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:

  1. the future network’s corridors and their expected modes
  2. high-level operating patterns and capacities to meet expected demands
  3. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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61 comments

  1. So confirmation then, that the NW RT line will not be a thing before 2030 at the absolute earliest. Bait-and-switch at its finest. How more houses going in NW between now and then?

      1. Expected, but it’s never been officially acknowledged by anyone who was promising it would be built that it’s basically dead in the water. Now we have confirmation it’s slipped out of ATAP Decade One and now no firm assurances it will even happen in Decade Two. This all seems like it has been done very quietly compared to the pomp and hype of the initial announcement, or with the waterfalls of money suddenly now available for a walking and cycling-only bridge across the Harbour.

        1. Correction, waterfalls of money to protect a single traffic lane over the Harbour Bridge, and, if one were cynical, to ensure that no cross-harbour walking/cycling connection gets built.

        2. When the government decided to fund $5 billion of roads amongst the $6.8 billion of transport projects in the original NZUP programme they should instead have funded NW LR.

          But I’m much more hopeful than I have been, Buttwizard. Minister Wood’s response to the roading cost blow outs was to put more money into PT and Walking and Cycling and trim back the roads. We know what roads bias he’s up against in MoT, WK and in Cabinet. I can imagine this took incredibly good management and negotiating on his part.

          NW LR is needed. I’m also wondering, now that road costs have blown sky high and rail costs have not, about the business cases now of various projects in the W and NW…

        3. Good point Heidi about rail cost blowouts being less than road. The scaffodals are off Puhinui Station its looking good. One other thing if the motorway widening from Papakura to Drury is not going ahead then I suppose the southern path extension to Drury won’t happen either. Can’t have it both ways.

        4. Except that the GPS directs the agencies to improve cycling – and not just whenever a highway is widened. Both the state highway and the local road improvements activity class funds should be being spent on the repair required for walking, cycling and public transport before any extra capacity for driving is considered.

        5. Heidi what Mr Woods has done is ensure Labour lose the next election, that walking cycling bridge will cost them dearly at the polls. Jacinda is a smart lady she has to realise this is not a popular option with all but a few die hard cyclists and environmentalists, the rest of the country are not impressed.

        6. “…a few die hard cyclists and environmentalists”

          That’s why we should hand over a lane on the bridge instead – 1 of 8. Its only really an issue for a few die hard car drivers and petrol heads.

    1. Exactly Buttwizard. Meanwhile there is perfectly adequate (and newly upgraded) HR line that goes right through Kumeu, Huapai, Waimauku, and Helensville that could be up and running today operating DMU shuttles to/from Swanson station.

      1. What do you reckon the roading costs for all the Supporting Growth work in the NW will be now? I wonder if Michael Wood could ask for the business cases to be looked at again, including rail.

        I suspect the decision about rail has always been made by comparing what you can do with *PT funding* – and rail to Kumeu etc hasn’t stacked up.

        But if you look at what you can do with *transport funding* to meet the social and climate objectives, there’s no way all that Supporting Growth road funding will stack up. Rail, however…

        1. The last business case for HR included a lot of unnecessary (gold plated for now) expenses – such as double tracking, building new stations, electrification, and track improvements (which have been done). Those all added up to hundreds of millions when really (at least for now) the costs would just be some small improvements to stations and the DMUs/loco pulled rolling stock).
          Since it’s going to be AT LEAST a decade before LRT even gets to Westgate let alone Kumeu, getting HR going with existing infrastructure should be a priority.

        2. Wouldn’t it be quicker to take a bus to Westgate and then get the bus priority along SH16 into the CBD?

          Would seem to much quicker than a meandering western line from out that way….

        3. Zippo this shows a 1/4 of te DMU’s sitting at Westfeld and 2 would be doing the Shuttle service and the rest are just sitting at Pukekohe usually doing nothing or getting painted with Graffiti , But AT have sold all their rolling stock for next to Zero $’s . ;-

      2. If the Waikato can get funding over a 5year period for the Te Huia , then why can’t it happen out West for a reasonable service to run day and night to Helensville and Station in between ?

