On the weekend, the Labour Party, as part of the Mt Roskill by-election campaign, announced their intention to fund 50% of the cost of the proposed light rail line from Wynyard to Mt Roskill via Dominion Rd, one of the routes Auckland Transport first suggested in January last year.

The government have responded with both barrels, accusing Labour of pork-barrel politics but also quite worryingly, reverting to with many of the same arguments and contempt they showed for the City Rail Link – and we know how that worked out.

The Spinoff were clearly thinking of many of the same things I was on the issue yesterday but here are a few others in no particular order.

Government already agreed improvements were needed

One of the oddest aspects of this whole debate is that the government, through the recent Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP), have already agreed an upgrade of the road is needed. The main report says this about central access:

Access to this area is physically constrained, and there is competition for limited street-space between vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and public amenity. This means it is imperative over time to move more people in fewer vehicles. This requires a continued modal shift towards public transport, walking and cycling.

Although bus efficiency improvements can help cope with increased demand in the short term, there are limits to the extent to which such improvements can continue to provide sufficient capacity. A mass transit solution will be required in the medium term. Key criteria for determining the best long-term solution should be the ability to meet projected demand in a way that integrates with the broader strategic network, provides for and stimulates ongoing growth along these corridors and in the city centre, and delivers value for money.

In the supporting information they also say:

Based on current forecasts, we concluded that the constraints in central Auckland can be managed through bus efficiency improvements for the next 10 years. Efficiency improvements over the next decade include continuing the roll out of double decker buses, changes to bus stops, and improving the routes taken into the central city.

On that basis, we concluded that a higher capacity mode, possibly light rail, is likely to be required on the central isthmus in the medium-term (2028-2038), and subsequently extended to Auckland Airport.

So the report talks about the need to move more people to catching PT and that more buses are only short term solutions.

Perhaps the biggest problem with ATAP, and what is reflected highly in this situation is the timing. As we’ve discussed before, ATAP relies heavily on old school transport modelling, the same stuff that has regularly over estimated driving demand and well underestimated the growth in PT use. That means many of the PT projects are likely to be needed sooner than ATAP suggests and light rail down Dominion Rd is probably the most likely of the proposals to be pulled forward. This is also partially confirmed by the table below showing the two main packages assessed as part of ATAP. Light Rail is teetering between decade 1 and 2 depending on the package suggesting at the very least it will need to be near the start of decade two.


Rapid Buses

In his interview with Radio New Zealand yesterday morning Prime Minister John Key was trying to pour as much cold water on the project as possible. He did highlight that Mass Transit was listed in ATAP as a second decade project that could mean light rail but that the Transport Agency are also looking at bus options. The term Mass Transit as used in ATAP is deliberately ambiguous as the reality is, some members of the government and their various agencies have an almost allergic reaction to the term rail. Some believe that whatever a train can do, a bus can do too, and do it cheaper.

The reality as it’s always been. is that we’ll need a mix of modes and it depends a lot on the route. In some. cases heavy rail is needed, in others light rail will be fine but in most cases buses will do the job well.

Dominion Rd is already the busiest bus corridor outside of the Northern Busway. The issue is that just chucking more and bigger buses on Dominion Rd – and other roads on the isthmus – isn’t a long term strategy for the simple fact is that there’s only a limited capacity on city streets to be able to handle those buses plus all the rest from other parts of Auckland. According to the Central Access Plan, the business case for Light Rail, Symonds St is already over capacity and that only gets worse as more buses and demand get added over time.

Symonds St Bus Numbers
Symonds St Bus Numbers

Unless the government and their agencies address how putting more buses on an already over capacity routes, they’re just wasting everyone’s time.

“Buses use roads”

John Key also reverted to this old chestnut during his talk on Radio NZ to defend his government’s investment in so many roads. It’s a line they’ve used many times before but as with previous times it is fundamentally flawed. The issue is that buses need to be able to pick up and drop off passengers and that happens on local roads, not motorways like the government have focused on. As such you’re not going to see any AT services running through the Waterview tunnels, or on any of the widened motorways. The big exception to this is along State Highway 16 west of Pt Chev however there, the government and their agencies refused to build a busway to enable buses to work properly. The upgrades aren’t even finished and not building the busway at the same time is already looking to be a massive and costly blunder.

The real reason for the government opposition?

I’ve long wondered if the real reason the government have often been so reluctant to support rail projects is they know they’ll actually be too popular and everywhere will want one. This is a point Stephen Joyce himself raised in his opposition to the plan – which has also served to see it discussed much more than it probably would have otherwise.

To say nothing of every other electorate in Auckland looking for multi-billions in new railway lines.

It’s not just Auckland that will want them either, I can imagine Wellington, Christchurch and maybe a few other cities wanting rail investment.

Why only half Labour?

A key part of Labours policy of supporting Light Rail is that they’ll pay for half of the costs with Auckland paying the rest. This is the same as what’s now happening with the City Rail Link. Yesterday Mayor Phil Goff raises a point I’ve been meaning to write about since ATAP, why should Auckland pay half. I’ll discuss this issue in greater detail in a separate post but there are a couple of key issues I have.

First, the government’s contribution would come from either general taxes or from a reformed National Land Transport Fund. Even based on that 50:50 arrangement Auckland actually contributes about 68% of the costs because an approximately 36% of the governments contribution would also come from Auckland, as that is Auckland’s proportion of the national economy  economy. So while paying for 68% of these urban Transit project Auckland will still be contributing 36% of the cost of every State Highway everywhere else in the nation. In effect this is using transport capex funding as a kind of city penalty; a way of redistributing from Auckland rate payers to the rest of the nation.

