth here and fifth here.

This was published in the NZ Herald on 28 June 1975

Decision on Harbour Crossing Urgent

A matter of considerable importance, which has been referred to only briefly in earlier articles is the urgency of a decision whether Auckland to have another harbour bridge or a harbour tunnel.

Within a few years of the bus/rail scheme in 1981-82, present estimates show that the present bridge will reach maximum carrying capacity.

The Auckland City Council and other responsible bodies have expressed determined opposition to another bridge, and it is certain there is little likelihood of approval of another one. The decision on this matter cannot be long delayed if additional trans-harbour facilities are to be available in 1981 or thereabouts.


The construction of the under-city loop of the bus/rail plan will provide a ready and simple solution to the problem by making provision for a tunnel to connect to the loop.

Traffic congestion in Auckland has been getting worse since it was first noticeable in 1927.

As the population and number of vehicles in the urban urea grew, the congestion showed up more prominently in the central area of the city, and in the eight boroughs on the isthmus, because all traffic into, out of, and through Auckland has to pass through the limited isthmus corridors.

Because of the great number of motor vehicles that will need to use the isthmus roads in the near future, there will just be no more room on the isthmus to meet the needs. Hence the need for improved public transport services to reduce the volume of private transport to manageable proportions.

In the light of present technological knowledge there are only two practical alternatives — an all-bus system, using roads crowded with other traffic which slows down the speed of, and badly affects the services that buses can offer; or a main artery railway system, serving a reorganised bus service.


Both trains and buses would initially serve each other at 10 stations between the city and Papakura. The railway has its own right of way, and is not subject to delays at intersections or delays caused by other traffic.

The average speed attained by the rail service will be two to four times that of buses. Capital costs of both systems would be about equal, but the running costs of the railway system will
be considerably lower than buses.

It is very difficult to estimate the capital required to provide an all-bus scheme sufficient for Auckland’s needs up to the end of the century, because the rejection of an all-bus plan as impracticable, has not warranted the close examination required to produce such estimates.

Some calculations, however, are available that allow for a reasonable comparison. Assuming a modern electric suburban railway system is not available to carry large volume of passengers, it will be necessary for the National Roads Board, the ARA and the territorial local bodies in Auckland to spend in the next 25 years over $500 million on additional roads and in upgrading the existing roads to carry the expected enormous volume of traffic.

Beside the cost of roading, there would be additional costs for extra buses, car parking building and other services costing at least $100 million, making a total Of over $600 million to be provided for an all roading based bus transport system up to the year 2000.

Against these estimates are the carefully calculated costs of the first stage of the railway from Papakura to the city and then underground to Newmarket, plus the Eastern connection to Westfield via Tamaki, Glen Innes and Mt. Wellington.

The total cost of these, including additional buses, railway rolling stock, signals, other essentials and contingencies is $170 million. This $170 million compares favourably with the calculated cost of roads, bridges and other facilities which would have to be built by 1981 if the bus/rail scheme is not going to be implemented.

The difference of $60 million capital cost is the difference between having or not having the nucleus of a satisfactory modern transport system in Auckland. To make an accurate comparison with the all-bus system described above, it is necessary to estimate also the cost of the ultimate extension of the railway to Henderson and Glen Eden about $20 million, and the under harbour tunnel to the North Shore approximately $50 million.


The total of the completed railway system therefore ultimately becomes $240 million. Although all costs are based on 1974 figures, because the projections are so many years ahead, an additional sum of $60 million should be allowed to cover additional contingencies.

This would produce a grand total of capital costs, for the completed bus/ rail network, of $300 million.

The comparison of capital costs therefore, is $600 million for an all-bus/ roading system, against the capital costs of the full bus/ rail scheme of $300 million. It is easy to see which is the cheaper scheme, in terms of ultimate capital costs, for the finally completed schemes.

Estimates of annual running costs of stage 1 and eastern loop of the railway part of the scheme have been carefully calculated at $15.1 million in 1981.

As it is not intended to proceed with the extensions to the Shore and western suburbs until results of the first stages been analysed, no estimates of running costs of these two extensions have been made.


Until final agreement has been reached with the government on sharing of costs, no accurate estimate of the cost to ratepayers of running the
system can be made. At the best, the cost could be only $3 million, at the worst, it could be $6.4 million in 1981 the area included in the ART scheme.

These estimates must be compared the budgeted Joss on the ARA buses for this year, of $6.4 million for the whole of the ARA bus services.

