Public transport in Auckland
An AT train at Britomart Transport Centre
|Service type||Bus service, commuter rail, ferry|
|Hubs||Britomart Transport Centre|
|Operator||NZ Bus, Transdev Auckland, Ritchies Transport|
Public transport in Auckland, the largest metropolitan area of New Zealand, consists of three modes – bus, train and ferry. Services are coordinated by Auckland Transport, the council-controlled organisation that replaced the Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA). Britomart Transport Centre is the main transport hub.
Historically Auckland was well served by public transport, but an extensive Auckland tram system was dismantled in the 1950s, which, together with the decision not to electrify the rail network and instead heavily invest into a motorway system, led to a collapse in both mode share and total trips. Major projects have been undertaken in recent years to improve public transport, both smaller-scale initiatives such as bus priority measures and large-scale bus and rail infrastructure projects. Public transport use grew by 4.4% over all modes in the year to June 2008 (with rail passenger up 18.4%), and later accelerated even more, growing by 8.3 percent in the year to February 2011 (with rail passengers up 17.9%), with Auckland for the first time reaching 1950s overall numbers again.
There have also been significant gains in the distances travelled by public transport in the Auckland Region, with an associated improvement in subsidy efficiency - with subsidy totals rising 14% in 2008-2009 (to account for increased patronage), but leading to a 39.4% increase in the kilometres travelled (during the same time, patronage in terms of trips increased 7.7%). The increased travel distances were mostly considered due to longer rail trips and more trips on long-distance services such as the Northern Busway.
Despite these strong recent gains, Auckland however still ranks quite low in public transport use as of 2009[update], having had only 41 public transport trips per person per year, while Wellington had 91, and Sydney 114. Despite these comparatively low metrics in international comparison, the Auckland Region, with 34% of New Zealand's population, in 2007-08 had 47% of national bus boardings, 37% of national rail boardings, and 93% of national ferry boardings, showing an above-average level of patronage for New Zealand, although if regions without rail and ferry services are excluded, national rail boardings are actually below average (Auckland has 75 percent of New Zealand's population with access to rail services).
The construction of a CBD rail tunnel for an estimated $2 billion, creating several new stations and also improving capacity for trains on all suburban routes, has been argued as the most important future public transport project for Auckland, allowing extra capacity that could provide up to 50 million trips per year on the city's rail lines, about twice the amount possible without it.
- 1 History
- 2 Systems
- 3 Buses
- 4 Trains
- 5 Ferries
- 6 Britomart Transport Centre
- 7 Second Harbour Crossing
- 8 Public advocacy
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
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Auckland had an extensive tram network, but this was removed in the 1950s, with the last line closing in late 1956. Ambitious rail transport schemes for the city and region were mooted several times in the 20th century. In the 1950s these were ignored in favour of a Master Transportation Plan emphasising motorways, and the influential De Leuw Carter report of 1965 and the passionate championship of mayors like John Luxford and Dove-Myer Robinson could not achieve funding for the proposed rail extensions.
The negative decisions on public transport, such as the removal of the trams for a bus system considered more modern (quickly followed by removal of the tram tracks from the streets), and Auckland authorities not pushing for electrification of the rail network (criticised by some as having been a concession in return for government funding of the Auckland Harbour Bridge) led to a collapse in rider numbers. From a 1954 average level of 290 public transport trips per person per year (a share of 58% of all motorised trips, also compare to the 41 trips per person per year made in 2009), patronage rapidly decreased. From the record of about 100 million annual passenger trips the numbers fell to about 57 million - a level that fell even further in following decades, notwithstanding Auckland's substantial interim population growth. Even the reduced 57 million level of annual trips was only reached again in the late 2000s.
With the significant sprawl occurring in the following decades, public transport became more and more influenced by the decentralised, relatively low-density urban area, where private motor vehicle transport outpaced public transport. However, the growth of the city and of car use have led to serious traffic problems, which, together with the lack of good public transport, have been cited by many Aucklanders as one of the strongest negative factors in living there. Since car usage costs fall slightly with decreasing urban density while public transport costs rise sharply (even for less capital-intensive services like buses), Auckland's public transport will for the foreseeable future have to cope with a handicap compared to cities of similar population but higher density.
