Friday certainly turned out to be interesting following on from our post from that morning that the NZTA now supported Light Rail along Dominion Rd and to the Airport in the future. The council pulled down the document our post was based on, which was a waste of time given we’d already published our post. Later in the day, Transport Minister Simon Bridges confirmed it all, followed by a joint release from Auckland Transport and the NZTA. While it’s great that we’ve now got the government saying that a rail connection to the airport will happen, the idea of it being 30 years away has been met with ridicule from a lot of people.

One of the first things I found interesting was the different way in which the agencies described the decision compared to the one from the minister. Most notably Bridges seemed to make more of an effort to talk up the recent Advanced Bus Solution study (ABS) and the ability of buses to cope with demand for the next 30 years.

The study found an advanced bus option could provide a credible solution over the next 30 years that could progress from the current bus-based system to a long term solution.

The study also demonstrated the advanced bus option has the potential to deliver on forecast demand depending on the rate of growth of the city.

A lot of the timing so far seems to be dependent on just how much capacity can be eeked out of buses before an upgrade to light rail is needed and that’s where the ABS study comes in.

As I mentioned on Friday, the ABS was commissioned by the NZTA following on from the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) which only referred to some key public transport projects as ‘Mass Transit’. The NZTA describe the objective of the ABS as coming up with the preferred bus based option for between the city and the Airport and serving the central isthmus, utilising new and emerging technologies, and that is able to be compared with some of the previous studies that have ultimately recommended light rail as the solution.

The ABS study was also released publicly on Friday finally giving us the opportunity to look through it. As mentioned on Friday, the recommended the same route down Dominion Rd then along SH20 as the previous studies that recommended light rail have. It also recommends a rapid transit corridor for buses of the same width and location within the road corridor as is needed for light rail. This is why the announcements on Friday afternoon talked about getting on with route protection. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long to find some gaping flaws and major concerns.

The ABS also has another option that uses a second corridor between K Rd and Onehunga, going via Newmarket and Manukau Rd. For the purposes of this post though I’ll stick to just the Dominion Rd corridor.

To service the route from the airport to the city the ABS suggests 4 separate service patterns that they say will need to operate. Each service would operate at four minute frequencies and calls for a mix of new, 18m long articulated buses and double-deckers. The four routes are

A – an 18m articulated ‘all stops’ service from Mt Roskill Junction to Mt Roskill Junction via Britomart
B – an 18m articulated ‘all stops’ service from the Airport to Airport via Britomart
C & D – two double-decker ‘express’ services from the Airport to Airport via Britomart, only stopping at the express ABS stations

Four different services at four minute frequencies, that’s 60 buses an hour down Dominion Rd and Queen St and something that would present a number of challenges including:

  • Express buses would need to be able to pass all stops buses if they are to have any time advantages. Unlike the Northern Busway stations which has four lanes at stations so buses travelling straight through can pass. The ABS envisages that the express buses will pass all stops buses by driving onto the other side of the busway. Buses at high frequencies in each direction weaving in and out of lanes sounds like a safety case nightmare.
  • There are many key intersections along the route. Major intersections, such as at Balmoral Rd, can have signal phase cycles of over 2 minutes meaning that these buses are ultimately going to bunch up and become less reliable. To help counter this, the ABS assumes there will be significant levels of signal pre-emption to prevent buses from falling behind schedule. Signal pre-emption can work well when frequencies are a bit lower, like as is proposed with light rail, but the frequencies suggested for the ABS would create significantly less opportunities for alternative traffic movements, including cross town buses.
  • This is even more critical in the City Centre, especially where it intersects with Wellesley St, which is expected in the future to be a 4-lane busway moving over 140 buses an hour. The ABS glosses over this and only suggests other isthmus buses could be turned into feeders for the Dominion Rd services.
  • Things get even more tricky at the Northern end of the route where the ABS expects buses will turn around by looping around Customs, Lower Albert, Quay and Commerce Streets before heading back down Queen St. As a reminder, they’re suggesting 60 buses and hour would be doing this, half of which are double-deckers and the other half longer, articulated buses. It’s unclear what impact this would have on buses like the Northern Express which uses Lower Albert St or the busy Mt Eden Rd buses which start from Commerce St. It would also require retaining at least four lanes for traffic on Quay St, working against council plans to make the area more pedestrian friendly.
  • The ABS also suggests using Commerce St and Quay St as a place where services could layover between runs. As above this would impact on Mt Eden Rd buses and it would also appear to block access to the shops directly above Britomart.
  • Speaking of pedestrians, compared to the light rail option, with 60 buses and hour in each direction it will make it much harder for pedestrians to cross roads. This would be both in the city centre or on Dominion Rd as on average there will always be a bus in some direction 30 seconds away.

For a lot of the points above, they seem to have just explained away the challenges by suggesting technology will solve it. Some of what they’re suggesting sounds reasonable but I’m not aware of having been fully implemented anywhere in the world yet.

All up, it seems the authors of this report, and their clients at the NZTA, completely forgot/ignored ATAP when it said we can’t continue to stuff more buses in the city centre and proposes to solve problems by stuffing more, only slightly larger buses in the city centre.

Another important element in all of this is the cost. The ABS Appendix suggests that the standard Dominion Rd option, with contingency, would cost $1.132 billion to build. On top of that there would need to be an additional $70 million for the buses – 47 articulated buses at $800,000 each and 51 double-deckers at $600,000 each. That brings the total to about $1.2 billion.

That is cheaper than Light Rail, which from the city to the airport is expected to exceed $2.4 billion but it’s also important to take into account the operating costs(OPEX) – and 60 buses an hour would require a significant number of drivers compared to LRT options.

Interestingly the ABS study is only assessed over a 20-year period while most studies these days cover a 40 year timeframe. Even so, the OPEX is significant at almost $1.5 billion.

