This is a guest post by Connor Sharp of Surface Light Rail 

Light rail in Auckland: A way forward sooner than you think

With the coup de grâce of Auckland Light Rail (ALR) earlier this year, and the shift of the government’s priorities to roads, roads, and more roads, it would be safe to assume light rail in Auckland is dead and buried for the next decade.

But what if I told you that wasn’t the case? What if I told you that what we have is all of the ingredients for a successful revival of surface (also called practical) light rail in Auckland? Not 5 years in the future, but right now, today. Perhaps you don’t believe me and I wouldn’t blame you; but the work, on the ground discussions, and research we have been doing in Surface Light Rail (SLR) indicates otherwise. Let me explain.

Render from original AT Light Rail plan on Ian McKinnon

A Champion for Auckland

First, and in a lot of ways most importantly, we have a potential political champion for surface light rail in Auckland; its Mayor, Wayne Brown. Having a political champion for a project is key for its adoption, as seen with a previous Mayor Brown of Auckland (First name Len) and City Rail Link (CRL). Len Brown’s belief and consistent lobbying in the projectled to its funding and the start of construction under the previous National Government of John Key. This is something that has been a consistent theme in my stakeholder discussions for SLR, the need for someone to make light rail possible again.

The current Mayor Brown (back to Wayne) of Auckland is a fan of surface light rail, consistently saying again and againand again in 2023 that he supports surface light rail in Auckland. This was even reiterated (along with a possible rebrand of light rail, The Really Really Auckland Light Rail? Or perhaps Cr. Hills’ suggestion of The Wayne Brown Express?) when we at SLR made our presentation at Auckland Council’s Transport & Infrastructure Committee in December of last year. It’s safe to say he likes the idea of a surface light rail system in Auckland.

George St Sydney

Wayne Brown is also someone who is not affiliated with the party politics of Parliament meaning any possible endorsement he might make of a surface light rail project should avoid the partisanship of many other public transport projects. He is also someone who is unapologetically for Auckland, summed up best in his comment in the wake of the removal of the Regional Fuel Tax by the Central Government and its following discussion around transport funding, saying “We want to decide what goes in Auckland. This is my city, not theirs,”. His belief that Auckland should have greater control over its own priorities has been a consistent theme of his Mayorship and led to his 2023 pre-election “Manifesto for Auckland”, which outlined his goals for any “City Deal” with any potential new government. The desire for more control over Auckland’s transport decisions seems to also be shared by a majority of Auckland Council, evidenced by their recent vote arguing that Central Government should fully fund the Eastern Busway, given Central Government have reduced their funding options.

Wayne Brown’s love of surface light rail, his lack of affiliation with political parties, and his complete confidence in standing up for the city that elected him, makes him the perfect candidate to champion a surface light rail system in Auckland.

George St Sydney

A mechanism for funding and control for Auckland

The second ingredient is the growing prominence of City (& Regional) Deals, or “place based agreements”. They are as the Review into the Future of Local Government states:

Place-based agreements are bespoke packages of funding and decision making powers negotiated between central and local government and other local bodies as part of the exercise of kāwanatanga. They are designed to drive long-term, large-scale wellbeing improvements at place in a way that shines light on local priorities.

The development of City Deals was also something that was a part of Nationals pre election policy of “Infrastructure for the future” and work is currently happening on the policy framework of these deals.

What these deals should do is identify key long term priorities for a city, and provide funding and power allocation to local governments to deliver projects for those priorities. Congestion is a problem that has long affected Auckland, costing us over a billion dollars a year, and so effective transport solutions are vital to enable economic and productivity growth for the city. This was deemed the primary strategic priority of the recently released Draft Government Policy Statement on Land Transport 2024-34 (GPS-LT) and its large focus on roading projects. The draft GPS-LT also stated that the Central Government was considering how city and regional deals can integrate long term planning and strategy with local government. Funnily enough, Auckland Transport’s Auckland Rapid Transit Pathway (ARTP) report that was released late last year, outlined rapid transit as having a key role in enabling increased productivity in Auckland. It seems it’s a good assumption that giving people more efficient and reliable connections with their workplaces, where they don’t have to sit in traffic for potentially hours each day, is a good way to facilitate the productivity of our economic centres.

When we look at what Wayne Brown outlined in the transport section of his “Manifesto for Auckland”, we see the desire to develop an Integrated Transport Plan to align funding for Auckland’s transport future. In the Manifesto the Mayor seeks better funding allocation and control over transport in Auckland, but one of the priorities for investment he highlights is “Progressing a rapid transit system, including the northwestern busway”.

Work on rapid transit in the northwest is long overdue and we at SLR have no issue with immediate progression and funding for any northwestern bus improvements. Any light rail for the northwest would likely be decades away but that does not mean improvements could not be constructed in the near term. Following suggestions from indicative business case work and building off existing improvements, this could start with a busway from Te Atatu to Westgate that is future-proofed for light rail, with buses having dedicated motorway shoulders and lanes when connecting to the City Centre. This would provide significant improvements in capacity that the northwest deserves, until light rail upgrades were ready.

While a vital project for the explosive growth and development out west, what a northwestern busway does not do is address the core issues that light rail was originally proposed for. Bus congestion in the City Centre remains a driver of non bus based rapid transit solutions and while the impact of Covid on public transport usage has bought a few years, progress must be made before sooner rather than later to actually address Auckland’s transport problems. Lest we wait until the current system begins to breakdown due to capacity issues.

The good news is the enormous amount of planning, design, business cases, consultation, and analysis over the past decade(s) has shown us what Auckland needs to do, or in the case of much of ALR what not to do, in order to build the city’s transport network into the future. What this does give us, is the third ingredient; a plan.

The Plan

SLR’s plan for surface light rail in Auckland builds off a lot of the original designs and work done by Auckland Transport and the New Zealand Transport Agency pre-2019, as well as subsequent work and analysis done both in government and out. The core ideals of the plan is to build rapid transit in an affordable and practical way to areas of Auckland that need it, while also starting to address the bus capacity issues of the City Centre. The goal is to expand surface light rail into a full network, similar to what Auckland Transport’s ARTP 2023 report outlined.

