Recently the government announced the next steps for light rail in Auckland, the creation of an Establishment Unit to come up with a recommendation of what to build before the end of the year. A few weeks ago former Chief Executive of Manukau City Council, Leigh Auton, was appointed as the chair for the Establishment Unit.

As also explained at the time of the announcement, as well as a stakeholder event on Friday, there are essentially two key trade-offs/decisions that need to be made.

  1. The Mode – a surface based light rail solution or a fully grade separated light-metro one.
  2. The Route through the isthmus – either Dominion Rd as initially envisaged or Sandringham Rd, which has been suggested as there is a huge amount of Kāinga Ora land at the southern end which could enable the government to tie in its house building programme.

If the unit is to succeed in its remit in making the best recommendation, as well as getting buy in from Aucklanders, one thing I think is critical is that they compare the best iterations of each of those trade-offs.

For example, my understanding is that after taking over the light rail project, Waka Kotahi came up with new route options through Mangere that ‘wiggled’ all over the place in order to serve Kāinga Ora land but that came at the expense of directness and speed. While we’re probably one of the first to say that speed to the airport isn’t the primary purpose of light rail, it shouldn’t be ignored either. That change also likely contributed towards the NZ Super Fund’s light-metro style proposal looking more appealing to the government, the investigation of which ultimately derailed the whole project and has now resulted in this new process.

Perhaps put another way, the Establishment Unit need to ensure they undertake as fair a comparison as possible. Comparing a direct metro solution to a wiggly local bus route on steel wheels is not even comparing apples with oranges, at least they’re both different kinds of fruit.

I also think that if we’re really talking about a fair comparison, perhaps we should also consider what we could get for equivalent priced networks. It’s surely not too much to expect a metro style solution to perform better than a surface one, after all, it is likely to cost 2-3 times as much. But a question I’ve been thinking about a bit recently is, what if we took that price difference and made a bigger surface network, would the metro solution perform better than that combined network?

That led to the question, just how much more surface network could we get for the cost of a single light metro line?

So that’s what I thought I’d focus this post on. I’ve also included a couple of assumptions.

  1. For this post I’m going to assume the cost of the 14.3km Mt Roskill to Airport section is the same regardless of mode – even though light metro would need more expensive signalling and likely a more expensive route through Onehunga not to mention having to deal with the basalt through the isthmus.
  2. I’m also going to assume that light rail would run from Customs St to Mt Roskill via Dominion Rd and that Light Metro would run largely the same route except starting from Wellesley St under the Aotea CRL station. These routes have the same distance.


To start with answering the question, we need to get a better handle of the costs of each option. So I looked around the world at some similar projects. In all cases I’ve roughly adjusted for inflation and converted costs to NZ dollars. Some of the projects are yet to start construction so I’ve used the latest estimates I could find.

Light Rail

Light rail projects seem to vary from just over $60 million per km, such as Canberra’s, which was largely built in the middle of a wide grassed median, up to around $200 million in Sydney and some North American lines. In Sydney’s case the high costs seem to be due to a significant amount of services to move and substantial public realm upgrades while the North American examples tend to have a lot more tunnel and/or elevated sections in places. For the purposes of this post, I’ll use a figure of $150 million per km.

Light Metro

The costs here tend to have more variation, though I’ve also included projects that might look like or even be part of light rail systems but the projects themselves are fully grade separated. For example Ottawa’s light rail line uses street style light rail vehicles but on a fully grade separated route, its costs are likely helped in part because it largely converted an existing busway corridor. In the case of Seattle, after their initial line, which has a substantial section of on-street running, all subsequent extensions have been fully grade separated more like a metro line. At the top end of the spectrum, Honolulu’s fully elevated Light Metro system has suffered many cost and time blowouts and is now estimated to come in at over $500 million per km while Vancouver’s Broadway Subway project is expected to start construction this year and is costing nearly $600 million per km.

Vancouver’s Skytrain

In an Auckland project I think we can expect costs at the upper end of this range. This is because the isthmus section will likely need to be entirely tunnelled – good luck getting an elevated route past locals easily. We’ve also seen with the City Rail Link that digging a tunnel through the city centre is expensive (over $1b per km), in part we’re competing for talent and resources with many other cities, especially those across the ditch, also looking to build similar mega-projects. A metro solution would also require a ‘CRL 2’. As such, for the purposes of this post I’ll use a cost of $550 million

Based on all of this, the City to Mt Roskill section would cost:

  • Light rail – $1.2 billion
  • Light metro – $4.3 billion

A light metro solution is over three and a half times the cost.

The Extra Network

The figures above suggest a light metro network would cost $3.1 billion more than a light metro one – though as we’ve discussed before performance wouldn’t be all that different. At the light rail figure of $150 million per km that suggests we could get about an additional 21km of surface level light rail, though possibly more as we’ll already have infrastructure like a depot. That’s at least a whole other light rail line. So what could we get for that.

Option 1

The first and most obvious option to spend that budget on would be the Northwest to at least Westgate. From a junction somewhere around Ian McKinnon Dr it is about 16.5km to Westgate. The big unknown is just how we’ll get across the causeway, can we take some motorway lanes (freeing up the bus shoulders for other purposes) or will we need something much more infrastructure intensive?

We’ll also likely want to extend service from the bottom of Queen St to Wynyard as per the original AT plans. This would add about 1.8km leaving us with about 2.7km from our budget which could be used to extend the Northwest line closer to Kumeu, say to a station at Brigham Creek.

Is a single metro line really going to deliver better outcomes for Auckland than, for the same cost, also serving the Northwest?

As mentioned, the biggest concern is getting over the causeway, so if that is an issue, here’s another option.

Option 2

We’ll keep the Wynyard extension from above. To that we could add our Crosstown Light Rail idea. With a short 4.4km extension from Dominion Rd to Avondale we could open up much easier west to Onehunga/Mangere/Airport trips. It also helps in serving that Kāinga Ora land with a quick transfer to the city via either the Western Line or Dominion Rd line.

The Helensvale Station on the Gold Coast allows interchange between heavy and light rail systems

But we could go further and also and convert the Onehunga Branch (3.4km) to light rail, improving service on it compared to what exists today and further enhancing the crosstown nature of the route. This would leave us with 11.4km in our budget.

The government are placing a lot of weight on serving the Kāinga Ora land in Wesley, which is why Sandringham Rd is being considered. If serving that land/corridor is so important we could always also build a line there. It is only an extra 5km to get as far as SH20. Add in Mt Eden Rd and that’s three of the busiest isthmus bus routes served as well as a crosstown RTN connection.

There are of course plenty of other routes and uses that could be considered and that extra money would go a long way making many other public transport improvements around the region. For example, I’d love to see us getting at least some interim services on other planned rapid transit routes, such as Upper Harbour and/or extending the Airport to Botany route past it’s currently planned terminus of Manukau.

The ATAP RTN map gives a good indication of where we should be focusing our efforts

Ultimately, even if a metro network performs best for the City Centre to Mangere route I just can’t see it staking up compared to a more greatly expanded rapid transit network.

One final thing worth noting from looking at this, is construction time as disruption is already a major concern for some. The initial 13km stage of the Gold Coast’s light rail line took just two years to build, Canberra’s only about three years and even Sydney’s beleaguered project just over four years to build 12km.

By comparison many of these metro style systems tend to take a lot longer, for example the 15km Copenhagen City Circle Line took a decade to complete, a timeframe that appears not that uncommon. Meanwhile the Honolulu project started construction in 2011 and earlier this year they said it might still take another decade to complete. We only need to look at the eight years of disruption the CRL is imposing to know that we can expect at least the same again for any tunnelled solution.

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  1. “extending the Airport to Botany route past it’s currently planned terminus of Manukau.”

    ummm what

    1. They plan is to eventually build a busway all the way from the airport to Botany. The Puhinui upgrade, bus lanes and electric AirportLink are the first stage of that.
      But the full A2B route is years off. Just saying we could any cash saved to bring that forward.

      1. First of all we need to collect that cash.

        And after the cash have been saved – to bring that forward

      2. I guess my question is more which end is it the terminus of? The current Bus route clearly doesnt count, are they only planning on the long term LRT going to Manukau not all the way to the Airport

  2. Surely there is no good reason for Light Metro outside of the “Get me to the Airport in 20 minutes” brigade.

    We can build it in 20 years when there is a proper network covering the entire city and we can start having these gold plated solutions, like London adding Crossrail

    1. It’s beneficial for the get me from Mangere, Mangere Bridge, Onehunga, Hillsborough and Mt Roskill to the City brigade as well.