By comparison, the SMART study that previously recommended light rail to the airport suggests OPEX costs of $790 million but that was assessed over 40 years. Given SMART only looked from Mt Roskill to the Airport, assuming those costs increased by 40% to account for getting to the city, it will likely be cheaper over the long run to build LRT from the start.

To top it off, light rail could have considerably larger capacity. AT’s plans for light rail would see two 33m long vehicles carrying 225 people combined to carry 450 people vehicle every four minutes in each direction which is higher than the ABS option. However, many cities with modern light rail systems, like Seattle, are starting to go further and so it’s possible we could ultimately end up with 99m long vehicles carrying 675 people. That’s potentially over 10,000 people an hour, 40% more than the ABS option.

Overall this seems to be a report that’s high on theoretical solutions but that is unworkable in the real world. I guess that’s why the AT/NZTA boards say further work is needed to determine the best point to transition from bus to light rail. There are of course some sensible improvements that can and should be made now to improve buses on this route but it would be foolish to spend billions on CAPEX and OPEX just to have to do much of it again to upgrade to light rail in the future.

Share this


      1. Yes and then maming a statement about overall expense. I cant see the opex figure in SMART (it is only quoted net of a base case) but the numbers in the SMART report are generally quoted discounted. Whereas the table from the LEK report appears to be undiscounted.

    1. Those are basically LRT on rubber tyres, which to be honest would be a more viable scheme than what the ABS study came up with.

      1. Certainly better, in the sense that the entirely unworkable 60 vehicles per hour improves to 30, but Light Rail offers much higher capacity at frequencies at or below the much more manageable 20 per hour. The ability for all the intersections to operate bearably on this route for any other traffic; Balmoral Rd, Wellesley St, Customs St etc, improves enormously as the frequency of them lowers, remember the times depends on them have priority at intersections, so one every minute, or even every 2 minutes, is unlikely to work for all other road users.

        Rule of thumb is that once you get to 20 per hour, one every 3 minutes, you go to higher capacity vehicles to maintain operability. Also to lower operating cost, fewer bigger vehicles, Light Rail does this better. All on electricity, of course.

        Then there is still the turning round problem in downtown; driving those things through Britomart by the train station entrance and four right-hand turns through Customs, Albert, Quay, and Commerce?! Also it is not clear there would be any cost advantage with these beasts, and Light Rail occupies a narrower width. A huge and dubious effort to avoid laying some track….

        Why? Just build the Light Rail. A proven and popular technology and a very long lasting investment for any city.

    2. That thing is going to be a bitch to back up… in fact, it’s so long, and if they were 30 seconds apart, you may as well just weld them all together and have a solid wall of bus. About as unfeasible for Auckland’s Dominion Road as you could ever be. Except Pods. They’d be even worse.

    3. Why don’t you just go with the Walfisch 57 triple-articulated double decker bus? With a capacity of 726, running at 20 per hour you’ll get 14,520pph, twice as good as your AutoTram Extra Grand.

      By comparison “Light rail sharing the road with cars can move 12,000 people an hour, compared with just 2,500 on buses, the agency says. A light rail priority route (like a busway) could move 18,000 people an hour.” according to

    4. lol so funny. Just reminds me of the Matrix movie line “Man she’s got a big ass.” trying to navigate that what ever craft thingy through a small area or tunnel…can’t remember exactly.

  1. Elevate the Light Rail on pylons above ground level. That could start now and be completed in a reasonably short time frame, with no competition (as buses would have) for roading. Unimpeded, quick, quiet, electric. Win Win. Very small footprint.

    1. Expensive, mutt-ugly, spewing diesel over a wider area…

      Also ignores that there’d be so many buses, that it becomes impossible to cross the road to actually catch a bus. Also, with 30s frequency what’s your dwell time going to be per bus? <10s?

      1. Jon, if this was a reply to Ricardo, he said elevated electric light rail, not diesel buses, so no diesel spewing, and because it’s elevated, there should be no more problem crossing the road as now – except, as Nick R and KLK point out, support pylons in a straight line along Dom Rd effectively take out a lane of traffic, so the road traffic would be affected about as much as having the corridor at road level (as well as the aesthetics, shading, etc.).

        Ricardo, because as Nick R and KLK point out, support pylons in a straight line along Dom Rd effectively take out a lane of traffic, so the road traffic would be affected about as much as having the corridor at road level, so it’s not really much of a gain (unless you’re suggesting truss supports with columns along the footpaths on each side, to only block pedestrians?).

    2. If you think an elevated railway has a very small footprint you must have some enormous feet yourself!

      Seriously, go walk around underneath one somewhere. Take a tape measure and pleasure out the diameter of the support columns and the space between them.

      If you elevated rail above Dominion Rd there is no way you could have two lanes each way for traffic.

      1. The new elevated MRT in KL has a huge footprint. Where it runs along the same alignment as a road, the cars have lost a lane for the massive support structures.

        And the existing LRT runs elevated down some major traffic corridors in the city. A more aesthetically-unpleasing sight you would struggle to find (though to be fair if it was elevated as high as the new MRT, it might be different) and the footprint issues are evident there, too.

    3. Small footprint? They are extending the BTS (skytrain) in Bangkok, so this is for a metro system but elevated BRT/LRT wouldn’t be any different.

      Along the roads where it is being extended, 2 lanes are closed for the duration of the project for working space and installing the support columns. When it comes time to lift the track bed into place they have to close 2-3 more lanes for the trucks and cranes. And that is just for the track, the stations take up even more space.

      To do that to Dom road you would have to remove all the parking for 3 years so you could use the parking areas for driving, have rolling closures of the road while the track bed was installed. Remove all the verandahs where the stations are located to install the staircases (and lose half the footpath).

      Once finished the loss of space in the centre of the road from the pillars means that you wouldn’t be able to restore any parking, you would have to have a concrete barrier down the middle of the road to prevent people from crashing into the pillars and there would be no sunlight below the third floor of the buildings, including on the street.