Academic research also places most of the blame on the direction of transport planning, which systematically marginalised public transport improvements and maintenance in favour of US-influenced roads & motorway plans. As part of this declining importance of public transport, in 1983 there were serious plans by the Auckland Regional Authority, the predecessor of Auckland Regional Council, to abolish the Auckland railway system altogether.
A long history of political lack of interest in public transport had by the 2000s left Auckland with substantially underused and underfunded bus and rail systems (by 2006, accounting for only 7% of all morning trips), with research at Griffith University concluding that in the 50-year period from 1955 onwards the Auckland area had engaged in some of the most pro-automobile transport policies anywhere in the world. This is alleged to have been based not on rational (or indeed public) choice alone, but also due to policy tools being strongly weighed to produce favourable results for road projects when assessing transport spending. The Ministry of Economic Development released a working paper assessing the economic benefits for public transport growth in Auckland and suggested a number of key framework issues may be responsible for the decline in Auckland public transport patronage.
As concerns over urban sprawl and traffic congestion grew in recent decades public transport has returned to the spotlight, with local and national authorities in agreement that there is "a need for a substantial shift to public transport", though uptake has a long way to grow from 1998 figures of only about 5% mode share. In 2006 mode share had grown to 7%.
The gap between desired and provided public transport options is being countered by large new investments in bus priority and rail infrastructure. Regional authorities have emphasised the need for such improved provisions before measures like road pricing could be introduced. The government noted in July 2007 that a 'steady growth' [of public transport spending and infrastructure construction] is favoured over the 'rapid growth' proposals advocated by Auckland area leaders such as Papakura District mayor John Robertson, because the associated costs, raised by means like a regional fuel tax, might put too much financial pressure on Auckland.
A number of initiatives, especially by the Auckland Regional Council (ARC) and ARTA, are trying to change the focus on private cars by stimulating a discussion on intensified growth (higher urban densities). Associated groups like those in the 'Auckland Transport Strategic Alignment Project' (a project of the government and Auckland authorities) have noted that even an eventual completion of an additional harbour crossing and the completion of the Western Ring Route will barely keep up with the expected traffic growth. Further expansions of the roading network beyond those measures would be prohibitively expensive or even impossible, because of "geographical constraints" and "increased community and environmental impacts". Therefore, future traffic growth would need to be covered via public transport.
- Critical views
Despite the call for increased density to boost and sustain public transport, Wendell Cox, a US public policy consultant, has stated that this policy was unrealistic: "Downtown Auckland would need to look like Hong Kong for Auckland Regional Council's [transport] goals to be achieved." Despite the negative perception of public transport, he noted in 2001 that Auckland CBD "public transport's work trip market share is 31%" compared to Wellington's 26%. Cox further stated that no other centre in New Zealand achieved as high a market share in public transport as the Auckland City centre, but also noted that CBDs are no longer the dominant employment areas. This qualifies the public transport share of the CBD, as public transport percentages for the whole Auckland Region hover around 5% of all journeys. This figure is comparable to numerous North American and Australian cities.
An article in The New Zealand Herald by Owen McShane, director of the Centre for Resource Management Studies, notes that large parts of the Auckland Region 'barely have roads, let alone buses', and that comparing Auckland as a whole to metropolitan areas in other parts of the world is misleading. He also criticises public transport use as a sustainability measure (as promoted by the ARC), arguing that private cars use less energy than buses. This claim, in which he does not detail what bus and car occupancy rates he is using, runs counter to estimates that a bus carrying 19 passengers uses less than a quarter of the energy per person than a typical car carrying one person. ARTA data shows that bus emissions per passenger km for the 2007/08 year were half those of a typical car.
