Auckland Transport’s plans to build light rail on the isthmus and to the airport will be one of the most significant and transformational public transport investments in the coming years. There has been plenty of positive talk and images released by AT but the real challenge is going to be in how well they’re able to implement the project. As such, and given the level of investment that will be made, we think it’s incumbent on AT to ensure that light rail is designed to the highest possible standard. This is particularly important on the Dominion Rd, which is likely to be the first section completed, to not only ensure that the local town centres are able to thrive, but also to give confidence in the extension to the airport, which has been an issue of much debate.

With that in mind, in this post I want to look an idea that may seem controversial at first but that we think merits some debate and investigation by AT. We believe that there is strong case to close the town centres along Dominion Rd to through traffic. Here’s why:

Share the placemaking love

One of the aspects I’m most looking forward to with light rail is in the city where Queen St will be turned into a pedestrian friendly transit mall. This will not only help light rail to glide through the city easier, but will also provide a lot more pedestrian space for the tens of thousands who walk along the street every day. It’s something that’s long overdue and could look similar to what’s being installed in Sydney on George St.

But why should the city centre to be the only location to benefit from such dramatically improved people space? The town centres on Dominion Rd would all benefit significantly from similar treatments by helping to make them into more unique destinations. Destinations that could also support a lot more people visiting and walking thanks to the building of light rail.

Parking is obviously going to be an issue that many focus on but it’s worth noting that it is likely to be removed whether there is vehicle access or not, there simply isn’t space for it. The road corridor through the town centres is too narrow and widening it isn’t an option.

The one major benefit that the current on-street parking provides is that outside of peak hours, it gives a bit of a buffer between the moving vehicles and pedestrians. With light rail having dedicated lanes and by retaining through traffic, it will mean moving vehicles right up against the footpath at all times. Not the most pleasant pedestrian environment.

As I understand it, there is one exception to this and that is where the stops are located. Due to the narrow corridor, at that those locations the plan is to build out the stops into the traffic lane. This is shown in one of the images from ATs light rail page. As you can see, the road is narrowed but then expands back out to accommodate the traffic lanes.

This of course raises questions about the next point …..

Give Light Rail the priority it deserves

AT have repeatedly said that light rail will be separated from traffic, such as this statement from their website.

  • Service reliability. Light rail’s traffic signal priority and dedicated tracks make reliability close to 100%.

and ….

Light rail is like a tramway, but runs on its own dedicated right-of-way. This means it’s not affected by traffic speeds

This raises the question of how those statements are able to be squared off against the images above. As I understand it, the plan is for vehicles and light rail to share the space in the town centres but be separated by time. In other words, when a light rail vehicle (LRV) approaches the town centre/stop, cars will be prevented by lights from driving through. If you look closely at the image above, you can actually see this with a light pole and intersection limit line just to the right of the LRV.

We think this is a poor solution for two key reasons.

  1. Drivers don’t always behave like they’re meant to. One only needs to look at busy intersections to see impatient drivers entering an intersection and then blocking it when the light changes. Leaving the success of the project up to the behaviour of Auckland drivers is not something I’d risk.
  2. AT say there will be service every 5-10 minutes but over time, and especially after it reaches the airport, we’d expect this to increase. Even if drivers behave perfectly like AT expect, that will mean the town centres will be closed for a lot of the time anyway. It’s also worth remembering that unlike other intersections, the light rail isn’t just passing through but it’s also stopping at a station. All up it could well take a minute or more for the LRV to clear the section, during which time no through traffic is moving anyway, and another LRV might only be a minute or so behind to repeat the process.

This nicely leads to ….

But what about the traffic?

I feel like I can already hear the howls of outrage from locals, letter to the editor writers and talk back callers. That it’s some kind of attack on the freedom of drivers. But

I think drivers along Dominion Rd likely fall into three categories, each with a different potential solution.

  1. Long distance trips from the southern isthmus to town
  2. Local trips to the town centres
  3. Shorter trips from the central isthmus to the city

Let’s look at these.

Long distance trips from the southern isthmus to town

My gut feeling is that a large bulk of the drivers on Dominion Rd are travelling most of the length of it from Mt Roskill to the city. This is something that would be relatively easy to test by recording and comparing number plates at each end of the road. If they decide to continue to drive then the good news for this group is we’ve just spent over $1.5 billion to help make their commute easier. This comes in the form of Waterview and one of the purposes of it is to reduce traffic on local roads.

Local trips to the town centres

As mentioned earlier, parking in the town centres long Dominion Rd is planned to disappear once light rail is installed but the town centres will still be able to be accessed via the many side roads that join to Dominion Rd.

Shorter trips from the central isthmus to the city

Public transport use in the central isthmus is higher than most places in Auckland and we’d expect the introduction of light rail to boost that even higher. There will still be many who choose to drive though. One of the good things about the central isthmus, that many other locations in the region lack, is its grid patterned street network. Drivers could either travel not much further to use Mt Eden or Sandringham roads.

One small advantage is it would simplify intersections near town centres by removing turning options, thereby speeding up many trips. For example, because there would be no car access on Dominion Rd directly south of Balmoral Rd, it will have more time available for east-west traffic.

Is it done elsewhere?

Closing town centres to traffic to enable light rail isn’t uncommon in many overseas systems either. Over on the Gold Coast, traffic through Surfers Paradise has been reduced to one lane only in places. Traffic in the other direction needs to find another route.

Further north on the route at Southport, a road that used to be home to a lot of parking is now tram only with a small shared space lane beside for some property access.

Over in Seattle, their first light rail line has been hugely successful and following a recent extension is carrying more people than our entire rail network. Seattle’s implantation has many similarities with what’s proposed for Auckland. As well as further extensions on that line, they’re also building a line to the east. The schematics for one of the new stations highlights how the road network could work. Light rail in this case passes east-west though the image (light blue) and between 130th and 132th it is light rail only with a station. East of 132th the road has lanes in each direction. With westbound traffic not able to drive straight it can only turn left, right or do a u-turn

Overall we think while closing these town centres to through traffic will have some impacts, the opportunities and benefits doing it provides will likely outweigh those. We think that AT need to look at this option as part of their light rail investigations. How well AT are able to implement light rail will have a large bearing on how well extensions to the airport as well as other parts of the city are viewed.