To make the comparison equal, this year’s bus losses must be escalated to 1981, which brings the estimated loss up to $10.1 million for the whole regional bus service. The area covered by the bus/rail proposal is 40 per cent of the whole region, so it is reasonable to compare 40 per cent of the estimated regional bus deficit – $10.1 million in 1981] against the estimated deficit [$300,000 to $6.4 million] on the bus/rail system.

The estimated deficit of $10 million for the whole region is for an all bus service as now run by the ARA. To this must be added the losses which will result from the inevitable taking over by the ARA of the remaining privately owned bus services in the proposed bus/ rail area.


No allowance has been made herein for fare increases in the next six years. Based on investigations over a long period, in the light of present evidence, there is likely to be little deficit — if any — on the bus/rail system.

A trifling adjustment of fares would close any gap between operating costs and revenue and ensure that ratepayers would not be faced with heavy operating charges when the service is inaugurated.

Dependence on a Wholly bus transport system is likely to increase levies on ratepayers to more than $10 million by 1981, with no improvement in bus services or relief from traffic congestion.

On the other hand, the cost to Auckland ratepayers of the modernised bus/rail operation could produce actual financial surpluses or, at the very least, substantially lower annual ARA levies for losses on its bus system.

In a previous article, a quotation from a famous American research institute should that the benefits of a rapid transit system which could not be expressed in dollars and cents, were of greater to the community than the financial benefits so expressed.

Even those who agree that social benefits are more important than financial considerations, will be interested in some of the undoubted economies expected from the scheme.

First is the estimated saving of the cost of the use of private cars by those using the bus/rail system – $9 million yearly. Next is the socially shared saving through reduction of accidents and deaths in the are – $1 million yearly [although using the Official Year Book as a basis of estimating, this saving could be as high as $7.8 million yearly].

Third is the potential saving of time, petrol and other transport losses through the reduction of waste caused by congestion. This has been estimated at between $90 and $180 million yearly for private and commercial users in the whole region in the year 1981. Forty per cent of this occurs in the area benefiting from the scheme. This would be of the order of $40-80 million yearly.

However, the estimated savings quoted earlier took into account only the saving for commercial transport vehicles travelling at 15 mph instead of the present average of 10 mph.

But even this grossly underestimated saving is $13.1 million yearly. The total of only these three savings to users of the facility, and the community generally. is $13.1 million yearly.


Ranking high under the above heading is reductions in pollution, noise and congestion. Other real, but intangible benefits are, lower costs, greater speed, more convenience and greater safety of public transport, compared with private transport.

By allowing better land-use planning, based on fixed main line rail arteries, urban sprawl can be better prevented, and the community’s control and direction of development will be enhanced.

Finally, that great section of the community [over 50 per cent of who are forgotten by the opponents of the scheme] who do not have the use of private transport, and who must depend on public transport will, at last, have a means of transport in many ways comparable with, but in other ways superior to, the private car.

The inauguration of the first stages of the bus and rail transit system in 1981 will benefit everyone in the region, no matter how near or far they may be from the main rail artery; because of the greatly improved bus services possible.

Whether as a motorist relieved of the cost and responsibility of driving a car on overcrowded roads; or as a passenger compelled to depend on public transport; or as a ratepayer gratefully relieved of some of his rating burden for the cost of public transport; everyone will benefit. No one will lose through the early introduction of a railway served reorganised bus system in Greater Auckland.

With the exception of the first part about a harbour crossing most of the rest relates to what he had discussed in the earlier articles. Still there were some interesting parts, in particular, where he says that that the harbour bridge will be at maximum capacity in the early 80’s and so a tunnel will be needed. The benefit of hindsight allows us to see that far from being at maximum capacity, the harbour bridge now carries more than twice as many vehicles each day as it did 1983. The levels would increase further if we looked at the people carrying capacity of the bridge it would be even higher thanks to the hugely successful busway.

AHB Annual Volumes to 2015

The busway raises another area where I think the analysis falls flat and again which seems obvious with hindsight relates to bus lanes – or the lack of them. I don’t know if other cities were using them at that time and we just ignored them or if there was a genuine lack of thought about giving buses priority to allow them to perform better. We certainly know they have been instrumental in helping make buses more attractive and viable for passengers on many routes.

I’ve certainly found it interesting looking back at these old articles and it would be interesting to know what the reaction to them by the public was. Of course they all ended up being for nothing after the Muldoon government cancelled the plans in 1976. Auckland would’ve been very different had Robbies scheme gone ahead 40 years ago.

