Yesterday the Herald ran an op-ed from Mayor Wayne Brown titled “The case for light rail is lighter than ever“, and a few things stood out. Here’s a snippet:

However, it’s getting more and more tricky to make a strong economic case for spending up to $29 billion on a single route of Auckland light rail, especially as the cost is expected to further increase according to Treasury’s Half-Year Economic and Fiscal Update.

Initially, light rail was a response to bus congestion on Symonds St, but changing commuting patterns with more people working from home solved that problem.

Then, for a period, it was a very expensive alternative to the airport bus before the focus shifted to growth and intensification of housing along the Dominion Rd corridor. You could say that it went from being a transport scheme to a housing scheme.

We want to see a big investment in public transport more than most. But it’s hard to see how government can justify spending so much on a single route when we still lack the rapid transit network we needed years ago in order to help fight congestion, climate change, inflation and many other issues. Most of this Future Rapid Transport Network isn’t even on the plans for getting under way for decades to come:

The shift around light rail planning towards a housing focus has also not helped. Although, I think the issue here is not so much integrating light rail and housing in general – but that the government (and therefore the project team) has been distracted by a concentration of Kāinga Ora land nearby, resulting in a focus on a much less direct route.

There are, however, still issues with bus congestion in the city – at peak times, and whenever the motorway snarls up – despite fewer people travelling. And a key aspect to getting more people to use public transport is to make it attractive and competitive with driving not just at peak times, but all day.

A Queen St bus sausage in broad daylight – photo from Sam Hood

Mayor Brown’s op-ed then goes into five key reasons why he thinks light rail is not a priority, and this is where I disagree with his assessment the most:

Since then, some big changes have occurred. Firstly, there’s no growth, and Auckland’s population has fallen.

Secondly, as a result of Covid-19, there are high levels of vacancy in CBD office buildings, which represent a better opportunity to intensify housing as the buildings and infrastructure are already there.

Thirdly, the Government passed new intensification rules allowing buildings of up to three storeys on most sites without any need for resource consent. So, why focus on Dominion Rd?

Fourthly, Auckland Transport is preparing to trial dynamic bus lanes on feeder roads, which, coupled with transponders already fitted on buses, should speed them up and leave a lane for parking to help keep the shops open.

These changes weaken the business case for Auckland light rail, and you have to question the need to spend $180 million on staff and consultants.

We need to refocus on the most pressing priorities, and rein in projects that are not immediately essential.

It would be best to wait until the City Rail Link (CRL), the fifth big change, is completed, as this will definitely have an impact on whether to go ahead with light rail.

This seems very short-term thinking, and exactly the same kind of thing that so many of his predecessors engaged in over many decades and which left our city bereft of a good PT network.

Yes, while our population has fallen slightly in recent years, it will go up again: the medium growth scenario in the latest population projection, released just last month, still expects Auckland’s population to grow by over 400,000 people in the next 25 years.

And, while I’m sure there is some impact on light rail – possibly enough to impact the economics – the government’s intensification rules also require the council to upzone even higher around rapid transit stations. This, plus the presence of light rail, would help focus development around that mid-isthmus corridor. The rules, once applied, are probably a far bigger threat to far-flung greenfield sprawl than they are to light rail through the heart of the isthmus.

As for the city centre: the reports of its death are greatly exaggerated, and it’s certainly not the first time its demise has been predicted. Yes, it has changed recently, and how we use the city centre will continue to evolve over time – but just like with citywide population numbers, the central city will grow again.

I see (surface-running) light rail as a key tool in not only serving Aucklanders (and visitors) of today, but in helping to shape where and how our city grows in the future.

On the mention of “dynamic bus lanes”: just where is AT planning on trialling these, and what’s the time line? Furthermore, the corridors being considered for light rail already have extensive bus lanes on them, so I’m not sure how this is relevant to the Mayor’s argument against light rail.

What’s the wider design thinking around these – could they be something like what was done in Indianapolis with proper stations, too, as a sort of busway-lite?

And what about the “lane for parking to help keep shops open”? Is this an argument against clearways? I guess shops will fail overnight unless there’s a full “lane” of parking immediately in front of the plate glass windows. Just ask any mall.

(Moreover as we’ve previously noted, a fixed lane of on-street parking in shopping areas is a major safety issue for drivers and more vulnerable road users alike – and in most cases, there’s an abundance of off-street parking nearby as an alternative).

It’s not just a theoretical point: a “lane for parking” in this image has cost at least one young life and tragically altered many others.

The op-ed also notes this, about the need for transport options in the Northwest:

This single, integrated transport plan will question the current Auckland light rail proposal, which, if it’s to have a future, would arguably be of value to the northwest where growth that does occur will be centred.

