Auckland Light Rail – My own thoughts

Dropped in to the Auckland Light Rail marquee at the Balmoral Flea Market to try and get a better understanding as to what this project is all about. The current focus they have advised is that the project most certainly is going a head and we are now choosing between “Light Metro” and “Modern (street level) trams”.

Promotional brochures can be found here.

Overall, they’re a friendly and approachable bunch manning the stand and were found to be willing to at least provide their take on any questions and concerns I had about the project.

They were at pains to note that this project is not about trams alone, but a transport and urban building project initiative combined where development will be intensified along the Tram routes.

Summary of options on the table

“Light metro” – being dug into the ground and vented.

  • Travels on tracks separated from other vehicles.
  • Could be elevated, underground or at the street level.
  • More reliable because it is on it’s own route, free from traffic delays.
  • Stations are less frequent and more of a designation located in key town centres.
  • Stations are underground or can be elevated.
  • Drives may not be required. Option to automate the system.

The little trench turrets will be done away with I’ve been advised.

“Modern trams” – being done at the street level.

  • Travel on tracks on existing streets.
  • Separate from traffic with it’s own lanes.
  • Have priority over cars at intersections and stops.
  • More stops along the route.
  • Stops are at street level for passengers to get on and off.
  • Drivers will be required.

The “Customer Vision” (Unspecified source)…

“We are planning so future generations can have housing options within a 10 minute walk to light rail. Without the cost of a vehicle, they are more able to save for their own home or for further education. They arrive at a stop or station without needing a timetable and travel to work or study. In the evening they enjoy the same safe, convenient and reliable trip home.”


My concerns that I noted to them in person…

While I understand the need to reduce our reliance on the private motor car and our obligations in respect to climate change, my own concerns raised include…

  • Delays and cost overruns that have befallen several other big ticket infrastructure projects before this such as the City Rail Link (CRL). Additional concerns also exist around the impact on local business should this project like the CRL be delivered late and disruption of works continue on past the target date of delivery.
  • The lack of action regarding implementing alternative transport along Mill road / Takanini where we are perpetuating car dependence and suggested it would be good to start putting in trams and alternative transport infrastructure down the Mill road corridor now while it is easier to do so as to have a chance at arresting the cycle of car dependency sooner.

Delays and cost overruns:

They whole heartedly concurred with my concerns regarding bureaucracy causing the project to stall and huge costs to over run resulting in the project being delivered extremely late and over budget with the additional devastating impact on local business surrounding the works.

The reasons they give for the causes of the cost over runs of past projects were that projects were continuously being started and stopped and that every time the project is restarted, the costs have escalated. The representative advised he would like me to write “Just get on with it!” in the feedback form he provided so as to presumably to count another voice to press their case to the Government.

As a side note given… In terms of financial viability, one of the key funding concept they advised was that any land owned by Kāinga Ora (Housing New Zealand) will be intensified. That Kāinga Ora will say build apartments on the land they own and every 1 out of 5 say will be sold off to the general public to fund the initiative.

Regarding Mill Road and lack of action with regards to laying down alternative transport infrastructure in the new areas perpetuating a cycle of car dependence.

The representatives again concurred with my concerns around the above. The consortium however do not want sprawl and prefer the likes of Mill road and Dairy flat did not occur and that we do not continue to sprawl out in the productive food producing farmland. The focus here is to build up and intensify in the current bounds and around existing corridors.

They however were not able to give a full answer except to say they had plans to start introducing bus services to that area.


A rather crude (unrefined) personal analysis:

The transport agencies involved with managing Auckland’s transport system have categorically expressed their desire to clamp down on motor car use in Auckland (if one reads the “Greater Auckland” blog). Everything is now geared towards encouraging us in to other transport modes and assist in meeting our obligations under the so called “climate emergency”.

Examples we see today include taking away space for general traffic along with very aggressive enforcement of special vehicle lanes including dropping speed limits to (what some may regard as uncomfortably) low speeds. This is naturally not going to sit well with quite a lot of people, particularly those who depend on their vehicle to carry out their business function (e.g Trades people).

Any change of going away from the status quo of car dependence will take some decades to change and it is perhaps disappointing to learn that nothing substantial is in the pipeline for the new residential development areas and feel this ultimately will work against their vision in the longer term by perpetuating the cycle of car dependence.

The Light rail project is well intentioned, however I remain unconvinced that current bureaucratic and political environment won’t ultimately see this turn into another project which is delivered late and at huge expense like we have seen with the Central Rail Link which to this day, remains incomplete with devastating financial collateral damage to the many businesses surrounding the project as we’ve seen with the Central Rail Link.

Furthermore, again as well intentioned Kāinga Ora may be, I’m not convinced at this stage about the alleged Kāinga Ora development (intensifying land) going to plan seeing at a high level how much bureaucracy is involved.

Stepping back, we may have to have a serious look at our current system of bureaucracy and see if we can streamline it to allow these big ticket infrastructure projects and others to progress a lot more smoothly than they have been.

Auckland Light Rail – My own thoughts

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