Second and a point also raised by Phil Goff yesterday, why should Aucklanders be stumping up 50% for a national scale project. Auckland’s Strategic Road network (the motorways) are all paid for, 100% by the government. ATAP also agreed on a Strategic PT network as shown below with the Dominion Rd route clearly visible. I’d argue that the strategic PT network should for the most part be funded the same way as the strategic road network.


The project is a PPP

One aspect missing from the current conversation is that the project isn’t expected to be funded like most transport projects. It has been previously discussed that this would be built and operated as a PPP, something the government have said they want more of. While in most cases PPPs are just another name for debt, with transit systems and the right incentives it might help encourage the private operator to also boost development along the route to make the project even more successful.

Some certainty is needed

Upgrading Dominion Rd has been an on again, off again discussion for the last 20 years and upgrading it is way overdue. As the local business association pointed out yesterday, they need some certainty as to what’s happening

The Dominion Rd Business Association has today called on both the National and Labour parties to stop playing politics over the future form of mass transit along Dominion Rd, saying that businesses along the 7km iconic strip want certainty over what transport will look like over the coming years, not political posturing.


Mr Holmes says the uncertain future for Dominion Rd has been a constant source of worry and confusion for businesses and landlords alike, holding back any significant investment in the area.

It’s time that Mayor-elect Phil Goff, Auckland Council and Auckland Transport work constructively with political parties across the political divide to come up with a definitive answer for mass transit in Auckland.

Given the history I don’t think that’s too much to ask

Regardless of whether light rail or some other form of better buses happen on Dominion Rd in the future, as ATAP points out, some improvements are needed to happen now. The bus lanes have too many gaps, especially through the town centres, they don’t run for long enough each day and double deckers are needed.

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  1. Just like National’s pre election promise of crucial highways that never transpired, this is just the same, vote catching, although instead of actually offering something new (i.e completely new greenfield construction) we are looking at more constriction on an already oversubscribed arterial, and that may, or may not end up being popular amongst voters. Time will tell.

    1. Thanks for holding off on the racism today Ricardo.

      On topic, does anyone know what is being done to fix the modelling so these kinds of projects can be better assessed?

      1. Probably not a necessary comment, Brian. Our user guidelines discourage ad hominem criticisms of other commenters. I can understand if you find some of Ricardo’s comments frustrating, but please try and rebut them at a factual level.

  2. Yes there is a need to properly fix the nation’s transport funding system. It is clearly no longer fit for purpose. It automatically excludes a whole type of land transport of the basis of the kind of wheel it has: Rubber wheel good, steel wheel bad. This is simply a form of institutionalised mode bias. And, in practice, it effectively becomes a tax on our most urban areas, as these are the places where the high capacity and spatial efficiency of rail transit is most effective.

    There are two possible solutions I can see:

    1. Classify urban Rapid Transit as the equivalent of State Highways in terms of funding, ie 100% nationally funded. After all the efficient functioning of our biggest economies is an issue of national significance, and these projects are no more in one place than any State Highway. In other words reform the the use of the National Land Transport Fund.

    2. Bulk fund urban regions, so that all transport projects receive the same level of contribution from the NLTF, this would mean both motorways and Transit projects would enjoy the same level of contribution from nation transport coffers, as would local roads. So instead of the current situation where AKL m’ways are 100% gov funded, Rail Transit; a fight as it has not source of funding, and local roads around 50/50, move to a situation where every project enjoys the same ratio of local and national fund, somewhere around 25% local/75% NLTF. This would mean that the merits of every proposal could be evaluated much more rationally without the scales being tilted by some projects appearing ‘free’ to local politicians, regardless of their value.

    1. Your second option might be more realistic, as it doesn’t mean any party needs to fund more money, they just have true flexibility over how that money is spent.

    2. I am a fan of two, mainly because Auckland has a Transportation Agency which the scale to be able to do major projects with Central Agency Assistance

      1. Yes am thinking specifically of AKL, CHCH, and WGTN.

        If this was already the structure CHCH would likely now have that east-west LR line the people said they wanted, and the land-use pattern of the rebuild would be being shaped by this, ie in a much better, and much more transport-urban form coordinated way…

        Yes there is a need to coordinate interregional transport strategies nationally, but that is no excuse to deny people from choosing intra-regional systems they want and value, and believe will suit their needs. Currently transport decisions are too dominated by the whims of the transport minister and cabinet, and this is anti-democratic, and inefficient; it leads to a one-size-fights-all outcome, and all our communities are not one size, nor have one need.

    3. I’m going for 1 with the addition of freight rail in the mix as well as rapid transit. With better rolling stock investment decisions, possible modest investment in lowering tunnels south of Paekakariki, and a new rail ferry, rail freight’s economics against typical B-train trucks would be transformed. Obtaining the right to assess capital investment against roading is everything.

      1. And back on topic, the government’s response indicates either: they are very sensitive to the views of some of their supporters, or there is a bit of schizophrenia going on.

        For those doing the hard yards on the light rail business case, keep on goin’, the maths in the end will get this over the line.

    4. I’ve long thought we should go the bulk funding route, combined with making AT responsible for motorways in the region and the rail network too.

      Post Waterview/WRR, the regional interconnected road network is built, any capacity added is purely for local commuters so should be funded like other projects.

      It would also mean that local debates about transport have real meaning but also guess the government wouldn’t want region having so much autonomy.

  3. Real questions need to be asked how the NLTF FAR’s (Funding Assistance Rates) are worked out.

    – A state highway in the middle of nowhere is 100% FAR
    – A major arterial in Auckland like GSR is 50% FAR, yet the latter is more strategic for freight movements
    – Third main comes out mostly the Crown Funds not NLTF even though strategic freight corridor.
    – Widening of SH16 mainly for SOV’s not freight is 100% FAR
    – Mass Transit moving more people is only 50% FAR

    We know these models drastically underestimate PT demand, a solution will be needed in the early 2020s.

