Thursday, August 17, 2017

Bryan Leyland: Things you know that ain't so - Auckland airport must have rapid transport

Things you know that ain't so - Auckland airport must have rapid transport.

At the moment, the politicians are going all out with promises of rapid transport – Winston Peters favours heavy rail, while Jacinda promises light rail within a few years.

The rational way of dealing with any problem is to examine the evidence and decide whether or not a problem exists. Having done that, look at all the options and decide which one solves the problem at the lowest possible cost. To my knowledge, nobody has yet done this. All they have done is seize upon rail as a solution to a problem that, it seems, no one has ever examined. 

Is there really a problem? A rational answer would be that traffic congestion will steadily increase and will need to be dealt with at some stage. So we need a long term solution that will provide transport without increasing congestion.

The next step it is to look at what travellers need in the way of transport. Common sense tells us that any traveller arriving from a long flight with luggage will be looking for door-to-door transport. Not for them lugging their luggage onto a train, then off a train into a bus or taxi or whatever. So door to door transport will be a very high priority. Cost will also be a consideration.

So what we have got? Cars, taxis, Uber, and airport shuttles all provide door-to-door transport at a range of costs. Airport buses provide a similar service to those who happen to be on or close to the bus route – Dominion Road or Mount Eden Road to the central city leaving every 10 minutes. They probably carry between 250 and 500 passengers per hour in each direction. 500 passengers need 6 carriages. Equivalent to one single carriage train every 10 minutes or one standard six car train every hour!

The airport shuttles cost about the same as a bus but offer door-to-door service. So they cover the whole of Auckland. They can be hailed by smartphone, are GPS monitored and a computer optimises the routing so that shuttle routes do not overlap.

Clearly, shuttles are the ideal solution. What more do we need? It is a question that must be answered before anyone contemplates spending billions of dollars and many years building heavy or light rail to the airport. What can rail provide that is not already provided by existing transport? The answer, it seems, is absolutely nothing. It would be a giant step backwards.

Rail will require funding from taxpayers, ratepayers and motorists. As with the existing rail and bus services, the fares will go nowhere near to covering the operating costs – let alone the capital costs. The subsidies they need will be a major burden on the citizens of Auckland for the foreseeable future. The only thing they will do is rob passengers from the existing and cheaper bus services.

Light rail will massively increase congestion on Dominion Road – which will often delay the trams – and heavy rail will make little difference to the majority of passengers who need transport to the rest of Auckland.

Of the many stupid and expensive proposals that ignorant politicians have dreamed up during the election, rail to the airport has got to be very high on the list.


Mike L. said...

Another consideration surely should be to examine what has been done at other airports. Sydney is an excellent example, where the fares are very high and huge losses are made every year. Obvious confirmation that any proposal for Auckland will be an even greater loss-maker, with smaller loadings than Sydney. With improving computerisation, door-to-door road transport is likely to become even more attractive relative to inflexible systems such as any form of rail.

Jules31 said...

You start off your piece by mentioning traffic congestion. But in your argument about things that aint so, you do not address the matter of congestion.
Clearly, the use of busses, taxis, Uber and shuttles all require the use of increasingly congested roads due to population increase and lack of infrastructure to deal with that population increase. These methods of providing airport transport are only going to get less and less efficient unless reducing congestion is provided for, and journey times will become less and less acceptable.
Trams (light rail), along Dominion Rd will also increase congestion for the vehicular traffic around it. Also, trams stop and start, stop and start, along a route and are no more efficient than a bus on a dedicated busway. The light rail requires railway lines to be installed making the route unchangeable wheras a busway can change route at a whim. So why have trams? Electricity you say? Trams will be electric. Well all vehicular vehicles will all be electric as we change away from petroleum to electric, and that will not reduce congestion.
To reduce congestion we must build more roads, or take vehicles off roads.
Heavy rail takes public transport off existing roadways and onto other carriageways, therefore reducing the need to create yet more roads.
The cost of heavy rail expansion must be offset by the consideration of not having to build more motorways and tunnels.
If we must use light rail then it should be installed, like heavy rail, on an off road carriageway to reduce congestion and provide an acceptable journey times.