      So you may as well install it at ground level, it will cost less, you still get light on the street, you get to keep the full width of the footpath and you still have the same amount of parking and driving space as the elevated solutions.

  2. I’m surprised that the issue of pollution hasn’t been mentioned as 120 diesel buses per hour (even using hybrid technology) must lead to a huge increase in the levels of pollution in the city and along the Dominion Road…… doesn’t sound like a very sustainable solution to me.

  3. That bus looks like something out of the AMTRAK wars. I can see it working on dedicated bus ways were it does not have to play with traffic. But I can not imagine auckland drivers making room for that beast to pull out.
    Also I wonder about dwell times? Current buses are front door broading only. If you have lots of bags etc (airport bus) wouldn’t be very slow to board… therefore resulting in longer dwell times.

    I can see the rationale of building busways plus buying some extra double deckers for a short term solution (5 years). This could allow time to complete other projects and “save” funds for a lite rail solution. But 30 years and needing 60 buses per hour to deliver 50-75% of the capacity. That does not sound workable at all. Maybe they are thinking to banned private vehicles along dominion road- that might work. They could then put in protected cycle ways for people making shorter trips and have cycle rickshaws using the cycle ways. I have always liked the sound of bicycle bell over a car engine

  4. The bus part of this pointless announcement was the barest of bare minimums these bozo’s could think of to placate the fools that live in this city. It will not work and anyway it not going to happen anytime soon or the distant future. The designation of route protection is similarly flawed. Was the second Mangere Bridge not built with provision for rail? Did the powers that be in about 1950 protect land a rail link between Avondale and Southdown? Like those examples designation is meaningless unless something happens and they know it.

    It was, as I stated in the earlier post, a cynical and dishonest attempt by the minister and for some reason Phil Goff to look like they are doing something by telling us in 2047 we can access the airport by another means other than gridlock. And Phil will be 94 by then anyway!

    1. Designation is still important, as without it there may well never be any rail to the airport. Agree though this should (and probably will) happen earlier.

  5. Why not start in 2018 at Britomart? Use 2017 to research rolling stock and order then lay the lines and infrastructure to K Rd by the end of 2018. Then 2019, track to Dominion Rd or Mt Eden Rd’s by which time the vehicles have arrived and everything is up and running, Then onward and upwards from 2020 etc etc. Apparently our economy is so strong I am surprised there is not the money to do this with central government assistance, with ease!

    Wait for it, ohh no we cant do that, no way!

      1. False options; all these projects are more useful than the absurdly oversized East/West nonsense. Each improve travel choice and efficiency, that $1.85 money hole just induces more driving.

  6. “on average there will always be a bus in some direction 30 seconds away.”

    How did the Aucklander cross the road?

    They played chicken with the buses.

    1. In fact how many buses does that put on the road for the length of Dominion Rd? And where are they going to be stored? And where are the drivers who will be on $20 per hour and where and how will they afford to live?

      1. Thats actually a simple calculation, divide the total return run time by the headway.

        So Dominion Road to the bottom of Queen St is 9km, or 18km return. The report says an average of 25km/h running. So that is 43 minutes. Add in 10% for timekeeping and repositioning at each end, and you have 48 minutes.

        A 48 minute cycle time divided by a 1 minute headways gives 48 buses on Dominion Rd at one time.

  7. I still think heavy rail is a better investment especially long term and it’s getting lost in this bus spin rubbish

    1. My guess is that we’ll end up with both light and heavy rail eventually.

      Light rail will go in first, via Onehunga and then when it struggles to cope, HR via Otahuhu, to provide some form of express service to the city.

      The Airport to Botany link will probably be light rail, implemented once people realise the benefits of over buses.

  8. I’m no fan of LR to the airport (am in favour of it down Dom Rd though), but this idea of buses is quite frankly retarded (and you don’t just use that word often these days in this PC world!). I still don’t see how they plan to replace buses with LR in the future without massive disruption and overall costing a lot more than LR would be from the start.
    Still think an HR link from Puhinui + LR along Queen St and Dom Rd is the better option and would save around $400m which could be better spent on other things (not too mention less disruptive to build and quicker to build and being a better option for almost all airport passengers/workers).

    1. Totally agree with what you say here akldude. I guess what this report unintentionally proves is that getting LRT access all over Auckland is much more urgent than most people realise. Here we are in a country blessed with some of the cheapest renewable electricity generation in the world, and instead of using it we plan for endless diesel buses and private vehicles as the only way for most Aucklanders to get around even 30 years from now.

    2. What your solution misses though is an RT connection to Mangere Bridge, Mangere and Airport Oaks, along with an RT connection from the isthmus to the airport. I think the importance of the connection between the airport and the CBD is overrated, as Auckland is not a big airport in terms of passenger volumes, however it is big enough that passenger combined with workers create significant traffic congestion.

      The passengers and workers are heading to all corners, therefore to me it is more important that we have good RT connections heading north and east out of the airport, to me this involves some form of rail heading north and either LR or bus heading east to Puhinui (and hopefully beyond).

      1. Mangere/Mangere Bridge and Airport Oaks are a relatively small population.
        What purpose are you trying to achieve with RT there? For people living there that are working there or at the Airport or Onehunga then it is only a 5 minute drive or 10 minutes in a bus – so no need for RT for that. The RT is really about getting people to and from the airport.
        As mentioned in other posts, Airport Oaks wouldn’t be directly connected with HR – however with HR taking a huge chunk of the traffic away and the domestic terminal being relocated next to the international the whole airport area becomes opened up for an airport link style bus that loops around the whole area and linking up with the HR station. Failing that it would be a 10 minute walk (which is what PT advocates like to call an acceptable catchment distance) away or an easy cycle. For Mangere to reach other parts of Auckland having a decent regular bus service to Otahuhu and Onehunga would be the better option.
        Auckland is growing very rapidly and is actually one of the top 3 airports in Australasia by pax numbers. Couple that with the huge numbers of immigrants living in Auckland (that like to take trips back home) and a huge increase in tourist numbers.
        As you state passengers are heading to all corners (as are workers although they are primarily heading east and south). This is why an HR connection makes more sense as it is a better option for every single passenger with the exception of those living around Dominion Road or Mangere. By contrast LR is a worse solutions for all passengers with the exception of those on Dominion Rd and Mangere.
        Long term we will probably have both (if you built HR to the airport then at some point you probably would build LR from the North, however if you build LR first then it is unlikely in future when it costs more that you would build HR as it has a bigger step up in capacity and would be more expensive by then).

