Late last year I wrote about the lessons we can apply to light rail from the 100-year history of trying to build the City Rail Link. In that post, as I’ve done before, I looked at a history of the various proposals for a rail tunnel through the Auckland’s city centre.

It’s fantastic that we’re finally building the CRL, something that was far from certain of happening a decade ago, but in writing the post last year it got me thinking, which of them is the best?

Of course, the best option is the one you actually build, but if we could strap ourselves into a time machine and go back and get one of these other options over the line, which one would we choose?

This there are five major proposals that emerged over those 100 years – the 1920s, 1950s, 1960’s, 1970’s and the one we’re currently building. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, they’re all different from each other

So, let’s look at them and the pros and cons of each one.


1920s

The first official plan for something like the CRL was approved by the government in October 1924 as a line between the then new Auckland Station that was to be built, and Morningside. There’s not much in the way of maps of this route but was described as:

The route is from the new station site, across Beach Rd then by a tunnel in a straight line to a point beneath the normal school. The tunnel takes a slight curve to Wakefield Street, where the proposed underground station will be situated, with a double line platform. Thence the route is by tunnel to the vicinity of the bottom of Newton Road. An open line continues along the gully to Morningside, where there will be another short tunnel.

Stations at Karangahape Rd and in the Newton gully were added later before the project was cancelled. Interestingly the main entrance to the Karangahape Rd Station was to be on Cross St in exactly the same location as the CRL one is today.

That would suggest a route something like this:

Pros

  • Being the earliest of the proposals this would have had the most opportunity to help shape Auckland around the rail network into the future.
  • Being the most direct route it is also the shortest and combined with the surface section through the Newton gully means it has the least amount of tunnelling needed. This should make it the cheapest of the options.
  • By using the Newton gully it makes it much less likely we would have built the motorway network in the way we did, strangling the city centre and severing it from the city fringe areas.
  • The station around Wakefield St would be fairly close to the Universities.
  • By using the now old Railway Station it would be great for serving both local and intercity trains

Cons

  • By taking such a direct route there is a huge hole in coverage of the northern and eastern parts of the city centre.
  • It’s not clear how this would operate in reality without putting a lot more service on the Western Line than the Southern and Eastern lines.

The project was cancelled in 1930 but the scheme was still on long term plans from the Ministry of Works as late as 1946.


1950s

In 1950 British consultants Halcrow & Partners produced what became known as the Halcrow-Thomas report for the Railways department. At the southern end it is similar to the 1920’s scheme but where it differs is north of Karangahape Rd with the tunnel staying west of Queen St with a station between Wellesley St and Cook St, called Civic Square Station, and an additional station to serve the northern part of the city centre at around Swanson St though they called it the Queen St Station.

Pros

  • This fixes the biggest issue with the 1920’s plan by adding a northern station. That station is also arguably better located than Britomart because it has a wider catchment around it rather than nearly half of it being in the water like Britomart has today.
  • Like the 1920’s plan the use of the Newton gully helps both lower the cost and also would likely have changed how we built our motorways.
  • Most of the growth that had occurred in Auckland up until this point had happened around the old tram network so this would have still be early enough to help in shaping the growth of the automobile era.

Cons

  • The Queen St and Civic Square stations would be only about 500m apart making for a lot of catchment overlap.
  • Like the 1920s version, it’s not clear how this would operate in reality without putting a lot more service on the Western Line than the Southern and Eastern lines.

The road planners of the day were simultaneously coming up with motorway schemes and a technical advisory committee as set up to come up with a masterplan. That committee was stacked with 23 traffic engineers and just one railway engineer and the masterplan they came up with in 1955 set Auckland down its motorway focused course.


1960s

In the early 1960’s, American Consultants De Leuw Cather were hired to come up with a plan for Auckland. The report they produced expanded on the motorway and expressway excesses of the 1955 plan, but they also produced a rapid transit plan which they said needed to be built first to prevent the motorways from becoming congested. Their plans released in 1965 included a potential future regional transit network.

What was interesting is the design in the city centre which included a tight loop with two stations on it and a third around Karangahape Rd in part of what remains of the Symonds St Cemetery.