Light Rail – Dominion Road

Stage One

Our Stage One builds surface light rail from the City Centre to Mt Roskill. It begins at the end of Queen Street, pedestrianising it as light rail did for much of George Street in Sydney, and travels south, going under Karangahape Road through an underpass, until it turns off Upper Queen onto Ian McKinnon Drive. From there it travels onto Dominion Road all the way to SH20 where it turns east to Wesley, connecting the huge 6000 home community being developed to the City Centre. There would also be an option to have an additional track that splits west on SH20 (Rather than that occurring in a Stage 2). This is to ensure a multitude of potential options for any depot are available for the project to have flexibility and an advantage in the acquisition of land for that purpose.

Stage One is roughly 9 km long and, as pointed out on Greater Auckland, a conservative estimation of cost would be between around $150 million/km (for a total of $1.35 billion). A 9km long track should be practical to build (Stage 1 of the George Street Sydney Light Rail line was 12km, the same as Stage 1 of light rail in Parramatta.). This is a perfectly manageable project, even for a workforce inexperienced in light rail as New Zealand, and if actually designed to the transport corridor that currently exists on the ground we can avoid any major widening work, with the disruption and cost of property acquisition that would entail.

Stage One is a line that would replace some of the busiest bus routes heading into the City Centre and would connect the gap in rapid transit in the southern corridor of the Auckland isthmus. As a result, it would provide a plethora of opportunities for town centre revitalisation and the development of residential and commercial property. While it is essential to keep the core problems that surface light rail is trying to solve in mind, the secondary benefits regarding development are significant. One notable example is the Dominion Road interchange, where surface light rail would provide the perfect excuse to achieve a longstanding idea of development. According to MRCagney, this could potentially unlock $95 million dollars worth of land.

Subsequent Stages

The obvious parts to extend the line to next would be Onehunga and Māngere, with extensive consultation and planning done by ALR for a surface route. This would likely start with a connection to Onehunga, with Māngere to follow. Given that any such extensions would be years away at this point, it gives plenty of time to work through any difficulties, such as the crossing over the Manukau Harbour, or concerns, such as how surface light rail integrates into the Māngere town centre. If a motorway running option in Māngere is desired rather than a direct town centre connection, proper design and concepts should be developed, so people can actually see what their community is getting. Parts could also be built early (such as active transport links across the motorway). Additionally, bus improvements in Māngere should be prioritised in the area for implementation in the next few years, to increase public transport usage before any light rail and improve connectivity with neighbouring areas.

For SLR, the Auckland Airport connection is something that should be built in order to connect the 15,000 workers in Māngere and elsewhere in Auckland to their workplace. The single line trip to the City Centre, much like the increased development opportunities, is a secondary benefit and while useful should not be a primary focus of the entire project. Working around the airport has its own problems, namely what the airport actually wants to do with transport, and appropriate staging of the project gives significant time to plan these out. By breaking the line into manageable chunks, starting with the practical and immediately useful Stage One that can be built, it spreads out the cost and construction capacity allowing these extensions that make the initial line better and better.

And Beyond

What this initial line serves as is a spine for a future surface light rail network. Extensions out to the Northwest are an obvious choice, hence their inclusion in our map, with the potential to upgrade any busway infrastructure that is constructed in the next few years. Eventually, when a new crossing over the harbour finally becomes necessary, light rail could reach the North Shore as per Auckland Transport’s vision in ARTP 2023. Additionally, this initial line provides the beginning for a possible crosstown line, with the extension to Wesley beginning that stretch off to Avondale.

The Opportunity

What we have are the key factors in the deliverance of a transport project. Stage One is entirely manageable, affordable, and practical, with immediate usage and benefit. It has a clear purpose and goal in addressing bus capacity issues and connecting communities, with a plethora of secondary benefits in development and revitalisation. These secondary benefits provide an opportunity for its inclusion in a City Deal.

By getting funding and support from the central government for surface light rail, Auckland Council could provide higher density zoning in the catchment for the development of more housing. This is a ‘trade off’ that is in line with the goals of the Minister of Housing, to have 30 years of land supply available, so would be perfect to use as the ‘give’ from Auckland Council in a City Deal. The increase in value that intensification provides could then be subject to value capture, with Auckland Council receiving a piece of the pie to justify any of its own investment into surface light rail. Coupled with Auckland Transport’s work indicating rapid transit has a key role for improving Auckland’s productivity to align it with the stated goals of the Minister of Transport through the draft GPS-LT, then it’s a win-win for both local and central government.

To achieve this we need a champion for surface light rail, someone who has repeatedly supported the idea and has the ability to bring light rail to the forefront of Auckland’s priorities. Wayne Brown is the man for the job, but for him to argue its case we need to put surface light rail back on the menu. The public consultation for Auckland Council’s Long Term Plan for 2024-2034 is occurring over the next few weeks. This is the opportunity for those who are sick of Auckland not getting the transport solutions it needs. We can show the Mayor and Auckland Council that they have a mandate to advocate for an Auckland designed surface light rail. If we do, the Mayor has a perfect justification to bring his lauded surface light rail to negotiations around a future City Deal.

The good news is we at SLR have a submission guide that you can follow so its a quick and easy process. The agency for change right now lies in us. By giving the Mayor a mandate to champion surface light rail into the future means we might actually start the solutions to some of our transport issues now, rather than 5-10 years too late. Submissions close 28th of March at 11.59pm and for there to be a mandate for surface light rail in Auckland, we need to push for one. We deserve better transport solutions in our city, so let’s make it happen.

George St, Sydney
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        1. It was agreed to under Brownlie’s watch in 2013, although Key effectively overrode him.

          My point was Simeon Brown is not the only person making decisions on transport in cabinet, even if he is the minister.

        2. There won’t be any city deals. They’re struggling to find money for the RoNs, they’re nearly 6 billion short of plugging the gap from the tax cuts and cutting stuff left right and centre. They won’t borrow more so where is this city deal money supposed to come from?

