We understand the government may soon be making an announcement about the next steps for light rail. We have no idea what they plan to announce but given where things are in the process, it will likely either be:

  1. the recommendations from the light rail process that will be taken cabinet
  2. that it has already been to cabinet and a decision has been made

I hope it’s the former so that the public can start to get an idea of what has been going on with the project before the government commit to anything. Here’s why.

In my post about the death of the Northern Path I mentioned how I worried that Light Rail might meet the same fate. Since then I’ve been thinking a lot more about these two projects and why I think they’re similar. Perhaps what strikes me the most about both is how much they’ve been developed under a cloak of secrecy, and that secrecy is damaging transport outcomes. Let’s take a look at them.

Northern Pathway

The Northern Path started out life as Skypath, an advocate driven project to get a walking and cycling connection on the bridge due to Waka Kotahi and its predecessors refusing to do anything to accommodate anything but road vehicles. After many battles, consent for the project was granted in 2015.

In 2018 the new government took over the project and suddenly the same engineers who had spent years fighting it were tasked with delivering it. In mid-2019 the agency announced they’d significantly changed and upgraded the design. At the time we saw the change as somewhat of a surprise but not an unwelcome one. The upgrade also came with a higher cost of around $100 million.

The expected cost jumped again to around $290 million just eight months later when at the beginning of last year when the government announced the NZ Upgrade Programme (NZUP). The cost increase had started to attract the attention, such as by those in the media who like to use cycling as a clickbait generator. This was the time for Waka Kotahi to be out explaining why the project was needed and to build up even more understanding and expectation for it but instead silence fell until June when the government announced the project, along with most of the other NZUP projects, had doubled in cost. For the bridge they blamed the outcome of geotechnical investigations meaning an entirely separate structure would be needed.

The complete silence about what was happening resulted in two things.

  1. The Liberate the Lane protest that happened two weeks before the announcement, which some twisted to feed their desired narrative about people on bikes.
  2. Advocates being surprised by the announcement and lukewarm on the idea, compared to either a cheaper and faster option such as liberating a lane or a slightly more expensive combined rapid transit and active bridge.

Had there not been the silence about what was happening a different outcome may have been possible. Under one hypothetical scenario, Waka Kotahi could have announced the geotechnical issues much earlier and explained how they were looking at what options were available. Well before making a recommendation to cabinet, the various options they came up with could have been explained to the public which would have at least allowed for discussion about them. This could have helped both Waka Kotahi and the government understand the public sentiment better before any funding decisions were made and perhaps steered them to a more palatable solution and prevented the need for an embarrassing backdown.

Light Rail

Light rail first emerged in 2015 from Auckland Transport as a way to address forecast bus congestion in the city centre and as to serve the central isthmus ‘void’ of rapid transit. A year later AT started talking about extending light rail to the airport too instead of a previously expected heavy rail extension. Previous studies had put both heavy and light rail as both being effective solutions but with light rail now needing to be built on the isthmus anyway, it tipped the balance.

But then things started to go wrong. As the 2016 mayoral election approached Auckland Transport went silent so as to not get in the way of the political debate happening about it. That had only just started to change after Phil Goff was elected and light rail was moved up the priority in the Auckland Transport Alignment Project update in 2017. But silence fell again in the lead up to the general election in which Labour had promised to take over and build the project. By this point, nearly a year of almost complete silence about the project had allowed all sorts of misinformation about it to spread and continue to sprout up like the weeds in my garden.

Waka Kotahi don’t have any history with delivering urban public transport let alone rail projects so with them in charge they were looking to push ahead with ATs design including an early works programme to get started on some of the bridge and underpass structures that would be needed. They had started engaging with the industry and were gearing up for a public information campaign when out of nowhere, the NZ Super Fund along with Canadian pension fund CDPQ announced they wanted to deliver the project.