The MAXX brand was used for Auckland public transport from 2001 until 2012.
|This section requires expansion. (July 2010)|
Currently, Auckland public transport services are a mixture of private (commercially-operated) and subsidised services (also run by private operators)
- NZ Bus (Northstar, Metrolink, Waka Pacific, Go West, Link)
- Ritchies (also operates Northern Express Services on the Northern Busway)
- Howick and Eastern
- Birkenhead Transport
- Urban Express(Blockhouse Bay, New Lynn and few crosstown services)
- Airbus Express (City to Airport every 15 mins)
- Tranzit(380 Manukau to Airport)
- Waiheke bus company (by Fullers, 5 routes)
- Pine Harbour Ferry
- 360 Discovery
- Belaire (West Harbour and Rakino Island)
- Transdev Auckland operates the trains on behalf of Auckland Transport with the trains and stations belonging to Auckland Transport and the rail infrastructure belonging to KiwiRail.
Due to the lack of integrated ticketing until March 2014, changing modes, or even changing bus services, generally required purchasing an additional ticket. However, as part of a push by ARTA and NZTA, an integrated ticketing / smartcard system was introduced in Auckland by successful tenderer Thales, similar to systems like Octopus card in Hong Kong. The new system was hoped to also reduce delays while boarding buses, leading to fewer service delays.
The first stage of integrated ticketing came online in time for the Rugby World Cup 2011, with construction works for the 'tag on' / 'tag off' infrastructure having begun in January 2011. The 'HOP Card' was publicised with a $1 million publicity campaign that started in early 2011.
The AT HOP card system went live in October 2012 for trains, November 2012 for ferries and between June 2013 and March 2014 for buses.
Bus services provide the bulk of public transport and are mostly operated by NZ Bus, formerly Stagecoach New Zealand, with some buses are still in the old livery as of 2008[update]. Bus routes are mainly radial lines connecting Auckland CBD with the suburbs and the surrounding cities.
Bus services have improved in various ways in recent years, with, for example, 20 new-technology 'Link' city route buses built in 2007 and the introduction of bus rapid transit on the Northern Busway (opened January 2008) and the Central Connector (opened October 2009). However, buses still often suffer from long delays and a bad public image. Bus services generally stop around midnight or earlier, even on Fridays and Saturdays. A limited number of night buses serve Auckland's suburbs from the CBD on Friday and Saturday nights only.
Long-distance bus operators, including Intercity and Newmans, link Auckland with all the main centres in the North Island. For example, in 2007 services to Hamilton (the closest large city to the south) depart around 12 times per weekday at variable intervals.
After a ridership plateau of just over 46 million bus trips per year in 2003, usage volumes fell for three years to 42.18 million trips in the year ended June 2006, before rising again to 43.23 million in the year ended June 2008, and to over 50 million for the year ending February 2011. Users were also found to be taking longer rides, which reduced the subsidy per passenger kilometer.
- 58% were female
- 50% were white-collar workers
- 23% were tertiary students
It also identified some characteristics relevant to the scope for future public transport measures:
- 71% had other transport available (such as private vehicles)
- 37% wanted service frequencies to be increased
Patronage on the 'Northern Express' services from North Shore City into Auckland CBD has improved markedly; it carried 1.2 million trips in the year ended June 2008 and patronage continues to rise due to the time gains offered by the Northern Busway. A previous 2008 survey had shown a 34% patronage increase in one year.
Auckland has a slowly growing network of bus lanes: in Auckland City there were 27 km in 2008. The Central Connector bus lane project, which started construction in 2008, is expected to substantially improve links between Newmarket and the inner city, while bus lanes are also planned on Remuera Road and St Johns Road to connect the city with the Eastern Bays suburbs.
The Northern Busway in North Shore City may possibly be extended further north, to serve the increasing urbanisation of the northern areas, and may eventually go all the way to Orewa and the Whangaparaoa peninsula.
The Auckland-Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI) project will include dedicated bus facilities and lanes.
Auckland's urban trains services are operated under the AT brand by Transdev Auckland, formerly known as Veolia. Since the opening of Britomart Transport Centre, significant improvements have been made to commuter rail services. In October 2005, Sunday services were reintroduced for the first time in over 40 years, together with a general 25% service frequency increase at the time.