Pros

  • The stations provide good coverage of the city centre
  • City Loops typically have a major flaw in that you may need to travel most of the way around it if you want to get to some stations. That’s probably not so much of an issue on a tight loop like this.
  • The plan was future-proofed for additional lines to both the North Shore and down Dominion Rd.

Cons

  • The loop, and in particular the junctions, which I assume wouldn’t be grade separated, would likely be terrible for network reliability. A single delay at any of those junctions would quickly cascade through the system.
  • Focusing an entire regional rail network on such a small bit of infrastructure would severely limit the capacity of each line.
  • What is it with planners of the day and digging up cemeteries?
  • This option has the longest length of tunnels of any of the plans with more than 1km more than the next highest and more than twice as much as the 1920s scheme.
  • There doesn’t appear to be a station in the Mt Eden area leaving quite a gap between Kingsland and Karangahape Rd

This idea became the basis for the scheme pushed by Mayor Robbie in the 1970s


1970s

Now affectionately known as Robbie’s Rail, the city tunnels were to be just one part of the plan which also involved rebuilding parts of the existing network and removing some stations in order to speed up services. One thing that you can see from the plans is that some of the station locations are nearly identical to what we’re building now but there is quite a different route for how to get between them.

Pros

  • Once the other connections were completed it would give options for how services were routed, unlike the 1920s and 1950s plans.
  • The additional station at Symonds St would help in serving the University better.

Cons

  • The initial plan was only to build a tunnel that connected the Southern lines, and the Eastern if funding allowed. This would have meant the Western Line would have seen no improvement until an unknown future time. Improving connections from the west has been the main purpose of the project since its inception.
  • Like with the 1960s scheme, the inclusion of the future line to the shore would have resulted in less capacity and reliability on the network.
  • Also like the 1960s scheme, there is a lot of tunnelling that would be involved which would have added to the cost of the project.

The scheme had popular support and Mayor Robbie even wrote a series of articles about the proposal


Current

The first stages of the current scheme began shortly after the completion of the Britomart station in 2003 as concerns were raised that the development that is now Commercial Bay would prevent the possibility of a future connection. In 2009 the newly elected National government were hostile to the CRL but did allow for a business case to be completed which looked at various options before settling on the route that is now under construction.

Pros

  • It’s actually being built
  • By building Britomart first it helped build rail usage enough to make the case for investing in the CRL.
  • The route is relatively direct and the stations are well spaced
  • At the Mt Eden end, the junction is fully grade separated which will help improve reliability
  • We’re almost certainly building the stations much larger than we would have seen from the older proposals meaning it probably has the most capacity.

Cons

  • We lost the ability to integrate the old Auckland Station into the plan
  • It’s a shame we couldn’t also make Mt Eden a combined stop for services travelling between Grafton and Karangahape Rd – there was originally meant to be a station just after the junction but it needed to be dropped so that the junction could be grade separated.
  • By being the ‘last’ of the schemes it has the most existing development to contend with and therefore has to stick to being under roads a lot more.

So there are the five major schemes for the CRL that we’ve seen.

I think the current route is probably the best balance of the lot based on what we know now, but had we built the 1920s or 1950s version we would have seen some quite different development patterns and maybe even additional lines built that may have addressed the service routing issue. Based on that, a slightly refined version of the 1950’s plan might be what I’d pick after that time machine trip.

If you could choose one, which would it be?

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54 comments

  1. For the city we have today, I think what’s being built works best.

    If we’d wanted to properly link North Shore rail into the heavy rail system, we’d probably have needed an underground flying junction just west of Britomart; maybe even quad-tracking of the CRL in order to enable optimal 5 minute max frequencies on all lines.

    Either that or the separate Wynyard-Aotea-Quay Park tunnel that was once proposed.

    But the sheer complexity of either of those projects would probably have been more expensive and less beneficial than a separate light rail or light metro system for the Shore, NW, Isthmus, Southwest etc.

    I do think it is a pity that Newton Station was dropped; even though there was a good reason with the grade separation. A mass transit station to encourage uptown growth and a more convenient location for West-Newmarket transfers would have been nice to have. Plus, by moving Mt Eden Station around 400m to the west under the Dominion/New North junction a more convenient interchange with light rail & the potential redevelopment there could have been had.

