Auckland Light Rail suggests Light Rail in Auckland



Auckland Light Rail (ALR) has announced that it believes the light rail is the best solution for the downtown corridor in Mangere, although they are still withholding key details of what it might be.

In April, when this latest process was announced, the minister confirmed that he wanted to reassure us and the public that it was not about starting from scratch. He also specified that it would either be a tram or a light metro that would be built. However, it seems officials have ignored this and are starting from scratch. They spent time studying a wide range of alternatives for the corridor, such as fast buses, trackless streetcars, heavy rails, and even fancy solutions like Hyperloop.

Today’s announcement is that their investigations have revealed that these alternative solutions cannot do the job or, if they can, cannot do it as well as light rail or light rail would. Looking at the three healthiest of them, fast buses, trackless streetcars, and heavy trains, here’s why they won’t work.

Fast buses

This is basically a dedicated busway option, which says:

This option would contribute to a significant global network problem. There are currently too many buses in the city center, which affects the function and convenience of our streets. Even though they were all electric, which is good from a carbon and pollution standpoint, it still doesn’t make any difference to congestion. There simply isn’t enough space for all of the buses needed for Auckland’s continued growth.

Also, they told me that while the bus numbers in the city center were not a problem, a busway solution would need a lot more space in the four-lane stations just like we do. let’s see on the Northern Busway.

The Northern Busway is great but not appropriate in places like Dominion Rd.

Railless trams

As I said before, there is nothing special about railless streetcars. Key technologies and features are all things that already exist (and have failed) on buses, but are actually just wrapped up in a fancy marketing term. However, the key element they represent is that we need better buses and that is not a bad thing. But it is because of this that they have become the latest favorite idea of ​​trolls and those who are politically and / or ideologically opposed to the light rail.

ALR published an article on railless trams examining what they are, their advantages, and some of their disadvantages and risks. The TLDR version is:

  • They don’t have enough capacity – with realistic numbers they can hold around 170 people per vehicle, roughly the same as two double decks. ALR estimates that during the morning rush hour, vehicles would be full by the time they arrive at Mount Roskill and therefore leave customers behind. They say “passenger demand exceeds available capacity by a factor of 1.48
  • They are heavy and will therefore require road reinforcement, which means they would be just as disruptive to build as the light rail.
  • Guidance systems are not as precise as steel tracks, so they would require an additional 0.7m wide corridor compared to the light rail. It is a bit in what are already constrained corridors.
ALR said these widths are based on the ATs Transport design manual and does not mean they are proposing to widen Dominion Rd to more than 31m.

I think a big concern that they didn’t cover properly in the document was the risk of vendor foreclosure. Essentially, there are only a few companies looking to develop this idea and each with their own technology / implementation. The risk is that in the future, when the time comes to add or replace the fleet, we may have no choice but the original supplier, if they still manufacture them. These problems along with unreliability are the reason why cities like Nancy and Caen in France have replaced or are now replacing railless tram-type solutions with an appropriate tram.

Heavy rail

For heavy rail, they looked at three different options, a branch line from Puhinui, extending the Onehunga line or building a version of the Avondale line to Southdown from the Western line to Onehunga, then to the airport – in this one, the Existing Onehunga Line trains would not have access to the airport.

As we have seen previously, the Puhinui option was ruled out because if it serves the airport, it does so to the detriment of other services in the existing network and does not meet the need for rapid transit in Mangere and on the central isthmus. .

The extension of the Onehunga line was also excluded. Although it served Mangere, it did not serve the central isthmus, so there would still need to be a dedicated bus lane or some other solution.

Meanwhile, they say the Avondale option to Southdown worked well, but it also doesn’t serve the Central Isthmus, meaning it would still need a railroad track or another. solution. However, they say that while it worked well, it did not perform as well as the light rail or light rail options.

I think one area that escaped them in this assessment is that while there are advantages and efficiencies in having a single heavy rail system, there are also disadvantages and risks. Basically, we shouldn’t have a single incident, like an incident at Aotea or Britomart, etc., cripple our entire regional public transport system. In this regard, having an independent corridor is an advantage.

Missing details

What is missing from today’s announcement is information on their assessments, even initial ones, of the streetcar and light rail. For example, things like estimated costs, station locations, travel times, the level of development needed to justify each mode, the amount of construction disruption that could occur.

They still gave a few small details.

They have three options that they are taking a closer look at.

  • A surface light rail option on Dominion Rd, although it looks like this will require a tiki-ride through Mangere, which isn’t ideal.
Why is there a bicycle on the sidewalk and a car on the tram tracks?
  • A light rail solution. There were no details on the hallway it would take, but they said they had already given up on their idea of ​​consulting an open trench as the services to be moved and the amount of disruption it would cause meant that it would cost about the same as a bored tunnel anyway. They also indicated that the light rail stations would not even be in the city centers crossed by the route, but “nearby” in an “offline” location.
  • A hybrid solution that sounds like the tunnel option on the isthmus but the surface option via Mangere.
Tram alongside the SH20

The large amounts of tunneling mean that the second two options will have much higher costs, although they claim that they will also have a higher capacity and perform better in their models, which means that overall they have all have a similar benefit-cost ratio.

All three options will have a station in downtown Mangere after very strong community support. Although this is not surprising given that they released an image showing him in the city center, but then gave no information on the impacts and / or trade-offs it would have.

I also asked if, as part of their assessment, they had considered the potential of each option for other corridors as a way to address the various capacity and connectivity issues, such as the LRT option crossing the city ​​that we have suggested. They didn’t because they say it’s beyond their reach. It seems weird that they could spend time investigating silly ideas like Hyperloop, but not even at a high level studying the idea of ​​a light rail train as part of a network of additional corridors. .

The next steps for the project are that towards the end of the month, the ALR team will provide their comments and a recommendation to the Ministry of Transport, who will then review it and prepare it for the cabinet to make a decision, which is expected around November. or December.

Unfortunately, I can’t help but feel like the ALR team is tipping the scales a little to favor the more expensive metro option. It will either risk being dismissed by cabinet as unaffordable, or the government will accept it and then face a Northern Pathway-style campaign against it, which they will eventually fall back on a few months later. Either outcome would be terrible for Auckland.

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