The Board of Auckland Transport has called for an investigation into a light rail network, which could relieve traffic congestion on some of the region’s busiest roads.
This stems from work in 2012 (the City Centre Future Access study) which responded to a government request to develop a robust and achievable solution for access to the CBD.
That showed that the City Rail Link, together with surface bus improvement, provided the best regional solution. However, it also identified that the city centre is already facing serious congestion across all major road entry points which, if not addressed now, will worsen.
Key arterials such as Dominion Road and Symonds Street were identified as major bus routes which will be significantly congested in the future as the demand for public transport grows, along with increased jobs and residents in the city centre. The population of adjacent suburbs such as Ponsonby and Parnell is also projected to almost double between 2011 and 2041.
Recent work by Auckland Transport has pointed towards light rail (essentially high-speed trams) as a possible solution and is referenced in the draft Regional Land Transport Programme currently being publicly consulted on.
(The light rail vehicle shown is an example from the streets of Italy.)
Light rail would move more than three times the number of people per hour (approximately 18,000), at higher speeds, than buses for example.
Auckland Transport chairman, Dr Lester Levy, says cities such as Sydney, Canberra and the Gold Coast have reached the same conclusion and projects in Australia can be drawn on for more detailed analysis.
Possible routes under consideration include:
- Queen Street.
- Symonds Street.
- Sandringham Road.
- Manukau Road.
- Mt Eden Road.
Dr Levy says that any light rail solution will be complementary to the critical City Rail Link and the existing rail network, providing fast, efficient, environmentally friendly public transport services in parts of Auckland which buses alone will not be able to cater for in the near future.
“It is perhaps unsurprising that routes that have been identified are similar to those which operated in the 1930s and 40s when trams moved large numbers of Aucklanders around,” he says. “They would service a large part of urban Auckland which currently has limited access to and from the city centre, while the City Rail Link will significantly increase the capacity on the existing rail/commuter network across the region.”
“Population growth and the challenges that brings cannot be met by simply adding more buses to already congested arterial roads. There is very little that we can do in terms of widening those roads so we have to be smarter about how we use that limited space.”
Dr Levy notes that the potential cost is likely to be significant and is not currently provided for in the Regional Land Transport Programme or the Auckland Council’s Long Term Plan, which are being publically consulted on.
“Therefore a key focus of the on-going work is on how we may be able to introduce private sector investment”. Dr Levy expects an update to come back to the Auckland Transport Board in late March.