In saying all of this, the Mayor’s comments hint at some of many key questions that the light rail team needs to answer. Others would include:

  • What is the route, and where are the stations actually going to be?
  • When will light rail start construction, and when will trains actually start running?
  • How will/could light rail be staged so we can see some benefits from it sooner?
  • If the tunnel is all about long term network capacity once we also have light rail to the Northwest – why is it needed south of the junction with a Northwest line, when only half the capacity will be able to be used anyway?
  • What changes will be made to local bus routes to integrate with and support light rail?
  • What cycleways will be delivered as part of light rail?
  • What urban enhancements will be delivered as part of the project, as shown in the many renders of the project that have been shared to help bring the public along – and how will they be funded and delivered? (e.g. town centre upgrades)

Finally, an interesting piece of news yesterday that former Auckland Transport CEO, Shane Ellison has been appointed to the board of the ALR project. Watch this space.

Māngere Town Centre after light rail: a render from the ALR project team as used in consultations.
Potential Sandringham Road tunneled light rail station: a render from the ALR team, as used in public consultations.
A render of an ALR station: there’s no reason this couldn’t be achieved with a surface solution
One of the selling points of the imagery of the tunnelled option is wider footpaths, new cycleways, and greenery and rain gardens on the surface. We’re keen to hear more: including, can these benefits be delivered first?
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  1. There’s just so many things wrong with planning in NZ – AKLs light rail proposal is symptomatic.

    1) There is no population strategy (maximizing wellbeing per capita growth taking into account economic, social and environmental factors). We dont know how much AKL will grow.

    2) The LRT is a political project not a planned one. Yes a rapid transit line to the airport is needed at some stage, but is it the best spend of $29bn on PT at this time, and who said it couldn’t be staged either in length or infrastructure type or both.

    3) The LRT is not being directly pursued in concert with congestion tolls which would lift its justification along with the PnR opportunities it would provide.

    4) As far as I understand Kāinga Ora has designation rights under the UD Act. The fact that it has land on a less optimal corridor seems irrelevant. The land rezoning and LRT should go hand in hand.

    1. Not quite, and at times, at all on the money with your comments.

      1. Population Growth is, has and always will be an estimation based on historical growth rates, that does not equate to “we dont know how much Auckland will grow” it equates to providing an answer on whether we need to do something now, or later. In the case of Auckland needing reliable and fast public transport, the answer is we should have started building it 2 decades ago.

      2. You said: “LRT is a political project not a planned one. Yes a rapid transit line to the airport is needed at some stage,”.

      This has a couple of errors in it, the firstly it is not a transit line to the airport, its a desperately need reliable and fast PT solution for 36,000 homes along the corridor, and it also happens to go to the airport. This is not a political “unplanned” project, its is a city planning project attempted by the National Party 4-5 times and now Labour, why? Because 36,000 homes in AKL currently have to spend hours every day, at significant cost and transfer to multiple transport modes just to get to education and work every day.

      3. Your third comment has no value, its just nonsense.

      4. Your 4th comment makes no sense. Are you implying Light Rail have not thought of and understand designation rights and are unaligned with other government and local stakeholders? Ridiculous.

      1. Light rail is not “rapid transit”, it is Mass transit (i.e. slower than rapid transit like heavy rail). Light rail has a top speed of only 80km/ph, or 30km/ph when street running on most of the surface route in the CBD.

        Heavy rail on our gauge can travel 160km/ph – not that it can on the Auckland network (or New Zealand network), but that is the maximum it can do, compared to only 80 for light rail.

        Light rail is dead. It doesn’t matter how many consultants and Labour/Green party hacks on this site say, it is dead in the eyes of Aucklanders and voters. It will be thrown out this year.

        1. “…30km/ph when street running on most of the surface route in the CBD.”

          So as fast as the Western HR line.

        2. Yes but let’s be clear, it was the Labour government under Ardern that killed Light Rail in Auckland.

  2. The main issue is just the sheer crazy price of the project.
    Now if it was a full metro or light metro maybe it could be justified, but for a glorified tram? Hell no.

    1. Agreed. If you really think the project would cost $29 billion, then you’re doing it wrong.

      That’s $29,000,000,000.
      So many zeroes.

    2. Should be asking why projects in general cost so much in New Zealand.

      By international figures CC2M should cost $2.5 billion as surface light rail ($100M per km) or $7.5 billion as light metro ($300M per km).

  3. The pandemic induced population growth pause is just that, a pause. 2022 already returned to a net migration gain. Planning watches variation like this carefully, but must be based on long term trends not noise.

    Yes LR should go back to being a right-sized scheduled programme with early delivery and a steady network and capacity build programme over time, instead of a massive risky vast single mega-structure. Yes planning and investing in city shaping infra like transit is a medium to long term scaled business, timeliness and right-sizing of investment is critical to maintain political and social licence.

    1. To me it makes sense to use the ‘population pause’ time as an opportunity for the disruption, rather than wait until ‘peak density’ before all the disruption occurs.

      All too often we build ourselves out of problems rather than building to avoid them.

      1. But it plays into the anti-urban agenda that the right-wing in this country holds dear! It’s just the excuse to claim that noone wants to live in cities anymore then blow the $15-29 billion on motorways out in the middle of nowhere.

  4. I can’t wait to see the backlash and screams of ‘Entrapment!’ when drivers get their first tickets for hogging the dynamic bus lane.