        1. @KLK – no it wouldn’t. There are no bus lanes (and no realistic chance of them anytime soon between Kumeu and Westgate so buses would just sit in the same traffic (30-60 minutes). The. From there to the city they are adding motorway shoulder bus lanes but even those won’t be as fast as say the NEX. So you’re talking another 30 minutes at best for that section. So overall we’re talking about an hour minimum apart from quieter off peak times and often well over an hour – and on a bus.
          Rail would take around 1h20 and once the CRL opens that reduces to around an hour (or less if they remove some level crossings, speed up trains and reduce dwell times) and on a much more pleasant and comfortable train (where it is possible to work if you wish).
          The likes of Helensville could have a huge rejuvenation if there was a train service there too.

        2. Around 27th Feb Auckland Events tried to run a GVR Special to Hellensville for AMP Show but kR canned that and that would of helped in someways to try to get a service running out to the NW . And what I have heard it was going to be a success , so if AT can’t do contract out to the GVR , as they have been moving AT’s DMU’s around for them . Also Motat have been doing witth the trams around Wynyard Quarter for the Council as their own departments can’t run that sort of thing without the Bean Counters being involved .
          So contract it out to someone that knows what they are doing .

  2. It’s good to see that this sort of work is being done and they appear to be making sensible decisions so far (like not entertaining the idea of trackless trams, monorails or hyperloops). Will be interesting to see what the end result is.

    1. Ha ha – I was just going to say with infrastructure costs going through the roof it may be sensible to look into trackless trams!
      – Make better use of what we have rather than spending billions on laying rail.
      – Make all those planned BRTs into something decent instead of stinky diesel buses holding 80 cramped people – all for probably less than the cost of one line of LR
      – Do more of the isthmus corridors because they shouldn’t cost much.

      Is there really a good reason to spend billions of dollars just to have steel wheels?

      1. What gives you the impression that BRT or “advanced busses” would be significantly cheaper in the long term, or even the short term for that matter?
        Rail isn’t super cheap, but neither are good thick roads that still require a decent amount of maintenance.
        Plus there’s the associated power infrastructure, battery is not great environmentally, and these dense corridors that would be practically powered by overhead catenary probably should be, its more efficient too from an energy perspective. We should probably do overhead wires for either LRT or advanced busses. To run the advanced busses we would probably still have to totally re-do dominion road, add overhead wiring, build the stations, and build the rest of the corridor that would be running grade separated beside the motorway to the airport.

        1. * to add to this, with the light rail option, we have the advantage of doing what every other major city in the world has, if we pick the same system as them we get the long term demand and economies of scale that come with supplying the entire worlds LRT fleet, rather than 100 bespoke vehicles. Future rolling stock replacement, systems maintenance etc. We dont want to do what plenty of other cities have done in the past and pick a one off system that is un-maintainable in the long term and becomes a Seattle monorail. Historic route, very cute and cool, but never expanded, and not a core piece of the PT network. Sure the advanced busway isn’t as crazy as a monorail, but there are distinct disadvantages to us going out on our own (compared to the rest of the western world anyway)

        2. $10 billion certainly isn’t super cheap.
          If you forget about the Mangere / Airport section for a moment (which I think they should), having some form of decent sized comfortable bus on dedicated roadway with overhead wires *could* be as simple as plonking a 24×7 bus lane sign in the bus lanes, removing 2/3rds of the current stops, and putting up some wires (maybe only at the stops with battery used in between). Could kit out half of Auckland with decent PT for less than the cost of this one corridor. I don’t think this option should be dismissed so quickly; just because our current buses suck that doesn’t mean it is impossible to make buses good.

        3. Jimbo – sound like you are talking trolleybuses. They work well all over the (non-English-speaking) world.

      2. Once you investigate trackless trams you realise they make little practical sense when you could just build light rail / real trams instead.

