With the year quickly drawing to a close it’s time for a quick wrap up the most important things that happened and WOW, what a year it’s been.

Thank you to everyone who has visited the blog and supported us in making Auckland greater.


Public Transport

City Rail Link

The CRL team have made huge progress on the country’s (currently) biggest project. That progress with lockdown has including launching the tunnel boring machine which is due to breakthrough at Aotea Station any day now, having reached the caverns that have been mined for the Karangahape Station back in October.

Light Rail

The Light Rail saga has dragged on this year. In April Transport Minister Michael Wood restarted the process following the issues with the previous one in 2020. The government created an Establishment Unit to work though the mode and route options.

In October this was narrowed down to three options, surface light rail on Dominion Rd, light rail in a tunnel on Sandringham Rd and an automated light metro option, also on Sandringham Rd.

All three options won’t come cheap with current value of them estimated at $7.1, $10.3 and $11.2 billion respectively and a lot more once inflated to when those costs would actually occur.

The light rail team recommended the tunnelled light rail option but said all three were viable and left it up to the government to choose which option to go with. That decision was due by the end of the year but I suspect we’ll hear about it early next year.

Eastern Busway

Just a few days ago the first stage of the Eastern Busway was opened.

Puhinui Station

In late July the fantastically upgraded Puhinui station was reopened to the public. This year also saw the start of the new AirportLink bus service between Manukau and the airport stopping at Puhinui and also making use of the transit lanes that have been added to SH20B.

Northern Busway Extension

Progress on the extension to the Northern Busway along with the wider Northern Corridor project has continued during the year and one part of the busway, the bridge over Constellation Dr, is now in use. The project is meant to be completed in 2022

NW Bus Improvements

This year saw the start of the Northwest Bus improvements. This will see some interim stations built at the Lincoln and Te Atatu Rd interchanges along with improved bus lanes along SH16. This work is due to complete late in 2022 and enable the bus network to be changed, including a frequent service along SH16 to the city.

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Papakura to Pukekohe (electrification + new stations)

The Government’s NZ Upgrade programme (NZUP) is funding electrifying the rail network from Papakura to Pukehohe as well as building new stations along the route. It’s also funding construction of the much needed third main between Otahuhu and Puhinui. Work on these projects has progressed this year and will really kick into a higher gear in 2022 and in November Kiwirail and Auckland Transport announced they would stop running services on the Papakura to Pukekohe section from September next year through to the second half of 2024.

There’s also been more detail about the proposed new stations which are both extremely expensive and look designed to ensure these new suburbs will be car focused.

Rail Network issues persist

One of the big issues in 2020 was the sudden discovery the rail network was in much worse condition than anyone knew resulting in months long closures and speed restrictions while Kiwirail urgently worked to fix the worst parts. That work continued on into 2021 and in August we learnt a bit more about what’s caused the issues. Unfortunately, despite all the work, we still seem to have an extremely high number of issues, especially of late and continue to have long summer shutdowns.

Ridership

The lockdowns this year have been hard on public transport and as of mid-December, ridership was sitting at about 38% of normal levels for this time of year.

AT Local

At the beginning of the year we had some good news with AT announcing were stopping their trial of subsidised taxi’s at Devonport in favour of improved bus services. The early numbers were looking promising for this change until lockdown struck again in August.

More recently, AT have restarted the service but in Takanini.


Active Modes + Urban realm

Completed Projects

This year has finally seen the completion of a few long-needed projects with the delivery of Karangahape Rd streetscape improvements and the cycleway upgrade to Tamaki Dr. Though both of these were a bit rough to start with and have needed some extra work to smooth out some bumpy facilities.

This year also saw the completion of the downtown projects including the upgrade of Quay St and the new Te Wānanga public space

Northern Pathway

A project that isn’t going to be completed though is the Northern Path. Announced last year as part of the NZUP, in June the government announced that various engineering challenges meant an entirely new bridge would be needed and which would cost $685 million.

One frustrating aspect of this is it would have only cost an extra 10% to deliver a combined public transport and active mode bridge and which would have addressed the calls for another harbour crossing.

However, under sustained criticism from media, in October the government cancelled the project and redistributed the funding for it elsewhere, including for the next stage of the Eastern Busway.

Under construction

There have been a couple of high-profile cycling projects under construction during the year.