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142 comments

  1. Yes! Exactly how to get the most benefit for the local businesses and residents. There would be better access by car to (instead of through) these centres without all the through traffic. And it is really Waterview that makes this especially viable. There now is the bypass for longer distant driving between the city and the Southern Isthmus. It would be great for once to de-tune local streets when we build a huge bypass, when they are relieved of the need to be carrying through traffic. And by both LR delivering huge numbers of people and lifting place quality at the stations these areas will become really attractive for retail, hospitality, dwelling, and more intensive development.

    Really interesting how it means that massive intersection at Balmoral Rd could become much more compact but also more productive, especially for east/west traffic, and enable really good bus connection to the LR Station there. There’s a lot to work through with this idea, but it looks like the ideal solution.

  2. This sort of thinking is what I dream of seeing implemented!

    However I have no confidence in AT, Auckland Council, and central government to be strong in putting in place such a transformational project. I fear that we will end up with something that resembles a bus service on rails, hampered by compromise everywhere, and failing to deliver the change that could be so readily achieved.

  3. I agree with your logic here. For light rail to be effectual it needs to be efficient and reliable, and mixing it with traffic at every stop is asking for trouble. Cars need to be recognised as a step along our transport timeline, but one that is now in a state of decline, as bicycles and public transport retake the territory. Town centres are not enhanced by private motor vehicles, and the argument that you need a boot to transport your consumer items is weak, if you are buying so much surely you can organise a delivery? The Dominion Road culinary quarter(s) would become that much more accessible, with a tram stopping metres from your destination, instead of the kerbside crawl in search of a carpark. For AT’s design, it must be infinitely more simple to create a light rail only corridor than dealing with mixed use. Let’s advocate!

  4. You’ve highlighted the flaw in shared roadway peoposal that at the very least cars will need to stop at tramstops, light rail on Dom Rd overall has massive drawbacks least of all a service like this isn’t ideal for opening up South Auckland…in Melbourne only the very furtherest light rail lines run this distance as they’re more suited to traditional train services.
    Point to note on the Gold Coast is the areas you’ve highlighted aren’t main arterial routes like Dom Rd, these streets run parallel to the main road where they have removed lanes or made them pedestrian spaces.

      1. Also how Melbourne mostly runs its Light Rail (and how AKL’s trams were run) is exactly *not* the model for our new Light Rail, ie in traffic.

        1. And those people should be welcome on these streets, but only if they are willing to accept that they are the lowest priority.

        2. That’s right, so we built a massive motorway network just for them… this means that local streets can be relieved from carrying them all, and can be focussed back to better place quality with more room for pedestrians, people on bikes, and all served by as high quality Transit Network. And local access for deliveries, service, emergency, and lower numbers of personal vehicles (by taking out the ones using it as a long distance route; that’s what the motorway is for).

          The plan above makes Dom Rd into a high access, low through traffic zone.

          A better future has to be built, not simply hoped for.

          Using the same energy and determination we did building the motorway network.

  5. With LRV having right of way at intersections surely the problem you are describing at stops is also going to be a problem at intersections especially during rush hours when the frequency will be at its highest and the cross traffic will be at its heaviest.

    1. At major intersections? Traffic will flow much easier than currently as the only north/south traffic will be Light Rail, and there’ll be no right turns from east/west arterial into Dom Rd. In short the whole Road pattern will be simplified and much less start-stop. So much better for Peds and bike users too, more frequent and obvious crossing phases (eg concurrent with LR on Dom).

      1. Hey Patrick I know you are completely in the “cars/roads bad, PT/bikes good” corner, but I don’t see where there will be room for bikes say in Eden Valley village if there are car and tram dedicated lanes. The road isn’t wide enough?

  6. Is this post in part inspired by a certain recent opinion piece in the Herald that left the reader fervently hoping the author of the column is a better physician than he is a transport planner?

    1. I could not believe that the Herald gave that physician the space they did. Where was the analysis of the costs of driver wages for the 47,500 vehicles proposed for the scheme – or would they be a new social underclass earning a mere pittance? Of the congestion they might cause? Of the level of fares and subsidy they would require? My pick is that operating costs alone would blow the initiative out of the water. The guy may be a PT user but he’s certainly not a financial planner.

      1. Even if we assume that one driver can operate one vehicle (they can’t, you’d need two), minimum wage is going to be 20 by 2020. The cost of wages is $1.98b/year just on wages.

  7. The indent stops will surely be thrown out in the next stage of design and/or consultation. Slowing down traffic that much wouldn’t be politically acceptable for the masses, and would lead to road rage and congestion.
    A better solution is a skinny island platform as it would fit the narrow road better (rather than side platforms like in this Melbourne example https://goo.gl/jtKZP2). Also requires less doubling of infrastructure.

    1. Yes, that’s old thinking. But that old thinking is exactly how we got to where we are today; congestion, pollution, rising traffic casualties, public health crisis through inactivity, and poor economic performance and place quality in centres. This is indeed a new approach, and a better one.

      It is both how to deliver high capacity surface transit properly, and how to improve the places it serves. It is also how to gain the real place dividend from building the huge urban motorway network for through traffic.

      We have, hitherto, built traffic bypasses without reaping the benefits for the bypassed areas, we haven’t allowed them to revert to their more productive pre-traffic drenched state. This is because of a lack of quality Transit alternatives, and because we’ve become inured to traffic blighted streets. It also hasn’t helped that we have so separated and siloed Transport provision from land use. And even further removed highway provision from everything else!

  8. I am really hoping we get to see this come to fruition. Just as the least pain results from a quickly removed bandaid, I think the same could be said for closing centres to traffic. The sooner and quicker it happens, the sooner everyone gets used to it and gets on with their lives. And it’s only fair to reduce uncertainty for local businesses, some of which may take a hit or have to relocate as a result.

