Public transport in Auckland
An AT electric train
|Parent||Auckland Transport (AT)|
|Service area||Auckland Region|
|Service type||Bus, rail, ferry|
|Hubs||Britomart Transport Centre|
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 under the AT Metro brand. Britomart Transport Centre is the main transport hub.
Historically Auckland was well served by public transport, but the dismantling of its extensive tram system in the 1950s, together with the decision by William Goosman 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 passengers 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 to be due to longer rail trips and more trips on long-distance services such as the Northern Busway.
Despite those strong gains, Auckland still ranked quite low in public transport use as of 2009[update], with only 41 public transport trips per person per year, while Wellington had 91, and Sydney 114.
The construction of the City Rail Link for an estimated $2 billion, creating two new stations in the CBD and 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 number possible without it.
In April 2017, Auckland Transport reported that in the 12 months to March, public transport patronage totalled 87 million boardings, an increase over the previous year of 6.9%. Rail had accounted for 19 million passenger trips, an increase of a million in less than 4 months.
- 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
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (June 2011)
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 Cather 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 and tracks for a bus system considered more modern, and Auckland authorities not pushing for electrification of the rail network (criticised by some as 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), patronage decreased rapidly, and in 2009 only 41 trips per person per year were made. 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. The level of 57 million annual trips was not reached again until the late 2000s.
With 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 and motorway plans. As part of this declining importance of public transport, in 1983 there were serious plans by the Auckland Regional Authority 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 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] was 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 such as 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, tried 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) noted that even the eventual completion of an additional harbour crossing and the completion of the Western Ring Route would 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.
Despite the call for increased density to boost and sustain public transport, Wendell Cox, a US public policy consultant, 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.
All suburban public transport services (bus, train and ferry) run on timetabled routes coordinated by Auckland Transport. Bus and ferry services are privately owned and are contracted to AT, with livery either displaying the AT Metro brand or being converted (as of late-2017) to it. Many buses for example, still appear on the roads in the livery of their respective companies. AT has owned Auckland's suburban electric trains from their introduction, and all appear in AT Metro livery. The MAXX brand was used for Auckland public transport from 2001 until 2012.
Due to the lack of integrated ticketing until March 2014, a second boarding from one bus route to another or to a different mode generally required the payment of a new fare. However, as part of a push by ARTA and NZ Transport Agency, an integrated ticketing / smartcard system was introduced in Auckland by successful tenderer Thales, similar to systems like Octopus card in Hong Kong.
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.
In 2016, Auckland Transport simplified fares by changing to a system based on 13 fare zones. The fare is no longer based on the distance travelled (number of stages), but on the number of zones passed through, so that a journey in a zone that involves multiple rides or even a mode mix (bus, train, ferry) will be charged only one fare.
Bus services provide the bulk of public transport. Services have improved in recent years, with, for example, 20 new-technology 'Link' city route buses built in 2007, the introduction of bus rapid transit on the Northern Busway (opened January 2008), the Central Connector (opened October 2009), and 26 double decker buses travelling on those routes and some others. Bus services generally stop around midnight or earlier; a limited number of buses serve Auckland's suburbs from the CBD after midnight on Friday and Saturday nights only, with Northern Express services on the busway running half-hourly until 3:00 a.m.
Auckland Transport began (2014–15) the process of rebranding bus services to AT Metro to create a single identity for AT services. This involves repainting the livery of all operators' buses that are contracted on AT routes to a single colour scheme, to be phased in over three years. The default colour scheme is ocean blue and grey. The exceptions are the Link buses which will retain their traditional red, green and orange colours.
Urban service operators are:
- NZ Bus (Northstar, Metrolink, Waka Pacific, Go West, Link)
- Ritchies (also operates Northern Express Services on the Northern Busway)
- Howick and Eastern Buses Limited
- Birkenhead Transport Limited
- Urban Express (Blockhouse Bay, New Lynn and few crosstown services)
- SkyBus Express (City to Airport every 15 mins)
- Tranzit (380 Manukau to Airport)
- Waiheke bus company (by Fullers, 5 routes)
- Go Bus (Some South Auckland bus routes)
Link bus services
There are three Link services; all accept fare payment by AT Hop card or cash and all run from early morning to late evening, 7 days of the week.