        – Have to build a continuous reinforced concrete roadway to support them that’ll be at least as disruptive and expensive as building tracks for light rail.
        – Because of aforementioned road requirements, they will only be able to operate on predetermined routes and provide as much operational flexibility as light rail.
        – Immature technology with few vehicle suppliers and no supply chain to support it yet. Compared to light rail with many competing suppliers and operational systems in service that can be easily compared.

        1. I don’t get why it has to be a special roadway? Surely they could have an axle weight similar to trucks which are fine on our existing road.
          There has to be a good option somewhere in between standard diesel buses in bus lanes and multi billion dollar light rail. Even if that option is just long articulated buses on dedicated lanes with overhead wires, I can’t see why that should cost more than say $100 million on Dominion Road.

        2. Current “trackless tram” designs still weigh similar amounts to actual trams. They’ll weigh even more if they have batteries rather than relying on overhead power.

          Thinking about it another way: If trackless trams really are so much cheaper to implement than actual trams then why aren’t a bunch of cities adopting them?

        3. Chicken / egg.
          LR certainly makes sense if you have the population to support the costs. It probably was the best choice for Sydney for example.
          Maybe trackless trams is also a step too far too. Very long articulated buses?

      3. JimboJones – A ‘trackless’ tram is a multi segment bi-directional bus on its own dedicate right of way. A normal bus whether its diesel, bio-fuel battery or electric battery can do same job, using graded right of way, plus the they are more versatile operationally than a so call ‘trackless tram’ as they can be used on other routes that are not graded.

      1. Huge potential but I’ll need some capital to develop the concept further. You can invest in my start-up by sending funds to my email address (only dogecoin accepted at the moment sorry).

        1. It will be much cheaper as you only have to not build one track instead of not building two.

  3. 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.

    Can we expect a surface running LRT to be able to handle these 3 corridors in the city centre? It seems like a tall task for max 30km/h running and a lot of lights based pedestrian crossings.

    1. Yes, feeding completely grade-separated corridors (Northern, Northwestern) onto Queen St at 30km/h looks like a recipe for concertinaing and service disruption. I can’t see how they can solve that without further tunnelling. Will be interesting to see what high level operating patterns they end up proposing.

      1. Why does the 30km/h matter? It’s faster than the trains go into Britomart, faster than they’ll run through to aotea.

        1. Thats a fair point, the distance between them will shorten significantly as they slow down. The time not necessarily, but still, at some point with the short headway’s we might expect, you can only have so many trains on x length of track. The signal blocks can only get so small.

          The problem is more the noise from the surface, pedestrians, lights, vehicles combined with the short headways that could cause issues.

        2. If you are talking maximum capacity factors matter. If you want a 2 minute headway that is 120 seconds to slow down, get people off ,get people on and leave. I have time heavy rail at 50 seconds from door opening to door close and feel It could be longer if went from near full to full ( That last squeeze person can take 15 seconds). What would be interesting to get stats from other Heavy rail/Metro ?light rail of how fast they can get through one station then see some video of what it looks like (Circus acrobats could probably do it in 10seconds!)

        3. Jack light rail doesn’t usually use signal blocks in sections like the city centre, they run on line of sight, like buses. Its not uncommon to see them moving along only ten or twenty metres apart.

          Don’t use heavy rail as an example for light rail, heavy rail is very constrained by its requirement to run on the intercity freight system. Light rail is purpose design only for urban passenger transit.

          The heavy rail dwell times are, frankly, absurd, even for heavy rail. They are hampered by all sorts of things from the door opening process (god knows what is going on there), to the lack of doors (only two doors per 25 m car, LRT has 5-6 doors in the same length), the wonky platforms bent around tracks with big gaps (LR should be completely flat and straight), and the stairs up to the cabin (light rail is 100% level boarding).