  9. Sorry – maybe I’m dumb, but i don’t get it. In the picture / render of Dom Road as proposed, the cars have their own lane, right? Except at the LRV stops, where the cars then have to swing out and drive into the route of the trams?? And then hopefully swing back out again into their own lane? That’s madness!!

    Forgive me, but that seems hugely risky, and likely to cause accidents. That layout will risk Auckland car drivers trying to race for the gap and ‘sneak through’ before the tram comes. It also means that they will, at times, be pointed into the opposite tram direction, and risk minor head-on collisions if they don’t line it up right. Auckland car drivers are not the world’s best, or most courteous – no use saying they will just have to learn – it is just asking for accidents to happen.

    An alternative that I would propose is how they do it in Zurich, with passengers alighting on a small island, and cars have to stop to let people traverse between the island and the main footpath. Flashing lights et al. (Similar to the Melbourne example that Graeme Gun shows above in his link).

    Yes, more tricky for the pedestrians, but it does not put the cars on a direct collision course between LRV and kerb. It keeps the cars, permanently, in their own track. No crashes. More sense. Less death.

  10. Great post, thanks
    I have been struggling with a proposal for light rail in Wellington, and facing a very similar problem to Dominion Rd. Riddiford St is the Wellington-sized equivalent, only 20.1 m wide, between heritage buildings. There is room for two tracks in the middle, two lanes and two footpaths, but that is about it. Cyclists can only claim the lane or take a steeper alternative route.
    What I have in mind is a central island platform, with trams on one side moving out into the traffic lane as they approach the stop. Traffic signals before the stop can then hold traffic when a tram is approaching the stop, but also regulate traffic at all times, so that queues never back up past the platform.
    But will it work?

    1. Hi Kerry, northern Riddiford appears to 7 lanes wide, not sure what the problem is with most of it, it has a flush median and curb side parking…. btw Tory St is my pet proposed LR only street in Welly! waddayareckon?

  11. Has there been any consideration or discussion around sending LRT underground at the big Dominion Rd intersections? I know that is the current plan for the K Rd / Queen St intersection. It might work well at the Dominion Rd / Mt Albert Rd intersection (Mt Albert Rd being on a ridge). It could also run underground at the Balmoral Rd intersection and through the Balmoral shops.

    I agree that removing cars altogether from the Dominion Rd centres would be a great solution but I expect that won’t be politically agreeable. As an alternative, short cut and cover tunnels, with platforms underground, would have a number of benefits. There would be no interaction with vehicle traffic at those intersections, parking would be less affected, there would be more space for pedestrians to move etc. The line would still run above ground for most of Dominion Rd.

    The obvious objection is cost. But if we are building the Dominion Rd line to provide high capacity rapid transit to Māngere and the airport (as an alternative to a more expensive heavy rail link from Onehunga or Puhinui), we need to do it right and the additional investment could well be worth it.

    1. Another approach could be to move the LR lines to one side of Dominion Rd using less than half the road width and then one way the traffic down the other half with parking. At platform stops the traffic lane would divert in to the parking lane. To prevent Dominion Rd from being used as a through road each block could have the traffic direction reversed

    2. K Rd is obvious for this because of the topography, it’s the top of a ridge, ducking under briefly there is sensible for so many reasons. Dom Rd is largely flat, this means any diving down and resurfacing creates long and unwanted ramps and portals, and obviously huge cost. Anyway you are assuming that the outcomes would be better if the same amount of vehicle traffic is maintained after we add high capacity transit to this route, I for one disagree with that.

      For me reducing traffic through the centres is an aim, an advantage, not a problem or a fault.

      Done properly this Light Rail project can improve access, throughput, and speed for people along its route, esp Dominion Rd, but reduce through-routed vehicle volumes and speed. These are both wins.

      It has long been the aim in AKL to add Transit only after increasing traffic everywhere, and only in a way that doesn’t affect vehicle priority. This, in my view, is both a bad aim, no city is improved by being dominated by traffic, and doomed to fail, no effective transit system can function on these terms.

      Just as motorways are for vehicles exclusively, so many streets, or parts of streets are best when reserved for people walking, biking, and hosting appropriate Transit vehicles.

      1. In fact I agree entirely that closing Dominion Rd to through traffic is the best solution. I certainly don’t assume that outcomes will be better if we maintain the current level of traffic.

        My real assumption is exactly the same as yours – that removing road capacity will be politically unacceptable. Again, I agree that’s wrong and I hope we can move passed it.

        My fear is that we end up with something inadequate that means light rail takes a long time to get down Dominion Rd – too many intersections, too many stations where cars can get in the way etc.

        1. Yes true that’s indeed the issue. What is most needed is confidence from the lead agencies about the best design. I am hopeful we can get there, with the right people. This is an opportunity for a new approach, and the time is right, too I believe.

  12. From building face to building face all Dominion Road stations would have 21m of width to play with. We can fit a central island platform if we want:
    https://streetmix.net/SilorBoy/152/dom-st-station

    I would prefer remove traffic (as you have proposed) form Walters Road to Belwood Ave, Balmoral Road to Wiremu Street, and Jasper Ave to Mt Albert Road. I just wonder whether the politically possible options are; allow through traffic to remain, or don’t build LRT.

          1. “Why wouldn’t we take the opportunity to mitigate some of the stormwater issue at the same time?”

            Because:

            “A 1.8m footpath is insufficient for Dominion Rd.”

            The point of my cross section is to demonstrate that we can fit stations and traffic lanes, even in the narrowest cross sections. Of course, where the corridor is wider, where stations aren’t requires, and where a 3m footpath isn’t required, we could install cycling facilities and rain gardens. We don’t necessarily need raingardens down the full length of the corridor, we could drain rainwater to the areas on the corridor where raingardens fit. Equally, we could put the raingardens on side roads. Jus because we aren’t doing it right here, doesn’t mean we aren’t doing it.

          2. Yes, there’s a glimmer of hope that stormwater could be addressed well in this project – wasted opportunity if they don’t, but I’m hopeful. Of course, the side roads will be tagged as needing loading zone parking so it might need to be piped somewhere further.

            But cycle lanes can’t start and stop according to the width of the corridor. I can see the protests now “All that bloody space for a cyclelane and no-one uses it.” Which is what happens when it starts and stops.