    3. I had the same concerns about the change from bus to light rail. You now have a two lane road with 60 buses an hour on them plus regular traffic. It will be basically gridlock for the construction period. Much like the Northern Busway the uptake will far exceed expected passenger numbers, so the change to light rail will come much sooner than originally anticipated.

  9. And of course buses provide considerably less benefits than light rail. If you surveyed Aucklanders on how many would take a bus to the airport and compared that to a survey of how many would take light rail to the airport, I bet the ratio would be at best 1/2. So half the benefit for probably more cost after opex. Not to mention all the visual, noise and air pollution, the inability to cross the road, the city and dominion road being full of cars, and Auckland continuing to look like a third world city (in fact even they wouldn’t consider this option)

    1. If true re survey thats because the public conflate vehicle type with vehicle and ROW quality. Does mean it will be reflected in practice.

      1. Are you saying that if they converted the northern busway to light rail that patronage would not increase? I highly doubt it, let’s face it, decent rail is always nicer than the best buses.

        1. If that’s all they did, I don’t see why it would increase. Frequencies would reduce if replaced on a like for like capacity basis. Light rail would have been inoperative for several months while road works have been going on on Fanshawe. Lake Rd light rail vehicles would have stopped while road works done there. Inoperative for duration of CRL construction or do we assume a temp fix for that? Lots more delay for light rail getting in and out of Fanshawe and other city stops as they have to wait for buses to clear (can’t just overtake etc).

        2. Any time the lane over HB with the rail tracks in it is blocked by an accident or breakdown, light rail stops; can’t change lane.

          On the flip side we know that the recent busway patronage trends correlate much better with other routes with similar ROW than similar vehicle type both on an absolute basis and in terms of growth rates.

    2. Yes I think the Gold Coast example shows that LRT is definitely more popular with users & would give more uptake than even the nicest buses. GC was much more popular than they were expecting. Particularly if it’s the first LRT in Auckland, plenty of people wanting to try it out etc.

  10. The concept of mass transit to the airport is great, the equity issue that worries me is the access charge that the airport company are likely going to want to charge to use the facility.

    I see the biggest benefit as the ability of workers to leave SOV at home or better not need them and still be able to get to work and their other commitments in a timely manner.

  11. I will bet that their forecasts are all wrong again.
    “Four different services at four minute frequencies, that’s 60 buses an hour down Dominion Rd and Queen St..”

    Operating 60 buses down Dominion Road each hour is going to mean that no other vehicles can use that street.
    That will mean there will be no Dominion Road crossings, no turning on to Dominion Road as side streets will be one way away from Dominion Road.
    Anyone spoke to the Mt Eden residents about the ABS plan?

    If the plan is turn Dominion Road into an isthmus Busway then add trams at future date – then please tell us.
    A busway will ensure that it will work, but sharing traffic will be a nightmare.

  12. I said this on twitter straight after I read the report and the more time goes one the more I see to support this statement:

    “This is what happens when you assess transport projects with no input from urban designers”

    It gets truer as time goes on and can be expanded; no consideration of wider policy documents unless they can be waved away, no consideration of cycling plans (the whole route is on at least an arterial cycle route too), no consideration of pedestrians unless they are accessing a bus, no consideration of CBD amenity except on Queen so that they only have to compare against 4 lanes of general traffic.

    I almost wonder whether AT/AC have supported this purely to make everyone so mad at the idea of the busway that they demand LRT.

    1. Seems sadly common for transport solutions to be designed in isolation. The City Centre Master Plan has enough to make any bus plan impossible, but here we are – AT seem content to steamroll everything with their movement based models, ignoring the city they serve. (easily mistyped as ‘sever’)

        1. Jamie they know about it all right. They just don’t believe in it, don’t think it’s ‘serious’, think their relationship to traffic (faithful, attentively all providing) trumps any other plans for city streets. They essentially have no conception of change on any scale, let alone transformation. Their focus is relentlessly backwards. They are warriors for the status quo. Even when faced with real time evidence as with the CRL works now, they will still insist that to reduce traffic lanes any further, even with the removal of a single right hard turn, will literally bring the entire city economy to a halt…. It is a religious level disagreement.

          But they won’t win this.

  13. Few tweaks required:

    1. The Queen st, as well as the loop (lower albert/quay st/commerce st/custom st) all needs to be bus only and ban private cars.

    2. Is it possible to get Articulated Double decker bus to make the capacity even higher and with less drivers?

    3. Balmoral shops and Mangere town centre should be express stop

    1. Kelvin, there are triple articulated double decker buses out there (which might be good for some routes) but really buses are a terrible “solution” for airport transportation

      1. Actually there aren’t. One supplier did come up with a single articulated double decker coach in the 1980s which had limited success as a tour bus for hair metal bands in Europe, but since then it has been rigid-body double decker, or multi-articulated single decker.

  14. seems like a report to keep the boss happy. Plenty of those in my company i bet someone is getting a pay rise

  15. Here’s the way it works folks.

    i) The real need is for a heavy rail connection, or extension from an existing functioning heavy rail system.

    ii) A report is produced which claims light rail is better, cheaper, faster, sexier, and so heavy rail comes off the table.

    iii) A report is then produced which claims that bus rapid transit is better, cheaper, faster, sexier, and so light rail comes off the table (or is pushed into the dim distant future).

    iv) A report is then produced which claims that the costs of high-end bus rapid transit cannot be justified, and that overall, a simple fleet of new buses with some bus-priority measures represents the best value for money.

    v) Nothing actually happens and the status-quo bumbles on with ordinary buses mixed in with single-occupant traffic for another 10 years until the above process then repeats. Meanwhile massive sums continue to be poured into motorway development.