- CityLink – red buses – both way loop; Wynyard Quarter – Queen Street – Karangahape Road – Queen Street – Wynyard Quarter.
- InnerLink – green buses – both way loop; Britomart – Parnell – Newmarket – Karangahape Road – Ponsonby Road – Victoria Park – Britomart.
- OuterLink – amber buses – both way loop; Wellesley Street – Parnell – Newmarket – Mount Eden – Mount Albert – Westmere – Herne Bay – Wellesley Street.
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.
Auckland has a slowly growing network of bus lanes: in Auckland City there were 27 km in 2008. The Central Connector bus lane project improved 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 Auckland-Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI) project will include dedicated bus facilities and lanes.
Long-distance bus operators, including Intercity and Naked Bus, 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.
Auckland's urban train services are operated under the AT brand by Transdev Auckland, formerly known as Veolia, with the trains and stations belonging to Auckland Transport and the rail infrastructure belonging to KiwiRail.
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. Second-hand diesel units replaced even older coaches in 1993 and, by 1995, patronage was claimed to be up 60% to almost 2 million train trips a year. Patronage increased from just under 4 million trips in 2005 to over 7 million in 2008, and as of early 2016 had quadrupled to 16 million passengers with growth running at 4 million additional trips a year. In the year to December 2016, rail patronage rose to 18 million journeys. In March 2010, rail trips reached their highest point since 1955, with 918,000 passengers in one month, 115,000 more than in March 2009.
There are four commuter rail lines, all electrified at 25kV AC:
|Eastern Line||3 tph (weekdays)
2 tph (weekends)
|Britomart, Orakei, Meadowbank, Glen Innes, Panmure, Sylvia Park, Otahuhu, Middlemore, Papatoetoe, Puhinui, Manukau|
|Southern Line||3 tph (weekdays)
2 tph (weekends)
|Britomart, Parnell, Newmarket, Remuera, Greenlane, Ellerslie, Penrose, Otahuhu, Middlemore, Papatoetoe, Puhinui, Homai, Manurewa, Te Mahia, Takanini, Papakura|
|Southern Line (Papakura–Puhekohe shuttle)||1 tph||Papakura, Pukekohe||Diesel shuttle connecting with service to/from Britomart|
|Western Line||3 tph (weekdays)
2 tph (weekends)
|Britomart, Parnell†, Newmarket, Grafton, Mount Eden, Kingsland, Morningside, Baldwin Avenue, Mount Albert, Avondale, New Lynn, Fruitvale Road, Glen Eden, Sunnyvale, Henderson, Sturges Road, Ranui, Swanson||Trains reverse at Newmarket.|
|Onehunga Line||2 tph||Britomart, Newmarket, Remuera†, Greenlane†, Ellerslie, Penrose, Te Papapa, Onehunga|
|tph = trains per hour
† station served at evenings and weekends only
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.
Current and recent upgrades
- City Rail Link – an underground passenger line running under central Auckland from Britomart to Mount Eden station that will provide greater route flexibility across the entire network and a more direct route for Western Line services. Under construction.
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 projects include:
- double-tracking the Western Line (completed in 2010)
- 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 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 Waimauku, and a minor upgrade of Helensville station. Services between Auckland and Helensville resumed in July 2008 on a trial basis, with a minimum of forty passengers daily required for the train to be permanently reinstated, but the service was terminated again in December 2009, because an average of only 43 passengers per day used the three daily services, requiring a much above-average subsidy.
Services were extended to after 10 pm during the week in early 2009.
In December 2014, weekend services to Pukekohe were introduced for the first time, together with later services and hourly frequencies on weekdays.
Also in December 2014 a public campaign to have a diesel rail shuttle service introduced between Swanson and Huapai was launched by the Public Transport Users Association in response to Auckland Transport's plans to withdraw rail services from Waitakere Train Station in 2015. In 2017, the PTUA called for the introduction of hourly services between Huapai and Pukekohe using the city's mothballed diesel trains.
