Last year the impressive new Puhinui station along with bus and transit lanes linking it to the Airport and Manukau were opened creating a much improved public transport connection to the airport.

The station is just the first stage of a larger plan to build a new rapid transit line from the Airport to Botany (A2B) and that’s an important project we haven’t heard a lot about recently. But that doesn’t mean nothing has been happening.

A 2019 artist impression of Ti Irirangi Dr

We know that in early 2021, a business case was completed for the project and sent to the boards of Auckland Transport and Waka Kotahi for endorsement. Waka Kotahi also approved funding for route protection. Frustratingly, the business case has not yet been publicly released but there is a little bit of new information available.

The stated project benefits include:

  • improving travel choices and journey times for people in south and east Auckland, with a reliable 35-40 minute journey time between Auckland Airport and Botany
  • proving a 18km congestion-free rapid transit with high capacity services
  • improving access to major employment centres, including Auckland Airport and Manukau
  • provide an important connection in the rapid transit network, connecting to the rail network at Puhinui station and Manukau, the Eastern Busway at a new Botany interchange
  • supporting growth opportunities along the route – as well as for the wider south and east Auckland area
  • improving walking and cycling connections between Auckland Airport, Puhinui Station interchange, Manukau and Botany, with 12km of new facilities.

In June AT updated their project page to note that Supporting Growth team, the group mostly focused on the greenfield growth areas in the North, Northwest and South, have also taken on the route protection task for the A2B route. I think that’s positive and it would be good to see that team shift to focusing more on the planning and route protection processes for other existing urban corridors. They say:

During 2022, Te Tupu Ngātahi Supporting Growth will prepare Notices of Requirement (NoRs) under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) to protect the land needed by Auckland Transport and Waka Kotahi for the project.

We will carry out the necessary planning work to confirm the footprint needed for the Airport to Botany route and this will involve a range of technical and environmental assessments by noise, ecological and landscape specialists. The intention is for Auckland Transport and Waka Kotahi to lodge NoRs with Auckland Council by December 2022.

They also include a map showing the proposed route and station locations. The route is the same as we’ve seen in previous high-level maps which is unsurprising as there are not really many other alternatives to Ti Irirangi Dr. It also is a direct route so avoids diverting to the Flatbush problem. More interesting are the station locations along it and again these locations are unsurprising as they’re located at major crossroads which could allow for transfers to other bus routes.

They these travel times from the airport to

  • Manukau – 18-19 min
    • Using Rapid Transit
  • Papakura – 31-33 min
    • Rapid Transit to Puhinui
    • Train from Puhinui to Papakura
  • Botany – 36-30 min
    • Using Rapid Transit
  • Britomart – 45-50 minutes
    • Rapid transit to Puhinui
    • Train from Puhinui to Britomart

It’s also worth noting that the new Puhinui Station has been designed to allow a new bus only bridge to be built improving bus speeds and providing even easier bus/train interchanges.

What I find more interesting than the route is they include a potential cross section of Ti Irirangi Dr.

That’s significant because much of Ti Irirangi Dr currently looks like this.

It suggests that unlike with the Eastern Busway, where AT are busy taking out lots of houses to significantly widen the corridor in order to accommodate the busway, on Ti Irirangi Dr the plan appears to be largely about reallocating space within the existing corridor. That could hopefully be a significant win to hopefully help deliver the route faster and cheaper and with lower emissions as well as helping to encourage mode shift.

It could be a good candidate for helping to deliver rapid transit or at least bus improvements on other major routes, such as Lincoln Road out west.

Of course, I worry this is the layout in an ideal world and so worry that as part of the work to confirm the footprint we’ll see traffic flow focused engineers look to claw back extra road lanes by taking out or weakening the space allocated for pedestrians, cyclists and trees.

Hopefully we’ll hear more about the project soon.

Eastern Busway

While we’re looking at Rapid Transit in the East, it’s also worth noting that earlier this month AT confirmed they would proceed with their Buswood Deviation as part of the Pakuranga to Botany section of the Eastern Busway.

AT Board endorses Burswood option for Pakuranga to Botany route

The design from Pakuranga to Ti Rakau Drive Bridge was approved by AT in February this year. Residents’ feedback on the proposed design from Ti Rakau Drive Bridge to Botany Town Centre was given further careful consideration before a decision on that part of the route was made in late June.

Mr Lambert says the feedback showed keen support for construction of the busway, along with concern for the impacts of construction on the Burswood community.

“We acknowledge that the approved design will impact the homes of some Burswood residents, and we have given extra consideration to their feedback over several months. The decision on the preferred option was made only after a large number of alternative alignment possibilities were considered both on and around Ti Rakau Drive.”

“We also recognise that this project is an important step in our work to keep east Auckland moving as it grows and to ensure that people have a range of transport and lifestyle options in the future.”

The busway design between Ti Rakau Drive Bridge and Botany Town Centre will significantly increase people’s access to a rapid transport network, give them greater choice as to how they travel, and enable communities’ rapid growth and development.”