New Lynn to Avondale – during the last Christmas break an underpass of the Western Line was installed and work has continued during the year. The project is due for completion in 2022.

Eastern Path – Waka Kotahi have continued to progress the Eastern Path and stage 2 is on track to open next year. Helpfully they released their latest video update yesterday.

Queen St

How to deal with Queen St has been an ongoing point of discussion throughout the year, in part due to the frustrating council process where it seemed some officials were trying to undermine the agreed vision for the street.

In September we saw a new design for the street and this week the council announced construction will start in a few weeks and be completed in September. Frustratingly the design still treats the additional space as a shared path.

Innovating Streets

Waka Kotahi’s Innovating Streets initiative has been a feature of 2021, demonstrating that it’s possible to change streets in quick, affordable and responsive ways. Some projects came up against those opposed to even the slightest change to vehicle priority, but there have been some creative triumphs, and some useful outcomes and learnings from the trials, which is part of the point of the programme.

And looking at the numbers, out of the 56 projects around the country that made street changes that were intended to stay in place for some time, 49 are still going strong. We make that a 87.5% success rate. Looking ahead to the next phase, it’ll be interesting to see which places take advantage of tactical methods to make headway on the kinds of road reallocation we urgently need for mode shift and climate action.

Consultations

There have been plenty of projects consulted on this year and one common feature in many has been AT continuing to ignore improvements to cycling despite being on their own strategic plans, for example the Ash and Rata St consultation or the Swanson Rd consultation.

We did see a big consultation for a network of cycleways on main roads in Henderson but it’s not clear if or when it will be implemented.


Other

NZ Upgrade Programme

AS well as the Northern Pathway, all of the other NZUP projects experienced budget blowouts resulting in some changes to the programme. The biggest blowout was for Mill Rd which increased from $1.354 billion to $3.5 billion and as a result most of it was cancelled with funds other projects in South Auckland. Another change was to Northland where the proposed 4-lane highway from Whangarei to Marsden Point was dropped and replaced with building a rail line to the port.

Funding Plan word soup

It’s been funding plan word soup this year with the latest versions of the GPS, NLTP, RLTP, ATAP all released. These plans have certainly improved from what they were a few years ago but they often feel like the kind of thing we should have had years ago but that are already out of date given the latest evidence on the scale of change needed.

Climate Change

Addressing climate change has continued to be an increasing part of the discussion during 2021 and this year saw some particularly big pieces with the Climate Change Commission’s advice being released. The Ministry of Transport also released their advice on responding to climate change which was much bolder than the commissions. Both of those have been fed into the government’s draft Emissions Reduction Plan which is due to be finalised next year. If the draft plan holds, it will represent the need for significant change for transport in Aotearoa, such as agencies needing to work to reduce the amount of kilometres we travel in cars.

Housing

Housing has continued to be a key point of discussion this year, especially in the last few months after the government shocked everyone by announcing a bipartisan agreement with National to allow a lot more development in our biggest cities. That change was passed by parliament just last week and councils will now have to make changes to their district plans to accommodate the new rules.

We’ve also continued to see record housing consents this year

Downtown Carpark

This year the council agreed to sell the Downtown carpark for redevelopment and as part of that they want to include new bus facilities, either in the building itself or possibly by removing the Hobson St ramp. The outcome of this is definitely something we’re keen to see more about.

Road Pricing

Earlier in the year Transport Minister Michael Wood referred the concept of road pricing to a parliamentary select committee to conduct an inquiry on it. The select committee unanimously supported the idea but we’re still waiting to hear if the government will actually implement it.

Transmission Gully

An ongoing story this year has been the issues with the delivery of Transmission Gully, including just recently with news that it wouldn’t be open in time for Christmas as the builders still can’t get the seal right and have a number of other outstanding consenting issues. As taxpayers we’ve also had to pay significantly more for the project too.

In April a government ordered review of the project was released highlighting there were big issues with the PPP process.

Puhoi to Warkworth

The massive Puhoi to Warkworth motorway has continued to progress through 2021 and is expected to open in mid-2022.

Wellington’s Transport Plans

In November Let’s Get Wellington Moving released consultation on four possible options for transport in the capital, three of which included light rail. It will be interesting to see what option they go with, particularly given Auckland’s light rail discussions.

Blog News/Stats

It’s been another huge year for Greater Auckland so I thought I’d share the top-10 most viewed posts.