    Without enforcement, that whole idea is a dead cat, and we know how shy of enforcement action AT is.

    1. You just need to look at the new T2 lanes on Great South Road between Penrose and Otahuhu. So many single occupant vehicles cruising along it, resulting in massive backlogs that negates the provision of it in the first place! We need enforcement asap.

  5. Absolute no brainer. Even $5B on this project wouldn’t be warranted let along $29B. It staggers me that there were people pushing ahead with pricing and plans for something that was such an obvious white elephant. What an absolute waste of resources. Thank goodness we have someone like Brown who can see this project for what it is, a big fat waste of money.

    1. You mean thank goodness for a person who is 1 vote on a council and has no control over Government spending? So grateful for Wayne and all he has done so far..

      1. Exactly. This is a central government project now. Quite Why Brown is wasting his limited media time on a project he has no control over, is beyond me.

        In saying that, with Ellison now involved, thats as good as an indication that nothing will happen on this thing. Yet again an example of the establishment failing up. The guy is inept.

    2. “such an obvious white elephant” – yeah rail is a white elephant and London and Tokyo should rip theirs out and build more roads so they can have no congestion problems just like Auckland.

    3. Agreed!

      Can the whole thing, then drop a billion or two on subsidizing and supporting completely individualized electric vehicles that miraculously weigh under 50kg and fit 5 to a parking space, two or three across a traffic lane, twenty or more legally parked right up against the window of every high street shop.

      They could even give them dynamic lane priority…

  6. What is the advantage of running buses up the centre instead of the sides? We already have dynamic lanes, they are called bus lanes.

    1. Removes a lot of interactions with turning traffic. Right now, every set of lights the bus lane merges with the left turn lane. If you seperate the bus and left turn and have continuous bus lanes, but still put them on the left (outside) bit of the road, then you will get less green time for the buses, as the left turn has to be given a phase.

      If you want continuous bus lanes that function like rail lines (with a lot of at grade level crossings admittedly), then you need to have them center running.

      1. There aren’t many sets of lights: Mt Albert Road, Balmoral Road, Valley Road are the only ones really until the city. Balmoral Road has slip lanes so buses do get a dedicated lane at the lights. I doubt it would significantly speed things up considering the cost.

        1. All the minor intersections also present problems. People pull out blocking the bus lane (and are allowed to). The center running solves this too.

          And the number of lights is arbitrary, how long do buses get held up at them cumulatively, on the worst congestion days? What about in 5 or 10 years if you significantly increase bus numbers, and still have no congestion charging?

        2. Do we have room for centre running busses and central bus stops and two lanes of traffic? Without the central bus stops it doesn’t really work does it?

    2. The problem with centre-running is the bulge that is needed for an island platform, just where turning lanes are needed at intersections. American grids are very different, with less turning movements needed. Where turning can be restricted (No right turn), it could work quite well. To allow for the island platform, general traffic can be held short of the platform and crossing, allowing the stop to be in the traffic lane. PT crossover would allow nearside doors to be used at island platforms, as on some overseas centre-running bus lanes.
      Just like the Dominion Road surface light rail proposal. Could run buses on it until the tracks are completed.

  7. It just shows poor judgement on the part of Micheal Woods that he doubled down on this project. At the very least he should have lowered its scope and brought forward the time line. There is very little appetite for further disruption in the central city after the work of the past few years is gradually coming to fillfuliment. So unless he is prepared to do the Airport Onehunga section first he should just can the whole thing. I think his changes in coastal shipping have being outstanding but they must have being a fluke or the work of another greater mind. Doubling down on tunnelled light rail and walking cycling Harbour bridge shows a serious lack of judgement but hey he young I will give him another chance.

    1. Perhaps the tunnelling is to render the project a disposable straw man, just like the PT/active modes bridge?

      Find a project you never really liked anyway, make it implausibly expensive, then take credit for your fiscal common sense canning it.

      Just look at that dead cat bounce!

      1. Well I sort of understand the tunneling in the city center especially when your trying to provide rapid transit to the hospital and the university which can be accessed from across the city.
        So here’s a question could we deviate the existing Newmarket Britomart line so it could serve the hospital and university. It would have to wind around a bit but would that matter.

        1. Grafton Station already serves the hospital, Parnell Station (and the future Te Waihorotiu Station on the CRL) serve the university, both with a bit of a walk/cycle or a short bus transfer.

          It would be horrendously expensive and disruptive to deviate the Newmarket-Britomart line as you suggest, especially given the terrain around Grafton. Best save it for a future mode, when we do need something like light metro to the North Shore and Northwest and can make a more worthwhile investment.

  8. Why doesn’t Brown significantly improve the current bus service on Dominion Road to prove it can work. Nothing will be lost as LR is planned to be on Sandringham Road anyway. Something like:
    1) 24 hour dedicated bus lanes (Brown can build more parking on the side streets if he wants)
    2) Electric buses only
    3) Traffic light priority
    4) Take the quickest route (Ian McKinnan Drive)
    5) All door boarding
    6) Turn up and go timetable
    7) Join the NEX and Dom Road lines together so buses don’t need to turn around or park up in the city.
    The cost of doing that would be a pittance compared to LR.