    Re. the Strand/Quay Park station, I think there’s an argument for moving it a little further east so that Eastern Line platforms can be built (assuming the talked-about Quay Park precinct redevelopment takes place).

    Possibly the main thing differently I’d have done (and not mentioned here) would have been to quad-track the Britomart Eastern Approach, which was proposed in 2004 and then costed at $200 million. Perhaps enlarge Britomart Station north and south to include additional platforms (6 or 7 total) That would have, long-term, made it easier for long-distance trains & commuter express services to access Britomart without interfering with metro services.

  2. It’s a shame we can’t use the old railway station as a staging ground for Light Rail, given it would connect a future possible Tamaki Drive route and the Central City bits, but you’ve have to be brave enough to run it along Beach Road for that and we all know it’s impossible to run trams down streets that had trams on them for decades, apparently.

    1. That would be a good routing for a Tamaki Dr light rail/tram line.

      Customs St E is set to become a car free transit street according to the City Centre Masterplan 2020 – this would enable light rail up Anzac Ave/Symonds St as well.

      My preference would be to run light rail across from Beach Rd to Quay St/Tamaki Dr just before or after the Spark Arena – this would probably need to be done at the same time as redevelopment of the Quay Park area and possible capping of the Britomart-Quay Park junction (with, for example, a stadium?)

      Though I think concept art from the 2012 Auckland Plan hinted at light rail/trams all the way along Quay St instead?

    2. If you’re thinking to turn it into a Light Rail hub then not going to work, would require commercial businesses right next to the building inorder for Light Rail services to be sustainable.

  3. There were a few other schemes, including the scheme that arose out of Britomart II that was designed and built in the period 1999-2003. Britomart was designed with two light rail lines (one on each side of the main station chamber) ramping up to/down from street level then along Queen Street at ground level. Options from there included running the length of Queen Street then linking to the Western line between Mount Eden and Morningside but after a special charrette planning session in 2001 the preferred route was to turn East at Wellesley Street with a station between the two universities then across Grafton Gully to a Hospital station and linking to the Western Line near Mountain Road. This fitted in with then agreed regional policy of having a regional light rail system on the existing suburban rail network. Several sites in Grafton were actually purchased for this purpose. However, when John Banks was first elected in October 2001 he torpedoed all plans for light rail and famously tried to stop the Britomart – fortunately the contracts were signed and physical work about to start in early 2002.

    1. Interesting, Graeme – there is scant information easily findable online on Christine Fletcher’s light rail proposals or the original Britomart designs, aside from some concept art of what looks like (standard gauge) Melbourne C1-class trams on Queen St, and some quotes about the Central Connector bus lanes originally being intended as light rail to Newmarket.

      Given the revival of Auckland’s rail network into an almost-fully-fledged S-train system with 18-24tph planned through the CRL & Britomart, I highly doubt that interoperable heavy-light rail is feasible or desirable going forward from present. I can see the logic of tram-trains in a 1990s context, when heavy rail was ailing and surface tracks through the CBD would have seemed more viable than an underground tunnel. Times have very much changed.

      1. Don’t forget that it was in fact Les Mills who proposed a larger combined bus and rail terminal at Britomart. What was built was a greatly cut-down version of that scheme that relegated buses back to the surface rather than within the same station where transfers between bus abnd rail would have been easier.
        I don’t recall whether those original plans had provision for light rail though, someone will know I suspect.

        1. To be honest I struggle to envision how underground buses would have worked in Britomart – it must have required ramp entrance/exits, and I presume the rail platforms would be even deeper?

          The Lower Queen St bus terminal served its purpose, and Lower Albert St is fairly decently linked to Britomart through the Commercial Bay alleyways. I haven’t experienced issues transferring from the NX1 to the rail lines – though I would assume it’s not as easy for some of the other bus stops around Britomart?

          A bus terminal in the development replacing the Downtown Parking would be interesting to see realized, though that would require further improvements to pedestrian access with Britomart. I’m not sure if the old subway passageway to the old Downtown Mall still exists or if it was demolished for the CRL tunnels – but an underground walkway from the Britomart mezzanine to the potential Downtown bus terminal probably would help transfers, if possible.