            This means your section doesn’t have space for a cyclelane. Can you redo the plan a bit to include a full-length cyclelane each way, then put in raingardens where the corridor is a bit wider – but still frequent enough to be effective – and finally look at which lengths, if any, could also include traffic lanes? 🙂 Might still be some?

          3. The full corridor can fit cycle, LRT, and general lanes except for three or four stations.

            This isn’t an alternative to closing traffic lanes through town centre. I think that’s a better option. This is an alternative to AT’s current plan if we absolutely have to keep through traffic.

            If we absolutely have to keep through traffic in both directions, then we cannot have cycle, general, and LRT lanes at those three of four locations, and for 100m or so, cyclists will have to share the lane with motorists. Very narrow lanes (as shown in my link) and a 30 km/h limit minimize the impact.

            We don’t have space for everything, but that is the reality of cities. We could use the following three indicative cross sections, with cycle lanes as Copenhagen lanes. Obviously we will have to mix it up a bit to widen footpaths in areas with higher activity, this can be achieved by narrowing the raingardens where needed, though most of the corridor is at least 24m wide with no stations
            https://streetmix.net/SilorBoy/153/dom-st-24m
            https://streetmix.net/SilorBoy/153/dom-st-24m-station
            https://streetmix.net/SilorBoy/152/dom-st-21m
            https://streetmix.net/SilorBoy/154/dom-st-station-remix

          4. As an alternative:

            https://streetmix.net/BluePukekoConn/1/unnamed-st-remix

            I would envisage the parking lane stopping at a station/stop and the drive lane moving over to it so the platform could be where the drive lane is shown.

            This configuration could be reversed at each major intersection so the parking and drive lanes swap with the cycle lanes, or the direction of the parking and drive lanes could simply change direction.

            This would stop Dominion Rd from becoming a through road.

            I’d also suggest that the speed limit be reduced to 40k/m

            Between stops the platform area could be planted to form a sort of linear park

          5. @Robert. Forget the on street parking, need that space. Besides, parallel Parker’s will interrupt flow of the traffic lane.

          6. BTW, the AT Transport Design Guide suggests 3m to 4.2 m for footpaths on streets like this PLUS 1.5m to 1.8m of tree pits:

            “On busy commercial streets it is important to allow for on-street commercial activities, a wider clear path width, and a more solidified buffer between pedestrians and traffic. A width of 3.0 metres is recommended for commercial activity, which can be situated adjacent to the building’s edge, to allow ground floor uses to spill out onto the footpath in a dedicated area. Depending on the total width of the footpath and the street, a clear path of at least 3.0 metres is suggested, with 4.20 metres being more appropriate for city centre streets that receive higher volumes of pedestrians. A buffer from traffic of at least 1.5 metre is suggested, allowing for tree pits. These could be expanded to 1.8 metres on wider streets, to
            allow for public transport stops and additional street furniture such as benches in the buffer between the clear path and the kerb”

          7. Cheers for that Heidi. All of the components of my layout are less than the recommended minimum. It’s a good example of just how bad allowing vehicle access actually is. Though this is still better than no LRT!

          8. Those cross sections look pretty good to me. But you need to widen the footpath to 3.0m by getting rid of the trees. It is a transport arterial not a park. If something has to give it should be the planting not the footpath or cycleway.

          9. I was able to see the streetmix cross sections before, but now they are just puffy clouds – is that a problem at my end (have teenager, will get fixed) or at the Streetmix end?

    1. I really doubt 1.4m is widen enough for the island platform! It wouldn’t have enough area to accomodate crowds of people alighting and boarding, and it doesn’t meet the basic requirement of two people in wheelchairs being able to pass each other clear of obstacles.

      This isn’t an easy problem. With 21m the only way to keep a traffic lane each way and separate LRT is to drop any idea of cycle lanes and stuff, pull out all lamp posts and street furniture and narrow all the lanes, footpaths and platforms down to the bare minimum. Not a great outcome and I can see why they are looking at these alternatives like sharing lanes.

          1. Yep. It’s pretty much what you want for LRT, but for everyone else it’s pretty grim. Looking at the intersections is awful for everyone though.

        1. It is OK to remove car lanes for narrow parts of road, here is link to Wilhelmshoher Alle Kassel
          https://goo.gl/maps/YrMHjhdJVYS2
          The google image doesn’t show much traffic, but being there on the ground in 2015 there where lots of trams, cars, bikes, people at this intersection tram stop.

      1. If we drop vehicle volumes and speeds enough, there is no reason not to treat the traffic lanes kind of like Dutch cycle streets (fietsstraat). Speed tables at regular intervals etc.

  13. So why do we propose a different solution for the AMETI Busway along Pakuranga road than whats being suggested here? [in that one the buses are consigned to the mdidle with dedicated stations in the middle of the road, yet somehow thats unsuitable for here?

    Is it because Buses are that different from LRTs? Or is AT just trying to pander to everyone with this crap design?

    In the old days I was told, that whenever any Auckland Tram stopped to left people on or off all traffic in that direction had to stop as well. And that was with the trams running down the centre/middle of the roadway.

    But this also raises another issue, even if it went ahead, wouldn’t cars trying to make right hand turns across the tracks [even at the appointed places], will hold up traffic behind them. So in that case are you going to ban all right hand turns the full length of Dominion Road?

    So realistically you can’t have traffic and LRTs mixing like this and hope for a better outcome.
    So you have to bit the bullet and do a proper job not this half arsed trying to please everyone solution.
    If you want LRT you have to give it priority in traffic or why bother with LRT at all?

    1. A different solution is proposed on Ti Rakau Dr because Ti Rakau Dr is more than twice as wide.

      “But this also raises another issue, even if it went ahead, wouldn’t cars trying to make right hand turns across the tracks [even at the appointed places], will hold up traffic behind them. So in that case are you going to ban all right hand turns the full length of Dominion Road?”

      Not necessarily. You can allow right turns at traffic lights (Like they do on the Gold Coast), but on a corridor this narrow, it does sort of defeat the purpose.

