Transport in Auckland

Transport in Auckland, New Zealand is defined by various factors, among them the shape of the Auckland isthmus (with its large lengths of coastline, and its assorted chokepoints ["Record number of roading projects on the go in Auckland in 2007/08" - Jackson, Bryan; Acting Chairman Transit New Zealand, article / public service announcement in "The New Zealand Herald", Saturday 30 June 2007, Page C6] and thus often long distances for land-based transport), the suburban character of much of the Auckland area and the large car-ownership ratio of New Zealanders.

These factors have resulted in a mostly motor vehicle-based transport system, which uses several major motorways as its main arteries (due to the geography of the isthmus, there are almost no ring routes). Public transport in Auckland is relatively low in importance, [ [ Mode of Transport, Figure for New Zealand Regions] (from the Travel Survey Highlights 1997-98, New Zealand Ministry of Transport)] though major efforts are underway to change this, partly because congestion in the city is very substantial and authorities have agreed that further road projects alone will not be sufficient to combat it.

Auckland has New Zealand's largest commercial port (mostly used for international commerce) as well as the country's largest international airport. It also has several domestic airports and the Southern Hemisphere's largest marina.



As a port city, Aucklands initial (19th century) urban growth occurred in a very intense fashion, concentrated around the harbour in a very similar manner to most other mercantile cities, with lack of transportation options limiting development to locations within walking distance of each other. The overcrowding of the inner city eventually created a demand for expansion made viable when new transportation technology appeared around 1900 in the form of streetcars (trams) and railways arriving in Auckland.

Auckland’s first tram (streetcar) line, from the CBD to Ponsonby via Karangahape Road was opened on November 24, 1902, and as the system grew, it facilitated the expansion of Auckland’s built-up area in two ways: in an intermittent linear pattern to the west and south along the railway line, and in a more continuous manner along the main streetcar routes. The demand for more living space from people who had been confined to the crowded downtown area, coupled with an affordable and reliable transportation network led to the creation of many of Auckland's original suburbs, along Great North Road, New North Road, Sandringham Road, Dominion Road, Mt Eden Road, Manukau Road and Remuera Road, forming a new arc of suburban development in Auckland by 1915.

Auckland first railway, from Queen Street Auckland to Onehunga opened in 1873. Expansion of the railway network facilitated growth in more distant locations, such as Otahuhu and New Lynn, while ferries served Devonport, Takapuna and Birkenhead on the North Shore. Indeed, Auckland’s urban development in the early twentieth century is intrinsically linked to its transportation networks, and because of their limited reach (compared to that of the automobile) the city developed in a fairly compact manner to maximise the efficiency of the streetcar, railway and ferry systems. However, this situation was not to last for long, as even before the Second World War the automobile was becoming an integral part of life for many New Zealanders, opening up previously unreachable land for development.

The number of automobiles in New Zealand skyrocketed from 37,500 in 1922 to 261,850 in 1938, at that stage the second highest rate of vehicles per capita in the world after the United States.Fact|date=February 2007 This growing popularity meant that urban development could break free from the constraints of predetermined transit networks and occur anywhere roads were built. This would become a mixed blessing, as commuters were no longer forced to locate close to their place of work or to a streetcar line - leading to a rapid decentralisation of urban growth, today often referred to as urban sprawl. In a complementary move to combat the threat of the suburbs upstaging the CBD in commercial importance, parking lots and later, parking buildings started to spring up in the central city, with the first municipal parking building (Britomart Place) being erected in 1958. This trend increased in the 1960s as shopping centres brought more retail competition into the suburbs.

With the changing public and political opinions on public transport, the last tram lines were removed by 1956, [ History of Auckland City - Chapter 4] (from the Auckland City Council website. Accessed 2008-06-07.)] and roads finally became fully paramount, with the extension of arterial roads and the state highway system. Also waned has the importance of shipping, which in historical times (i.e. the first century of settlement) was often dominant over land routes. Nowadays, shipping is mostly restricted to some ferry services and freight, as well as to yachting, which is not strictly a form of transport.