Unbeknownst to us at the time, they wanted to deliver something completely different. Waka Kotahi rejected their proposal but government ministers were enamoured by the promises they made and kicked off what ended up being a two-year sham process to assess the idea which only ended earlier this year when they decided to start the current process. Outrageously, despite millions being spent on it there is nothing to show from the previous process, not even route maps or an understanding of what was proposed other than it was some form of automated Light Metro system. In the meantime, the weeds of misinformation that had sprouted in 2016/17 had quickly grown into a thick forest.

This new process hasn’t been any better. About all we know of the key aspects is that it will be either light rail or light metro, that it will go via either Dominion Rd or Sandringham Rd and that it will have a station in Mangere Town Centre. They did tell me there are three options they’re looking at more closely

  • A surface Light Rail option which takes a slow tiki-tour through Mangere
  • A light metro solution that will be in a bored tunnel at least on the Isthmus
  • A Hybrid solution which sounds like the light rail option above but in a tunnel on some or all of the isthmus.

There has been no real discussion of what is in those options or what the trade-offs of them are. For example, the metro option is likely considerably more expensive. Instead of the meaningless engagement they undertook, a proper discussion about the trade-offs, including the costs of them, would have helped give the government a better understanding of what the public sentiment about them actually is.

The risk here is that like the Northern Pathway, cabinet may decide on a recommended option that is unpalatable to the public, such as it being too expensive and see it facing a Northern Pathway style campaign against it. Alternatively, Cabinet may reject the proposal outright and end the project altogether.

Mill Rd and other NZUP projects

At the other end of the spectrum where secrecy is damaging outcomes are projects like Mill Rd and some of the other NZUP Projects. Back in 2018 the new Labour government updated ATAP to reflect their priorities. It looked great and even included a section on where any additional funding should be focused:

The highest priority future investments that should be progressed as funding becomes available are:

  • Further bus priority improvements. These are considered the highest priority for additional funding
  • More investment for walking and cycling, a more extensive optimisation programme, increased funding for greenfield growth and further rail network upgrades.

But when more funding became available by way of the NZUP, these weren’t the priorities. Instead projects were secretly selected between central and local government politicians and likely recommended by Waka Kotahi engineers.

Those engineers then went away to design it behind closed doors, coming up with what I understand was close to motorway scale design that would have bowled hundreds of houses and ended up blowing out in cost from $1.35 billion to $3.5 billion and resulting in parts of it being cancelled – it should never have been approved in the first place

To compare what’s been happening recently, let’s look at a quick history of Auckland’s current biggest project, the CRL.

City Rail Link

The CRL or something similar to it has been talked about on and off for the last 100 or so years but serious discussion of current incarnation of it began in the mid-2000’s after Britomart was built, starting with a feasibility study in 2004. The project had appeared in various planning documents but things kicked off more seriously around 2009 when the first discussions of what ultimately became the Commercial Bay development started. The original proposal was to build a big underground carpark on the site which would have prevented the ability to build the CRL in the future.

The then new National Government weren’t supportive of the project and frequently ridiculed it, however, at least they let it be investigated. In 2009 the ARC’s transport agency ARTA announced a joint study with Kiwirail into the CRL including investigating routes and station locations. What is most relevant for this post is what happened next.

In early 2010 the first phase of that study was released. This initial phase came up with a long list of options for routes and station locations and then narrowed that down to a short list. It also included a high-level look at the benefits of the project.

Not long later the preferred route and station locations were announced. It was only after this stage that the work on a detailed business case kicked into higher gear.

With the exception of the Newton station, which was dropped to enable the Mt Eden junction to be grade separated, this is what is now being built.

Much to the chagrin of the government, both main candidates to be the first mayor of all of Auckland supported the project. Newly elected mayor Len Brown released the business case just over a month after winning the mayoralty. The government weren’t happy and delayed the project for years and kicked off a bunch of dodgy reviews and other studies to try and avoid it – though ironically some of those studies ended up making the case for it stronger and one even resulted in the emergence of light rail – the City Centre Future Access Study highlighted that even with the CRL there would still be bus congestion issues in the city.