  1. Improving Te Huia
  2. An Alternative North Shore Rail Crossing Route
  3. The Papakura to Pukekohe upgrade
  4. Auckland Transport’s 2021 Speed Limit Change Proposal
  5. The Auckland Harbour Bridge clip-ons, planning disaster… or best practice?
  6. How we’d build Light Rail
  7. Light rail veers off course
  8. Is there a case for an overnight sleeper train between Auckland and Wellington?
  9. Taking rail to the North Shore
  10. The Great Intensification

In total we’ve had over 18,300 comments on posts this year

One thing you may have noticed this year, and something we think is great to see, is we’ve had more voices writing posts on the blog. This is something we hope to do even better on next year.

On a personal level it’s been a big year for me too with the arrival of my first child which gives me all the more reason to make this Auckland greater.


There’s so much more we could include here. What are your highlights for 2021

This will be our last post for the year so once again thanks for reading and supporting us. Have a happy and safe Christmas and New Year.

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53 comments

  1. That holiday highway Puhoi – Warkworth will mean that it will be feasible for cycle tourists to head north on the soon to be existing SH1 which in all likelihood will only carry local traffic.

      1. Yes. And same goes for the soon-to-be-former SH1 through Porirua, Paremata and Pukerua Bay. When the strategic transport function is provided by a new motorway, the former state-highway should be reconfigured to better support its surroundings, and this should include reassigning space for cycling.

        1. Except the former SH1 through Porirua, Paremata and Pukerua Bay is still going to be a state highway – SH59

        2. So when the old road remains as a State Highways there’s no less need for it to be detuned. Just a bigger question mark over WK’s intention for the road.

          In those cases, is the bypass just outright road capacity expansion?

  2. Half a dozen consultation asked about bike infrastructure, got overwhelmingly positve feedback with people asking for robust bike infrastructure so they don’t get killed by cars. AT say “sorry no, we have no money to build the bike network we consulted with you about 3 years ago”. At the same time, Te Whau and other mega projects are costing toward $20 million per km. This is absurd and needs to change.

    1. I would say, “At the same time, they are spending money on projects that don’t further the GPS, and are simply serving BAU traffic flow improvement.” That’s where the shift in funding needs to happen.

      1. Yes that also. These projects will have inferior transport outcomes, as bike users are expected to bike out of their way to use them, for privilege of being safer.

        It’s also bizarre to me that East Auckland gets a bit of a feeder network for its hyperbike way in consultation, but west Auckland has nothing planned.

        1. I feel as though the North Shore never has anything planned as well. Seeing the proposals for light rail just being on the other side of the bridge, the CRL on the other side of the bridge, then having the harbour crossing canned was disappointing. People on this side of auckland are so incredibly car dependent yet nothing is done – a good majority of busses only run every 30 minutes on peak. although the new busway improvements will be great, i hope it increases the number of people using the busses

        2. Sodapop. The North Shore has the Busway that’s not shutting down for a month like the western rail is. You also have far more frequent busses all the show than west Auckland and multiple bike infrastructure projects have opened this year.

          Don’t worry a lane is going to be liberated.

        3. “People on this side of auckland are so incredibly car dependent yet nothing is done – a good majority of busses only run every 30 minutes on peak”

          Most connecting buses run every 20 mins during the peak. The Northern Express buses runs every 5 to 6 minutes during the peak.

        4. I don’t think we are in immediate need of some big projects north of the bridge. It is still lacking more basic things. Takapuna has no frequent PT connection to areas across the motorway. The new development in Northcote has no frequent lines nearby at all. It should be viable to have at least 1 cross-town frequent line.

        5. According to NZTA there will be no liberated lanes on the harbour Bridge for health and safety reasons

        6. It’s quite surprising they’re so confident using clearly fabricated reasons won’t hurt them eventually. I wouldn’t have been so sure if I was them.

    2. Appreciate your view but do think attacking Te Whau is not exactly fair. Te Whau is a council and central government project that does many things; creating a linear park, improving the environment of the awa and allowing community easy access to Te Atatu and New Lynn PT by foot and bike. It is a bit like those saying we shouldnt have a bike lane on harbour bridge because our hospitals need fixing. AT should be doing lots more but Te Whau isnt the reason they arent doing it.

