This is a guest post from reader Bryce P.

The area below is the proposed development area of Dairy Flat under the Unitary Plan. But, how are we proposing to service this fairly large area with transit (Public Transport)?

Dairy Flat Unitary Plan

People will remember that NZTA and Auckland Transport commissioned a report called Transport for Future Urban Growth. The finalised report for the northern area proposes that the Northern Busway extension to Orewa should follow the SH1 corridor and includes new stations and park and rides.

As you can also see, much of Auckland Transport / NZTA approach seems to be along the line of ‘build more roads’.

TFUG Northern Busway Route

Now this all appears to be perfectly logical, right? But, is it?

A key component of the success of transit is ridership. And what is the cheapest source of ridership? Yip, walking and cycling catchment. This minimises the number of bus feeder services required. It also greatly reduces dependence on developing expensive, and ridership limiting, park and ride facilities for cars at stations.

With this in mind, how could (or should) we do this differently? Why not secure a transit corridor right through where the development is happening?

The image below has a theoretical transit line through the Dairy Flat Future Urban area with 2 x stations and shows 2.5km radius – a catchment within easy walking or cycling distance to the stations.

Dairy Flat Transit Corridor 2.5km radius

Not only does this route make it easier to catch transit, for most people it removes the need to use a feeder service and thus an extra transfer. It also serves to reduce volumes of local vehicular traffic.

Has anyone else done this? Sure. Pretty much everywhere in Netherlands for a start.

For today’s example, let me introduce you to the Dutch city of Almere. Almere is a city with roughly 200k residents and is sited approximately 26km from the centre of Amsterdam. It was planned in the second half of the 20th century as a brand new city to accommodate the Amsterdam region’s growing population.

While the first homes were finished in the mid 70’s, the rail line wasn’t extended to Almere until 1987. But, as per many of these developments, the transit corridor was pre-planned. The rail line, shown here in blue, goes through the centre of the main part of the city. It is completely grade separated and has lots if bridges / underpasses to minimise severance between the 2 sides of the city. Worry not drivers as there is also a motorway (red) and a ring road (purple). There is also has a network of local busways and cycleways but that will have to be the subject of another post.

Almere Rail Line Route with motorway and ring road

From the network shown above, it is pretty obvious that the Dutch intended that transit would play the feature role in getting to and from Almere and also from one end to another.

How does Almere compare to the Dairy Flat future urban area? Below is the same 2.5km radius that I used for the Dairy Flat station example, but centred around one of Almere’s train stations. Notice any similarities?

Almere Rail Station 2.5km radius

In 2014, Auckland Council also created it’s Low Carbon Plan that sets out a plan on how Auckland will reduce it’s GHG emissions by 40% by 2040. Note the size of the pie that Land Transport (cars, trucks etc) occupies.

Auckland Council GHG Emissions plan

Then, in 2015 Auckland Council signed onto the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, a global network of cities tackling climate change, at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris (COP21).

If Auckland Council are really serious about reducing GHG emissions, reducing car dependence seems to be an obvious place to start. And, if we’re building greenfield housing, surely building a transport network that makes walking and cycling to transit is just the right thing to do.

In summary, why would we build a new greenfield town and yet not provide for a quality transit network from the start? Ditch the park and rides Auckland Transport. Embrace walking and cycling.

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52 comments

  1. Good post. Transit and supporting active mode infrastructure to Dairy Flat needs to be more than just good. It needs to be consistently and noticeably better than using a car. Otherwise its own frequency of PT services won’t be sufficient for user satisfaction, so the new development will just become another car dependent area, reducing local connections and bringing more cars into the city. Here’s the opportunity to build accessibility for all ages into the design from stage one.

    So far I’ve seen nothing to suggest these new greenfield developments are going to be anything other than traffic-inducing, farmland-destroying sprawl.

  2. Seems pretty sensible to me. I’m not familiar with the topography of the area, would the route you have suggested be a more expensive build than following the motorway? If not it’s hard to understand why the NZTA/AT route is preferred.