      1. That was John Key, Brownlee and Joyce never supported the CRL. And there’s no Key around now to finance this LR project, they want to spend it all on roads.

        1. There is still a PM though, although I don’t think he quite the political radar that Key had.

    1. Simeon Brown has made it crystal clear that if Auckland voluntarily doesn’t sign up to his car centric evangelical view of things he will use the full weight of legislation to do it for them, including making sure his electorate gets whatever he wants for it.

  1. It blows my mind that people think the best beachhead for Light Rail is the constantly revisited Mt Roskill route that caused literally of the problems for the Light Rail cause in the first place, when the North West needs some dedicated separate rapid transit either way and it has to be built first.

    Why this route constantly has to play second fiddle to the central line (and why that has to be the first one we build, regardless of the growing need in the West and the North) is beyond me. Move on, come back to it once we have figured out the other bits and pieces and got a design and template that’s been rolled out in other parts of the city first.

    If you want to win an argument with the Minister, you’re better off focusing on the marginal cost increase from a separate busway on SH16 to LRT rather than the in-corridor system from scratch that doomed the whole project in the first place.

    1. Agree. From a pure transport network perspective Dominion Rd makes more sense but in the real political world NW is the best starting point.

      There is still a significant fight to be had with the amount of change to Dominion Rd needed for light rail and I don’t think Wayne Brown is the salesman for this.

    2. What doomed the project was a combination of incompetence and people hijacking the discussion as trains to the planes. Remember that guy from this comments section? David L or something? He was a frequent flier and he was all over every blogpost about the light rail pushing a “it’s about the airport” message. This made the route conceptually ambiguous and obscured the reason why it was proposed in the first place, thus making it easy to suggest first Heavy Rail as a viable alternative and secondly tunnels running to the original route’s west as “being the same thing”, even though neither were. Not even a little bit.

      I think we also have to acknowledge that Chris Hipkins’ AWHC scheme and especially its staging implies that Labour’s senior leadership is very much in the (to borrow a phrase from British politics) “we are a nation of drivers” mindset. Light Rail was only ever a pork barrel to them.

      The reason people keep focussing on Dominion Road is because there’s never been an alternative solution proposed to the problem it was meant to solve, i.e. the Isthmus bus routes exceeding the ability of Auckland’s roads to cater to their provision. I have no idea if Covid has made this less urgent a matter than the North Western route or not, or if the same issues apply to, say, creating a BRT North Western route in the interim.

      I also don’t think having any light rail at all makes for a stronger case for light rail, except as a through route… which is why people keep linking up the Dominion Rd scheme with “North Shore trains”. Again, I have no idea if the North Western scheme could be extended to be the Dominion Rd scheme. If they can, you’d have a much stronger point.

      1. Whirlsler , I see my name mentioned in your posting the last I flew was 1988 , and I not a frequent Flyer , but I’m more of a frequent Train user , both local and regional .

        1. If you weren’t massively for heavy rail instead of light rail, clearly I don’t remember the name right.

          I don’t think the dude I was thinking of was even from Auckland.

      2. The Mayor should be heavily disregarding SLR and ignoring them! Just more individual introverted think-tanks trying to coff up ideas which wont be practical. We don’t want to be seeing large sprawls of development, we want to be seeing ‘controlled development’ in our suburbs, that’s where Heavy Rail and New Main Road would fix that!

        Firstly it was already doomed to fail due to costly blowout. With it, psychotic ADHD disordered Labour Mt Roskill MP who needs to breathe in & out for relief when tasks are completed and get pestered when things don’t go his way. What people in this country really wants is PT taking a ‘Quality Assurance’ approach where we pick the correct mode of transport based by societal perspectives, businesses, economic, and utility. You don’t pick correct mode of PT by doing lazy ‘cost of ratio’ analysis where you sit in office crunching numbers and work alone. We don’t want to become like Australia pick the cheapest & less effective modes of PT. Australia don’t think about quality, just about cheap, quick, stale, polished fix. We don’t want to become like them! We need to become more like Asia (Japan, Taiwan, China) and not Europe!

        The ultimate preferred solution for Dominion RD is tunnelled Heavy Rail joins up with Southdown – Avondale line from south, from north joins up with Western Line, would be $5-6 Billion, if there was evaluation done. At Britomart, there still the question of what middle platforms 2-3 will be used once CRL is opened. There’s only one line going to be using those two platforms, Pukekohe Express only, means room for one more line and what line will be used since not answered.

        But other solutions would have to involve ‘land acquisition’ just like Eastern Busway, Airport to Botany and Central Motorway Junction (Spaghetti junction) in-order to free up land to build the infrastructure. The alternative solutions is extending Parau ST to Mt Eden RD by Maungawhau Station to free up buses at Dominion RD, Once built, get the buses using extended Parau ST. Other solution to Tunnelled Heavy Rail would be surfaced Heavy Rail being paralleled alongside Dominion RD or Sandringham RD.

        1. KLK, Yes I wished!

          “Heavy Rail being paralleled alongside Dominion RD or Sandringham RD” – not on the road!

          Need Quality Assurance (getting it correct mode the first time, not second or third time), people want to take easy conversation, with no critical thinking, no theoretical mind, perspectives outside the bubble. In having ‘Quality Assurance’, you need all stakeholders in agreement, not just idealist and taking easy steps because it’s easy.

          Exactly what ALR and now SLR are doing! Taking easy way out in solving issues without any critical thought process!

        2. Critical thinking should also involve analysing what is the best mode for the route. Not letting the guys with a HR fetish to say it should be the only solution and that everything else is inferior, damn the realities….and the cost.

        3. KLK, I specifically pointed out tunnelled Heavy Rail below Dominion RD would be preferred option. If we were to control ‘development’, we’d be choosing tunnel over light tram, which light tram running on Dominion RD, not below, will bulldoze identity, heritage & character into Eden Valley shops. Light tram would encourage developers construct development straightaway due to needing more road corridor space. Bulldozing buildings to make way for light tram, creates ‘immediate clusters’ of vacant land, is not what we want to see! We want to see development controlled, only way you control development is by not doing any scrape work on the surface of Dominion RD! You do work either below (tunnelled) or paralleled with Dominion RD!

