The idea of a heavy rail spur to the airport has been getting an airing again and there’s a lot of deliberately false and misleading information being presented as fact as part of this. We’ve discussed the issue of a Puhinui connection and many of the other concerns raised by those wanting it many times in the past, including:
- A look at the HR option specifically
- Why agencies dropped it
- Seattle’s use of light rail to its airport which is a similar length to what’s proposed and even has an on street section similar to us.
- Why it’s not just about the airport but also about all the people along the corridor as well as unlocking development potential.
- What we need to do to ensure light rail is fast enough
We’ve even calculated travel times ourselves, more on that shortly. There’s probably not a lot of point just repeating those same points again. So instead, I thought I’d take a look at the issue from a whole city perspective.
Firstly, here is the currently agreed plan for Auckland which comes from the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP). It’s also worth mentioning that previous versions of ATAP with the former government agreed on exactly the same routes, but didn’t specify modes.
Earlier this year I wrote a few posts on travel times. For it I build a model that calculated travel times for routes based on a number of factors. As part of that I calculated the differences for a trip from the city to the airport via Light Rail and via a trip with a transfer at Puhinui. Last month I wrote about the issue with express services to the airport and how it’s the whole network that’s important.
With this post I thought I’d take that a step further and more directly compare how long it would take to get to the airport from ten key locations around the city. For each of the lines I calculated how long it would take to travel to the airport using this network and compared it to the option for a limited stop train from the city. Below are a couple of points to note about the calculations
- For all comparisons I’ve assumed that people are turning up to a station or stop having not looked at a timetable.
- I’ve assumed the routes above are running at a minimum frequency of a service every 10 minutes off peak. This means all trips start with a minimum five minute wait. Given this full network is over a decade away from being a full reality, I’d hope the base frequency was even higher by then.
- For the comparison I’ve used an estimated travel time of 30 minutes from Britomart but because of the issues explained in other posts with running dedicated express services, it only runs every 20 minutes (every 30 is more likely). I’ve also assumed it will stop at Puhinui even though it’s touted as non-stop.
- Where it is unclear, I’ve used our CFN running patterns e.g. for light rail it is Orewa to Airport and Huapai to Takapuna.
- I’ve made some assumptions to station locations on some routes as the number and locations of stations on some routes are still being looked at.
- I’ve made one change to the network above, using our Crosstown Light Rail idea for the southern isthmus line so it would connect from Avondale instead of New Lynn.
- Light Rail has been identified as being needed along Dominion Rd regardless of if it goes to the airport. In the express train comparison, it stops at Mt Roskill.
The locations I’ve chosen are: Albany, Takapuna, The City Centre (around Aotea), Westgate, Henderson, Balmoral, Ellerslie, Glen Innes, Botany and Papakura.
Here are the results. The description gives a brief explanation of the legs of the journey with the travel time in brackets. The total time adds those together and adds in the average weighting time. The short version of the outcome is that for those North of the city that would pass through it, or those in the city, an express train would be fractionally faster, for everyone else it would be slower, primarily due to the transfer times or having to travel into the city first.
Edit: I’ve just noticed that Botany and Papakura are missing. They should be:
Botany – Bus to airport (29), Total 34
vs Bus to Puhinui (21) + Airport Train (8), Total 44
Papakura – came out exactly the same as Ellerslie
I’ll update the table when I get a chance.
While I’ve chosen only ten key locations around the region to compare, many more areas would connect to these via the bus network and we’d expect many more routes than today would be at a frequent status.
I think one of the problems with this debate, given the frequency at which this topic keeps coming up, is that our transport agencies simply aren’t getting involved. Auckland Transport in the past and now the NZTA could easily provide an official response as to why light rail is the preferred option but they remain absolutely silent about it. They need to step up and do their jobs. The absence of clear information is allowing misinformation to flourish and it’s only going to make their jobs harder in the future if it continues.