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  1. It’s interesting to think how the network might work differently under his scheme. Presumably he calls for buses to be rearranged into frequent routes converging on the stations, as the stations themselves are sparsely placed (but the speed of the train would make up for transfer penalties).

    My primary concern would be off peak travel. Transfers between services really suck as you start getting beyond 10 minute periods.

    Unless you automated the trains, or were willing to absorb the cost of running both at high frequency, I can see the system coming a kind of “all bus” network outside of peak. If you need to wait 10 mins for a transfer, it’s suddenly possible that it’s faster to take a bus all the way from the city (in off peak traffic, with off peak loadings).

      1. Exactly.

        IMO there’s still a lot of problems with it though. Panmure is arguably one of the (if not the) “best” station on the network, in terms of drive vs rail in peak (even off peak is competitive).

        Despite that it’s not unusual for buses via Panmure (many of which still go through to Britomart) to arrive at about the same time as the people who get off at Panmure and take the train (except the latter pay $2+ more for the pleasure).

        Problem is the frequencies. The train might do a 25 minute bus trip in 15 minutes. But if you’re waiting on the platform for 10 minutes that’s suddenly no benefit at all. Hopefully CRL will help here, but only on peak (due to the atrocious cost of running the trains).

        1. Panmure station at present seems a massively over built & underused. Be interesting to see it in action post new network, AMETI busway & CRL.

    1. You are right. Seeing the gridlock an all-bus system would have doomed us to, it will be more like 5 times.

      1. Spoken like a true rail spruiker. They all like to assume buses have to share road space with cars. Just out of interest try comparing a rail trip from Newmarket to Ranui (around 40 mins) with a bus trip from Queens Arcade to Albany (about 26 minutes).

        1. Why don’t you compare bus to papakura and train to papakura? My wife drives a car to Newmarket and I got the train and she took over 15 minutes longer to do the same trip. recently I caught a Bus on a Sunday (via Great South road) and it took 25 minutes longer than the schedule train trip. Buses make more stops than trains, they are held up in traffic 9especially in the inner city….I think john Campbell did a great comparison awhile which was posted on this site. Under normal operating conditions a train is faster, more comfortable and a better service.

          Although it would be nice during peak hours if they were a 5 minute service. Perhaps post CRL there can be Otahuhu-Britomart service along the eastern line to allow for all those extra people going to use the new Otahuhu and Panmure interchange post AMETI (but I suspect they will need to add another platform and third rail between Otahuhu and the eastern line junction as well as getting rid of Westfield station and buying more trains

        2. Should be plenty of trains between Otahuhu & Panmure post CRL, I think maybe the plan is 6tph from Manukau & another 6tph split between Otahuhu & Papakura (peak anyway).

    2. You have to admit, a busway system on the South, West and East lines (with associated level crossing upgrades) would be absolutely fantastic.

      Take for example the Eastern line, buses could come in from East Auckland, join the busway at Panmure and then reach downtown in 8-12 minutes (given the existing alignment is comfortable for 100km/h operation and the buses can skip stations).

      1. Actually no, this wouldn’t be that great. And that’s exactly what’s currently happening on the North Shore. Some buses are chocka-full and others are empty travelling the busway. That’s the problem with running direct “express” services trying to connect many locations with other many destinations. That results in low frequencies of the buses. Instead it’s better to make the network more frequent. By removing the duplication and making use of good connections, you can have the same number of buses at more frequencies moving larger amount of people more efficiently. Frequent equals to freedom in public transport. Direct isn’t always the best thing. Also reducing complexity means it’s easier to understand. One seat ride from home to destination is gone era. Transfers and frequent network is the future. The transfer “penalty” will be removed later this month to help ease the hassle of transfers with the introduction of integrated fares.

        1. Well why not run the buses at higher frequencies?

          One thing your argument assumes is that it costs about the same to field a train service hour as a bus. In reality there’s a huge difference!

          Nick R’s article from May 2012 pegs the cost of a bus at $25 per hour and $135 per hour for a train (both are ridiculously low). He says that the costing is wrong because it takes 15 buses to do the work of the train, thus the cost of operating a bus is thus $375 per rail-hour-eqv.

          Except no! Because most of the time you’re not running anywhere near full capacity! A train leaving at non-peak hour might only be carrying a single bus load of passengers.

          The difference is that off peak, for the same price, you can either have a two trains or 11 buses an hour. You can either wait 30 minutes for a train or 5.5 minutes for a bus!

