We have long bemoaned the lack of a proper rapid transit plan for Auckland, one showing how the city’s rapid transit network should evolve over time to act as the core of a wider public transport network fitting of a city that will reach 2 million people within the next 10-15 years. After all, the Congestion Free Network that we first developed in 2013 and then updated in 2017 is really just a rapid transit plan for Auckland that we created to fill the void of an actual official plan.

More recently, the implications of not having a proper rapid transit plan have become more obvious than ever – through a series of baffling decisions about how to grow Auckland’s rapid transit network. For example:

  • The tunnelled light-rail option for City Centre to Māngere appears to have largely been driven by the need to also accommodate light-rail from other corridors like the Northwest – even though the most recent business case for Northwest Rapid Transit suggested a busway.
  • The 2020 business case for Additional Waitematā Harbour Connections seemed to suggest keeping the Northern Busway and just adding a light-rail or light-metro line from the city to Takapuna and Smales Farm, even though this would result in vast under-utilisation of this new rail connection.
  • There appears to have been almost no progress at all on planning and design work for Northwest Rapid Transit over the past five years, despite multiple strategic documents suggesting it’s the most urgent new rapid transit corridor to progress.
  • Most rapid transit planning work in recent times (aside from City Centre to Māngere, which is a tortuous story itself) seems to have been in greenfield areas by the Supporting Growth Alliance, even though these are the least urgent corridors to actually build or upgrade.
  • The Eastern Busway is being ruined by a change to wiggle its route to try and avoid the slightest inconvenience to vehicles or impacting on commercial sites with great redevelopment potential.

However, the good (if rather late to the party) news is that it seems Auckland Transport, Auckland Council and Waka Kotahi have been quietly working away in the background on the very thing we have been calling for over the past decade: a rapid transit plan. We’ve seen some small elements of it in relation to light rail but recent LGOIMA requests have revealed more significant work on:

In this post I’m going to look at the second of these documents, as I think it’s probably of most relevance to some of the issues above. The report is the more in-depth report of what we saw last year:

This means it focused on the three corridors that are planned to come together and interact in the city centre: North Shore, Northwest and City Centre to Māngere.

It seems like one of the first things the work did was undertake some high level modelling to estimate the rough level of likely future demand on these three corridors. While we are often sceptical of modelling, this is the kind of jobs it’s actually quite well suited to: a high-level rough-order estimate that’s mainly going to be used for comparative purposes between different corridors. The result of this broadly matched with what we’ve seen before and proposed in our 2017 Congestion Free Network – that North Shore broadly has the same level of demand as the other two corridors combined, and that Northwest has (slightly) higher demand than City Centre to Māngere.

There are obviously a lot of assumptions sitting behind these figures, such as where and when growth happens (these figures seem to predate the rather heroic growth assumptions in the City Centre to Māngere light-rail business case for example). But the headlines are still a useful starting point.

The next step looks at which modes may be suitable to serve projected demand in the corridor over time, by considering the capacity of different vehicles and the feasible frequency they can operate at effectively. This is also a useful graph for illustrating how the capacity of rapid transit absolutely crushes a traffic lane:

A whole pile of options for mode choice on the three corridors were then developed and underwent an initial assessment. These include:

  1. Surface light-rail on all three corridors (including a variant with a second city centre corridor)
  2. Light metro on the North Shore and CC2M corridors, and a busway to the northwest
  3. Light metro on all three corridors
  4. Light-rail on the inner part of CC2M (city centre, Mt Roskill, Onehunga) and on the Northwest, light-metro for the North Shore and along Manukau Road to the Airport.
  5. Light-rail on the inner part of CC2M (same as above) and the northwest, heavy rail to the North Shore and from Onehunga to the Airport
  6. Light-rail on CC2M and the northwest, heavy rail to the North Shore linking into the current Eastern Line.
  7. Light metro to the northwest and on CC2M, heavy rail to the North Shore linking into the current Eastern Line.
  8. Light-rail on CC2M and light-metro on North Shore and northwest

Interestingly, it appears as though light-rail was assumed in all options to run at surface (aside from potentially a tunnel under the harbour). It seems this work realised that to waste the capacity of extensive tunnels on lower-capacity light-rail might be a bit dumb.

The different options were assessed at a high level against various criteria, with four options taken through to a short-list for more detailed analysis:

The analysis seems pretty high level, with options 1, 3, 6 and 8 taken through for more analysis. This seems to have been based not only on these options performing well in the assessment above, but also to have a reasonably wide range of approaches (i.e. just light-rail, just light-metro, some heavy rail, a mix of metro and light-rail) being taken forward for further analysis.

Each of these four options was then analysed further, including transport modelling – to understand at both a corridor and overall system level what differences there were. Perhaps the most interesting result of this is how small the differences are – especially at a regional level.

Peak direction mode share on the three corridors was also looked at. Again the results are all pretty similar, with the biggest difference being lower mode shift along Dominion Road for the metro option (presumably because it’s underground rather than through reallocation of roadspace).

The one metric where there is a big variation seems to be the better employment access performance of option 3 for people living in Māngere. However, this is subsequently explained as largely being due to the slow and indirect light-rail alignment used for the CC2M corridor, which could easily be optimised.

While performance across the different options was broadly similar, the same can’t be said for costs. High level cost assumptions were used to allow comparisons to be made and while I’m sure these assumptions aren’t perfect, they seem reasonable in terms of enabling a “tunnel is x times more costly than surface” type comparisons. I assume station costs are absorbed into the overall per kilometre assumption.

Totalling up the different options you can see Option 1 (surface light rail) is around $12-15 billion cheaper than options 3 or 6, with option 8 being around $5 billion cheaper than 3 and 6.

There’s also discussion on how each option could be staged, with a key conclusion being that option 1 has the greatest flexibility.

It’s also noteworthy that the Northwest corridor is generally sequenced before North Shore in this work, which is different to the government’s announcement on light-rail in January, which seemed to suggest that North Shore had “jumped the queue”. I’ll discuss this more in an upcoming post.

Interestingly, the work concludes by discussing how Option 1 could evolve to Option 8 over time, through building the city centre tunnel as its ‘stage 4’ in the table above, allowing the Northwest and North Shore corridors to be upgraded from light-rail to light-metro as the rest of their routes run off-street (unlike CC2M). This is something we’ve suggested should happen with light rail.

Overall, while there might be a few minor things to nitpick, this is a pretty impressive piece of work. It finally works through, systematically, many of the questions that are key to developing at least this part of Auckland’s future rapid transit network. Importantly, rather than focusing on a single project, it looks at all three of these major corridors together. I think it actually makes a pretty compelling case for the staging pathway highlighted above – which is actually pretty similar to many of the points we have been making for some time.

Ironically, it seems that this work was largely ignored by the Auckland Light Rail Establishment Unit – who instead proposed an option (tunnelled light rail) that wasn’t even on the long-list of options considered in this plan. This means a huge up-front investment in a massive tunnel (something the work above was trying to avoid), while also precluding the ability to ever upgrade the Northwest and North Shore to light-metro – because the city centre tunnel they’d require is being used by light-rail.

I guess we will have to wait and see what happens with this Plan, which presumably has moved onto looking at other parts of the rapid transit network now (like heavy rail and crosstown corridors). It just seems like such a shame that the one time our transport agencies finally get around to doing the piece of planning work that’s been needed for at least a decade, it ends up being completely ignored.

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  1. Tragic that the best work has come from the outfit that has both most to gain and absolutely no way of funding it

  2. Crosstown Light Rail needs to be the next discussion – I fear the main spline routes are now so bogged down in politics and the future of them attached to things that have nothing to do with actually building PT networks, like certain ministers or governments staying in portfolios or in power. I’m at the point where the current plan getting nixed so we can have something sane in the future is feeling like the best option.

    But cross-town has potential to bring a lot Aucklanders on board if they’re going to get rapid transit through their area. We have huge numbers of streets that used to accommodate trams, is running Light Rail on the old routes such a huge leap?

    For what we are spending on the tunneled metro option and getting a worst-of-all-worlds option, we could have a proper regional network with town centre rejuvenation along the old tram routes. But that would involve accepting that there’s some place-making benefits to Light Rail and government seems to be trying to ignore or devalue that as much as possible.

    1. I thought most tram routes were radial rather than cross town?

      What does cross town LR achieve at present that increased bus frequency and priority doesn’t, and is that really worth the massively increased capital costs?

  3. Auckland has had an excellent long term rapid transit plan since 2012 that, if implemented, would result in a rapid transit system fit for the 2 plus million people living in Auckland by 2040. It is part of a wider Strategic Transport Network (STN) on page 313 of Auckland’s founding document, the Auckland Plan 2012-2042. The STN 2042 is given effect by the Auckland Unitary Plan that was notified in 2013.