          Light rail on a transit mall would have a dwell time of about 20 seconds, stretching to 30 seconds at the busiest terminals. It can easily run two minute headways, even down to 60 second headways. There a scores of examples of this in operation around the world, you only need to go to Australia to see it in practice. This isn’t cutting edge, its just normal stuff. Try a trip to the Gold Coast, Newcastle, Sydney, Canberra or Melbourne to check it out.

        4. Riccardo , I got the Te Huia to Hamilton on the 4th we arrived in Huntly 7mins early and after all the passengers got off there we had to wait for the time on the timetable and the same happened at Rotokauri . So if the scheduled time say’ one thing then that means the train can’t leave anytime earlier as someone might miss it .

        5. Sounds like they’ve been very conservative with the scheduling of Te huia… hopefully now that it is up and running they can shave that down to make an overall quicker journey.

    2. It’s two corridors as the North Shore will be the other end of the other two routes.

      In the long term this corridor probably won’t be sufficient, which is when you either spend serious money on a tunnel or put a second surface corridor like Albert St in.

    3. It’s standard practice to start with surface routes converging on city centre streets, and as ridership grows over time add a tunnel or elevated section where the lines combine. This is sensible staging, not building hugely expensive tunnels a decade or more before they’re needed. The surface lines are still valuable so are not a waste.

      In AKL’s case, a north-south Queen St LR (CC2M), later supplemented by an east-west tunnel under Wellesley between the Shore and the NW looks ideal, as both those lines will be fully grade separate outside of city centre.
      Reduces pressure on Queen St for peds etc, while retaining great access, and means instead of a Y shaped pattern with a junction and spilt frequencies, fully separate two pattern for greater resilience and frequency. They could even be different vehicle designs, LR and LM, they’d have separate depots anyhow.

      A key advantage is investing in infra in a timely way, not needing the expensive bits to start, but later when demand and city economy is bigger.

      Sometimes this process of delivering an evolving quality network over time calls the early stages a Pre-Metro.

    4. It’s two corridors: N to NW and N to SW. You’d probably want a service about every 5 minutes on those for the next two decades. That’s a service every 2.5 minutes each way on Queen Street. That means that pedestrian crossings can be fully synchronised with the LRT services with no delay to LRT.

      1. Do others places have frequency of 2.5minutes? Does this apply at peak with 10 or more getting on and off each station from a full carriage? I think it would be close to the limit.

        1. do you mean other lines around the world?

          If so yeah there are a number of systems with much shorter headway’s. Vancouver skytrain on 90 second frequencies, London Underground lines sub 2 minutes for some of them https://youtu.be/c8QKPgRa7sM

          https://youtu.be/eSdH8jkUW5A

          Vancouver is a bit of a model city as far as pt goes compared to Auckland. Driving great ridership while having extremely efficient services, eg their 99 b line is the busiest bus route in North America with kind nothing too special about it.
          And the Canada lines construction and operation cost was extremely reasonable.

        2. Thanks Jack
          Also looked at this Vancouver video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNFuzgLi590 which showed at rush hour it takes 40 seconds to alight and board everyone on the sky train. My point here is at 2.5 minutes frequency there is little room for error. Someone deciding this is easy so let people tag on 2 metres away from the doors or that money could be saved on transport vehicles by not having large doors can lead to failure of the whole system.

  4. I know you are meant to say its to little to late but I feel its too much to late or maybe just it’s to late. Any further dithering around will mean the only viable option is rapid bus transit or even just motorway buses. Which might not be all bad after all they are rapid transport corridors. Westgate to Puhinui Station with about four stops via the tunnel. You would hope something like that could be done in a couple of years if not then we really are screwed.

  5. On each of these routes, what is the predicted date for buses becoming non viable, and then for light rail?
    Does the speed of predicted intensification mean that there would only be a few years of light rail operation before a light metro approach would be more appropriate in the first place?