          Biggest problem with rail, is that as well as it works in peak hour, we’re forever going to have problems with off-peak times: it’s just too expensive to run at reasonable frequencies.

        2. You are stil forgeting that buses share the roads with other traffic, except when on the NB. So you’re not comparing apples with apples. This isn’t to knock buses, which are and will remain very important, but still are not the same as trains (or buses) on their own ROW. But in essence you’re correct that rail is not the choice for low demand corridors, but then no one is suggesting it is.

          Additionally while higher frequency is almost always a great improvement there is a point where that fails; when a route hits its limits, like currently on Dominion Rd, where the required bus frequency is so high that they are tripping over each other and self-congesting. When demand get to these levels you need bigger machines to actually lower vehicle frequency to improve throughput. Mega busses, or, as they are usually known, Light Rail. Unless that is a parallel true Rapid Transit system, under or over ground, can be afforded…. which is rare.

        3. Roast I think you’re working things back to front. Sure if you have local buses feeding into and connecting with different trunk buses you can economise on the bus, off peak at least. But if you are talking about buses that pick up in the suburbs then run through to the city you can’t, you need to run one bus all the way regardless of who is or isn’t on board.

          However at peak it’s a different story, even with a busway connector model your back to needing forty or fifty buses an hour. Which means you need to own and service forty or fifty buses an hour, and have forty or fifty drivers on the payroll. The marginal operating cost is only one factor in the overall cost. It would be cheaper to run six trains an hour all day than forty buses an hour for four hours of the day and six buses an hour for the rest.

        4. Patrick, I dont think anyone has seriously suggested Dom Rd has reached bus capacity. Certainly ATs published number as part of their LRT info dont say this. The only reason for LRT being pushed is terminal capacity in the city centre.

        5. Well that view depends entirely what else you believe must happen on that route: It’s not at bus capacity if we’re only running buses, but it is already failing to serve demand and clogging with general traffic and buses. It isn’t a busway; it’s a mixed use road, and part of AT’s argument is 1 vehicle every 5 minutes with 450-500 people in its own lane instead of 10 vehicles each with 45-50 people in the same period needing more road width, enables better performance of the road for all users including private vehicles.

        6. I dont think AT are proposing Light Rail for capacity reasons. It is financial. They have totally fleeced the outer areas but they dont want to fix up arterial roads so instead they will spend it on an expensive project that serves the centre. They see that as their purpose in life.

        7. Yeah cool story mfwic, of course all AT does is steal money from the honest suburban burghers then dream up ways to waste it on the failing centre. Anyway…

          It is for capacity, not specifically capacity on Dominion Rd itself but in the city centre. Having said that the capacity on Dominion Rd itself is an issue once you take intersections and bus stop sizes and locations into account. 4,000 passengers an hour is a bit of a fiction in this context, that equates to three or four full buses moving as a platoon through the bus stops every two minutes, every time the lights go green. The northern busway can handle that shorty of throughput, Dominion Rd couldn’t.. It’s probably not far off maximum capacity before you have to start demolishing buildings to build long offline bus stops,

          The bus corridors in the city certainly have a finite limit to what they can handle and they are already full or close to it. Meanwhile demand for access to the city centre continues to go up as the market keeps increasing commercial development there. Not only does light rail add a whole new corridor of capacity from the central isthmus suburbs to the city (a place that has a very high orientation of work and university trips to the city), If you take dominion Rd buses out of the equation and you have room for more buses from other routes to replace them, routes from all over. Dominion Rd was selected because it is the busiest individual route coming in to the CBD giving it the biggest gain, and relatively short which makes it a relatively cheap corridor to convert.

        8. I think I’ll stick with ATs numbers for now. They weren’t referring to busway capacity as they had a different (higher) number for that. Let’s hope they publish a report soon it’s been a while.

          It’s funny I went back to look at the CCFAS. The most congested bus routes in the city centre were Symonds St and Fabshawe (with Fanshawe being much worse). So they are fixing Symonds with LRT. Except what they are also doing with LRT is splitting the flow onto two corridors, Queen St and Symonds. Not clear why they couldn’t do this with the buses and get rid of the problem that way. Meanwhile, no solutions for Fanshawe have been forthcoming.

        9. Nick R that was the whole point of amalgamation and it is why they wouldn’t let us vote on whether we wanted to be a part of it. It is why the Committee for Auckland existed in the first place, and why they set up AT as an arms length organisation, to grab cash from the suburbs and spend it in the centre.

