The Southern Airport Line – More than a Light Rail Line – A Community and City Builder Too!

A line that also builds communities


This post originally appeared in LinkedIn on February 14:

Yesterday I gave a presentation to the Auckland Council Planning Committee on the importance of the Southern Airport Line and why it should be built as soon as possible.

You can see the presentation from the Auckland Council live stream below:


The Southern Airport Line is indeed a universal connection as it allows direct access to the Airport from just about all other main transit lines in and outside Auckland. Whether it be on the Western, Eastern or Southern Lines, the Northern Express from the North Shore (with a connection onto the Southern Line then the Southern Airport Line) or Regional Rapid Rail from Hamilton and Tauranga (also covered in the above presentation) the Southern Airport Line allows that express access to Auckland International Airport.



But the Southern Airport Line is just not about transit to the Airport (for either passengers or workers at the airport), the proposed Line also has 16 stations including two Terminus stations and two major interchanges. The Southern Airport Line also crosses through some diverse land uses including the Airport, blank land zoned Light Industry, various residential areas and two Metropolitan Centres including Auckland’s largest Metropolitan Centre – Manukau City Centre.

Unitary Plan recommended Manukau
Unitary Plan recommended Manukau (and implemented) Metro Zone in dashed pink

Manukau City Centre
Manukau City Centre Source: Auckland Plan Implementation Update 2015


As I mentioned earlier there are 16 stations on the Southern Airport Line crossing various land uses. This presents 16 opportunities to engage in some good old-fashioned Transit Orientated Developments around those 16 stations.

However, it is not a case of draw your 200, 400 and 800 metre radii from those transit stations and slap in some high density developments – far from it. Each station along the Southern Airport Line is unique and no two stations would be the same nor serve the same urban geographic characteristics of another station on the line. When it comes to handling the 16 Transit Orientated Developments for each of the Southern Airport Line’s 16 stations, the Design-Led system is put to the test.

Goal 2 p7
Goal 2.7 of Manukau Framework Plan Source: Panuku Development Auckland. An 800 metre radius from Manukau Rail Station inside Manukau City Centre. Source: Panuku Development Auckland – Framework Plan for Transform Manukau

Ludo Campbell Reid (Auckland Council Design Champion) was talking about Design Led systems yesterday also at the Planning Committee – which have major influence on TOD type developments. You can see Ludo’s presentation here:

Ludo’s presentation and my own presentation interlinks very well. The Southern Airport Line is just more than a Rapid Transit Network line between two places (Botany and the Airport) it is also a place where 16 world-class design led developments can be executed giving 16 world-class (and different) places to either work, live, play, educate or even all (Manukau City Centre).

The catch becomes sure we can build this Rapid Transit Network connection with its 16 stations including two terminus stations (Airport and Botany) and two major interchanges (Puhinui and Manukau Central) – that is the easy bit. The challenge is how to produce 16 design led type urban developments within 800 metres of each station – that is how do we get maximum bang for buck for the Southern Airport Line and Auckland as a whole.

Auckland is undergoing explosive growth in population, commercial and industrial. Congestion is also a shocker so keeping residential and jobs close to a transit station would seem prudent. To do this though quality amenities need to be in place for each station to support best utilisation of land within 800 metres of each of the 16 stations. Enter Ludo’s Design Led mantra in not only delivering just transit stations but individual while interconnected communities along a busy transit corridor!

The question I have though: Do we have the resources to allow 16 world-class Design led stations and surrounding communities.


More to the point has anyone done a Transit Orientated Development for a station in a Light Industry area before?

Southern Airport Line 5
The Southern Airport Line through Manukau City Centre. Black – Heavy Rail, Blue = busses, Grey = possible LLRT route. Manukau City Centre. Black is the Eastern (Heavy Rail) Line terminating at Manukau Station. The Yellow is my proposed Southern Airport Line with the red being the proposed stations. The Blue is either the 365 Manukau to Papakura feeder bus or the 33 Great South Road Frequent Transit Network bus with the square being the Manukau Bus Station. The white is a proposed Lite Light Rail line I drew up that could form a transit mall in the core of Manukau City Centre. Manukau Rail, Bus and Light Rail Station would become the combined Manukau Central Station.