      1. Take your point but this does kind of relate to the perception that a bike lane can never just be a bike lane, it always has to include stormwater and services movement and environmental remediation etc etc. Then it looks like bike lanes cost a bomb and take forever. Repainting lanes and popping armadillos in should actually be cheap as and rolled out everywhere on arterials and around schools. Te Whau looks amazing, but it would be great to just have a serious roll out of protected cycle infra citywide.

      2. If 35 or 50 million created the entire link then maybe. But when 35 million gets 1.9 km of path in two non connected blocks, it’s crazy. It not going to be a direct route for many people, Te Whau own reasearch show that it is going to going to get sub a 1000 daily users when complete. The entire project will cost close tob200 million and people that live west of New Lynn trying to get on the western it is a detour/semi useless. It likes to pretend it more than a transport project, but that path is its main cost by miles.

        The existing money could be used to build 100 km of separated on road bike paths and build them in year or two. That would be actually transformational for Auckland.

        1. It’s not $200 million that is standing between us and 100km of separated on road bike paths. It’s carparks, grumpy retailers with their arms folded and turning lanes at intersections that are in the way.

        2. Jezza. So build these mega bike projects (that need comprehensive feeder networks to function) so they complain anyway?

        3. If it’s important enough to have a route number, then it shouldn’t have parking.
          It should have buslanes and cyclelanes/active paths, not shared paths.

        4. But the NW path just gets about 1000 a day currently so that would be great for Te Whau. You are obviously entitled to your view, and anything in NZ appears to have a massive cost I agree, but Te Whau will give anyone from Green Bay to Te Atatu about a 10 minute bike ride to high speed ( hopefully) PT. Many of those will consider that bike ride doable and enjoyable.

        5. Jezza, I do wonder if maybe the way to go is to just paint some bike lanes, see how much protest (if any) there is and then a year later stick a kerb in anywhere that was quiet (which I imagine would be most locations).

          For the places that had notable opposition, commission surveys rather than relying on consultation, to see what people actually think (rather than those motivated to find the consultation process).

        6. Vinny. 1000 people is all users, post $200 million of investment. The North Western is built already and get far better number than that when all users are counted.

          The trips that Te Whau enables are pretty fringe compared to any arterial road.

          Paint a lane, bolt concrete separation thingys, job done.

          Think great north, Ash Rata, Portage, and additional 85km of bike protected bike lanes acorss Auckland, that we could be using in few months time. That’s what 35 million could buy.

        7. The on road cycle lanes are critical and can be done cheaply. Agree.

          But don’t forget the budget of $7.4b minimum on walking and cycling in Auckland for this decade – if we follow UN recommendations. We can afford a few off road paths that meet other environmental and social needs, too.

  3. “taxi’s” oh dear.
    Still, I have to say that Matt does a fantastic job. Thank you and merry xmas – or Nollaig shona agus athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh, as they say where I come from.

  4. If you pause the Northern Corridor video at 2:40 you see a new bridge which I assume is for buses.

    How long does it take buses to turn off the busway, onto that bridge, and then turn back and join the busway again? Wouldn’t it be faster for everyone involved if the NX buses stayed on the east side on the motorway, with a pedestrian bridge to the existing bus station?

    1. You are correct, yes it’s ridiculous but that’s what we’ve got.
      Oh and vast acres of free car parking.
      At least they doubled the size of the undercover bike parking recently at Albany.

  5. As for the completion of the long-needed Karangahape Rd and Tamaki Dr improvements, which both needed some extra work to smooth out initial bumps – well I hate to say it but the same thing is happening on the North Western Cycleway near Kingsland, with a very juddering ride on the newly opened sections..

    https://imgur.com/a/5gu4YIS

    Looks like it’s been done by hand, so will never make as smooth a finish as say a new road would be – which is the type of smooth finish major cycleways need to be IMO.

  6. A lot of progress during the year. First prize goes to Puhinui Station and bus and cycling improvements between Manukau and the Airport and the lovely electric buses. Now we just need more customers. The first stage of the Eastern busway will futhur enhance the Eastern line or should I call it the Slyvia Park shopping line. I am looking forward to walking the Glen Innes to Tamaki path. Even more exciting will be the opportunity to Te Huia to Hamilton for a day return trip. Two and a half hours in Hamilton probably not enough but I will make do. So a lot to look forward too. The cycleway along the Southern Motorway between Te Matai and Papkura has being completed. Work is underway on the third main with track on the ground between Sylvia Park and Otahuhu Station. And preparation work has being done between Middlemore and Puhinui. Also a start on electrification work between Papakura and Pukekohe has being made including track changes at Pukekohe Station. The Onehunga Mangere Bridge construction is dragging on and on I wonder if the bridge design was just too complicated. Still I expect it will great when it is completed. A pity it wont carry a train or an electric bus. My 1990’s self time travelled into 2026 would be amazed at the changes. Especially a completed CRL. But I expect he would be disappointed at the demise of regional and long distance train travel. Still you never know maybe Kiwirail and the Govt will surprise us.