      1. A personal helicopter funded by AT is also beneficial for you, the point is that for those journeys that LRT gives 80% of the benefit of Light metro at 30% of the cost, isn’t it?

        1. Largely agree. Just seems to get forgotten that it would would also benefit other suburbs along the way. LR isn’t great for Mangere, the journey time to the CBD is about 10 mins slower than parallel railway stations on the Southern/Eastern lines.

        2. True, I just don’t see how you achieve that without massive tunneling which is just unrealistic. What percentage of Mangere etc commuters are actually going to the CBD as well? A reliable LRT route with 5/6 min frequency should be a step change for commuting, no?

        3. If you’re comparing it to light metro, it’s probably more like 5mins difference, assuming you’re the same distance from the station, which may not be the case if light metro has fewer stops.

        4. Isn’t great for mangere = actually massive improvement for mangere.

          It currently take 1h 10 mins to get from mangere town to the middle of the CBD. That would drop about 35 mins with LRT.

    2. so I’m guessing you want a crappy, slow tram crawling around the city rather than a metro project that might actually be worth it

      1. No, we want good value-for-money light rail, similar to what they’ve got in Seattle.

        Light metro would only be 4-5 minutes quicker from the city to Mt Roskill, and <10 minutes quicker to the airport, while costing at least twice the amount of light rail. It also wouldn't offer a significant increase in capacity – 120m light rail vehicles can carry 900 passengers, the same as a 6-car light metro.

  3. Interesting piece Matt. I think light rail option number 2 is quite appealing. Given the upzoning changes to the NPS-UD, the more and the faster that rapid transit is provided – the more upzoning that occurs. Three north/south isthmus lines and the cross town line would be a huge boost to housing supply. It would open a huge area for walkable mixed use neighbourhood living. Quite possibly carless apartments could be the lowest marginal supplier to the Auckland housing market.

    It won’t though be practical if every one of the isthmus arterial lines loses all their traffic lanes at every town centre like is planned for Dominion Road. So Sandringham and Mt Eden roads would need to be widened. This is discussed in the boulevard light rail piece here.

    1. Option 2 would open up something like 10sqkm of developable land in the catchment of the 3 north/south lines and the cross town line. Built to the density of Ockham Residential’s 32 unit 5 story Modal building, that could be in the range of 100,000 apartment units.
      H/T Scoot on twitter.

    2. Disagree.
      First the was never an official plan to close traffic, we think there should be and we know some modeling was done showing no negative impact. There’s no reason to think the same wouldn’t happen with the other streets. Most of the trips are longer distant ones and not locals.
      But there’s other ways to deal with it. For example as well as physical separation there’s also the possiblity of time separation, using traffic lights to hold traffic until the LR has passed though the pinch point. On those other routes that could work well for providing access – though I think on the main Dominion Rd route it needs LR only.

    3. I’m unconvinced about crosstown rapid transit in spread-out new world cities. It’s not common and where they do exist they carry a fraction of the patronage of lines heading to the centre of the city.

      1. I disagree. The more network connections a rapid transit system has the better. Helsinki is about the size of Auckland. Helsinki’s busiest bus service is a cross town orbiting line. It is currently being upgraded to light rail. You can read about it here.

        1. It’s being upgraded to LR because the bus route is nearing capacity, something that Auckland’s crosstown routes are nowhere near reaching, especially the 68 that this would replace.

          There are numerous routes that run towards the centre of the city that would benefit more from an upgrade than this route.

        2. Jezza I think comparing with the 68 bus is a bit unfair, especially as Airport rail hasn’t been built yet and the 68 doesn’t go to Penrose.
          A train connecting to the Western line at Avondale, LR to city at Mt Roskill, LR to airport at Onehunga and the Southern line at Penrose is considerably more useful than a slow bus from New Lynn connecting to an infrequent train at Onehunga.

        3. Jezza in a normal situation I’d agree with you, there would be little justification for doing it on it’s own. The value in it comes from it only needing a 4.4km extension from Dominion Rd to Avondale on an existing designated corridor that already has some of the infrastructure built to support it e.g. underpass of Maioro St – so it would almost certainly come in at much less than $150m per km.
          The Onehunga Branch conversion is in the same boat too, likely much cheaper to convert to LR than the plans for upgrading it to spec for heavy rail like is on the long term plans.

      2. Although in this case it would connect the Western Line to Airport Light rail and Southern line so it isn’t just a suburban line.
        Personally I wouldn’t run a crosstown pattern, I would run both Avondale to city and Airport to city both via Dominion, anyone wanting crosstown can change at Mt Roskill. Do limited stops on Dominion for the airport route to city to speed it up (may cause bunching though).
        Although I hadn’t considered the Onehunga option which would probably be very cheap to implement and would make Onehunga very connected (as opposed to a spur that will never be more than 30 min frequency).
        Also I wonder if it worth going further south? Roskill South, Lynfield, Blockhouse Bay, Green Bay etc?

      3. Looking at spread-out New World cities – that are generally stuck in unhelpful patterns of development by the strength of the political economy of car dependence – is less useful than thinking through what’s needed to tackle car dependence and get emissions on track, Jezza. Auckland needs to forge a new path.

        To decarbonise land use and transport, vehicle travel demand needs slashing. One of the most important things to do is to create a quality, frequent or rapid transit network, and specifically, to bring this PT through the low density areas, along with general upzoning and intensification. This brings amenities close to existing residents and provides new housing with both amenities and quality low-carbon transport options, so new residents start with lower levels of vehicle travel demand.

        This network cannot be achieved without the cross town routes.

        1. There’s planning ahead and then there’s replacing a bus route that carries around 500k per year with rapid transit. Building Avondale to Onehunga rapid transit will do little to reduce carbon emissions.

          There a a number of crosstown bus routes that are ripe for improvement. This will create a much more connected network than replacing one of them with a rapid transit route simply because a designation exists.

        2. Just look at all the traffic on state highway 20 some is going to the airport but most to Manukau or further. After the CRL the purple line will help but it will be slow compared to the car as would a trip through the CRL. Light rail from Avondale to Penrose would involve two transfers. Motorway buses are a last resort but could be an option. Maybe they could start at Westgate link into Western line train services then run through to Puhinui and Manukau stations.

    4. That is a good article Brendon. To date most people have assumed you can jamb light rail into Dominion Road and it will be rapid. Clearly it won’t be. It is probably better to aim for Sandringham and Manukau Rds as a stage 1 and 2 and accept the widening needed as part of an uplift in zoning for the rest.

        1. Might be a stupid idea.. but could you go for light rail in one direction to reduce the need to widen Dominion and Sandringham significantly?

          A single track heading north towards CBD on say Dominion road, and single track heading south towards Mt Roskill on Sandringham road. Effectively a loop with a switch/points somewhere in Mt Roskill (Stoddard Rd/Dom road area) where the rail units can loop back or continue on parallel to the Southwestern motorway to the airport

          Increases the cost obviously, but simplifies some things like stops as they are a single platform/single direction and traffic management during build. Would give some redundancy in case of a crash blocking one direction; you could get the other line shuttling bi-directionally

          Most of the way it would about a 500m walk if you wanted to move from travelling south to north, but if you wanted to, you just remain on the train heading south on Sandringham until it gets to the stop where some light rail units headed back north along Dominion while others continued on.

        2. One of the smaller cities in Canada had a split light rail service and on Twitter I received some feedback that they regretted that decision. But unfortunately off the top of head I cannot remember which city.

  4. With the extra length you could kill two birds with one stone by extending it past Wynyard to Takapuna, getting a pedestrian / cycling bridge in the process

    1. The brief for our new bridge should be a boulevard across the water, wide, flat and open, with planted trees etc.

      1. “Wide flat and open” – are you talking about a low level bridge just floating above the water – or are you still going to have it way up in the air like the present one?

        Auckland’s many boats might want to have a say in that…

        1. It’s probably worth having that conversation. There’s probably a happy midpoint where you can accommodate the bulk of the traffic under the bridge with a semi-elevated flat-deck. I’d love to know how many ships have navigation issues at 80% of the bridge’s current height.