    The STN 2042 is the culmination of over 100 years of transport planning in Auckland and details:
    – Strategic Road Network; motorways, Te Irirangi Drive and Te Raku Drive
    – Regional Arterial Roads; that host a Quality Transit Network i.e. enhanced bus services
    – Rapid Transit Network; Rail and Bus Rapid Transit
    – Rail and Ferry Networks

    It is a great plan that could be at least 80% in place by 2025 and near 100% in place by 2030 if the powers that be would stop trying to undo 100 years of transport planning, and just got on with building the long-established plan. It is well worth a very long look:


    1. Will.

      1. Your link doesn’t give permission to view it.

      2. I object to the idea that the 2012 Auckland plan should be a fixed unchanging aim to adhere to so rigidly. Circumstances change, evidence changes. The NPS-UD should enable 6+ storey development in an 800m radius around rapid transit (that is, if the NIMBYs in the council and local boards stop sabotaging it). That scale of development will overwrite the Unitary Plan and will overwrite the Auckland Plan 2012-2042; it is vital to include rapid transit on new corridors where 6+ storey intensification would be well suited to.

      I object wholeheartedly to the use of old plans as a means to oppose new rail transit modes (light rail and standalone light metro) on the basis of ideology rather than evidence. Myself and others have already outlined the benefits of such a new approach:

      – Higher frequencies (every 3-5 minutes instead of no more than every 10 minutes) on all RTN routes – more convenient, higher capacity, most future-proofed for high density
      – Independent modes are more redundant than interlining everything on a single mode
      – Avoiding interlining is internationally the preferred approach to transit. The majority of new metros do not interline each line; if a section of route is shared parallel but separate tracks are built (e.g. Singapore or Hong Kong)
      – A transit system with fewer, higher-frequency lines is easier to use & understand – the same rationale for the new bus networks in Auckland.
      – Transfers between high frequency transit are more convenient and enable more travel choices than low-frequency single-seat journeys.

      There is no reason why CC2M light metro in Auckland could not be built for $5 billion or less, based on international costings. There is no reason why modern trams on both Sandringham & Dominion Rd could not be built for $800 million, based on international costings. And there is no reason why the powers that be could not get their act together and deliver both those projects by 2030, delivering superior transit and urban outcomes across the Isthmus and for Mangere.

        1. Thanks Rob.

          Yeah, the decade-old STP definitely is out of date in key areas IMO.

          – Heavy rail to airport infeasible due to technical difficulty, expense, and fewer stations serving Mangere, not to mention need to fully rebuild Onehunga Branch Line for true rapid transit service.
          – Does not include Isthmus RTN, something that evidence has shown is clearly needed now let alone for NPS-UD enabled 6+ storey intensification. The QTN will not suffice on Dominion Rd et al with that level of development.
          – Appears to presume (supported by other documentation pre-2016) that the Northern Busway would be a sufficient long-term transit option for the North Shore, whereas we now know that it will reach capacity between 2030 & 2040 requiring replacement/supplementing with light rail or light metro.
          – Failure to take into account routing or frequency of mass transit, like the Greater Auckland CFN 2.0 did. We know that 10 minutes at peak with 6 car trains will not be sufficient – pre-pandemic it was already insufficent for Southern Line peak demand. Thus we need to be talking about RTN lines running every 5 minutes, or more frequently.

        2. That’s Matt Lowry I was referring to above as advocating planning.

          Building rail to the Airport connected to the existing rail network is feasible and affordable and would provide the same number of stations in Mangere whatever prefix to rail is used. The Onehunga – Airport sector could be built with gentle inclines and wide curves to accommodate Auckland’s existing EMUs and freight trains or built with some sharp corners and some steep inclines, at significantly lower cost and with a more useful alignment, for use with Light Metro trains or New York or Paris style metro trains, all of which can navigate sharp corners and climb and descend steep inclines. The Onehunga Branch can be connected to the Airport line and used for 2 tph as described by AT in Auckland Light Rail’s Heavy Rail Tech note. The 3.6 km Onehunga Branch line can be twin tracked when the time is right.

          The triangle of land on the central isthmus more than 800 metres from stations on the Western Line and the Southern Line and possible stations on the SH20 rail alignment is around 20 square kilometres in size, around 3% of urban Auckland’s 650 square kilometres. It is an important 3% as it sits between one and nine km to the south of the central city, is flat usable land with regular north south arterials even if they are narrow and an average of 800 metres apart.

          Treasury’s recently released advice about the whole of the CC2M corridor includes.

          “17. However, the land use analysis undertaken by the Establishment Unit indicates that the majority (at least 70 percent) of the growth in the high intensification land use scenario (which is the basis for the headline additional dwelling numbers of 20,000 to 35,000 for the surface light rail and tunnelled light rail options, respectively) is attributable to urban development interventions, not the transport intervention.”

          “18. Urban development interventions can be implemented regardless of mode and will require a deliberate approach. Such interventions include upzoning, land acquisition and aggregation, master-planning and ‘packaging’ development opportunities. These types of interventions should catalyse development in non-market attractive locations, and would likely involve investment in other infrastructure and amenities that may be needed to support redevelopment, such as water infrastructure or urban parks and schools.”

          If it is 70% for the whole CC2M corridor much of which is “non-market attractive”, then at least 80%, likely more than 90% of the growth in the Isthmus Triangle, all of which IS “market attractive”, will be “attributable to development interventions” such as upzoning, not transport interventions, whatever transport interventions there may be. The Isthmus Triangle is close enough to the central city and other desired central locations that those destinations can be reached with walking, cycling, micro mobility and enhanced bus services. The Isthmus Triangle will be just fine this century and in the centuries to come whatever multi-billion dollar transit schemes are built through it, or are not built through it.

          The Metropolitano is a single BRT line in Lima, Peru that runs on suburban and city streets, on the centre of a motorway serving island platforms accessed from overpass roads, in a short central city tunnel and in the median strips of arterial roads. It is one lane each way with passing lanes at a number of stations as the Northern Busway has at all of its stations. The Metropolitano carries over 700,000 passengers per weekday, more than any light rail line in the world. The Northern Busway is predicted by AT to reach 70,000 passengers per weekday by 2038. The Northern Busway can be upgraded to carry multiple hundreds of thousands of passengers a day, in years for hundreds of millions not decades for tens of billions, with the use of BRT busses, BRT platforms and stations and through running of the central city via the centre of Fanshaw Street, Custom Street, Beach Road and Grafton Gully with stations at Universities, Hospital and Queen Street to the centre of the Northwestern Motorway to Kumeu, and a via the Waterview Tunnel to Mt Roskill, Onehunga, Mangere and the Airport. These routes could be converted to integrated Light Rail / Light Metro later in the century allowing services past Kumeu to run on the existing rail line that may be double tracked and electrified to at least Waimauku by then.

        3. Rapid rail on the SH20 route to Mangere and the Airport for $2 billion and enhanced bus services through the central isthmus would provide more than adequate transport for what is already one of the most transport privileged parts of Auckland leaving billions spare to provide for rapid transit deprived areas. Building rail on the SH20 route to the Airport to Three Kings by 2025 and Airport by 2029 is low hanging fruit that would be carbon neutral by 2026; this low hanging well ripe fruit needs to be picked.

          Perth, Western Australia, is a city that has picked as much rapid transit fruit that it has been able to in the last 40 years and is still picking. Perth and Auckland have some significant similarities. Both have similar populations that may reach 5 million before the end of the century, with Perth getting there first as it is growing faster than Auckland and is currently building the infrastructure necessary for such a population; Auckland, not so much. Both have 3’6’’ gauge commuter rail systems. Both have undertaken significant car dependent development since WWII. Both have high car ownership and use. Both are narrow from east to west being hemmed in by mountain ranges and bodies of water. Both are long from north to south with the potential for their urban areas to extend further north and south and for the development of satellite towns and cities further to the north and south.

          In Perth the Western Australian Government has built a widespread, high frequency and high-capacity rapid transit system by extending the existing rail system. In 1981 Perth’s suburban rail network was around 80 km in length serving a population of 942,000. Today Perth’s network is around 250 km long serving a population of 2,210,000. Perth’s network is currently undergoing a further 60 km expansion to 310 km including two branches on the Fremantle – Midland Line, both from the New Bayswater Station 7 km to the northeast of the network’s hub, the Perth Railway Station. The Perth Airport branch is an 8 km twin bored tunnelled branch costing around AUD$240 million per km and the Morley-Ellenbrook will be 21 km long surface branch costing AUD$52 million per km.