        2. It was a massively overblown proposal. It effectively nuked the entire Britomart precinct except for the facades, and only the facades, of some of the historic buildings facing Customs Street.

          Imagine a giant concrete box in the ground from the CPO to Britomart place, and from Quay Street to Customs Street. The first three levels down were carparking. Then the fourth level was a combined train terminal (and only ever terminal) and bus station. Yes, that required bus ramps from Quay and Customs Street, as well as multiple carpark ramps from the same. Park of Quay Street was going to be undergrounded to help this.

          Then the whole top was to be covered in glass tower skycrapers.

        3. Yep, I don’t think it’s a bad thing that it got changed but I do wonder if having buses down there would have meant an improvement to the surrounding streets.

    2. I had forgotten all of that. I was at that charrette. I think by that point the earlier policy of light rail on the existing rail tracks had already been abandoned and light rail was seen as meeting the heavy at Britomart. That earlier stuff (1989 or 90?) of mixing light rail with heavy freight trains was something they did in Karlsruhe but didn’t get much support elsewhere and required some serious signalling to avoid heavy and light ever getting close to each other. But as you say it resulted in the University/Hospital option. That is still a good one.

      1. Might be a different charrette I just looked up my billing system and found three, 24 Feb 2000, 13 June 2000 and 20 November 2000 for Queen St light rail.

        1. Sorry Miffy (at 12.12pm), I got the year for the charrette wrong – it was in 2000. I was not aware of multiple sessions but it makes sense to have more than one go at such a far-reaching decision.

  4. The current option, with a connection to the North Shore…but built 100 years ago. Think of how the development on the Shore would have progressed if there had been a north-south coastal line in the 1920s…and the new lines to the north and west.

    The 1970s plans contained rail from Panmure to Botany. This again would have pre-dated much of the 1990s/200s development and resulted in a much more transit-oriented type of suburbia.

    https://i0.wp.com/greaterakl.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/IMG_0615.jpg

    Sometimes we can only dream.

    1. I believe at some point in the 2000s there was a discussion about the need for rail in Howick and it was decided there wouldn’t be enough growth in the area for it for the next 50 years – of course, by then the bulk of the Botany/Howick area had been suburbanised and grown hugely at that point with no rapid transit at all. From memory this was about the time the discussion around the Eastern Highway was mooted – along with running bits of it through the bottom of Purewa Cemetary or close to it.

      So standard Auckland MO – don’t supply services because ‘there’s no demand’ and when the place gets developed far quicker than governments can measure/respond, you just say “Oh well, it won’t be growing any more than it already has, so there’s no justification for it now!”

      History is repeating itself in West Auckland at the moment, where the Shore gets to the front of the queue yet again and the rapidly-developing Massey/Huapai/Westgate area gets… are those bus lanes even still happening anymore?

      1. Yes. It is important to build the public transport that will create the type of development that you want to see…and make space to expand it in the future. This requires robust mechanisms for forward planning.

        (see my comment further about London Docklands and the DLR/JLE/Crossrail progression).

  5. Matt has left out the 1990 tram train version which had trains running on street between the old station and. Mount Eden. It may have had capacity issues but it addressed a lot of the issues we are still dealing with today. Such as getting cars out of Queen Street and we could have retained the old station and rebuilt the tram network on Dominion Road at the same gauge as our railway. Even an extension to the shore would have being possible.

    1. At the time that may have made economic sense, but I think it would have severely hamstrung the rail network capacity-wise had Auckland actually gone with tram-trains in the 1990s. How would such a network have operated, especially including a North Shore & Dominion Rd line? Would tram-trains have been able to offer the long-term capacity needed on the Southern & Western Lines? Would we still have had to build Britomart & the CRL, at a later date and greater expense?

      In Auckland’s case – better to keep light rail and heavy rail separate I say; and leverage off standard off-the-shelf track gauge and rolling stock from manufacturers.