Auckland's transport, and the transport of all its constituent cities, is dominated by the motor vehicle. This is ascribed by many to Auckland's low density, which makes public transport more costly. Public transport in Auckland has declined heavily in use during the 20th century, a common trend in most Western cities, but as some researchers suggest, also due to a long-term history of the city having one of the most car-favouring transport policies worldwide. [" [ Backtracking Auckland: Bureaucratic rationality and public preferences in transport planning] " - Mees, Paul; Dodson, Jago; Urban Research Program Issues Paper 5, Griffith University, April 2006] In recent years, growth of the city and increasing traffic congestion have caused public transport to again receive higher priority, though some question the viability of wanting to achieve Auckland's sustainability and mobility goals with this form of transport. [References provided in Public Transport in Auckland]

See also|Public Transport in Auckland "for a more detailed discussion."

Rail freight transport has also declined in importance through the last decades. Most new growth (and the import and export trade via Ports of Auckland) occurs on the roads. In this matter, Auckland and New Zealand follows the example of other westernised countries, where the great flexibility of the truck eclipsed the train in terms of market share. Fact|date=June 2007

At the same time, Auckland sees about 40 additional cars registered a day (2007), with traffic on the city's roads increasing between 1-3% a year. "Peak hour" conditions now extend over almost seven hours a day, leading both city and Transit New Zealand representatives to the conclusion that focusing solely on cars will not alleviate the congestion issues. They also agree that rather than simply providing more space for traffic to flow freely, projects like the Victoria Park Tunnel would in fact cause traffic increases." [ Welcome to our traffic nightmare] " - "The New Zealand Herald", Sunday 29 July 2007]


The Auckland Region will be subject to a regional fuel tax of between 5c and 10c per litre from January 1 2009, which will be spent on transport infrastructure enhancements in the region, focusing on (but not being exclusive to) public transport in Auckland. The funding decisions for the money thus raised will be split between the New Zealand government (which intends to focus on electrifying Auckland's rail tracks, completing the Western Motorway bypass and helping Rodney District Council build a toll road to Whangaparaoa Peninsula) and the Auckland Regional Council (which intends to purchase 35 electric trains with support facilities, as well as spend money on existing diesel trains and track / station maintenance and upgrades, as well as on ferry terminal upgrades and an electronic ticketing system). In addition to its share of the fuel tax money, the ARC will also be investing hundreds of millions from its regional rate money into these projects. [" [ Dearer petrol, but train payoff to come] " - "The New Zealand Herald", Thursday 20 March 2008]

Motor vehicle transport


A very car-friendly city, Auckland also has a significant traffic congestion problem. An extensive state highway network, planned decades ago during the height of the post-World War II road building era, remains incomplete as of 2008. It is unlikely that this original plan will ever be built in its entirety because of strong public resistance to more roads in built-up areas of the Isthmus. A number of crucial gaps do exist in the current network, mainly the fact that there is no motorway detour around the Central Motorway Junction south of the CBD, thus forcing all motorway traffic in the Isthmus to pass through it. This is being addressed by the State Highway 20 (SH20) extensions through southern and western Auckland (see below). A similar chokepoint is the Auckland Harbour Bridge towards North Shore City (also see below).

Auckland motorways often also have an arterial road function (i.e. they are being used for short-distance trips within the conurbation instead of solely for long-distance traffic), which further aggravates congestion, especially between the centre of Auckland and Waitakere City, North Shore City and Manukau City. Ramp signals have recently been installed on many on-ramps, to regulate the flow onto the motorway. While this causes delays and vehicle queues when getting onto the motorway, it produces smoother through flows on the motorway itself. Around 30 onramps are eventually to be controlled in this way, at a cost of NZ$ 50 million. [" [ Motorway ramp lights turning on] " - "The New Zealand Herald", Monday 04 December 2006] .

Recent improvements to the Northern Motorway (which have also included a bus expressway) have greatly reduced travel times from the North Shore to Orewa, while at the same time extending Auckland's urban sprawl into southern Rodney District. It is projected that Orewa will eventually be swallowed up by Auckland's northward urban expansion.Fact|date=June 2007

New routes

Western Ring Route

The SH20 motorway, coming from the southeast, currently (2006) ends in the suburb of Hillsborough. This highway, once linked up to the SH16 westwards to Waitakere City, would provide a way of detouring the Central Motorway Junction, thus taking some pressure from SH1 and the Auckland Harbrour Bridge.