    Here in Wellington we have now reached stage v) in our Public Transport Spine development process. Sounds like AK Airport Rapid Transit is rapidly heading down the same track.

      1. Hi Dgd, it’s the sad truth in Wellington I’m afraid.

        Oh, and if perchance a city happens to have a fully-functioning, 100% electric trolleybus system like we do, then some twisted politician will fabricate a case to get rid of it and go strangely deaf to all valid counter-evidence.

    1. Despair not Dave; we are going to bust through this barrier, the road lobby are at the end of the reign over our cities. It may not feel like it yet, but I really do think this is the darkness just before dawn. Auckland will be building Light Rail soon and Wellington and Christchurch will be empowered enormously by this… The desire for change is perceptible; there’s a train-a-coming…

  16. A bus from Papatoetoe station is the best solution. Also one from Onehunga. Actually the 380 bus is the most patronised of all the buses which use the Papatoeoe station yet it only runs every half an hour. So just increase its frequency. Plenty of back packs and suitcases on it. Also workers etc.

      1. Doubling (or tripling!) the frequency and adding some bus lanes would make it a viable option. Not as a substitute for LRT but as an interim measure and (after LRT) for trips originating locally or along the Southern/Eastern lines.

        The bus lanes are key. I use the 380 most times I go to/from the airport and it’s so unreliable from getting stuck in traffic that you have to build in heaps of extra time. Horrible.

  17. Yes big issue with buses of any type terminating or even quickly returning from the CBD (anyone invented a reversible bus yet?). Meanwhile, to reduce CBD bus overload we should be planning the next stage of a LRT along Symonds St through Newmarket, Manukau Rd to Onehunga to meet it. Interesting that route is in this ABS as an optional extra, I was wondering the other day how important this corridor is given seems to have quite a bit of dense zoning planned/currently there. Has many schools, hospital and lots of buses going to be coming from East. I’m pretty unfamiliar with Sandringham Rd & area but think it would be less required? Of course we have hardly got AMETI going, let alone Northwestern busway, Northern busway extension etc, more EMU’s, Pukekohe electrification & rail to the shore!

    1. If they built HR from Puhinui and LR only on Queen St+Dominion Rd then the spare $400m would go a long way to building LR along Symonds St etc (or paying for the 3rd main+Pukekohe Electrification+extra EMU+change).

      1. A Heavy Rail branch from Puhinui is the worst of all options, even for HR diehards, either upgrade and extend Onehunga line or a branch from south of the Otahuhu Interchange are both better. It creates a terrible network with far too much service on the NIMT and nowhere near enough new parts of the city covered (just one terminus). But even then what I really don’t get is why HR doods can’t see that the rail network will be fully taxed very soon after the CRL opens serving the existing lines. The CRL is still only a two track link; it can’t take a gazillion trains from everywhere, especially through Newmarket.

        An additional network, which is what this LR line is the start, is actually necessary. And Light Rail is much much more likely to happen, ie is more doable, than a CRL 2 east west under the city to a HR North Shore Line (though I can see a day when that will be required too- but has no constituency yet).

        Light Rail opens up a new Rapid Transit corridor to the centre of demand the city, in Queen St, that is way more affordable than any fully grade separate system and goes right to the front door of demand. It is a proven technology, no fantasy ‘future tech’ required, is fully electric, can buy ’em off the shelf, and is wildly popular with nearly everyone.

        Is only opposed by the road lobby, yesterday’s men in Wellington, and a few Heavy Rail holdouts on the other side. Two groups that share an obsession with mode, albeit different modes, and are seemingly unable to understand that cities need different horses for different courses.

        1. Patrick, the only impediment to the CRL handling 30 trains/hr per direction (or more, with moving-block control) is the flat junctions. And even these may not be an impediment if such junctions only carry a minority-flow as will the Newmarket Branch, once the CRL is open.

          There is far too much uninformed and erroneous comment on this site as to what heavy rail allegedly “can’t do”. Also much reference to “mode bias” as a way of denigrating those that are simply trying to present the real facts with regard to heavy rail. If anything, those guilty of mode bias are those who resort to straw-man exaggeration or outright mis-information to bolster what is essentially their subjective opinion.

          A little less snide dismissiveness of the views of others, and much more attention to basing “heavy-rail-can’t-do” statements on real evidence would be welcome in these forums.

        2. I never see those who favour light rail making libelous accusations of fraud by Jacobs to come up with their travel times and estimates. Making unsupported accusations of criminal conduct is pretty biased.

          Perhaps if those who still support heavy rail could ever critique the method of the Jacobs report, instead of only ever criticising the results then would receive response slightly less snide.

        3. Well it may be possible to push a complicated two track mixed network to the limits in theory but I doubt it is smart to try it in practice. And this isn’t any kind of mode specific criticism, in fact my belief in the need for a second high capacity rail network in AKL is not because of shortcomings in the existing network, though it is saddled with a number of pretty expensive to remedy structural limitations (like the Newmarket junction, for example), it is simply an observation of the clear utility and resilience offered by having multiple mutually supportive but also separate systems.

          It is, in fact, the same argument I use against the failing policy of thinking a motorway only city is viable too. We actually do need complementary separate systems. The city will function way more efficiently and be much less subject to catastrophic events that both the motorway and rail system suffer from now. Or at least when they occur the city need not come to a halt.

          As you will see soon we envisage a much wider Light Rail Network for Auckland, in fact one similar in scale and complementary to the existing Rail Network. These we see working strongly together, along with expanded Rapid Bus and Ferry systems (not on Dominion Rd and Queen St) to support a thriving, highly accessible, more equitable, and well connected city.