  4. The good thing is that National have a poor shot at winning the Mount Roskill by-election because by now everyone understands the hypocrisy of pork-barrel politics. Let’s get some movement on the LRT issue and stop giving our motor-phallic PM and MOT more excuses to prioritise car and truck transport over people transport.

  5. So this is the problem. Buses need roads, yes. But to actually work buses need their own roads, and the value of buses on their own road, or ‘Busway’, is proven every day on the North Shore. So it is frankly appalling that these same politicians that are damning this solution are also the ones that have been pushing billions and billions of dollars worth of urban highway building in Auckland with no Busways to enable the bus system to work. And in particular to work well enough to relieve the new highway, as is the case on the North Shore. The huge motorway building programme under the current government is in this way extremely inefficient and dysfunctional, essentially spending the most possible money for the lowest capacity outcome: highly wasteful and energy inefficient too. Spending billions to get more traffic congestion. And simply not evidenced passed project selection; mode bias.

    Yesterday Lelani Tamu tweeted this illustration of the result. Note ‘express’ bus:

  6. Re: I’ve long wondered if the real reason the government have often been so reluctant to support rail projects is they know they’ll actually be too popular and everywhere will want one.

    I have thought the same in Canterbury. After the earthquakes there was a big movement of people out towards Rangiora and Rolleston. This caused congestion. In particular the bus from Rangiora is no longer viable, taking something like 80mins to travel to the CBD. Reinstating passenger rail on the existing rail network was suggested on a trial basis. This would not have been expensive to get a basic service up and running which might have halved PT commuter time. Brownlee immediately squashed this proposal. So to this day private vehicle congestion and inadequate PT remains a problem in Greater Christchurch. In the meantime Joyce, Brownlee and Co are busy appointing all their pro-country/anti-urban people to all the important decision making positions in the region.

    1. They learnt from AKL; don’t let any form of rail get a foot in the door, it’s too popular, it works. Joyce indulged AKL with electrification in a political judgement confident it would at best be mediocre… he was, and remains wrong about cities.

      This, and the rush to dispersal post quake, has led directly to the terrible traffic outcome now evident in our second city. The cost to efficiency and wellbeing will only increase. Sorry business. It will cap growth, certainly.

    2. Really disappointing they couldn’t get the rail trial up and running, as it was a great opportunity with a change in travel patterns and a set of cheap 2nd hand trains happening to be available. I’m not sure it would have succeeded as I think the population on the North Canterbury side is too dispersed and the employment in the Addington area is also too dispersed, however given the difference in commute times it was well worth a try.

  7. I’m a little confused here. Mt Roskill is a by-election for a safe Labour seat. Currently national is in government and therefore control the purse strings. So Labour can not at the moment deliver on those promises unless they win the General Election. I think that it would be great to get 100% of the funding for this vitally important piece of infra-structure, however 50% is better than nothing. Maybe the rest could be PPP or the transport levy is still kept in place? I doubt if anything is going to happen in this mayoral cycle which is going to suddenly need mass burrowing and an agreement with Government or someone could be worked out later.
    I’m a bit confused about one thing….is $1.4 billion required only for Dominion Road LRT. I thought that $1 to $2 billion would buy us Sandringham road, Mt Eden, Dom Road, etc. Was I mistaken?

    1. The estimates from CAP (Central Access Plan) were

      1.3b for WQ-Dom includes rolling stock & depot.
      500m to add the Spur for S Road cheaper as the spine & depot already built.

      3.7b for all 4.

        1. How so Patrick? I can think of over a dozen routes that make sense and those four are close to the top.

        2. Much much more value in extending the first line (eg Shore) or adding new ones elsewhere (eg Manukau-Botany-Airport) than building parallel ones for the same catchment one block away.

      1. Oh…I only read the news paper reports. They were obviously mixing there facts. Now it make sense (sort of). I guess if Labour wanted a bold election promise they should offer something more like investing $4 to 5 billion dollars in Light rail in NZ. Cancelling RoNs with BCR of less than 1.5 or something (thereby freeing up money for to pay for promise 1). And prompt more multi-modal solutions to transport problems (less spending money on large motorway/highway projects and more spending on other modes of transport). I think they should take up routinely funding the Urban Cycleway fund of say $1 billion dollars (over a 3 year period or something) which is contestable between Cities/towns in NZ. I guess with airfares decreasing and international travel to NZ it would be an idea to implement a bed tax for overseas travelers and higher airport charges/tax (but do not be too greedy) (selling this as increasing taxes on International travelers who travel lots – they might need to think how to do this in practice). This money could also be used to help pay for PT/Cycleways/etc to airports plus pay for conservation projects/national walkways and cycleways, etc.

        It just seems abit strange that they a partially prompting a policy, which they can not deliver unless they win the general election. I guess since the government is now paying for CRL, they need a new Auckland issue but they need to think much bigger if they wish to have a policy that is going to win them a significant amount of votes. Dom. Road is just to little and too localized, I would be looking at LRT in CHCH and Wellington, Sandringham road and a commitment to fund LRT to the North Shore (perhaps making the new Waitemata crossing only for Light Rail – so it can be affordable). Then there would be a clear point of difference between the parties which affects a significant number of people. It just seems strange to partially fund a PT project which only has localized importance (I think it is a necessary project – but there are a lot of people which might not care about it because they do not live in the area).

        1. i like the concept of bulk buy with Light rail in multiple cities. We might actually get some economy of scale going on if it was standardised across cities.

    2. You can expect National to counter the offer by saying they will get rid of all the one-way bridges on Dominion Road and Mt Eden Road.

      1. Including the low volume ones nearer the southern end of the isthmus, that really aren’t justified, and also the one on Mt Eden Road that would require a Kauri tree to be removed.