    2. Greg Dom Rd and Pak Highway/Ti Rakau Dr have entirely different settlement patterns. Dom Rd is a strip, those postwar ‘burbs out east have offline ‘centres’. There is less to visit along the way, already lower density and less chance to upzone. And, as SB says, a different road pattern.

      1. Are you sure about the density and up-zone potential? I’m seeing nothing but low density zoning all around Dominion Road, and honestly think it’s a mistake choosing it when the area around Sandringham Road has higher existing and zoned density.

        I’d move the Dom Road line over to Sandringham Road and also upgrade AMETI to light rail from Panmure all the way through Pakuranga and Highland Park to Howick.

    3. One issue about Dominion Road that has not been addressed/answered (despite my raising it on numerous occasions over the last three years) is that the proposed light rail stops will be 1-1.5km apart versus existing bus stops which are well under half a kilometre apart – some are less than 300m. So at present the walk-up distance to the nearest stop is just a few minutes but when buses are replaced by light rail quite a few existing PT users are going to find themselves 10 minutes or more from their nearest stop. So existing high PT usage from the suburbs along the Dominion Road corridor may well decline in the areas furthest from the new stops. Nobody has yet suggested a solution to this conundrum – or even acknowledged it as an issue.

      Despite casual talk about removing through-traffic from Dominion Road altogether, it has been officially regarded as the principal north-south road through the middle of the isthmus since the 1990s when there was extensive study and consultation on the matter (Central Isthmus Corridor Study). While closing Dominion Road to through traffic is entirely possible we would first need to ensure that there was a satisfactory alternative route (presumably one or more of Sandringham, Manukau and Mount Eden Roads) which is a bit ironic since all 3 have been touted as future Light Rail routes.

      1. “One issue about Dominion Road that has not been addressed/answered (despite my raising it on numerous occasions over the last three years) is that the proposed light rail stops will be 1-1.5km apart versus existing bus stops which are well under half a kilometre apart – some are less than 300m. ”

        Part of the reason that no one has addressed this is because it isn’t true. No stops will be more than 1km apart and that is only south of Balmoral Road (page 75) https://at.govt.nz/media/1927342/draft-smart-indicative-business-case.pdf

        “So existing high PT usage from the suburbs along the Dominion Road corridor may well decline in the areas furthest from the new stops.”
        Assuming that the gap goes from 400m to 1000m. That is an extra 300m walk (about 5 minutes in an urban area). The LRT will be 10-15 minutes faster to the CBD, so even the people who have the worst effects on their walk up still save 5-10 minutes on their trip.

      2. The longer gap between future LR stations and existing bus stops is inevitable. I can imagine that the 10min walk for some people will be well worth the quicker, more comfortable ride on LR rather than the 4-5min walk for a bus stop.
        If LR is built like what is proposed in this post, then Dominion Road will be a much nicer and more pleasant area to walk.
        I don’t think a 10min walk from the suburbs is to much to ask to have access to public transport. Dominion Road doesn’t exactly have high density residential development around it (hopefully that changes), and people in the CBD regularly walk 10mins + on often more challenging topography to get to Britomart.

      3. Graeme, I agree the LR stops are too far apart even at 1 km. I think 800m would meet the needs of many more people.

        As for whether the road is a key north-south road, we have to take some of that 1990’s traffic planning with a grain of salt. They weren’t accepting traffic evaporation then, yet that will indeed be a positive outcome of this proposal if it’s allowed to go ahead.

        1. “Graeme, I agree the LR stops are too far apart even at 1 km. I think 800m would meet the needs of many more people.”

          There are two gaps of >800m. They are next to each other from Jasper Ave to Lambert Road and Lambert Road to Wiremu Street. Where would you add a station on this section that would actually improve catchment? This site is probably chosen because the adjoining road network naturally funnels people towards it, and adding more stations may actually make access worse!

          The other option would be Clagary and Haig Streets, but Dominion Road is very narrow there!

        2. Below is an older example of thinking on this, helpfully showing actual 800m ‘walk-sheds’. As you can see lots of overlap on Dom Rd. 8 stations over 4.85km, is far too many in my view, and likely to be reduced, I think 1km spacing is better (especially as its flat and blessed with a good street grid), and happily Dom road has centres at pretty much that spacing. A more perfect location for this treatment would be hard to find in AKL! This could drop to 5 or 6 stations I reckon, especially without the Mt R Junction one:

          1. Which stations would you drop/ rationalize Patrick. I initially thought Tawari Street, but the gap might be a bit big, given the intensity of development in the area.

            Also, why drop Mt Roskill Junction. Seems like an obvious option for a transfer station for buses to the south east and west.

          2. Do it at the next stop up instead. Those buses run mostly on and through Mt Albert Road 600m further north. And all being equal it’s better to have an interchange at a town centre than down the road from one.

          3. Crazy to drop Mt roskill junction, there may not be much within 800m but as it is the last station in that direction there will be plenty of people prepared to walk further than that. Also a lot of intensification likely around stoddard road.

          4. There needs to be a really good discussion about the number of stations & their placements. Yes I can relate to one of our local bus stations being 650M walk..down hill mind you and that seems about right to me, more than a 1km and it’s pushing it for desirability to want to catch something. Think also rain or other conditions. OK if level and more pleasant environment it certainly makes a difference & on the level ~800M is fine.

            How does this compare to the cut down bus stops for the SkyBus service. I noticed Julie Anne Genter complaining on Twitter the other day about bus stop changes meant she had to walk an extra 10mins to catch it. I’ve just looked up their timetable and there is only 3 stops on Dominion Rd! That’s going too far it seems (towards airport the spacing is 1.2, 1.4 & 1.6 kms).

            Where would the so called Junction Station be located if at all? Seems like a bit of waste land there around the Ian McKinnon Dr curve but would be good to capture the Newton “Island” area especially being mixed use, how would a station look in this area, though I know they would want to zoom the units around here as much as possible to capture some time savings.

            Another thought at the other end of Dominion Rd: Are they still proposing that the Mt Roskill Junction /Denbigh Ave Station have a P&R?! That’s nuts, how much $ could we put into other aspects of the project or additional connecting buses instead if that was not constructed.