      1. I suppose it comes down to frequency in the 1990’s half hourly seemed acceptable but a lot of extra people have come to Auckland since then. I wonder if it had of being built whether there may have only being a few through tram trains with more frequent trams running just between Auckland Station and Mount Eden many passengers would have arrived at the old Auckland station or Mount Eden on heavy rail and transferred to Trams to get to their destination. That how I envisaged it working. Of course heavy rail trains on the Western line would have travelled via Newmarket to the old station. While heavy line trains on the Eastern and Southern line would have continued to offer a through service to Newmarket for transfer to the Western line just as the had previously. I think it may have worked.

        1. Doubt it would have been optimal though. Certainly my preference is for separate heavy and light rail – simple high frequency line routings with no need for complex branching or shuttles or anything.

          Turn-up-&-go frequencies – not needing a timetable & guaranteed short wait times – are internationally defined as every 10-15 minutes, and the 2018 ATAP set a goal of all rapid transit in Auckland having minimum 10 minute frequencies between 7am & 7pm by 2028. That is the primary goal that should be kept in mind, when coming up with rail routings – the simplest way to deliver trains/light rail every 10 minutes or better to every station.

          Frequency is not only about capacity – it is about convenience, and that’s hugely important to encouraging mode shift.

      2. I agree. I worked on that 1989/90 plan and getting rid of heavy passenger rail would have been a mistake. And that was the plan. At that time rail was failing and even freight was failing. The original ARA staff plan was for busways in the rail corridors but a couple of elected members didn’t like it so that had a review done (10 pages and tens of thou in dosh) . The review was by a rail dude who concluded light rail was the answer and that heavy and light could mix no trouble apparently.
        Then everyone had to ignore it long enough to forget about the whole thing and move to the Perth DMUs instead and a heavy rail future. Light rail on the main lines would have been a huge mistake.

        1. I mean… would it have been? You’d still have the corridors, they would have presumably been electrified – they in theory could have been retro-fitted and we may even have had some new ones as well.

      3. “tram-trains have been able to offer the long-term capacity needed on the Southern & Western Lines?”

        Yes, easily for the southern and western lines themselves. But adding on the mooted dominion, north shore etc lines would have required further development in the city. Second corridors, or a tunnel or what not.

        The difference is that Auckland would now be twenty years ahead of where it is now with regard to a rapid transit network, with the proof that street level light rail works really well and probably built or building those southwest and northwest and north lines already rather than just signing off on four year more maybe planning the first one because the motorway builders demand everything has to be buried in a tunnel.

    2. He didn’t forget it, it’s an article about rail tunnel proposals and the one you’re talking about is not a rail tunnel proposal.

      1. Okay it is a forgotten plan which was no longer possible once Britomart was built. At that point the limitation in Britomart became obvious so we had to build the CRL. Now apparently we need light rail on what is basically the same corridor. I would call it duplication.

        1. It would be a necessary duplication – technical difficulty of creating a junction west of Britomart aside, the CRL will be at capacity sending trains every 5-10 minutes west, south, & east.

          2 separate corridors means light rail can run every 4 minutes or less north, northwest, and southwest too.

          Plus the tunneled route predominantly under consideration by the govt is more perpendicular to the CRL than anything (Wynyard-Aotea-Universities)

  6. The 1920s project failed because the costs exceeded the benefits.
    The 1950s project failed because the costs exceeded the benefits.
    The 1960s project failed because the costs exceeded the benefits.
    The 1970s project failed because the costs exceeded the benefits.
    The 2010s project failed because they built it despite the costs exceeding the benefits.

    1. Fixed it for ya:

      – The 1920s project failed because of the Great Depression
      – The 1950s project failed because of the rampant pro-car bias in transport politics at the time
      – The 1960s & 1970s projects failed for the same reason + trying to do too much in a single project
      – The 2010s CRL is going to be hugely beneficial for people, and by extension the economy (because people should always come before money)

      1. While I am sure it is fun to make shit up:
        https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/auckland-star/1930/01/18/12 it failed in Jan 1930 before the Depression bit NZ. Besides in the depression they actually increased spending on public projects.
        The 50s project failed because it required no spending on arterial roads to get any benefits. https://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~cthombor/Pubs/AKtransportMees.rtf page 4.
        The 60s scheme also had no benefits given a motorway system was being built. The 70s scheme never even came close, The ARA never supported it and dumped it completely once the costs were actually known. It had support from one mayor of about 1/3 of the central isthmus and no support from the other 2/3 of the isthmus or Northern or Southern areas of Auckland. Just shows what one wind-bag can achieve.
        CRL https://www.auckland.ac.nz/en/news/2020/05/11/tank-the-tunnel.html
        Fixed that for you.

