Many Aucklanders are wondering what has possessed the people at Auckland Transport to contemplate putting their intercity bus terminal at Manukau. Certainly it would cheaper than building a new terminal in the CBD, and the proposed terminal would be close to a railway station so travellers could transfer for the journey to or from Britomart or other stations on the central and eastern lines. That leg of their journey could be faster by rail than on a coach caught in motorway traffic. Those travelling south could have their journey time shortened.
All these considerations would have made perfect sense to a committee of transport planners brainstorming possible solutions to the problem that SkyCity casino no longer wants the intercity bus terminal on its site. And they do make perfect sense if people do not mind making the connections between different modes of public transport that the planners think they should make. But real people do mind, particularly when they are laden with baggage for an intercity trip.
When Aucklanders who do not live in or close to the Manukau City Centre read of this proposed terminal site they do not think of catching a train there, they imagine driving visitors all the way to Manukau for a bus to Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua or Whangarei.
Worse, they imagine visitors coming to Auckland by bus and finding the service terminates in one of its outer suburbs. Citizens do not yet have such faith in their railways that they tell guests to get on a train. Who knows how long they could wait there, or how desolate it might be? Hosts would feel obliged to drive there and meet the bus.
Travellers without hosts in Auckland - young backpackers and elderly returning home - would have little choice but to accept that their bus fare would not take them all the way into the city. They would have little choice but to wait for a train with their bags and other belongings, unless they can afford a taxi to the city centre or wherever they are staying. If they are not aware of taxi fares in Auckland, they are going to have an experience that will not endear the city to them. Introductory experiences like that tend to be the ones visitors remember and relate to others.
From all points of view, an intercity terminal anywhere but the central city would be a mistake. Some facilities need to be in a city's centre and a intercity road or rail transport terminals are among them.
It is fair to ask why Auckland's existing terminal needs to be moved at all? SkyCity undertook an obligation to provide one when it swapped its original site for the casino in Symonds St for the site between Hobson and Federal Sts that the former Auckland City Council had been holding for a bus terminal. At that time Britomart was going to be a multi-level underground interchange for buses and trains. Now the modest, almost hidden, bus terminal in the casino building does not fit with the hotel and conference centre being built across the street. But another CBD site has to be found. Intercity passengers cannot be abandoned so far short of their destination if Auckland hopes they will ever come back.