          Auckland’s commuter rail network was 75.3 km in length in 1981 serving a population of 780,000. Today the network has retracted to 73.8 km serving a population of 1,652,000 with the retraction of commuter services from Waitakere Station to Swanson Station and the opening of the 2.5 km Manukau Branch Line. The network will be 95.2 km long when the CRL and the extension to Pukekohe are both operating in 2025 or 2026 by which time Auckland’s population will likely be over 1,800,000 and on the way to 2 million.

          Completing the STN 2042 by the early 2030s by building the long planned Southwestern Rail Link; Avondale – Onehunga – Airport – Wiri and extending the rail rapid transit network to long term termini at Pokeno and Helensville, would bring the rail network up to a still modest 168.5 km, but it would a be great system, with the CRL at its core, that could in time accommodate more than a million boardings per day. In addition to rail rapid transit, bus rapid transit routes using Grafton Gully as a Central Bus Link could reach north, northwest, southwest with a billion dollar investment. Such a network could handle at least half a million boarding per day and could be further extended over the decades.

          As noted further above, with the STN 2042 implemented, stations northwest and southeast of Mt Albert Station and south of Puhinui Station would be served by 8 tph in peak hours based on AT’s indications of rail operations with the CRL open. Mt Albert and Puhinui Stations, and stations between them and the CRL would be served by at least 16 tph in peak hours. In time the trains will be able to be 9-cars, 216 m long. With the use of high-capacity trains or existing EMU’s with all seats positioned longitudinally, 8 tph is a capacity of 16,000 people per hour or around 160,000 per week day (including both directions) which is nearly what the entire Auckland public transport system was carrying per week day in 2019 pre Covid, on one line, and there would be three lines running through the CRL and another two lines not running through the CRL.

        4. There is no way that we can build heavy rail from Avondale to the airport for $2b. You’d be lucky to get Avondale to Onehunga for that price.

        5. The proposal is for “heavy rail” track from Avondale to Onehunga (8.5 km) and light metro track from Onehunga to Airport (9.0 km), total 17.5 km. All of it is above ground other than a short section under the second runway alignment.

          Given the cost of above round railway tracks and above ground railway stations in New Zealand, $100 million per km including stations seems reasonable.

          What do you think it would cost Sailor Boy?

        6. 2tph, what a joke, Your post should have stopped at this line as the rest is a waste of time

        7. Kraut, the Campaign For Better Transport and Mike Lee don’t think the single track Onehunga Line is a joke; they spent years fighting to have it rebuilt and reopened! Obviously 2 tph is not exactly frequent, but it has been running at 2 tph since reopening in 2010 and it seems to have been a useful and popular addition to the network. Extending the 2 tph service to the Airport would only make the service more useful. As I say the 3.6 km line can be doubled when the time is right, allowing for 8 tph.

          Building the Airport Branch from Avondale would be a great saving of time. It could be open to Three Kings by 2025, when the CRL opens, and operated with existing EMUs. It would take until about 2029 to complete the Three Kings to Airport section, and have new rolling stock built and delivered.

        8. The cost depends on how you actually build it, but you have a few options that are all expensive.

          The biggest issues are:
          -You have to tunnel between Hillsborough Road and Onehunga if you build it as part of the existing heavy rail network because the grades are too steep along the motorway alignment.
          -You essentially have to elevate or tunnel all the way from Bader Drive to the airport to handle all of the road crossings.
          -You need a bridge of the Harbour.

        9. I see
          11 km of at grade ($2.5b)
          3km of tunnel ($3b) and
          5km of elevated ($2b)

          So you are looking at $7.5b all up

          Using the same costings above, for $7.5b we could have LRT:
          city to airport,
          city to Huapai,
          Airport to Howick and
          A few hundred million leftover to convert the Onehunga Line

        10. Thanks for your estimate Sailor Boy.

          The costings in the post above from the Auckland Rapid Transit Plan May 2021, including $100 million/km for at grade light rail and $200 m/km for at grade light metro, are not consistent with any costings I have seen including the Auckland Light Rail costings of their options; surface Light Rail $9.0 b, tunnelled Light Rail $14.6 b and Light Metro only 12% more at $16.3 b.

          As the US Transportation Research Council has said: “What is Light Rail, and why is it so heavy? Tracks for light rail transit are generally constructed with the same types of materials used to construct “heavy rail,” “commuter rail,” and railroad freight systems. Also, light rail vehicles may be as massive as transit cars on heavy rail systems. Consequently, the term “light rail” is some-what of an oxymoron…”

          ALR costed surface light rail at $9.0 billion including the purchase of 500 properties. Taking off two billion for not doing that, it’s still $7.0 billion for 24 km, or around $290 million/km. That is a long way from $100 m/km. Sydney Light Rail cost AUD$260 m/km due to the expense of building in streets in highly developed areas. In dramatic contrast Canberra Light Rail, built in the near greenfields of wide medians designed for light rail 100 years ago, cost only $56 m/km.

          The most detailed analysis and comprehensible costing I have seen for Auckland are from South-western Multi-Modal Airport Rapid Transport 2016 that includes maps showing where lines are at grade, above ground or water or below ground. In it the 14 km “light rail transit” line from Mt Roskill to the Airport is costed at $1.4 billion.


          Building heavy rail west from Onehunga allowing a 3% maximum gradient, the maximum gradient in regular use in New Zealand for heavy rail, would require an elevated structure from Onehunga and a cutting at Hillsborough and would mean that no tunnelling would be needed. The line; from the Western Line to Onehunga in heavy rail alignment and from Onehunga to Airport in light metro alignment would require:

          5.8 km at grade heavy rail
          2.3 km elevated heavy rail
          5.3 km at grade light metro
          5.3 km elevated light metro
          0.5 km cut and cover light metro tunnel (under 2nd runway alignment)

          Based in part on the ratio of the cost per km of Sydney and Canberra Light Rail, my estimate is that the 10 km of surface light rail from the central city to Mt Roskill would cost more than 75% of the total cost of a 24 km surface light rail line due to the expense of building on Dominion Road and Queen Street, and the 14 km of surface light rail from Mt Roskill to Airport less than 25% of the total cost.

          A line from the Western Line to the Airport, with a 3% gradient from Onehunga to Hillsborough, would likely cost less than 33% of the total cost of surface light rail from the central city to the Airport. That makes the Western Line to Airport route, by a long way, the best value for money option available to Auckland to increase rapid transit reach and ridership and serve the CC2M corridor. IMO it should be built as soon as possible, along with as much BRT as possible as soon as possible.

        11. CC2M light metro, 21km of elevated and/or tunneled line from Wynyard Quarter via Manukau Rd to Mangere/Airport. At $200M per km (typical European/Asian construction costs for light metro) this line would cost $4.2 billion and deliver a system with 600pax driverless trains at least every 3 minutes 24/7, capable of moving at least 12,000 people per hour each way. This line would easily enable future metro extensions to Huapai (25km, $5 billion est.) and the Hibiscus Coast (30km, $6 billion est.), a second mode forming a second spine of the RTN maximizing network capacity, resilience, and user convenience.

          Sandringham Rd and Dominion Rd modern trams, 16km of green-tracked light rail from Wynyard Quarter and Queen St to Wesley-Owairaka & Mt Roskill. At $50M per km (typical European costings for light rail) this would cost $800 million and deliver a system with 450pax trams running every 2 minutes on the Queen St core, capable of moving up to 13,500 people per hour each way. The reduction in city centre bus volumes would reap additional benefits, making the Mt Eden Rd & New North Rd buses more reliable.

          Crosstown Light Rail, 19km from Avondale to Pakuranga via Onehunga, Penrose, & Sylvia Park. At $100M per km (typical international costings for high-end surface light rail, this line would cost $1.9 billion and create a true orbital rapid transit line for Auckland. It would involve the conversion of the Onehunga Branch Line to 1435mm double-track light rail. 675pax light rail vehicles would run up to every 3 minutes delivering a line capacity of up to 13,500 people per hour each way.

          Total cost of the above 3 projects: $6.9 billion. Even assuming a 50% cost increase/blowout, the total cost would still be $10.35 billion; two thirds of the “official” ALR cost estimate.

          Aside from cost, the reasons why I believe the above solution is the superior option for Auckland and should be pursued are:

          1. Maximizes frequency (for convenience and capacity) on all RTN modes. The heavy rail network through the CRL can focus on sending trains every 4-5 minutes to Swanson, Manukau, & Pukekohe, while the standalone light metro network can focus on sending trains every 3 minutes to Orewa, Takapuna, Huapai, & Mangere. Cross-platform transfers between modes at such high frequencies will be preferable both to customers and operators to lower-frequency single-seat journeys.
          2. Optimized solutions for different purposes. Light metro to connect Mangere to the city centre, surface light rail/trams to replace Isthmus buses. Heavy rail is optimized along its existing corridors without expansion, since it is already quite clear that 6-car trains every 10 minutes are NOT coping with peak loads on the Western & Southern lines.
          3. Maximizes rapid transit uplift and catchment, creating huge areas of 6+ storey transit-oriented redevelopment across the Isthmus and around Mangere. Tens of thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands of new dwellings, all affordable and not needing a car for occupants to get around our city. That will go a long way towards addressing the housing crisis!