Otahuhu Railway Station was extensively rebuilt to connect with a new bus interchange being built alongside. In October 2016 the interchange was opened to coincide with the launching of a new bus network timetable in South Auckland, Pukekohe and Waiuku.
Electrification and core upgrade
From the 1920s, there were a number of proposals recommending electrification of the Auckland rail network, with some being parts of proposals for electrification of the North Island Main Trunk in its entirety from Auckland to Wellington. Electrification of the Auckland suburban network was completed in July 2015.
Further proposed upgrades
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:
- the Auckland Airport Line, an extension of the Onehunga Branch line to Auckland International Airport over the Mangere Bridge
- 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 electrification to Pukekohe and eventually to Hamilton (the NIMT is already electrified south from Te Rapa) allowing inter-city commuting
- the Avondale-Southdown Line, a line between Avondale in west Auckland and the Southdown Freight Terminal, to allow freight trains to avoid Newmarket and reduce delays for both freight and passenger trains.
- a "third Main line" between Wiri and Westfield to allow freight trains to bypass stationary passenger trains on that section. A 2016 report said the current 2 mainline tracks have reached maximum capacity and that a third line would be the most cost effective solution.
- a suggestion to extend rail across Waitematā Harbour to the North Shore (see Second Harbour Crossing below)
- possible conversion of the Northern Busway to light rail
- extension of Western Line rail services to Kumeu.
- New train stations for Drury West and Paerata are included in a July 2017 proposal for Auckland infrastructure spending of $600 million to support new housing announced by the government. They will be built and owned by a new Crown Infrastructure Partners body, as the Auckland Council has reached its borrowing limit.
A substantial minority of North Shore commuters avoid motorway congestion by catching ferries from North Shore ferry terminals directly to the downtown ferry terminal. The ferries operate at least hourly, with longer hours of operation than many of Auckland's bus routes and railway lines.
The main ferry operator, Fullers Group, transported around 4.7 million passengers a year (2010/11) on 42,010 sailings, an average of around 100 passengers per sailing. In 2016, a 7% rise in passenger numbers resulted in six million passengers travelling by ferry, the same number as in 1959 when the harbour bridge was opened. Prior to the opening of the bridge, more than 10 million passengers had used ferries annually.
Ferry service operators are:
- Pine Harbour Ferry (services to/from Pine Harbour)
- 360 Discovery
- Belaire (West Harbour and Rakino Island)
The Auckland Ferry Terminal is in downtown Auckland on Quay Street, between Princes Wharf and the container port, directly opposite Britomart Transport Centre.
- North Shore terminals: Devonport, Stanley Bay, Bayswater, Northcote Point, Birkenhead, Beach Haven, Gulf Harbour
- East Auckland terminals: Half Moon Bay, Pine Harbour
- Waitematā Harbour's western terminals: West Harbour, Hobsonville
Ferries also connect the city with islands of the Hauraki Gulf. Regular sailings serve Waiheke Island, with less frequent services to Great Barrier Island, Rangitoto Island, Motutapu Island and other inner-gulf islands, primarily for tourism.
There are no ferry services on the west coast of Auckland, although there were some historical services from Onehunga. None are planned, as the city's waterfront orientation is much stronger toward the (eastern) Waitematā Harbour than to the (western) Manukau Harbour.
Fullers Group noted in 2008 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.
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.
Second Harbour Crossing
During 2007, plans were mooted to build a second crossing over the Waitematā Harbour, which is 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.
Commentator Brian Rudman noted that it would make the most sense for a 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.
In 2014 the New Zealand First political party included a plan in its transport policy to investigate a cheaper rail only tunnel option together with converting the Northern Busway into a railway, with the reasoning that with a rail link to the North Shore, there would be reduced traffic demand on the Auckland Harbour Bridge and no need for road tunnels.
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.
In December 2014 the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) was formed to represent and take up the issues of public transport passengers, initially Auckland based, but with potential to become a nationwide organisation.
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