  8. National do come across as a bunch of dimwits with their transport policies. When Key says buses are the answer you know he never has caught one in Auckland.

    I guess his sons response to a cyclist last week sums up the families thoughts on modes of transports outside of cars.

  9. Looking again at that Proposed Future Strategic PT Network, Airport to Puhinui says “Heavy Rail”. Never mind transfers at Puhinui / Onehunga / wherever.. the logical place for everyone everywhere to transfer is the also the primary destination, i.e. CBD. Send proper trains (with luggage space) straight there round the Eastern Line and back down the Southern Line or vice versa (or both).

    1. Looking at that diagram there will be a one seat ride via Dominion Rd for those that really don’t want to transfer. Lets not clog up the slots in the CRL and Eastern lines with a line that will only have one additional station. Any one seat RTN to and from the airport needs other stations with employment and/or residents to make it viable.

        1. Fair call. Given it’s probably at least 20 years away it may well come down to whether Te Irirangi LR is viable, in which case it might as well extend to the airport. My preference would be an airport rail route that also takes in other employment and residential areas, but there are pros and cons of all the routes that have been discussed.

        2. That is why I prefer the Otahuhu HR option over Puhinui that I originally supported. Puhinui is a good option for a solely airport link but it misses the south eastern suburbs that require rapid transit too.

        3. Westfield to Otahuhu would be sorted under the airport line works by effectively moving the junction south of Otahuhu.

        4. Please show your working, you are talking about getting 36 tph plus freights, both directions through two very close junctions where 12 have to completely cross the tracks as well. Once again; show your working.

        5. Extending the NAL to just south of Otahuhu Platform, ie Quad tracking that section or five tracking once a third main is on the NIMT. Freights heading south out of Westfield already join the main south of Otahuhu so it only effects the port shunts and that is where the third main comes in.

        6. Show your working on how all of the trains will fit and how you’ll fit the flying junctions in too. You can act like this is child’s play all you like but you are proposing to put a ludicrous number of complex movements through a really tight alignment.

        7. No flying junctions required. Southern line and ex western line trains heading to the airport will use the Otahuhu Station extension the same way the eastern and southern trains do now and the eastern trains will use the current Otahuhu platform along with access through for the port shunts. The airport line will branch off toward the airport crossing the freight line just south of the current Westfield depot through somewhere in the vicinity of the old railways workshops, the southern line (NAL extension) will merge into the NIMT south of Otahuhu in the same way the Westfield junction works now.

          Anything else you want to know just ask.

        8. Good luck getting the PoA freight and Airport bound trains all across the southern line. What you have described may not work even if you could build all of the flying junctions.

        9. Why do the port shunts need to cross the southern line?
          The airport bound trains would cross the up main, you know like the east bound trains now cross the down main so whats the issue?

        10. @Bigted
          It would be good to see this plan you outlined as a complete article posted in Transportblog, showing the tracks/pathways etc.
          Perhaps those in charge could invite you to do this?

    2. Why is the CBD the primary destination? There are thousands of Aucklanders who use the airport each week, and several thousand who work there every day, and a very small proportion live in the CBD. I live in Sunnynook and already use the 380 bus/train and busway when I can. One seat rides are not the beall and end all of PT as shown by the New Network.

      1. Well the CBD is by far the biggest hub in the Auckland wheel.

        Light rail to the airport via Mangere, Onehunga etc makes sense. Like London’s Piccadilly Line.

        So does heavy rail via Puhinui.. continuing north to CBD, via the Eastern Line, when there is a third main, non-stop (or only at e.g. Puhinui, Otahuhu and Panmure) and south to Hamilton. Like the Heathrow Express and the GWR.

        1. It does make sense, but of course that doesn’t automatically make it financially viable. Auckland airport doesn’t handle the volumes of some of the airports overseas we often compare it with, it’s not even in the same league as Heathrow. Definitely needs to be allowed for in future plans though, who knows what volumes will be in 20 years. I think in 1996 the plan was to have LR commandeer the Western Line corridor and run down from Kingsland to the city using streets, something that thankfully didn’t happen, plans definitely change!

  10. It’s very much not a safe Labour seat, National won the party vote there last time; Goff had a large personal vote, that advantage is gone

    1. It’s a by-election so the party vote is irrelevant. Mount Roskill is electing a new MP. Michael Wood has been publicly endorsed by Phil Goff even well before the mayoral election. The Greens are not running a candidate and Parmjeet Parmar is hardly a high profile National list MP. There is also the People Party, whose candidate is more likely to attract votes from Parmar due to her lack of action to support Indian students caught up in visa and immigration woes. Waste of space candidate Adam Holland is also running.

      Mind you a National win would mean an extra seat in parliament for them (and one less for Labour) so they’ll throw everything they can to win it, but no government has ever won a by-election off the opposition in NZ history and I don’t expect that to change.

      1. Andrew Little said they would accelerate LR to Mt Roskill if they win the next general election so who wins this by-election is irrelevant in regards to LR.
        As has already been pointed out the party vote was won by National and next November there will be a party vote.

        1. The party vote was won by National in 2014 (by a small margin and the only time in the whole history of the electorate). Don’t be so certain on a repeat of that in 2017.

        2. The party vote in Maungakiekie switched from Labour to National in 2008 and has stayed that way since. It could just be a indicator of the more popular party at the time but I think it could also be a sign of these suburbs gentrifying, and therefore could be a permanent turning point for Mt Roskill. Only time will tell, my pick is National to win the by-election and keep the party vote majority next year.

        3. Maungakiekie is most definitely a bellweather seat, it has been occupied by the governing party ever since it’s creation at the first MMP election. However Mount Roskill is not, it’s been held by Labour and even without Phil Goff, National are still unlikely to win the by-election and close in a 8000 vote majority Goff had over Parmar.