          Also another thing to point out, what’s going into platforms 2 & 3 at Britomart (other than Pukekohe Express)? Only one service used meaning there’d be an extra platform vacant once CRL opens.

          I did mention surfaced Heavy Rail being paralleled and extending Parau ST to Mt Eden RD by Maungawhau Station to free up buses at Dominion RD by halving frequency,

        4. ““Extending Parau ST to Mt Eden RD by Maungawhau Station to free up buses at Dominion RD, Once built, get the buses using extended Parau ST. ”

          This would involve bulldozing hundreds of houses along that route.

        5. Mate, the CRL is actually $5-6 billion as heavy rail, and that’s only 3km long.

          You’re talking about that length times four.

      3. Source: Bus capacity in the city centre was nearly at capacity. Because those roads (specifically Dominion Road) were approaching their maximum bus capacity – at peak, you could not run enough buses to satisfy demand, nor was there enough space to offload, turn around and load those buses in the city centre.

        That was one of the key problems the LR project was originally designed to solve.

        The City Centre Future Access Study done by AT in the early 2010s showed where the crunch points would be and was one of the justifications for the CRL.

        Instead, the AKL Light Rail project, got hijacked by misinformed politicians who kept offering fast connections from Britomart to the airport.

        1. “Extending Parau ST to Mt Eden RD by Maungawhau Station to free up buses at Dominion RD, Once built, get the buses using extended Parau ST. ”

          Clearly you’ve been miss-informed yourself by not reading carefully! By extending Parau ST to Mt Eden RD by Maungawhau Station would serve as a bypass MT Eden shops and serve as new main road corridor. Meaning there’d be plenty of space for buses to drive through and leave plenty of space for current Dominion RD buses since ‘displacing buses to another road’. The amount of buses would be halved and into the city centre, the amount of buses would be the same.

    3. It blows your mind that building LR where there is plenty of flat land within walking distance is more important than building LR mostly between a motorway and ocean?

      1. My thought is that national will be looking for a public private partnership for the northwest corridor.
        I actually hope that CDPQ comes back to the party, but its not likely.
        But what the cdpq offer would best suit the north west line.
        The worst case scenario would be a ppp building a bus lane and having it locked in for 50 plus years.

        1. CDPQ has already built essentially the same project in Montreal – with the REM running along their motorway (idk if Canada calls them motorways) for a large chunk. Between NZ Superfund, CDPQ and other big institutional investors, they’d be able to make their money back through radically upzoning the area around the stations, and AT paying a high double digits cent amount per passenger km like in Montreal. Financially today it’d be more than a bus, but in 2ish years time (and I don’t see it opening in 2 years time) with the incoming drastic fare increases I think it’ll be cheaper.

          $5.40 today for an adult fare to go to 20km’s. I’m not sure how much it’ll go up by in the next few years, but I’m expecting it to be closer to $10 from Aotea Square to Westgate by the time NW opens.

          So pretending it’s $1 NZD per passenger km (should be less, but that’s on NZTA/AT/the joint venture to negotiate), and 20km’s (slightly less), that’s $20, or $10 with 50% farebox recovery. Cost wise – it’s close to half IRDs per km rate today, and will be significantly cheaper compared to it when it opens, and likely a significantly faster trip given how atrocious traffic is on the NWern and how we’re only adding more cars into it, and we’re expecting another 100k living out there without upzoning around the stations included.

          It’s a project that’s great for NZ, Auckland, NZ Superfund/other investors, AT, people who live along the route, and for the world. Win-win, and the gov doesn’t have to finance it while they can still cut ribbons and talk about how they finally got a successful PPP.

    4. This 100%. NW is a corridor that is mostly owned by the gov, and any objections to noise/light pollution etc. is easily countered by the fact they live next to a congested motorway, with the noise/emissions of NW rapid transit being essentially 0 compared to the motorway.

      If AT wants to put surface LR instead of buses, let them do it as part of their normal process of street renewals rather than making it super political. But it shouldn’t be the priority project PT wise, as NW is massively more crucial.

    5. Gunna have to agree with Buttwizard here.

      People love to look at what their neighbour already has and go “I want what they have.” It’s politically much easier to propose an extension to a system that already exists, rather than proposing a brand new system. We see all the time how much people love extensions.

      Our key obstacle here is getting the network started.

      So when you’ve got multiple high-need areas, you don’t start by ranking them by need and building it in the highest need. You start by ranking them by *political viability*, build the one that’s most likely to get across the line, and then use that one’s success as *leverage* to get it built in the other areas that need it.

      Dominion Road light rail is politically toxic now. It doesn’t matter why. It just matters that it is. So it’s no longer the most politically viable place to start.

      1. The network has started with construction of the Wynyard loop, yet this still hasn’t been extended to Britomart. There has been a lot of apartments and commercial space built in the area since it was built, with more to come. Surely connecting the short distance to Britomart must be the cheapest, easiest way to establish the LRT network? Then it can be extended incrementally in short stages, that can be delivered in bite sized costs, built and opened quickly. I’d direct it first to areas of high demand, redevelopment potential and creating links with the wider PT network, meaning university via Anzac Ave, Symonds St to Newton and Mt Eden Station.

      2. @Anthony: I think that’s a valid suggestion but that discussion needed to be had before the streetscape on the Britomart side was extensively renovated, and a firm plan needed for the Viaduct Bridge that could take the weight of Light Rail.

        Perhaps a better long-term solution involves the space currently occupied by the flyover and using Customs Street West and along Beach Road for a future line to Parnell.

    6. The big reason that makes Dom Rd stand out for me is that virtually the whole length is the closest we have to mixed use zoning, so you could put as many surface stops as you wanted and would always be connecting high density housing, shops, offices and even light industrial. As well as being a good direct connection to the city for burbs like Hillsborough and Lynfield. So it’s both a commuter route but also has massive potential to replace those pesky short journeys and build some real vibrancy at street level by putting people on foot at the shops.

