As I state in this recent article at The Spinoff I see Auckland as around half way through a roughly 30 year long programme to retro-fit a complete Rapid Transit Network to itself.
Cities are of course never finished, and nor are their transport systems, but at the end of this period Auckland will have something new and powerful in its very structure: A complete city-wide top tier integrated Strategic Transit Network fed and supported by the Frequent Network below it: A complementary mirror to the city’s motorway and arterial road networks. Adding a desperately needed balance to the city’s transport systems, and providing a springboard for the city’s current spatial shift, and necessary tool in the lowering of the carbon intensity of our city’s worst performer: the transport system.
Taking the opening of the old Chief Post Office in 2003 as Britomart Station as the start of this reinvention of Auckland as a Transit city, our agencies have spent the last decade and a half rebuilding the existing rail network for intra-city passenger use, and adding and improving one new route, the Northern Busway. This work, along with significant improvements to other layers of the system (especially the New Network and Integrated ticketing) has been rewarded with consistently rising uptake:
It is now time to add the rest of the network.
Which AT and NZTA are doing, as a result of the current government and council accelerating this plan. Some parts of this are further advanced than others and Matt has written here about the value of communicating this in network terms, especially visually.
It’s fair to say that at the start there wasn’t a whole city plan, but rather a drive to get something working. A desire led by the then Regional Council, City Council, and rail supporters to revive passenger rail on the existing network, and by transport planners and the then Clark-led government to build a busway to help relieve SH1 and Harbour Bridge congestion pressures. And happily those two separate schemes both proved tremendously successful and sufficiently complementary to form the beginnings of a full Strategic Network for Auckland. This opportunity was first promoted by advocates on this site, and soon taken up, in various forms, by our official agencies. Most completely now through the combined Council/Government ATAP process, below is the most recent network design:
From the Auckland Plan:
The rapid transit network will need to play a central role in meeting the travel needs of a fast-growing region, as well as supporting and shaping Auckland’s growth and urban form.
In particular, only rapid transit can:
efficiently move large numbers of people to intensely developed places like the city centre and other major centres
dramatically increase the number of people able to travel between major parts of Auckland (north, central, west and south)
provide a fast and reliable travel option that encourages people out of their cars for longer-distance journeys
deliver long-lasting access improvements to areas near rapid transit stations, which improves their attractiveness for redevelopment.
This an exciting and ambitious plan, one that is pretty unusual in the anglo-phone new world because of its completeness. Many cities are adding new routes, or reviving old ones, but few outside of Asia are adding such a complete network virtually from scratch (European cities generally already have them). LA, interestingly as our old motorway role model, does have a city-wide scheme, LA Metro; a mix of Heavy Rail, Light Rail, and Busways, targeting the 2028 Olympics, but even when it is finished it won’t be as significant to that city as Auckland’s will be, simply because of the difference in scale of the two cities. LA’s would need to be much more densely packed to offer the richness of access that Auckland’s will when complete.
Canadian cities generally offer much more complete networks already, having a stronger European influence, so perhaps Seattle is the closest to Auckland both in current network scale and ambition of their plans:
With voter approval in 1996, 2008 and 2016, new light rail, bus rapid transit and commuter rail service will come online every few years.
So just like these cities a critical aspect of our plan is how it utilises existing routes and opportunities to build an affordable whole connected network out of a collection of different modes. A mixture that almost all cities utilise in their Transit systems. Here is the full 10 year ATAP programme co-funded by government and Council (made possible by the Regional Fuel Tax) agreed in 2018:
Now here’s a version showing the existing and future network, with the work currently under construction in 2019 in stripes:The Key to understanding the completeness of this plan are the six radial routes connecting every major centre of employment and habitation as numbered above:
- North Shore
- Isthmus and Southwest
These six points of the compass, plus the crosstown routes and enhanced ferries, will complete a full city network. It is the very completeness of this plan that makes it so useful, the whole will be very much greater than its parts.
These will each continue to be optimised over time, as the completed parts already are, but the most significant moment will be when all six main right of ways are operating.
Essentially this network will add a permanent transit structure to the city on which longterm land use decisions can be made. The critical spine to support the life blood of the modern urban services economy: people.
So the critical next move is building the three missing lines, or two and a half to be more precise, as the hybrid Eastern Line is already has its rail component in operation:
2. Eastern Line extension
4. Isthmus and Mangere Line
6. Northwest Line
Here’s a timeline for completion of current Rapid Transit Network additions, including the known unknowns:
2019+ additional trains
2021 Connecting the rail network to the Airport via the Puhinui Interchange stage 1
2021 Eastern Busway 1 Pakuranga to Panmure
2021 Northern Busway extension and new Rosedale Station
2024 City Rail Link
?? Electrification to Pukekohe
?? 3rd Main on the NIMT
?? Light Rail Isthmus
?? Light Rail Mangere
?? Light Rail Northwest