The planning for light rail to the North West is only in its early stages and many details and decisions have yet to be decided. One of the most important decisions will be the location of stations and how they interact with their local environment – e.g. a station that few can access, no matter how flash it is, will not be successful. The government have also made it clear they want to see housing and transport more intimately linked and to leverage off the big investments in PT they’re willing to make.
With that in mind, I thought we should look at the potential station locations and some potential options for maximising the significant investment that will be made. To start with, let’s look at Point Chevalier, which I suspect might end up the busiest on the Northwest line.
Let’s start with where light-rail is likely to go. Most likely this will be on the northern side of the motorway where there is largely a free corridor of land currently used for parking. Just behind the shops would make a great station location and would allow for strong connections between the two frequent Pt Chevalier/Carrington Rd buses (66 and Outer Link), as well as the 18 route along Gt North Rd.
Obviously if the decided to keep light rail on Gt North Rd, which I don’t think is a good idea, the station would be in the middle of the town centre. Other motorway corridor locations, such as in the middle of the motorway or on the southern side don’t seem practical, especially once you consider how a line would have to thread through the Waterview interchange – another reason why it was incredibly stupid of the NZTA not to build a rapid transit corridor at the same time as the motorway works.
The Unitary Plan on it’s own allows for significant development opportunities. The shops are zoned as a town centre with an 18 metre height limit (4 levels), with surrounding areas zoned Terraced Housing and Apartment Building or Mixed Use. Both zones allow development up to around 4 levels.
Then there’s the redevelopment of Unitec, on which the government want to build 3000-4000 new homes.
“We want this to be not just a housing development, but a strong and vibrant community.
It means really good walking and cycling (on-site), access to good transport and good shared public spaces. There’s also going to be a need for retail, early childhood education facilities, sports facilities.”
Twyford says the Government will build a light rail station at Pt Chevalier, that parts of the site are within walking distance of the Mt Albert train station and there are frequent buses to it.
The area comes with its challenges though – most notably the severance created by the Northwestern Motorway. With Unitec in the bottom-left corner and a light-rail station likely to be diagonally across both the motorway and Carrington Road, serious effort will be needed to ensure light-rail really can serve this development as well as unlocking Pt Chevalier as a whole.
Looking more broadly around here there are multiple major development opportunities. An under-developed town centre, Unitec, a major publicly owned piece of land used for healthcare in what seems to be quite an inefficient way, a big carpark, big undeveloped sites just north of the motorway, old warehouses and more. Let’s add those to the mix, when we are thinking about how to connect the station with its surrounds.
The most immediate need is to better connect the station with the area to the south of the motorway. One way to do this will be to link back together the two ends of Parr Road – a victim of when the motorway was carved through here in the late 1970s. The other thing to do will be to widen the Carrington Road bridge, as this can enable bus stops to be located close to the light-rail station.
However, if we really want to overcome the severance and to unlock development potential of this area’s surrounds, we could use the natural contours through here (the motorway is below ground level, especially on the southern side) to cap it. Extending the capping slightly west of Carrington Road would enable better links to Unitec. Some of it could be developed and other parts of it made available to add to the public space of in the area.
Putting all of this together, you can see how hugely important this light-rail station could be. Alongside the 4000 new homes in Unitec, you could see how say half as many again might be provided in other redevelopment sites in close proximity to the station. Add that to the role of Pt Chevalier as an important bus connection point and you can see this being a very busy place.
Realising this opportunity will be challenging. The capping might be expensive, some of the land I’ve highlighted as a redevelopment site may be difficult to unlock, squeezing light-rail efficiently and affordably through this area where there are already a myriad of ramps will also be tricky. On the other hand, Pt Chevalier is clearly a pretty attractive spot for people to live and it’s surprising there has not yet been much redevelopment (some apartment buildings are planned). Furthermore, it would be incredibly stupid to build light-rail through Pt Chevalier and also do the large-scale redevelopment of the Unitec, but not properly connect them together.
Let’s hope NZTA and the Council are getting their act together to realise this potential.