    I think even if it was more expensive it would be worth it in the long run.

    Incidentally the Dairy Flat Highway looks to match the ring road in Almere perfectly.

    1. It wouldn’t be much more expensive, if at all. Busway is basically just a 2 lane road. Adding it beside the motorway possibly adds to complexity and cost even.

  3. I notice Almere has many more stops on its train line, too. The resulting band (and not just a double bubble) of accessible land matches the development, too. Planning land use and transport together like this here would be easy, but oh so radical.

    An extra lost opportunity is not retaining fingers of countryside so people in both the existing suburbs and new suburbs are within a mile of food – growing farmland.

    1. Yes, I was concentrating on that 2.5km distance rather than matching exactly but, yeah, an extra stop would add little to overall trip time and add a lot to walking catchment.

      1. Yes what you’ve done is good. And there’s nothing wrong with a double bubble anyway – it should just dictate the shape of the development.

  4. Is any development anticipated east of the motorway that would make a central-ish transit corridor more attractive in the future versus the more western route through the middle of the Dairy Flat? When was the last time a new subdivision was developed in New Zealand where they deliberately planned a corridor for future rapid transit ahead of time? Would seem much easier putting in the route before the houses get built… even if you just leave it as a linear park until rapid transit gets built.

  5. There is a small amount that you can see in the Unitary Plan map. This came about from Penlink planning so will almost certainly be auto dominated low density. I’m happy to leave it aside. Running transit through a town centre is more important IMO.

  6. Has anyone worked out the maximum capacity of the Northern Busway?
    It would appear to have an operational limit, capacity of buses, speed of buses and space between buses (safe stopping distance) and platform size.
    My concern is that the longer the busway the less capacity closer to the city.
    Which makes me ask is the busway appropriate for Dairy Flat?

    1. I’ve intentionally used the term ‘transit line’ as by the time development starts, I believe we’ll be looking at existing busway upgrades to LRT. This route may well be LRT from the start. Have to convince Auckland Council, Auckland Transport and NZTA of viability first.

    2. To get 10,800 people past one point in an hour equates to 3 people per second which equates to a 45 seater bus every 15 seconds. Post a 2011 rugby world cup game I saw buses carrying people at this rate over a 12 minute period. A ROAD could do a bus every 10 seconds equating to 16,200 per hour.. The difficulty for a busway is the pick-ups and drop offs. Boarding a bus is 3 seconds per person so to board 10,800 per hour you need 9 buses boarding every second of the hour. So you can increase the number if people board the buses before the busway and continue along the whole route.

      1. Above I made what some people may consider a cardinal sin, removing a connection in a network by putting a bus that goes from the suburbs, onto the busway and ends in Auckland city.
        The benefits of this is that less people have to board on the busway as the space for this is becoming a limited resource. People still can connect by getting on/off the bus but if designed optimally most or all stay on. Buses could start in different places and then join the Northern Busway.
        Jarrett Walker talks about frequent buses working similar to this in the Dublin network the Dublin network.
        http://humantransit.org/dublin-area-bus-network-redesign-background

        1. that model can definitely work well in places. The two general questions I would ask before piling additional buses onto the busway between suburbs and the city are:

          (1) Is the busway capacity constrained and, if so, is this direct service the best use of that limited capacity?

          (2) Is routing the suburban service to the city via the busway the major all-day demand pattern that we want to service or are their alternative (better) anchors?

          In terms of this area, I would expect the busway to be capacity constrained in the medium term, especially given the quantum of growth further north that can be easily serviced using the existing NEX to Silverdale. And I can also think of alternative destinations, such as the Smales / North Shore Hospital / Takapuna precinct, which may offer an alternative to a city service.

          But I’m open to being convinced otherwise!

          1. Sounds a good idea to have some buses going south to go to Takapuna. People wanting to go to Takapuna would be happy. The bus would stop at Smales on the side away from the bus way which means its interference with the main bus way would be minimized at Smales.