        1. Well…I do and I absolutely enjoy it 95% of the time. I don’t have a car (by choice) so rely either on buses/trains or my bike.

        2. Michal, yes my condolences too – that people feel they need to criticize your environmentally responsible way of travelling.

      1. Still people do live on Puhinui Road and all new bus services take time to gather ridership. Quickist way to the super centre get off at Puhinui Station transfer to a Manukau bound bus especially if your coming from the south or travelling north on a Southern line train.

  7. Come on Matt! You should have lead with the arrival of your kid.

    Great work this year. So many of these projects have been influenced by the continued advocacy of Greater Auckland and its community. There’s now a real opportunity over the next couple of years to make this city an even better place for everyone. My Christmas wish is for a boom in cycling infrastructure.

    Have a wonderful Christmas, everybody.

  8. I’d add another one, we started running passenger trains between Hamilton and Auckland again. Sure it wasn’t a great start but it was a start non-the-less and it means things can only really go up from here.

  9. I rode the new Panmure-Pakuranga Bikeway return and checked out the new plants.
    AT has its Vegetation in the road corridor guidelines that supports biodiversity and preference shall be given to landscape designs using native trees and vegetation.
    Auckland has an urban ngahere (forest) plan. Trees have social, environmental, economic and cultural benefits. Plant diseases are a serious threat to the future of our trees. Kauri dieback, Dutch elm disease, myrtle rust is a risk to pōhutukawa, bottlebrush, eucalyptus, and willow myrtle, all common street trees in central Auckland.
    The Auckland Unitary Plan encourages the use of indigenous trees and vegetation for roadside plantings and open spaces to recognise and reflect cultural, amenity, landscape and ecological values. Planting exotic trees may be appropriate in some cases, eg where there is a need for deciduous trees to provide solar access in winter, or fruit trees to establish community orchards. Exotic trees may also be suitable for cultural or heritage reasons in specific locations.
    NZ is the weediest city in the world with more than 300 pest plants. So we need to be even more protective of our natives. Exotics are beautiful but many of our hundreds of native trees are found in few other places. Totara. Rimu, Kauri, Kowhai, Puriri, Te kouka, Kawakawa, Manuka, Kahikatea Nikau, Matai, Miro, Mahoe, Titoki. Fuschia Toetoe, Rangiora, Rata.
    Mt Richmond in Otahuhu has many mature exotics but the park is unattractive. The council wants to replace them with natives. There have been protests. But the area should be planted in Native trees
    In 2012 Patrick Reynolds on GA wrote about his favourite Ak street trees that included Pohutakawa, London Plane, Oak, Cabbage tree, Nikau and Te Kouka,
    I know Flat Bush quite well. The tree masterplan is to use predominantly exotic species to contrast rather than compete with the native plants in the Environment corridors.
    They suggested on Murphy’s Rd and Ormiston Rd London Plane trees. On Chapel Rd, Pohutakawa. Other main roads Gum, Tulip tree, Oak, Liquid amber, Ginkgo, Kahikatea, Rewarewa, Totara and Puriri
    Alongside the new eastern busway there were Tulip Trees which is a native of N America. But there are natives too including reeds, Nikau, small flax, Pohutakawa and I think Rewarewa.
    A few years ago council workers pruned 20000 trees each year in Auckland but that number must have reduced now as many streets have underground power lines and it is lovely to see the many varieties of trees are growing to their full height and shape.
    Merry Xmas to everybody.

    1. Merry Christmas, JFamilton.

      Did you like the plantings you saw? I think they’re still saying we are going to have plenty of rain this summer, so that’s good.

      1. Thanks Heidi.
        There are some larger areas away from the path and I didn’t ID the plants. I hope there are some big natives.
        Toetoe are looking lovely now swaying gently in the breeze and mustn’t be confused with the rampant Pampas that flowers in a month or two.

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