Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Do we reallly need the Auckland Rail Loop?

As Auckland continues to grow, its transport needs become more complex. The present Mayor has a perchance for a rail loop costing around NZ$3 billion dollars. That’s just an estimate and history tells us that these things have a way of expanding as new costs come to light.
It is true that the rail system ending in a no-exit underground station at Britomart doesn’t really make sense. The new proposal takes note of this and extends the rail out through and under the city to places that may well benefit from such an extension.
We are beginning to hear the human stories about people being transplanted and losing their houses and business premises. Yes there will be compensation, but that never seems enough to those affected. We now need to take a very careful look to see if the transport needs can be met in other ways.
Firstly, I do not advocate yet more motorways. The inner city is already choked with them and they tend to take an even larger footprint than railways. What do we have that works now? We have all noticed the improved bus system and the increased patronage reflects that. If we extend the bus usage by tweaking routes and increasing the number of busses on the roads, that may go part way to solving the ever increasing demand for public transport in our Queen city.
However, even bus lanes require land--- and that may not be hugely different to the requirements for rail extension land purchase, so we are at a point in time where we have to choose. Do we develop work opportunities in the outer suburbs and therefore decrease the need for ever more traffic heading into the city or do we take the plunge and just get on with enhancing (at huge expense—monetary and human) the rail system? Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in between. Is there a compromised where we can make some additions to the rail system while at the same time embarking on better services for bus and ferry, along with building employment hubs in the suburbs?
I am glad I am not a transport planner!

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