  9. I am fuming about this opinion piece in the Herald, so my attempt to pull this apart and understand what is being said. Sorry in advance about length and formatting (Matt, can we get a plug in rich text editor? or draft/review mode)

    *”There has been recent speculation about my position on light rail. This is my understanding of the issue”*

    The speculation may have something to do with Wayne doing *two* interviews and declining over 100.

    And why is this an *opinion* piece in the Herald from the mayor?. What is the council, or more importantly, ATs position statement? The silence from the people who should be advocating and driving this is deafening. If Tommy and the LR group agree with this opinion, they should resign now and not take tax payer money.

    *”Last year, I agreed with the Minister of Transport to work towards an agreed broader plan to future proof Auckland with a single, high-quality, joined-up transport system, that includes cars, buses, trains, ferries, cyclists, pedestrians, freight and passenger rail, and light rail”*

    Except he is now apparently excluding light rail, and nothing about his response indicates he is thinking about ways to ‘futureproof Auckland’. Just more cars, parking and less of anything else.

    *However, it’s getting more and more tricky to make a strong economic case for spending up to $29 billion on a single route of Auckland light rail*

    The ALR best estimate based on their planning and research was **$14.6b**.

    But people like Brown, have successfully moved the goalposts, so the only number being used by the media is $29b (with assumption this will blow out).

    The Treasury estimate was that the $14b could actually be from **$7b** to $29b. With $9b estimate for surface LR.

    Despite a small army of consultants working for years on LR, there isn’t enough information on number and location of stations to even estimate the price within a huge margin (-50% to +100%!).

    The Auckland Light Rail Establishment Unit should be embarrassed at the narrative that it is a $29b project when they released a statement that it was estimated to cost half that.

    [Treasury Report](

    *”Initially, light rail was a response to bus congestion on Symonds St, but changing commuting patterns with more people working from home solved that problem”*.

    That the problem is solved will be great news to university students when they are are back in March. The Original AT project back in 2015 *was* to solve bus problem; before any impact of WFH. But bus & train numbers did rise significantly over 2015 to 2020; so modeling was right.


    The anomaly is 2020 to 2022, and Brown is going to use that without considering what happens in 2023, when immigration returns along with universities and other organisations reverting to working in the office for most of the week

    *”Since then, some big changes have occurred. Firstly, there’s no growth, and Auckland’s population has fallen”*
    I wonder why? Maybe less immigration as well as issues with cost of housing, and transport making Auckland worse?

    What population modeling has Wayne looked at that suggests that there will be no growth?

    *”Secondly, as a result of Covid-19, there are high levels of vacancy in CBD office buildings, which represent a better opportunity to intensify housing as the buildings and infrastructure are already there”*.

    This did happen around 2000 (we have plenty of converted office buildings that leaked as a result). But my apartment built around this time in an historical commercial building can’t be built now, as council regulations means that apartments have to be larger and have balconies. You know what modern commercial office buildings often don’t have? Balconies, and windows that open.

    Almost like Wayne hasn’t thought this through and looked at the evidence.

    *”Thirdly, the Government passed new intensification rules allowing buildings of up to three storeys on most sites without any need for resource consent. So, why focus on Dominion Rd?”*

    Somebody really needs to sit down with Wayne and explain intensification and why KO are interested in this project. And that focus is not on Dominion road, but tunneling to avoid aligning with roads.

    You put lots of people into three story or higher apartments, and as anybody who has visited a city like Melbourne knows, you need better public transport options as cars and buses won’t cope.

    Also need to explain to our Mayor that inner suburbs around Auckland city often don’t allow intensification; so people in outer suburbs need transport option including lots of people living and working in the areas around South Auckland and the Airport.

    *”Fourthly, Auckland Transport is preparing to trial dynamic bus lanes on feeder roads, which, coupled with transponders already fitted on buses, should speed them up and leave a lane for parking to help keep the shops open”*

    Since they are ‘preparing trial'(s), when and where will this be?.

    What does the modeling show to the impact on PT performance versus other options?

    The real payload here is the comment *”leave a lane for parking to help keep the shops open”*. It remains a cars first policy, and no acknowledgement that this doesn’t work.

    Strange to me how the belief that people going more online will lead to less commuting due to WFH, but not the same acknowledgement that online shopping might impact strips of shops along streets. Along with council signing off on Costco and places like Ikea when it opens.

    On street parking near shops might be convenient for some, but I used to love being able to go for a shopping trip jumping off and on trams/trains in other cities.

    *”These changes weaken the business case for Auckland light rail, and you have to question the need to spend $180 million on staff and consultants”*.
    To be fair, I also question the value we are getting from staff and consultants on this project. Been a lot of time and money for very little output and engagement. The treasury report did slam the lack of information

    But Wayne has not actually addressed the business case for ALR.
    Has he read the pile of documentation and/or got briefings that he can share?