          5. Almost true, Patrick. Those diagrams show a 800m walk catchment, not a 500m walk catchment. And people on Dominion Rd will go to the closest station they know. Infrequent users could easily end up going to one that’s not the closest. I just bring it up because if you’re pushing the stations further apart for efficiency of the network (which makes sense) some wayfinding signs indicating the closest station would be well worth the money.

          6. The other problem is not the spacing between the station on Dominion Rd that dictates how far someone would have to walk, there is also the people on side roads who will also need to walk to Dominion Rd plus the distance to the nearest station.

          7. So it shows 800m walk catchments, and given those catchments just touch, it’s 800m stop spacing.

            So on Dominion Road itself no point is more than 400m from a station. Compare that to the current where the bus stops are every 400m or so, meaning no point is more than 200m from a bus stop currently.

            So we are talking about a worst case scenario of having to walk a further 200m (two minutes) down Dominion Road once you come in from a side street… however given the LRT stops seem to be located at town centres and major side street connections where people catch the bus currently, the likelyhood is very few people will actually notice any difference in walk access… but everyone will notice much faster and more reliable trips once on board.

            Actually we’re looking at thirteen sets of bus stops according to google, and there are eight stations shown on the map above. From what I can see it looks like three town centre locations retained, and ten sets of intermediate bus stops replaced with five stations, so for the suburban bits effectively two adjacent bus stops combined into one station halfway between them.

            Also an interesting thing I’ve just realised, these stations will be something like 100m long once you account for the ramp at either end. So that’s actually significant if you can board at either end (unlike buses), it actually means that the ends of the platforms are only 700m apart, with no point on the road more than 350m from a platform end.

  14. One worry I have is – will we take the chance and include bikes in the LRT route plans? Or will it be a repeat of the previous Dominion Road plans, where there were only some low-key, low-investment side routes offered?

    1. Yes. By removing the traffic, there’s enough room for bikes, wider footpaths for pedestrians as required, and for trees and raingardens, as well as the LRT. And that’s the space accounted for. To try to fit traffic in there as well is just backwards thinking.

      1. There will be more people (i.e. customers) passing through here via LRT than ever could be via SOVs, and buses for that matter too.

        Don’t give up your day job to go into fortune telling.

        1. The shopkeepers won’t even survive the construction period. Go check out what AT did to the retailers at Te Atatu Road if you have any doubts.

          1. Let’s not change anything, then, mfwic. Better to save those car-dependent businesses than improve the urban form, or keep the cyclists safe, or improve our carbon efficiency, or reduce the rate of pedestrians being hit (currently one per day in Auckland), or even help the businesses that benefit from higher footfall than gas guzzlers numbers… we should leave it just as it is for the benefit of those particular businesses, eh?

          2. Heidi if they were truly the only two options then it would be a problem. But there is another way. All of the previous Council’s managed to build works while still allowing access to shops and providing for pedestrians. AT doesn’t care about that sort of thing. The reason they don’t care is that they were specifically set up to not give a shit. Rodney Hide wanted an independent organisation that wasn’t accountable to ratepayers or residents. That is exactly what AT is. AT cares about its budget and they care about maintaining their own special position. Nothing else.

          3. Thanks mfwic. I’m being a bit cheeky here, but I am about to go into a meeting on Tuesday where some reference to this could be useful. Can you give me an example project where previous Councils did better that I could look up, or some specific access ideas they are not currently doing. Of course I can imagine all sorts of things but something I could specifically suggest to improve things for the business with the current looming disruptive project would be invaluable…

          4. Heidi the main issue is to not let the contractor open the entire length of a site at once. People expect some disruption while the work is actually happening. They absolutely hate ongoing disruption while there is nobody working outside their shop. The paving the North Shore did in Takapuna in the late 80’s and 1990 caused some upset, but it was at least focused into small stages, and upset people could talk to a Councillor who would arrange a meeting with the right people. That approach is now gone. Instead there is a consultation plan or some other paper tiger that is used to replace engagement.
            But the main issue is get each bit done and finished, don’t get the utilities in for the who job, then rip up the existing pavement for the whole job, then build a few bits of concrete one by one and eventually reinstate the whole job. That is cheaper, but only to AT.
            The UK used to have lane rentals on highways where a contractor paid a daily rate for each lane closed. It was paid to the highways authority, who paid the contractor so on average it didn’t cost any more. But it incentivised time frames, and monetised public disruption.

  15. Put smiley faces on the front of the trams so that we can all walk around in a Thomas the Tank Engine or Chuggington type world.

    1. Perfect, if legal matters regarding rights weren’t a hassle I would 100% endorse each light rail vehicle being decorated in a different Thomas character. As long as Steven Joyce or Gerry Brownlee aren’t the fat controller!

  16. What about a Toronto style solution (I’m not claiming that their entire streetcar system is without flaws), where people wait to board on the footpath like at a normal bus stop, and when as the train comes to a stop drivers know they have to wait beside the end of the tram to allow people to cross the road to board. Could even put in some white lines to help drivers and have flashing lights on back of tram.

    1. Because Auckland drivers are used to AT not enforcing anything like this. Our cyclelanes and buslanes are woefully unenforced. Just remove the traffic.

    2. That wouldn’t be legal given out universal accessibility laws, it implies a minimum 300mm step up from the street into the vehicle.

  17. I agree that closing the town centres off to through traffic is a good idea. I’m wondering though is there vehicle/property access that will need to be considered?

    1. Carmen Ave, Telford Ave and Mt Pleasant Rd are cul-de-sacs off Dom Rd which would either require connections through to other roads or allow local traffic on sections of Dom Rd.

      Suggestion that all commercial properties have alternative options with rear lane or side street is incorrect – most don’t. How would delivery vehicles be accomodated?

      1. But none of those streets are at stations, so they will still have traffic lanes on Dom Rd to them. We are only proposing for there to be no traffic lanes at the stations, so at 5 or 6 places for 100m or so… nowhere without alternative vehicle access already, or easily added.