          Beyond that, we see the Rail system as also being required to support new intercity services and expanded freight movements, as being another reason for the need for another entirely separate and passenger only railway in AKL.

        4. Thanks Patrick for a reasoned response. However I struggle to see the need for “another entirely separate and passenger only railway in AKL”. Sure, it is not good if a single incident can stop the whole network, but resilience against that is by proper design, not by building an entirely separate network (just as one multi-line metro network seems to suffice for most cities). However I have no problem with separate systems where they make sense (eg Dominion Road trams, but in my view, separate from Airport Rapid Transit).
          The debate is not really about HR vs LR, but about what is appropriate, where.
          And I am entirely comfortable with alternative opinions as long as they are based on fact rather than misinformation masquerading as fact. Also that the level of debate does not degenerate into snideness and ridicule (I may have been guilty myself at times but I at least try to avoid it).

        5. First the need is for more capacity and wider coverage. The question of whether it should integrate with or complement the existing network follows. If we had track and junctions like Australian cities, or even just like Wellington Station, the case for extending the existing network would be stronger, but Auckland has an incredibly minimal infrastructure for what we hope to do with it. And little room to widen it.

          The advantages of starting again are considerable too. The challenges (cost) of building grade separate systems in city as crowded and constrained as Auckland are huge. We are pretty much left with the motorway corridors (especially has many of these have been built on old Railway RoWs), and these are not great places for Transit, the stations tend towards being stranded form good catchments by the presence of our criminally wide motorways.

          Tunnelling becomes one of the few options, and that is very expensive given our geology, topography, and built nature, as we are finding out now. Light Rail has the distinct advantage of being able to switch between types of environment, from Queen St to completely separate full rail type RoWs. I do think this is the right choice for the next step after the CRL, and as many upgrades to the rail network as we can get.

          Two tight and efficient two line systems look good for the next couple of decades to me. Anyway more soon…. CFN 2.0.

        6. I also think that some people assume light rail also means light on capacity. One of the best examples of what is proposed for Auckland is Seattle which has a light rail line which is about 2/3 on a grade separate right of way and a third down roads on a centre running median. The latest extension opened in March last year and as of the end of Jan that single line is carrying ~20m trips a year. Likely to be around 22m a year by the time the new extension has been open for a year. That is of course more than our entire rail network and does it fairly quickly too.

          With the CRL we’re likely to max out our existing heavy rail network so I think any additional routes don’t need to conform to the same design specs as the existing routes, as long as they integrate to form a coherent and quality network. This is of course not uncommon in many cities which often have a mix of technologies providing their RTN core

        7. Agree, Patrick that the future role of rail in serving the wider AK region is an important debate, and it may well be that replication of what is currently operating may not be the best option for wider roll-out. However the debate and evaluation needs to be carried out factually and honestly, which is a big leap when you consider the ridiculously skewed assessments that underpin much of transport decision-making to date. Let’s not add to the problem by peddling misinformation among ourselves.
          And in particular, let’s stop deceiving one another that cheaper, street-based systems can provide a comparable level-of-service to fully-segregated, unimpeded alignments.

          PS, will be interested to see CFN 2.0

        8. Dave, a serious question. What is the functional difference between running in a street corridor with priority over traffic lights and running on a rail corridor with priority over level crossings? Why do you assume being in a road corridor must be different from being next to one?

        9. Nick, simply that higher speeds are possible when running in a segregated corridor (which these days, assumes fenced, full-exclusion). If traffic-light priority can truly be achieved then that is a big help, but the issue of access onto the corridor by other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists etc remains. The greater the degree of exclusion, the better rail will perform, but there is a limit to how much can be achieved in a situation like Dominion Road.
          We also need to be mindful that urban speed-limits for traffic are very likely to come down in future, and already we are seeing 30Km/h zones starting to appear in areas of significant pedestrian-activity. I believe we need to think very carefully before we saddle our “Rapid Transit” with the constraints of pedestrian environments.

          I would refer you again to Los Angeles’ “Blue Line” for evidence of what I am saying,

        10. I understand your point Dave, but you have to consider the actual application to Auckland, Our heavy rail isn’t fully separated and fenced, it is perfectly accessible to drivers at level crossings and pedestrians and cyclist at basically any point. By your definition our rail system isn’t rapid transit, so clearly not a particularly useful way to draw the line.
          The LRT plan is for physically separated LRT tracks, with full priority over signalised intersections and non unsignalised intersections, which like the heavy rail is theoretically accessible to cars and pedestrians but a very difficult place to access.

          The interesting thing is people assume HR will be worlds best practice, but LRT will be worlds worst. But given the HR connects into our existing, less than ideal, rail system; and that the LRT would be a brand new purpose built network; if anything the opposite is true.

          Looking at those Los Angeles data I see that median running with few intersections varies between 39km/h and 61km/h. So that tells us things can vary a lot in different contexts, but also that we could expect the median running with few intersecitons on Dominion Road to perform about the same.

          It’s also worth pointing out that the Onehunga line takes 23 minutes to cover it’s 12km, so it only does 31km/h on average. So our heavy rail doesn’t automatically perform very well at all.

        11. Yes Nick, but level crossings are the only points of vehicle/cyclist/pedestrian intrusion onto a segregated rail-corridor, which is very different from running LRV’s down a street along which people live, work, shop, and require the freedom to walk across at any point. And as you know the aim is to progressively eliminate level crossings from the HR network so that it no longer has these risk-points.

          I am not making any claims as regards “world’s best/worst practice” for HR or LR. I am simply rating the proposal to put Rapid Transit down a residential street, against the alternative of using an exclusive rail-corridor. Of course you are right that the Onehunga service is pretty slow at the moment. The whole network is artificially slow for a number of reasons (punctuality rather than journey-times incentivised, safety rather than performance prioritised, etc). And bear in mind that LR may well face these same issues too.