    1. Nope. Capacities are not that different. Also Auckland is not an enormous nor enormously dense city that will need the world’s highest capacity systems for decades and decades under any scenario. Individual LR lines in outer Paris on prioritised, but not fully grade separate routes, do ~100m riders a year. 5x our current entire rail network.

      The key issue with buses is the city centre, which has hard limits (same for Northern Busway; city centre will be the ceiling not the busway itself, or even the bridge) but also on streets like Dom Rd, they trip over each other and other users. A case of *too much* frequency, fewer larger LRVs fix that, as well the turning issue downtown, and reduce driver costs per rider, etc

      1. Chris N, beware of comparing “riders per year” with rail systems in other cities. Riders per hour at peak times is a much more important measure for the capacity of a system. New Zealand cities tend to have a highly ‘peaked’ transport-demand with much less happening away from the peaks compared to other places. This drives the yearly and even daily ridership-figures down, masking the fact that our peak demand may be as-high or higher than on comparable routes in other cities. Their high daily or annual figures may come from sustaining a lower level of ridership over much more of the day.

      2. The other thing to watch, when looking at services such as Paris’s orbital LR routes, is that daily (or annual) ridership figures may be made up of many short-hop journeys which do not all co-incide. Many people riding a tram for a few stops at different points along the route will not require the same capacity as a lower number all wanting to go to the same place on the same service. Better perhaps to compare Auckland’s rail services with Paris’s RER system (Réseau Express Régional)

        1. Exactly. Our overly peaky and long haul ‘commuter’ PT patterns are poor and important to move away from. Improving density and distributing attractors/sources along whole LR routes are key aims of the coordinated transport and land-use project.

          Sure the AKL city centre will remain the biggest concentration of jobs and education in the country, even as it becomes an increasingly important residential area as well, but the role model cannot be Wellington, with its dormitory suburbs and concentrated centralised govt job market fed by overly diurnal tidal flows.

          Intra-line travel (already strong on AKL’s western line) are to be encouraged, principally through diversified land use and good direct route design and stop spacing.

          The proof is in the pudding as you observe: huge ridership on those Paris LR lines.

  6. Let’s start using the term “trackfree trams” rather than “trackless trams” and apply the term to the three-section trolleybuses being used quite successfully in Zurich and other Swiss cities. And then get our lazy universities to do some proper costing of InMotionCharging which according to recent Canadian research, could be cheaper than depot charging and on-route charging. The more copper we hang above our roads now, the less problems we will have with batteries later. And no need for another millimetre of rail, light or heavy.

    1. Yes bi articulated trolley buses would be the best option latest european models and certainly up and running long before any light rail or light metro or whatever will ever be,not to mention less expense .

      1. Why would something that is not currently allowed on NZ roads be up and running long before light rail?

    2. We already have bus lanes on Dominion Road and the SW motorway and they don’t work. They have reached practical capacity on Dominion Road and integrate to poorly with the urban area on SH20. We need to physically separate the lanes on Dominion Road which can only be achieved with tracks and we need to build stations on SH20 which can only be achieved (on that corridor) with a separate right of way, which would be cheaper as LRT than a busway.

      We’ve looked at buses for this route so many times, can we please just stop now.

  7. The key to all the fore-going angst is the isthmus of Auckland, which causes ribbon-like transport corridors, to connect with its hinterland, behind the focal-point of the CBD and port. Contrast this with centres like Christchurch, Hamilton, and Palmerston North, which have an umland all around.
    Remember the announcement, years back, about the forming of a new town at Rolleston ? That is what is happening in Auckland, right now, before our very eyes. Satellite towns.
    New industrial activity and housing construction at Pokeno to Drury, Massey to Helensville, and Albany to Orewa will persuade new buyers that there is enough commerce away from the CBD to take a chance on not buying close in, not commuting INWARDS to work. Work-life balance and time do have a value.
    Current traffic woes will be the last straw for many, by the time something gets agreed and built. Trams on a 4-lane Mill road, perhaps ?

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