        10. mfwic yeah nah. Then how do you explain the likes of:
          -AMETI (especially Reeves Rd)
          -Mill Rd
          -Albany Highway
          -Te Atatu and Lincoln Rd upgrades
          -Future urban area networks

          There are several billion worth of projects in that list which have nothing to do with the city centre

        11. Great points you make Matt L.
          -AMETI (especially Reeves Rd) -AT haven’t actually done anything yet except continue the Auckland programme of spend $ on consultants. But they will focus on the Isthmus parts, Reeves Road was dead but resurrected through pressure from the Government.
          -East-West – yup they will do that one as it is part relieving the Isthmus.
          -Mill Rd – was a Papakura project originally, shown in their structure plans. But ask yourself why Hingaia Rd hasn’t been finished, why didn’t they continue the Manukau and Papakura idea for a Weymouth crossing, in fact what has AT actually done other than a notice of requirement?
          -Penlink – again it was a Rodney project and AT will spend a few $ on consultants to make it look like they care and to avoid spending $$$ doing something.
          -Albany Highway – a North Shore City project that AT delayed which would have been built by now without AT.
          -Te Atatu and Lincoln Rd upgrades- no idea about these I have never been involved, I tried to avoid Waitakere City as did most of my clients, it wasn’t worth the pain.
          -Future urban area networks – an excuse to not build roads. Dealing with AT is a bit like the Soviet Union, the answer is always nyet regardless of the question. Are you going to build this? Are you going to spend the contributions you have collected on anything that serves this area? Are you actually going to do your job? Nyet!
          My hope is that once the Government finds there National Policy Statement totally stymied by an unelected AT then finally the Government’s Eye of Sauron will fall on AT and the Government will deal with them.

        12. Indeed Matthew, that’s exactly right. Symonds st is the most congested corridor which is why they are pulling out the busiest route on it and shifting it to Queen. Why you can’t do it with buses comes down to the size of the bus stops required and the extra terminal capacity required at the end. For the required passenger capacity you’d need to widen queen st slightly to have four lanes for buses (two stopping two passing) plus add a whole new staging and terminating facility at Britomart (but where exactly?). With light rail you can do the same in a more compact footprint, and you can terminate the trains at a regular stop because they are double ended and less frequent. The difference boils down to the difference between one long train and six to eight buses to do the same job.

        13. Oh and AT are currently designing the Fanshawe St busway to fix that side, and also have a long term strategy project looking at further rapid transit for the north shore.

        14. Symond St isnt the most congested, Fanshawe is (in 2041). You wouldnt need 4 lanes to carry half the number of buses Symonds St would otherwise need to carry at 2041, at least not according to the bus per hour categorizations in the CCFAS. (the green orange and red caregories). yes building a bus terminal downtown would be difficult. So – dont do it. Run routes down Symonds and up Queen or vise versa and have one terminal for each route out in the burbs. The issue is timekeeeping when you extend routes, but having continuous median corridors on all routes would more than compensate in terms of reliability.

        15. Symonds st is the most *congested*, Fanshawe has higher volumes but it also has higher capacity due to much wider roadway, wider spaced intersections and a relative lack of driveways and accesses. Symonds is physically constrained to a much greater extent.

          Through routing like that doesn’t really work in practice. You lose the ability to tailor service to peak directional capacity and have to run the full peak headway in both directions. End result is you need about 50% more buses and drivers, and running costs, to move the same people, it’s very expensive. Also your routes end up twice as long between timekeeping stops, inevitably you get bunching and poor reliability. And while that may ‘solve’ the termination issue it doesn’t fix the stop size issue.

          Yes you would need double bus lanes on Queen to take half of Symonds st plus what is already on Queen. The capacity of a single lane with buses stopping in line is about 50 buses an hour, depending on signal phasing. That’s today, let alone in two decades. Take a look at the plans for Ameti for what is actually required for median lanes and stops at higher capacities. It simply can’t fit on dominion Rd or Symonds st.

          Also I wouldn’t rely on CCFAS figures, there has been much stronger growth a complete network design since then.

        16. What prevents dead running? Or are you suggesting you need to stable vehicles in town during the inter peak. No need if you have roperly congestion free corridors unlike our current mess. Note I am not saying you take a bus from Mt Roskill through to Browns Bay, I am just saying you return it to Mt Roskill (in service or not) in the one run.

          What is your reference for Queen St Nick, are we anywhere near 8000 pax/hr on the Symonds St corridor now or in 2041?