Planning for the Western Ring Route, a project likely to cost billions in its entirety, has taken many years, and while the first stages of the SH20 extension are currently under construction, Transit New Zealand has still not finalised the route for the westernmost section. This is due to the large areas of built-up suburb and some remaining natural reserves that would be affected. Local opposition has been strong. Fact|date=June 2007

The Mt Roskill-Waterview section of the Western Ring Route is called the Waterview Connection. In August 2006, Transit NZ has declared that it would be looking at extended tunnelling options for the Waterview Connection. While strongly increasing the costs, extended tunneling would be favored by the opponents of the projects, as the collateral effects of the project would be much reduced. The original plans would have involved the destruction of around 300 homes. " [ Community resistance forces Transit to look at tunnels for $1b motorway] " - "The New Zealand Herald", Friday 11 August 2006, page A3.] Outcome of the tunneling assessment was due around September 2007 " [ Political Liaison Group, Western Ring Route – SH20 Waterview, 10th Meeting – Friday 27th April 2007, Minutes] "] Transit intends to complete the Waterview Connection by 2015. [ The Programme] (from the Western Ring Route project website of Transit New Zealand)]

Eastern Transport Corridor

During the 2001-2004 term the mayors of Auckland City and Manukau, John Banks and Sir Barry Curtis respectively, strongly advocated a proposal for an Eastern Transport Corridor, including significant roading elements. Vociferous campaigners both supported and opposed the NZ$4 billion proposal throughout the term. John Banks subsequently lost the 2004 local body election, chiefly due to public opposition to the proposed motorway, including wards that were traditionally supportive of Banks' centre-right governance. The next Auckland City Council had a centre-left grouping as its largest bloc, aided by the anti-motorway Action Hobson ticket. The corresponding Deputy Mayor Bruce Hucker announced in early November 2004 a major change in direction for Auckland City. No substantial action (beyond some policy work) was undertaken in the corridor area.

John Banks subsequently won the following election in 2007 and once again became Mayor, although the original proposals for the Eastern Transport Corridor have been revised substantially because of a new focus on 'affordable' progress. Fewer roads are to be constructed, with a stronger emphasis on public transport and connections with Manukau City instead of with the Auckland CBD.

AMETI (Auckland-Manukau)

Partly based on the strong opposition to the Eastern Transport Corridor, the new AMETI (Auckland-Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative) project intends to primarily improve the connections of eastern Auckland towards the south-east (Manukau City), via less problematic routes. The new roads and public transport links are to serve intensified residential and mixed developments like the Mount Wellington Quarry area. [ Auckland-Manukau Eastern transport initiative (AMETI)] (from the Auckland City Council website)] Construction is to begin in 2008 and to be finished around 2015, costing around NZ$ 1 billion."Following the money" - " magazine", IPENZ January/February 2007]


Central Motorway Junction

Since 2001, several motorway construction projects began in and around the Central Motorway Junction (CMJ, also known as "Spaghetti Junction"), and in December 2006, the new sections of the CMJ were opened to traffic. The difficult works involved fitting various new lanes, as well as on- and off-ramps into a multi-story (and multi-level) interchange, which also, within a length of just a few kilometres, offers multiple connections into the city.

Previously, northbound traffic from (as well as to) Auckland Harbour had to follow a waterfront route from the east of the CBD to the west and get onto SH1 near Victoria Park. The new CMJ layout allows northbound traffic to travel via Grafton Gully onto SH1, to then continue over the harbour bridge northwards, reducing truck traffic in downtown Auckland. The second major change provides direct motorway-motorway connections from the Northern (SH1) to the Northwestern Motorway (SH16), or vice versa, where previously, they had to travel through a congested stretch of the southern Auckland CBD.

The four year, $NZ 207 million project has been described as a 'gruelling struggle of "overs and unders" in which engineers have managed to snake and squeeze the new links through a devilishly tight corridor', while also being required to stay within the strict geometric minimum standards for a high-quality motorway." [ Spaghetti Junction comes to the boil] " - "The New Zealand Herald", Monday 04 December 2006]

Major bridges

An iconic structure of Auckland, the harbour bridge is also a bottleneck for traffic. With the only other north-south motorway connection involving a wide detour through Waitakere, this bridge has to accommodate large amounts of rush hour traffic, mainly from the North Shore into the city in the morning, and vice-versa in the afternoon.

The bridge was extended in 1969 by constructing cantilevered 'clip-on' lanes at both outer sides of the original construction, giving it 8 lanes in total (from 4 lanes before). As this eventually was still not enough to manage the growing traffic loads, a traffic management solution involving a movable barrier was installed, giving it 5 lanes per dominant direction depending on the time of day. A second crossing, likely as a tunnel, is proposed, but would still be a decade or more away even if approved.

