The most contentious issue with the City Rail Link these days is how Albert St will be reinstated following all of the construction works. It’s important we get it right and time is short given the trench is already starting to be refilled.
The issue with Albert St was summed by Simon Wilson last year following a meeting of the City Centre Advisory Board who were shown one a video of the plans for Albert St.
But the board wasn’t excited. They were, in the words of chairperson Viv Beck, “frankly, deeply disappointed”.
That’s what you say when you have to be polite in a public meeting and what you really want to do is scream and throw things.
Why so upset? Because the board gave CRLL $20 million of business ratepayers’ money to fix Albert St. Because the CRLL plan showed it looking worse than it used to be, with no trees in the top half, lots of roadway for buses and cars, and lots of bays for buses to park in.
We hoped for more, said Beck and many of her board colleagues. The CRLL people mumbled about being required to restore it to what it was, which simply isn’t true. The board gave them that $20 million to ensure it wouldn’t be true.
Then the CRLL people blamed Auckland Transport. AT drew up the plans, not CRLL. It was their fault.
Last night City Rail Link posted a new version of the video for how they are planning to reinstate Albert St. On the whole the video appears to be largely the same as what we’ve seen before, with primarily just a bit more polish. But disconcertingly, there seems to be an effort underway to deceive viewers to help justify the existing poor design.
The key issue with the design has been that over time previous concepts of a gorgeous tree lined street have been scaled back and in places the road is now planned to be a barren landscape. One of the culprits for this is the addition of indented bus bays that Auckland Transport have demanded be included even though they’re not needed.
Their key justification for the bus bays is so that buses can leapfrog each other on their journey up Albert St. While it sounds useful to have, if often doesn’t really save any time an can lead to poor customer outcomes, such as buses at the back of a bunch leapfrogging those ahead of it and not seeing the customers waiting for it further up the stop. For the few times that buses might genuinely need to pass a stopping bus ahead of it, they can usually use the general traffic lane, which even prior to the CRL works starting on Albert St was usually empty.
Seemingly in a bid to prevent discussion of that option, the video now shows the general traffic lanes clogged with cars in both directions. The image below also highlights one of the serious problems with having indented bus bays on Albert St, they eat significantly into the footpath. You can see in the image lots of people on the footpath, presumably waiting for a bus and likely blocking people trying to walk along Albert St.
The images look remarkably like parts of Symonds St and Anzac Ave, and not the tree lined part outside the University.
There are a few other changes worth noting, many of which are positive.
- Mayoral Dr, just before Wellesley does appear to have a few more trees than previous videos but I’m not sure if these are existing trees or new ones. The video also shows a bus stop canopy
- The previous videos had what appeared to be on-street carparking right outside the main Aotea Station entrance. This appears to be confirmed in this video. Why do we need on-street parking right outside what will be the busiest train station in the country.
- As well as more cars and buses, what is noticeable in this new video is a lot more pedestrians shown on the streets. This is good to see but also helps to highlight the issue of needing more footpath space.
- The central median that holds the skylights above the Aotea Station now appears that it will have grass or low planting. This at least brings some greenery to the southern part of the street.
- The Victoria St Linear Park is finally shown, including the narrowing down of the street to two lanes. The previous video still showed the street with 3-4 lanes.
In addition, they’ve published these renders of the street at ground level.
You can see the full video here
and here is a link to the previous version.
The Strand works
While on the topic of the CRL, on Sunday they also published a couple of videos showing the works that happened over the Christmas/New Year holidays near the Strand where Kiwirail were shifting the Britomart bound track to enable a better connection to the stabling yard which is needed post-CRL.
The first video includes some commentary about the works that took place.
The second video is just a timelapse of the works
There is also this older video explaining the project
Rail Network Review
Also generally related, just before Christmas Auckland Transport published a tender for a high level infrastructure review of the rail network, the description of which is below.
Auckland Transport and its partners have invested heavily in the Auckland rail network over the last 18 years with patronage growing from approximately 2.5 million trips per annum in 2002 to over 20 million trips in 2017. With Auckland being one of the fastest growing cities in Australasia, with an anticipated growth of an additional 300,000 people over the next 10 years, Auckland rail patronage is expected to climb even further.
In the next six years further investment in the City Rail Link, increased rolling stock, third main between Wiri and Quay Park, electrification between Papakura and Pukekohe, and broader investment in public transport will likely see patronage grow three or four-fold to 60 to 80 million per annum over the coming decades.
The number of services operated over the network will increase significantly which will place greater demand on infrastructure and increase the impacts of infrastructure failures. A series of recent failures, and trends indicating an increase in resulting delays have impacted on service levels expected by customers. There has also been an increase in consequential delay post incident due to timetable changes increasing service levels and narrowing headways between services.
In that context it is critical that the railway infrastructure is capable of safely and reliably delivering on this growth. Failure to deliver a safe, reliable and resilient network will undermine both the confidence and achievement of the targets that Auckland Transport has for rail and more broadly public transport in Auckland.
It is interesting to see AT suggesting we could reach 60-80 million trips on the rail network, up to four times more than we have now. That would be a fairly impressive outcome for our lean network. We’ll hope to see what this report comes back with.