Recently I wrote about rethinking how we build light rail across the Manukau Harbour Crossing. While writing it, I also thought about how people have spent a lot of time talking about Onehunga, Dominion Rd, Queen St and the especially the Airport, but hardly any time actually considering how this line benefits the people of Mangere and the broader Southwest part of Auckland.
After all, people travelling between the city and the Airport will be a fairly small minority of overall users of this line – it’s about much more than just getting people to the Koru Lounge as quick as possible.
As a quick recap, my previous post highlighted how a slightly different alignment for light-rail on the Onehunga side, tying Light Rail into the replacement for the Old Mangere Bridge, would mean:
- One less structure needed over Manukau meaning less cost and environmental effects;
- Ability for Light Rail to serve Onehunga Wharf, increasing feasible transit orientated development planned by Panuku;
- Redesign allows for even better cycling/walking components;
However, many people asked about what this would mean for the south side of the crossing. Importantly these benefits are also potentially quite substantial.
A realigned crossing integrated with the replacement of the Old Mangere Bridge would result in the Light Rail being able to directly serve Mangere Bridge Town Centre. That would provide a much larger and therefore more useful catchment rather than being next to the motorway and water, like currently proposed.
The benefits don’t end there as it also gives us options to serve employment/people between Mangere Bridge and Mangere.
The map below shows a bunch of possible route options between Mangere Bridge and Mangere Town Centre:
After serving the town centre the Light Rail would turn down Miro Rd connecting back to the motorway alignment continuing on as proposed. However, I would propose investigating a station by Hastie Ave which could serve the catchment just south of Mangere Bridge Town Centre as well as the industrial areas on the eastern side of SH20. The delay would be minor but increase the usefulness of the line filling in the catchment gap between Mangere Bridge and Favona Station at Walmsley Rd, at the end of the day this is about creating a Southwest Rapid Transit solution.
This is similar to above, but by using Rimu Rd the Light Rail serves the Town Centre with easy access but does not pass through the main strip, allowing more space for placemaking, pedestrian/cycling improvements or parking in the central town centre strip.
This option proposes a very different alignment to the currently proposed alignments. Instead of heading back towards SH20, it follows Coronation Rd, Bader Dr to Mangere Town Centre before resuming the alignment towards the Airport as planned. This option would serve much more people and potentially drive more substantial land-use change (because it’s located away from the motorway corridor). However, this would come at the expense of Favona and it may be quite expensive. Many sections of the route would realistically have to be widened.
I personally am quite partial to the red alignment, but completely open to other suggestions.
I think the main thing is recognising that this line is about more than just the Airport. The Airport is an anchor station but only one part of the puzzle we are solving here; we can’t get bogged down obsessing about one station, especially when only around 10% of the demand is estimated for the Airport. Light rail has the potential to be a gamechanger for the Southwest. A rethink of the alignment between Onehunga, Mangere Bridge, and Mangere could make this even better for people.
We also need to have wider discussions about how this line can serve the southwest. It can’t just be about the Airport – this has to be about connecting these communities as well because if anything the latter is much more important.