Michael Sommerville said...

I agree. When you look at London and similar examples that our politicians are probably trying to emulate, you see that the main train route has feeder services. The Auckland Airport rail service will service the central city and some from the West. Some North Shore people might use it but I would venture to suggest that most won't. As for those to the East and South of the city, this will provide no assistance at all.

The next thing to consider is a timetable. There are a significant number of International flights that arrive in the very early hours of the morning. I can see the noise complaints from the people living in the vicinity of the new corridor up Dominion Rd etc.

The problem with access to the airport will be solved with a fraction of the dollars promised for rail access if it was be spent on upgrading the motorway system which will have gains for all travelers, not just those going by air.

Auckland City has developed into a very spread out city. Fact. Rail works well in high density situations such as London, Paris and New York.

Until a similar density is achieved the rail solution is extremely expensive and ineffective.

Richard Maher said...

I agree with Bryan in that rail is inflexible, expensive and a 200 year old technology trying to pose as a modern 21st century solution.

The relief from congestion will come from AEVs, (automatic electric vihicles). Fully driverless cars (category 5) will be on sale in NZ within 5 years. Cities that modify their infrastructure to optimise the advantages of driverless technologies will experience a 400% improvement in transport corridor utilisation.

Part of this infrastructure will include ride hailing system availability. AEVs are where the smart money is headed (look at Google, Tesla, Uber, etc.). within 15 years more than 50% of commuter traffic in Auckland will be AEV and our politicians are robbing the piggybanks to invest $billions into rail. Hello??

Watchdog said...

An issue that a lot of people seem to miss, is the fact that Auckland Airport, Mount Wellington and Penrose for example, have a very large freight component, which would benefit the economics of heavy rail. This modality would enable the Removal of perhaps hundreds of heavy trucks from the roads and reduce congestion. I do not believe light rail to be of any benefit - perhaps a monorail from the airport would be an alternative, off the roads.
An intermodular freight system should be the next logical progression.
To take matters further the space above railway tracks could be utilised for housing and solar generation.

Bob Culver said...

It is incredible that schemes are proposed on a political basis instead of genuinely independent analysis. We have the fixed capacity Western tunnel built not as most in the world to avoid natural obstacle or heavily used land, but to meet a political promise. Despite its very circuitous route it is being used as a prime route to the city. For much the same length of tunnel a motorway could have gone there directly and the western traffic routed cheaply, and with less through congestion in the western suburbs, along Manukau foreshore and Whau inlets.
The assumption seems to be that the bulk of airport traffic is freight and passengers. Much freight traffic to the airport is relatively urgent and the cost and delays associated double loading would deter. The few rail stations, and the few passengers headed for very close nearby addresses, will not make rail travel attractive to air travellers. And if more than one person the private car is very competitive.
My guess is that employees in the airport, in local warehouses, business and shops which have been allowed in the vicinity make up a huge proportion of traffic. With development spread over a huge area, only some of which will be close to any station, and staff coming from far and wide and seldom from very near stations, and with parking available for most, the motor vehicle is formidably hard to beat in time and cost. Rail will only work for many if Park and Ride but that concept in Auckland is already overwhelmed and fading. Vehicles will remain overwhelmingly competitive for decades until Auckland has declined to resemble London or Hong Kong and/or the cost of vehicle ownership is increased many times over.

G. Marshall said...

It would be interesting to know who the travellers are who use the airport and how many of them are going to/from the city and hence, would benefit from a train. I suspect not very many.
I worry about the increase in use of electric vehicles. Unless things have improved recently, the electricity supply industry is already creaking, so where does all of the extra electrickery come from.
It's an interesting methodology, looking at what potential passengers might need before deciding to build the railway. I can't see it catching on with politicians they need their big budget projects to enhance their standings, even when they usually come in late and way over budget.