      Agree the NW is urgent. But following a motorway route and having to have something like the northern express with park and rides etc. makes it much more of a commuter line with high usage during peak times. Not that there isn’t potential to grow that and improve, just why I think Dom rd could be such a big win.

      1. Dom Road is a no goer because no one is prepared to sacrifice a lane of traffic and carparks.

        It’s why we ended up with a tunnelled option costing 4x as much as it should.

  2. idk, I kind of liked the idea of spending ~5% of our annual GDP on some tunnels passing under the North Shore…

  3. If the Airport had not have been mentioned in the first place, Auckland I believe would have light rail today. As long as the airport features in the plans, it will get shot down politically… So just plan on Stage 1. Stage 1 might indicate if a connection to the Airport is practical in terms of line capacity? If stage 2 happens, would it be worth converting the Onehunga branch to Light Rail with an interchange at Penrose?

    And how did Michael Wood get this so wrong? The scheme that was presented to Phil Twyford was probably the most sensible one (pretty much the basis of this article) and should have been actioned as soon as they got rid of Winston Peters. Instead the obsession became the airport and decent plans went right out the window

    1. Winston Peters agreed to what this proposal basically is. Phil Twyford got distracted by the shiny and Labour then asked Peters to support that nonsense. Peters said no.

      Labour then won a big majority and spent three years deciding on tunnels, even though tunnels wouldn’t address the original problem LRT was meant to solve.

      Wood and Hipkins were all over Labour’s insane AWHC ideas and Twyford did absolutely nothing but continually demonstrate he shouls be sacked with Ardern doing nothing, so I think the most plausible answer to your question is that (a) Labour never understood Dominion Rd LRT in the first place and (b) only ever saw PT in general and LRT specifically as a pork barrel, so the more it cost the better.

      Labour also did a lot of power centralisation in their six years and it’s trivially easy to put LRT in that context as well. An Auckland project proposed to solve an Auckland problem ends up being decided on in Wellington and consequently morphs into a project that doesn’t solve the Auckland problem or align with the network design principles in Auckland, instead becoming a one seat ride. Shocking.

      1. Quite why anyone every thought that building a metro tunnel to New Windsor was the best way to serve the isthmus, or a good way to replace buses, or a good way to boost housing, or a good way to service mangere, or a good way to get to the airport… is beyond me.

  4. Unfortunately I still stand by the fact that utilizing surface based transit for across town or inter suburban transit is wrong.
    I am all for a tram along dominion road into town and a connection to Wesley, especially as this had been a tram route before being pulled up, but running a tram all the way to the airport or the north west or north shore is just too far.
    Maybe a LRT along lake road between devonport and Takapuna could also be a great route on top of dominion road.
    A bus way on the other hand is still only a temporary solution.

    1. To the airport is not an issue because its just another stop on a commuter line with lots of stops, including 4 south of Onehunga.

      But for the NW….maybe.

  5. I guess the trick is to turn dom Rd LR into this governments CRL. Build the public pressure to the point where Luxton is forced, as John Key was into supporting it for pragmatic (more votes) reasons, Two transport ministers and eight years later. The CRL really could be a game changer in making people want better PT.

  6. Just pick 3 KPIs for ithmus and NW run the BCRs and just follow the evidence. We know this will never happen though.

  7. Can anyone tell me what is the purpose of the mill road highway?
    I can understand the east west link being a faster way for those wealthy in Eastern Auckland suburbs to taxi out to the airport.
    But mill road just parallels sh1 in the middle of mostly farm land, which I assume will quickly turn into suburbs, and flood sh1 with more cars in the morning peak.
    But I assume there is a reason national want it?

    1. Dom Road is LR vs Cars, or thats how its perceived. And under Simeon Brown, cars will win.

      If you want to get a stake in the ground on surface light rail, you will need a different route to prove its worth. Northwest or A2B look the best bets.

    2. “Mill Road” is really Redoubt Road from Flat Bush to Manukau Centre. There is another little bit at Drury South, providing an alternative to Drury Interchange for SH1 access for development east of the rail line that is being built now. The rest involves punching through Papakura to build a by-pass of the part of SH1 that is being widened just now, and is so far off that funding it isn’t even worth talking about now.

      1. The thing I find interesting is that the extention of sh16 to bypass kumeu along with a couple others are labeled as housing enabling infrastructure, but mill road isn’t.
        I’m guessing that is because council has designated future urban land around kumeu but not to the Same extent around Ardmore.

    3. It’s for all the housing and they think everyone wants to drive, so trying to provide capacity there. The current road is also a bit unsafe but this is overkill.

      1. Yes unfortunately it’s a battle of losses.
        I can only hope in 20 0r 50 years time that traffic is completely unmanageable, the average joe that is stuck in it will wonder why it’s so bad, they might look at Auckland and city’s of similar size and notice aucklands complete lack of rapid transit and vote for it.

        1. Except we are already much worse than most of our comparator cities across the world, and this crowd just wants to make it even worse.

          I remember when I came to NZ 20 years ago and did some reference / citation research I found research reports then that showed that Auckland for the last 50 years had engaged in some of the most car-centric policies world-wide. Then it got briefly better, and now it goes back to what Simeon Brown grew up in. Car-sprawl ideas, car sprawl ideas, car sprawl ideas. I wish the guy would have done an 5 year OE in a place that isn’t Pakuranga.

    4. Mill Rd is very congested. That’s the beginning and end of it.

      Why is it congested? Because it isn’t parallel to SH1 in any remotely relevant sense: it’s a direct line from Papakura (and anywhere south of Papakura) to East Auckland. Go look at where the major employment destinations for Papakura residents are on that Census thing.

      Also, from memory I think the East West Link is more about trucks.

    5. Mill Road is to help alleviate congestion on SH1 and to provide resilience as Auckland is effectively cut off from the rest of the country whenever SH1 is shut (and that happens often enough). The Southern Motorway is a carpark pretty much any time of day except very late at night. That congestion then affects the rest of the network – SH20 and all the way back to Spaghetti Junction.