          As for comparison with the LA Blue Line, the un-fenced Dominion Road proposal falls very-much into the “Street (Separate lane/median with many intersections)” category.

          Here is the Blue Line at Vernon Station (30-40Km/hr average speed area, including stops), and even here it is fenced:

          And here it is at Willowbrook (50-60Km/h average speed area, including stops), clearly a dedicated rail corridor on a very wide median:

        12. One concern I have with the LR plan is long term capacity on Queen Street, which will effectively be the CRL for LR. Given we are looking at 66m units I imagine we will need 2 min frequencies to the airport, NW and North Shore to match the capacity of HR lines that will have 5 min frequencies with 144m long trains. With the airport and NW light rail converging on Queen St that would mean 55m LR units at 1 min headway in each direction, which would mean Queen St wouldn’t really be a pedestrian street but a wall of trams.

        13. Jezza I don’t think anyone is proposing 1minute frequencies on Queen St except in this Bus Study. I see 66m or perhaps 99m Light Rail Vehicles at 3mins max, then we add another corridor; Symonds or Albert, most likely.

          Rule of thumb: 3 minute, or 20 vehicles per hour, then you go bigger vehicles and/or additional routes.

        14. I would think once we are getting to 99m vehicles on Queen St a tunnel is needed as there would be a lot of time even at 3 min headway where it was not possible to cross the road.

        15. Lot of gap between ’em too. No one is suggesting a pedestrian mall in Queen. I would oppose that, you want people arriving and emissions-less vehicles running through. I know Melbourne’s LRV’s are shorter; but both Bourke and Swanston are livelier and better for them being there, and you certainly have to look before you cross… You might be right, 99m may be too long; well then you run track up Albert too. At least all the services are being moved there already; would be a much simpler build.

        16. Admittedly they’re mostly 20–30 m vehicles, but Swanston St in Melbourne must have about a tram a minute, while remaining very pedestrian-friendly

        17. Jezza. here’s Canberra’s plans for 33m CAF Light Rail Vehicles as a guide:

          These LRVs at 3min frequencies in single, double, triple consists:

          33m 207 pax 4140 capacity per hour each way.
          66m 414 pax 8280
          99m 621 pax 12420

          Compared to the study above 1 x 18m bus per minute 100 pax = 6000 capacity per hour each way.

          Just start with the 66m doubles at 4 minute frequencies and take it from there…

        18. Jezza, 66m LRVs at two minutes headway is a huge amount of capacity, i.e. 13,500 people per hour, or equivalent to 18 six-car EMUs per hour crush loaded. For reference all four lines into Britomart don’t even do that currently. You wouldn’t need that per line, but maybe divided across two or three lines.

          As for a big LRV every two minutes on Queen St, well thats fine. Currently they pedestrian crossings only go for 30 seconds or so every two minutes. So it would be a reversal of that, you could cross all the time except for about 30 seconds or so out of each two minutes when the LRV is coming through.

          30 vehicles per hour is no big deal, in fact its a huge improvment with some seriously big gaps between them. Queen street currently runs 5 to 600 vehicles per hour for reference, so having two minute gaps will feel basically empty of vehicles.

        19. Sailor Boy, I am not sure what “libellous accusations of fraud” or “unsupported accusations of criminal conduct” you are referring to. If you mean people expressing doubts as to journey-time projections made for as-yet non-existent light rail then surely that is a valid debate, though certainly it should be backed by some sort of evidence.

          Like I tried to do when you cited Nantes trams in support of Dominion Road rapid transit,

          and my observations from Los Angeles in relation to on-street LRT speeds

          I repeatedly see some of those who favour light rail disingenuously insinuating that current (poor) journey-times on Auckland’s heavy-rail are an inherent weakness of the mode, rather than honestly acknowledging that this is simply a problem of the way it is currently operated, and that in myriad applications elsewhere (Wellington, even!) heavy rail can do much better.

        20. Dave, the point with that isn’t that an entirely new heavy rail system might be amazing, but that a heavy rail extension of the onehunga branch is going to perform more or less identically as the onehunga branch does. You might tighten up dwell times a bit but there isn’t anything you can do for the alignment, the stations and the curves. You can’t argue against Aucklands heavy rail being less that worlds best when that is demonstrably the truth, and its it indeed a very important factor when people are proposing to branch off the network we already have.

          If you want fast LRT look at Seattle, it’s on street LRT is faster than our grade separated heavy rail. That is world class, and with an entirely new line we do have the opportunity to build it world class.

        21. The Onehunga branch has recently been raised to 90Km/h between Penrose and Te Papapa. What lets it down are curve-restrictions at Penrose and Onehunga. The alignment through Penrose could be speeded up from 25Km/h to 45Km/hr without major expense. Faster than that may not be worthwhile if all trains are stopping. Onehunga would require some property acquisition, but this would be minor in the context of the whole airport extension. There are many ways in which the present rail network could be incrementally improved but the money (=will) is not there. Just look at the struggle to get the 3rd main done. My point is that the current shortcomings should not be used as evidence against more heavy rail in general. It should remain strongly in contention for an expansion of the network, until or unless a proper and unbiased evaluation rules it out. From what I have heard the evaluations done so far have been far from unbiased (hearsay-disclosure. I have not studied the reports myself).

          Regarding Seattle’s system, it is important to acknowledge where like may not be getting compared with like, vis-à-vis Dominion Road.

  18. It’s absurd to think Britomart could cope with this many buses. A real bus terminus solution will be needed if this ever were to work – I doubt that was ever priced in. If it were I suspect LRT would end up cheaper. Something akin to the one at Amsterdam Centraal would work, but where would we put that? (Would solve the intercity bus situation also)

    Any mitigation (City and Dominion road) of the bus solution I can think of would blow out the costs. NZTA/Govt aren’t thinking straight, or are just blinded by ideology.