      1. Matt

        Either spatial and other plans are made for Auckland’s transport and associated land use, or they aren’t. The RMA says plans should be made. Matt says plans should be made. The fact is that comprehensive spatial and other plans have been made for Auckland for over 100 years, the plans have been implemented and the effects will last for centuries if not indefinitely. These plans have been implemented and have created Auckland’s land use pattern; the plans cannot just be thrown out, they have to be built upon. That is the nature of spatial planning.

        The Auckland Plan 2012 has been given effect by the Unitary Plan 2013 that already provides for at least six storey development of much of the land within walking distance of the existing and planned rapid stations in the STN 2042 as indicated by the significant high-density residential developments around New Lynn and Glen Eden Stations and the extensive high density residential and business zoning within walking distance of the rail corridor beside SH20 and within walking distance of SH20A. Increasing the at least six storey zoning to all land within walking distance, other than character areas, is consistent with the scheme of the Auckland Plan 2012 / Unitary Plan 2013 and is a good thing. Seems to me that there be at least some 20 storey zoning within walking distance of stations, places along the SH20 corridor are suitable, as has been done in some places in Vancouver near transit stations, notably “Metrotown”.

        With the STN 2042 implemented, stations northwest and southeast of the Mt Albert Station and south of the Puhinui Station would be served by 8 tph in peak hours based on AT’s indications of rail operations with the CRL open. Stations between Mt Albert, Puhinui and the CRL would be served by at least 16 tph in peak hours.

        As the whole of New Zealand has seen with Treasury’s analysis of Auckland Light Rail’s preferred options, building a separate double track for a line could cost as much as TEN TIMES as the cost of adding a branch to the existing network that has the capacity to accommodate the branch. A number of cities have built rapid transit systems with no interlining at all, however most rapid systems in the world have or plan to have at least some interlining including Singapore and Hong Kong.

        A CC2M line connected to the existing rail network would result in a system that is as easy to use and understand as a system with a standalone CC2M Light Metro line, a line that would take until the mid-2030s to complete and cost $16.4 billion, which means $8 to $33 billion according to Treasury. A Light Metro line on the CC2M connected to the CRL and the rest of the rail network can be built for $2 billion, by 2029, and would have the very significant advantages that being part of the network would bring including passengers being able to travel, without confusion or difficulty, direct from Mangere to the CRL via Mt Albert, and to the CRL via Newmarket and to New Lynn, Henderson and further west.

        The availability of single-seat journeys on routes with high demand e.g. all routes on the completed STN 2042 rapid transit system, allows for high frequency journeys on routes that are highly convenient and attractive to users who would use them in great numbers, and can be run extremely efficiently by the system operator.

        An indication of why CC2M light metro cannot be built for $5 billion or less it that Auckland Light Rail and Treasury say it would cost much more than that; between $8 and $33 billion.

        Building trams lines to replace the 36 km Sandringham and Dominion Road bus routes would be fantastic even though it would not be rapid transit, would cost many billions, would take at least a decade to build with great disruption and would not be carbon neutral until the 2040s. It is something that could be done by century’s end once all the higher priority transport infrastructure has been built.

        The other thing about it is that each of the Dominion and Sandringham Road trunk tram routes would have two branches to replace the bus routes, so four routes would interline on Queen Street. At the same time Auckland’s rail network with the CRL open will feature the interlining through the CRL of the Western Line, the Southern Line, the Eastern Line, the Onehunga Branch Line and the Manukau Branch Line. Further still, in the very highly unlikely event that the proposed CC2M, Northern and Northwestern Light rail lines were built, for $50 billion plus, these lines would interline under the central city. All of this interlining would be contrary to your contention that there should be no interlining.

        I am in in Melbourne for a week. The 250 km tram system here and the 1,000 km rail rapid transit system both have a high degree of interlining, on every tram track through the central city and on each of the four underground rail loop tracks and other rail lines, contrary to your contention that there should be no interlining. However everything seems to be working perfectly well in Melbourne, as it has done almost all the time for 140 years.

        Interlining is common practise around the world including Auckland. Building a line to the Airport that interlines through the CRL would provide sufficient frequency and capacity likely for the rest of the century and would save between $5 and $27 billion in this and the next decade allowing many other transport projects to be built. If in some future century demand is such that interlining needs to be reduced in Auckland by building additional track, that can be done if and when it needs to be done.

        Thanks Rob. Also available at the link below, see page 313.

        1. *sigh*

          Will, again you are clearly cherry-picking. You refuse to acknowledge that light rail is delivered far cheaper overseas ($30-60M per km for surface light rail, $200-300M per km for light metro) and refuse to entertain the idea that we should try and reduce LR construction costs here, solely to prop up your absurdly low costings for heavy rail/tram-train/boondoggle interoperable solution. You are blatantly arguing in bad faith, and have been doing so for a while.

          You claim to be in favour of intensification – so why are you refusing to acknowledge the existence of the NPS-UD and its power to create 6+storey intensification within 800m of any frequent transit route? Particularly in the Isthmus, where currently there is too much weight given to protecting low density villas.

          No, surface light rail along Sandringham & Dominion Rds would NOT “branch into 4 routes.” There would be two lines, each every 4 minutes, merging into a single core section with 2 minute headways from Dominion Junction to Wynyard Quarter. This is an attainable frequency for light rail; and certainly superior for pedestrians & city centre active mode users to running buses every 30-60 seconds. At least in the initial stage Wesley & Mt Roskill would serve as termini for the light rail lines, and excellent staging points for reorganized feeder bus routes which could cover sections of the 24B/24R and 25B/25L bus branches.

          The advantage of a standalone light metro system is that it could be staged. An initial network with branches to Orewa, Milford, Huapai, and the Airport could be built – yes, this would involve a central core section, but with the 75-90 second headways possible through automation you could run a 2-line system (Orewa-Airport, Milford-Huapai) with each line running every 2.5-3 minutes. Through good inital future-proofing, later additions to the network could enable the removal of interlining. My opposition is to excessive interlining, my priority is to advocate for superior frequencies of at least every 5 minutes at peak for each RTN routing.

          Once again I stress that a network with more lines IS more confusing and complicated. If I needed to get from the Airport to Swanson I would prefer to transfer from a light metro running every 3-4 minutes to heavy rail running every 3-4 minutes, than catch a single “interoperable” line that may only run every 10-20 minutes. Simplicity and standalone modes is the standard practice for new-build transit overseas – citing legacy systems to support “interoperability” does not hold weight.

          I re-iterate: surface light rail on the Isthmus should cost $50M per km, and light metro either elevated or underground should cost $200M per km. This is based on real-world systems from overseas (Tampere, Canberra, Odense, Milan, Vancouver). The LM costing would deliver costs of $4-5 billion for the 20-25km CC2M light metro, $5-6 billion for the 25-30km NW light metro, and $4-6 billion for the 20-30km North Shore light metro. Vastly different from your biased claims and from the suspiciously secretive costings of the ALR working group.

          That is why I would urge anyone who prioritizes fiscal responsibility to hold the government account as to WHY the light rail project is so expensive and HOW those costs can be brought in line with international standards – and criticize anyone using this as an opportunity to promote inferior/already-debunked solutions (e.g. National’s return to supporting the woefully inadequate Puhinui Spur).

        2. To elaborate further on my philosophy with interlining, I believe the Auckland heavy rail network should run the following core patterns:

          1. Southern & Eastern (Pukekohe – CRL – Manukau)
          2. Southern & Western (Swanson – CRL – Papakura)
          3. Western & Eastern (Swanson – CRL – Manukau)

          From the CRL’s opening (18tph capacity), each pattern could run 6TPH. Since each line is doubled this creates effective 12TPH train frequencies at nearly every station in Auckland immediately in 2024-2025!

          Once the CRL is upgraded to 24TPH capacity, each pattern would be scaled up to 8TPH. A hypothetical future 30TPH capacity would see each pattern scaled up to 10TPH.

          Simply put there is no need and little benefit to adding more heavy rail routings. Why do that when you could increase the frequencies further on additional lines? We know that peak demand currently is filling up 6-car trains running every 10 minutes; it’s hardly far fetched that demand will double again and again in future and require 9-car trains every <5 minutes to every station in the Auckland urban area.