This bridge carries State Highway 20 over the Mangere Inlet of the Manukau Harbour. While at the moment, SH20 ends in southern Auckland (coming from the southeast), the completion of the Western Ring Route will further increase the importance of this link.

This 700 m long motorway viaduct to the southeast of the CBD carries the Southern Motorway over Newmarket. This section of the motorway carries more traffic than the Auckland Harbour Bridge which is often wrongly considered the most-used part of the Auckland motorway system. Built to relatively low earthquake standards, the bridge is to be replaced by a new structure within the next few years, possibly before 2011.

This bridge in the northwest of Auckland, between Waitakere City and North Shore City, is an important part of the connection between those cities, and also offers an alternative route to the Auckland Harbour Bridge, which is going to become even more important with the completion of the Western Ring Route.

Public transport

Public transport in Auckland is dominated by bus and ferry services, with rail playing a small, albeit increasing part. The hub of Auckland's public transport network is the Britomart Transport Centre near the Auckland waterfront, opened July 2003, where ferry, bus and train services meet.

Bus services

The bulk of public transport in the city, bus services in the Auckland Region are mostly provided by Stagecoach New Zealand, though under the umbrella of the MAXX brand of Auckland's public transport. Bus lines are mainly radial lines connecting Auckland CBD with the suburbs and the surrounding cities.

Long-distance connections also exist with substantial frequency, principally operated by Intercity and its subsidiary Newmans, linking Auckland with all the main centres throughout the North Island of New Zealand.

Various bus priority measures are either in advanced planning stages (such as the Central Connector) or have just started operations (like the Northern Busway, in early 2008).

Rail services

Auckland has only one long distance rail passenger service: The Overlander (operated by Tranz Scenic, a division of Toll NZ) between Auckland and Wellington, operating daily during the summer months and on Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the winter months.

There are three main railway lines in the Auckland Region itself - the Western, Southern and Eastern lines. Auckland's urban rail services are operated under the MAXX brand by Veolia. Since the opening of Britomart, significant improvements were made to the local-area rail services. In October 2005, Sunday services were reintroduced for the first time in over 30 years, with more peak hour trains and later trains on Friday and Saturday nights in particular.

Recent investment in Auckland's rail services has resulted in strongly increased patronage, though from a very low level. Investment has focused on upgrading and refurbishing the current rolling stock and railway stations. Some double-tracking to allow higher frequencies has been undertaken or is in planning, and has resulted in a 25% increase in frequency, and a rise in punctuality (defined as trains being late 5 minutes or less) from 60.9% in 2005 to 83.1% in 2006." [ Fewer fares but longer journeys] " - "The New Zealand Herald", Wednesday, 11 October 2006, page A15.] Large new infrastructure investments have recently (mid 2007) been signed off by all parties, and NZ$ 1 billion will be invested within the next decade in electrifying the commuter network and buying new rolling stock to use on the electrified lines." [|title=$1b Auckland rail upgrade powers ahead] " - "The New Zealand Herald", Monday 21 May 2007] This is in addition to NZ$ 600 million already being spent on double-tracking heavily used sections of the network. [ Rail Newsletter Issue 29] (published on the ARTA website, late 2006)]

Ferry services

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 or Stanley Bay to the CBD. The ferries travel at least hourly, and in fact have longer hours of operation than many of Auckland's bus and railway lines.

Ferries also connect the city with Rangitoto, Waiheke Island, and Half Moon Bay (Manukau City). Ferries to Great Barrier Island are less regular, with the 4h passages once every 1-2 days, depending on the time of the year and the weather.

Currently, there are no ferry services on the western shores of Auckland, and none are planned, as Auckland's waterfront waterfront orientation is much stronger towards the east (Waitemata Harbour) than to the west (Manukau Harbour).

Commercial shipping

Freight turnover

Auckland also has New Zealand's largest commercial port, its turnover exceeding even that of large rivals like Tauranga substantially. Ports of Auckland, the company managing all Auckland ports, handles the movement of 60% of New Zealand's imports and 40% of New Zealand's exports (both by value). 70% of this trade enters or leaves the country in containers - though ships unloading large amounts of cars are also a typical sight at the wharves of Auckland. The ports move 4 million tonnes of 'breakbulk' cargo per year, as well as over 670,000 TEUs (Twenty-foot equivalent container units) (2006). [ Port Overview] (from the Ports of Auckland homepage, 04 November 2006)]