It will be a safer route for walking, cycling, bus and road users; improve bus journey efficiency and reliability; minimise disruption for the main freight route on Ti Rakau Drive; and be about 12-18 months quicker to build.

Will we end up seeing similar bizarre outcomes with the Airport to Botany route?

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42 comments

  1. So no chance it becomes LRT?

    Anyway, with only the bridge over the tracks at Puhinui required (from my very cursory glance), shouldn’t the construction time be pretty short on this?

    1. It would probably be built with it in consideration as a future upgrade. Same as the NEX busway was built at a grade that can be upgraded to LRT

      Speaking of LRT, firstly Labour screwed it up by taking project away from AT. I say leave Auckland projects with AT, if we need funding we can do things like for the Rail link. We have also got the petrol tax, one of the reasons was that it would’ve allowed us to borrow the money to build the LRT. But it was taken away.

      National is being anti LRT for elections, however, the LRT idea came out was due to National. When they did their study to disprove the need for the CRL, they discovered not only was it needed, but LRT was required as well. (greater auckland mentioned this in the past)

      1. …until there is some budget-driven scaled back design which somehow renders the entire route unsuitable for a future upgrade; I believe there was discussion at some point hinting that is what happened with the bridge on the currently built AMETI section, which can now effectively not be upgraded to LRT without being rebuilt.

    2. Reconstruction of such an arterial will inevitably be an incredibly slow process, trying to keep most of it open while essentially fully rebuilding the corridor. And one would hope they do some very deep asphalt for the busway, and probably the roadway.

      I also don’t see any real utility of LRT here. At least for decades. There is plenty of room on either end of the route for buses terminating. This will let us use articulated or double articulated buses. Which gives some of the driver economy of LRT. And this seems like a good place to run a more “open” BRT style service, other routes running through suburbs and the industrial area, with a section of the route on the busway alignment.

      1. Where are you going to get the diesel from in the next few decades? Surely a more reliable service would be electric from the start? LRT would appear to be much more environmentally friendly solution.

        1. Also please show me a thirty year old bus in public service and then compare that with thirty year old trams in cites where the LRT has been preserved. LRT is so much more sustainable than diesel or electric buses

        2. Diesel doesn’t need to be made from oil, you can make it from vegetable oil or animal fats, besides we will be using oil long after every member of this boards grandchildren are dead and buried, despite that people think it’s not going away.

          You are correct this should be electrified and built as LRT right from the start, the AMETI project should have been light metro. We’re great at building subpar infrastructure in NZ.

        3. All of AT’s future bus purchases are BEVs. They have committed to never purchasing another diesel bus.

          Personally I would love to see overhead trolly wires. With at least the core services being trolleybuses. And expresses or open services being BEV.

          Trolleybuses around the world are refurbished into multiple times what their original life span was. Wellington is the obvious local example. And there is no reason that these BEV buses could not be battery swapped later on. Aside from the battery, they are functionally no different from a traditional trolly.

          The most environmentally friendly and sustainable solution is to build as much quality PT as possible. Rather than drop significantly more capex on the odd corridor. There are limited funds, and we have to do as much as we can with it. Show me where in the western world they build LRT for the same price as BRT?

    3. I haven’t tried the new service (so apparently I shouldn’t comment) but from what I’ve seen they didn’t even bother with all door boarding or transfer without tagging off/on. It looks like a decent service in the pics, but I think it’s pretty much some bus lanes and standard buses without even trying to give it all the advantages a train would have, very lazy from AT, spent the big bucks but were too lazy on the important details.

      1. I mean, that’s all that service needs though. I get people like big shiny stuff but trains that run every 5 minutes in peak, transfering to buses that run every 10 minutes, which then run direct to the destination, mostly in transit lanes, is a perfectly decent solution.

        And the real key in this project is the future expandability. As soon as more capacity or service is needed then it can be added with little disruption.
        The fare gates are off to the sides, so in the future when the bridge goes over it will be a zero tagging, all door affair.

      2. Getting busways more like trains is great but this route has a number of roadside bus stops as well. All door boarding and platform HOP machines isn’t going to work at the moment.

  2. I have to say this, why is it that Auckland transport is not interested in fixing things, only spending money.
    Yesterday I found ANOTHER “Stop” button that did not work, when I saw another passenger get out of her seat to press the stop button I must of reported a dozen faulty stop buttons over the last few months, why is it so hard to test these buttons at the bus depot.

    Or is it Auckland Transport hates passengers and just wants to waste money, that rent payers will have to pay to their landlord, landlady via their rate

    The bus that has a faulty stop button is NB 1438

      1. If the privatisation model means the message from passengers doesn’t lead to action, though, then we should be bringing it all back into public control.

      2. It’s AT’s responsibility, they contract the bus companies so should be following up to get this sort of stuff sorted.

        I’m sure there is either a direct or indirect requirement in their contract that requires these buttons to be there and working.

  3. Don’t waste tax payer money !!! The East corridor built for many years but just completed didn’t benefit local residents! The usage is just below ten buses per hour! What a shame to NZ!!!

    1. “East corridor”?