      2. Stu, the suggestion is for no traffic lanes only at stations, a stretch of perhaps 100m, and probably only the stations at two or three town centres that are very constrained by historic shop fronts.

        All of those have rear lane access.

  18. This post is great and so are many of the comments. The comment that gave me the “ahha” moment was this sentence from Patrick; “Just as motorways are for vehicles exclusively, so many streets, or parts of streets are best when reserved for people walking, biking, and hosting appropriate Transit vehicles.”
    This is the answer to those who say this proposal will downgrade the functionality of Dom Rd for car drivers. Yes, that’s right it will and that’s because Dom Rd is being re-purposed to prioritise the Transit vehicles over other vehicles just as Motorways have been built to prioritise the vehicles over transit, bicycles, peds etc. To move large numbers of people/goods corridor specialisation trumps generalisation every time.

  19. Good thinking Matt & team. I think AT will need to be fully armed and ready to handle the PR in all quarters if they decide to to do something like this. Benefits to the town centres, businesses, drivers etc etc.

  20. It is a brilliant idea. If you close Dominion Road to all traffic then once the shops close down and residents abandon their houses then AT will be able to buy them all for next to nothing. Then they can widen the road as they should have in the first place then sell what is left at a huge profit.

    1. mfwic
      well you have it at least half right. If shop owners do decide they can’t make a go of it and choose to sell developers can build medium rise on the transport corridor e.g. like near the Valley Road shops; and the more enlightened who remain will have a greatly increased potential customer base on their door step.

      Perhaps it would be useful if you explain your theory of the correlation between retail success and car parking.

      Here’s some significant anecdotal evidence. Takapuna has about 2300 parking spaces. AT says peak demand is about 1700 spaces nb peak demand. Many would think this the basis for a shopping mecca. And yet at almost all times there are at least six retail premises that have closed. And there is one site not more than 100m from 400 parking spaces and businesses turn over every year.

      I love those words of JFK, “Some men …”

      1. Also, just think how much better the Valley Rd intersection will function? Let alone doubling high quality PT access to Eden Park; two rail systems, perhaps AT will be able to serve this demand by supplementing, and not interrupting normal services on game nights?… and that this will lure stadium goers up to the hospo businesses of the Dom pre and post match….

        1. I can spot a little bit of land where some raingardens could be located, actually. And some big trees. 🙂 We need to set up an Auckland Depave group…

          1. True! Of course reducing the space taken by traffic lanes makes all good things possible. It is the one single essential pre-requisite to whole city improvement….

          2. Potential fernery beside Glengarry Wines… A lovely park instead of the Countdown carpark, to cater to the higher density apartments around the area… and is that a ramp down to a bike park facility that I can see between Rodney Wayne and Valentine’s? He he…

          1. True! A favourite shop of mine, that one. A great importer of all the organic foodstuffs we don’t grow in this country anymore, organic or otherwise… (it’s not just our manufacturing that’s been shipped overseas. Even horticulture has!)

          2. Halloween tat extraordinaire! Actually I haven’t shopped there much since they stopped selling bulk wax. My kids used to love dipping wick into wax coloured with crayon ends… but I do digress.

  21. wellington did have trams back then whey don’t they still used them and one Christmas day i saw the tram run it was good and whey don’t any one just cell these new things bus rail because that is what is is even that photo is a bus on rail and Unsafe

  22. the heavy rail stands on it own it has to be large and lot more people can board it and more seats and lot faster then any speed limit can say so with the new improve engine that i know it can do all stops with in 0 seconds a to b and really faster then a bullet train can go

  23. I think with parking, if we are going to rely on the side streets, then those side streets have to be actually available. In some areas there is unfortunately resident-only parking. Everywhere we prioritise light rail we’ll need to remove nearby exclusive parking zones or we’ll be reducing accessibilty to local businesses.

      1. Whether we like it or not, removing easy parking from a shopping street and expecting people to walk or use PT to do their shopping will in fact move the local business to shopping malls.
        The silly fact is that people will go to a shopping mall will parking available and walk lot lot further than park a short distance from their local shop.

        1. That’s a very ideological position that doesn’t have much relevance to the reality of the situation.

          The main thing there is that parking on Dominion Road itself isn’t ‘easy parking’, nor is it abundant. The simple fact is the easy parking in the town centres along Dominion Road is primarily in parking lots and angle parking on adjacent side streets. So nobody is proposing to remove easy parking at all. If anything, the proposal is to remove a very small proportion of difficult parking and leave all the easy parking in place.

          In Patrick’s example above I count a grand total of 18 carparks on Dominion Road that would be affected, that’s 18 carparks only practically accessed from one direction (unless you fancy a three point U turn in the middle of the shops) , by reversing into a parallel park against the flow of traffic,,, that’s if it’s not peak times when the clearway is in effect and you can’t park anyway.

          Meanwhile there are at least 450 carparks visible in the town centre that are not on Dominion Road (to be honest I lost count a couple times and gave up trying to be exact). So the least useful 5% of carparks are replaced with a rapid transit system, and the remaining 95% of the more useful carparks are retained.

          So really, this blather about “taking out all the parking and killing the shops” is, to be blunt, complete bullshit and a knee jerk reaction from ideologues.

          1. Also, with our ageing population, parking needs are changing. Many older people will avoid parallel parks on main roads as being way too stressful, and choose easier parks in carparks. And the ageing populations needs go further. NZTA’s 2015 report no 575 says:

            “Frith et al (2012) examined demand for transport services for older persons in New Zealand and found that a failure to take into account the ageing population is likely to produce excessively high travel projections, overstating the increase in household travel on New Zealand roads between 2006 and 2056 by around 40%. The authors recommend that urban planning ensures community services and facilities are more accessible by PT and non­motorised forms of transport, including walking. Investment is also needed to make PT more acceptable to and useable by older passengers. Increased demand for walking and PT is likely to require reallocation of road space to support higher levels of service for these modes.”

            This LR project is one of many important projects to provide a better transport network than traffic-inducing over-inflated road capacity. Let’s embrace it instead of quibbling about 18 parks!