    *”It would be best to wait until the City Rail Link (CRL), the fifth big change, is completed, as this will definitely have an impact on whether to go ahead with light rail”*.
    I wonder if impact of CRL had been considered over years (and $180m of staff and consultants) of planning?
    Oh yeah, it had; hence LR going where CRL doesn’t.
    It definitely does **not** have an impact on LR proceding

    What he is really saying is that he wants to do nothing other than fiddle with some bus-lanes (possibly removing full time bus-lanes to make them dynamic?) until he is out of office. But there will always be another big project like the second harbour crossing to create analysis paralysis. Alternatively, we could just start building a MVP LR solution and induce demand

    *”We are developing the first-ever comprehensive Auckland Transport plan to cover vehicles, freight, and all modes of transport”*.

    That is just not true.

    There have been plenty of Auckland transport plans, which he is ignoring.

    Meanwhile I took the car to work yesterday (first day this week instead of the bike) and my 15-20m commute home took nearly an hour as I sat stuck in traffic just pumping emissions into the air. And schools are not back yet, nor March madness.

    *”Auckland’s transport system needs a fundamental change of approach, to deeply understand and respond to what matters most to Aucklanders in transport, get the most out of the existing transport network, and finish the projects that we’ve already started”*.

    He is not offering any change or vision though.

    Anybody who works on projects or engineering is well aware is that you don’t hold off starting a project until you finish another. There is always long ramp up and planning, approval times so it makes projects much more expensive if you have construction teams waiting for planning or planning teams waiting for construction to finish.

    *”I am encouraged that the incoming Prime Minister, Chris Hipkins, has made it a priority to meet with Auckland business and community leaders to hear first-hand about the most pressing issues affecting New Zealand’s largest city”*

    While I remain sceptical about the economic case for Auckland light rail, I look forward to working with the incoming Prime Minister and his team on an agreed broader transport plan, and the big issues that families and businesses in Auckland are facing”*

    Why is he talking about Chris Hipkins and not about his discussions with Michael Woods and/or the Auckland Light Rail Establishment Unit if he is sceptical about ALR?

    And most pressing issues doesn’t include transport or emissions? Because apparently working from home has solved that?

    How does the Mayor get to publish opinion pieces in the Herald, but has nobody ask him the tough questions?

    1. You wrote a lot, but can you link us all to the complete business case for the LRT proposal as proposed? No? Really. So Labour-Greens have been pushing for something without a business case and wasted hundreds of millions of dollars to do nothing. Sounds like Labour!

      1. Clearly I wrote too much as you missed the link to the treasury report I included as a shortcut (as it reviews the business case).

        But if you really want the much longer business case, then go ahead:

        Or the other documents here:

        Don’t be a dick and claim “Labour-Greens have been pushing for something without a business case”, when there is and always has been.

        Leave the party politics out and have a good faith discussion on the pros or cons.

        Other major projects like CRL or RONS have managed to get done through successive governments left and right.

        Auckland transport needs people to stop playing politics and start working towards solutions towards congestion and emissions.

        1. What’s the BCR on the Labour – Greens much vaunted light rail proposal?

          Politics, buddy, is all over every transport project, unless you live in a cave.

        2. Why does everyone always ask for the BCR on a rail project, but very rarely on the RONs?

          If BCR’s are the determining factor, Tony, we’ll be building cycleways, busways, LRT, HR and then roads… that order.

          Be careful what you wish for.

      2. Labour-Green? Last I checked New Zealand has a Labour Government. The Green Party have stated their preference for the much cheaper surface rail option. My guess is that if we had a Labour-Green Government then the surface option would be the one in development.

  10. One thing I’ve found ALR does badly is rely on planners that reflect their personal preferences and long standing biases in what should happen along the corridor. It’s as simple as this; zone for genuine high density, minimum of 12 floors (not 6), and recognise that if people see a genuine opportunity to live nearby all those amenities and obviously valuable transport links, then they will and those that don’t – won’t. I’ve heard of nonsense claims like no-one wants to live in high density apartments without balconies and sunlight.

    Also the economic case made is just weak gaming of numbers, international best practice shows that all the benefits and costs of such major infrastructure projects go beyond just the dollars charged and recovered, it’s about putting a sense of scale around all the impacts and changes to the use of our resources to achieve the greater gain to our wellbeing relative to its cost.

    And finally the changes to land use and the competitiveness of land markets as a result of this upzoned potential goes hand in hand with the market being required to pay a significant portion (if not all) of t(e growth infrastructure cost these developments will/could trigger, so as to ensure the land value appreciation is just baking in the free infrastructure subsidy. This is not to say land won’t appreciate for other reasons underpinned by the desirability of the land.

  11. I think this LRT is overrated. It’s just 20 minutes e-scoot or cycle from Mt Roskil to K Road, which means it’s possible to walk from an nearer locations on Dominion road and in Mt Eden. The Onehunga already has train station. Also it seems like at this cost this would be possible to cover entire Auckland with a network of nice cycleways.