  8. My opinion is that currently multi modal disagreements are affecting this city’s ability to react to climate change, congestion, and the other evil’s of a car dominated society.

    We have secured the CRL, with new stations midtown and Karang a Hape. This take cares of the City Centre, there is no need for overlapping light rail, once the CRL is completed. And it will be completed.

    The Northwest, Mount Roskill, and Mangere are the three desperately underserved by public transport areas of the City. A Busway is being built to Botany (relatively easy conversion to light rail if future fiscal forecasts allow); and the Northwest is getting a twenty twenty hindsight hack job for its rapid transport. Roskill and Mangere are a long way from heavy rail lines, and constantly bombarded with bright ideas. The most efficient forms of movement in our city are the trains and the ferries, because they do not compete with cars.

    I have lived in Glen Eden and Mangere Bridge, and notwithstanding the current kiwirail work, Glen Eden is an hour closer to the city, because it does not have a bridge for motorised vehicles only to bypass.
    The South and West are where our most humble citizens live, and they deserve good public transport options.

    I am only forty one but I can see the wheelchair in my not too distant future; and I would like to be able to move around my city with the equivalent ease of my current bipedal status; when my body submits to gravity.

    on ya bike

    bah humbug

  9. Mt Roskill to City Centre and Westgate to City Centre are both urgent high-capacity non-bus projects that need to go ahead. This article and discussion shows that funding each is different, so two different paths to construction need to push ahead.
    A2B can be express bus-based for a good long while, tying Puhinui Station to Airport and Botany. Avondale – Airport industrial park is an important workers-to-employment connection. East-West Link is … er, something?
    All these need promotion in Auckland LTP and GPS feedback, with prudence and long term vision in mind.

  10. Yes, I think the Mount Roskill line is the one to do. Doing Manukau Rd replacing the 30 bus has some appeal but then you have issues of doubling up with the 70 bus route, getting through Newmarket & Grafton Bridge etc.

    Everything else, NW, NS A2B is covered by busways of somewhat for now.

    1. The NW has some bus lanes; even less than what you would find on Dominion Road in isolation. It does not have anything approaching a busway, especially not compared to those in other areas you name. It is functionally about two decades behind the rest of the city, yet it is shouldering an absolutely massive share of the future housing growth compared to others.

      A good reminder that the Shore has a busway ,since extended, and has done for a decade now. The East is getting a dedicated busway, and another one to the Airport. The West has some painted lines on the motorway and some bus shelters that don’t have seats at the top of a few off-ramps.

    2. The annoying thing g about the No. 30 is that since it connects Onehunga to Newmarket which the Onehunga Line train also does. So despite the train not getting close to Royal Oak and Greenwoods, the big centres are already pretty well served.

  11. “He is also someone who is unapologetically for Auckland”

    Are we talking about the same mayor as the one who wants to sell off large portions of our assets/give the port to Northland/was MIA when the city needed leadership/has no productive relationship with the gov, both red or blue.

    I agree with the idea of a champion (although disagree with prioritising surface LR over other more crucial projects), but just think he ain’t it. Bring on 2025, then we should get a new champion that might actually fit the positive description OP gives our current mayor.

    1. Yeah, he’s random and acts on reckons. We need a good candidate for next year: Angela Dalton? She understands people, transport (enough) has the quality to bring people together.

      Still, right now? Wayne Brown is the one with the guts to stick it to the government about the backwards GPS if he chooses to. Hope he does.

      1. Personally, got no clue on who the best candidate is for it. Hadn’t heard of AD til then, she seems alright from a 10 second skim google but won’t go in depth til it gets closer. Will wait til they start the campaign/the field narrows then make up my mind then.

        I also hope the mayor fights back against the GPS etc. – better to try than not do anything. Just I see it as one of those cases where he might fight the good fight, or not, but the actual change will be nothing, as central gov has no plans on changing, and they don’t respect him.

  12. With all due respect, the main reason this project was canned was that it made no sense whatsoever. You are delusional if you think Brown is going to try and push ahead with this project. Sure if we had a lazy $30B lying around, no debt , PT to NW sorted, second harbour crossing in place and literally nothing better to do, then maybe it would have a 10% chance of happening. But seriously you are dreaming if you are still holding out hope on this dead duck.

    1. Not the 30bn tram-in-an overpriced-tunnel-to-avoid-inconveniencing-motorists straw man!

      Surface running trams elsewhere have been coming in at around $60-70 million per km, with rolling stock, stabling nasty overruns and contractual fights thrown in.

      The Viaduct replacement cost a smidge under $200m for less than a km a decade ago and won awards for smarty pants project management and demolition.

      Proof positive that cost and disruption can be managed to achieve challenging goals.

      1. The French city of Besancon built a 14.5 km light rail line a short while ago at a cost of half the normal cost of a light rail system by limiting spending throughout the project with standardised and simplified stations, structures and equipment.

    2. The reason the project was canned is that NZTA went off to design it as a money is no object metro tunnel, which meant it cost $30b to do the job of a $3b light rail line.

      The only shame is they let the road heads waste so much time and money on a straight up dumb idea before cancelling it.

      1. Riccardo have you any source of a $3bn cost. The government have said $30bn which is likely too high but $3bn looks far too low. For the catchment it would cover and likely patronage and high running costs this is hard to justify,

        1. The catchment and patronage would be huge, most of the central isthmus. I believe running costs are less than the current buses as they are bigger and less frequent at rush hour.

        1. The $3b was for the original policy cost for the single branch running in-corridor, fully above ground with no tunnels or underground stations.

          It’s unclear how much was actually done on that proposal and how much further that cost was fleshed out because it soon got gazumped but the idea that light rail should be metro and all things to all men at an enormous cost under the Twyford era.

          I can’t recall the cost of the initial AT three branch proposal that become the single Dominion Road Light Rail plan taken over by the incoming Labour Government but it wasn’t massive.

        2. $3b is what Sydney light rail actually cost, after the escalations and delays. That bought 12km of route including all the wire-free George Street transit mall, all the stations, the trains, the bus interchanges, the depot and power supply.