          Therein lies the reason for my opposition to extending or branching the heavy rail network, whether as pure heavy rail or "interoperable" tram-trains. I support, based on evidence and discussion, simple networks with high frequencies on each line, and convenient transfers rather than single-seat journeys everywhere.

        3. Additional clarification – my ideal envisioned mid-century RTN, listing modes, headways, & capacities. Does not include FQTN tier bus or ferry routes.

          HEAVY RAIL
          – Red Line ‘Southern & Eastern’ (Pukekohe-CRL-Manukau). 8TPH. 12,000p/h/d with 9-car 1500pax trains.
          – Green Line ‘Western & Southern’ (Swanson-CRL-Papakura). 8TPH. 12,000p/h/d with 9-car 1500pax trains.
          – Light Blue Line ‘Western & Eastern’ (Swanson-CRL-Manukau). 8TPH. 12,000p/h/d with 9-car 1500pax trains.
          – Brown Line ‘Crosstown 1’ (Henderson-Newmarket-Otahuhu). 4-8TPH. 4,000-8,000p/h/d with 6-car 1000pax trains.
          – Maroon Line ‘Southern Express’ (Britomart-Pokeno). 2TPH. 2,000p/h/d with 6-car 1000pax trains.
          – Dark Green Line ‘Helensville Shuttle’ (Henderson-Helensville). 1TPH. 500p/h/d with a 3-car 500pax battery train.
          – Regional Rapid Rail to Hamilton, Cambridge, Te Kuiti, Tauranga, Rotorua, Whakatane. 4TPH between Auckland and Hamilton. 2,000p/h/d with 500pax long distance trains.

          *Train capacity between City and Papakura/Swanson/Manukau would be 24,000p/h/d thanks to simple doubled interlining, 6x present capacity – enough to cater to large scale mode shift away from cars and intensification around stations, both of which are desirable.

          – Dark Blue Line ‘Northern & Southwest’ (Orewa-City-Airport). 20TPH. 18,000p/h/d with 900pax 6-car light metro units.
          – Orange Line ‘Bays & Northwest’ (Milford-City-Waimauku). 20TPH. 18,000p/h/d with 900pax 6-car light metro units.

          – Yellow Line ‘Eastern Loop (Panmure-Botany-Airport). 15TPH. 10,125p/h/d with 675pax 99m LRVs.
          – Purple Line ‘Crosstown’ (Pt Chev-Onehunga-Howick). 15TPH. 10,125p/h/d with 675pax 99m LRVs.
          – Sandringham Line (Wynyard Quarter-Wesley-New Lynn). 15TPH. 9,000p/h/d with 600pax 80m LRVs.
          – Dominion Line (Wynyard Quarter-Mt Roskill-Blockhouse Bay). 15TPH. 9,000p/h/d with 600pax LRVs.

          BUSWAYS/BRT (Buses up to every 2 minutes. 4,500p/h/d with 150pax bi-articulated buses)
          – Pink Line ‘Upper Harbour Busway’ (Albany-Westgate-Henderson).
          – Inner Shore BRT (City-Onewa Rd-Birkenhead-Albany).
          – Mt Eden Rd BRT (Britomart-Hillsborough).
          – Balmoral Cross BRT (Western Springs-Balmoral-Ellerslie-Panmure).
          – O Line BRT (Onehunga-Mangere-Otahuhu-Otara-Ormiston)

          – Devonport Line (Downtown-Devonport), every 10 minutes, 1,800p/h/d
          – Waitemata Line (Downtown-Birkenhead-Beach Haven-Hobsonville), every 20 minutes, 900 p/h/d

  4. Paralysis by analysis and in fact so much paralysis that it’s too late and all future rapid transit in Auckland will have to be bus based.

  5. So many plans, so little implementation…
    A lot of this planning is actually a waste of time. There are so many problems, so many solutions, its almost impossible to know what to build and when. We face this issue all the time in my line of work (nothing to do with transport), and I have found the best thing to do is to just build something. Sure sometimes it results in wasted effort or a sub-optimal solution, sometimes you regret the decisions you made, but at least you end up with something instead of just ending up with a plan.

  6. CBD-Takapuna light rail appears to be routed such than a station at Onewa Rd isn’t possible. Missed opportunity?

    1. +1

      I still think a branch to Takapuna (and possibly Milford) would be better. Would enable staging of rail to the Shore – building the AWHC first and having trains terminate at Takapuna initially, then building the new line north (or replacing the busway) as a second phase. Think that was mentioned about 10 years ago on an old GA article.

      It would also open up the potential for going even further inland, if a light metro option is the long-term goal – an elevated or underground alignment directly through the Northcote redevelopment, with the Takapuna/Milford branch serving Akoranga.

      1. I think buses from Akoranga serving both sides of Takapuna would be a far better option. Better catchment and therefore better frequency.

        Transport planners seem not to be acknowledging that to make the required emission reductions many of our trips will need to be by public transport, not just commuter ones.

  7. Everything is a missed opportunity if you keep rolling out the same plans that have been created over the past 10 years. I expect either another 3 years of ‘working groups’ and ‘establishment units’ if Labour win the next election and essentially ‘here’s some buses, sorry they aren’t trackless’ if Nats get in. No chance of us getting close to emissions targets, no chance in mode shift and more compliants about expensive fuel..

  8. All sounds like a lot of waffle and nonsense typical plans about plans , case studies ,business case studies more plans more pretty lines on maps ,meanwhile someones paying for all this waffle the taxpayer and rate payer and not one cent yet spent on a new tram or piece of track just a pack of bureaucracy and consultants clipping the ticket. It’s a joke you’ll be lucky to get even one state of the art trackless trolleybus before doomsday let alone light rail or anything else.

    1. Agreed, Peter. The most sensible plan yet is one we designed at our own cost and has not been supported by very many people as there seems to be too many know-it-alls who actually pretty much know nothing. Penlink to Puhinui elevated light metro, combined with cycleway is our proposal. We could facilitate construction completed in under 4 years from commencement.

      1. Elevated lines? An absolute last resort.

        Plenty of room for surface level road reallocation, with missing pieces like Penlink implemented, before we need to resort to that kind of expense.

        And if everyone’s isn’t licking their lips at your solution the way you are, maybe the issue is your solution.

        1. If a corridor like CC2M needed the capacity of light metro instead of surface light rail, then IMO it may be worth considering elevated light metro if that could be less expensive than tunnelled light metro.

          But the definitive “most sensible plan?” Nah. There are benefits and drawbacks to any mode & any option. If CC2M light metro were to be built I would also expect surface light rail to be built on a different route (crosstown and/or Sandringham + Dominion Rds)

          As a short-term way to encourage mode shift, road space reallocation needs to be a critical part of Auckland’s transit plans. Permanent bus lanes, pop-up protected bike lanes.

          I am wholeheartedly opposed to any transit proposal that is oriented around maintaining the present ‘car sewer’ layouts on Auckland streets. Elevated or tunneled light metro, if one day built, should be for capacity and value reasons primarily – streets along the route should still be reduced to 1 lane each way, with significantly wider footpaths, cycleways, and greenspace.

        2. Well according to most estimates elevated is less than half the cost of tunnelled – whatever mode it is.
          This is a HUGE difference. It is also cheaper to operate going forward too.

          If whatever mode we choose has the same capacity etc then with our city we are mad to even consider tunnelled rail anywhere outside the CBD/harbour.
          Elevated can be built faster, at less than half the cost, and with likely similar levels of disruption to tunnelled. That adds up to billions!

          Put it another way, you could have elevated LM CC2M, NW, and NS all for the cost of the single CC2M tunnelled LR.
          So you’d get a better and higher capacity system (and 3 lines) for the price of a single lesser line.

          Oh and you can use the space underneath for cycle lanes, bike parking, car parking, shops etc and shelter from the elements.

        3. Elevated lines make sense along motorway corridors, rural areas etc. – places where the negative aspects aren’t really going to be as much of a big issue. Of course ideally it’d be at grade due to price, but often there is grade issues or space constraints. CC2M is one that needs to be tunnelled, NW can be elevated as it’s along a motorway, while dependent on route the Northern Busway 2.0 could be, although I don’t think it makes sense to have it duplicating the existing busway for the route.

        4. A section of CC2M could be elevated along SH 20. The rest should be surface if you ask me. Nice to see and have a view out.

  9. “5.3 City Centre to Māngere

    This corridor has the lowest long-term demands of the three corridors, but this could be improved through land use optimisation given this corridor has significant concentrations of publicly owned land nearby”

    So they assume limited intensification from private development?

