Light rail scrapped: What are Auckland's transport priorities now?

From Nine To Noon, 9:20 am on 31 January 2024
Greater Auckland editor Matt Lowrie says the biggest hurdle in changing the city’s bus fleet to more environmentally sound options is the upfront cost.

Photo: Supplied / LDR

A public transport activist says the failure of Auckland's light rail project highlights the need for simpler solutions, like busways.

The editor of urban design blog Greater Auckland, Matt Lowrie, said Auckland Council was too focused on expensive infrastructure projects

"In some ways light rail was a black hole in Auckland because it sucked the thinking and resources away from a lot of the potential options we could have," he told Nine to Noon.

"A big thing for Auckland will be how do we get out of always thinking about these big infrastructure projects and how can we get more focus on other public transport services."

The new Government scrapped the light rail project following multiple budget blowouts.

Lowrie said their attention had turned to other options like busways, to replicate the success of Auckland's northern busway, connecting the North Shore to the City Centre.

"Both the previous government and this government have said building a busway [in the north-west] is a high priority," he said.

"The other big infrastructure piece that's currently being discussed is an eastern busway and eventually a busway from Botany through to the airport."

He said the northern busway was used by thousands of Aucklanders every day.

"Since that's been built the number of people crossing the Harbour Bridge by bus at the morning peak is around 40 to 50 percent," he said.

"And when you talk about traffic into the City Centre that's more like 80 percent."

But Lowrie said any transport projects should be managed by Auckland Council, not the Government.

"Auckland has done better with delivering public transport projects when Auckland is in charge and setting the agenda," he said.

"We look at something like City Rail Link, Auckland was the instigator and kept the project going while we had a government that was opposed to it."

Whichever form it took, Auckland's public transport upgrades had to be "Auckland-planned, and Auckland-led, with Government funding to support rather than pushing the project themselves."