One resident's thoughts on transport and housing in Auckland

What is it about Auckland and trains? Trains are one of the most efficient and environmentally friendly means of moving large numbers of people. But somehow, Auckland has never gotten itself organised enough to make the sort of investment that would be required to get commuters to see this as an attractive mode of transport.

Auckland currently has an ageing rail infrastructure with limited areas being serviced. Work is in progress to make some incremental extensions with projects like the Cross City Rail link under way. New Auckland Metro class trains are being rolled out on the existing tracks. Rail patronage is increasing slowly.

Current progress is heading in the right direction but falls short of making trains a real goer. Large areas of the city are completely without any rail service, tracks are old and slow and services are infrequent.

Because we have left our planning so late, progress has become more difficult as land needed for rail has already been developed for other purposes. Catching up will be costly and require some clever compromises.

To be attractive a rail service has to fulfill all of the following requirements:

  • Rail services must be fully integrated with other modes of transport to provide the greatest possible reach to all the right places.
  • Services need to be so frequent that a timetable is not required. Just turn up at the station and have confidence that a train will arrive shortly.
  • Services must be 100% reliable. Commuters who are stranded and unable to get home will not remain loyal for very long

The purpose of trains is to get rid of cars.

A fully integrated transport system is requred to ensure the best possible reach. Rail is competing with private cars. If I take my car, I know that I can get everywhere I need to during the day. Maybe I will stop at the gym in the morning, then on to work, pop out for lunch, stop at a restaurant on the way home. I am not going to catch the train if it means I can only get to one or two of these places.

A fully integrated system will need to include High Speed Rail, Metro Class Rail, Light Rail or Trams, Busses, Cycleways and Walkways. But integration will not stop there.

The transport system must be integrated with planning of where to build houses, offices, shops and events and entertainment areas.

We are beginning to see some small steps with developments like the Orakei village positioned on top of the Orakei station.

The Northern busway has so much unrealised potential. Currently the busway includes stations at Akoranga, Smales Farm, Sunnynook, Constellation and Albany with plans to extend to Silverdale. However, these stations are within walking distance for only a very few households forcing most patrons to park and ride so retaining the requirement for users to own and operate a car. High density, high rise developments could be planned at each of these stations to provide more than 1000 potential carless commuters per station.

Services must be frequent and ubiquitous to be seen as a realistic alternative to cars. If my journey would take me 60mins by car and you tell me this reduces to 45mins by train then I could be tempted to switch modes. That is until I realise that I have to spend an average of 30mins waiting for a train. The elapsed travel time wuld then be a disincentive (unless it is possible to organise personal schedules around timetables)

Services must be 100% reliable to generate confidence as an alternative to cars. A rail commuter is at the mercy of the system if something goes wrong. In comparison, the driver of a car would generally feel more in control if they are able to make choices about alternate routes or departure times to get them past a road closure.

Rail provides fewer options for diverting traffic through alterante routes during an adverse event. Contingency plans will be hugely important in mitigating breakdowns as will a fully funded preventative maintenance program in avoiding them. Excellent communication of service information during adverse events is essential.


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