  5. At last a sensible basis for comparison actually detailed.
    With the same money do you want to make a few peoples journeys as fast a possible, taking a few cars off the roads, or do you want to make lots of peoples journeys more reliable then current options taking masses of cars off the roads.

  6. Considered the route through Manukau Rd instead of Mt Eden Road as @scootfoundation proposed on twitter?

    1. The government is no longer looking at this option, so that’s why its not in this post. It was explored in a previous post however.

    2. It’s a great future option when there starts to be capacity issues on Dominion Rd but it’s a very expensive way to start.

      1. I think that is true about light metro too. Could be worth doing in 30 years time, not really needed now, and if they do it in 30 years they could do Manukau Road or similar so it would be complementary not replacement.

  7. Option 3 is Light Metro from Auckland Airport via Mangere, Onehunga and Mt Roskill, then 4 km further along the rail reservation parallel to SH20 to join the Nth Auckland Railway at Avondale Pak N Save and via Mt Albert, Baldwin St, Morningside, Kingsland and Mt Eden station to the CRL. The Mt Roskill to Avondale section would cost in the order of $400 million, with another $100 million needed to grade separate at Morningside Drive and Woodward Road.

    See from the 2 minute mark of this link to see a presentation of this option.

    Option 3 would not require any tunneling resulting in very significant savings in time and money and would stop in the heart of Kainga Ora owned land in Mangere, Favona, Mt Roskill, Wesley and Owairaka that was zoned for high density development in the Unitary Plan on the basis that the rail rapid transit lines in the Strategic Transport Plan, Auckland Plan 2012, would be built. One of those lines is Airport via Mangere and Mt Roskill to the Nth Auckland line then on to the CRL.

    Minister Woods and Leigh Auton both said on Friday evening that Option 3 would be considered by the Establishment Unit.

    1. So that would require widening of the western line corridor though? From SH20 to CC? Because I think that space would be better served by a standard 3rd & 4th main to allow freight bypass, enabling higher freq of passenger trains on their own lines.

    2. Yes they said they would consider it. They also said they would be relying heavily on work that has been done already and the Mt Roskill spur idea has been considered a few times already and discounted so I wouldn’t expect to much. Not to mention there’s not expected to be the capacity in the CRL to add more trains long term – unless you’re planning on cutting services to places currently seeing more growth.

      1. Are they really adding trains to the CRL though? As they say there is an imbalance of south/east vs west, we don’t need every eastern and southern line train going to Swanson do we?
        It sounded like a fairly good idea to me, I liked that the submission was about making change cheaply and quickly to create housing options, instead of “it would be nice to have”. Could always add Dominion road etc at another time.

    3. The Western Line would not need widening. There are various ways the Western Line could operate post CRL when up to 18 trains per hour will be heading west out of the CRL via Mt Eden Station. It will not be necessary to have 18 TPH terminating at Swanson so, as in some of the plans released by AT, at least 6 TPH will be terminating at Mt Albert. It would not add any TPH in the CRL for 6 to 9 TPH on the Western Line to terminate at the Auckland Airport rather than the CRL.

      With 9 car trains the CRL will enable at least 500,000 boardings per day on the Auckland rail network. As there were around 70,000 boarding per day in 2019 the network will not be anywhere near passenger capacity for many decades. This means that once the CRL opens the existing network has the passenger capacity for the Western Line to have a branch to the Airport and be extended Helensville, and the Southern Line can be extended to Pokeno. The branch and extensions would not add any TPH to the CRL.

      1. We haven’t spent $5 billion to piss around still running 6 – 9 tph on the Western line west of Mt Albert.

      2. Will, it’s 18 trains per hour will be heading out of the CRL to both the west and south. None will be terminating at Mt Albert.

        There isn’t a train model in the world that can both manage the climb up SH20 and operate on the auckland heavy rail network’s track gauge, power system, signaling and impact ratings.

        You’re on a hiding to nothing trying to develop a new train to do that, just to take capacity out of the CRL for the existing lines.

      3. John D, by this AT Rail Network with CRL map, 18 TPH will be heading west from the CRL.

        The climb up the Hillsborough hill parallel to SH20 can be kept to 3.5%, the same gradient as the CRL, which Auckland existing EMU’s will climb with power to spare.

        No new trains would need to be developed, just ordered. Terminating 6 to 9 TPH at the Airport rather than Mt Albert would not take capacity out of the CRL.

        1. The brown line in the diagram you link to is dependent on a significant signalling upgrade and grade separating Quay Park. It’s not going to be able to be run right from the opening of CRL.

        2. Will, for a start that plan assumes 24 trains an hour, a future state of infrastructure and signaling that we will probably never justify building. And secondly it has a lot of one way peak-only overlay lines for peak capacity, ie half the green line ex Henderson and the brown lines. If you add up all the numbers it doesn’t work if they are going both directions.

          A southwest line would need to be bidirectional!

        3. Oh and there is no way you can make the climb parallel to SH20 at 3.5% without tunneling pretty much the whole way. There is a reason the old freight corridor veers off around this hill.

        4. Jezza and John D. Quay Park is currently handling 20 TPH and CRL Ltd says that it will increase that to 24 TPH when the CRL opens, without grade separation. Whether it stays at 20 or CRL Ltd does get it up to 24 doesn’t make that much difference.

          The freight corridor is on a contour around the hill through Onehunga to Hillsborough to allow for a 1% to 2% gradient. The SH20 carriageway has an elevation of 60 metres above sea level under Hillsborough Road. At 3.5% gradient it would take 1,500 metres to get down to the 7 metres that is needed to pass over the Nielson St off ramp. That fits in easily and also passes comfortably over Queenstown Road.

        5. Will – where does CRL limited say there will be 24 tph once CRL opens? If you’re talking about the diagram you linked to that is a plan for 2045.

        6. Quay Park manages 20tphpd by running separate bidirectional tracks in parallel pulses into the terminal. Being a terminal this give 20 trains an hour total. When the CRL is open and each track only runs one way it will drop to 18tphpd, being through tracks this gives 36 trains an hour total.

          You have 36 trains an hour to work with in total for all directions.

          The CRL will not be able to do 24tphpd when it opens, that is the theoretical maximum for the future. To do that would require billions of dollars of infrastructure, junction and track upgrades and an entirely new signaling system.

          Well if you’re taking that approach then you are building the entire line on a viaduct instead of a tunnel. Indeed it would pass ‘comfortably’ above Queenstown Road, it would be 40m up in the air!

          But I have to ask why you want to pass 7m over Neilson Street, are you planning on not having an Onehunga Station? I suppose not if the whole line is a skyscraper bridge.

        7. Ok in that case your viaduct is only 33m above the ground, that’s the height of an 11 storey building FYI.

    4. Jezza, 9 to 12 TPH west of Mt Albert is the plan. Based on population, ridership and the number of TPH on the Southern Line, Eastern Line, Onehunga Branch and Manukau Branch, 9 to 12 TPH west of Mt Albert is generous provision.

      1. There is nothing generous about running 12 tph out west, the map you linked to has the majority of stations having 12 tph (or being able to), which was one of the key aims of the CRL.

        If 6tph is sufficient then there is literally no need for the CRL.

        1. True, most stations in the map have 12 TPH, but many only have 6TPH for particular services. E.g. stations between Penrose and Newmarket have 15 TPH, but 3TPH are Onehunga, 6 TPH bypass the CRL and head straight to the Western Line, and 6 TPH go into CRL with the first stop at Karangahepe.

          I agree that 6 TPH is not great provision, but with 9 car trains on the horizon and the level of ridership Auckland has and will have, 6TPH is going to have to be sufficient for many services for decades to come. 8 or 9 TPH improves service to one train every 7’30” or 6’40” respectively, which is a much more satisfactory service IMO than one train every 10 minutes.

          This diagram of U-Bahn v S-Bahn is illustrative of a number of European systems, where one “CRL” serves say three lines and 6 termini at up to 8 TPH. From some articles I have come across the practise in Germany is to build a second “CRL” in such a system when demands warrants it.

    5. Will are you saying there would be no light rail or light Metro from the CDB to Mount Roskill along Dominion road or any other road for that matter. And the Light Metro would be similar to our Heavy existing passenger trains but presumably we wouldn’t run freight trains on the line from Avondale to the airport. I could go for that in fact it would be reasonably direct to the airport not that I would be to worried about that. So the whole plan is an extension of the existing passenger train network.