The key point to all of this is that key information like route options and initial costings were made public well before any decision was made on whether to fund the project. That allowed for the public to start gaining and understanding of the project and people living along the proposed route could start to understand what might happen. It also meant sites like this could discuss the issues and help imagine a better future for Auckland and build greater social licence for the project.

We’re now nearly seven years on since light rail was first announced. If we’re to beat the 12 years it took for the CRL to go from that initial feasibility study to construction then the government need to shift away from secrecy and start having proper conversations about what the options and trade-offs are.

Something needs to change or the shift to secrecy will keep damaging transport outcomes.

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  1. I’m a big fan of the place-making potential for surface LR across the whole district, not just in downtown AKL (think GSR, Cross-town, Tamaki Drive, even parkland running like Cornwall Park etc). But I can’t argue the benefits with people when so much of what is actually proposed is under wraps or vague on purpose.

    It doesn’t stop people telling me all the reasons they think said-hypothetical unmapped, unspecced service wouldn’t work though!

  2. This is why I’m keen on seeing an update to the Congestion Free Network to build in what’s been learned on the journey from the building of the Northern Busway to now.

    The coherent view of multiple modes, mutually supporting the transport outcomes of the whole city and a vision of the finished system allows everyone to concentrate on building the next piece, rather than arguing in isolation about the bit that they think will impact them the most (normally negatively).

    1. +1. I do think there’s scope for an updated CFN 2.1 – perhaps including such additions as crosstown light rail.

  3. Excellent analysis, thank-you. This is in part because of the over-reach of the private sector led process of the Business Case taking over more and more territory from the public servant led older Planning model.

    Planning needs to happen in daylight, first. Business Cases, and all the commercial and legal sensititivities so solemnly invoked therewith, are properly subsequent to these plans, more technical. Do not use the this process to plan the broad sweep of your systems or cities, it’s not fit for this.

    Furthemore the moment teams of lawyers are leading projects the first casualty will be openness, that’s how they’re trained to think. This is inappropriate for major public ideas, they can only live in air and light. Needs to be a rebalancing of planning and business case processing to their proper roles.

    First the city must be imagined, then the hard detailed questions asked. In that order.

    1. Very well said, and I agree.

      Should be more like the CRL process outlined in the article – study the route and mode options first, then follow up with detailed business cases of the final shortlist. Social benefit should come before the economic nitpicks.

  4. Assuming Waka Kotahi are now writing business cases with the assumption that VKT will decrease over the coming years due to climate action, it seems hard to imagine that any road project stacks up anymore. Shouldn’t we be seeing PT projects being proposed by WK (rather than GA having to come up with all the ideas)? Has this ever happened? Blah blah blah?

    1. So the first thing the WK Board should be looking for is confirmation that the business cases assume VKT will decrease.

      I can easily imagine the Barons in WK won’t make that change until they’re forced.

  5. This is all so depressing. On both the Northern Pathway and Light Rail sagas I think I’ll go with the Goon Show analysis; “Hold it up to the light – Not a brain in sight!”

    1. Don’t be depressed, Mr Plod. We have wise Matt to bring together these examples, and suggest a better way forward.

      Tomorrow’s announcement might be ok and there are lots of people looking at how to improve processes. Things can get better.

      But getting things on track will take leadership, ownership of the problems, and personnel changes.

      1. What your saying Heidi is don’t be depressed, things will get better as long as we change the whole system….reassuring lol! No wonder Auckland’s population has fallen for the first time in history, it’s starting to get silly.

        1. Re : Population Drop

          According to The NZ Herald (winner of various awards that may or may not have one entrant), The Lonely Planet (which may also be an advertorial disguised as a news source) recommend Auckland as “Top City in The World to visit”.

          On first reading these things may seem diametrically opposed.

        1. We understand the government may soon be making an announcement about the next steps for light rail

          perhaps GA’s understanding is they may do the announcement tomorrow but unconfirmed so didn’t want to say so in the article.