  12. Just as a reminder, Toulouse, a city half the size of Auckland, just started the construction of its third driverless metro line. The line is 27km, mostly underground, and will be able to serve up to half a million trips per day once running at full capacity. All this for around 6 billions NZD. long

      1. Exactly Andrew. Also Toulouse also starts with a “T” whereas Auckland starts with an “A”. So obviously anything they do has no relevance to Auckland.

      2. Sure, Toulouse is a very different city, but there is a long list of other light rail projects around the world so we can compare similarities and differences.

        For me, as a non-expert, Toulouse seems comparable to what is being proposed in Auckland:

        “December 2015, the transport authority SMTC unveiled the outline route for the Toulouse Aerospace Express, which will be the third metro line in the city. The 27-km 20 station line will connect the Colomiers railway station near the Toulouse-Blagnac Airport on the west through city centre before ending at Labège in the southeastern suburb of Toulouse. Further studies and a public inquiry will take place to select the final route. The line is expected to cost €1.72bn and finish construction in 2024”

        Distance, number of stations, tunnels, airport connection all seems pretty comparable.

        It just shocks me that they can start up a project for a third line in a similar timeframe to us but look at completing it, before we even start digging. And the price is lower than the lowest estimate for our system

        The biggest advantage has to be that they are starting with two existing lines and have experience; but only way for us to get that point would be to start a project. Any project that isn’t just another motorway

        1. France has the ‘versement transport’ income tax since the 1970s to fund continuous investment in public transport infrastructure.

          To get good at building this kind of infrastructure, perhaps a similarly permanent fund should be applied in NZ.

        1. I’m suggesting that Toulouse was a city centuries ago and at the end of 19th century was few times more populous than Auckland and had quite defined city core. Area of Auckland at the same time was represented with a bunch of villages and farms. Which later confluence together and technically stayed separate villages nowadays. Toulouse simply had no choice but to build public transport infrastructure whereas Auckland had capacity to build car-centric infrastructure when it was not considered bad.

        2. So you are aware that Auckland once had one of the biggest and most used tram systems per capita anywhere in the world and it certainly wasn’t 2000 years ago.

          Odd approach you’re taking. Historic Cities are HARDER to retrofit Light Rail due to narrow streets etc, so again not sure what you are trying to suggest here?

        3. Joe, I’m saying there simply was not enough space for cars in Toulouse and probably it was not economically viable. Many cities across the globe similarly to Auckland torn away their tram networks when cars became affordable for residents, many stepped on the same rake even in 21 century.

  13. There is no possible proposal for a new train line that Wayne Brown would like, because he does not want Auckland Council to spend any money on a new train line.

    It’s like asking a child if they’d like to go to bed. You know what they’re going to say, and you’re setting yourself up for an annoying, go-nowhere conversation.

    1. I don’t think Auckland Council should have to pay anyway. Rail should be funded in the same way motorways are, its too expensive for a council to pay for.

      1. I don’t think they are paying for it? Isn’t it coming out of the central government budget?

        Note, however, he is keen on Avondale-Southdown heavy rail, and campaigned on it.

        1. Of course he is, it’s needed to make the ‘move the Port to Northland!’ gag of his look remotely sane, which it isn’t.

          His plan also involves dumping a freight depot in the most congested and rapidly growing part of the city but wants to crap all over the rapid transit network he needs to make that even remotely make any sense.

        2. I’m convinced now that a lot of these old fellas – Wayne Brown, Jon Reeves, Will McKenzie etc – cannot comprehend modern rapid transit at all. High frequency service, easy transfers, that sort of thing baffles them. They all think that a half-hourly train service on each line is fine-and-dandy (in fact it probably forwards their agenda of getting people back in cars and sating Big Oil)

  14. The photo of supposed “bus congestion” shows who easy it can be solved. The road width has been compromised by huge foot paths (see no peds using it). So, simply allow two lanes for buses and BAMMO, the congestion is gone!

    Light rail is a dead duck, always has been since AT went crazy in 2016 and changed the agreed and consulted plan for 3 routes, rather than the very long, “spinal” and slow route to the airport. Labour/Greens will be gone this year, so time to fire the over paid consultants and relook at what is best for Auckland, not the consultants.

    1. They could also make it bus only or a double laned one way system to solve the problem. Issue could be once you get to the end of Queen St anyway.

      1. What’s right for Auckland is not falling into the trap of lazy boomer talking points and being able to have a sensible discussion about whether we want a bloated underground monstrosity or something that can be done quick and easy in situ.

    2. Alright then, oh wise Tony. Tell me:
      – How do you solve the issue of buses being crowded much further south than the CBD on Dominion Rd and Mt Eden Rd in particular?

      Also you’re dreaming if any other political party wants what’s “best for Auckland”. Nats and ACT are beholden to Big Oil and Big Money, they’ll happily turn the whole city into a smog-choked Blade Runner-esque dystopia in pursuit of profit.

      1. There is no bus congestion on Dom Road… go and look, send photos of your mass congestion of buses there. Figment of imagination.