Recent investment has resulted in strongly increased patronage from a low level, with a 1,580% increase from the lowest ebb in 1994. Patronage has increased from 2 million train trips five years ago[dated info] to over 7 million in 2008, and an expected 9 million in 2010. In March 2010, rail trips reached their highest point since 1955, with 918,000 passengers in one month, 115,000 more than the March 2009.
Investment has focused on upgrading and refurbishing rolling stock and railway stations. Some double tracking to allow higher frequencies has been undertaken, and had resulted in a 25% increase in frequency, and a rise in punctuality (5 minutes late or less) from 60.9% in 2005 to 83.1% in 2006 and 82% in 2008. Reliability has been a problem though and Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee complained that there were over 400 signal and points failures in 2009. ARTA noted that the unreliability was due to the large amount of work being conducted in the rail corridor to upgrade and double-track the rail system, especially on the Western Line. Reliability has since improved.
There are four main commuter rail lines:
- The Southern line from Britomart Transport Centre to Papakura Train Station via Newmarket Train Station, with a limited number of trains continuing to Pukekohe Train Station (Pukekohe).
- The Eastern line from Britomart to Papakura via the waterfront and Orakei Train Station (Orakei), with a limited number of trains continuing to Pukekohe. The line joins the Southern Line southwards at Westfield. The Manukau Branch line is also part of the Eastern Line.
- The Western line from Britomart via Newmarket to the west via New Lynn Train Station (New Lynn) before terminating in at Swanson Train Station (Swanson) or Waitakere Train Station (Waitakere City). The double-tracking of this line, begun in 2004 under the ARC, was completed in 2010.
- The Onehunga Line from Britomart to Onehunga via Newmarket and Penrose. The line was reopened on 18 September 2010 and passenger services commenced the next day.
These names however are not the official names for these railway lines. Britomart to Wellington (via Orakei) is officially part of the North Island Main Trunk (NIMT). Quay Park Junction to Newmarket is officially the Newmarket Line, and Westfield Junction to Otiria is officially the North Auckland Line (NAL).
Auckland has only one long-distance passenger train, the Northern Explorer to Wellington, operated by KiwiRail Scenic Journeys. It runs southbound on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays and northbound Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. The service is mainly tourist-oriented, but in 2008 there were proposals to reintroduce more services and increase emphasis towards regular users.
Current and recent upgrades
From 2008, a NZ$600 million upgrading project named "DART" (Developing Auckland's Rail Transport) was undertaken, managed by the state-owned enterprise ONTRACK. Project DART and other current projects include:
- double-tracking the Western Line (completed in 2010)
- upgrading stations and signalling (ongoing)
- rebuilding and reconfiguring Newmarket Train Station to cater better for the growing importance of the area and improve transfers between the Western and Southern lines (completed 2010)
- constructing the new Manukau Branch line from Wiri to Manukau City Centre, the first fully new track in Auckland for decades (completed)
- reopening the disused Onehunga Branch line for passengers (reopened September 2010)
- extension of a peak Western Line service to Helensville in 2008, with temporary stations at Huapai and Waimaukau, and a minor upgrade of Helensville station
- more rebuilt carriage trains, powered by DC class diesel locomotives in push-pull mode.
ARTA increased peak services to four trains per hour on the core urban network from July 2008, and plans to achieve six per hour from the middle of 2010. Services are also to be extended to after 10 pm during the week in early 2009 and to after 11 pm in 2011.
Electrification and core upgrade
There have been a number of proposals recommending electrification of the Auckland rail network since the 1920s, some as part of proposals for electrification of the North Island Main Trunk in its entirety from Auckland to Wellington. In 2006 the Auckland Regional Transport Authority released a study pointing to a "desperate" need for electrification. The Mayor of Auckland and the Prime Minister joined a general agreement culminating in a commitment to electrification, to be partly paid for by a regional fuel tax. The goals of the upgrade are to raise rail use from 5 million passenger trips in 2007 to 30 million by 2030, with departures every 10 minutes.