        2. NZ Herald says “Transport Minister Michael Wood is expected to announce three shortlisted options tomorrow for the city’s first light rail line running 22km from the central city to the airport. The options are light rail, which runs at street level and mingles with traffic; light metro that runs down a dedicated route above or below ground; or a mix of light rail and light metro. The Herald understands an indicative business case that has gone to the Government has a preferred option that involves tunneling under the central city because of the lack of road space and to avoid years of disruption. It has also been suggested tunneling could continue further along the central isthmus before light rail runs above ground from Mt Roskill to Onehunga, Mangere and the airport.”

        3. To be fair CRL is not a good measure of the disruption that a LM/LRT underground line could be. Lower albert street had to be cut and cover, the junction at Mt Eden is absolutely massive, K-road Beresford square had to be on the street so as not to bowl any buildings, the platforms are absolutely massive, the grades needed are not forgiving, its designed for significantly higher capacities than this second system will be.

          If they went with light metro they could have a basic 2 track system, short ~50-60m platforms meaning much shorter stations, suburban construction would be put on off street lots, the TBM spoil wouldn’t need to be retrieved from near the CBD.

          There would be disruption from tunneling round 2 especially around the downtown stations, but CRL was basically the peak worst case scenario.

        4. @Jack – For light metro I’d argue longer platforms are needed, for long-term growth. The Canada Line in Vancouver is suffering from lacking the ability to lengthen its trains.

          Long-term I’d personally be planning for 120m long light metro sets & platforms.

        5. The Canada line is a great example. It carries more than our entire heavy rail network, and has pretty big TOD. Will carry almost as much as CRL would have before they added the 3 car platforms feature. Canada line has some future capacity above today to grow into, with some light refurbishment of the stations and some new rolling stock. At which point there would be huge advantage to more system coverage with relief lines. Either being express, or cross town lines that would decrease the load while also making the system better overall.

          To be fair, I see the argument, maybe we should with 60-70m platforms. But you can have absolutely massive capacity with the really short headways they run. With 120M platforms the system could carry well over what the CRL will ever carry. I don’t think we need that kind of capacity for a system that wont have anywhere as much coverage as the heavy rail network.

        6. @Jack – depends on what the long-term demand for the light metro lines will be, especially long-term. I think even with 99m LRVs (675pax) every 2-4 minutes, a studied North Shore light rail line would reach its capacity limits by the 2060s.

          And long-term, if other parts of the RTN are built as or upgraded to light metro (e.g. the Northwest RTN, Eastern Busway & A2B), it may need the capacity to rival the CRL & heavy rail network.

    2. Wouldn’t the Goon Show approach be to decry the CRL cost over-runs and then demand it be bulldozed and then rebuilt from scratch within budget?

        1. This is what the Goon show actually said later in that same episode;
          “This is the terror-stricken service of the BBC. Today at approximately this afternoon, a discovery was made on the site of the Notting Hill Gate site of the government’s new dig-up-the-roads-plan-for-congesting-traffic scheme. Workmen in the absence of a strike settled for work as an alternative”
          That was recorded in 1959 so transport silly business from governments all over world has been going on for a long time. It is the new trend to secrecy, as highlighted by Matt, that has me really worried.

        2. Huh, whaddaya know. The Goons were ahead of their time.

          I think the trend to secrecy may have been going on for a long time – perhaps it gets harder to hide the consequences of car-centric planning as time goes on. Or maybe this government can’t project “confidence” as the previous National government did with the RONS.

  6. Sometimes the cheaper option is ok. A train station just needs to consist of a wakway or bridge or underpass and some cover. But AT have built several huge stations such as Otahuhu with 3 bridges and 500m of covered area. Otahuhu, Mt Eden, Drury don’t need $40million or $60million stations. WK and AT just won’t build simple but very functional things. The 1km K’Rd bikeway cost $60 million and took 2 years and frustrated bike users and angered businesses.
    The 2km busway and new road Panmure to Pakuranga is very perfect and top dollar.
    Low cost bus lanes from Pakuranga to Botany could be easily added in a few months but AT will build a fancy busway taking 2 or 3 years and costing $billions.
    They knew the huge cost of the harbour bridge would make headlines and be heavily criticized.
    I think light rail to the airport could be built at low cost and without all the bells and whistles. Kiwi Rail have installed about 200 km of new lines between Ak and Whangarei and also around AK city. They could do the job. We don’t need huge amounts of concrete, large stations, flyovers, and parking buildings.