        1. Incorrect as always, Tony. Bus congestion has been rampant on the Isthmus, with buses also being so crowded they cannot pick up any passengers past Balmoral and Mt Eden Village.

          I do in fact have plenty evidence. Put these URLs into Twitter and you’ll see.


  15. Light rail is something Auckland badly needs, however the execution is wrong. A surface option on a raised tram median would fit on most arterials in Auckland (Dominion Rd, Manuaku Rd) – bus lanes are there already so car traffic has been already displaced. Yes, off-peak on-street parking would be lost and some side streets would become left in/out, but the benefits are numerous:
    – substantially lower cost and short construction time
    – can be put in operation in shorter sections as the construction progresses
    – easy to branch in the future
    – more stops, therefore more uniform catchment
    – visibility and legibility
    Undergrounded ALR combines the complexities of a metro with the moderate capacity of trams.
    – expensive stations to build and run. For a typical metro system, it is not the trains that use most energy overall, but station escalators (even more prominent now that trains use regenerative braking)
    – need for a complex signalling system – there is no visibility in tunnels so signals, detectors etc need to be provided
    – presumably more stringent requirements on vehicles in terms of strength and crash resistance

    1. Removal of on-street parking, and making side streets left-only in+out, could be seen as positives if we are serious* about addressing the climate emergency. Anything that makes driving slower, tougher, less convenient or more expensive is a good thing.

      *we’re not

  16. Surely this is an opportunity. If the Mayor can kill off the current ridiculous project it means fewer years need to pass before a reasonable light rail project can be developed.

  17. We can safely assume this paywalled nonsense was written by Hooton rather than Mr Brown. What broader agendas is he serving?

    1. The ‘build Mill Rd and East-West Link’ agenda, most likely.

      It’s not going to be long before the NZ right-wing buys into Elon’s Kool-Aid and starts claiming that driverless pods and automated cars can replace buses and trains

  18. The mayor is correct. Light rail is too expensive for the return. The effort now should be on getting heavy rail from either Onehunga or Puhinui to the airport. There also needs to be more, way more kilometres of third and fourth mains installed in order for express services to run. I never got the fixation with Dominion Rd. Just a shitty road, neither charming or strategic. Just assumed it was an Auckland fetish.

    1. If heavy rail to the airport makes a return:
      – It has to be from Onehunga. A Puhinui spur would reduce train frequencies to Manukau & Pukekohe, and not serve Mangere at all. An Onehunga extension is the only possible routing that enables trains every 5-7 minutes to the airport.
      – It has to have the same number of stations as light rail to maximise catchment: Mangere Bridge, Favona, Mangere TC, Ascot, Airport Business Precinct, Airport Terminal.
      – There *will* have to be light rail solutions for the Avondale-Onehunga crosstown corridor and the intensifying isthmus corridors such as Dominion Rd and Sandringham Rd. Buses aren’t gonna cut it, they’ll just get jammed on Symonds St as they already are.
      – HR proponents will have to prove that the line will cost less than not only the $15B 2021 light rail plan, but the original $2-4 billion dollar light rail plan from 2016.

      1. That’s easy. If anyone still believes that light rail could have been done for $2-4 billion then tell them about the 2015 heavy rail costings of $1.4 billion from Onehunga to the airport.

        1. And the cost for work north of Onehunga to enable “5-7min” frequencies? Without it, you are still on 20min frequencies at peak.

        2. $15 billion – $1.4 billion = $13.6 billion which gives you a healthy float to worry about that. You might go for longer trains through Onehunga first.

          Linking the light rail on Dominion Rd project with PT to Mangere has completely stuffed the Mangere project. Seemingly all for the benefit of a lot of zone 1 travelers who live in a wealthy suburb.

        3. Would rather have 6-car trains at 7 minute peak frequencies than 9-car trains at 20-30 minute frequencies. Miffy. Wouldn’t you?

          Also believe the cost of heavy rail from Onehunga would be more like $2-3 billion based on the SMART report, plus $0.5-1 billion for double-tracking and grade-separating Penrose-Onehunga, plus $1-2 billion for the necessary isthmus light rail. So $3.5-6 billion all-up.

          Less than light metro and ALR’s overcosted tunnelled light rail, but still significantly more than light rail constructed at internationally typical costs ($100M per km, $2.5 billion total)

        1. I am aware of that, and I support both CC2M mass transit and Airport to Botany rapid transit projects.

    2. *Tunnelled* light rail is too expensive for the purpose we are being told it is addressing. Street-running light rail on the other hand..

  19. At the very least, they should build a metro from Onehunga to the airport with one or two stops in Mangere. It will have to be at least partially underground. I’m sure this can be achieved for less than $5 billion. This would leave options open for future expansion of rail from Onehunga towards the CBD and maybe someday towards New Lynn and Glen Innes.