          12km gets from Britomart to Onehunga, a nice and effective first stage, and it would be another $3b to get to the airport.

          Without tunnels and underground stations and demolishing homes and widening roads all the other stuff NZTA loaded up on the scheme, its pretty reasonable. They really screwed up putting it in the hands of motorway buffs whose only answer is grade separation and tunnels.

    1. Christopher, you will be able to ride on it by your 105th birthday. It will cost $75 a ride with most of that going to the Superannuation fund. In that year NZ’s spend on offshore carbon credits will overtake the revenue from our dairy, forestry and wine industry combined. The ACT party will still be saying that if more taxes are returned to the tax payer we will reach Nirvana.

  13. Nice idea but does not stack up financially. Who really knows the cost but figures like $15bn or even $30bn have been bandied about for the cost of surface light rail. There is zilch chance of central government funding this and Akl Council have no money. We all like public transport but we have to realise there is no bottomless pit of money and there are demands from areas like Health and Police which will be given higher priority/

    1. Waterview Connection: $1.4BN including the interchange, about $600m per km for the tunnels. Figures bandied about at the time were up to $3BN.

      Fast track consenting process, public consultation pretty much railroaded in 4 weeks, special pleading for the money to be spent on the interests of political allies shut down. 3 lanes instead of 2 achieved by leaving much of the route as surface running or well integrated cut and cover.

      Do we just need to rebrand PT projects as ‘Roads’ to get a similar level of commitment, political will, resourcing and ingenuity?

      1. Exactly, it needs to be iterative. Should be a target of building [x] kms per year, same as cycle ways, etc Retain the expertise, machinery, etc and just roll on with it.

  14. Mt roskill is best served by the Avondale southdown rail line. It’s already designated. How much would a spur from Avondale to mt roskill cost? Probably less than the billions required to get light rail from Mt roskill to the city

    1. “Mt Roskill is best served by the Avondale southdown rail line. It’s already designated. How much would a spur from Avondale to Mt Roskill cost?”

      Would your proposed spur line, be a dead end, like that of the Onehunga line? If I lived in Mt Roskill and wished to travel to downtown Auckland ( say to attend a Uni ). How would I do this? Would I have to transfer between trains at Avondale?

  15. The Mayor, same goes for the government, should be heavily disregarding SLR and ignoring them! Just more desperate, introverted think-tanks trying to coff up an idea, which wont be practical. We don’t want to be seeing ‘large development sprawls all at once’ cause of vacant land meaning ultra cheap price of properties, results in mass unwanted population growth all at once, which leads to larger unwanted crime in the area. Aucklanders want to see ‘controlled development’ in Eden Valley, areas alongside Dominion RD, that’s where Heavy Rail line or New Main Road would fix that! Heavy Rail for Dominion Rd will be underground, meaning no need bulldozing properties and brings property prices up. Land won’t be bulldozed, so original properties owners can stay long as they like and interested developers can choose freely to develop high density buildings whenever original property owner decides to sell land.

    ALR failed, so too did the Psychotic ADHD disordered Labour Mt Roskill MP who needs to breathe in & out for relief for when tasks aren’t completed and scrunch up fists, with mad face(strawman), gets pestered when things don’t go his way. Same thing will go for SLR! What people in this country really wants PT succeed is by taking ‘Quality Assurance’ (getting correct PT mode the first time, not second or third time) strategy in picking correct modes! You need to ‘convince’ all stakeholders in agreement, meaning putting ‘real effort’, getting outside perspectives. Not just taking desperate ‘Silver-bullet’ cause frantically ‘desperate plea for immediate change’!

    Exactly what ALR and now SLR are doing! There both taking easy way by being desperate, silver-platting, without any effort and critical thought process! They’ve both forgotten on their websites, cars are electric now, not petrol operated, meaning electric has no effects on climate change! People only care about fast modes of transport, direct commutes and reasonable commute times. We don’t want to become like Australia pick the cheapest & less effective modes of PT cause no utilisation & effectiveness thought in-process. Australia don’t think about quality, just about cheap, quick, stale, silver-polished fix. We don’t want to become like Australia! We need to become more like Asia with fast transport and gold standard (Japan, Taiwan, China) and not Europe – slow-stale transport!

    Light tram is slow run-down Toyota Corolla, make no sense for Auckland Short-Term or Long-Term due to it being more prone seismic activity and cost twice as much to repair if seismic activity to eventuate! It be a costly mistake to build! Light tram require widening of road corridors for spacing between public vehicle and Light Tram- what’s the point of that if in-future getting rid of Light Tram? Worse off, land owners lose land without being able to plan-ahead.

    Option 1: (The ultimate preferred solution) for 4.7 KM long tunnelled Heavy Rail for Dominion RD, joins up with Southdown – Avondale line from south, from north joins up with Western Line, would be $5-6 Billion, if there was evaluation done. At Britomart, there still the question of what middle platforms 2-3 will be used once CRL is opened. There’s only one line (Pukekohe Express) going to be using those two platforms, means room for one more line and what line will be used? Since it’s still not answered!

    Option 2: would have to involve ‘land acquisition’ just like Eastern Busway, Airport to Botany and Central Motorway Junction (Spaghetti junction) in-order to free up land to build the infrastructure. The alternative solutions is extending Parau ST to Mt Eden RD by Maungawhau Station to free up buses at Dominion RD, Once built, get the buses using extended Parau ST.

    Option 3: Heavy Rail would be surfaced Heavy Rail being paralleled alongside Dominion RD or Sandringham RD involving involve ‘land acquisition’. Just like Eastern Busway, Airport to Botany and Central Motorway Junction (Spaghetti junction) in-order to free up land to build the infrastructure.

    1. Why the obsession with Heavy Rail? You consider light rail at ‘seismic risk’ but tunnels are not? You seriously propose surface level heavy rail (i.e. a brand-new rail corridor) for a route that would have no commercial heavy use that would actually present a legitimate need for heavy rail? And this is somehow preferable to in-corridor running for light rail – which you dump on because you think you might need to ‘widen the corridor’?

