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Tomorrow (Tuesday 31 August), the consultation for the Auckland Light Rail process closes. If you haven’t already, now’s a good time to provide some feedback.
We’ve been somewhat critical of this engagement process due to a lack of information about some of the key trade-offs that need to be made. Why, for example, has the public not seen details that we know the ALR team has, about things like comparative costs, station locations, or travel times? On the other hand, we’ve been impressed by some of the communications material. It sets a clear, inviting, and wide vision for what light rail might mean for Tāmaki Makaurau. These are the kinds of comms we’d also love to see for the entire PT and bike network – not to mention the nationwide climate action response.
Vision is one thing; actually building it is another. We’ve been following the light rail discussion closely since it first kicked off at the start of 2015. We’ve read stacks of reports and papers looking at the issues and the options, which has helped shape our views on the topic. While we don’t have any more detailed information on the plans currently being looked at, that doesn’t stop us from sharing our thoughts on what we think light rail should be.
With this post, I thought I’d lay out the Greater Auckland vision for how we think light rail should be developed in Auckland – the full picture, not just the City Centre to Mangere (CC2M) line that’s being consulted on right now.
Building a light rail network, or even a single line like CC2M, isn’t something that’ll happen in one go. So I’ll break this down into what we think are appropriate stages, allowing for some parts of the project to be progressed while other parts are in planning and design phases. (The exact order and timing of some of the later stages may be interchangeable or could even happen at the same time.)
We’ve heard concerns from some officials about the long-term passenger capacity of surface light rail. As well as expanding the network even greater than suggested here, this could also be addressed with even longer light rail vehicles. Lengths of up to 90m to 120m are starting to be seen on some systems overseas such as Seattle (up to four 29m trains) and Dallas (up to three 37.5m trains).
Dominion Rd makes the most sense for a light rail route because it is the most direct and has a number of well-established town centres. We know Sandringham Road is also being looked at, but why duplicate the Western (rail) Line? It’s hard to see why Kingsland would need to be served by high-frequency heavy and light rail routes.
The only apparent reason for Sandringham Rd is the potential for Kainga Ora development along the route, but we feel that can be dealt with separately. There’s just as much capacity for development on the Dominion Rd route if the zoning is changed to enable it – which it should be.
As for stations, there’s always a need to strike a balance between speed and accessibility. For this first stage we think a good balance is nine stations, serving the local town centres and providing good coverage while also keeping travel times competitive.
The Wynyard Question
Previous plans and the current process have suggested light rail will go to Wynyard Quarter. We think that for Stage 1 it should end at Customs St. Customs St is a key bus corridor and will become even more so in the future with Auckland Transport’s City Centre Bus Plan. Extending light rail to Wynyard will limit the number of buses able to use Customs St including important routes like the NX1.
The City Centre Bus PlanLight rail should integrate with the network we have, not run rough-shod over it. So we feel the time to look at extending light rail to Wynyard would be in conjunction with plans for extending it to the North Shore.
In addition, not extending to Wynyard could save about $250 million – reducing the sticker shock of the project, and likely making it easier to get over the line with the public and government.
The other end (and depot)
We think Hayr Rd is a good location to end the first stage, as it keeps things fairly straightforward before getting to the trickier part of getting down the hill to Onehunga.
There is also a good potential depot location nearby in the light commercial area around Carr Rd – a decent portion of which is already in government ownership. This is only a short distance from Hayr Rd, which provides access across the motorway, meaning a station there would have a wide catchment from nearby residential areas. This spot also connects to the current 27W buses, useful for those living around the Mt Eden Rd corridor when the light rail route is extended to Mangere and the Airport.
Why start in the city?
Over the years we’ve seen suggestions of starting by building light rail somewhere else, such as from the airport to Onehunga. While these locations need light rail, previous work has suggested they won’t be the busiest sections.
Everyone is invested in a successful start for the next phase of Auckland’s transport network. The best way to build confidence and ensure buy-in to the big plan is for the first stage to be a success from Day One. And to our minds, the best chance of that happening is with a route serving the isthmus and busy city centre from Day One.
However, it would be useful to start enabling works for other parts of the route, such starting to build the Manukau Harbour Crossing, to make it easier to build the later stages.
Green Track Dominion Rd
We would also build light rail on Dominion Rd with green tracks.
Green tracks in Barcelona, Spain (left) and Grenoble, France (right)
Motorway or local roads?
We’ve heard suggestions in the past about sending light rail along Bader Drive in order to serve Kainga Ora sites. We think light rail should stick to the motorway corridor for faster journeys, and also so light rail can serve as a catalyst for development on the western side of the motorway – and best serve communities on both sides of the m’way equally well. Some additional active mode crossings of the motorway will help in this regard, to reduce severance.
Mangere Town Centre
Previous plans for light rail have suggested a station in the motorway corridor around Bader Dr. This would be a faster option, but a short deviation to the town centre won’t add much trip time. Furthermore, the Light Rail team have already shared an image showing light rail serving Mangere Town Centre, which will have raised expectations in that community.
For those worried about travel times, this route should be about 37 minutes to get from The Civic to the airport
With light rail Westgate would only take around 25 minutes to get to the middle of the city centre.
Potentially an additional station could be added between Royal Rd and Lincoln Rd, say at Huruhuru Rd.
With light rail Huapai would be just 35 minutes from the city.
And once this network is built, there are all sorts of options for where to build more of it.
As a final reminder, the current consultation for light rail closes tomorrow.
This article first appeared on www.greaterauckland.org.nz
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