    1. The 1km K’Rd bikeway cost $60 million and took 2 years and frustrated bike users and angered businesses.

      That project was a street renewal and services update first. Calling it a ‘cycleway project’ is like calling CRL a roading project because it happens to change some of the road layouts near Mt Eden station.

    2. > “I think light rail to the airport could be built at low cost and without all the bells and whistles”

      My concern there would be the risk that the (surface) light rail design is compromised at lower costs – less separation from traffic along Dominion Rd, less priority at intersections, shorter LRVs, leading to a lower capacity, lower frequency, lower speed service. I’d be willing to see more spent to ensure kerb-separated or fence-separated medians for street-running, active signal priority, 67m-99m long light rail units, and 4-minute peak frequencies. Also I think there’s an argument to invest in stations and make them more attractive to users than a basic bus shelter or unsheltered platform.

      I think light rail should be kept separate from KiwiRail. KR focus mainly on freight, and their track maintenance record & freight-focus was partly responsible for the extensive speed limitations across the Auckland suburban rail network last year.

      1. I’d sooner have cheaper more closely spaced stations. The maths of having to walk an extra five minutes in the weather to spend 4 minutes in a slightly more dry station doesn’t work for me.

        1. Agreed – I mean in terms of light rail stations, my concern being that a “cheaper” alternative would be to have basic bus shelters, no shelters, or to expect passengers to board from the street like on some Melbourne trams.

          I quite like the design of the ALR shelters in the header image for this article. Distinctive, clearly more than just a basic transit stop, but not too overwrought.

        2. @Umbrella Man – some people may be carrying a bunch of stuff and unable to hold an umbrella. If the weather changes suddenly – as it’s prone to do here in NZ – people may not have a raincoat with them.

          Even when I have a raincoat or umbrella, I appreciate having shelter to wait under.

      2. “there’s an argument to invest in stations and make them more attractive to users than a basic bus shelter or unsheltered platform.”

        Thing is, we have a city of existing stations, and bus stops, to make attractive before putting that kind of money into stations in sprawl.

        1. I like JFamilton’s idea of ‘simple but functional’ design. Generally speaking I think the costs get out of hand when something is compromising the design. At Drury, the high costs JFamilton mentions occur due to fundamental misconceptions about integrating land use and transport.

          For Dominion Rd, perfectly functional stations can be quite cheap as long as they are street level, so adding in some beautiful elements of design to make them attractive isn’t a huge extra cost. Elevated or underground stations, however, have base costs at an entirely different level, and making them attractive to use will require much more money.

        2. @Heidi – point taken. I might be interpreting “cheap” in terms of the construction quality of light rail, rather than comparing it to light metro.

          And my concerns with getting light rail built right would probably be more to do with separation/protection from traffic along Dominion Rd.

    3. JFamilton: “Low cost bus lanes from Pakuranga to Botany could be easily added in a few months but AT will build a fancy busway taking 2 or 3 years and costing $billions.”

      Here’s the dirty secret laid bare. The whole AMETI busway is about car traffic capacity. Low cost bus lanes could easily be added, if you put them in two of the traffic lanes. But that is heresy, so they spend megabucks demolishing homes and widening the already wide road to keep all the road lanes and add bus lanes.

      Same approach with the skypath bridge, and it appears with light rail tunnels too. It’s all about keeping all the traffic lanes and car filled streets perfectly intact.