        2. The attraction of the shopping mall I think is once you are there inside there are no vehicles. So closing these centres off to traffic somewhat will give the same effect or even better. Last year got a burger at a small place on Remuera Rd that was quite open to the street and it was a hideous environment, sound and smell of the traffic going past very close.

          1. Yes precisely, the shopping mall is where you park out the back, walk across the carpark to an entrance (often several hundred metres, hello Silvia Park?!), then spend your time at leisure shopping in an entirely pedestrian environment without any vehicles in front of the shops at all.

            If people are honestly concerned about Dominion Road losing out to the malls, then perhaps they should have Dominion Road offer the same as the malls: parking out the back and a pedestrian environment in front of the shops. Add in massive amounts of access from the rapid transit too and you have a winning combination.

          2. To get a Mall experience not only do you have to remove traffic from the road you also need to add a cover/roofing over the street so the strip shopping area becomes more enclosed and isolated (as much as possible) from the elements.

        3. Disagree with Robert’s “Whether we like it or not …” comment about mid-Dom Rd. I visit the area often, and only expect to park on the main road when I am on my scooter. If I am there in a car I will park in the supermarket carpark, or on a side street. Judging by the number of cars I see parked on side streets, most shoppers / eaters in mid-Dom Rd don’t expect to park on the main road.

    1. Dom Rd side and back streets are awash with parking and access. Seriously there is hardly a better location to do this anywhere, very little to change to mitigate the proposed closures. Decades of trying to make autodependency work have led to excessive parking. Dom Rd itself has been surrendered to through traffic, and the spatial requirements of excessive car access means so much space is already reserved for vehicle storage.

      Of course what will happen is as the rich access provided around Light Stations becomes apparent, up building will take off on those sites that allow it.

      1. Exactly right Patrick. Maybe it could even track exactly what has happened in the city where AT says that the number of vehicles entering in the last 10 years has not increased, but business has significantly.
        I appreciate that for many it’s a frightening world with less cars. Maybe reduced obesity levels, less respiratory problems, less congestion, better bus frequencies and of course the thing that really hurts – less car salesmen. (I couldn’t find that button Sailor Boy.)

        1. Exactly what this is about; spreading this new economic model beyond the City Centre. The conditions are right here, a high demand Transit route, already fairly intense land-use, and the ability to build up more. But also the timing is right, AKL needs to start sowing this successful dynamic urban economic model beyond the City Centre.

          This is the autodependent shopping mall of our age. Instead of acres of free parking, pipped music, and separated living/working/retail what works now is high quality Rapid Transit, and high quality Street design, and mixed landuse patterns and rules.

          Remember the Isthmus was built on the streetcar, not the motorcar, so it already has great bones for this; a great street grid, a linear development pattern, and mixed shopping/working/living land use.

          I know this will work. Done well.

  24. I was in Auckland for a brief period on Friday after our Thursday night flight was cancelled. Wanted to get from our hotel near the Airport to our friends in Epsom. AT’s app said it would take an hour of buses and walking each way. Sure could have used a light rail line!

  25. I struggle to see the justification for Auckland’s Light Rail if it is designed only to provide an average travel speed of 31kmh.

    “In total this route is around 22.6km and at 44 minutes giving an average of 31km/h.” https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2016/01/13/perhaps-light-rail-is-fast-enough-afterall/

    This is no better than Auckland peak congestion travel times
    https://www.tomtom.com/en_gb/traffic-news/auckland-traffic/traffic-flow
    https://at.govt.nz/media/1973424/item-122-quarterly-and-monthly-indicators-report-may-2017.pdf

    A fast competitive PT system should have an express service (main stops only) under-laid with an all stops service which raises the operating speed of the PT system for users.

    Either the LR should be designed as what a true LRT should truly be with passing loops at stations (although I don’t believe that this has ever been implemented anywhere?) or the mode should be changed (metro or heavy rail) with passing loops provided.

    1. Do you realise that that average speed is actually faster than our heavy rail?

      Henderson to Britomart is 21.8km and currently takes 46 minutes. That’s an average speed of 28km/h.

      1. “Henderson to Britomart is 21.8km and currently takes 46 minutes. That’s an average speed of 28km/h.”

        Not a good example, owing to the time-wasting Newmarket-reversal. This is an example of heavy rail’s performance being intentionally slugged for operating and political reasons. It could do much better if it was allowed to.

    2. Express services are for long distance outer suburb-to-city peak commuter focussed services. That is not the land-use pattern here at all. The isthmus has a relatively high consistent density with attractions and ridership all the way along. Ideally suited to Light Rail’s superpower: high capacity, highly appealing, high legibility right-to-the-front-door Transit. This is not commuter rail.

      1. Patrick, my point is more generic. Well designed PT systems can superior service levels by providing fast hub to hub services overlaying all stop services. Ideally this should go with synchronized timed transfers where possible. Too often this is not done and PT simple replicates current network speeds. No doubt the LT needs an all stops service – what I am questioning is whether we can do better.

        1. Passing loops at stations are not much use for express services. While the all stops service waits at the platform the approaching express has to slow due to it’s proximity to the all stops service. The all-stops service then has to wait for the express to get sufficiently ahead before it can move on.

          This will slow both services significantly. Express services only work when there is a completely separate set of tracks, the only metro I have ever seen this on is New York (there may be other examples). I can’t see quad tracking the proposed LR network being a great use of money.

  26. Huh? I thought it was all worked out. I thought cars, LRT, cyclists and pedestrians would fit comfortably within Dominion Road’s breadth with LRT “fully segregated” from traffic and able to cruise along at 50Km without impediment. It would be at least as fast as heavy rail to the airport, or so AT and certain commenters on this blog kept saying. What could possibly go wrong?

    Well this article looks to me like an admission that some of those claims regarding LRT in Dominion Road were over-optimistic, and that those of us who tried to warn that LRT would not be fast in that environment were right after all. Removal of car-traffic makes a lot of sense, but it was never touted in the glossy brochures as a pre-requisite for LRT’s success.

    What else about LRT has been over-hyped?

    1. Oh, and if Dom Rd were to be pedestrianized as is hoped for Queen Street then we seriously must expect LRT to be limited to 30Km/h.

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