The "Core Network Upgrade" project proposed in late 2006 is calculated to cost around NZ$1 billion, and to be completed by 2015. It would include:
- electrification and further upgrading (beyond project DART) of 110 km of Auckland railway infrastructure
- further station upgrades
- new electric rolling stock
- better service frequencies
Further proposed upgrades
There has been growing recognition throughout Auckland over the past years of the need to invest in public transport to help ease growing traffic congestion. A number of extensions to the rail network have been proposed, for a potential target of 30 million train trips per year (over four times the 2008 level), though some have been discussed for several decades:
- a central city underground railway loop linking Britomart Transport Centre with Mt Eden via a tunnel underneath Albert Street (see below)
- an extension of the Onehunga Branch line to Auckland International Airport over the now completed duplicate Mangere Bridge, which Transit New Zealand announced was being 'future proofed' to allow it to potentially accommodate a rail line.
- an airport link from the North Island Main Trunk line at Manukau City, in addition to or instead of a link via Mangere Bridge
- extension of both electrification and of commuter services to Pukekohe and eventually to Hamilton (the NIMT is already electrified south from Te Rapa) allowing inter-city service to operate at higher frequencies and at modern standards
- a line between Southdown and Avondale in west Auckland, primarily for freight trains to avoid Newmarket and reduce delays for both freight and passenger trains. The motorway New Zealand State Highway 20 being constructed through southern Auckland City is being built in a rail reserve, and the earthworks and overbridges will include provision for the future railway line.
- a suggestion to extend rail across Waitemata Harbour to the North Shore (see Second Harbour Crossing below)
- possible conversion of the Northern Busway to light rail
A city centre tunnel, likely to go from Britomart Transport Centre, underneath the Auckland CBD to the Western Line near Mount Eden Train Station, has been proposed since the 1920s. Proponents argue that it would remove the major capacity restrictions of Britomart (by turning it into a through, rather than a terminus station), allowing more and faster train services for much of the region (not only to/in the city centre), as well as provide new impetus for the economy of the city centre by allowing three new train stations. Opponents argue that the costs would be excessive (with various estimates of the 2010s ranging from $1–2 billion).
As of early 2012, Auckland Council strongly supports proceeding with the tunnel, while the current National government (which would likely have to fund at least part of the cost to enable the project to proceed) remains sceptical.
In November 2012 an engineering report said without the underground rail link, CBD traffic will slow to walking speed and the city's bus and train networks would be "significantly over capacity". 
A feature of Auckland transport is the popularity of commuting by ferry. A substantial minority of North Shore commuters avoid the chronic Harbour Bridge congestion by catching ferries from Devonport, Bayswater, Birkenhead/Northcote Point or Stanley Bay to the CBD. The ferries operate at least hourly, with longer hours of operation than many of Auckland's bus routes and railway lines.
Ferries also connect the city with Rangitoto and Waiheke Islands, and Half Moon Bay and Pine Harbour (both in Manukau City). Ferries to Great Barrier Island are less frequent, with four-hour passages every 1–2 days, depending on the time of the year and the weather. Weekend ferries operate to other islands in the Hauraki Gulf, mainly for tourists.
There are no ferry services on the west coast of Auckland and none are planned (although there have been some historical services from Onehunga) as the city's waterfront orientation is much stronger towards the eastern Waitemata Harbour than to the western Manukau Harbour.
Two new ferry services had been introduced in February 2013, connecting Beach Haven and Hobsonville.
Pending acceptance of the Draft Annual Plan 2008/2009 and funding being available as forecast and/or proposed, the Auckland Regional Council is intending to increase services to Half Moon Bay, Pine Harbour, West Harbour and Devonport from 2008, Gulf Harbour and Stanley Beach from 2009. A new ferry wharf is planned for Beach Haven in 2009, and one at Hobsonville in 2010.
Fullers Group has noted that Auckland ferry services are operating well for their low level of Council subsidy of around 84c per passenger and journey, half the subsidy of Brisbane ferry operators and a seventh of those in Sydney.
The Auckland Ferry Terminal is in downtown Auckland on Quay Street, between Princes Wharf and the container port, directly opposite Britomart Transport Centre. An underground link between the two, to allow easier road crossing and protection from bad weather, has been planned but not built due to cost reasons.