  7. Don’t worry that this secrecy is restricted to Auckland,
    Lets Get Wellington Moving is equally opaque, ( although we are promised an announcement next Monday)
    However, they have quietly knifed the initial plan of light rail through Kilbirnie to the Airport, and I suspect we are going to have trackless trams, or some bendy bus variant thrust upon us…
    Its been going 5 years, and we are still no closer to shovels in the ground…

      1. The funding disparity is CRAZY. Waka Kotahi is out there squeezing almost completely funded highways into everywhere they might look like its got a >0.2 BCR, meanwhile they (/ central govt) holdout on funding CRL for so long they manage to get the council to pay half of the nations biggest transport project.

        Stop being such blatant asphalt lovers.

    1. I don’t understand why they ditched the Miramar/Airport route for the Island Bay route. Is the Island Bay route busier, or does it have more development potential/future catchment?

      One would hope that a branching priority bus line to the Airport would be built for future upgrade to light rail/mass transit. It would be very foolish to block that upgrade.

      I was quite taken by FIT Wellington’s “Scenario A+” light rail plan. If it were up to me that’s what I’d be selecting. https://fitwellington.org/news/2017/12/7/scenario-a-light-rail-route-map

        1. The underlying thinking may be that they want a motorway to the eastern suburbs and airport (“4 lanes to the planes”), by hook or by crook, and that building a good mass rapid transit route along the same corridor might weaken the case for that. So they are suggesting to build light rail to Island Bay instead (where it is much less needed, and would replace an already successful high-frequency bus service), and suggesting some form of bus rapid transit to the eastern suburbs which would share the proposed new Mt Vic traffic tunnel. I have my doubts whether any of this will actually happen, and I suspect Wellington will dither for another decade or more by which time hopefully the obsession with spending a fortune on providing for more car-traffic will have ended, and the job of extending the rail system the Wellington region already has, to the major part of the region that it doesn’t serve, can move ahead.

  8. Perhaps Nanaia Mahuta should be made Ministry of Transport, or at least be made a model for Ministers, in expediting major reform against status quo preservatists.

    1. But who’s going to pay for the model?

      Is one enough and would the good Ministers be prepared to share it?

      Perhaps these folk can help?


      Ps. I received my second jab today and am sorry to report that in accordance with somebodies Great Leap Forward the lollipop has been discontinued.

      1. That’s no good. (I wasn’t actually offered one at either of my jabs.)

        I think you should get yourself an icecream to make up for it.

  9. Re: ALR

    Re: The team will use all feedback received to create an engagement report to be issued to the Minister of Transport at the end of September alongside the Light Rail business case and recommendations.

    Anyone know if that engagement report is in public anywhere?

    1. Any business case or engagement report is not going to be released until after it’s gone to Cabinet and the “project sponsors”. That’s what ALR said when I asked them about it – they gave no timeline.

  10. The shear complexity of trying to fit a light rail system in has driven Waka Kotahi and others bonkers. Also the bike bridges across the harbour. With so many competing interests involved its no wonder they don’t want to engage with the public. We should set up a give a little page and buy them something nice for Christmas. Be kind it must be as bad as managing a pandemic. Next year we should give them a simpler project something straight forward that will restore their self esteem. My suggestion would be a tramway from Onehunga to Mangere town centre. It could utilise previous work from the various agencies. It would serve as a proof of concept for an expanded system.

    1. Doubt it’s complexity that’s the main issue – as Matt L outlined in the article, it’s more likely that Waka Kotahi are used to road projects and have a pro-road, short-term economics-oriented bias.

      Political will too – the government doesn’t seem to want to “rock the boat” and is tiptoeing around the whole light rail thing. Maybe they don’t want to risk the backlash of a loud minority from surface-level light rail down Dominion Rd, to the point of leaning towards far more expensive underground metro.

      The priority of light rail to Mangere should not be to “restore NZTA’s self-esteem.” It should be about delivering the evidence-based best transport solution. If short-term improvements are needed, it would probably be better to improve the frequency and route priority of the 38 bus route.

      1. They know they can build roads but they have never built a rail project so its fear of the unknown. Ok maybe Onehunga Mangere isn’t the right proof of concept project but what would be.