  20. Pfft – I think the project that should be abandoned is rail to the airport. This is the sort of project Auckland should build, only when we have fixed all the congestion issues elsewhere.
    I am a car nut – I drive a V12 – but that is not to say I do not see the need for much better PT in Auckland. Driving a car to work (unless you are a tradie) should be the least favoured option. Where is the sense in spending money parking your car in the CBD (or elsewhere) all day, while you sit in an office? If there was a fast and reliable PT alternative, why would you take your car?
    I don’t know how much it would cost, but Auckland needs to build a network of light rail that serves all the suburbs of the city. You should be able to live in Takapuna and work in Penrose, or live in Howick and travel to Hobsonville, without your car being the best choice of transport.
    Perhaps the problem is we are not thinking big enough. Instead of worrying about 29B, lets see what 100B or 200B would get us.
    NZ has shocking productivity, some of that is caused through lost time commuting. NZ has also pledged to meet climate change targets and that costs money. We should just take out a long loan and fund it with a mixture of congestion charging, fares and general taxation.
    The cost of doing nothing gets more expensive every year, why don’t we just commit to a plan, set it in stone and get on with it.

    1. “lets see what 100B or 200B would get us.’

      Interested. $200billion would get you 10 years of consultations and 849 more consultants.


      1. Bus driver – there are already quite a few people in Auckland, arguably considerably more than is necessary. What would you do with the excess people? Kill them?

        I’m not sure that excessive amounts of people is causing congestion. I’ve lived in cities with 5 times or 10 times the population of Auckland, but less congestion. The problem seems to be that the city has grown used to cars. So the answer to congestion therefore is not: kill the people, but instead is: kill the cars.

      2. People are countable, so it is “fewer” rather than “less”.
        The level of congestion is heavily influenced by where people live. If all development took place within Auckland’s 1950 urban areas more people would be able to walk, cycle or take public transport to work. As it is, most new housing is occurring in outer suburbs, which are highly car dependent. Hence the need for changes to the urban plan.

  21. 1. The pop growth rate used is very important as it significantly affects the B/C. With a housing crisis and total not per capita carbon targets the pop growth NZ can sustain is up for debate. The productivity commission has recommended the government adopt a policy statement on immigration/population

    2. Its a political project that the current government campaigned on. That doesnt meant its not been planned, e.g. the RONs. It may exist but I havent seen any analysis to confirm spending up to $29bn on a single corridor produces the best value for money for NZ.

    3. Is absolutely relevant. With congestion tolls the B/C for the LR would be higher, the patronage and revenue higher and the subsidy lower.

    4. No, my point was the Sandringham Rd route shouldnt just be chosen because Kainga Ora has property along it. It can designate land use in concert with the LRT along any route, e.g. the Manukau Rd route in the article A different Tunnelled Light Rail Option.


  22. Is mangere Bridge built to accommodate 2 heavy rail lines?. I believe it was. Just a small extension from onehunga across to mangere Bridge would be useful.
    Getting massive projects like light rail across the line will always be difficult and contentious. But smaller and cheaper extensions to the existing system is much more achievable.

    1. I just don’t think the O-Line has much future as HR. Its not an RTN and so it seems unwise to spend that amount of money for one extra station. Unless you spend a whole lot more north of Onehunga to get the frequencies up. And at the same time, creep south to the airport.

      So you spend a tonne for only 3-4 stations south of Onehunga, because everyone north was already using it anyway. LRT is going through the heart of areas without any rail at all, over and above Mangere etc.

      However, if Wayne Brown gets his Avondale-Southdown HR line, then I would say we do the Onehunga link and just leave it at 20min frequencies, and come back to it in decades when it can’t handle the load anymore. The basis would be that this stretch can be used not just by those going north or east, but also west.

      1. And if the Nats get in Simeon Brown is probably gonna push for the useless Puhinui-Airport spur… there may be some merit in working to convince the HR demagogues to focus on extending the Onehunga Line instead. At least that option serves Mangere, doesn’t prevent a future Airport-Botany busway, and (with improvements further north) can be run at 5-7 minute frequencies long-term.

    2. According to Wikipedia it was only built to accommodate a single-track curved alignment with a speed limit of 25km/h, which of course isn’t suitable for high-frequency rapid transit.

  23. What we should can is the thought that this was ever really about the airport. Its but one stop, right at the end, where probably less than 10% of all users would use.

    I agree on your points re a city wide LRT network. Like through south-west Auckland and the center of the Isthmus?

  24. Whatever the merits or lack thereof with regards to the current plan we cannot afford $29b+. It is best now to scrap this awful plan and re-think it.

  25. Just build a light busway first like that Indianapolis one. Stations in the middle of the road. Routes not only down Dom road but Sandringham and Mt Eden road. Not sure if they could fit though.

    Same with Mangere at Bader road and Massey road and link the bus lanes up to the stations along the southern rail line.

    The airport to Puhinui station route should be a proper busway with a proper airport station though.

    Nice and easy & quick to build. Then over the years you’ll build an increasing demand for upgrades & extensions to light rail or full busways along all though routes.

    In the current economic climate, this would be the politically smart way to go about it.

    1. Same with the North Shore & Pakuranga. Hook them up with the Northern busway stations.

      Within a decade if these bus lanes work well, there will be a natural demand for more.

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