      1. Royce, you got it. Check out page 317 of the Auckland Plan 2012. The Strategic Transport Network plan provides for rail rapid transit on a number of new routes, including from the Airport via Mangere, via Mt Roskill, via Mt Albert to the CRL. The CRL was approved for construction and land next to stops on the route were zoned for high density development in the Unitary Plan on the basis that the line would be built. Light Metro via Avondale would be an extension of the existing passenger train network that has long been planned.

        Many passengers on isthmus bus routes would catch the Light Metro instead. Post Covid isthmus bus services should be able to accommodate demand. Some of the techniques used in BRT systems around the world, e.g. central island platforms level with bus floors and multiple drivers side doors could be introduced on some or all isthmus bus routes. That would provide an improved standard of service with improved capacity and would pave the way for light rail at some stage in the future.

        Some freight trains could be run from Avondale – Onehunga – Southdown if Kiwirail wants to. Doesn’t seem any need to run heavy haul freight trains to the Airport, and sharper corners would be convenient in places on the Light Metro Onehunga to Airport section. Its only 4.5 km longer to get from Mt Roskill to Britomart via Avondale than by Dominion Road, and of course speeds can be higher via Avondale.

  8. I understand that previously in this process LM was only considered because of the fast trips it offers between CC and airport. However, I understand that the current reason for LM’s consideration has nothing to do with the speed it offers — it’s more about what the future network will look like.

    We know that at some point in the future, the CC to Kumeu and CC to Albany/Diary Flat/Hibiscus routes will need rapid transit. So does CC to Mt Roskill/Mangere/Airport. So the question being considered at the moment is not “What mode/route will serve CC to Airport best?” but rather “What mode/route will give the best overall network for Auckland when it is extended to these other routes?”. (This is assuming we don’t want LR AND LM in the future, which we might want but then that requires much more land and opex for staging yards/workshops/maintenance)

    And the answer to the future network is likely LM, since it allows for very frequent services due to automated running, which will be required when you consider the service pattern of CC radiating to three locations: If you serve the network like a ‘Y’ with, eg, a route from Kumeu to Airport via CC and Albany to Airport via CC, then the freq of CC to Kumeu and CC to Albany is constrained to be half of whatever the freq is possible on the CC to Airport segment. So you want this mode to allow very high freq (like 4 min, to allow the other routes to run at 8 min), which street-running LR simply cannot do.

    1. Yes that is part of it but that also makes the mistaken assumption that
      1. you can only build one new system. Many cities have multiple systems – Sydney just added two.
      2. We can’t build upgrade more routes e.g. we could build some surface routes and compliment them in future as demand requires with more routes, including those grade separated. That would likely lead to a much better overall PT network.

      I find most of our officials and processes don’t like thinking outside the box think they can perfectly predict what will happen in 30-50 years.
      I also think there may also an element in all of this in stopping more cost effective LR solutions to stop them being raised as options in other cities.

      1. I like the thinking that you don’t have to have one size fits all, and you don’t have to build for transport needs in 50 years as we will probably get it wrong anyway and/or needs will change.

        I spent some time in Kuala Lumpur, and noticeable that at a station like KL Sentral there is high speed express heavy rail to the airport (dedicated to the airport for speed), metro heavy rail, light rail (LRT), mono-rail and subway (MRT). And of course, facilities for connection to buses, taxi/uber/grab etc.

        It really does work. It’s easy to walk off say the MRT and up and over to another mode of transport if you want to go to region not yet serviced by the fast modern MRT.

        There are also large shopping malls, hotels, office space and lots of residential housing in easy walking distance of the station, so helped convince me that something like that (on a smaller scale) was needed for Auckland. So like with the Northern busway, just start building something and induce demand. The northern busway was built to allow upgrade to LRT, so even just a partial LRT system from city to Mt Roskill end, would be a start even if the decided to do other sections as separate metro rail where feasible

      1. About two minute headways without much trouble, four minute works well if you want to give it full signal priority.

        Melbourne runs less than one minute headways on Swanston street, but they do bunch and the platforms are designed to take up to three trams simultaneously.

  9. Matt – re your comment “We’ll also likely want to extend service from the bottom of Queen St to Wynyard as per the original AT plans.”

    That wiggle / back-tracking looks expensive and unnecessary. Why not go to Aotea (which you have indicated will be a major station) and then straight to Wynyard. More direct, less cost, and less likely to cause Britomart bottlenecks. Less problematic in circling around the Viaduct Basin. The CRL has already shown what a big deal it is to dig underground round here, ie expen$ive.

    Surely the key to a diversified network is not to concentrate everything into one hub – if that hub blocks for any reason then the whole thing stops.

    1. Great suggestion. Downtown is already well served by buses, ferries and Britomart. Reducing duplication of the RTN would be prudent, and would also better serve the ‘Victoria Quarter’ part of town, as you could also potentially have another station near the intersection of Halsey and Wellesley/Victoria Streets (if it stacks up)

      1. I think you guys are thinking about this backward. Sure downtown is served well by ferries trains and buses from other parts of Auckland, but it’s not served at all from the proposed light rail corridor.

        And downtown is literally the biggest cluster of demand for transport access in the country.

        Furthermore if you skip the downtown section you miss a lot of the two way connectivity the line affords, ie queen street to north shore buses, ferries to the airport, up and down queen street as a pedestrian shuttle.

        And what if it’s extended to the north shore, do you want the shore line to ship downtown in favour of Victoria park?

        Going via downtown adds about 400m to the route, that’s a good trade to pick up stations at Britomart and the viaduct.

      1. You could only really tunnel under the western side and not sure that gains much, it’s still quite steep from Queen up to Albert

  10. How much money is spent on tunnelling and how much is spent on stations?
    I am under the impression that the lions share of costs of underground metro projects is staging, shafts, and stations.

    I think that increasing the station spacing on the light metro project would be worth looking at. Going via the previously discussed Manakau road route, and axing the Manakau road / pah road intersection station, and axing the epsom girls grammar station. Perhaps another (not sure what one). You would be getting station spacings of about 2 km across the isthmus , which IMO is fine.

    This is all provided we add really good bike infrastructure. With plenty of parking at stations

    I think this provides style of system provides a number of advantages.
    A) once people are on their bikes, then they’re more likely to continue all the way to where they were going. Onehunga to the cbd is a mere 1/2 hour, for free. This undoubtedly cheaper to build and run per person travelled than if they took the bus or the train.
    B) Why have cycling and rail compete when we can have them serve totally different trips. Long cross town trips that are not feasible on bikes but make the rail system cheaper (if we built the exact same system with more stops). The eastern line is great for example. When of the glen innis – tamaki drive cycle path is completed and with some more bike parking. It would be a very fast frequent journey with no need to take the feeder service.
    C) there would still be plenty of room in the 500m catchment for walk ups for those that wont, or cannot cycle for any reason.

    So overall I think we would get faster, more frequent trips. And if we minimised the number of stations, hopefully the cost wouldn’t be that much more. And would provide much more max capacity, and a better long term strategic PT. At the expense of working immediately with the current status quo today (of very little bike infra)

    1. You’re right that in grade separated rail projects (underground or overhead, light metro or heavy rail etc.) the stations are the most expensive bits, they represent the bulk of the costs. But they also represent the bulk of the benefits.

      The Eastern Line has much wider station spacings than the Western Line. Arguably neither is optimal, the Eastern Line has big gaps in coverage while the Western Line has some stations within easy walking distance of one another. This results in the Western Line having much slower trips than the Eastern Line but also much higher patronage.

      Higher patronage and more opportunity for housing intensification (enabled by greater catchment area) should be the goal rather than trip speed. Thus any new rapid transit line should have more stations not fewer.

      1. I agree under our current level of cycle infrastructure. But I really think that we could sacrifice on stations, provided we had great bike infra to make up the difference. And this would end up with a better transport system overall. The eastern line will come into its own soon. Although I do still agree that it could have another station or 2. And it certainly still needs more connections to cycleways.

        “ Higher patronage and more opportunity for housing intensification (enabled by greater catchment area) should be the goal rather than trip speed. Thus any new rapid transit line should have more stations not fewer.”