  7. Maybe this is the subject of that other post, but note the type of houses and streets:
    – local streets are only 5 to 7m wide (in comparison, it’s exceedingly rare to see a street of less than 15m in Auckland)
    – lots of terraced houses of sections of about 200 m²

    Even though this was a greenfield development on the edge of the city.

    What does that mean for transit? If we build up Dairy Flat with our usual low density pattern, we get maybe 1/3 of the density of Almere, and only 1/3 of the people living in the walking catchment of any hypothetical rapid transit line on Dairy Flat Highway.

    Almere is also built as a town in its own right. It has a town square — how many suburbs of Auckland have one of those — and there’s a mostly car-free shopping street going to the station.

    https://www.google.co.nz/maps/@52.3743506,5.2197123,3a,75y,2.47h,84.96t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sEZhbe-7MTGKfg4UOmPjVaw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

    So is anyone planning to build a proper town in Dairy Flat? Or are we happy with just another sea of houses as in Millwater?

    1. Plans for the new Milldale development, west of Millwater, include as I understand it, a mix of a town centre and medium density housing from the get go so I would be hoping that Dairy Flat would follow at least this kind of density plan. Even higher around stations perhaps? Here is an opportunity to develop to the transit user rather than try and make transit work in an auto oriented development.

    2. Agree, Roeland. I’d also love to start from scratch with the idea and plan first with water catchments in mind, to reduce water needs and stormwater problems. Then I’d look at town centre layout relative to community amenities. mixed uses and farmland and forest fingers. Next I’d fit in the rapid transit on contour and only after that would I consider any roads.

      Failing this sort of permaculture approach, I think they should be keeping their dirty mitts off the farmland and concentrating all the city’s energy on brownfields development, which isn’t going to happen without focus.

    3. Recent dealings with AC and AC has shed light on some of the reasons that there seems to be a 14m minimum width for roads that are to be vested in AT ownership

      1. AT are resistant to running services beneath the carriageway, rather requiring them to go under a berm.
      2. The AT code of practice originally used an 8m truck as the basis for its tracking curves, however it seems that the waste collection contractors didn’t support this as they prefer to use 10m+ trucks. Unfortunately, this increases the radius of the default tracking curves which in turn increases the minimum size of intersections and carriageways. (My opinion is that this is backwards and seems to give trucking companies too much say in the form of the city. I think we would end up with better outcomes if the city defines the road sizes and trucking companies just have to operate trucks appropriate for their environment https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/new-measures-to-rid-london-of-dangerous-lorries)

      This assumes of course that the roads are vested to AT. If they are set up as Jointly Owned Access Lots, administered by a Body Corporate, 7m roads are perfectly achievable since private waste collection companies have smaller trucks, however there are limits on how many lots a JOAL can service and they can be seen as undesirable from a development point of view.

  8. Instead of putting a bus lane through to Dairy Flat why don’t they start installing the Light Rail system from there through to Albany transfer statin as it would be a lot cheaper to do it now than later and then they can then work there way south at a later date .. and any new suburbs after that they could also connect to it aso .

    1. Ahh, well, you may have sprung my cunning plan. Note I’ve mostly intentionally used ‘transit line’ rather than bus way. By the time the development is underway, I think the existing busway will be having to be converted to LRT. And yes, was also thinking that it would be very easy to start the LRT line from Orewa. 🙂

          1. Planning the transit before the house building would be good to decrease the need for Park n Ride. The problem with the Northern Busway following the Motorway is that it has led to major transit areas which are not places people want to go to as a final destination.
            Not believe me . Think of Albany Park n Ride. It is becoming built up now but for about half it life it has been a bus stop in a paddock. Constellation could have some people going there for work but not many. Sunnynook, the smallest station, is near houses so bucks the trend. Smales Farm gets some WGHS pupils and Smales Farm workers. Akoranga is basically only used for AUT. The Northern Busway has succeeded despite this. So if you can build the transit near houses transit should sell like hot cakes

  9. I’d really like to see some sort of Rail Corridors Act pushed requiring transport authorities to put aside land for future transit routes given that doing so saves the bulk of the cost when it comes time to build transit.