        1. I don’t think we need a “proof-of-concept” at all – light rail systems are well-proven overseas, and getting the whole CC2M line done as soon as is possible should be the priority. My concern is that waiting for a “proof of concept” shuttle service would further delay things.

          If anything we probably need to bring overseas expertise in to work on the light rail project (and pass that expertise onto AT/the NZTA/local construction firms) – as long as there aren’t any PPP strings attached.

  11. Based on the non-delivery of infrastructure promises this government had made I am certain all we will get is an announcement announcement and that’s it.

    The Heralds story today suggesting the likely scenario is tunnels under the CBD to avoid disruption suggests Minister Wood is oblivious to the chaos caused by the tunnels in town for the CRL. And that option would be horrendously expensive.

    My best guess is there will be an announcement, the decision will be deferred for focus grouping and slowly vanish simply because of it complexity and costs.

    Sad really because if it hadn’t been put through the complicator, it was good idea!

    1. To be fair CRL is not a good measure of the disruption that a LM/LRT underground line could be. Lower albert street had to be cut and cover, the junction at Mt Eden is absolutely massive, K-road Beresford square had to be on the street so as not to bowl any buildings, the platforms are absolutely massive, the grades needed are not forgiving, its designed for significantly higher capacities than this second system will be.

      If they went with light metro they could have a basic 2 track system, short ~50-60m platforms meaning much shorter stations, suburban construction would be put on off street lots, the TBM spoil wouldn’t need to be retrieved from near the CBD.

      There would be disruption from tunneling round 2 especially around the downtown stations, but CRL was basically the peak worst case scenario.

      1. But they would need to start with another CRL in the CBD before even getting out to the suburbs. Maybe the stations are a bit shorter and the geometry a bit easier, but it’s otherwise the same thing, two track rail tunnel of 3 or 4km under the city centre, with three underground stations, all under the streets again most likely.

  12. Herald suggesting that we’re going to get the tunnel option which costs more than the entire Dom Rd/Mangere and NW proposed Lines combined under the original $6bn proposal.

    Shades of the $700m bridge, methinks.

    1. I read that they’re considering a “mix” of light rail and light metro – which is apparently tunneling only under the CBD but with street running along Dominion Rd.

      I can only presume that the motivations for pursuing a partially or completely underground line are to try and appeal to car proponents who don’t want to give up any road space, or to those concerned about surface light rail’s construction, or to those who think high speed (<30 minutes) to the airport is the most important factor.

      If we need light metro we should be building a light rail network that can be converted to LM easily at a later date, as has been proposed on this site several times in the last few years.

      Ditto for the cycle bridge – the government was probably too afraid to take a lane on the Harbour Bridge, overengineered the Skypath, and not visionary enough to include mass transit (light rail or the Northern Busway) on the proposed Northern Pathway bridge.

      1. Having a hybrid (or at least tunnelled under the CDB) would also allow it to link to a potential cross harbour Tunnel and service the North Shore in the far distant future….

        The most recent plans I heard talked about a tunnel entering the CBD under the Universities, ( with a stop ) and then terminating underground at the New Aotea station,

        1. I reckon surface light rail along Queen St & Dominion Rd first, then building underground light metro under Wellesley St & Manukau Rd later, is the best call. That way the Dominion Rd light rail could be repurposed into part of an isthmus modern tram network, with the Mangere rapid transit upgraded to light metro along a new route.

          It would require design work at Wynyard, Onehunga (and probably wherever a Northwestern line may split off) to ensure a seamless upgrade. Build Albany-Wynyard, Onehunga-Airport, and Grey Lynn-Huapai to grade-separate light metro quality from the start, with only the Wynyard-Dominion Rd section at-grade that needs to be superseded.

  13. I agree with Matt the secret approach is not the way to go. Compare
    Option1 Data put forward with pros and cons for discussion. Ideas discussed and improved
    Option 2 Final idea put forward with data biased to support it. Discussion can then lead to canning it or doing it. No room for better options.
    My wild guess is there will be Light Rail to the North Shore as part of the plan. Furthest North Smales Farm. Adding significant cost and not something formally presented for discussion anywhere.