According to an economic impact assessment, a third of the regional economy and 173,000 jobs in Auckland Region are dependent on the port." [ Michael Lee: Port creates a vital link in our economy] - "The New Zealand Herald", Thursday 15 February 2007]

Cruise ships

In the 2005/2005 season, POAL also catered for 48 cruise ship visits (at the Overseas Passenger Terminal, Princes Wharf), with more than 100,000 passengers passing through the port, mostly disembarking for short stopover trips into Auckland or the surrounding region." [ Spectacular cruise ship season begins] " (from the Ports of Auckland website, 25 October 2006)]

Air transport

With Auckland being the largest city of New Zealand, a great number of international and national flight connections exist. Main routes are to Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, and to the US West Coast. Within New Zealand, the main connections are to the capital in Wellington and to the main city of the South Island, Christchurch. However, smaller planes fly to almost all other cities and to many small airports all over New Zealand.

Historically, Auckland had first been served by flying boat services from Mechanics Bay and Hobsonville. As aircraft such as the Short Solent and Short Sunderland were replaced by land-based planes, the first airport was opened at Mangere, supplanting earlier airfields at Ardmore and Whenuapai.


Auckland International Airport, New Zealand's largest airport, lies beside Manukau Harbour, in the southern suburb of Mangere, which is part of Manukau. It is a major base for Air New Zealand. A new runway is planned north of the main airport area, with a shorter length well suitable for the booming intra-New Zealand flight market.

Ongoing discussions concern the development of a second airport at Whenuapai, a RNZAF airbase in Waitakere, to the northwest of the Auckland conurbation. As the air force is signalled to move to Ohakea base near Palmerston North, the feasibility of a secondary airport north of the city is being explored.

Most private flights and light aircraft operate from the three smaller General Aviation (GA) airfields at the edges of the Auckland conurbation; Ardmore Airport south of the city which is NZ's busiest airfield in terms of movements, North Shore Aerodrome to the north and Parakai Airfield to the north west.

Mechanics Bay near the city centre, was the first international airport, and was used for many years as a base for flying boats of TEAL and amphibians of Tourist Air Travel and Sea Bee Air. The area now holds a heliport and the Auckland Marine Rescue Centre.

A Royal New Zealand Air Force facility at Hobsonville has been vacated and is currently under redevelopment primarily as a residential area, although some light commercial and industrial uses (for example super-yacht building) are present.

Cycling & Walking

Auckland has a much less positive popular attitude towards cycling and new cycling infrastructure than some other cities of New Zealand like Wellington and Christchurch. This, and to some degree the hillier nature of Auckland, have caused cycling to so far remain a marginal pursuit - only 1% of all morning peak trips are being made by bicycle. [" [ Nicola Shepheard: Two-wheel zeal] " - "The New Zealand Herald", Sunday 24 February 2008] However, in Wellington, with an even hillier topography, the cycling numbers are approximately twice as high.

Similarly low numbers are reported for walking, with work commute trips in the Auckland Region having declined from 3.7% to 3.5% from 1996 to 2001, substantially below national levels of 5.4% in 2001. To compare with other urban areas, in Wellington more than twice (8.1%) of all trips to work were done by walking in 2001. [ Sustainable and safe land transport] (from Statistics New Zealand. Accessed 2008-05-02.)]

While Auckland City Council and the Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA) have undertaken some works since the introduction in 1998 of a "Walking and Cycling Plan" for the city, cycling connections between different areas of the wider city are still often missing."On your bike - Auckland resistant to cycleways" - "LG - New Zealand Local Government", Volume 43 No 12, December 2007, Page 16.] Some cycle lanes have met vocal opposition, mostly from locals who consider them unneeded due to the low level of cycling in Auckland and due to the removal of on-street parking for their implementation. However, Council representatives note that cycling will not gain in popularity until the corresponding infrastructure is gradually introduced. An eventual cross-harbour link-up with a more extensive cycling infrastructure already in place in North Shore City is also hoped for."On your bike - Auckland resistant to cycleways" - "LG - New Zealand Local Government", Volume 43 No 12, December 2007, Page 18.] Waitakere City is also improving its cycling provisions substantially.Fact|date=August 2008

ee also

*Auckland International Airport
*Ports of Auckland
*Public transport in Auckland
*Transport in New Zealand


External links

* [ Fullers] The Fullers Ferries company is the main provider for commuter services.
* [ SeaLink] Formerly Subritzky, ferry service to Waiheke and Great Barrier.
* [ Auckland Motorways] (a private website covering the Auckland motorway system)

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