  10. There is a needed to reserve a public transit corridor, otherwise it is short sighted and expensive to fix later. (like howick)

    They can have the park and ride but leave the land as future zoned for higher density apartments and retail mix use.

    Cycle way is also important so the streets must design enough cycle links as direct as possible to the station, instead of the cul-de-sac which is not walkable.

    1. Cul de sacs can be a great way to achieve “filtered permeability”. If they have walkways/cycle paths at the end, they can actually help make cycling a more attractive and faster option than driving.

      True dead end cul de sacs with no walkway/cycle path are terrible.

      1. Not sure I’ve ever seen a good, truly walkable (ie interesting, full of amenities, and pleasant) mixed use environment in a cul-de-sac layout though. Does something preclude it from working? Certainly cul-de-sacs have been used in suburban residential, retail, and in industrial areas, so not sure why I can’t think of any good mixed use ones.

          1. No it doesn’t. You could take a grid and turn it into a whole lot of cul-de-sacs and as long as there was a path connecting each one it would make no difference.
            People don’t walk in the suburbs because there’s nowhere to walk to.

          2. One of the requirements for a good walkable environment is self-explanatory way-finding. Another is that walkers need routes not to meander as the meandering adds distance. Alternating between alleyways and cul-de-sacs (that curve to optimise the property distribution amongst a dendritic street pattern) is neither straight nor self-explaining. I’d hazard a guess that this is why I can’t think of a good walkable cul-de-sac area.

            But you’re right, Tony, the lack of mixed amenity is definitely a factor.

          3. Yeah, we need to make a clear difference between a normal cul-de-sac and a street network that has filtered permeability. They are 2 very differnet things that have a common factor – cars can’t traverse from one street to another.

  11. What a strange city. Head away from the city crossing the bridge and pass hundreds of acres of spread out houses then a small commercial area and huge golf course followed by light industrial on one side and spacious housing on the other then a merry go round of retail with a bit more density going in then a geographical boundary and finally, once you cross that boundary, you come to a relatively high density development.

    Heard the saying ‘if you feel smell and your nose runs, you’re built upside down’? That’s Auckland.

  12. Houten is another great example from the Netherlands: https://www.citylab.com/solutions/2015/06/a-case-study-in-bike-friendly-suburban-planning/396107/
    https://www.bikeauckland.org.nz/houten-a-new-town-cycling-paradise/

    10kms from Utrecht, the town was designed around a train station with great cycle infrastructure. It was so successful that an expansion was necessary. So they just built another train station a bit further down the road.

    Even more radical is Vauban in Germany: https://www.bikeauckland.org.nz/vauban-a-sustainable-cycling-community/

    It is absolutely a model we should adopt.

      1. Yes. Building places, towns and places that are safe and work for all residents is an amazing idea. I hope it’s time will come in NZ as well.

    1. You’re welcome. Let’s hope I can convince Local Board and Councillors of the idea and get some traction before it’s set in asphalt.

  13. Great writeup Bryce. On from our twitter discussion, here is what I imagine for a route.

    https://imgur.com/a/TpXLm

    Could avoid having to dig another corridor through those gnarly hills north of Albany by veering off the motorway a little later at Awanohi rd.

    Silverdale would be about 16km from Albany, Orewa about 20km. I also think going straight to light rail would be a good idea. So how much would something like this cost? It’s difficult finding any hard data but here is a slightly older list from here:
    http://architecture.org.nz/2012/03/21/light-rail-could-be-cheap-as-chips/

    $11.5m Edmonton, Canada
    $11.6m Eidenhoven, Netherlands
    $14m Lowest likely Wellington cost
    $16.7m Bremen, Germany
    $19m St Kilda
    $25m San Diego, USA
    $28.6m San Francisco, USA
    $29.4m Karlsruhe, Germany
    $31m Gold Coast, Australia
    $44.8m Minneapolis, USA
    $45m World Bank Estimate 
    $46.4m Bergen, Norway
    $50m Rouen, France
    $56.9m Dublin, Ireland
    $141m Dominion Post’s selected sensational possible total 
    $275m Seattle, USA (included a bus tunnel)

    You would assume that a greenfield route like this would be on the cheaper end, possibly even below 11m/ km? The route through Silverdale and Orewa would be more expensive of course.