    2. Agree, I’d put the odds in favour of national if anything. While I fully support Dom Rd LR, this does smell a bit of desperation pork, if I was bringing forward funding on anything it would be getting the SE busway built earlier and actually doing something about the NW busway.

      1. Totally agree. I’d love to see light rail down Dominion Road, but if there’s a case for accelerating a major PT project in Auckland, surely it’s the Northwest Busway?

        1. That’s true, although ATAP was only looking at building the Te Atatu to Westgate stage in the first decade, there is definitely scope for pulling the next stages forward.

        2. It really needs the Pt Chev to CBD corridor to work well too. At the moment, it is patchy as hell. Limited time bus lanes and no light priority make the trip pretty slow.

      2. I think National have lost perspective of their voters in recent years & will be surprised at the next election by a big Auckland vote wanting better and more PT funding & solving housing issues properly etc etc…especially if younger people get and voter better! I must say Bill English I think is good and running a tight budget with many competing demands (esp with health & education, welfare etc) & it’s nice to be getting tax breaks bit by bit over the years. Really though, as other’s have said, if we switch funding away from big motorway projects and the like, we will have enough money for proper money for these RTN things sooner rather than later. Totally agree that funding should be more from central for some of these things at least and it was good Goff raised the point should Auckland pay anything at all. In a sense we could justify a big catchup of tax take over the years of disproportionate spending based on population.

        1. I dunno; it could be more that they still don’t value or understand cities and we’re getting more and more urban every year. Plus NZF are yapping hard in their backwards facing ex-urban heartland so even when they do make a concession to AKL’s new pattern they regret it when the optics look bad when viewed from outside… The contradictions are piling up; core Nats all feeling wealthier on house prices; so they’re really not hearing about housing crisis ‘in the Koru club’, except when the kids try to leave home… It is all very messy and interesting…. no particular conclusions, it’s just interesting to watch.

        2. re “except when the kids try to leave home”, yes that is when these people are noticing and/or hear their kids PT woes. Definitely changing times.

  11. The real reason the nats oppose PT is that it has the dangerous whiff of socialism*. People doing things together for the common good! Gulp. Where would that end?
    *Chris Trotter.

  12. “why should Aucklanders be stumping up 50% for a national scale project”. I can agree with this principle for genuine National Scale projects like the City Rail link. However the Domion Road light rail does not fit into this category. Unlike almost all state highways, Dominion Road is very rarely used by people living outside the Auckland area and only a very very tiny portion of the traffic using Dominion Road on any given day will be people who usually reside outside of Auckland. I have traveled extremely extensively throughout New Zealand and have used a clear majority of state highways in the country, but don’t think I have ever traveled on Dominion Road before.

    Also saying you are paying 36% of every state highway project in the country is a little silly in some ways. I could go round saying Wellingtonians are paying 10% of the cost of the Waterview Tunnel on the same basis. And for a number of state highways in tourist areas like the Coromandel and Northland a significant portion of the traffic is Aucklanders who travel to these areas

    1. Possibly, Auckland Region should be paying 50%. In regard to finding the 50% at a national level however, the answer is simple: switch money from RoNS projects after the next election. Postpone, cancel, downscale them. Reallocate the funding to more efficient transport projects. There job done.

  13. I’ve never really liked the tram idea. A waste of time and money. If we treated buses like we do trams, then buses would be just as good.

    1. The NEX bus I used the other day seemed have 300 squashed in.
      Or have 2 buses, twice as frequent when the capacity is needed.
      My point is that most of the benefits of trams are not dependent on the vehicle used.

      1. The bus was unlikely to carry 300 people even at crush. 60 is the capacity of a SD & 100 odd for a DD.

        The LRV’s can carry 460.

        You can’t just double the frequency, CBD streets can only handle so many buses an hour, when you start getting over 80-100 you start to have issues, when you get over 140 the system starts to break. That was why the CRL was so imperative, because without it & the new network you would have 300+ buses an hour on Symonds.

        That is why LRT is needed, it creates a step change by allowing Queen St to be opened up as a new corridor without trashing it, and it reduces the amount of BPH on Symonds. The Northern Busway will need to be converted to rail for the same reason the Busway can handle 180BPH but Fanshawe can’t.

      2. “Trams”, including the large LR vehicles indicated, take up less road width than buses (as vehicles on rails can pass closer to each other at speed). This is a critical factor for getting uninterrupted dedicated right-of-way on the routes in question. LR for a given capacity (with signal priority) also permits more cross-route traffic than the same capacity of buses, as they spend less time going through intersections.

    2. You can give a bus its own corridor and you can run them as a trunk service and you can load at multiple doors, you can even run them quiet off overhead power, but the quality of ride is always poor compared to light rail. If you want it to be good and you want people to invest in landuse activities knowing there will be a good PT system then you need rail of some sort.

  14. Re Patrick’s musings on bulk funding of the regions. Although limited, we did have the R Funds (R for regional) up until 2008 which gave each region control over a share of the national transport fund. Stephen Joyce killed that off pretty quickly in order to suck funds into his RONS programme – just as George W Bush (needing billions to fund his “war on terror”) had killed off the FFF (Flexible Federal Funding) scheme which had been widely used by US urban authorities to develop public transport, walking and cycling facilities, etc. I would really like to see the R Funds re-introduced but on a more generous scale. This was being promoted just over 20 years ago by a previous National Minister of Transport (Maurice Williamson) – his theory being that big cities could choose to spend their share on building public transport facilities while the regions could focus on roads for milk tankers, logging trucks and tourists.

  15. Totally agree that funding should be more from central for some of these things. It was good Goff raised the point should Auckland pay anything at all? In a sense we could justify a big catchup of tax take over the years of disproportionate spending based on population. We should surely be able to raise the funds we need from blinken regional fuel tax at least.