    1. One of my concerns is that in focusing on the North Shore, NW, and CC2M spines, other potential opportunities for RTN expansion in a new light rail/metro system will be forgotten about.

      What if the Eastern Busway & A2B needs capacity upgrades to LRT/LM after mid-century? Should there not be at least provision for a Newmarket-Panmure RTN alignment? If avoiding interlining is a goal, an Eastern light rail/light metro line makes sense, enabling North Shore-Mangere & NW-East patterns each running at 1.5-2 minute frequencies at some point in the future.

      The RTN as outlined in the ATAP is great for up to mid-century, but we need to be thinking beyond that – what other potential corridors in Auckland may have the demand for rapid transit in the future?

  10. It looks like a great analysis. But it’s more talk and no action. We can have all the good plans in the world, just no actual implementation 🙁

  11. To be honest regarding the proposed LRT, I have been digging through the documents, trying to make sense of there decision.
    But I can’t.
    I think to much weight is placed on easy development potential, especially kainga ora development and analysis was to simplistic.
    I often think it would be cheaper to just buy the whole street and then build it elevated above the road and then sell the land back to a devaloper.

    1. I think there’s a NIMBY bias in the proposed LRT decision – to restrict development and station locations only to areas already zoned for THAB in the Unitary Plan.

  12. Also the costing graph above showing per km cost for at grade, elevated, tunnel etc
    Anyone know why it would cost more or less for a tram LRT or heavy metro in a tunnel?
    As the tunnel is the same size usually tram tunnels are larger than metro/subway tunnels but other than that the tunnel has the same 2 rails and catenary or 3rd rail for power.
    The stations wouldn’t be any different ether.

    1. Yeah those figures are dodgy too.

      Overseas experience from Milan, Vancouver, Taipei, and Montreal shows that light metro (either elevated or underground) can feasibly cost $200 million per km or less, and surface light rail could cost as little as $30-50 million per km.

  13. As an Executive Summary of all this work the above post reads very well and would have been a great intro to the Auckland Light Rail Establishment Unit’s reports. It didn’t and wasn’t because the idea of building on what’s there and exploiting NETWORK EFFECTS didn’t serve the needs of the Auckland Light Rail Establishment Unit. So sad that we’re all going to have to put in sooo much work to drag the damage they have done back to sanity to get a cheaper, more integrated and sensibly staged rapid transit plan.

  14. In further ruminating on my comment above I think this is one of the most important GA post I’ve ever read and simultaneously staggered by the low number of comments. Are we all in full agreement with what Matt has said and what he has extracted from these documents? Are we totally disheartened by the way the Auckland Light Rail Establishment Unit largely ignored the advice? What’s going on here? Is this important stuff or too much detail?
    GA has done great work in establishing the idea of an RTN for Auckland and championing it however it seems GA’s supporters are treating this significant effort as so ho-humm. Is that right?

    1. What is there to say?

      A plan created by some silo in government being ignored by some other silo in government? Nothing close to being tangible. We’ve seen the most important picture before in other releases, and now there is some more detail which largely looks sensible. Matt’s analysis seems spot on. Theres no outrage to be had.

      It’s great it’s being done and having real high level thought being put in. It’s great that Greater Auckland has managed to help so much to drive such change. But it’s not exactly massive news, especially compared to happenings over the last few months.

  15. Yet again we see the folly of this Tunnelled Light Rail option (costs almost the same as LM while being much lower capacity, slower, more expensive to operate).

  16. It seems because of government stuff up we cannot really get option 3 anymore and option 6 seems best. But then again if anything happens at all it will be Option 1 just because it’s the cheapest. I’d be happy if any of that would happen one day in my lifetime to be honest.

  17. Call me cynical, but I’m now at the point where all this analysis and re-analysis leaves me completely cold. If there was a commitment from those holding the purse strings to do something, anything, in fact, I’d be much more interested.

    But meantime, how about a proto-RTN made up of buses operating on 24/7 bus lanes and operational across the region in 2023? I reckon it could be done for less than the cost of a single kilometre of most of the options under consideration. I fully expect to be dead before any of these current options come to fruition.

    The problem is: how do we encourage and promote urgent change to our travel behaviour NOW? These studies seem to exist in a vacuum that is quite divorced from the realities we face.

    1. Totally agree with you on bus RTN rolled out swiftly. Add to that bike RTN rolled out swiftly. Those two done well will change the game. The rest is just vapor ware, and everyone knows it. Which is why engagement is so low; we’re all tired. Covid, war, cost of living, all of it. Just build the damn bike lanes.

      1. From Wikipedia “Public buses forms a significant part of public transport in Singapore, with over 4.0 million rides taken per day on average as of 2018”.
        A hell of a number of people can be transported by buses – that’s 1.4 billion per year. Hard to imagine that Auckland will never have that many trips, although by 2050 I can imagine it will need something like that.

  18. The final decision from the Light Rail establishment group gives the impression of two things, 1) don’t upset the businesses on Dominion Rd at any cost, and 2) create an option that is so financially expensive that its chances off happening, at least in the immediate future, are zero or less.
    The planning discussed in this post certainly puts focus on those assumptions and really should be either abandoned or at least make a start at the airport end and build and initial system that connects to Onehunga and then on to Mt Roskil, by which time the idea of the tunnel can be research more fully an a better answer found.
    I’m convinced that should the Airport to Onehunga/Mt Roskil line be built first that the since of continuing at street level will become better focused and more acceptable.

  19. 90 buses per hour is a very low maximum number of buses per hour for a busway.
    Reports on the Northern busway say 140 ( Which is still low internationally)

    1. And how many lanes do those overseas busways usually have? 4 lanes, not 2 like the Northern Busway.

      Some BRT advocates use their figures in bad faith, demonstrating an anti-rail bias. Light rail can move more passengers than bus rapid transit in a 2 lane wide corridor, without needing passing lanes at stations or stops.

      Also it is funny to note that many BRT examples that BRT advocates hold up (e.g. Bogota) suffer from overcrowding and poor, delayed, overpriced service.

      1. +1

        More than 90 is only feasible if you go Northern Busway level of separation from other traffic, grade separated pedestrian crossings, and massive stations. To give you some idea of this, Sunnynook was over capacity for bus movements before the pandemic with around 100 in the peak hour. When people say that we can do 140 -200 buses per hour, they aren’t wrong, but in the same space, we could probably have quad tracked rail.

        1. Sunnynook is a great example.

          It is currently the smallest station on the busway, its tiny, and it has almost infinite room to expand platforms to the north. Especially if you remove 2-4 houses.
          Every single peak direction peak hour NX1 (for example) does not need to stop there. That is redundant.
          Some of its load could be relieved by an infill station at Tristram ave / Becroft park.

          None of this is to say rail will not be eventually needed on the shore, but there are way more important areas of the city transit wise that would benefit far more if the city didn’t spend billions to replace infrastructure a decade before it actually needed to.

          It’s also worth pointing out that the northern corridor is not very space limited and outside of all of that, a relief line might as well go somewhere different on the North Shore and get more coverage.

        2. No argument from me that we should optimise the busway before duplicating it with rail. I think that having buses skip stops is a really negative step though.

        3. Sailor Boy
          Yes skipping stops is a retrograde step. I used to hate it when I was working at Parnell and trains bound for Britomart went straight past. In the case of trains if there was a sensible dwell time of near 20 seconds (like Sydney) an extra stop would be neither here nor then.
          If less people embark/disembark at bus station the dwell time will be less. This won’t be achieved by having less buses stop.

        4. Every single peak direction bus doesn’t stop there. They stop if someone hits the dinger to get off, but often if the bus is full and nobody is alighting, or if there is already one stopped picking people up, they will go straight past.

          With an NX1 every two or three minutes on the schedule they’re frequently skipping each other anyway.

        5. Disagree Taka-ite & Sailor Boy.

          It’s a completely different scenario to the HR network. If the trains were running at under 40 second headways then it would be a remotely fair comparison.
          It is simply redundant to all buses stop at a station that heavily serves CC bound residential commuting. Especially the outer rim NX1 services from Hibiscus coast.
          The worst case scenario is someone accidentally goes one stop further than they intended, and simply catches the reverse service which is also running at super frequencies.

          Upsides are we decrease average trip times because full far north NX buses get to go faster, and we increase busway capacity. If fully utilised quite remarkably. While still retaining similar levels of all stops services. Its basically more capacity for almost no extra infra cost to run these super express services. Which to be clear we don’t need yet today.

          Also there is a flat time overhead to pulling up, stopping the bus, opening doors, closing doors, getting a gap, and then taking off again. If one person gets off vs if 5 get off, the time per disembark is much better for the 5. It would serve us well to group these needs.

          Any of this is really only relevant to CC bound AM services for the foreseeable future anyway.