        1. I’d be keen for another business case on CRL, maybe in 5 or so years. Some sort of retroactive thing.

          Being able to end a lot of green fields development and shifting it into the city represents a massive savings in atmospheric heating, purely from the reduction in the hot air that people reliant on sprawl produce. Let alone any carbon savings.

          In seriousness, the picture has changed significantly since the previous business case was done. NPS-UD removing parking cross subsidies is huge, further upzoning around rail stations, the rolling development contribution changes for greenfields, the increasing viability and uptake of BTR apartments, the rapidly increasing price of fuel to name a few.

          I admire the professors zeal against the CRL though, would be great if he did the same thing with the numerous far worse investments that the NZTA are undertaking, or about to undertake.

        2. Tim Hazeldine writes from a perspective of someone who has absolutely zero knowledge of how transport projects actually work, nor how public transport benefits the wider community. The CRL will be transformational for our city and also our carbon emissions as it will suddenly be faster to take the train to the city from most places than it will be by car.
          If you wanted to look at colossal waste of money projects, look no further than Transmission Gully and particularly East West Link.

        3. While I’m sure it’s fun to be a negative anti-transit-spending sort of person and overrely on BCRs, you seem to be cherry-picking flawed anti-rail articles (from a Professor of Economics no less, no transit experience there!) to support your opinion.

          Hazeldine is categorically incorrect, focusing entirely on “speed” and “cost”, ignoring the fact that the CRL will dramatically increase rail capacity (moving up to 54,000 people per hour – or more, up to 64,000-72,000 people per hr, if higher density seating layouts are installed in trains) over Britomart’s present terminus capacity of 10,500 people per hour

          How would Hazeldine increase rail capacity without the CRL? Or is he also advocating for mothballing the entire suburban rail system, which carried over 20 million people in 2019, to prop up his desired tax breaks?

          Herein lies the problem with economists and libertarians. They prioritize money and models above all else, and lose sight of social benefits, technical benefits, environmental benefits etc.

        4. Yes some road projects are bad.
          No CRL won’t make trips quicker by train than by car, if it did it would have a tonne of benefits and nobody has predicted that.
          Gee those professors of economics what would they know huh? It’s not like they quantify things or try to understand how things affect each other. Oh hang on….
          Capacity isn’t a benefit, a benefit is the area under a compensated demand curve. If your goal is just to add capacity you have jumped past the problem and solution bit of the puzzle.
          How would I know what Prof Hazeldine’s solution is? But then you don’t either so maybe you shouldn’t make ridiculous claims on his behalf.
          Dismissing all economists seems like a lack of thought on your part rather than theirs.

        5. @miffy Nah, I’ve thought about it long and hard, looked at the state of the world and my experience in it.

          I’ve also been all-but-called a liability to society by my a-hole of a libertarian cousin (I’m disabled), who also insinuated that he was in favour of eugenics & euthanasia based on “low IQ”.

          So you’ll excuse me if I have a prejudice against money-obsessed ideologies. I have zero respect for people who compromise their ethics, devalue me as a sentient being, and ignore a wealth of evidence on environmental & social issues just to make some numbers line up on a spreadsheet in the short-term.

        6. Sorry to burst your private car loving bubble, but I will give you an example – it currently takes 25-30 minutes from Kingsland Station to Britomart. With CRL this will be reduced to under 10 minutes. I challenge you to get anywhere near Britomart by car (not to mention parking) from Kingsland in under 20 minutes during normal hours, let alone peak hours.
          Economists focus on cost and their perceived benefits don’t take into accounts such things as reduced carbon footprints, better designed communities, more efficient use of space and general public good. The problem with other BCA’s is they look at whether it will impact journey times by car, when this should not be a consideration. If we want to get people out of their cars, making life easier for non-essential trips is not the way to do it.