        17. Mathew; it certainly is good to have someone running the counterfactual on the LRT proposal, but I am puzzled that you seem to complete ignore/discount any disbenefit of buses in your arguments; they are angelic by your reckoning, no matter how many are needed on every street to supply capacity. So what is your objection to LRT? Just the capital cost? Or like MoT/Treasury do you have an ideological objection to steel wheels?

          If it is capital cost, you do need to factor in that the work on the route is a one off investment of very long lived value, as is shown by LR in other cities. Furthermore it is a city shaper more sure than bus routes; it will certainly uplift Dom Rd in this instance. And then there is the electric drive factor; sure one day we surely will get electric buses, but there none yet, so this is a real advantage too.

        18. To be honest Patrick, I’m not against LRT in principle, in fact I have a soft spot for “trams” having lived in Manchester for a number of years and worked on the expansion of the network. I have to say I’m somewhat miffed that AT has announced LRT out of the blue as some fait accompli with no detailed reporting of options analyses etc (still!). I think buses are under-utilised in Auckland and we could do so much more with them – just look at the priority we give to buses on the proposed LRT corridors, compared to the proposed priority with LRT. Given the massive budgetary issues that do exist whether we like it or not, we could do far more far sooner by focusing more on bus priority.

          As for dis benefits, I agree loads of buses aren’t hugely appealing, but all these roads are also stacked with other vehicles. A marginal effects of an extra bus every couple of minutes seem rather small on most of our streets.

        19. Any rail light or heavy needs to be separated from other traffic, running light rail down existing roads is a big mistake.

      2. I don’t think that 40 more double deckers in town instead of 6 trains would be an improvement….

        1. Indeed, but it wouldn’t even be 40 double deckers. It would be some double deckers and dozens of single deckers, made up by a couple of half full buses from Bucklands Beach, a few more not quite full ones from Cockle Bay, a few more from Dannemora, etc etc.

          Agree with Stranded, direct service doesnt work efficiently because your bus occupancy is determined not by demand at the city end or how overloaded your corridors are, but by how many people board the bus in the outer low density suburban catchment. By running direct you lose the ability to optimise bus occupancies.

          The only way to turn that patronage into full double deckers would be to terminate them all at Panmure and transfer everyone to the trunk rapid transit busway… which is exactly what happens with the rail anyway.

        2. Still leaves you with two major advantages though:

          – Ability to run express buses from major stations (I’d also argue buses are *way* quicker loading/unloading passengers – although that’s an AT organisational problem that could be fixed).

          – Off peak you can run much cheaper high frequency services (your own article in 2012 pegged a train at 5.4 times the cost of a bus hour, so for the cost of a train every 30 minutes you can run a bus every 6 minutes!).

        3. Ok but express buses usually don’t eventuate on busways in reality, because there is usually at least one person that want to get off at each stop in between. There aren’t any true expresses on the Northern Busway for example.

          On your second point, it is true that trains are more expensive to run but with an “express from everywhere” bus model you end up running far more buses. Again you’d need to run a couple an hour from Bucklands Beach, a couple from Cockle Bay, etc etc and you end up with a nasty combination of poor frequency on any individual route, but the need to run dozens of buses per hour on the trunk section. You’re effectively describing what they are in the process of removing from Auckland. The other way to look at it is if you have at least six bus routes it’s cheaper to run a train on the common section that the six buses, with the same frequency.

          The new network has twelve bus routes out east. Run them all into town every fifteen minutes and you end up with 48 buses an hour doing the job of four trains an hour, twelve times the number of vehicles. Even with trains costing five or six times as much, the buses would still be twice as expensive. The likelyhood is your direct buses would run only once or twice an hour with the direct bus option.

        4. Now that frequencies are high on the NEX perhaps it is time that they do look into having some non-stop or 1 stop express services. So Albany, Akoranga, City on every 3rd bus between 7am-8:30am and then again between 4:30pm and 6pm in the other direction.
          The other thing which I have mentioned before is that there are currently counter-flow buses racing back empty to Albany (or vice versa) to do the next run. This is a wasted opportunity for an express service that would at least generate some revenue. This would effectively make for higher frequencies on the counter-flow which should encourage patronage since currently there can be quite a long wait at times for buses which puts people off using buses.

        5. re Bruce “…currently counter-flow buses racing back empty to Albany (or vice versa) to do the next run.”

          But wouldn’t you then struggle to keep the timetable current without introducing more buses.

        6. @Grant not really because they can be loading up while people are getting off. Unlikely to be big numbers anyway so it won’t take any time. When they get to the other end again not many to get off while everyone is boarding.