  16. I’d be uneasy about too much bulk funding of regions, it sounds good in theory but in reality they are arbitrary lines drawn on maps. Aucklander’s spend much more time driving on roads in Northland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty than vice-versa, purely because there are more people in Auckland. Also the West Coast has a relatively small population, however their main roads are key tourist routes, which tourists contribute to through road tax every time they fill up the rental car.

    For these reasons it couldn’t be done just on a population basis, therefore there would need to be some form of weighting, which would require national oversight. The people doing this may well end up with the best information to determine which projects are the most important.

    1. Yes, I think other town planning considerations regarding Queen St & Dominion Rd:
      From LIGHT RAIL TRANSIT BACKGROUNDER – STAGES 1-3 pdf document, not sure if on AT’s website anymore:
      “The initial LRT network is made up of four lines on Dominion, Sandringham, Mt Eden and Manukau Roads, converging into two spines in the city centre – along Queen Street and Symonds Street. The Queen Street spine (under investigation) is fed by Sandringham and Dominion lines; the Symonds Street spine is fed by Mt Eden and Manukau lines. As Symonds Street is Auckland’s busiest bus corridor and congested in the peak, there are no practical options to redistribute buses and construct LRT on Symonds Street first. The Queen Street spine needs to be implemented before Symonds Street can go ahead.
      Based on current analysis and projections, Dominion Road reaches bus corridor capacity in 2019, shortly followed by Sandringham Road. By implementing the Dominion and Sandringham LRT lines, the number of buses on Symonds Street will reduce to acceptable levels to enable the construction of LRT. The Queen Street spine is required first to serve the two feeder lines, being mindful of other city centre initiatives.”

      1. The reason was mentioned in CAP, Dom & S Roads get the numbers down enough you don’t need to think about the others until the 2040s which is beyond a reasonable period to forecast for.

  17. Always with this parking argument, whether it be contra public transport or bike lanes. If public transport is good, and bike lanes safe…who needs to park? It will take a major attitude change in the general population to really push this through, clearly our leaders are lacking the vision to put sufficient effort into the research. In the meantime we are required to catch a plane to experience real public transport, sometime more than a plane. If so much business is lost though traffic, why is the finance even an issue, clearly the benefits are multiple, most especially with the health services; less drivers, less accidents, less stress, less unhealthy lifestyles etc. The health savings alone are more than justification. But I guess you have to be sitting in a bus to have these epiphanies…

    1. “It will take a major attitude change in the general population to really push this through.”

      The attitude change will happen when the general population has a pleasant journey to work every morning and every evening. Build it and they will come.

      1. That’s it in a nutshell. Once Council realises that all of Auckland wants frequent and affordable public transport, and gets AT to deliver this (whether they want to or not), we will have a much safer and wealthier city.

      2. I disagree there needs to be any change in attitude. For most people the attitude is “I want an accessible reliable transport option that does what I need it to, I won’t take shitty, slow, unreliable transport that doesnt operate where and when I need it to”.

        We don’t need to change attitudes, we need to change the offering. Look at the busway and rail lines, no attitude change required. Just offer something useful and people will use it.

  18. Since at least 1982, National governments in NZ have always used the terms “Land Transport” for roads, and “Mass Transit” for buses. Neither term has ever applied to rail of any kind. Has a kind of propaganda-ish feel to me. When I saw mass transit used in ATAP, it pretty confirmed for me that the government has no intention of funding any kind of rail beyond the CRL.

  19. That is a very interesting post. So to be an effective policy you need to find both Dom rd and Sandringham rd. Otherwise u are not doing much to solve the problem. AC around 2019-2023 is funding CRL, so no spare funds to pay for 50% of LR costs. And labour may not be in power then either. So a promise they may not be fulifilled.

    1. Not doing much to solve the problem? It fixes the problem for three decades!

      Note you don’t need the Sandringham if you do the Mangere extension to the airport. Either does the job and the Mangere-Airport works better.

  20. Look no further than the North Western motorway rebuild to see where Nationals heart lies. They had a golden opportunity to put in decent alternatives like a bus way or railway but they gave us nothing. Nothing but cars, cars and more cars. There is a sop of a bus lane here and there on the break down strips but it’s nothing. Labour in 9 years double tracked the Western Line, rebuilt the Onehunga Line from an abandoned branch and built the Manukau Branch. What have National given us in 8 years? More bloody motorways!

    Key is as usual full of shit and thoroughly unconvincing. National have nothing, they don’t do PT but as the roads clog up worsening with each month they are looking increasingly stupid. Their problem is there is no profit in PT for them, the Fletchers, the Fulton Hogans and a dozen new car importers can’t make a buck when we ain’t building more roads or maintaining them. And you can safely assume National caucus members and their trust funds wisely invest their millions in such companies and they in turn donate to the National Party. One hand washes the other in a cosy little relationship that benefits the few.

    Labour know once the first decent tram line opens the dam is broken and more will follow. It is well past talking, the time has come. Buses do not cut it. However you can be reassured that following the usual Stephen Joyce bullshit tirade to fill in the huge gap in philosophies there will be urgent Curia polling and focus grouping going on to come up with a lite plan, one that gives the appearance of Labours announcement but one that is empty and designed to take it off the front pages. But as I said to start with, look no further than the North Western to see where National come from!

    1. The double tracking the Western Line, rebuilding the Onehunga Line (not the greatest achievement) and building the Manukau Branch would have all happened no matter who was in government as they were all projects lead by the predecessor to AT. The leader of that 9 year Labour government wanted to convert the western line to a busway leaving the rails down for freight trains to run at night, so lucky it was an ARA project or Aucklands transport would be very different today.

  21. Why AT need to bundle the business case of light rail from city to dominion road, and light rail from dominion road to airport together as a single project?