    1. I doubt they’d try to bundle a North Shore line simultaneously with CC2M. The AWHC studies still don’t seem more theoretical, and NZTA is still trying to stack the books in favour of an unnecessary $15 billion motorway tunnel instead of a transit-only crossing. The materials and discussion for that does exist, holed up in a hard-to-find and hard-to-read corner of the web: https://www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/awhc/technical-reports/

      I reckon that the completed AWHC, and converting the Northern Busway to light rail, will probably get pushed back to the early 2040s; and that “advanced BRT” improvements to the busway will be pursued as a stopgap (i.e. bi-articulated buses).

      One problem I could see with your Option 1 is that some parties may still ignore the evidence and insist on a bad choice – e.g. the Dominion Rd shopowners insisting on “trackless trams”, or the PTUA’s continued heavy rail dogma, despite ALR giving a reasonably good explanation why BRT or heavy rail are not being pursued for CC2M.

  14. It seems that WK, AT, MOT, and sadly even our Ministers of Transport, have accepted an implicit requirement, for any transport project, that the number of general traffic lanes shall never be reduced, unless, more then replaced, by a parallel roadway.
    This is simply b.s. and needs to be robustly challenged by the Minister.
    Constrained roadway corridors have got to become hugely more about facilities for people, and all what they can do on their public space, and not be incredibly over allocated to moving and storing dangerous, polluting and inefficient single occupant vehicles.

    1. +1

      I wonder if the authorities & decision-makers here are also afraid of a public backlash from reducing the number of road lanes? Seeing how some residents can be vocally opposed to transit lanes, bus lanes, or loss of parking spaces in their area.

      1. Certainly. But there’s plenty of international guidance about how to manage the transformation.

        Road reallocation at pace will require our authorities and decision-makers to keep up to date on how to
        – inform the public transparently and meaningfully,
        – engage democratically,
        – use the power of disruption happening anyway to demonstrate,
        – allow innovation to tip the scales on transforming processes, and
        – lead powerfully to serve all our people, current and future.

  15. What can you expect from this government?

    This government has a track record of failed to deliver. Too many examples from kiwibuild to the light rail to west… now covid handling

    1. Thanks for a detailed comment. Could you expand on the reasons why you / the team looking at taking a lane believed it wouldn’t work when examined?

    2. Blaming GA and critics of the Northern Pathway bridge doesn’t come across as very reasonable. Especially when criticisms of said proposal seem valid and reasonable – $785 million for a bridge that would essentially force the AWHC to be a tunnel? (Or, from today’s news, $9-14 billion for a light rail line that was originally supposed to be less than $4 billion?)

      As far as I am aware, there hasn’t really been a decent explanation for why taking a lane on the Harbour Bridge wouldn’t work, even if it were only an interim solution before a more permanent active mode crossing as part of AWHC.

      Especially considering that other cities have achieved just that – the Brooklyn Bridge now has a cycle lane that was converted from a vehicle lane.

      There seemed to be no official consideration or response to including mass transit in the Northern Pathway bridge option either. I understand that AWHC is still in the early phases, but if a new bridge were to be built by 2025-2030 I would have thought the opportunity to prepare for light rail to the North Shore (or even giving the Northern Busway a continuous separate corridor all the way from Albany to Wynyard Quarter) should have been at least considered. Surely a tunnel option for rail (which now apparently needs to run all the way from Wynyard to Takapuna) would be more expensive and less beneficial?

    3. You have an ethical obligation to:

      * not propose projects you don’t believe in
      * not to propose /something/ because your political masters want /something/
      * to provide, to the public, information that allows them to make informed decisions unless it is sensitive
      * to develop a coherent communications strategy for projects you are assigned to
      * to fight with your political masters if they attempt to obstruct a coherent communications strategy

      Your response to a post criticising the absence of coherent communications strategies is to say you and/or your colleagues’ behaviour was unethical in other respects.


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