    I’m assuming here but if we take the lower end, say $11m would be around $176 million to Silverdale, or $220m to Orewa. So not that much really, and fair bit less than Penlink.

    A higher range of around $20m would be $320 million to Silverdale, $400m to Orwea. But it’s unlikely to cost anywhere near the same as urban light rail – thats the whole point of doing it before building any houses.

    1. Agreed but City planners don’t see it that way as they wait for all the housing and roads are built they then decide that we need stuff like the LRT and busways . But then it’s not like it’s their money that they are spending

    2. Cornelius, when I click on the imgur link it takes me to my imgur account. But I’d like to see your proposed route, so can you re-do the link? Ta.

      1. I was pondering the alignment through Silverdale and Orewa.

        Would you stick with the arterials or veer off through Millwater. I would imagine you have better catchment being closer to Whangaparoa and Red Beach.

        In Orewa a beachfront route makes sense, but Centreway Rd could be an alternative. But a beachfront (transit only?) line would give it nice visibility and be a great catalyst for business there. Shoot up from Albany (or town) for a drink at the beach or a surf at Orewa.

        And speaking of Albany, here is another Apartment development going in next to the Station. http://okla.co.nz/

        Should help the area gain some residents – now just need to fix those horrible streets to make it somewhat walkable.

  14. Bryce, I was doing a few things in West Auckland yesterday. I noticed this development immediately to the north of the Ranui Train Station: https://www.google.co.nz/maps/@-36.8675984,174.6028044,3a,75y,257.08h,86.55t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s-ww2hQAGO-1c0hpM95iThA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

    However, at 8:30 yesterday morning, it didn’t look like this. It was choked with parked cars. On driveways, lawns, footpaths, road. I imagine the garages weren’t being used but were full of stuff, as there were already 2 or 3 cars per house. There’s a great example of a development that should have appealed to train users, and possibly did, but is ruined by the cars. It could have had a green recreation space where the road is, with some share cars at the end.

    Another thing I saw was the development a few metres south of the Glen Eden train station, on Captain Scott Rd: https://www.google.co.nz/maps/@-36.9114686,174.6529512,3a,75y,112.99h,87.82t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1seKI01Ub0R4Mjq4–x_0waQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

    At 7:30 last night, it too was choked with cars. The garages seem to all have been blocked off and used as extra house space. Cars parked at right angles to the road blocked the entire footpath in two locations, and so we had to walk on the road to get past. Scroll around and see that the entire length of the subdivision is a driveway – very unsafe for cyclists. Again, being so close to the train station, this location should have appealed to people willing to use the train, with some share cars. Then the garage space could have been designed as house space from the start (with windows and insulation) and the front yards could have been nice patios facing the evening sun.

    It’s a pity I didn’t have a camera because I think photos of the situation could be useful. If you’re presenting to the local board, maybe examples like this would show that just providing a PT alternative is not enough – everyone loses when cars are catered for, as they then ruin the place for everyone.

    1. I do wonder if architects should drop the pretense of having a garage, and just do driveway/carport and an extra room in the house.

      1. I don’t think they would unless regulated to, as it’s part of the real estate agent’s mantra of what’s required by the market. I think where the garage is the only off-street parking provided, we can expect road-side parking. These examples, though, show that front lawns and footpaths will be used, too. More is needed than just design or regulation for what each property must provide. We actually need to cut the numbers of cars by making PT much more convenient than cars.

  15. if any logic and reason is to be considered then it should be the approach taken. Sure it may be more expensive, but if your gonna do it, do it right in the first place to future proof the infrastructure.

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