There are ferry terminals at Devonport, Stanley Bay, Bayswater, Northcote Point, Birkenhead, Half Moon Bay, West Harbour, Pine Harbour and Gulf Harbour, and on the Hauraki Gulf islands.
The Auckland Regional Transport Network (ARTNL), then responsible for building Auckland's passenger transport terminals, in 2005-2006 invested $NZ20 million in upgrades to ferry terminals, and is trying to improve the problem of parking, especially at terminals catering for commuters to the Auckland CBD - but is limited by parking being the authority of local councils and that new parking would be hard to provide unless by provision of new parking buildings. ARTNL noted that while ferry services were often full, a combination of low profits and uncertainty about losing services to other bidders has made providers reluctant to invest the large sums necessary for new ferries.
Britomart Transport Centre
Opened in July 2003, Britomart is a central hub for public transport in Auckland - buses at ground level, trains underground in a terminal station and ferries close by. During its planning period it provoked much controversy spanning multiple mayoral terms, mostly for cost and capacity reasons. New rail transport investment in the Auckland Region, both planned and recently started, will increase the importance of the centre.
The local government elections in September 2004 centred largely around candidates' policies on public transport, with the incumbent Auckland mayor John Banks promoting the "Eastern Corridor" motorway plan, and his main rivals (former mayor Christine Fletcher and businessman Dick Hubbard, the eventual winner) supporting public transport alternatives like light rail and improving existing bus and rail services.
Second Harbour Crossing
During 2007, various plans were mooted to build a second crossing over the Waitemata Harbour, currently a major barrier for traffic, and currently bridged by the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Proposed bridge or tunnel options included substantial provision for public transport, including for light rail, with some proposing to keep the new crossing reserved solely for public transport.
Commentators like Brian Rudman have noted that it would make the most sense for a possible new crossing to be dedicated to public transport only, possibly connecting with a rail tunnel from the Western Reclamation to Britomart Transport Centre, providing an alternate way of making Britomart a through station.
In 2008 it was decided to shortlist the harbour crossing options to the general Auckland waterfront area, and it was announced that due to the reduction in costs for the boring of multiple small tunnels compared to single large ones it was likely that public transport would receive a dedicated tunnel, with potential for light or heavy rail.
Groups like the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) aim to be advocates for alternatives to the private car, including public transport, cycling and walking. The CBT is both a successor to the former 'Campaign for Public Transport' and a new umbrella group.
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- Auckland Tram - Number 11 (from the MOTAT website)
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- Mees, Paul (December 2009). Transport for Suburbia: Beyond the Automobile Age. Earthscan Ltd. ISBN 1-84407-740-3.
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- Reliance on private vehicles (from ARTA's 'Auckland Transport Plan', June 2007. Retrieved 3 May 2008.)
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- Divorce your car - Alvord, Katie; via climatechangecaravan, Mount Allison University, Canada
- "Integrated ticketing". Region Wide. Auckland Regional Council. July 2010. p. 3.
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- "Start Of Construction For Integrated Ticketing". Press Release, Auckland Transport. 24 January 2011. Retrieved 30 January 2011.
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- New bus lanes for Remuera - Times Online, Wednesday 20 February 2008
- References provided within Northern Busway, Auckland
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- At last - electric rail for Auckland - Region Wide, newspaper of the Auckland Regional Council, November 2008, Page 1
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- Summary Draft Annual Plan - Transport - Region Wide, newsletter of the Auckland Regional Council, April 2008, Page 4
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- Mayor says electrification a "must have" for Auckland - Auckland City Council, Tuesday 12 September 2006
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- References provided within this same article (Trains) and in Britomart Transport Centre
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- "Four cross harbour tunnels preferred option for Auckland". The New Zealand Herald. NZPA. 2 May 2008. Retrieved 4 November 2011.
- AT Public Transport website (timetable and services / transport options information)
- Auckland Transport (website of the region's local government transport body)
- ONTRACK New Zealand Railways Corporation (Rere Totika), the government rail owner
- Better Transport, an online forum of the Campaign For Better Transport
- Auckland Transport Blog , blog associated with Campaign for Better Transport