      I genuinely can’t find the loosest thread in this comment to start pulling on first. And as for your slur on people with ADHD, many manage to articulate their thoughts far clearer than this rambling mess of inherent contradiction.

      We get it mate. You like trains. It’s OK to be proud of stuff like that these days. You should check on that bloke on Instagram, he manages to be all about trains without having to make up crazed nonsense like this.

    2. All options are not required. Once the Avondale southdown is built Mt roskill people will have direct trains to the city. No need for anything major along dominion rd.

      1. Wrong, we do need Heavy Rail and road option! Avondale-Southdown won’t serve people living in Eden Valley Mt Roskill North and Balmoral. Those people won’t be able to catch the train directly! Won’t be walking distance for those folks!

    3. +1

      Mayor & Central Government must ‘push-back’ against any proposals being set-up by SLR!

  16. There’s no obsession here, Tunnelled Heavy Rail would be preferred solution that ordinary transport in those areas are asking! Only obsession is coming from light tram ‘enthusiast’ desperate for new form of mode of transport, to add to their novelty, no where in the country has light tram. Light tram not going do any good people living in Dominion RD, do complete opposite and be step backwards.

    “widen the corridor”

    Where do you think public vehicles going go? If they can’t go onto Dominion RD, without public vehicles it destroy businesses along the strip, business association has stated this over and over. You can’t facilitate public vehicles and light tram crammed together, be unsafe, safe with widening the corridor.

    1. “Where do you think public vehicles going go? If they can’t go onto Dominion RD, without public vehicles it destroy businesses along the strip, business association has stated this over and over. You can’t facilitate public vehicles and light tram crammed together, be unsafe, safe with widening the corridor.”

      On the road now. They just won’t be able to park on it. And you’re the one crapping on SLR for needing too much space and then proposing we bowl an absolutely massive rail corridor at surface level down the side of Dominion Road. How do you reconcile those two arguments? How many legs do you have in each of your trousers right now? Remember to only count your own.

    2. Tunneled heavy rail brings very little benefit to business there. People will not see anything and take a train to their destination. A tram allows people to watch their surroundings and actually see some of the businesses along the road. Surface level stations would make it easier to just hop on/off a tram. They could also be closer together so that a trip becomes more accessible for more users because you would not have to walk as far from your stop to your destination and can avoid stairs and the risk of broken lifts and escalators.

      1. Light tram uneconomical, slow, coincides with constant traffic lights, run-down Toyota Corolla back in 1960s. Will bring mass destruction to civil society, mass population growth ‘all at once’ will result in high unwanted rates of crime will occur cause of light tram. We want crime to be push away from Central Auckland.

        Light tram will bring ‘ultra low property market’ and ‘ultra low rent prices’ meaning people can get easy pass in society and not participate in society by being anti-social and not value important things like effort, hard work & dedication. Someone on a minimum wage is from middle or high income family, who not dependant or low income family dependant in helping family would be able get easy pass in society, would enable someone from middle or high income family be lazy, by not taking a higher position and learn, while low income who’s suffering is struggling, you call that fair?

        You don’t need ‘surroundings’ to be able locate station currently or signage of station. Even on a train, you don’t need to see businesses location, once out of station you would find easily. You very are in-paired, see an optometrist to get your eyes checked! You also got maps on the train and audio announcement.

        1. Anonymous Aucklander have you changed your name from User Pays as you rantings sound very similar .

  17. The local Business Association should go back in time and see how they handled the space when the Trams were Running , and how many Business owners complained , And you had other areas that also had trams , i.e Mt Eden , Ponsonby , Parnell and Sandringham to name a few put I forgot Queen Street where most of the Trams ended up mixing with Cars , Buses and Trucks/Vans . All those areas were once wide enough to handle the mixture so why can’t they do it “NOW” or it is the money hungry shop owners don’t want their Customers to walk around a corner to visit their Shop instead wanting them to park right outside their door

    1. In-case you haven’t noticed, not 1900’s anymore, get with the times old man! i.e Mt Eden , Ponsonby , Parnell and Sandringham didn’t have platforms for trams, trams were on middle of the road, meaning private vehicles were next to side walk, people to get on & off on side walk creating no space for platform. Light Tram requires a platform due to safety, blocks business exposure.

      1. I was talking About the 1950’s , not the 1900’s and even back then business exposure would have been the same or worst than it is now , and if you have cars parked out side all the time nobody can see those places you talk of .
        And would you be still complaining about them if they were still there today ????? . As there are places in the world which have never removed them and they are still increasing their networks and you sound like you may be one of those or supporter of the Business that don’t want them , and those same people should realize those in the LR/Trams can see more while looking out of the Windows to notice where they are and then come back later to frequent them whereas those driving see squat as they should be concentrating on whats in front of them and not looking out their side windows .

        1. “About the 1950’s , not the 1900’s and even back then business exposure would have been the same or worst than it is now”

          Thank you for proving my point! So Light tram does have negative effects on businesses located on the corridor of Dominion RD! Cars be no issues for businesses, it be paying actual customers since there affluent background. Cars be value to the businesses, there about quality, not reliance on raking sales! The sidewalks will become a nuisance for businesses, blocking customers view of businesses signage while light tram users stand waiting! Even back 1900’s it been a nuisance! Be a step-backwards if light tram existent today!

          “As there are places in the world which have never removed them and they are still increasing their networks”
          We won’t be them and never be them! That’s good for Auckland, that way we won’t be paying for damages likes of Earthquake. Those place don’t face seismic activity, so it makes sense to place there.

          “LR/Trams can see more while looking out of the Windows to notice where they are”

          All buses, trains have audio announcements of upcoming names of bus stops and transfer stations. You don’t need like ‘looking out windows’ just to soak in views, you hop on & hop off to destination without needing to amazed by scenery. Geez you really are old & unprogressive! Sheesh!

        2. Yeah, why would anyone want to see their surroundings? Have you ever been to a mall? Have you ever went into a shop or restaurant that you did not initially intend to visit but just thought “oh, hey, this looks interesting”?
          Have you ever been to a city?

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