Auckland 2021: How will city's transport system cope with APEC and America's Cup?

Five international events, prompting billions of dollars of redevelopment and bringing tens of thousands of visitors - 2021 will put Auckland in the world spotlight. But how will it transform the city and what benefits will it really bring? In the fourth in our series, we look at transport.

Auckland's visitor influx for an unprecedented series of major events in 2021 will benefit from major investment in transport networks, but little is known about how world leaders will move around during the APEC conference near the end of the year.

Dedicated lanes for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation were marked out in parts of the CBD when a much smaller edition of the political gathering was hosted in Auckland in 1999.

"We would envisage there will be some streets closed for short periods of time," said Andrea Smith, the deputy secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, who is overseeing the APEC hosting.

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"People transfer from one venue to another so there might be some few minutes where parts of streets are closed to allow that motorcade movement to take place," she said.

The mid-November Leaders' Week will have the most intense impact, with top politicians from 21 nations invited, in a week with 10,000 mostly-foreign participants.

Some leaders may bring their own motorcades.

"The leaders themselves only come at the end of the week so the real transport and logistic movements with motorcades will cause the added complexity on late Thursday, but certainly Friday, Saturday and Sunday is when the major impact will be," Smith told Stuff.

Little information has been made public about how world leaders will move around during the APEC conference next year.
ALEX BURTON/STUFF
Little information has been made public about how world leaders will move around during the APEC conference next year.

The dignitaries and their entourages won't have an unobstructed run around the city centre, with Albert Street likely to be partially closed as the City Rail Link tunnelling works moves gradually southwards.

Auckland Transport is giving little away about how the city will adapt to the demands of APEC particularly, and whether there will be public transport promotions linked to other major events, but it said planning was underway.

"It's too early to talk about specifics like road closures and public transport but it is fair to say there will be some pressure on Auckland's roads, in particular, during the APEC event," said a spokesperson in a statement.

Past initiatives have included the issuing of free AT HOP electronic ticket cards for contestants and volunteers for the World Masters Games in 2017.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, center, gestures beside U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, right, and Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill at APEC 2018 in Papua New Guinea.
AARON FAVILA/AP
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, center, gestures beside U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, right, and Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill at APEC 2018 in Papua New Guinea.

The city's biggest transport innovation in 2021 may come in the form of a pair of Auckland-designed and built electric ferries.

"That's our dream at the moment to have proven electric ferries on the harbour and an announcement about a fleet of electric ferries, during APEC leaders' week - that would have so much resonance," said Michael Eaglen, chief executive of Panmure-based EV Maritime.

The offshoot of boat builders McMullen and Wing is developing a prototype, carbon fibre high-speed commuter ferry, for which it hopes to find a global market.

Eaglen said a launch during the America's Cup in March might be tight, with May a more likely date, and saw APEC as a chance to showcase the vessel globally.

Visitors arriving for the America's Cup final in March probably won't get to use the latest major station on Auckland's rail network, but APEC participants in November who fancy a genuine public transport trip in from the airport, can experience the $60 million Puhinui Station.

It won't be the fastest way into the CBD, but taking the frequent 380 bus to the Puhinui interchange, will connect them to a train into the Britomart terminus.

Auckland's expanded fleet of 72 electric trains should be fully in service shortly before 2021, meaning more trains will run as six-carriage sets, and the network will be at full stretch until the next fleet expansion, which may come following the opening of the City Rail Link in 2024.

Transport advocates greaterauckland.org.nz said the America's Cup and APEC offered quite different opportunities and challenges around public transport.

For the short-sharp impact of APEC leader's week, Greater Auckland's Matt Lowrie said the city needed to pump up public transport to keep motorists out of cars, in the CBD particularly.

"Running park services throughout the day, keeping bus lanes open all day so people can travel later," Lowrie told Stuff

The America's Cup defence which returns in 2021 drew big crowds in Auckland in 2003.
John Selkirk
The America's Cup defence which returns in 2021 drew big crowds in Auckland in 2003.

He saw the America's Cup, spread over several months, as a chance to encourage people to use rental e-bikes, and on busy race days, keeping cars away from Wynyard Quarter where thousands of fans are expected.

Lowrie referenced the transport chaos on the opening night of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, when an estimated 200,000 people swamped the inner city, and the train system ground to a halt at game time, struggling to cope with double the number of passengers expected.

Auckland has since significantly expanded the transport network, with new electric trains, double-decker buses, and has acquired years of experience moving special event crowds on trains and buses.

Cycling advocacy group Bike Auckland said it hoped an influx of tourists might encourage the growth of bike and electric bike hire numbers for visitor use, which might also encourage more Aucklanders to try cycling.

"Hire e-bikes - like Jump starting in Feb - will also be a very interesting development, as they can overcome people's concerns that "Auckland is too hilly to cycle," said its chair Barb Cuthbert.

Cuthbert said a range of still under-construction cycle ways should be ready for 2021, such as part of Tamaki Drive, Karangahape Road and Victoria Street.

Stuff