      2. +1, the economics of this only look bad because the economics don’t consider the massive benefits of enabling/encouraging more people into higher density housing. Sure, they count WEBs, but they completely ignore the travel time savings and health benefits that happen when people can actually walk or cycle to places because the places are close!

        1. @miffy You say that as if mass transit rail doesn’t explicitly enable and incentivize development – doubly so with the NPS-UD coming into effect this year (6+ storeys within 800m of any train station)

        2. Housing and transport are obviously extremely heavily linked.

          In your other comment you even say, “It’s not like they [economists] quantify things or try to understand how things affect each other”.

          If they cant determine how CRL directly impacts density, and the new density rules directly impact CRL, then what can they determine? Is it a one trick pony with travel time savings?

          The buildup along rail lines represents an absolutely massive increase in the area under a demand curve. That would be unable to exist without the CRL.

        3. Imagine being a grown man unironically stating that public transport provision doesn’t drive land use change.

    2. It’s more complicated than this. Financial forecasting is only as good as the model, and if the modelling fails to capture benefits fully then it’s easy for an ostensibly worthwhile scheme to have a negative BCR.

      The early 1900s expansion of the London Underground (which basically created the Piccadilly, Northern and Bakerloo lines; the core of today’s tube network) failed to make much of a return for its American investors, but the economic benefits for London will have been incalculably huge.

      On a side note, the American money for London Underground was raised by Charles Tyson Yerkes, a shrewd-yet-disreputable financier who looked like Mr Monopoly and fled Chicago for London in the 1890s with $15m in cash. Fascinating story! See: https://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/collections/stories/people/charles-tyson-yerkes-unscrupulous-american-businessman-who-transformed

      1. Also interesting @George, the London Docklands development struggled to get any momentum until the Jubilee Line extension was built. Now it is one of the most thriving areas of London and will continue to be so into the future. Better public transport links = more buy-in from developers and more people wanting to be there as a destination.
        The same thing happens around light rail stops (case in point, Dublin Light Rail, property values went up by around 80% within 500m of the stops). Economists don’t understand the social value in such things, they look at the economics of it i.e. will it make money when it would be more appropriate to look at how well it will be used.

        1. As far as public transport is concerned, London Docklands is a good example of “seeing is believing”. The London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) had a very free hand and was able to build the original Docklands Light Railway (DLR) for a bargain £75m. This was not a particularly high-capacity system (one-car trains compared to three-cars today) but it meant that it only took ten minutes to travel into central London. It also sparked the imagination of 1980s developers and the subsequent plans for what became Canary Wharf.

          There was no way that such a big development could work without the Jubilee Line Extension but the UK government was short of cash in the early 90s so funding was delayed….£4bn later, the JLE finally opened in 1999. It was instantly popular and soon busy as more Docklands development followed.

          This in turn showed that there was a need for the (much bigger) Crossrail, which finally received Royal Assent in 2008 and should open this year. Construction delays notwithstanding, it will be superb and transform connectivity in London.

          If it hadn’t been for DLR, the Jubilee Line Extension might not have happened the way it did. Without the JLE, who knows if Crossrail would have come to Docklands?

          Christian Wolmar has written a good book about this called “The Story of Crossrail” which I recommend to anyone who reads Greater Auckland.

          Moral of the story: Build public transport to get transit-oriented development and be prepared to build more PT when the developments are a runaway success.

          P.S. Some economists do understand social value. I have a degree in economics!

  7. > What is it with planners of the day and digging up cemeteries?

    The problem was the previous generation of planners put cemeteries on prime land.

    What is left of the Symonds street cemetery would be ideally replaced with a combination of buildings and proper parks.

  8. 1920s Auckland had a population of less than 100,000. So this was a very ambitious plan back then. It took a fifteen-fold increase before we built it.

  9. Are we going to regret dropping Newton station in the long term or was it just not feasible with longer platforms at the other stations?

    1. Sounds like it was mostly to do with gradients and the desire to have a flying junction at the Mt Eden end rather than a level junction with track crossovers.

      Still, I agree, a Newton station (plus moving Mt Eden station closer to Dominion Rd) would have been a nice-to-have.

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