      3. That is pretty much what the ARA proposed in the late 1980’s. But a couple of members wanted light rail instead so the ARA commissioned a peer review by a rail person. The 8 page $80k Stewart Joy Report threw out buses and said light rail was the answer and it could share the tracks with heavy freight trains. It wasnt the answer but it did create 10 years of nothing happening except a further decline in PT.

        1. Well actually it was because they weren’t allowed to rip up the rails to make busways because the owner of the rail lines was running freight trains on them and said “ah no, piss off”.

          So they spent ten years dicking around with trying to find public transport that could run on the rails they already had, before working out trains might do it ok.

        2. That’s amazing! Aucklands entire PT system strategy turned on the needs of a few freight trains.

        3. There were also huge costs involved in removing the railway and building what amounted to a series of two lane motorways in their place, even if you were happy to shut down the freight network.

          The real issue wasn’t the suburban corridors but what happened at the city end. The simply answer of fixing up the trains was hamstrung by the fact they pulled the train station out of Britomart in the 1930s as the first stage of a city loop tunnel, then promptly didn’t build the loop leaving the rail terminal a mile out of town.

          Light rail and busways were really just ways to get the rapid transit back into the middle of the city by running the services through town on street, on Queen St no less. Funny how little things change. Of course there was huge upfront cost in either light rail or busway conversion before you even start on the city section. That was perhaps the problem, not so much the amount of cost but the fact it was a ‘big bang’ project that had to be done in one big go to make it work. Close the rail network, rip out the rails, rebuild with whatever you want to put in, rebuild the station platforms, build the city extension through town… then you can run some service and start to try and build up patronage. I’d argue that was the problem with Robbie’s schemes too, focussed on the final outcome and driving a new nail all the way in with a single almighty blow, rather than hammering it in with a dozen slow taps.

          In the end we got the right outcome by doing upgrades as small iterations, first the refurbished trains and platform changes, then the biggish bang of Britomart solved the key problem of anchoring demand downtown. Then project DART signal upgrades and double tracking, a programme of station upgrades and a couple of new ones, and junction works brought it all up to good standard. Then electrification and new EMUs made it efficient to run and allowed good service levels. Finally the City Rail Link will turn it from a commuter network into a through running S-Bahn network just shy of a true metro in capacity and function. Auckland will have taken 25 years of gradual investment to get what earlier plans tried to do all in one go. But it gets there in the end, with arguably a better system, and one where the freights aren’t abandoned!

          In my mind where we go next is the interesting thing. It’s relatively easy to upgrade and extend the heavy rail network given it was sitting there all but unused, in practically the perfect locations, and the fact the city grew around the rail lines rather than the other way around. But that easy business is over. To keep going means pushing transit lines through the existing city fabric, something that is clearly more difficult. That is why we see options like underground rail tunnels, busways that run alongside motorways, and light rail that runs down the middle of streets. Responses to the difficulties of adding transit back in after the fact. Where to next is the really exciting bit!

        4. Except at that time the property arm of the railways held more sway than the operations arm. They were making more money. For example Ops wanted to keep rail tracks on Quay St, property wanted a chinese market in a shed and agreed to a consent condition that the tracks would go. Had the ARA wanted land from railways they would have got it. From memory the ARA plan was to push freight onto the Orakei line, there was almost nothing going north then. The part I agree with is we got the right result in the end and that is mainly because nothing happened for so long so what was there endured.

  2. “I don’t know if other cities were using them at that time” – Oxford St, London became a bus lane in 1972, though initially only as a temporary measure.

  3. “in particular, where he says that that the harbour bridge will be at maximum capacity in the early 80’s and so a tunnel will be needed. The benefit of hindsight allows us to see that far from being at maximum capacity, the harbour bridge now carries more than twice as many vehicles each day as it did 1983”

    I suspect that was because he was including the [current to him] approach ways/motorways to the bridge in his calculations, and at that time, given the nature of the northern motorway it probably was near to or at capacity in 1981/82.
    Even though the bridge itself had 4 lanes each way, the motorways leading to/from it on the Northern side didn’t. And the Southern motorway to Northern motorway linkup works through Spaghetti Junction were underway but not yet fully open, so all bridge access had to go via the CBD roads.

    Of course, the old MoW and MoT etc extended the motorway northwards and added lanes as they did so, so the bridge could get more cars across it per peak hour.

    He also could not see the second oil crisis [Iran removing the Shah etc], which also impacted traffic growth [both SOVs and PT] or the rise of cheap 2nd hand Jap car imports in the ’80s. Which totally ran the projections off the road.