      You mean the eastern busway?
      The one that opened last year, in the middle of a pandemic, which is designed to rely on the the rest of the busway (this post’s subject)

      1. Right, the wasting tax payer money bus lane!! A big shame to a poor economy where bus utilisation are low, fair sky high!

    2. It’s 13 per hour, with a few more during peak hours. That will grow once specific services are added when the whole busway opens in a few years time.

  4. Had a great laugh at the cross section! I am not sure having cars drive on the wrong side of the road will help the so called road to zero 🙂

  5. Excellant observation
    I am 81, in early yrs
    Council had compact detailed models of planned action.
    These clearly illustrated path and type of construction.
    Today, cloudly info, no detailed diagram.
    We were fortunate to view sketches of how the proposed roading is intended.
    You question how.
    Excellant

  6. Wasn’t the meridian on Te Irirangi Drive always meant to be some tram or bus route eventually?

    And the Burswood deviation, an obviously stupid idea, is actually getting built. I wonder how demotivational that sort of stuff is for people working on public transport projects.

    1. Do we know exactly what the considerations were that prompted that deviation? In detail? I absolutely agree it’s not ideal, but unless we do know, I reckon we should moderate our criticism because we are (as usual) making judgements on the basis of ignorance.

      1. The argument that you don’t necessarily have all the required knowledge as an armchair expert is definitely valid.

        But only to some point.

        Imagine watching someone trying to cook something. You may not be able to tell if he is really good or just mediocre. But if you see black smoke coming up from the pan and the smoke alarm is going off, most people can tell he is not a very good cook. Even those without much knowledge about cooking.

        This Burswood deviation… no. We actually know one of the underlying considerations, and it is we must keep all current capacity for driving cars.

        See https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2021/11/22/eastern-busway-stage-2-design-consultation/

        I think an example where this argument applies is when looking at the alignment of that other proposed line in Manukau. It looks completely weird as well, but Manukau is what it is, the train station ended up where it is, so it is complicated.

  7. It dawned on me reading this post that I actually haven’t yet tried the link to the airport via train & this bus link. I have done everything but:

    1. Used the old diesel powered 380 bus service to and from Papatoetoe/Onehunga & Airport.
    2. Watched new electric buses for the route go past while in Papatoetoe.
    3. Went to the opening of the SH20B improvements, scootered on the new shared path.
    4. Visited the newly opened Puhinui Station via car on the weekend during a rail closure.
    5. Transferred from AT metro to Te Huia at the new Puhinui Station.

    Of course with COVID, going to the airport without flying didn’t seem to appealing especially when the trains where only running at 20 min frequencies recently.

    So now must try the whole thing when everything is running.
    That upgrade to take out the dogleg of Bridge St will be a welcome improvement especially if travelling from the eastern side of the station (ie Botany).

    1. I live on bridge st for 40 years,watched new station get built from my house, station is a ghost town,electric buses going past two people on it, total waste of money,I haven’t gone to look inside station and it’s 100 meters from my house,60 million dollars wasted, drive to work every day,cheaper,faster, more convenient, stuff waiting in the pouring rain most bus stations, went on new Hamilton expressway Bombay to Cambridge 110 all the way,awesome.

      1. You live on Bridge Street. So you know this is beyond Puhinui Train Station? So as the bus goes past your house, none of the people transferring at Puhinui to go to or from the airport are actually on it.

        FWIW I’ve used the new service many times and have only once not shared the bus with two or more others. Early morning it’s sometimes half full. Even at 8 pm there can be half a dozen.

      2. Andre you might not want to use it for work however do you never go to Manukau Mall or the super centre what about if your flying out for a few days do you fill your car up with $3 a litre fuel and go and park it at an airport car park at however how many dollars a day they costs then catch the shuttle to the airport just so you can proudly say I never use public transport. By the way a hop fare will cost you a dollar each way and you can even catch a train to Hamilton for about $10. Your location is super convenient.

      3. But our Great NZ Authority never use the bus, they drive themselves, how can these big people know? Too many NZ people living in their dreams only! Not only the buses near your 40 years living with just few people, too many other places with the same!

  8. In terms of the airport-to-city connectivity, the coach services which used to be operated by Skybus have been restored for some months (look online for something called Skydrive). Whether it will ‘take’ commercially is actually a good question, given that the link via Puhinui is a lot cheaper, if taking somewhat longer.

    Disclosure: in a past life I used Skybus a lot, as it provided a pretty well door-to-door link between the airport and where I liked staying in Auckland Central. The amount of luggage I had was a factor as well.

  9. .Maybe the bus route from Botany to Manukau
    Could be a single lane down the centre of Te Irirangi
    Allowing a bus service each way every 30 minutes
    Save millions in road works and property removals

    1. The current bus services on Te Irirangi Drive are more frequent than 30 minutes. Hard to see what the point of your proposed backwards step would be.

  10. I seriously hope there isn’t an idiotic idea to reduce the car lanes to one each direction. This is absolutely change to an already terrible bus system. Just build the light rail and get it over and done with.

    1. I bet it will cut one for bus lane. Our Great but stupid NZ Authority, so that less vehicle to help climate….

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