Recently I wrote a post about the feasibility of a cross-isthmus light rail line. This is shown in red in the map below and essentially extends the light-rail that is proposed along State Highway 20 between Mt Roskill and Onehunga further west towards Avondale. My previous post highlighted that the line:

  1. Solved PT accessibility issues for westies who work in the Penrose/Onehunga, Airport and Southern employment zones by drastically slashing travel times. A peak time trip from Avondale to the Airport Airport would go from 1 hour to under 25 minutes while a trip from Avondale to Onehunga would go from around 35 minutes to less than 15;
  2. Freed up streets like Mt Albert Rd to have a larger cycling rather than PT infrastructure focus;
  3. Was relatively low cost heavily utilising proposed infrastructure, as well as cheap greenfield or protected corridor making it competitive with a Bus Rapid Transit option;
  4. Stitched up the network with the Western New Network, Southern Line, Southwestern-Airport Line, Western Line as well as many other bus services like Sandringham Rd;
  5. Provided crosstown capacity taking pressure off the CRL in the future;
  6. Did not create severance nor does hinder placemaking due to the ability to use green tracks;
Crosstown Light Rail Stage 1 (As you can see it’s a relatively short and easy route)

Alternative Route Discussion 

I had a lot of discussion with people after the original post about how we could improve the route alignment of the line, especially around stage two where the importance of connecting to New Lynn (the hub of the western public transport network) is paramount.

This led to two major questions

  1. What is the best route to take from Avondale to New Lynn;
  2. How best to cross the western line.

Alignment to New Lynn

There were three major options, with me preferring option one:

Option 1: Avondale to New Lynn via Racecourse and Delta Avenue

This option crosses the western line then continues through the Avondale Racecourse and over the Whau River to Delta Ave terminating on Memorial Drive close to the Town Centre, LynnMall, and New Lynn Bus/Train interchange.

You would likely add stations between New Lynn and Avondale at Delta Ave and the Racecourse the latter having the potential to be a large transit-oriented development opportunity.

Pros:

  • After crossing the Western Line the line is relatively affordable which much of the route passing through Avondale Racecourse thus able to use green tracks;
  • Opens up an enormous opportunity for transit-oriented development along the corridor including but not limited to a complete urban transformation of the scarcely used Avondale Racecourse;
  • Serves the current development happening on the edge of the racecourse;
  • Doesn’t interfere with major bus routes and serves new areas not served by major bus routes;
  • Re-development opportunity means the potential to use land uplift to help pay for stage two.
Avondale Racecourse – Transit Orientated Development Opportunity

Cons:

  • Crossing the western line will be costly;
  • Potentially adds to cost of stage 1 if route requires access via New North Road and Crayford St rather than cheaper western line alignment;

Option 2: Avondale to New Lynn via Great North Road

This was the base case alignment from the original proposal after crossing the western line would follow Great North Rd and then down Memorial Dr connecting with the Town Centre, LynnMall, and New Lynn Bus/Train interchange with a station between Avondale and New Lynn.

Pros:

  • Straightforward;
  • Existing corridor;

Cons:

  • Low run long catchment compared to other options as already served by frequent buses;
  • Interferes with major bus routes;
  • Needs to cross western line;

Option 3: Avondale to New Lynn via Western Line, St Georges Rd and Wolverton St

This option allows access to New Lynn without having to cross the Western line, the route follows the western line until St Georges Rd where it leaves the western line alignment until Wolverton St after which it continues down Wolverton and Clark to New Lynn Bus/Rail interchange.

You would likely add at least a station on St Georges Rd and depending on potential patronage trade-offs one near Portage Rd.

Pros:

  • Doesn’t require crossing western line;
  • Serves area south of New Lynn; which is highly zoned.

Cons:

  • Does interfere with some bus routes though not as frequent as option 2;
  • Does have some catchment overlap with buses;
  • Street works on St Georges and Wolverton may be expensive;
  • Less direct.
Stage 2 Alignment Options – Red = Option 1, Orange = Option 2, Green = Option 3

In the end, option one was my prefered alignment with option two second and option three last. This was because option one has the potential to deliver transformative change for the Avondale – New Lynn area.

Crossing the Western Line

Options one and two both require a crossing of the western line. Since option one was my preferred alignment I also had a long debate on how best to cross the western line with people with two options discussed and me leaning towards option two.

Option 1: Heavy Rail Under

This option would lower the western line with a new trenched Avondale station while also removing all three level crossings at St Judes, Chalmers, and St Georges. This means that the light rail line would be able to use the rail corridor as originally proposed then cross the western line at grade to Crayford West then from there being able to follow the proposed alignment above.

Pros:

  • Removes three level crossings;
  • New upgraded Avondale station;

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Will likely result in a number of block of lines;
Stage 2 – Heavy Rail Under

Option 2: Light Rail Over

Instead of following the western line to the Avondale – Southdown alignment this option would follow New North Rd instead with an elevated light rail station above the current Avondale train station. The line would then come back to grade after the station.

