Airport to Botany Rapid Transit Offers Salient Lessons for City Centre to Mangere Light Rail

Some rather large Urban Geography lessons for NZTA


Momentum continues for both the Airport to Botany Rapid Transit (the Southern Airport Line) and the City Centre to Mangere (Northern Airport Line) Light Rail as business cases and tenders continue through the mills.

This from both the Otara-Papatoetoe, and Papakura Local Boards in terms of Airport to Botany (A2B) (no I am not making a Pun of it):

Airport to Botany rapid transit

  1. A key part of AT’s public strategy is to provide an east-west Rapid Transit Network that links Auckland Airport with Botany via Manukau.  This project will involve New Zealand Transport Agency, Auckland Airport and AT working together over a number of years to plan and build a bus or light rail link between these points.
  2. At this early stage of planning there are not many details but there are likely to be many potential benefits for South Auckland. Faster and more reliable public transport between Papakura, Botany, Manukau and the Airport will make commuting east-west across Auckland to employment hubs at the Airport or East Tamaki easier and provide more options for air travelers.
  3. For the Papakura area, the project will improve connectivity by allowing better access from Papakura and Takanini to transport hubs in Puhinui and Manukau. At these hubs, travelers will be able to join the rail network for north-south journeys.
  4. The thick red line in Figure 1 shows the approximate route and how it will link with existing and planned Rapid Transit Networks.
Airport to Botany Rapid Transit route Source: Auckland Council


Figure 1: Potential Rapid Transit Network linking Auckland Airport to Botany

  1. The project team has recently started discussing this plan with local boards and councillors and over time, the public will get opportunities to discuss the plan.


Source: Auckland Council


Lobbying continues for A2B (Airport to Botany) to be Light Rail from get go especially as Light Rail would allow Papakura to the Airport or even East Tamaki in 35 minutes including a transfer:

Airport Access Study 2020-2021
Source: Auckland Airport Access by Auckland Airport, NZTA and Auckland Transport


In any case Airport to Botany offer some salient lessons for its City Centre to Mangere sibling including inherent “challenges” to the wider delivery of the Northern Airport Line (and because of said challenges why Airport to Botany being Light Rail is more viable in the first place).


This is a recap on those challenges (and were posted on my LinkedIn profile recently):

Point One – Community Building or rather City Building:

As NZ Transport Agency continues the processes with City Centre to Mangere/Airport LightRail , its southern sibling – Airport to Botany RapidTransit via Manukau and Puhinui Station handed by Auckland Transport throws up so interesting questions around integrated developments or more to the point community building.

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


Point Two: Transit Orientated Developments, how to get best bang for buck:

TransitOrientatedDevelopments or IntegratedPlanning have picked up a lot of attention recently in Auckland as the Government Policy Statement makes it very clear on delivering both in urban areas.  Again while NZ Transport Agency continue to work on the processes for City Centre to Mangere/Airport LightRail , again its southern sibling that is Airport to Botany RapidTransit offers insights how to implement TODs or Integrated Planning effectively. It is more than just about a transit line, it is also about consequences to the existing hashtag#UrbanGeography and the future Urban Geography around those lines.

The Southern Airport Line and Transit Orientated Developments. Rethinking Transit and Developments in Auckland


Point Three: Metropolitan Centres – how our second and third ranked Centres can make or break a Transit Line:

Finally one thing NZ Transport Agency will need to work out with City Centre to Mangere LightRail is the zoning of land around the corridor. Most of it is single use zone (residential and the odd bit of industry) with any multi use not until you get close to the City Centre end of the line. Airport to Botany RapidTransit however, has two Metropolitan Centres (CC2M has none) and the surrounding is multi use zones beyond that.  As it was explained in a recent presentation I later wrote on, single use zoned land makes Transit Lines hard to be viable to their full extent (unlike multi use zones). So simply put could Metropolitan Centres make or break RapidTransit especially with accessibility and social equity.

UPDATED: Urban Geography Thoughts on City Centre to Airport Light Rail, and Airport to Botany Rapid Transit


The Southern Airport Line 2018


Quite a few things to work through early on in the projects before we even hit route selection and procurement for construction works!