    How about build the light rail to Dominion road first.

    Then decide whether to build heavy rail or light rail to airport, from a list of options such as Onehunga, Otahuhu and Puhinui?

  22. Shame on labour. And shame they have reverted to light rail instead of heavy which would serve future growth well into our childrens future. More poor thinking from those we entrust our futures with.

    1. Agreed SJC. Rapid transit works best on its own, protected right-of-way – i.e. heavy rail (or some lighter equivalent, if having a another type of system can seriously be justified). Light rail in existing streets has its place but it is a poor compromise where “rapid transit” is the aim.

      More heavy rail may well be necessary in the longer term but it will cost more overall if light rail is done first and then found not to be adequate. Would be much more effective to get the HR masterplan established first and then work out where and how street-trams can best supplement this. But it seems we have jettisoned further HR plans altogether and are trying to use trams for a one-size-fits-all.

      Having said that, it does appear that trams down Dominion Road are necessary in their own right, but not as a rapid transit feeder to Mangere and the Airport.

      As usual we appear to be going about things the wrong way, or are at risk of doing so.


      1. Dave, a serious question. Is having it’s own protected right of way incompatible with running in the road corridor when it comes to rapid transit?

        You use the term street trams, and I would agree if AT were proposing street trams but it is a very long stretch to call what they have in mind a tram or a streetcar. They are proposing physically separated, dedicated, raised LRT medians entirely free of traffic, including without traffic crossing or turning across the running way. The only place where LRT, traffic or pedestrians would interact would be at signalised crossings, where the LRT would have total priority.

        In other words the LRT would be functionally no different from a heavy railway with a lot of level crossings, for example the western line.

        If they can deliver on that plan that means LRT will never stop for traffic and never stop for the lights, it would only ever slow down for stations to let passengers on and off… so if that isn’t its own protected right of way, what is?

        1. Nick, it depends very much on the road. I believe this sort of thing is what we are aspiring to:

          So yes, I am sure it would work here:

          But much of Dominion Road is more like this. This is definitely street-tram territory! I don’t see how rapid-transit can be safely superimposed on this without major severance:

          Note also my observations from Los Angeles as to the effect of different road-environments on LRT speeds:

        2. You’ll notice in the second picture of Dominion Road that the space to run LRT has already been allocated, but someone has allowed cars to park in it.

  23. Hello Sailor Boy.
    Can I ask if you know how fast the trams travel along those streets in Nantes you have linked to? Well neither did I, so I thought I would do a little research.

    Both those streets are on Ligne 2 of the Nantes 3-line system.
    The public timetable for this line is available here:
    The route-length and station-locations are measureable from Google Earth.

    The timetabled time for a typical middle-of-the-day service from Orvault to Pirmil (where most Line 2 trams appear to terminate) is 36 minutes. The distance is 11.07Km. The average speed is 18.5Km/hr.

    The network looks to be a truly fantastic asset for the City of Nantes, but it is not rapid transit.
    Looking at the average speed between-stops, average-speeds over shared street sections are down to 14-15Km/h (including stop times). So while this might be great for a local Dominion-Road tram route in Auckland, it is not appropriate as the main PT feeder to the Auckland airport.

    1. And by the way, according to Google Earth’s distance-measuring tool, much of Dominion Road is only 14m from kerb-to-kerb, unless there are proposals to narrow the footpaths.

    2. If you are worried about a fast trip to the airport terminals to catch a plane from downtown, catch a train to Puhinui and get on an express shuttle along SH20B. You’ll never get faster than that. But a fast trip like that is almost irrelevant, it would account for single digit proportion of the usage of the line. However I don’t agree that the Dominion Rd corridor is not appropriate at the main PT feeder to the Auckland Airport, having a quick look at the population along the planned route shows there is approximately 310,000 people living in the neighbourhoods along the route. What exactly is inappropriate about linking a population not far off all of Wellington to the airport (before we even consider the rest of the bus network also serving the airport directly, not to mention connecting routes).

      Why would it be so slow? That’s the speed achieved by the current buses which have about three times as many stops, only limited physical priority and no functional signal priority. With the planned LRT all it would do is cruise at 50km/h and stop for is a station every kilometre or so. No traffic, no lights, no delay.

      The first third of the route is at street level with a 50km/h top speed sure, and the next two thirds of the route are fully off line with 100km/h top speed. One thing to note on the street bit. It’s only 7km from Aotea before you are off the end of Dominion Rd. By heavy rail via Britomart, 7km doesn’t even get you to Greenlane. That’s the slowest part of the network too. The LRT will be quite fast, and the HR alternative not especially good.

      1. Fully off line with 100Km/hr top-speed, great. But 50Km/hr LRV’s running through the shopping and populated areas of Dominion Road will not happen. I am predicting this, based on LRT examples such as Sailor Boy has provided above. And also on the growing number of 30Km/hr zones appearing in pedestrian-rich environments elsewhere, out in the suburbs (of Wellington), but also along the whole of the “Golden Mile” – Wgtn’s main, far-from-rapid CBD PT-artery.

        No problem with linking Dominion Rd LRT to the airport, as long as this is not expected to be the principal airport-PT access and as long as it’s not used as an excuse to delay or not pursue a more appropriate connection.

        1. I don’t see why not, we already have traffic and buses running at 50km/h on Dominion Rd (and in the case of traffic, well north of 60km/h at times!). Naturally they’all slow I the town centers, stop in fact… because that’s where the stations will be.
          Funny in these discussions people compare first class heavy rail to worst case streetcar/tram LRT. Can we not compare first class to first class? Like nobody is suggest HR would be single track with level crossings and 10km/h curves. So why does LRT have to be slow traffic-bound, wait for pedestrians tram style?