Pros:

  • Likely to be cheaper overall;
  • Less block of lines to the western line;

Cons:

  • Will make grade separation of level crossings even more difficult and St Judes, Chalmers, and St Georges would likely be simply closed;
  • Makes stage one more expensive as require more street works instead of simple rail corridor works;
  • Interferes with New North Rd buses;

Crossing the western line will be a difficult but not an insurmountable issue, the irony is never lost on me that the street where the issues are is aptly named Saint Judes, who of course is the patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes!

Summary

An alignment using the old racecourse is my preferred option overall as the alignment opens up a fantastic opportunity for urban development. Given we know Phil Twyford has had officials looking for major brownfield & greenfield redevelopment sites suitable for master-planned Kiwibuild developments in Auckland, and that he is keen to integrate development with rapid transit, this seems like a win-win situation.

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48 comments

  1. Yes, I’m with you, Harriet. The possibility of using the racecourse land to progress multiple city objectives at once is huge, with transport being key. Social, economic, ecological, transport, water infrastructure…

  2. Long term it also opens the potential to extend the light rail line out further west to areas under served by PT, like potentially Green Bay and Titirangi. In doing so increasing the intensity of zoning in those areas.

  3. I like the idea, but still think that extending that LR to meet with NW line would be more beneficial. Either via Rosebank Rd or along Great North Rd.

    1. Agree – a connection to the proposed NW line is essential – to achieve this the best (and quite short and therefore less expensive option would be to go via Mt Slbert and/or United to Pt Chev.

      It’s all about connectivity and this gives the maximum bang for buck, surely? Not offering a connection to the NW line would be selling the line short IMHO.

    1. Good question. There’s already rail going from New Lynn to Avondale. The priority must be to provide rail services to the many parts of Auckland that are still waiting, including Blockhouse Bay and Lynfield.

  4. I think the option of putting heavy rail under solves a range of issues, without the severance of closing streets, so when looked at from a system perspective may actually not be as expensive as first seem.

  5. Its a nice idea, but I can’t ever see Kiwirail giving up the Avondale-Southdown designation to AT or anyone else for Lightrail.

    A rail connected Northport trying to get freight to and from South Auckland will eventually require the designation to be built as heavy rail…

    1. It’s unlikely to ever be used for heavy rail as Mt Roskill and Onehunga have been built over (map of only green space remaining: https://goo.gl/KSSLd3).
      I can’t see Kiwirail tunneling the rest at huge cost when they could run through Newmarket / Mt Eden at off-peak times for free!

      1. I could be wrong but I think Kiwirail own the land for the Avondale-Southdown line so it would just be a case of kicking out their tenants.

        I agree though I can’t see it ever being built.

  6. It seems to be me that the level crossings will eventually have to be fixed, and trenching rail would be favourable to car drivers. I hate to imagine how long the western line would be out of service for such a work however, although the double decker 18 buses are doing a pretty good job on the downtown to New Lynn run these days. Option 3 seems to shadow the New Lynn Avondale bike path and although LR is less intimidating than HR, I don’t think the two modes will mix well. The Avondale Racecourse is prime for development and there are already many apartment projects in the area. So indeed option 1 seems best. Although if I am still working when this eventuates it will be the furthest from the office.

    1. Would probably just lower one track at a time so there would be what a 500m stretch of rail being lowered at a time? Pretty sure the Western line can handle that even with as short as 6 minute frequencies – might be the odd delay but nothing major.
      Would be a big win to have 3x level crossings removed as will result in faster train trips and less accidents.

    2. People keep saying Avondale Racecourse is ‘prime for redevelopment’ while overlooking the fact it is not only a functional race track, but also has a number of playing fields inside. The land is already being used by the community and it would be nigh on impossible to put any new fields in the area if these ones are removed.

      1. You could build 5,000 new low rise homes there without even touching the playing fields, 20,000 if you go to midrise. The track and it’s carpark take up a huge amount of space. The carpark alone could take ten of the apartment building thats under construction next door at the moment. Have a good look at the site on google maps or something. Compare it to Hobsonville or another new development area at the same scale.

  7. That “old racecourse” is still in use and there will be plenty of people who would object to it being built on.
    The southern span of the Blockhouse House Rd bridge may not have enough height for light rail to pass. When the NAL ws lowered the bottom of the southern span was filled with mass concrete to strengthen the bridge.

    1. The course seems to hold less than 20 racing events each year. Plus the Sunday market and a few other small events. It is the size of the Wynyard Quarter.

      Of course a bunch of people would like to keep it, but it is not a very good use for valuable land

      1. And the sports clubs and playing fields inside the race track itself? There’s plenty of those around Auckland. Are we just going to pave over those too?

        1. The sports fields are about 100,000m2,
          The racecourse (inc. fields) is 320,000m2
          The car park is 50,000m2

          That gives us over 270 hectares for redevelopment without losing the sports fields (which we shouldn’t).

  8. Redevelopment of the racecourse could also be used to fund a good portion of an extension like this through mechanisms like land value uplift, works-in-kind etc.

