Goff raises funding question as airport mass transit corridor agreed

Auckland Council & the Government have agreed to start route protection for a mass transit corridor between Auckland Airport & the city centre. The route will be along Dominion Rd.

The NZ Transport Agency & Auckland Transport worked together to develop a joint solution that will progress from bus services to a light rail transit solution.

The study found an advanced bus option could provide a credible solution over the next 30 years that could progress from the current bus-based system to a long-term solution.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges said on Friday: “By drawing on international expertise, they have identified a range of opportunities for bus travel through a separated corridor, using innovative technology & customer-focused solutions.

“In the medium to long term, this will make it possible for a staged, integrated transition to light rail along the preferred ‘airport-city’ route based on future demand & capacity.

“This work follows the Auckland transport alignment project that identified the future pressure on mass transit corridors and the need for route protection to ensure future economic growth & productivity.”

Mayor Phil Goff welcomed the agreement: “With nearly 18 million passenger arrivals/year at Auckland Airport, a mass transit alternative to growing gridlock is critical. And the growth in employment in the airport precinct, adding further pressure on the roads, also makes a public transport option important.

Goff: many issues to resolve

“This report recognises the problem of ever-increasing congestion on the route between the airport & the city, the 2 fastest-growing employment areas in Auckland. We need immediately to protect routes for the bus rapid transit/light rail option, including from the airport to Manukau & Botany. Future-proofing our city is vital.”

But Mr Goff said many issues still had to be resolved: “Work should begin on identifying triggers for making the transition. Bus lanes are consistent with later conversion to a light rail service. However, if light rail is needed within just a few years, there is a question as to why we shouldn’t just move immediately to that solution. Secondly, bringing forward a mass transit route to the airport adds urgency to the need to find new revenue streams to fund it.”

NZTA director outlines workstreams

Transport Agency Auckland regional director Ernst Zöllner said: “Further work will be done to assess key operational elements, required trade-offs, flow-on effects, transition impacts & network resilience issues.

“The agency & Auckland Transport will work together with Auckland Council to determine an integrated approach that enables a progression from the current bus services & bus lanes to improved bus services in the short-term. This will potentially be followed by higher capacity buses and a dedicated bus mass transit right of way, before a transition to light rail transit could occur.

“The timing for this transition will be based on demand, capacity & funding.

“The most recent advanced bus solution study commissioned by the NZ Transport Agency is a useful input into existing data and builds on previous studies such as the central access plan, the south-western multi-modal airport rapid transit study and the Auckland transport alignment project with Auckland Council.”

Mr Zöllner said the transport agency had also taken immediate measures in the 2015-18 national land transport programme to deliver improved public transport solutions around the greater airport area, which supported a package of short-term improvements being developed to address urgent access issues.

Auckland Transport chief executive David Warburton said: “The agencies have agreed and confirmed through various studies that Dominion Rd is the preferred route, and we all acknowledge not only the importance of the airport precinct & the city centre, but the public transport access & connectivity that is needed along the route.

“Any transition plan needs to consider the lead time required for transition steps such as construction timeframes, and the continued operation of the network in delivering the best value-for-money option.

In parallel, work will be undertaken to progress route protection of the south-eastern connection from the airport to Manukau City Centre and east to Botany to ensure good connections to the airport & its surrounding employment zones.

“The NZ Transport Agency & Auckland Transport will also continue to work with Auckland Council & Auckland International Airport Ltd to jointly develop & implement a package of short-term access improvements to the airport.”

Attribution: NZTA, mayoral, Auckland Transport releases.

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