      2. Matt, I’ve been looking and it is admittedly hard to find data from these BRT systems, but from my lazy “research” they seem to generally be “4 lanes” only at stations. Which is what the northern busway is. The real congestion points are at stations, there is no reason a lane in a vacuum with zero stops couldn’t carry far more than 90 bus sized vehicles. The bypass lanes at stations currently only serve all-stops buses that happen to be done quicker than the bus in front of them, those lanes could carry limited stops buses like they do overseas.

        As far as BRT implementations go, the Northern busway is a very highly featured example. Separated local and main line stations, grade separated pedestrian crossings, station passing lanes, no lights, and not to mention a surprisingly large amount of room to build more platform space at key stations. Or infill station(s) that would decrease the load on saturated stations.

        There is also a big difference between advocating for using what we’ve got in a much more efficient way and advocating for installing new busways.

        1. Fair point Jack

          Though I am mindful that the current predictions for the Northern Busway reaching capacity in 2035-2040 appear to include the “enhanced busway” upgrades (longer platforms, city-end bus lanes, potentially bi-articulated vehicles)

        2. Yes, and of course we should plan a relief line or rebuild and have something good looking sitting in the wings. However I think that the Northern busway capacity “impending doom” problem is going to be entirely politically self solving, and there is no great reason to spend a pile of political capital or advocacy time to get ahead of it. Let the experience degrade a little and generate its own demand.

          All the meanwhile the growing patronage justifies a better and better solution for that direction, and more and more support for PT in general. It’s like induced demand for roading, generating its own political capital and justification.

    2. Waiukuian, I remember you recommending a book about BRT / busway systems a year or so ago but I cant remember what it was, or on which post. Specifically about open vs closed systems

      Would you happen to remember what it is?

      1. Restructuring public transport through bus rapid transit : an international and interdisciplinary perspective / edited by Juan Carlos Munoz and Laurel Paget-Seekins
        Book | 2016.
        It is in the Corporate library so you can get sent chapters electronically

        1. Also check “The BRT Planning Guide” – a 1,000 page plus guide on how to build BRT available on the web.

      2. Jack, these are some excellent sources of BRT information FYI;
        The 233 Advanced Bus Solutions: Final Report and 143 page Appendix are great compendiums of relevant information with helpful links to sources.

        Is what it says on the can, data about various BRT systems. Example linked to below

        Lima, Peru
        Population 7,605,742
        Modal split % public transport 62.0
        Modal split % private transport 12.0
        Modal split % non motorized 26.0
        BRT Corridors 1 (Metropolitano)
        Total length 26 km
        Passengers per day 704,803

        The Metropolitano is a single corridor with one lane each way and 38 stations that are a mix of single lane each way and two lane each way. In the middle of city there is a section of the corridor with two parallel routes. There are three “Regular” services that stop at all stations for the section of the line travelled, and 9 “Express” services that stop only at designated stations for the sections of the line travelled. By these techniques the capacity of over 700,000 passengers per day is accommodated.

        The Northern Busway is predicted by AT to reach 70,000 passengers per weekday by 2038, 10% of the current usage of the Metropolitano. With passing lanes at every station and room to extend platforms, the Northern Busway is set up to handle demand for at least the rest of this century.

        Fig. 25.20High-capacity station: Lanzhou, China. ITDP.
        This links to a page in the much larger BRT guide document. The photo in figure 25.20 shows a new technique that is used to create high bus capacity BRT stations including two island platforms, one for each direction of travel, within the width of only four traffic lanes whereas at least six traffic lanes are usually required for a high capacity BRT station.

        South End Lane Configuration: South – North – Island Platform – North.
        North End Lane Configuration: South – Island Platform – South – North.

        The configuration is a highly efficient use of space, and also looks efficient for busses which don’t pull into the platforms at a certain “sub-stop” then pull out and pass other busses at a station with side platform and passing lanes. Rather the busses, which have doors on both sides, go to the side of the island platform that is free, stop at the single loading point, then continue on. The loading points on both sides of the island platform are at the same point on the platform, so passengers wait in one place, then load to one side or the other depending on which side of the platform their bus happens to come down, indicated by electronic signs. Genius. Would work well for major BRT stations on Fanshaw Street, Custom Street and Beach Road.

  20. “ It just seems like such a shame that the one time our transport agencies finally get around to doing the piece of planning work that’s been needed for at least a decade, it ends up being completely ignored.”.

    So true.

  21. From a Social Safety and Environmental standpoint, We don’t need Light Rail in Auckland or even anywhere around New Zealand at all!

    Quite frankly we don’t need Light Rail at all in New Zealand from environmental standpoint, why so you ask? Well answer is simple, its every ineffective for us NZ’er’s to use since it will provide very minimal benefits compared to Heavy Rail. Also were an earthquake prone country, which means event of a large earthquake, the Light Rail would take years to repair and get the service back up and running again. In 1835, South Auckland experienced an large earthquake, Magnitude 7.0 at the time, that’s bigger than the Christchurch Earthquake in 2011 which was magnitude 6.3! When Christchurch tramline got damaged, it took exactly 1000 days for it to get fully repaired which is equivalent of nearly 3 years and the line is a smaller scale compared to Auckland one in-event there was an earthquake to occur, whereas the proposed Light rail line in Auckland would be 18 times longer and would take longer to repair. Heavy Rail line during Christchurch Earthquakes took 2 months for it to be fully repair and have operations up and running again which is same length if it was from Onehunga to Airport.

    From the safety standpoint, the proposed Light Rail Line needs to adhere to all safety protocols and standards are being meet quality accordance to law. Auckland is known for being a wetland and biodiverse country, In-event of heavy rain pours, it can cause floods and cause damage to existing infrastructure and to the line itself. The Light Rail Line being proposed would be going through the floods and under it, it will be heavily impacted. If you look at Geomaps on the Auckland Council website, you’ll find that the the area its going through are ‘Flood Prone Areas’ and the areas which are ‘Flood Prone’ are Eden Park, between Renneth Ave – Cambourne Rd, along with small patches along Sandrigham Rd corridor, along Mt Roskill at SH20 and lastly Onehunga Bay Reserve. Trying to get a rail going through floods can be dangerous cause it can cause derailment and collision, along with having rail underground and going under ‘Flood Prone Land’ is another story. Going under flood prone land can be dangerous in-event of have rail spells, the rain can cause the earth to to weaken and sink the earth which also leads to the rail tunnel being crushed and would be costly interns of peoples lives and is costly repairing

    Now to the social standpoint, We all know that the objective of the Light Rail line is meant for the Mangere Community. Along with it, provide cheaper housing for mainly families them due to not enough around the area. But despite the promise this splurge of new housing offers, many harbour fears we may see history repeated as Pacific families are pushed further south to make way for higher-earning newcomers. Monte Cecilia Housing Trust is the main community housing provider in the area, and chief executive Bernie Smith shares these concerns by saying “First-home owners [from Māngere] can’t afford $800,000 to $900,000 houses,” he says. “Basically we’re going to see a lot of gentrification, as it will only be those that can afford to [who will get a house].” 

    Vicki Sykes and Vicky Hau are members of the Māngere Housing Community Reference Group, which is advocating on behalf of locals with Kāinga Ora. “I was born and bred here and lived and worked here my whole life,” Hau says. “One of the things that got me is seeing how dense the housing is and it concerns me how this will affect our families. I know we need more affordable homes but they also need to be suitable for families.”

    Penina Trust, New Zealand’s only Pacific-led community housing provider, has already built a number of multigenerational homes in other parts of South Auckland and is hoping the government can help fast-track further funding to meet the Pacific community’s housing needs.
    “We’re going to live to regret building all these one- and two-bedroom houses,” Penina’s chief executive Roine Lealaiauloto says.
    “I know as a Pacific provider we see a lot of bigger families, with a need for more space, and they also want to remain together purely because of the economic side of things.”

    So how would light rail being helping the community of Mangere its already causing re-gentrification and not right housing for families as a whole? Along with it how safe would the Light Rail service be during a natural disaster if it was to occur?


    1. That is, quite honestly, the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. By your “logic” we shouldn’t have any surface construction in NZ because of the earthquake risk.

      Just admit you’re biased against light rail and do away with the copy-paste essays, Tim.

      1. Hehe, someones unhappy that their ‘pet-project’ is becoming a mess and not realistic, not surprising to see another Light Rail enthusiast in distraught.

        1. Not surprising to see that heavy rail advocates are bullies, just like Jon Reeves.


        2. Matthew Beardsworth (Talking Auckland writer), Nah those are just tough ‘Facts’ for you ‘pet peeves’ light rail enthusiast to handle! Good luck comprehending and try to find a lame excuse of why Light rail is better!