        2. @ Dave B & Nick R. In a previous LRT discussions on this blog somewhere, I mentioned the speeds of what the modern, down under, Surfers Paradise one does in the more street sections. I was satisfied with quick back of the envelope calculations that it was pretty close to what AT had come up with in their documents/video, if you compare the relevant/similar sections. Don’t think in reality you can barrel down the road at 50km/hr with even semi separated lines as with buses at least we sort of expect they can stop quicker/swerve a stray pedestrian.

        3. Grant the G:Link LR has an average speed of around 30kph (about the same as HR on the southern line) but in the areas that better resemble Dominion Rd it is half that.

        4. Right so take the downtown street part of the G Link: Northcliffe Station to Surfers Paradise North. 2.9km and four intermediate stops in 8 mins, 21km/h.

          From the Civic Theatre on Queen St to SH20 at Mount Roskill via Dominion Rd is 7.2km. So if it averages the same speed at G:Link’s slowest bit it will take just under 21 minutes to get from Aotea to the off street section.

          That’s the same time it takes for heavy rail to get from Britomart to just past Penrose currently. And if you’re starting at Aotea, your HR train would be just leaving ellerslie.

          So it’s certainly a competitive time, very competitive. From the end of Dominion Rd to Onehunga is 4.8km, the LRT would have to do it in seven minutes to better the current train (I.e 28 mins in total). That would require the LRT to average 41km/h including stops on the offline section. Seems pretty feasible to me.

          So, if LRT can achieve on Dominion Rd what the Gold Coast does through the middle of surfers paradise then it will be at least as fast as the current heavy rail to Onehunga. From there the two should be about the same.

        5. Yes Nick but from Onehunga (not the smartest route for HR by the way) HR only stops at Mangere town centre than the terminal (I can’t see why it can’t also have an airport oaks stop too but apparently there is a reason for that) but LR stops at Mangere bridge, Mangere town centre, airport oaks and the airport business district (from memory) before it reaches the terminal (street running from the airport business district).

        6. Well that’s a little arbitrary, LRT could not stop at those locations if you wanted it that way and it would be the same. HR was planned to stop at Mangere Bridge, Mangere Town Centre and the airport business park before the terminal station. If I’m reading the plan correctly LRT has those same stops but also adds in Favona and Ascot stations. So yeah leave out the last two if you must

          I guess the issue with HR is stations can be quite difficult geometrically, perhaps they couldn’t fit the Favona one in given the Kirkbride ramps and overbridges to weave around. You need 150m for the platforms with no more than 1% grade, then either side you need a transition crest or slump, both of which should ideally be straight horizontally. Then you are back to climbing at about 3% or so. Makes it hard to just pop over an on ramp and have a station next to the overbridge.

        7. A Favona station would be straight forward using the Otahuhu option, given that does miss out Mangere bridge but how many other suburbs don’t have their own HR station now.

  24. The cost of this Dominion Rd line looks to be extremely expensive per kilometre by international standards for what looks like a very simple route (ie. no tunnels, bridges, land acquisitions, rights of way). Have the reasons for this been explored?

    1. It will still need a Wiri style depot, stabling and training facility, The Wiri depot cost $100M on cheap land five years ago so there would have to be some land acquisition.

    2. Well there is actually a tunnel, or really a subway under K Rd, but that’s not where the cost comes from, it’s the tight RoW, and the need to move all sub-street services first, and completely rebuild the streets. Auckland’s main roads are not wide, there is no cheap and available RoW left anyway in the city now that we’re using our small extant rail system again. To add anything now it’s tunnelling, elevating, or squeezing. Waterview, CRL, and the next harbour crossing are underground. The terrible East/West has a fair bit of elevating, Dom Rd LRT will be squeezing. This is expensive, but cheaper or preferable to elevating or demolishing whole swathes of the existing built environment.

      1. What a conflicted little shambles! We might just have to bite the bullet and tunnel – one of the costs of our short-sighted transport and land-use policies of the past.
        But would just mention that with adequate investment there is still plenty more potential capacity in our existing HR corridors. May have to ask the Japanese for some guidance 🙂

  25. I’m coming around to a junction at Puhinui to catch (hopefully) rail to the airport instead of a line via Onehunga, Mangere which Ameti is going to kill. Puhinui will allow an interconnection for north, south and, I would expect, light rail from the east, or whatever they manage to get through in eastern arguments. Seems better than an express from the city. The dominion rd light rail could exist as it’s own service without a need for further connectivity to the airport.

    Is rail from Puhinui to the airport possible? or would it have to be shuttles?

    1. Another branch off the Southern Line from the north would not work well, each branch splits frequency, had Manukau been put west of the rail line then a branch picking up both that new centre and the airport could work.

      RT access to the airport via the NIMT will function best via transfer, to either Rapid Bus with own RoW, or LR, with the same.

      However longer term a HR branch from the south, ie with service from Hamilton and all the development we look likely to get between could conceivably function, though only if that new development isn’t on the usual inefficient and depressing auto-dependant sprawl pattern…. But it is still unlikely to be serving sufficient population or density for quite a while, and anyway they same people can also transfer at Puhinui, it could come to play as an option if there was a need for more service in the south than the city system can handle, which is not inconceivable at all, as that would mean there would be value in terminating branch from the south….

      But are we likely to ever plan that well ahead and reserve RoWs?

    2. Jeff I was initially a supporter of the Puhinui option but that only works as an airport only link and would need to be a shuttle due to lack of slots available. The Otahuhu option whether it is HR, LR or buses gives the best connections from all directions with it being HR it is a one seat ride from everywhere between Swanson and Otahuhu (via Britomart and Parnell) then Otahuhu and the airport with a single transfer for every other rail destination (except Pukekohe until electrified), it is even a single transfer from the NEX buses at Britomart.

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