    And of course the cost of doing that widening [and removing the tolls] is not counted anywhere, but would have no doubt dwarfed the cost of the Rapid Rail scheme if you compared things on a like for like basis.

    1. That is how he spoke. He was a bit of an old blitherer. His one claim to fame was stopping the sewage going into the Waitemata and having it dumped in the Manukau instead.

  4. Thanks for this series Matt, has been really interesting.

    All we can conclude is that the condition of quality Transit provision in AKL is like the old adage about tree planting: When is the best time to plant a tree? A century ago. When is the second best time to plant a tree? Now. So while our failure to build sufficient systems in the past is regrettable, that knowledge simply acts to remind us to get on with the job now with urgency.

    And, to also recognise there are some advantages in the delay; the CRL is going to be really good, not simply in effect but also the quality of the stations and places. I write this from Sydney where it is noticeable that the best station work is either Victorian or contemporary; the ‘auto-age’ mid 20th century kit is pinched and mean; clearly built without sufficient confidence in the mode. It was not a great zeitgeist for urban rail or indeed much for cities; but now is, we are clearly in another great urban age, a renaissance of the city, and all its supporting infrastructure.

  5. Robbie was correct about using the Meola Reef for a second crossing to nth Shore and a short bridge.I find it annoying to see that all you people do not see the main problem with road travel . Which is the The peaks of traffic, caused by every body moving at the same time, doing the same as sheep.Wise up people use the 24 hrs we have per day by staggering work hours. and holiday breaks from work so that less congestion occurs on roads at all times.
    Hey presto! not so many deaths on roads no body getting annoyed when sitting behind wheel waiting for traffic to move faster. Meola reef at robbies request was checked & cleared for use as a causeway years ago. The cost was then much cheaper than existing bridge, if it was used today it would have less maintainance cost as bridge would be much shorter to connect with land on nth shore that is not used properly at present & has no homes upon it. Wake Up people!

    1. The Meola reef option would never get the go ahead now due to the greenies getting up and arms over it.

  6. But what if we said, let’s built a light metro system from Wynyard to Albany for probably a quarter of the cost of road tunnels? And this is just a starting point for a cost comparison. The road tunnel proposal will supposedly deliver 65% more traffic to each end so what can possibly be the cost of infrastructure to accommodate that? It’s no point asking NZTA as they simply don’t know.
    How useful would it be to take and deliver shoppers to Albany Mall by metro rather than the current busway that largely only takes workers to and from jobs elsewhere. The busway doesn’t even deliver employees to Albany as the station is so physically removed from workplaces. How can this be remotely acceptable for a metropolitan centre?.
    What we have done with transport systems hasn’t worked; isn’t working; so let’s change it!

    1. Even light rail still needs to get across the habour and due to the cost there would be no under harbour tunnel just for light rail it would have to also provide for road transport just to make the numbers stack up.

      1. A road based crossing doesn’t stack up itself so adding it something else is hardly going to help. A light rail crossing could be via a bridge which would be “cents in the dollar” compared to road tunnels.

        1. Another bridge has already been ruled out and I would think it would be too steep for rail, coming up out of the underground then over a bridge high enough not to impeach on the boaties that made so much noise about the port expanding.

        2. Light rail (or bus). Gradients would be fine. It could land at street level at Wynyard quarter and be street running through the city centre. A road bridge has been ruled out by the current govt. A road bridge would need to land somewhere and then transition to tunnels under Vic Park so would be far more disruptive particularly to the Westhaven boaties as you say. To the best of my knowledge a light rail /bus only bridge has not yet been considered.

      2. The number would stack up much better for a rail only crossing. A quarter the cost but double the capacity. That makes it about eight times better.

        1. So you think is is better and cheaper to build two separate projects than one? The road bridge/tunnels will need to be build at some stage it may as well all be done together for a fraction the price. The numbers will not stack up for a rail only tunnel.

        2. You can repeat that it won’t stack up all you like but that doesn’t make it true. The last study had a rail only crossing priced at $1.6 billion. Even adding another $1b for converting the busway and possibly other connections, it is still considerably cheaper than $4b+ road only crossing which also doesn’t include the costs of upgrading the rest of SH1 to cope.

          Perhaps you aren’t aware but in the morning peak around 40% of people crossing the harbour currently do so on a bus and of those going to the CBD it’s over 70% on PT. A dedicated crossing for rail would stack up a lot better than a road crossing which just duplicates something that already exists.

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