        3. You know you’re only proving my point, Tim.

          Some facts for you

          – A second rail system is inevitably needed for Auckland, since heavy rail will be limited by the 18-24TPH capacity of the CRL? Trying to branch heavy rail to the Airport would limit train headways to every 7-10 minutes maximum on each line, whereas separate heavy and light rail systems could run 4-5 minute frequencies on each line. Better convenience AND higher capacity – a better deal all round.
          – Redundancy. Separate heavy and light rail means that if one network is disrupted the other can keep operating unaffected. Standalone rail systems, and even standalone metro lines, are increasingly common practice in new built metro rail networks overseas.
          – Off-the-shelf components. By building a new standard gauge light rail/metro system, we could take advantage of cheaper, easier-to-maintain standardized infrastructure and rolling stock, rather than custom-built trains which can be up to 50% more expensive as per HS2 and the Toronto Streetcars.
          – Affordability. Surface light rail can cost $30-50 million per km overseas; light metro can cost $200 million per km overseas. The ALR costing is wildly out of line, which indicates flawed models or a self-sabotaging agenda by the authorities.

          Thank you for acknowledging my VOAKL article, I hope you had a good read of it and understood that high-quality light rail need not be absurdly expensive.

    2. Mangere is one of several objectives. You don’t build train lines for one thing, those lines fail.

      Mangere, Airport, City Centre, Mout Roskill, central isthmus, Onehunga. Mangere is maybe one sixth of the equation.

      1. Mangere has always been the “Main Objective’, not anywhere else along the line, that specifically why the CC2M (City Centre to Mangere) is purposely for Mangere since their transport deprived and needs rail desperately. If the government was to extend the heavy rail line at Onehunga to airport, it would definitely for them since a lot of people from Mangere go work in Penrose and Ellerslie instead of having to take transfer at Onehunga by bus then heavy rail. If they were to have the so called ‘hybrid light rail’ running from CC2M via Mount Roskill, wouldn’t be for them since their wouldn’t be a lot of people going to work from Mangere, also people along Sandringham would more likely to be working from home since their profession has use of computers and of their financial background.

        1. Or:

          1. CC2M light metro, enables new Mangere-City Centre trips as well as captures existing City-Airport traips
          2. Crosstown light rail, Avondale-Onehunga-Pakuranga. With a transfer from CC2M at Onehunga would enable commutes from Mangere to Penrose & Ellerslie
          3. High-frequency bus line or BRT line, Onehunga-Mangere-Otahuhu-Ormiston. Connects Mangere directly to Otahuhu & East Tamaki
          4. Airport-Botany BRT/LRT. With a transfer from local buses/CC2M, connects Mangere to Manukau & East Tamaki.

    3. Counter point, some of the gentrification pressures are staring to be mitigated now. Previously someone that grew up in remuera or ponsonby would be unable to purchase a home there. All of the housing stock was out of their means. This displaced those people into the surrounding areas where prices were lower pushing gentrification.

      Now that we will be seeing more natural ability to build in rich neighbourhoods we should see less gentrification. Of course it will still be a thing, and any large transport infrastructure project in an area is going to cause it.

      The only solutions as I see it is to really push rapid transit upgrades over much more land area of the city, and to ensure plenty of govt housing is built / plenty of land is owned by govt in the core of these new station catchments.

      On the size of dwellings note, I’ve had the opposite experience. So many 3,4,5 bedroom places. Stuff all 1 or 2 bedroom places causing pretty poor outcomes for my student / young professional age group.

      1. To your point about gentrification, gentrification pushes up value of living in the area targeting not lower. If you were to be renting and the light rail line was to get clearance, landlord will be faced with value capture and will want higher paying tenant and replace lower paying tenant. For property owners they’d be faced with the value capture too, which means value of properties stay stagnant and doesn’t grow with other suburbs around the region which causes people have to move out of the region. If they were to go with Heavy Rail 9.6km, it would cause far less gentrification vs 24 km long Light Rail. It should not be at the expense of the people currently living there since they come from low economical backgrounds, The spinoff article which has been written just proves my point!

        1. So the problem is the LANDLORDS, not light rail.

          Bloody hell, your agenda is so blatant Tim. You’re a NIMBY

        2. Actually you’ll find it is Light rail problem since when construction starts the value capture is enacted which means lower paying tenants forced to move out and seek another place to live if they’re able too. Not surprising see you support gentrification, which displaces people out their community!

        3. If they were to go with Heavy Rail 9.6km, it would cause far less gentrification vs 24 km long Light Rail

          I totally disagree. Concentrating services increases gentrification in targeted areas. I dont see how anyone could successfully make an argument for the opposite.
          A cursory glance around the productive rail stations, newmarket, britomart…. they have vastly higher land values than unserved suburbia in south Auckland.
          Decreasing the area served, but giving higher levels to that area is going to push land prices far more than a more widespread rising-tide change. Basic land prices in cities very clearly show this, relatively well connected areas are more expensive than relatively unconnected areas.

          As an aside When Christchurch tramline got damaged, it took exactly 1000 days for it to get fully repaired which is equivalent of nearly 3 years and the line is a smaller scale compared to Auckland one in-event there was an earthquake to occur, whereas the proposed Light rail line in Auckland would be 18 times longer and would take longer to repair. Heavy Rail line during Christchurch Earthquakes took 2 months for it to be fully repair and have operations up and running again which is same length if it was from Onehunga to Airport.
          I think this is the most hilarious conclusion to jump to I’ve ever seen lol. Had to take 5 minutes to recover. I don’t know how the chch tram is relevent to the proposed LRT line in the slightest.

          It would be like saying my 1970s mini cooper project car took 2 years to be restored while I was working on it on weekends, whereas this SUV that I took to the mechanic and desperately needed to be fixed got fixed quickly. Therefore all cars are bad because they take ages to fix compared to SUV’s….. quite the jump. But it does reveal how desperate you are to try hold onto any possible straw that heavy rail might be an acceptable solution here. Not even worth debating any finer points with.

        4. Wrong Jack, its more do with the landowners being pleased and the property type. Along with it amount of bedrooms each units will provide in the suburb. This project won’t just affect Mangere community and Heavy Rail would only affect Mangere by tiny bit since would be travelling along SH20 while Light Rail goes through Coronation Rd (Route 14), Bader Dr and Orly Ave, that’s just the beginning, Gentrification process will affect people living in Mt Roskill, Sandringham and Kingsland. Once the process is completed, many people on low incomes are displaced out of their communities.

        5. Yes the argument about the Christchurch tram is ludicrous.

          Surely we shouldn’t be arguing not to build rapid transit so as to prevent gentrification?? There is plenty of places to move to of lower value it this is to be an issue. Being near a rapid transit route should save what ever home owners a tonne of travel expense anyway, so maybe doing a way with a car altogether.

        6. Yes Grant.
          The argument for not doing rapid transit to preserve low land prices is essentially a race to the bottom. We could make the same argument about any public services.
          Sealed roads? pffft all they do is raise property prices, we should rip all the asphalt off and leave them as dirt / gravel to lower property prices! etc etc.
          Cities that invest in rapid transit in the anglosphere are in a somewhat unfortunate position, Vancouver for example is investing a lot. This has made the city an attractive place to live and has unfortunately contributed to property prices skyrocketing with such high demand to live there.
          But the solution isn’t to turn our cities into Detroit like hellscapes (which has really nice lower property prices). Rather it is to try make all the cities in the country better. A raising tide lifting the quality of everyone’s transport situation etc etc.

          “Heavy Rail would only affect Mangere by tiny bit since would be travelling along SH20 while Light Rail goes through Coronation Rd (Route 14), Bader Dr and Orly Ave”
          Are you talking about construction disruption only?

          If not, any rapid transit line in the area, no matter of mode, would contribute to gentrification based solely on the usefulness of the line. If it goes to useful places then people value it. If it goes to useless places then nobody will value it. If HR was useful there then it would contribute to gentrification just as much any other box that takes people to stations along that alignment. Your suggestion that HR along your proposed alignment (which you haven’t clearly laid out) wouldn’t cause gentrification would mean that its useless.

          Of course gentrification of a useful alignment could be mitigated by the govt if so desired. State owned housing, shifting to an LVT system….

        7. @Jack +1. As I’ve tried to tell TimK, housing prices are a separate dilemma to light rail.

    4. Had to sign up just to tell TimK he’s so far out of touch it isn’t even funny. It was hard to read such a jumble of disconnected thoughts and assumptions, but I powered through it – and I especially liked the nonsensical arguments and the vaguely racist overtones.

      I didn’t think they let toddlers or the badly befuddled have free access to the internet, but apparently they do.

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