One of the most important outcomes of the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) from when it first emerged in 2016 was the government to agree that Auckland needed a region wide rapid transit network. Furthermore, while many of the projects and routes weren’t new, it also shifted to presenting them in a more holistic way. The future Rapid Transit map evolved over various iterations to ATAP to what is below.
But while we’ve had the high-level map and seen work on some of the projects within it, there hasn’t really been much done looking at things a bit deeper.
A paper the Council’s recent Planning committee meeting highlights that Auckland Transport along with the Council and Waka Kotahi have been working on another entry to the acronym soup, something they call the Auckland Rapid Transit Plan or ARTP – not to be confused with ATAP, RLTP, RPTP, NLTP, ARTA or a myriad of other acronyms.
The plan is still a work in progress but they say:
The ARTP is intended to expand on the high-level rapid transit network plans in the Auckland Plan 2050 and the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP). The plan will provide more detail about the future development of Auckland’s rapid transit network, including:
- the future network’s corridors and their expected modes
- high-level operating patterns and capacities to meet expected demands
- sequencing and staging for this network, including any interim improvements.
Much of the work to date seems to be scene setting stuff such as creating a baseline, defining what rapid transit is and the role it will play in Auckland in the future as well as looking at the high-level options for achieving that.
Because of the focus from the government on light rail they’ve started initially by looking at the three potential lines that are shown as being light rail in the map above and are now seeking approval from the Planning Committee to provide guidance from it on network integration to the Light Rail Establishment Unit. The progress is shown on the diagram below and they say while the Establishment Unit works on light rail, they’ll shift focus to the other corridors such as Airport to Botany and Upper Harbour/State Highway 18.
On light rail they say the relevant findings so far are:
- Rapid transit is key to addressing the region’s transport problems. Only rapid transit can provide the step change in capacity and quality of service (including speed and reliability) that is required to attract significant mode shift and enable work towards key access, growth, and emissions reductions goals. It is likewise critical to supporting and shaping the growth planned in the CC2M corridor and elsewhere in the region.
- The infrastructure CC2M provides in the City Centre will need to be future proofed for use by the Northwest and North Shore corridors. This will ensure the best value for money from this significant investment and enable similar benefits to be realised on those corridors in the future.
- Investment in the corridor must be cost-effective. Developing Auckland’s rapid transit network is likely to be New Zealand’s largest and most complex transport investment in the coming decades. If not cost-effective, investment could constrain the availability of funding for other transport investment in Auckland.
- Rapid transit forms the backbone of the wider public transport network. A lack of rapid transit in the central isthmus and in Māngere is a key contributor to the issues in the area, particularly regarding travel choice. The bus network on both the isthmus and in Māngere can be significantly enhanced by being restructured to integrate with the future rapid transit corridor.
This is quite important and highlights a big issue with some of the discussion between light rail and light metro, the cost. Essentially there is a huge opportunity cost with a metro style solution. As I highlighted recently, based on overseas experience light metro solutions tend to be over three and a half times the cost so for the cost of a metro solution to the airport we could also build an entire other light rail line to the Northwest.
They also say this about light rail (CC2M), basically confirming that light rail or light metro are the best two options for the corridor
As already mentioned, previous work on the CC2M, Northwest and North Shore corridors was used for the ARTP. These three corridors have been investigated extensively over the past decade and there is significant evidence underpinning the work on the ARTP. The ARTP reconfirmed the following findings:
- Buses are unlikely to be a viable option for the CC2M corridor. This is due to capacity considerations, and their ineffectiveness as a catalyst for shaping and supporting the desired urban form of the corridor.
- Heavy Rail is also unlikely to be viable, based on poor value for money, challenges integrating with urban form, and integration with the wider network.
- Light rail and light metro appear from the ARTP work to date to be the most feasible solutions for both the corridor and for the three corridors together as an integrated network.
There are also a couple of other interesting comments, such as this about growth.
- As part of their work the Establishment Unit will assess how different options for CC2M might shape Auckland’s future growth patterns. This approach will most likely consider first the transport needs based on currently enabled growth, before assessing opportunities over and above this, to maximise the investment.
- Given there is a finite amount of growth anticipated across Auckland, additional growth in this corridor will result in less growth in other parts of the region. This is an important consideration in Auckland’s approach to growth.
- The Establishment Unit should highlight the implications of this and the benefits of urban development uplift to ensure they are understood within the context of transport and land use planning for all of Auckland. This will assist Auckland Council in future decision-making about these trade-offs.
The point that additional growth in the City Centre to Mangere corridor will mean less growth is needed elsewhere is critical. Under current plans billions of dollars for transport alone are going to be needed to support all the greenfield growth that’s planned in places like Drury. While better public transport to these areas is part of the current planning, it is still expected that the vast majority of people living in them will drive, increasing congestion and emissions. Projects like light rail could significantly change our growth patterns and mean less sprawl needs to be accommodated, benefiting everyone (except the land bankers and sprawl industry).
They also include this map showing the rapid transit network in 2030. I think it’s useful to highlight the interim BRT routes.
As mentioned, they are about to work on the other routes such as Upper Harbour but I do feel we should be aiming for at least some interim BRT solutions on there before 2030. I also think there’s a bit of a missed opportunity with the cross-isthmus RT route. As we’ve suggested in the past, we think a crosstown light rail option might be a good solution but that would only be possible if CC2M was also light rail and not light metro.