  9. Avondale is a strategic location with motorway, heavy rail, and arterial road, has residential and close to rosedale employment area.

    Option one is a prime location for urban regeneration. With racecourse land that is big enough for mastered planned transit oriented development.

    Whau board (which includes new lynn) has great experience on transit oriented development and are politically pro development and very wise. They know how to do it well and it will ensure a successful outcome.

    Avondale is the best choice to take this opportunity.

    1. Racecourse land that is currently being used as a racecourse and for sports-fields*

      The race course I give less of a shit about but how sustainable is it to keep building on open spaces in a city that is going to need as many of them as possible in the future?

      1. That racecourse covers land the size of a decent town. You could fit victoria park in it ten times over. The community doesn’t need open space of that scale, a fraction would do, the community needs housing.

      2. I agree it is not strategic to build on open spaces which will be needed in the future. This could be done well or done terribly. Done well, it will provide a much better mix of ecological “services” than it does presently. Space for really large trees, unlike the piddlers allowed on road corridors. Stormwater systems that are cheap because they aren’t retrofits but designed from the start, and far better than what’s there. Biodiversity. Nice places to be.

        Imagine if there was a food forest and fertile ancient Maori horticultural area there that could have a design planned around it. Sadly, not in this location.

        Done terribly – well, we can all picture that.

      3. On the other hand, most existing residential areas are still covered with single family homes, and relatively sparsely populated (most meshblocks are below 5000 ppl/km²). In a lot of other cities these would gradually be replaced with something more substantial. But no, old houses have to be preserved at all costs.

        1. To be fair that is no longer the case. The vast majority of Auckland suburbs are now zoned Mixed Housing or higher under the Unitary Plan… a number of so called historic neighbourhoods on the isthmus being the glaring exception.

          1. Mixed housing suburban is still limited to 2 storeys, that rules out most meaningful urban development. Check the latest post and see how many storeys you see in these pictures.

    1. Kiwirail could always be told by it’s owner to give it up. Alternatively just some of the corridor could be used, leaving space for a freight line still. Further still they could sign a deal with AT that when they need it, AT will replace the corridor.

    2. Except they have already made it available for other uses quite happily. You may have noticed a motorway extension running through it? Turns out kiwirail are more than happy to sell and lease their land as long as a viable corridor remains.

    1. Peters is keen enough for regional development. If I was transporting my precious thoroughbreds around the country to race I wouldn’t be fixed on wanting to keep going through all the traffic to Avondale.

  10. Link up New Lynn to Onehunga/Penrose, and then link up Onehunga/Penrose to Pakuranga via Waipuna bridge?

    I put some sketches up on the web, they’re circulating in one Harriet’s earlier posts last year on this GA website – Search LGOIMA and then find my comments at the bottom.

  11. Option one sounds good to me and development on Avondale Racecourse excellent idea. It really is a big space these race tracks that are not that well used.

  12. The Racecourse will only close if the owners decide. You can’t force them to close private property. Doesnt matter if it is only used once a year. It’s private land. They could have sold off years ago, but they choose not to. Just like all the bowling clubs. It will only close when the members are all dead.

    1. They would be very eager to close it if the land can sell a fortune.
      They can use the money relocate further out Auckland and get a bigger land.

      1. Thank goodness for bowling clubs, golf courses and racing courses. Future generations will thank them for protecting green spaces from this greedy generation.

        Developers trying to plunder green spaces in Auckland reminds me of mining companies trying to plunder our national parks, using spurious greater good arguments to promote private gain.

        I have no time for it – leave our green spaces alone. Are we hell bent on leaving nothing for future generations?

        1. Greedy generation?! Who is the greedy generation? The one that wants to be able to buy a house to live in, or the one that demands to have a fucking horse racing track the size of a small town in the middle of the suburbs because the like the idea of open green spaces?

          And lets not get started on ratepayer subsidised golf courses, you can’t get any more greedy that wanting a huge swathe of city land reserved for the worlds most expansive bat and ball game… then expect other people to pick up the tab. FFS.

        2. I assume you are also disappointed that the house you live in was built on what was once green space or are you more inclined to think I’ve got my place to live bugger anyone else.

        3. David’s point is important, though. Brownfields intensification is the most important thing to be doing, leaving our green space alone as much as we can. We don’t need a mown grass monoculture desert of a racecourse, but we do need places to develop into biodiverse carbon-sequestring, stormwater filtering oases.

          The only thing I’d add, though, David, is that if we’re going to resist the use of green underutilised space, we need to equally campaign for:

          -Intensificaiton of brownfields sites.
          -Protection of areas that already are biodiverse, carbon-sequestring rainwater-filtering oases, such as the Sanctuary Garden in Unitec, which should have been the treasure around which the Unitec development was planned, not just a piece of land to bulldoze.
          -Rapid Transit and active mode infrastructure being funded properly, at sufficiently high rates to not require using underutilised green spaces.

        4. Admin – there’s a comment from me replying to David which is awaiting moderation. (Have I exceeded my number of allowable comments for the month? 🙂 )

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