        Well the goal of transport is to bring peoples living places closer to employment and services. So the goal is travel times decrease. The reason people would want to develop land more intensively is because they are within short travel times of things. The last mile problem and waiting times are a big part of overall travel times, which people often don’t include. But I have not forgotten it here. Being 2km from a metro station that has great bike parking and cycleways leading there would be just as good, if not better than being within 500m walking distance. Especially if you consider you get a faster train under this style of system. Any rapid transit systems goal is to bring places closer together, we could bring more places, closer together and to take advantage of the resulting development opportunities.

        I think that there is no way that the dominion road or Sandringham road light rail will be faster than biking the same route. The busses now are almost always slower than biking the exact same route, bus stop to bus stop. I presume that the light rail vehicles will be limited to 30km/h in the town centres, you almost always aren’t going station to station. It arguably wont be more convenient (limited hours, not instant frequency) than biking the whole way. The only advantage over biking would be the comfort, not getting wet in the rain. The bike lanes would be vastly cheaper to run and to build.

        The only isthmus rail routes that would improve the combined PT / cycling offering (presuming we had good parallel bike lanes) would have to be a higher speed, larger station spacing medium distance route, preferably connected to more distant destinations, the north shore, airport etc. And with good bike parking / bike share facilities.

        If we have issues with too many busses on the dominion road route, surely the first, cheap thing to do would be to add some cycle lanes to absorb users out of the busses.

        1. Building a cycle utopia would be great. As you say it’d definitely help with the last mile problem. But if it did, might that not increase the demand for PT rather than decrease it?

          I think there are significant demographics that might prefer trips that are walk-PT-walk rather than bike-PT-walk. They might be parents with children, elderly, have disabilities etc. Their preferences are legitimate and should not be ignored. We should be building transport networks that cater to everyone.

          Transport doesn’t have to be all about speed. Some people might prefer a more convenient or lower effort journey that takes a bit longer. Note that what counts as ‘convenient’ or ‘lower effort’ is subjective.

          Approximately half of my personal commute is along Dominion Rd. I could bike it in about 15min, take one of the frequent buses in about 25min (including wait time) or walk in 30-35min. I walk 99% of the time because this is a good way of fitting exercise into my day. But other people make other choices based on their preferences and that’s fine.

          Building a rapid transit network that is useful for everyone means not assuming it’ll only be used for one type of journey. The network needs to enable a plethora of different ways of using it. That means it needs to be accessible, easy to understand, connected to the rest of the network (by train, bus, bike, scooter, on foot etc.) and frequent enough to not need to check the timetable, just turn up and go. Speed really shouldn’t be the highest priority.

        2. Also AT have proven themselves incapable of providing cycling infrastructure at scale. I have zero faith in this changing anytime soon. Though I totally agree that it would solve a lot of transport problems and should be a goal that Auckland strives towards.

        3. “They might be parents with children, elderly, have disabilities etc. Their preferences are legitimate and should not be ignored. We should be building transport networks that cater to everyone.“

          This is where we get into the weeds. Parents with children can and do use bikes, same advantages apply to them as everyone else, fast and convenient. I see no difference between a able bodied person with a kid and without a kid in terms of bikes utility. Elderly people can and do use bikes, some if not most trips with a geared bike would be more comfortable than walking, especially with an e bike, even if they’re longer. And if not that then the bike paths make for much better mobility scooter paths than footpaths. And like all the others, people with disabilities could have a total range of conditions and circumstances, so it’s hard either way to judge whether they would on average be better off with high density light rail or low density metro with better local last mile mobility options.

          And again all these people would benefit the same as anyone else with faster trips, and if most light rail systems overseas are the basis, probably a lot more comfortable in the metro on grade separated track rather than a bumpy surface route. Arguably this subsection of society would benefit even more than the average commuter from faster transit too. Elderly have to spend less time in transit getting shaken around, parents have more time on their hands for kids / life etc etc.

          “ Building a rapid transit network that is useful for everyone means not assuming it’ll only be used for one type of journey. The network needs to enable a plethora of different ways of using it. That means it needs to be accessible, easy to understand, connected to the rest of the network (by train, bus, bike, scooter, on foot etc.) and frequent enough to not need to check the timetable, just turn up and go.” I agree, I’m not sure if this was a counter point or not, but to be sure. This low density metro with bikes would not inherently be worse or better in any of these points.

          “Speed really shouldn’t be the highest priority.“ I disagree, speed should be the most heavily weighted factor in an incredibly complicated equation. But not by much, and there are a huge number of other factors in the equation. Almost any 2 of which would overweight speed for that point. And almost any factor being abysmal could nuke the usefulness of the system. This is obviously an opinion and I have very little basis for this claim though haha.

          “Building a cycle utopia would be great. As you say it’d definitely help with the last mile problem. But if it did, might that not increase the demand for PT rather than decrease it?” Fair, but in that case we would be moving significantly more people in each corridor and these trips have to come from somewhere, so there would be less cars around too. So that would make it easier to diet roads.

          And as for AT’s ability to deliver a good cycle network. Hmm I dont think this should be a big detractor from trying to design the ideal network. This is purely an organisational failure, hopefully it will change soon. And if the delivery of the cycle network were baked into PT projects more then it would likely happen.

          So the moral of the story is, I dont think the Light metro with sparseish station spacings combined with great cycle infra would be worse for almost anyone’s mobility, and hugely beneficial to almost everyone else’s.

  11. Before we get too carried away with our steel rail fantasies, let’s not forget what we’re really trying to achieve here: the development of a region-wide RTN. The “spare” money “left over” from doing light rail instead of light metro is surely non-existent anyway – there are so many worthy priorities for government spending in the area of health, housing, education and the payment of a truly liveable wage that any rational allocation of resources would see light rail constructed and then no more. If that (alas).

    But let’s just assume for a moment that there IS a light rail construction “surplus” to play with – how best to achieve the RTN? To my mind the completion of the entire RTN is far, far more important than putting individual lines on steel rails, and that “surplus” would be best used to create what Matt has previously termed a “proto-RTN” using buses, exclusive rights of way (ie 24/7 bus lanes), intersection priority and limited stops (like a “real” RTN). Upgrades to steel rails and full separation are projects for another time, given the need for AT to vastly improve coverage and patronage waaay beyond anything in their current plans.

    If we’re serious about addressing the complaints that PT is “too slow and doesn’t go where I want it to” we have to tackle this issue region-wide, now, and not piecemeal over the next 50 years as funds become available. Otherwise, what does any jawboning about a “climate emergency” actually mean? I’d like to see focus and action on this bigger issue instead of the constant arguments about mode on a single route. Truly, we have bigger fish to fry.

    1. The obvious rebuttal is that the cost between BRT & LRT is not that big – I think AT priced the NorthWest option at 2.1b for BRT and 2.2b for LRT, especially if Dominion Road is built and the downtown infrastructure is already in place

  12. +1
    Agree the goal should not be how to do route A,
    Or even Route A or B, but the much bigger picture of how to best stage and extend the entire rapid transport network. Choosing modes for the then selected routes, is further down the decision making process.

  13. If the route uses Sandringham Rd it cost a lot less to terminate at Kingsland Station for interchange to CRL. If not you have 2 tracks running almost parallel routes into the CBD.

    1. You’d need that to carry the trains and people to the city centre, it’s literally the busiest part of the network. This is normal, Sydney has about a dozen tracks in parallel coming into the city from the south.

      It’s not like they are going to have six or eight trains an hour empty and waiting at Kingsland to transfer all the people from the new line for the last few stops.

  14. I favour light rail light metro looks like a too bigger bite. I also favour the project being broken down into stages. After the recent Hysterics over Queen Street I would suggest that AT needs to sort out what its going to do with Queen Street and buses in the CDB before it can consider light rail.
    I would suggest we start at Avondale and the Airport and get that section done first.
    To me it should be an all motorway route with bus connection at Onehunga and Mangere Town centre. Have a look at Google maps a bus loop could be built on Wharangi Street and Princess street. This would replace the present bus station at the town centre. There is also a pedestrian bridge across the Motorway which would give access to the western side of the motorway. So one more thing which is possible would be to extend the Onehunga branch line back down the old alignment to the port then through the old port and along the foreshore to terminate at alongside the western side of the motorway by the existing pedestrian bridge which would give access to the light rail and the bus station. It would be spread out but not too much walking.

  15. This is why I think Michael Wood made the right call on the Establishment Unit and 6 month delay. There are so many different options and possibilities, we need to make sure we choose the one(s) that give the most benefit with the least cost. In addition we need to make sure the benefits are in the areas where we have the biggest issues like housing and congestion rather than nice to haves like an airport link and space for baggage.

    1. Agree. Especially re addressing the big issues. Which for me are housing, congestion and climate change.

  16. I hope we don’t lose sight of the value of this post and the issue of opportunity cost. For the NW route, there are some points:
    1) Getting high capacity RTN onto the NW will allow the NW sprawl to have a real low-traffic option, to follow on from the medium capacity/speed interim bus lane that is planned. Reducing the freight/ commuter congestion on that route would allow Waterview and Northern Corridor to do their planned job, relieving Harbour Bridge (motorway tunnel fades off into the distance…).
    2) Crosstown can also drop into a mode/cost/date/benefit evaluation. A lot of good debate on options in the post already on that.

  17. $150M p/Km could they not build off Puhinui Rd main line and have normal rail double ltracked then they could use it for freight as well as passenger rail.

    1. It would cost a lot more than $150m per km to build a heavy rail line from Puhinui and still needs a few km long tunnel at the airport end so it’s not as cheap as some people think. And as Chris N points out, there just isn’t train sized airfreight

      1. To put some numbers around the freight task, at its peak on an annual basis, and this started declining in 2019, we had around 100k tonnes of freight imported and just over 90k tonnes of freight exported. This is the combined equivalent of about 20 containers per day. Given much of it will also be travelling to commercial areas nearby and that aren’t served by rail, it’s hard to see freight rail playing a role even if we built something.

  18. Matt, I was there on Friday night and can offer a further spin. The majority of questions from the floor asked about Maori, Diversity, Community and Womens representation on the Establishment unit. No questions about engineers, urban planners or infrastructure specialists. No questions about the key drivers for PT – frequency and speed of journey. The establishment committee will spend six months (The Ministers timeline) appeasing all the woke entities who want a say.
    Minister Woods started by sounding like a sprooker for Alstrom or CAF or Bombardier, visions of lives being transformed and the earth saved from destruction. This took 30 minutes. Then he made it clear that his reputation (????) was hinged on his clear directive to build it – not that anyone really knows what it is we want to build, but that’s OK a “diverse” Establishment team can solve everything in 6 months.
    As you allude to Matt it was suggested to the Minister that if he had a $ budget to actually spend (let assume $4b) then surely he should take this 6 month period to run a parallel “Establishment” team of experts who could present an alternative spend plan, lord knows there is enough documented evidence to sort and prioritise without any more writing. That would allow him to consider if “his” plan is good, or if it’s a sucker investment. This is pork belly politics. The MP for Mt Roskill has already determined his outcome – which is what he doubled down on during Friday night.
    I would suggest for anyone with enthusiasm for self-flagellation to attend the next community session and ask him how his pet project is going to get past treasury with someone testing it against better overall PT outcomes.

    1. – Is it so unreasonable to want the Establishment Unit to reflect the community it is responsible for recommending a PT solution to serve?
      – Is having diversity mutually exclusive with having expertise on the Establishment Unit?
      – No doubt Treasury is powerful but do they actually have the expertise to critically analyze any of the options? If not why should they not just be overruled?

    2. I have not heard about these community sessions.
      When and where do they run?
      I’ve been thinking a lot about this project and I think I could contribute to the conversation in a productive way.

      1. There aren’t community sessions yet. This was a meeting mainly for local stakeholders – local reps, business association reps etc, explaining the high level background for why light rail is needed.
        There is expected to be a lot of feedback sessions coming though.

    3. Good that he has a clear directive to build it, means it may actually happen.
      I think if he had already determined his outcome, he would have started building it by now. He is trying to limit the number of possibilities being considered to give the group some focus, we don’t want do be further from a decision in 6 months time.

    4. This is incorrect. In about 45 minutes of questions there was one question from the Ngati Whatua rep just asking who would be appointed as the Mana Whenua rep on the Establishment Unit. That lasted off of about a minute of time.
      There was also only one question from a Women in Urbanism rep and again it was a fairly quick one. To suggest these were the majority of questions is a gross misrepresentation.
      The main focus of the night was deliberately not about technical questions but starting to talk about the project and in particular the background and need for it. That’s because if they started talking about solutions it would have descended into heated argument. They need to get everyone on at least a similar page. Part of the reason for all of this is there’s been no communication on the project for 5 years so there’s all sorts of misconceptions about it out there.

      Were you the person who asked about investment in other PT improvements. It’s a valid question to ask but I also think the Minister answered it fairly well which was essentially that they agreed on the need for light rail based on previous work and campaigned on it so are going to deliver it. It’s not like they dreamed it up out of thin air and there’s been plenty of work done already to show it’s needed.

  19. For pricing NW Light Rail over the causeway, consider sea level rise. The road can be ‘topped up’ to stay above water in later decades, but the cost of raising rails later needs to be factored in. It may not make much difference, but is a consideration in how to cross that part.

  20. A holistic approach is needed and the decision should be based on the evidence:

    a) A decision about congestion tolls & the cordon locations is needed – this will affect the demand and possibly the type of rail system. The congestion tolling needs to be included in the modelling

    b) The full price of carbon should be included in the modelling. Treasury’s assumed shadow prices are substantially higher than those adopted by NTZA. As one country we should be using one set of values.

    c) A complete package is needed including land use rezoning around proposed station locations. The rail package should be developed as TOD and the land use rezoning consented with the rail system. If we are going to spend billions on rail it needs to be done right.

    d) In modelling the metro option with longer station distances, the bus network needs to be properly modelled to cover local access.

    e) In modelling the metro option park n ride is more likely to be applicable, and if so modelled.

    f) The incremental b/c will also need to be considered as to whether the additional benefits a metro style system might produce are worth the marginal costs over light rail.

  21. Assumptions made about LM requiring tunnelling does make it expensive. Doing a coating using elevated instead (even as just an option here) would bring those costs down considerably. LM can handle gradients. It is also quieter than HR (and many LR systems too). Elevated is the preferred method in many cities for LM.
    So assuming it is half the price of tunnelling (it’s likely cheaper) you get $2.1B vs $1.2B ($900m difference).
    While $900m is certainly nothing to sniff at, when it delivers approximately double the capacity, operates faster, is driverless, and can be built quicker (less need to relocate services etc and less road closures) while also taking up less road space, it certainly looks very appealing!
    It would be built under National significance legislation so local objectors wouldn’t get much of a say tbh.
    Furthermore, looking at NW, that route for any mode is likely to need elevated track so the cost difference between them is negligible. I would suggest elevated track down the centre of the motorway might be one method chosen.
    There is no way you’re going to get 3 different LR tracks down the isthmus within 30 years. The only way that could happen is if the area increased in population by 200,000 people (ie 70% of it became 3 level or greater.

    1. I think elevated LM anywhere on the Isthmus is just politically impossible and that’s what it hasn’t been considered. I think it’s one thing having elevated rail in a place like Vancouver that has 20-30 storey tower blocks all over the place, but completely unthinkable in somewhere like Mt Eden with 2 storey houses

    2. The Basin Reserve flyover got knocked back by commissioners even under a National Sigificance process, I think there is a pretty good chance elevated rail down Dominion Rd would too.

        1. They definitely wanted a road, they put in commissioners that could have been expected to be favourable but in good conscience they still couldn’t approve it.

        2. Not wanting a road from most quarters that is which is why it got turned down. Compare that to LR/LM where the only people not wanting it are some along Dom Rd (and some for other ideological reasons including cost). It’s really only the Dom (and some other roads) residents that count and even then because it’s a whole project not just a flyover they shouldn’t have any grounds to object.
          Same as when they built Waterview motorway and bowled a bunch of houses etc. That was always going to be a tunnel but the tunnel was longer only due to the PM being localish etc). Still got built.

        3. There was widespread support in the Wellington are for the Basin flyover.

          NZTA owned the majority of properties that were demolished for the Waterview tunnels. Demolishing houses to make way for a motorway is very different to building a viaduct down Dominion Rd and reducing the amenity of the very area that is supposed to be enhanced by light rail.

          I can’t think of anywhere in the developed world that has put elevated rail down a road like Dominion Rd, it’s quite simply got no chance of happening.

    3. The space under an elevated structure and immediately adjacent to one is seriously degraded with the reduction of sunlight, in fact all natural light.
      They are gloomy unattractive spaces.
      On a narrow corridor such as Dominion Road, this degradation would be very significant in the shopping areas where the buildings are constructed right up to the front boundary and would probably kill of business there a lot, lot more effectively then the loss of carparks could ever achieve.

      1. Sounds like someone hasn’t traveled much. Elevated rail in so many cities. It can be used for all sorts of purposes to. Examples include: shops/stalls, cycle lanes, parking – replacing other parking to allow bigger footpaths, shelter – especially in Auckland’s inclement weather, bike racks.
        As for shading, that is a positive in our Summer/Autumn with our high UV and humidity. In winter and spring it provides shelter from the rain and since we live in a relatively temperate climate the shading won’t do much to lower temperatures in winter (especially if buildings are built up as they are zoned for).

        1. That’s great, so what about central Auckland, first you have to bulldoze billions of dollars worth of housing or just take up road space first

        2. I am sure somebody can tell me the minimum width of a double track bridge, and the minimum width for elevated structure to accomodate two tracks and a station located between them, such as exists in the new elevated sections of Melbourne’s suburban rail. They will take up a very substantial portion of a 20m corridor. They will not be any narrower for light, or metro rail.
          Obviously the desirable locations for stops is in the existing commercial villages along the route. These villages, with their two story buildings built up to the front boundaries 20m from similar buildings on the other side of the road.
          It ain’t going to work, rendering effectively commercial space located in a road tunnel.
          Traditional elevated rail sections did not overlie roads but strode across the landscape crossing ignoring previous settlement patterns. For the vast majority of these viaducts the adjacent area is degraded. I actually worked in an engineering workshop that occupied three such viaduct arches. It was scruffy to say the least.
          Newer elevated railways have been placed above the median strips of roadways much wider then Dominion Road.

  22. And wih elevated tracks, come elevated stations.

    Very, very expensive, even before you consider each and every one will need a lift both sides, probably an escalator each side for the ascent, too.

    P.S. elevated tracks are awful. Absolutely place-destroying in an urban environment.

    1. And elevated tracks dont save much space on the ground compared to the alternative, because the supports take out a whole lane, if not more.

  23. If we get the expensive option, we get headroom for future growth in the next few decades and future proofed.

    If we get the cheap version, after few years it will be at capacity and we may end up upgrading it. Which at the end cost the same or more money.

    Deferred spending often ends up spending more due to escalating construction costs.

    Also it might be very hard to upgrade from Light Rail to Metro.

    1. I’d see little reason to upgrade a LR route to a Metro route.
      If capacity is becoming an issue there are many ways to gain capacity or change demands on a service (off peak pricing, higher capacity vehicles etc).

      Like this posts suggests, I would choose a new route (either near by or somewhere new) and expand the overall network.

      1. Ken, maglevs have tended to be extremely expensive to build.

        An elevated line, whether maglev or conventional rail, would be visually disruptive, and I can’t see anyone along Dominion Rd appreciating a unsightly concrete viaduct overhead.

        There is no advantage to speed in an urban context with closely spaced stations. Running up to 110km/h over a 2km station spacing only saves 10 seconds compared with running up to 80km/h; and with closer station spacings of 800m there’s no benefit of going any faster than 60km/h.

        Surface-level light rail viably, safely, and successfully serves as a mass transit solution around the world, on a much greater scale than maglev and monorail systems do. And for long-distance travel; doesn’t it make more sense to invest the money in bringing NZ’s existing railways up to scratch, and enabling 160km/h tilt trains that could make Auckland-Hamilton in 90 minutes?

        1. Thank-you for your response, Matt. Very valid points you make. Where I see part of the problem is people having differing views as to what’s important to them as opposed to what will actually reduce the need for traffic across Auckland. Personally I really believe the concept of 10-15 key stations between Pokeno and Silverdale along a single strategic route (not necessarily including Dominion Rd), all linked by an express (rapid) service will be the most beneficial across the entire city. I respectfully struggle to see how a vehicle stopping every 1-2km (and sharing the same space as cars and pedestrians) is going to do anything truly valuable, apart from creating unnecessary disruption and expense for residents, ratepayers and taxpayers. Hope I’ve understood your point correctly though. Journey’s through Auckland and across the extremes of the city should be the main focus before trying to fix short routes. If a really good macro plan is in place the shorter journey’s would fix themselves, to a large extent.

          Regarding intercity travel, public transport needs to offer greater advantages than the convenience of doing a door-to-door journey in your own vehicle. 90min from Auck-Hamilton to me is not an attractive time saver and many people (incl myself would just jump in our own car and drive) whereas modern tech will allow Puhinui to Te Rapa in around 30min. It totally changes the ball game and makes me want to park my car in a museum. Hope this inspires you somewhat. And remember this petition is for a feasibility study to ascertain costs. It is the first step towards a decent transport system that we desperately need now.

        2. I’m under the impression that the station spacings will be much larger. More of a regional rapid type deal, optimising for long cross town trips. I would argue that this is one of the much smaller segments of the market though and while these whisking away to the other side of the city trips are important, if you dont have a good last mile (or in this case, last 4 km), the total trips times could still be really quite poor, and even if we went all in on such an alignment, almost the entire rest of the rapid transit network would still be needed.

          I agree on the alignment issues, its the most expensive part of any rail / rapid transit line. Building elevated mag lev track would be pretty much just as fugly as elevated rail, totally acceptable in motorway corridors and rural areas I think, but not much more than that. Pretty much the same as for any planned light rail project.

        3. To achieve the fastest rapid transit line from Pokeno to Silverdale via the city centre you’d surely use the most grade separated corridor we have available – the heavy rail line?

          A rapid transit line is only as useful as all the connections to it at either end, so it’s important to balance:

          – making RT lines as fast as possible
          – creating a network rather than just a few good lines
          – improving the entire supporting PT and active transport links
          – regenerating the fabric of the city for liveability, which involves reallocating existing traffic infrastructure to better uses

          A focus on speed and travel time savings puts more weight on the first of those; a focus on accessibility, liveability and the actual, diverse trip types that people make (including children, women, disabled people, part-time workers and part-time students) puts more weight on the other three elements.

          Internationally, we see good outcomes from new rapid transit lines being put in. The social research into new lines such as the DART in Dublin, for example, is really positive – it brought access to some poor areas of the city where people didn’t have access to jobs and really improved their opportunities.

          We also see good outcomes from 15-minute city approaches, Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, Vision Zero improvements, parking reform, rapid-growth cycling networks etc.

          The decisions about how to use our money need to consider all these approaches, offer good value for money and incrementally build on each other.

        4. Ken

          2km is currently the average distance between Auckland’s train stations, and is also common on international suburban rail networks. It also (approximately) maximizes the 10-minute walkable catchment of each station.

          Closer station spacings on metro and light rail lines allows for even greater walkable catchments, with stations being a 5-minute walk away for a larger number of people. And that’s the point – maximizing catchment; enabling people to easily walk/cycle to catch mass transit instead of driving to a park-n-ride.

          Take the BART system in San Francisco; with it’s widely-spaced stations and high top speeds, yet it has a much lower ridership per mile than metros with closely-spaced stations in Boston, Chicago, and New York.

          Surface-level light rail would not be mixed with traffic; it would have dedicated, kerb-protected lanes down the middle of Dominion Rd; similar to light rail in Los Angeles, Portland, and Seattle. Light rail would also have traffic light priority through intersections. And in terms of construction – arguably laying tracks down an existing road is far less disruptive than building an elevated viaduct.

        5. Matt, we seriously cannot (and should not) compare Auckland to LA or other USA cities. It has a totally different and unique layout. The land is amongst the most expensive in the world, and elevated rail offers less disruption at ground level during construction (and during operation), and has more flexibility in route design overall than a surface track. Also, the existing bus & train network should be optimized (enhanced with multi-modal connections), not competed against.

        6. Ken, my comparison to LA & US cities was meant purely in terms of separation – light rail running on-street, but with physical separation from traffic, offering similar service frequencies and speeds to Auckland’s existing rail network and envisioned RTN.

          Mass transit is needed along Dominion Rd, because the current frequent buses are struggling with demand (and will struggle even more with the intensifying development). Light rail along Dominion Rd merely involves replacing the current 2 bus lanes with a light rail median (and swapping the general traffic lanes from the middle to the sides of the road). I fail to see how that’s any more disruptive than building a viaduct over a 20m wide contained corridor, or over an active rail line.

          It seems that your maglev proposal competes with the existing public transport infrastructure more than it compliments it. I think what Greater Auckland has proposed for the Congestion Free Network and Regional Rapid Rail are better solutions for the near-to-mid future.

        7. Heidi, I agree with your points. It is a complex issue that will only get more complex if a decent solution is not implemented very soon. The dollars need to be spent with widest reaching benefit. True, rapid mass transit opens up a whole new dimension of opportunities from bigger choice of housing to a wider range of job opportunities for a wider range of people.

          As far as the best corridor for a rapid transit line, that viability will be assessed during the feasibility study, when the govt decides to undertake it.

        8. If we want a 15-stop express service between Silverdale and Pokeno (and Im not sure its necessary) surely you get more bang for your buck if you:

          – upgrade the infrastructure to allow for fast trains from Hamilton (via Pokeno)
          – build a 4th line as far as you can go north
          – run express services on that 4th main (Pokeno, Puhinui, Otahuhu/Southdown. Ellerslie, Newmarket, Britomart/Aotea) which also allows interchange with the other lines
          -Upgrade (eventually) the Northern Busway to rail, and stopping at the 6 busway stations. All up, about 15.

          You don’t have to have the same rail going end to end with a simple interchange at Britomart/Aotea (most coming north or south would be getting off there.

          That would seem a hell of lot cheaper than building a new maglev system.

        9. KLK, it will probably sound cheaper, have to be redone again in 10 years and never have the equivalent performance.

        10. “KLK, it will probably sound cheaper, (but) have to be redone again in 10 years”


  24. Jack, whether travelling from Taupo, Tauranga or Papakura to Albany, Silverdale or Whangarei you’ve got to go through Auckland. Particularly given the bottleneck that Auckland is, if we can reduce the ‘through’ traffic by offering a viable alternative for this portion of traffic it will help to free up the congestion within Auckland itself over the big picture. Then add to that rapid connections between the Airport, Botany/Pakuranga to West Auckland via the CBD.

    1. Through traffic makes up less than 1 in 1000 trips through the CMJ, it is completely negligible in terms of Auckland traffic.

      1. Auckland’s traffic issues are far wider reaching than the CMJ. The wiztrak concept proposes a solution to a much larger area than the CMJ. However I am curious if you or anyone else knows what makes up the other 999 trips (through the CMJ in this instance), jezza? Genuinely interested in your source of this statistic.

        1. Through traffic from south of Auckland to north is a tiny amount of traffic. Almost all traffic on Auckland roads and motorways is Aucklanders getting around their local suburbs. The median trip distance by car in Auckland is 4km. Traffic is caused almost entirely by a lot of people driving very often for quite short trips. There are about 13 billion vehicle-kilometres driving in Auckland each year, 2/3rds of those are on local roads and 1/3rd on motorways and state highways.

          With respect, I think you are coming at the problem all wrong.

          If you’re only goal is to reduce traffic, then reduce traffic, don’t expect more public transport will make the cars go away. More and better public transport lets people skip traffic entirely and lets a lot more people get around easily, but it doesn’t get rid of traffic because the roads just fill up again with other people driving more often. The only thing that does that is removing road and parking capacity, or pricing roads. Do those things if you want less traffic usage. Build more public transport if you want more public transport usage.

        2. John D, if its worth expressing my point any further, it is this; …that we (the people) need a better alternative to driving, hence reducing traffic from this perspective. Not magically trying to reduce traffic by forced measures, or increased costs that will create civilian resentment.
          Investment in high tech (truly rapid, scalable, mass transit) public transport is the solution. Not redundant public transport that takes longer than a normal drive takes. There is nothing sustainable about that.

          A median trip distance statistic like this is very broad to cover the entire Auckland region, however, if you can tell me that the median trip distance by car in AKL is 4km, can you also tell me how long these 4km journeys are taking Aucklanders on average?

          Or do you know the average, or median trip time by car in Auckland?

          Check out:

          You can see this proposal conservatively covers 2km per minute (across the vast length of the city). Including 15 key stops through the city.

          If you have a better solution to suggest I would really love to hear it.

        3. It just seems like duplication because someone likes Maglevs?

          The infrastructure is already there to build express, fast services from Wellington to the Strand. You can then extend across the harbour up to Silverdale once Busway is converted to rail.

        4. “You can see this proposal conservatively covers 2km per minute (across the vast length of the city)”

          Is this actually materially faster than the current HR network and what LRT would be capable of? Express services?

          I am guessing the differences is about 120secs every 2kms. Hardly worth the spend.

        5. KLK,
          Duplication? What other service offers such a solution? I’d love to know. …and…. Which surface based LRT can come close to this 2km per minute service? Please tell me.

        6. The duplication is in the route. And you already have a system that does 2kms in 4mins. That’s without any upgrades, speeding up of services and express services, all which could be delivered at a fraction of a Maglev system.

          Would it be as fast as a Maglev? I don’t know and I don’t think it matters, because that upgraded system would easily be quick enough.

        7. John D, I have to wish you guys good luck on this better solution that has been talked about for over 4 years. You’ll keep on going round in circles with all the irrelevant statistics, inadequate ‘solutions’ and not much will actually improve (for working middle- class NZ) for another 10 years and people will start really jumping up and down for the govt of the day to magically fix the issues.

    2. Ken, this through traffic is an even smaller market. I dont have the stats, but take the southern motorway in Auckland at rush hour, the vast, vast majority of people there are travelling within the city, not through from Hamilton to Whangarei. The long distance traveler cannot take much funding that would otherwise be put towards the intra city transit system, where the significant majority of trips and vkt are made, and where the PT model works much better.

      1. Agreed – if we’re talking about intercity Auckland-Hamilton travel, it seems more sensible to progressively upgrade Te Huia from its current form to a 130-160km/h tilt train over the next 10-20 years.

        1. And the transit on the ends. If its quick and easy to go to Hamilton from Auckland, but you get dropped in the middle of nowhere with no transit to get to your actual destination then people will just drive.
          Improving the intra city trips is critical to making long distance city to city trips work.

          Te Huia will be a good service one day, just like Aucklands rail network was garbage when they did the first improvements, and it looked like money down the drain to the general population. But with continued long term improvements;
          double track to Hamilton
          general maintenance and associated line speed improvements
          some curve easements
          and the big ticket item, electrification and new rolling stock.
          We will have a heavy lift regional rail that will be quicker than driving, and really good freight line. Just have to stay the course.

      2. Absolutely agree with this in principle, Jack. Who can tell us where the majority of this traffic is travelling from, and to? From the CBD to Papakura? Albany/West Auckland to Drury? The proposed wiztrak route through Auckland is a scalable, intra city system that offers reliable point to point travel times regardless of congestion, roadworks or motorway accidents. At the same time offering a route right through the Auckland city, connecting the extremities from North Shore, West, East and South Auckland. We need a solution like this, whether we decide to do it this decade or next decade it needs to be done.

        1. A solution like this is essentially a faster Paris RER or London Cross Rail style system. Where station spacings are much larger and its optimised for those “whisk you to the other side of the city” trips. But in these cases the city already had an extremely extensive local transit network, the London Underground, or the Paris metro (225km of track and 305 stations, a lot less than 1km between stations on average, and very slow end to end trip times) that would do the work of delivering passengers to their actual destination. We dont yet.

          I have been thinking about this “hole” in the long term transit system a bit lately. It certainly is a market to be filled and thought about by transit planners. IMO, the solution is to quad track the southern line Westfield to papakura, triple track a lot of the eastern line, some triple tracking on the western line maybe, and run express through services in the peak direction, skipping quite a few of the stations (not the CRL stations though). Some of the infrastructure would be used by regional services to Hamilton etc too.
          I would argue that this is however a future problem, and in the short – medium term, far more impact can be made with the given amount of money focusing on the projects that the government is currently focusing on. Urban light rail, heavy rail improvements, some new busway infrastructure, and improved interchange stations.

          Back to the point about trip lengths.
          A third of all car trips in the country are less than 2km, which is crazy. This is a tangential stat, but indicates just how short most of the trips are.

          I think a very interesting dataset to collect would be to position some cameras around Aucklands motorway network discreetly on some overbridges and train a computer to recognise licence plates, and see how many trips go all the way through. Achievable by a citizen or two in todays age of low power raspberry pi’s and low power 3 or 4 g connections. But would be a lot of work.

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