    1. Probably the latter.
      The current government ideology is:
      runs on roads good
      runs on tracks bad

      Why else go to such great lengths to come up with a bus solution whose sole purpose is to try and delay the evitable need for light rail for 30 years.
      At least that was my take on it, the description of what would be needed to meet demand to my mind is only further evidence of how light rail is not only needed but soon.

    2. There used to be a bus terminus at Britomart – before Britomart became Britomart, if you know what I mean. It makes me weep. How can a country this good have people running it who are so stupid?
      We used to have a train station at Britomart, then we moved it to Parnell, and built a Post Office in its place.
      We had trams and trolley buses too, but they were too well patronised, so we got rid of them.
      Then we built a bus station behind the Post Office, and changed the railway station in Parnell into student flats.
      Then we demolished the bus station at Britomart, and build a train station in the Post Office, but underground.
      Then we built some grass and some shops on top of the trains, and put buses in the street nearby, so that it was almost finished.
      Then we demolished half the train station, smashed up the Post Office again, and put the buses back on the street.
      Now we have the trains back to where the trains were, we want to bring the buses back in to where the buses were.
      In future we want to have trams back again, but so before we do that we plan to have more buses again.
      But there is no place to put the buses, as we would need to build a bus station again.
      Having put all the trains underground, we want to have the trams above ground…… ….Sigh. Let’s do it right, first time, this time.

      1. Indeed, you can find similar sagas of idiocy throughout the English-speaking world. It’s not just Auckland!

  19. Heavy rail extended from Onehunga, is the way forward. It makes the Onehunga line worthwhile, instead of the fallguy for cancellations anytime there’s a fault somewhere. And it covers new areas of Mangere that will benefit hugely.
    Come on Bridges, LETS DO IT!!!
    (Heavy Rail Dood for Life)

    1. While I agree with you and that is my preferred option, without thinking of cost, that is terrible reasoning, spending a whole lot of money to make something else worthwhile. That is what the NZTA and it’s predecessors have been doing for years.

  20. Temporary fix is LR or HR from Otahuhu area, this could and should be done quickly and cheaply

    Then build a proper rail branch from Onehunga, or elsewhere in mid Auckland and loop it up

  21. Why is there so little love for trams amongst deciderers? Have they not ever been on one of the heritage trolleys in Lisbon? Trams are sex on wheels!

      1. Hmmm. If trams are sex on wheels, and trams are also socialist cancer, then does that mean that sex on wheels is a socialist cancer? Or that, reductio ad absurdum, sex is socialist – and wheels are cancer?

        1. I think the trolling terminology should be Communist Cancer, for the alliterative effect, much like Champagne / Chardonnay Socialist. Sex on wheels is best to avoid, especially it if is cancerous. NB Trams are still cool!

  22. As I said in the last post this government’s position has always been ‘if they want public transport just stick them all on buses’. Hopefully it’s the start of better things in six months.

    Light rail would be great for the previous tram routes. Heavy rail to airport via Onehunga, please.

  23. Sailor Boy keeps accusing critics of the Jacobs Report of libel. Their report is littered with errors favouring Light Rail – the most significant being their assumption that Light Rail will serve many more potential passengers than Heavy Rail because they include the catchment of 5 stations on Sandringham Road (which are obviously not part of the route down Dominion Road) and tens of thousands of inner city residents who are counted for LR but are mysteriously not counted for HR (even before Light Rail exists the CRL will directly connect two new inner city stations to Britomart and the existing heavy rail route to Onehunga). I could recount plenty more errors but there is not enough space here. This is not libel, just objective fact.

    1. Sailor boy loves his Light Rail crusades…
      Light Rail certainly has a place in Auckland but it is a 3rd rate option for rail to the airport (1st would be HSR which we could never do, 2nd is HR).
      The report also doesn’t take into account network improvements in the HR network or improved dwell times or even consider Puhinui spur in terms of time with it being a straight high speed section.

    2. ..also seems done on a 2% gradient limit (could be 3% at least), adding hugely to the cost & possibly dropping of stations along the way.

  24. My take is these four things need to happen:
    1. Change of government or big shift in spending to PT/active modes.
    2. Creation of a single transport agency (ideally, though probably not necessary to proceed)
    3. Total new all inclusive updated study of the options with what has changed, come to light & ideas since older studies *
    4. Easy fixes in the mean time as per Patrick:
    [1/2 – continued]

  25. [2/2]
    * Our current EMU’s didn’t even run in service until April 2014 on the Onehunga line, we now have a Parnell Station & no Westfield, patronage has grown hugely.
    * Don’t think study of HR done properly with gradient of at least 3% as HR option was ruled out before this was done?
    eg post CRL & a bit more investment in HR (junctions, signalling, 3rd/4th mains in necessary places) means it could be very good, bar running patterns perhaps aren’t the most perfect even if frequencies are fast. I’m assuming the HR system wil be sped up over time.
    eg HR via Otahuhu as Ben Ross often pushes for:
    eg HR via Onehunga combined with double tracking, level crossing removals, moving Penrose platform(s) for better Stadium access (solves the silly waterfount stadium idea)
    eg LRT via Dominion Rd & then on through to Manukau then Botany means one seat ride & seemless link with AMETI busway
    In short. We need to do a proper unbiased re-investigation into the options again.

  26. Actually, Brisbane runs buses every 12 seconds on the busways. Off the busways it can achieve frequencies below 60 seconds. It is difficult to run trams reliably below 2 minutes.

    1. Thats kind the point TT, For Brisbane to run it’s busway like that requires a grade separated busway with stations all the way into town, bus only bridges and a pair of giant underground bus stations in the city centre.
      It’s not whether Auckland could do that, given limitless funds and space, it’s whether it could do that in Queen St.

  27. 60 buses an hour on Dominion Rd ?, you would barely notice them

    Current AT traffic counts for Dominion Rd ( top end) is a bit over 25K 5 day ADT, the peak AM volume is 1938 per hour. Thats 3% buses at 60 per hour.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *