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Integrating light rail and buses

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by Kerry Wood
Justin Lester’s statement that things are “looking good” for light rail comes only a few days after I wrote why light rail is affordable for Wellington. But affordable isn’t enough. Another essential is good integration with buses, difficult in Wellington because of the ‘pinch-point’ between the Old Bank and the waterfront.

Good integration is an essential step to an excellent system, providing fast, reliable trips, anywhere-to-anywhere, all day, every day. And it can be done; one of many well-integrated European systems uses the slogan, ‘We’ll get you there.’

Two restrictions in Wellington are that light rail cannot:
• Share a two-lane route with buses. Demand is already too high.
• Replace all central-city buses. Far too many passengers would have to change, often twice.

Quality public transport needs four lanes through the central city. The FIT proposal is buses on the golden mile and light rail on the waterfront, linked at the Railway Station, Te Aro Park and perhaps Midland Park (‘hubs’). A few supplementary bus routes could use a route on The Terrace and Ghuznee Street. The schematic map (above) of the central area shows this layout, including two options:

• A covered walkway above Willeston St, with escalators, from the light rail stop at Frank Kitts Park to Willis St and Lambton Quay.
• An additional hub at Midland Park, with light rail using Johnston and Stout Streets to reach the Railway Station, instead of Waterloo Quay.

Using Te Aro Park as the southern inner-city hub maximizes light rail’s effectiveness. Most main-line rail commuters walk to workplaces north of about Wakefield St, and some walk further than Ghuznee and Taranaki Streets. A Te Aro Park stop mirrors this arrangement for passengers from the south and east, providing many more options. Most shops and other central-city destinations are between or close to Te Aro Park and/or the Railway Station, supporting a single all-purpose layout.

The biggest changes on the golden mile will be fewer buses, new hubs and much better reliability. Peak-hour golden mile buses will run between Te Aro Park and the Railway Station every two minutes, each way. This is the maximum frequency for BRT on this scale, recommended by WSP, consultants to LGWM. Outside peak hours, buses might run every four or five minutes for most of the day.

This arrangement has two main advantages:

• Buses and light rail can both play to their strengths: fast services on the waterfront, frequent services and closely-spaced stops on the golden mile.
• Multiple routes can effectively ‘synthesize’ a single route, as they do today: just catch the next bus.

Light rail on the golden mile would be very disruptive during the construction period, and probably unusually costly because of difficult underground services. It would likely be limited to 30 km/hour in this pedestrian priority area, and would not be ‘rapid transit.’

Buses will initially provide about a quarter of present-day passenger capacity, with the remaining three quarters—and more—on light rail. Almost all future central-city transit expansion will be on light rail.

The golden mile’s 30 buses an hour will be allocated to bus routes. How it is done could range from ten buses an hour on each of three routes, to two buses an hour on each of 15 routes. A bit of both is probably best. Final decisions can be based on specialist modelling, to minimize system-wide passenger delays while maximizing options.

A big benefit of light rail is time-savings on longer runs, generally faster than buses by about a minute and a half per kilometre. Seatoun commuters switching to light rail at Miramar could expect to save about 10 minutes overall, Houghton Bay passengers, switching at Kilbirnie, about the same.

Many local-route passengers will see little direct gain, other than more reliable local buses. An example is passengers on Routes 7 and 25 from Brooklyn and Highbury (to be introduced in July). They could hardly expect all ‘their’ buses to continue joining the golden mile at Manners St, which would leave empty slots in the two-minute through-service. These routes might use Ghuznee St to reach the Te Aro Park hub. From there, some buses could run to the Railway Station, and others continue on other routes, say 14 and 24, on Oriental Bay.

All this sounds complicated, but just needs careful design to be clearly legible. Support available at hubs would be useful. Buses using the golden mile might need special identification, such as a route-number suffix.

Many more passenger options will be practical, because of much-improved timekeeping, connections and reliability:

• Buses on the golden mile will be much more reliable than today, because numbers will be manageable. Fewer buses can be given more priority.
• Buses on feeder routes to light rail will avoid the congested central area.
• Other buses will benefit from spot-improvements as the worst delay-points are identified and managed.

Selected bus stops will need space for early-running buses to ‘wait for time.’ A quality service does not tolerate missed connections because a bus is early.

A passenger arriving at Te Aro Park from the south or east, whether on a bus or a tram (light rail vehicle), would have multiple options. This flexibility comes from multiple hubs, at the Railway Station, Te Aro Park and perhaps Midland Park, all within about 2 kilometres:

• Stay on the bus or tram to a final destination.
• Change from the tram to any bus, to reach any golden mile stop. This is ideal for passengers wanting a short walk to a central-city destination.
• Change from the bus to a tram, to reach the Railway Station more quickly; to reach destinations such as Frank Kitts Park or Queens Wharf; to go back to the south; or perhaps to reach Midland Park more quickly.
• Stay on the tram to the Railway Station, then change to rail or bus. This would normally be the best place to change to a bus going north or west, because of greater frequency beyond the golden mile.
• More exceptionally, change from the tram to a particular golden mile bus. This might be because a bus was known to be due at Te Aro Park (with a better chance of getting a seat) or it might be an opportunity to do some shopping.
• Hire a bicycle at the hub.
• Walk.

Some of these decisions rely on a good knowledge of timetables, and ‘clock-face’ timetables make this much easier. Consider an elderly tram passenger approaching Te Aro Park from Newtown, on her way to Karori. She would normally change at the Railway Station, but might well have a shorter walk and a better chance of getting a seat if she changed at Te Aro Park. She can do this easily if she knows which trams leaving ‘her’ stop in Newtown will most conveniently connect with ‘her’ bus to Karori.

Other hubs would show similar patterns, all day, every day.

Kerry Wood is a retired Wellington engineer and a member of FIT Wellington.

The third article in this series will tidy up a few light rail myths

50 comments:

  1. Patrick Morgan, 5. April 2018, 13:15

    Light rail will be amazing for Wellington, but we need to do it right. Serve population centres and preserve our heritage. [via twitter]

     
  2. Roger Blakeley, 5. April 2018, 13:17

    Time for Wellington to optimise road space in favour of the most efficient mobility choices – mass transit/light rail, walking, cycling, ride share, and efficient freight. Private car is least efficient. [via twitter]

     
  3. Dave Bond, 5. April 2018, 17:52

    Kerry, are you aware that 15,000 passengers currently arrive by train during the a.m. peak, and 3000 of these arrive in one 15-min period (Tranz Metro fact-sheet, 2015)?

    According to the 1963 De Leuw Cather study (which proposed an extension of heavy rail), three-quarters of arriving rail passengers would continue further on the service if it were extended. Also, the ability to travel further into the city could potentially lead to a massive surge in rail usage, which is highly desirable in terms of lessening traffic flows into Wellington from the rest of the region.

    How will the light rail scheme FIT proposes, that is totally separate from the existing system:-

    a) Cope with the kind of peak passenger flows that could potentially flood off existing rail, if an attractive extension was provided?
    Could it handle upwards of say 12,000 people per hour, at the ‘peak-of-the-peak’?

    b) Provide sufficient inducement to those from rail-served areas (who currently do not use rail because their city destinations are too far from the station), to start using it?

    These issues are central to any transport scheme that purports to be a solution to regional transport issues, rather than merely seeking to impact issues originating south of the railway station.

    What is your answer?

     
  4. Kerry, 5. April 2018, 19:07

    Dave
    Some interesting questions: thank you
    — I didn’t know about 3000 passengers in 15 minutes. Say 12,000 pass/hr, 15% transferring, 1800 pass/hr
    — I would be dubious about paying much attention to de Lew Cather, if only because so much has changed since then. 15% transferring came from a 2005 (?) study by Neil Douglas, and seems to match the emerging figures in the WSP study fairly well. BUT light rail WILL boost transfers.
    — FIT has been using a capacity of 12,000 pass/hr, but that is fairly conservative. A 63m Avenio tram can nominally carry over 470 passengers, but the (undesirable) maximum is more like 600. 12,000 passengers an hour is nominally 25.5 trams-worth, fairly conservative because a tram every two minutes should be manageable. Let’s just say that 12,000 pass/hr isn’t a hard limit. Personal surveys (chats) when I was with MoT showed that many people appreciate the walk, for exercise. One stalwart routinely walked from Midland Park to the Basin Reserve, because she thought it quicker than the bus.
    — Inducements to encourage main line rail passengers going south are much the same as for everybody else. Faster and more reliable connections, faster trips, and above all, multiple options around switching to and from light rail and buses, to suit individual needs. Oh, and a single ticketing system.

     
  5. David Bond, 5. April 2018, 20:28

    But Kerry, how much will “light rail boost transfers”, compared to a transfer-less extension of the main-line service?

    The De-Leuw Cather figure of 75% of existing rail-patronage wishing to continue aboard an extended service I mention purely as a guide.
    The real crux is, how many new rail passengers would be attracted if they could travel further on a seamlessly-extended service?

    It is a worrying fact that most current rail passengers walk to destinations largely within 1Km of the station, because this implies that the reach of rail is seriously limited beyond that small radius. And the inescapable corollary is that there will be many people from rail-served areas of the region with destinations beyond 1Km from Wellington Station who do not use rail because it does not extend close-enough to where they want to go. Instead, they go by road, adding to the city’s already overloaded road system!

    Maximising the role of existing rail seriously needs to be addressed. It is not just about integrating light rail with buses.

    And by the way, 12,000 pass/hr equates to a massive 60m light rail vehicle crush-loaded with 500 passengers every 2½ minutes. This is beyond what you would reasonably expect of a service running in the public street. This is “rail-corridor” territory.

    We have to face the region’s real needs.
    We have to get this right.

     
  6. Glen Smith, 6. April 2018, 0:28

    Chris Calvi Freeman. Thanks for your reply and ongoing contribution from the previous article. Track sharing of ‘heavier’ and ‘lighter’ units is common overseas. Could you advise what technical differences exist in the Wellington scenario that makes track sharing possible overseas but not here.
    Similarly I have pointed out that most units (existing multi-unit Matangis) could terminate at the Station to service existing demand from the northern CBD and only a minority of new ‘medium’ weight units would need to run through. You state that ‘the system would lack the capacity at peak hours to carry every suburban rail passenger through/into the CBD’. It is unclear if you mean rail units or individual passengers. If units then why do you feel that all units would need to run through? And if passengers then surely we should be designing a system that has sufficient capacity to accommodate ALL the passengers who wish to continue past the station (a key reason for adding Quays capacity).
    Your estimates for the percentage of fully segregated corridor are encouraging but this would require removal of parking from a large percentage of the route including in the CBD and large areas of Newtown and Kilbirnie – often from both sides of the road in areas where off street parking is scarce. How politically realistic do you think that is? And why do you feel that all commuters travelling to and from the airport and eastern suburbs have to travel through the crowded streets of Newtown when a cheaper faster direct SH1 route is possible (without any removal of suburban parking) and Newtown could be adequately serviced by buses on the Island Bay to Newlands bus line?

     
  7. John Rankin, 6. April 2018, 8:55

    @DavidBond: I have been waiting for this opportunity to ask you about timetables for through-running train services, because I can’t get my head around it. How do you design timetables across multiple rail services to deliver a 10 minute service all-day every-day on the LRT part of the line (5 minutes during peak periods)? LRT needs a clock-face timetable so that connecting bus services at the transit hubs (Te Aro Park, Hospital, Kilbirnie, and Miramar) can connect.

    Also, would every train through-run and if not, wouldn’t at least half of all train passengers who want to travel beyond the station still be changing at the station from the train to the LRT?

    It seems to me that:
    – either you have to redesign all the train timetables to deliver a 10 minute frequency on the LRT line, which is a bit like letting the urban tail wag the regional dog; or
    – you hold every through-running train at the railway station until the next 10 minute (or whatever) slot in the timetable, which could mean a layover of up to 9 minutes and sounds a lot like a transfer penalty

    And if we want to connect to the new Ferry Terminal at Kaiwharawhara, it’s a relatively simple matter to extend an LRT line north of the station. How would that work under your proposal?

    PS I dissent from the FIT view that LRT can carry in excess of 12,000 passengers per hour. I’m of the opinion that an at-grade (street-running) LRT system is limited to a maximum frequency of 3-4 minutes in practice. At higher frequencies, LRT creates unmanageable tail-backs where it crosses busy city streets. So in Wellington, my view is that 10,000 passengers per hour is the practical upper limit, unless we invest in grade separation at all busy intersections.

     
  8. Casey, 6. April 2018, 9:03

    If the aim is to have rapid transport Railway Station – Airport then why route LRT through Newtown which is, and likely to remain, a choke point. Segregated LRT and other traffic lanes is not a reality in some parts of the route as Chris Calvi-Freeman suggests, unless all on street car parking and loading zones are dispensed with. Retailers and other businesses are the life blood of commercial areas and need to be serviced by delivery vehicles and service persons.

    For those in a hurry the Airport Flyer via the Mt. Victoria bus tunnel offers the fastest method currently other than private car. Both can be very slow at peak times and weekend afternoons.

    LRT serving the maximum number of commuters along its route will reduce bus numbers, and reduce the preference to use private cars if the service is frequent enough.

     
  9. Ralf, 6. April 2018, 9:06

    I see the following priorities:
    1) Fix the railway. (I know that there are plans for this, but I want to see results)
    2) Improve the existing bus system. We can dream of an LR which has signal priority. But what is preventing signal priority for buses today? If we cannot get that, what makes anyone think we can get it for LR?
    3) I am curious about the bus schedule in July; not seeing a published schedule makes me think that it will not be as good as promised. Frequency needs to be there. And if we introduce transfers then buses need to be on time most of the time.
    4) The solution could be jumpstarted with some new express buses (don’t call it BRT). These would run during peak times. That would reduce bus congestion along the golden mile.

     
  10. Ian Shearer, 6. April 2018, 10:27

    @Casey: I think you have answered your question. The so-called faster route was one of the split-route legs used in the 2013 spine study. It went through a Mt Victoria tunnel and had long stretches adjacent to the town belt where there is very little population and is not a planned growth area. Consequently the economics were crap. That study broke all the international rapid transport design rules – and the outcome set us back many years.

    A single light rail route from the station past the hospital and Newtown to the zoo and through a shorter Mt Albert tunnel to Kilbirnie passes through excellent potential medium density housing growth areas. The property value up-lift for refurbished and new medium density housing along the Mt Cook, Newtown and Kilbirnie route will be significant. Public transport travel times from Miramar to CBD will be much improved, and this is a more important “market” for the light rail passenger growth than the airport. Smaller electric feeder buses to light rail hubs (such as in Miramar centre) will still be a critical component – but these buses must not all go through the CBD. Some electric buses on the Golden Mile will obviously still be beneficial to link to light rail hubs.

    This light rail system would cost around 50% of the proposed congestion-growing “two motorway tunnels and 4 lanes to the planes” scenario. It has to be the winner for Wellington, and the Government’s contribution via the up-coming budget will be important. Mayor Lester’s, and the GW Councillors’, support for this system is a strong indication that the transport logic has moved away from more motorways – his support is welcome.

     
  11. Casey, 6. April 2018, 10:45

    Ralf: Currently 150 buses per hour through Lambton Quay are the cause of the congestion problem – about 50% more than ideal, especially with stacking at bus stops. Adding more buses as the city continues to add higher density housing in Te Aro and Newtown, plus to the east and south in the near future, means more buses will be needed but the road infrastructure is confined to what we currently have unless hundreds of buildings are knocked down.

    The alternative to buses may be LRT, but certainly not AVs (autonomous vehicles) that some suggest. Increasing the number of passengers in ever-decreasing vehicle footprints obviates the need for new or widened roads. Making optimum use of what we have is the key, as another contributor wrote yesterday.

     
  12. luke, 6. April 2018, 12:22

    a free transfer and quick trip from the station to Courtenay Place would generate a lot of additional rail passengers. The current dawdle along the golden mile costing $1.66 if you have the right bus card is a complete turn off.

     
  13. Glen Smith, 6. April 2018, 15:30

    Ian Shearer. The obsession with running rail through Newtown appears to be Wellington’s light rail advocates’ own ‘naked Emperor’- a self perpetuating group fixation that, in my view, doesn’t stand up to logical scrutiny.

    Population density data shows there are two major peripheral concentrations south of the CBD – Island Bay to the south and Miramar Peninsula to the east. Both have sufficient demand to justify regular PT services but can’t be serviced by a single line. Island Bay supports a 12 to 20 minutes bus service from around 6 am until around 9pm- then half hourly. A dedicated corridor would be impossible and even with predicted growth it is unlikely rail will be viable any time in the foreseeable future. The logical mode is bus. Miramar Peninsula has a much larger population with predicted high growth of medium density housing supplemented by a rapidly growing airport. A fully segregated rail corridor is possible using essentially only existing or planned open space. Transport capacity to the east is currently planned to be increased ( the last time was 1931 with the Mt Victoria Tunnel) and, since it may be another 85 years before any future increase, should be futureproofed for growth this century. The logical mode is rail. The logical network design, used throughout the world, is intersecting PT ‘lines’, each starting from a peripheral location, traversing the CBD and continuing to another peripheral location.

    The question then is should Newtown be serviced by the southern bus PT corridor or the eastern rail transport corridor (or both). The southern bus corridor has to go through Newtown and PT passenger data shows it would be adequate to service Newtown whatever growth occurs. Running rail through Newtown therefore doubles up on coverage of Newtown while ignoring coverage of Hataitai and northern Kilbirnie (which contrary to your assertion has a high population and good medium density growth potential). At the same time it forces commuters from the east to take a less attractive longer slower trip through a congested multipurpose space while making this space even more congested with huge trains carrying tens of thousands of daily commuters who don’t want to be there. To supply the required corridor would require removal of a large number of parking and utility spaces used by local residents and businesses. It would displace bus capacity forcing a significant number of commuters from southern suburbs to incur an unnecessary transfer penalty. It would be more expensive than rail via a stacked multipurpose second Mt Victoria Tunnel ( an option planners have ignored despite it’s logic- this is a third fundamental flaw in the Spine Study) as recommended by international tunnelling expert Alun Thomas.

    Light rail supporters need to ask themselves whether their insistence on running rail through Newtown, and their failure to objectively consider the alternative, is based on logical analysis or an underlying prejudice towards rail (similar to NZTA’s bias towards roads) and belief (unsupported by the evidence) that it is always superior to buses no matter what the cost. There should be no split rail corridor, only a corridor to the east via a SH1 route and multipurpose second Mt Victoria Tunnel. Adelaide Road and the hospital should be serviced by buses on the southern/Island Bay bus line.

     
  14. Steve Doole, 6. April 2018, 16:29

    Do we have to have only one?
    Kerry’s diagram shows the CBD options clearly in green and red. (50 years ago these were known by bus users as the Inner and Outer routes.)
    To send trains south from the station, to say the airport, the Green route is feasible. Wasn’t there a railway to near Courtenay Place 100 years ago?
    For tram style operations, as would be suited to Golden Mile and Newtown trips, the red route is favoured.
    Why not both ?

     
  15. Kerry, 6. April 2018, 21:35

    Glen. I don’t see your problem with a Newtown route. Broadly there are three routes available:
    — Mt Vic runs through low-density Hataitai, misses too many passengers (including the hospital) and needs a double-track tunnel.
    — Constable St is the cheapest and does pick up the hospital and Newtown, but Constable St is messy and so is Rongotai Rd (flooding). It is possible but resource consent might not be.
    — Mt Albert can be single-track because traffic is lighter south of Newtown (the tunnel could be doubled if ever needed).

    Island Bay bus passengers could transfer to light rail at the hospital, saving passengers three or four minutes to the Railway Station, or much more at peak hours. If that became too busy, a single-track light rail shuttle from the Zoo would be another approach. You seem to be calling for a bus route from Island Bay to the city, but that would into trouble with limited capacity on the golden mile. Transferring to light rail would be cheaper and faster.

    The narrow section of Riddiford St will need some parking space, but that can be off-street (there already is some) with minimal heritage implications. Off-street is cheaper too. Another option would be to make Riddiford and Daniel Sts a one-way pair, leaving room for public open space in Riddiford St.

     
  16. Dave B, 6. April 2018, 22:48

    @ John Rankin – I will attempt to answer the questions in your comment above (6 Apr 8:55am). I can only do this in the briefest of outline in the space available. My proposal for a heavy rail extension is that it would accommodate the full electrified service. The signalling design would be for 2-minute headways or better.

    Assuming the airport is the end-point, the ideal would be to provide a large-radius turnaround-loop (“balloon loop”) via which arriving trains would simply run around and become departing trains – i.e. with no termination as such, thereby avoiding the inefficiencies this causes. If this turns out not to be feasible, or if it is deemed overkill to have every train going right to the airport, I propose an intermediate offline turnback (as currently exists at Taita), part-way along the route where half the trains could turn back. However the important thing is that the extension would behave as a ‘pipe’ down which trains run in sequence from the present station, and then re-emerge after completing the loop. In this respect it would behave similarly to any other metro operation which runs through a CBD without terminating and all turnarounds and layovers are at the suburban ends where they belong. Auckland’s network will behave like this once the CRL is complete and Britomart is no longer a terminal station. So the service frequency ‘down the pipe’ could be the sum total of all the individual lines, up to a max of 30 trains/hr at peak. Frequencies would be such that timetabled transfers with buses would be unnecessary, except where you are wanting to catch a specific train for a specific line once they diverge to the north.

    I don’t understand why you are asking how I propose to interface with LRT, since my proposal does not involve LRT. I am proposing an extension of the rail system we already have, along the corridor that has been defined as significant enough to warrant a high-cost motorway extension, and my proposal is for a high-capacity, regional rail alternative to this. How I propose this could be done I will not go into here. But I am wondering if I have missed the point of what you were asking in regard to LRT. You asked about connecting with the Ferry terminal at Kaiwharawhara: I have long desired to see a station-stop provided there instead of the (now defunct) Kaiwharawhara station a few hundred metres north. A platform on the Johnsonville line could also be provided and connected to the terminal via an overhead walkway.

    If the will was there. . . But like all visionary PT ideas, none of this has stood a possum in purgatory’s chance of coming to fruition when the single focus for so many decades has been just on roads.

     
  17. Ross Clark, 7. April 2018, 3:08

    There are two distinct issues. The first is how to connect the wider region into the CBD, and perhaps beyond. The second is how to connect Wellington City better into the CBD.

    For the first issue, I agree with Steve Doole w.r.t. something which bypasses the central city, and with David Bond, would look seriously at a subway option. In the meantime, I would suggest running free buses – free’s always good – from the railway station to about the top of and then down Taranaki St. Closer in, people will walk happily enough. While much has been made of the railway station’s position on the outskirts of the CBD, two-thirds of the jobs in the CBD are within a ten-minute walk of the station. So it’s less of an issue than we tend to think.

    My other take is that the extent of through-CBD traffic (e.g. from Johnsonville to Kilbirnie) is, with respect to journey-to-work flows, not that great, as most jobs in Wellington city proper are within the CBD. The overall volumes are there, but are nowhere near as peaked as journey-to-work flows. About 15 percent of the current rail market then get a bus or have come off a bus. Two-thirds are travelling to or from the CBD. The rest of the traffic are going beyond the CBD – and I suspect are not doing so for journey-to-work reasons.

    For the second issue … what are we looking at to control road/car demand? It may be that road users would be more likely to put up with restrictions if the competing PT option was LRT or rail, as opposed to bus, but this assumption, which has underpinned a lot of our advocacy, needs to be discussed in the open.

     
  18. Cllr Chris Calvi-Freeman, 7. April 2018, 14:56

    An interesting thread…some comments from me (again, not WCC or LGWM policy).

    Glen, I believe I have previously posted the reasons why I don’t believe tram-train running is feasible in Wellington. Briefly, there are four: 1. Trains arrive at Wellington’s station every 2 minutes in the peak. Short of duplicating the lines through the narrowest point (Kaiwharawhara to the station), there is simply no way of accommodating more trains, full stop. 2. The huge cost of altering the track-work to let the trams through-route through or past the station. 3. Tram-trains would need high floors to coincide with the high rail platforms, which means high platforms through the CBD and eastern/southern suburbs – difficult to provide and inconsistent with any buses using the same platforms. (Either that of the tram-trains would need low floor sections and two sets of doors, or some other complex workaround.) 4. While tram-trains are evidently acceptable to railway authorities in some overseas networks I don’t know whether any of these also have freight trains – I very much doubt that the railway safety rules here would allow light/medium trams to run on the same tracks as huge freight trains.

    This brings me to David Bond’s suggestion of a heavy rail extension line or turnaround loop. The radii, high platforms and heavy use etc would necessitate this loop being underground, with inherent enormous cost of construction and access. Brilliant if it could be economically justified but an LRT from the end of the loop to Miramar would still be required. An above ground heavy rail extension through the city (i.e. logically along the waterfront quays) would be incredibly disruptive to the city and would present a barrier between the CBD and the harbour. A two-minute rail headway could not be accommodated on a single loop with stations – there would need to be at least two loops or the stations would require multiple platforms, otherwise the headway would have to reduce or only some trains would be unable to use the loop.

    Back to Glen: As others have pointed out, many of the jobs in the CBD are a short walk from Wellington station. Yes, in an ideal world we would have had an extension of heavy rail to serve the whole CBD and perhaps beyond, but as we haven’t we need to cater for the rail passengers heading more than 5-10 mins from the station, together of course with potential passengers who don’t find the existing rail service attractive primarily due to their having to transfer to buses to commute to their destination in the CBD or further south/east. The LRT (together with remaining buses to other places like the Terrace, VUW, Karori, Thorndon etc) would need to accommodate all the existing and potential passengers who would want to transfer onto it. This means perhaps a 5-minute LRT headway in the peaks, supplemented by additional 5-minute headway LRT units running only as far as, say, Te Aro. One LRT unit every 2.5 minutes could be accommodated on a CBD route if most of the buses and just about all the other vehicles were cleared off. And yes, perhaps eventually a second route as Steve Doole suggests, but I would argue against this initially due to the cost. Preventing other incoming passengers overcrowding the LRT to ride only as far as (say) the Cable Car, when many of these commuters could walk from the railway station as they do now, would be achieved by having a train-LRT transfer and probably a one stage fare penalty. I.e. rail passengers would decide whether they need the extra stage and make the transfer or simply walk. This all needs to be carefully modelled of course. And perhaps in 50 years if the city and region continue to grow, we’ll have an underground rail loop running as far as the Civic Centre and Cable Car (with stations nearby) and the established LRT (opened c 2015) at street level as well fo those going further afield.

    Regarding the single spine via Newtown to the airport and Miramar – I don’t believe this is “emperor’s new clothes”, rather “one route to move them all”. In peak hours this route would accommodate all Miramar, Strathmore, Kilbirnie and Newtown commuters to the CBD and station, plus Seatoun, Lyall Bay and Berhampore/Island Bay commuters by transfer from buses at Miramar, Kilbirnie and Newtown respectively. Peak and off-peak, this route would cater for shoppers, airport travellers (staff & air passengers), hospital travellers (staff, day patients & visitors), zoo workers and visitors, ASB and WRAC staff and visitors, and Massey University, Wellington, Wellington East, Rongotai, St Catherine’s and St Pat’s Colleges and St Mark’s school staff and students. This ensures good all-day patronage, probably 5am through to midnight. It radically reduces the number of buses clogging up the CBD, particularly at peak periods (the July 2018 bus network requires off-peak bus-bus transfers on some routes anyway.) A faster and more reliable peak-hour trip to town by LRT than by bus would make up for the peak-hour transfers. Yes it would mean taking on-street parking from Riddiford Street and Adelaide Road, probably together with some road widening (which is on the cards anyway as the Adelaide Road area is redeveloped) and probably some capacity reduction for general traffic. (I envisage the remaining buses sharing the LRT lane but with bus stops in bays if necessary to avoid delaying the LRT). Parking and loading can be accommodated on side roads and in adjacent off-street loading bays and car parks.

    Finally, in terms of end-to-end speed, advocates who have looked into this route predict a rail to Miramar running time of about 25 minutes if via the waterfront. I believe a compromise route as I have previously mentioned (eg Featherston Street, Victoria St, Wakefield Street and lower Cuba Street for southbound services and Golden Mile for northbound services) coupled with priority at all signalised intersections and big reductions in competing traffic, should add only 4-5 minutes to the overall running time, bringing it up to 30 minutes. A predictable 30 minute travel time between the railway station and the airport/Miramar, coupled with a clockface timetable, excellent accessibility and a smooth and comfortable journey, would be a very attractive proposition indeed.

     
  19. David Bond, 7. April 2018, 15:01

    Thanks for these thoughts Ross. My advocacy for extension of heavy rail over the city-to-airport corridor is underpinned by two basic factors:

    1) The existing ‘heavy rail’ system makes a enormous contribution in the areas where it currently operates – much more than I believe most people realise. GWRC states that a whopping 45% of all journeys to work in Wellington from the rest of the region are by train. And the implication for the road-system if rail was not there is scary.
    But this major benefit is not available in areas south of the CBD which rail does not serve. Here, only 29% of commuter trips are by public transport. So why are we not going all-out to extend the huge and proven benefits of our regional heavy rail system, as indeed a far-sighted Ministry-of-Works tried to in the 1950’s?

    2) The City-to-Airport corridor is well-recognised as having a transport-capacity problem. The official solution up to now has been to provide a high-cost motorway and this acknowledges the need for better regional through-connections. Now if public transport is to be advanced as an alternative, then a seamless extension of the high-capacity and successful regional rail system would seem to stand by far the best chance of delivering.

    If we could just reach the point of acknowledging the huge value and desirability of doing this, then we could progress from ignoring it as a possibility, to exploring means by which it might be achieved.

     
  20. John Rankin, 7. April 2018, 18:20

    @DavidBond, thank you for the explanation. Your confusion at my question was down to my poor choice of words. I should have said something like “the new urban rail line” rather than “the LRT line”. If I read your response correctly, you are saying that in the weekday inter-peak and on weekends, service on the new urban rail line would be so frequent that coordination with bus timetables at connections along the route would not be needed. So at least every 5 minutes?

    @ChrisCalvi-Freeman: FIT estimates that railway station to Miramar via the waterfront, Taranaki St, Adelaide Rd, Zoo, Kilbirnie would take 20 minutes, not the 25 minutes you quote. Given that the remaining buses would run more freely with minimal delay, a 30 minute trip by light rail, as you suggest, would be slower than the Airport Flyer. Would a 30 minute travel time (about 18 km/hr) count as “rapid transit” as defined in the draft transport GPS?

    Wellington needs to make sure that the light rail project as proposed comfortably exceeds the minimum definition of “rapid transit” in the GPS, so we can get the funds to build it.

     
  21. Cllr Chris Calvi-Freeman, 7. April 2018, 21:10

    @ John Rankin. Okay, if your waterfront route is 20 mins, my CBD route is 25 (or maybe less). I did say about 4-5 mins longer via the CBD. As the majority of eastern and southern suburbs commuters will be heading for work in the CBD and a high proportion of off-peak travellers will be heading there for shopping or personal business, it makes sense to save them the challenge of crossing the quays (or at least the extra time to walk if there are overbridges), even at the expense of a marginally longer rail to airport trip time. Most business air travellers arriving at Wellington airport will be heading to the CBD as opposed to the station, and a c20 minute airport to CBD trip is very competitive with taxis and probably faster in the peaks when many business travellers are moving.

    Prospective LRT passengers mentally calculate their complete personal travel time, including walking at each end, when determining whether the mode is the most attractive for them. And, notwithstanding that fact, as I’ve said previously, I believe the superior timekeeping, journey time reliability and comfort of the light rail will be as important (if not more so) than the on-board journey time.

    With regard to service frequencies, I’m guessing 5 minutes through the weekday peaks and inter-peaks and middle of the weekend daytimes, 10 minutes other times, thinning out to 15-20 minutes very early mornings and late evenings. The advantage of just one single route linking multiple attractors, coupled with the low operating cost of LRT (drivers and electricity), supports a sustained high frequency, providing a very attractive “turn-up-and-go” LRT which reduces the need to try to coordinate feeder bus arrival times with the LRT schedule. (LRT Passengers transferring TO connecting buses would benefit from a reliable LRT arrival time and the connecting bus ready and waiting at the transfer stop.)

    Finessing the timetable, it may be that every second LRT service on weekends terminates at Newtown or Kilbinie, providing a higher frequency service on the busier half of the route (Newtown to railway station). And as I’ve noted earlier, the weekday peak-hour demand from rail passengers might require some extra LRT services running between the station and Te Aro only, making a 2.5 minute service through the CBD.

     
  22. David Bond, 7. April 2018, 21:27

    @ Chris C-F: Quick response from one who has a fairly good idea of what rail can and cannot achieve. So please accept that a 2-minute headway is perfectly achievable, and it happens on the two-track Newmarket-Britomart Line in Auckland (90 seconds on some of the London Underground!).

    The “turnaround loop” I refer to would merely be the end-point of my proposed heavy-rail extension and it could in fact be anywhere. But logically it would be near the airport, perhaps in or under the land used by Miramar Golf Course. The radius could be as low as 100m, but 200m would be desirable as this would permit 50Km/h running. And regarding the ‘high cost’ of going underground, read on…

    You are right that underground heavy rail along the Waterfront would be very expensive, and surface heavy rail would be very divisive. But there is a third possibility: Heavy rail at-grade (or slightly dug down as far as can be done easily), then CHEAPLY COVERED OVER WITH A BOX STRUCTURE, and landscaped into a linear park. A first station alongside Frank Kitts Park would greatly lend itself to this, given the overhead pedestrian access in that vicinity.

    If the at-grade/covered-over technique of “tunnelling” was applied wherever possible on an extension to the airport (including for the turnaround loop), costs would be much lower than for full-depth tunnelling. But of course there would be stretches where full-depth tunnelling would be needed. This option needs investigating as it could hold the key to making this highly-effective transport solution possible.

     
  23. Cllr Chris Calvi-Freeman, 8. April 2018, 0:47

    David, I think the best that the London Underground can manage is a 2.5 minute headway, but happy to be corrected. At that frequency, the Underground is absolutely strained – if one train is delayed, all the following trains are also delayed, as often happens in peak hours. The service doesn’t return to schedule until after the peak ends, which is okay on the straightforward lines but problematic when there are several branches to coordinate. And the Underground trains have very high performance – they stop fast, dwell very quickly (doors open, close, take no prisoners), then accelerate fast – a big contrast to the current Metlink trains. You wouldn’t build a new network that was essentially beyond design capacity on day one.

    Yes, cut and cover or half-buried alignments are likely to be cheaper than full tunneling, but will still require huge changes to cross-streets, utilities and drainage, especially with the threat of rising sea levels. I think it’s simply a bridge (or tunnel) too far for the limited Wellington population, and that’s why I support the LRT advocates’ proposals for a more affordable alternative, which has most of the benefits of a heavy rail extension.

     
  24. John Rankin, 8. April 2018, 12:49

    @ChrisCalvi-Freeman: Thanks Chris. I accept the logic of using Featherston St to shorten the distance from the Golden Mile to a convenient stop. But why not use Hunter St to run to Jervois Quay? As I understand it, you are reluctant to take away space used by cars. First, the evidence shows that just as adding lanes doesn’t reduce congestion, so removing lanes doesn’t increase it. Traffic adjusts. And second, if we choose to slow down the light rail to avoid slowing the cars, is this going to encourage people to leave their cars at home and take the LRT?

    I’m also having trouble with your journey time arithmetic. If you reduce the typical walk time to a stop from 5 minutes to 3 minutes at each end of a trip (which is a worst case), at the cost of adding 5 minutes to the on-board travel time, it seems to me your proposal adds at least 1 minute to the journey time. In practice, as you point out, there will be stops at or near major destinations and hubs, so the walk-time at one end of a trip is often minimal, meaning your proposal adds 3 minutes to most journeys.

    I think the differences expressed in these comments come down to what we want to achieve. In my view, if we spend $1bn on a rapid transit service that will shape Wellington for the next 100 years, we ought to aim to offer as many people as we can the most frequent, most reliable, and fastest service we can for the money we are spending. To get people to choose to leave their cars at home, we need to aim high.

    Wellington’s geography and urban form impose constraints on maximum LRT cruising speeds. So once you have dedicated a right-of-way for the tracks to avoid lane-sharing, given the LRT signal priority, and delivered best-practice dwell times, the other factor influencing journey time is distance between stops. FIT’s proposal assumes that a maximum 5-6 minute walk to the nearest stop, for as many people as possible, is reasonable and acceptable.

    As Kerry points out in the article, the incentive for people to catch a connecting bus and change to the LRT is that LRT offers a faster journey than a bus and overcomes the transfer penalty. If we make the LRT slower, we erode LRT’s competitive advantage and reduce the incentive for people to catch a feeder bus service.

     
  25. Dave Bond, 8. April 2018, 14:47

    Chris – check the London Underground running 36 trains per hour (I concede this is 100sec headway not 90). Certainly 100sec headway is high-end stuff, but 2min is commonplace and is already achieved in Auckland. As far as station dwell times are concerned, Wellington’s system seems to average out at 30sec which is about the same as the London Underground (Auckland’s is much slower but that is a story for another time).

    So it is great that you are a supporter of light rail, but please don’t make unwarranted claims about heavy rail that could have the effect of prematurely blocking what could be a far more efficacious option overall. This needs proper investigation. And if Wellington’s ‘limited population’ is somehow insufficient to support an extension of the rail system that already serves much of the region so well, how come the population is great enough for an extravagant motorway-extension along the same corridor? This will also involve ‘huge changes to cross-streets, utilities and drainage’, and will encourage more traffic rather than reduce it. Do you support this also, and somehow envisage light rail as extra?

    It is imperative that we look at the wider regional perspective for public transport, as we are so obviously doing for private vehicle travel.

     
  26. Glen Smith, 8. April 2018, 15:35

    Chris. Once again thanks for your open debate and your advocacy for PT along with other city and regional councillors. Also thanks to the new coalition for their progressive transport stance.There are too many issues for one post so I’ll just address the station transfer issue.
    Whatever transport design we put in place now, will likely set the scene for the next century and beyond. As Dave B said – we have to get it right. We should aim for the ideal and only accept less if this is impossible. Nowhere is this more true than with station transfer. If we accept a design with a transfer, it will likely be with us forever.
    I described the station transfer to the Basin Board as a ‘wall’ across our PT network and I stand by that description. Research (previously referenced) shows the ‘pure’ rail-to-bus penalty (the ‘disinclination’ to take a PT journey if it involves a transfer expressed as equivalent journey time) is around 17 minutes, separate to the walk and wait time. If you add disembarkation, walk, wait, re-embarkation this is likely 20-25 minutes (less for rail to rail – likely more around 12-15 minutes). This is huge and should be removed if possible. I remain to be convinced that all possible options to remove this have been explored.

    Looking at the reasons you gave for not removing this

    1. Platform height. My proposal was all ‘station’ based with across platforms the same height as existing infrastructure
    2. Safety with freight trains. I am not familiar with freight train movements but I assume they are uncommon on the suburban network during daylight hours. I assume the safety concern is possible collisions. Comparing a Matangi ‘heavy’ unit with say a Hiawatha ‘light’ unit from the States I fail to see what the safety difference is between the two if they are hit by a freight train – could you outline this difference. If anything, ‘lighter’ units with more rapid deceleration should be safer. I suspect this issue needs to be revisited.
    3. The issue of capacity through the ‘bottleneck’ north of the Station (of which I was unaware) is a major concern. If this pinchpoint is already at capacity, then how do you propose to undertake any expansion of our PT network that involves rail – run through rail or otherwise? You say ‘Short of duplicating the lines through the narrowest point (Kaiwharawhara to the station), there is simply no way of accommodating more trains’ as though adding lines is unthinkable. But surely this is what we should be doing rather than putting it in the ‘too hard’ or ‘think about it later’ baskets.
    With a brief look at the rail layout, this looks problematic due to the unique design of the Hutt and Kapiti lines where the Hutt line goes either side of the Kapiti line near the old Kaiwharawhara Station. Simply extending the lines therefore doesn’t solve anything. However I believe a solution can be found which would be straightforward. The logical solution is to run both rails of the Hutt line one side or other of the Kapiti line. The ideal would be the east (since the Hutt line ends up to the east of the Kapiti line) but there looks to be inadequate corridor space here. The alternative is to run both Hutt lines under the grade separation point and run them to the west of the Kapiti line from Kaiwharawhara to the station. There appears to be adequate space here since as wikipedia notes there was ‘a fifth track through Kaiwharawhara running on the western side of the four main lines, as evidenced today by the extra overhead wiring still in place’.
    This design should secure future rail growth by doubling available capacity immediately north of the station. This design (where first the Hutt line and then the Kapiti line are to the east) would also allow relatively easy separation of a Quays rail corridor to the east although this would occur some distance north of the station. Occurring this far north is not necessarily a bad thing since this would allow the possible inclusion of a Picton Ferry stop +/- a Cruiseliner stop (at times when they are in) +/- a Stadium stop (during events). The one drawback is it looks like north and south going Quays rail would have to share a single line for a short distance in the area around Kaiwharawhara Station due to inadequate width (only 5 lines possible).
    4. Cost. The short term cost will be repaid many fold in long term savings in congestion and other societal external costs.

    Think long term. Do it once and do it right

     
  27. Kerry, 8. April 2018, 19:11

    Some big-picture stuff, putting together three points:
    — We (humanity) will need a big move away from cars, soon (Ross’s point, my emphasis)
    — Light rail capacity in Wellington would be roughly 12,000 passengers an hour (FIT)
    — Light rail has roughly three times the people-per-lane-hour capacity of a four-lane Mt Vic road tunnel lane (FIT capacity, and capacity-difference from the Global Street Design Guide)

    Between them they raise a question:
    “When is Wellington likely to need either a second light rail route, or heavy rail south of the Railway Station?”

    Existing lanes are two each on Oriental Bay, the Mt Vic tunnel, Constable St and around the coast to Rintoul St and Adelaide Rd, say 10 lanes if ‘four lanes to the planes’ doesn’t go ahead. In practice they are less ‘pure’ traffic lanes, and light rail should be able to more than match their capacity… except that it will be carrying around half its capacity on opening day.
    There could be a capacity problem in mid-century.
    There will be a capacity problem in mid-century if population growth booms because of medium-density development, another aspect of limiting car use.
    There might be a case for heavy rail, but with light rail in the political wilderness until very recently, that might be asking too much.
    If the problem crops up again in mid-century, heavy rail might run into the same problem as today: a second light rail route will be cheaper, and up to the job. Maybe the good is the enemy of the best, or maybe the best really is good enough. The simplest answer might be ‘we don’t know.’

     
  28. Cllr Chris Calvi-Freeman, 8. April 2018, 20:27

    John, I doubt that either of us can pin the running times down this accurately at this stage. However, I’d make four points: 1. Not everyone travels all the way from/to the railway station, so the complete end-to-end operating time for the LRT isn’t always relevant. A passenger coming from the eastern suburbs to say Willis Street doesn’t suffer the extra minute or two that the LRT takes from that point through to the station, assuming that the CBD route is slower than the waterfront route. 2. An extra minute spent on an LRT isn’t the same as an extra minute walking – the latter has a higher disbenefit especially if you are elderly or the walking conditions are adverse (wind, cold, rain etc). 3. I don’t believe absolute journey time is the key deciding factor for most people. Just as important are journey time reliability (typically much higher for LRT than for bus or car especially in the peaks) and comfort (I’d much rather spend 30 minutes on a smooth LRT than 28 being tossed round on a bus. 4. I think there will be much more opposition to taking two lanes of the waterfront quays than restricting through traffic on the golden mile.

    David, I stand corrected re the maximum London Underground frequencies and I would hate you or anyone to think that I would present incorrect information to support my viewpoint. However, the Victoria line is a relatively short line with no branches. It’s all just end to end. This doesn’t compare with the Metlink network, which intersperses trains on several lines and 2 or 3 running patterns – express, semi-express and all-stops. Getting these trains to line up to extremely high tolerances to feed into a single pipe at high frequency (2 minutes and better) through the city centre is a much bigger call. One delay means all the following trains are delayed, then they get out of sequence at the points where the branches bifurcate, and nothing comes back onto timetable until after the peak. I believe that an extension of the Metlink trains through the city centre would require either two tracks each way (one for the HV trains and one for Kapiti, with the J’ville trains probably terminating at the station) or if only one line is available then only one service (eg Kapiti line) could extend through and the other trains would have to terminate at Wellington station. With respect to the accommodations to existing streets and utility services required for roading schemes, I don’t really think you are comparing apples with apples. Duplicating the Mt Victoria and Terrace tunnels are big projects, but relatively discrete and straightforward; trenching Karo Drive through Te Aro is complex but is a relatively short distance. Contrast that with getting heavy rail through/past/under Wellington station and Customhouse Quay then along through Frank Kitts Park is a massive job. Then where to from there – under or alongside Wakefield Street, Cambridge Terrace etc?

    Glen, much of what I have written above in response to David is relevant to your argument. Don’t get me wrong, as I have said previously, it’s a huge shame that rail currently finishes at Wellington station and doesn’t serve the CBD, Basin, hospital, Newtown, zoo, Kilbirnie, airport and Miramar. However, I just can’t envisage anyone finding the funds and the resolve to rip up so much of the city to get it in now. As I said previously, perhaps in 50 years as the region continues to grow, a rail loop could conceivably run under the CBD as per the De Leuw Cather report, to make travelling to work easier for commuters from the north, but I doubt if it would ever reach the southern and eastern suburbs, which could be served very well by a well placed LRT spine.

    As usual, these are merely my thoughts, not WCC or LGWM policy.

     
  29. Mike Mellor, 8. April 2018, 22:48

    Just a few factual comments:

    a) DB/CCF: London’s Victoria line does run every 100s, but that line is entirely self contained with no junctions or level crossings and fully underground (so not affected by weather), with all trains identical, operating identical journeys, and automatically driven. None of these essential features exist in Wellington.

    b) GS: freight trains do operate in Wellington during the day. The Kapiti Line is part of the main Auckland-Christchurch freight route, connecting with the ferries, so the ability to mix with freight trains is essential.

    c) CCF: tramtrains and heavy freight trains can and do mix when they have sophisticated train-protection systems, for instance on the Northern Europe-Switzerland main line around Karlsruhe.

    d) GS: tramtrain operation is much more complex than it appears (it’s taken the British many years and many many millions just to get a trial in place). It’s not impossible and would undoubtedly give extra benefit, but don’t underestimate the costs of the greater complexity.

    d) GS: the two Hutt tracks used to run into Wellington to the west of the two Kapiti line tracks, so this arrangement could be reinstated (but I’m not sure what it would achieve).

    e) CCF: GWRC’s proposed integrated fare system is designed (rightly, in my view) to get rid of the one-zone fare penalty imposed by the train/bus transfer at Wellington station (for monthly passes, the similar penalty at the suburban end disappears in July).

     
  30. Neil Douglas, 9. April 2018, 9:47

    Sobering news from Sydney and Newcastle with major cost blow-outs to what were already costly Light Rail projects.

    Sydney LRT is in court with the Spanish contractor doing a work slow even though it’s already very late. Costs now estimated at over $3 billion for a 12km route ($250m/km) as a result of unforeseen utility diversions (water and sewers) involving works up side streets. Newcastle LRT has gone to the Auditor General with even the Green Party saying it’s a dog of a project. Costs now stand at $290 million for 2.7kms of track.

    Lessons for Wellington? Justin Lester and Chris Calvi Freeman should get on a plane and see what digging up George Street in Sydney has been like so they know what doing the same would be like for Lambton Quay and Featherston Street. (It’s nothing like Canberra with its wide median strip (where I reckon ballasted track could have been used for most of its length)).

    Definitely know your standard of ‘Light’ Rail and don’t over-engineer it. 20cms of concrete foundation is simply not ‘light’ and will entail complicated, incredibly costly utility diversion that impose lengthy disruption to business and residents.

    If wellington does go for Sydney ‘platinum’ standard Light Rail, then brace yourself for a $3 (?) billion price tag since route length is similar to Sydney, bifurcated (?) and with a (longer) tunnel.

    Also ask yourself, just how dumb was GWRC in getting rid of our electric trolley buses which provided Wellington with a fixed electric transport system (albeit with seemingly undesirable but quiet rubber tyres)? With reasonable investment, say $200 million, we would have had an affordable, fantastic ‘fixed’ route bus system, unique in the southern hemisphere that was available now (and not in ten years).

     
  31. John Rankin, 9. April 2018, 9:53

    @CCF. It’s true that accurate travel time predictions await detailed route designs. However, it’s useful to estimate likely travel times and average speeds under different planning assumptions. I estimated these using average cruising speed, acceleration and deceleration rates, stop dwell time, number of stops and total line length. Far from perfect, but perhaps better than guesswork.

    For me, the key messages from these threads are that there is more than one feasible way to do it and different options have different strengths and weaknesses. All the options deliver the basics of high frequency, journey time predictability, and ride quality. I’m hoping that LGWM will put up 2-3 options with some analysis that points to a preferred option, offering the best fit to the objectives and best overall value for money. I also hope that the decision-makers seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity, show some ambition, and aim high.

     
  32. luke, 9. April 2018, 10:52

    for the disruption factor alone, I’d choose the waterfront taking one lane from six, rather than digging up the golden mile or featherston street. Just make sure the stations are linked via subway or bridge to the cbd side from the outset.

     
  33. Dave Bond, 9. April 2018, 10:56

    Thanks Chris C-F for your willingness to engage in this important debate (all too often ignored by politicians who see roads as the only way forward). Thanks also to others for their contributions and perspectives.

    Couple of things:
    One: With regard to London’s Victoria Line and its high-intensity of service – sure, this is a very different situation from Metlink’s and I can see that mentioning it has opened my argument to misconceptions. Please consider instead my closer-to-home comparison of 2-minute separation between trains currently possible between Newmarket and Auckland stations. Also the City Rail Link, under construction, as an example of the twin-track “pipe” concept I have suggested for Wellington.
    Two: This subject gets too complicated and technical for adequate discussion in a comments-forum such as this.

    Chris C-F: If you are interested to explore further the possibilities for heavy rail, I would be more than happy to discuss it in a meeting. Then you would be in a better position to critique my proposals. And happy to include any others with minds open to the H-R possibilities.

     
  34. Helen B, 9. April 2018, 11:52

    Neil Douglas is spot on. $250 million per km is unbelievable. It is time we had expert engineers making decisions rather than politicians. Going down Lambton Quay would be madness. It would cost a fortune and go the speed of a snail.

    Surely the waterfront route is the only viable option. The main tram stop (Clarries) is still there and the disused platform on the seaward side of the rail station is crying out for redevelopment.

    People should be forced to walk a bit. We are getting too fat! It’s only a short walk to the cable car from Clarries and I see in the paper this morning that needs $20 million to refurbish two carriages.

     
  35. Kerry, 9. April 2018, 14:49

    Helen. Not unbelievable, and not just light rail. It does happen, usually when one of these is been ignored:
    “— There must be political consensus regardless of the means of finance.
    “— It must be part of an urban strategy.
    “— There must be a clear decision-making framework.”
    and
    … it is necessary to go beyond the issue of movement and of choice of mode. The questions have to be asked, “What are we trying to achieve?” and “What kind of city do we want for the future?”

    Wellington doesn’t have any of these yet, but does have time to get it right.
    —Don’t commit until it has been properly priced and everything checked.
    —Do hire experienced contractors. Maybe hire a couple of experienced people whose sole job is to look over other consultants’ shoulders and report direct to officers and councillors.
    —Do find out what went wrong in Sydney, and learn from it.
    —Also watch Auckland, and learn from them.
    —Don’t leave the planners out. Or the engineers, or the decision-makers
    —Do make organisational changes. Leaving WCC, GWRC and NZTA to puzzle it out somehow won’t work. Everybody needs to know how it will be puzzled out, and who will play what part in the decision-making framework.

    And do not, on any account, accept any of my work without checking it.

     
  36. greenwelly, 9. April 2018, 15:01

    @Helen B, $250million/km is still cheaper than Honolulu’s Rail transit project that is looking like hitting $9billion (US) for 32km – granted it’s elevated, but that’s north of ~350million (NZ) per km and it still ends up 2km short of the main tourist destinations at Waikiki….

     
  37. Citizen Joe, 9. April 2018, 16:02

    And wait Greenwelly there’s more… $1 billion a km for burrowing under Melbourne CBD ($10 billion for 10 kms) for Melbourne Metro. That puts Dave B’s plan for heavy rail to Wellington Airport at $14 billion and makes $3 billion Light Rail look cheap as chips.

    And why do we need mass transport anyway? Only because of continued exponential worldwide population growth and mass emigration to Australasia. Without immigration we’d be just dandy with what we’ve got.

     
  38. Dave B, 9. April 2018, 17:58

    @ Citizen Joe. You’re wrong! It’s only 8Km from the station to the airport so by your pricing scale that’s only $8 billion for heavy rail. And I should point out that price includes lots of optional extras such as Colin McCahon originals lining the walls of every station, greenstone inlays for all the platforms and diamond-studded train wheels.

    I hope you protested about the building of the Arras road tunnel in Wellington. That was $124 million for a mere 130m of tunnel, so not far off $1 billion per km also.

     
  39. Cllr Chris Calvi-Freeman, 9. April 2018, 18:27

    @ Helen: “It is time we had expert engineers making decisions rather than politicians.” No. Engineers give advice and recommendations; ultimately the politicians make the decisions, and must live with the consequences. And equally importantly, politicians often pose the challenges for engineers to research and solve. My advocacy for LRT is intended to do exactly that: to create the climate and the challenge for this issue to be fully researched. Otherwise, no-one is going to do anything.

    @ Neil: Yes I’m aware of the Sydney debacle. We’d have to be much cleverer in Wellington, perhaps with some sort of piled girder structure under the carriageway to spread the LRT load and protect the buried services.

    @ Mike, Luke, John: Thanks for your input. Mike, the fare zones will need tweaking. The zone 1 bus boundary is Aotea Quay while the rail boundary is north of Ngauranga – with no tweaks, the combined rail/LRT ride from Ngauranga to the top of Pirie St (Mt Vic) would be just one zone. People currently pay much more than a one zone penalty when they transfer from rail to bus, and it would be logical for rail passengers transferring to the LRT to pay a bit more than they currently pay just to travel to Wellington station. @ David: I’ll take you up on your offer, please get in touch.

    @ Luke: A waterfront route would take two lanes from 6, not one lane. Pedestrian subways go deep and would involve significant buried service relocation and drainage/flooding issues, so covered overbridges would be required. Yes it might be cheaper than via the CBD but you need to look at acceptability, not just cost.

     
  40. Roy Kutel, 9. April 2018, 21:17

    CCF: How much will stronger roads cost WCC ratepayers for double decker buses?

     
  41. Helen B., 9. April 2018, 22:02

    Chris CF, I appreciate your accessibility. I think you worked in London? Well as I understand it, Transport for London is run by a board with people appointed by the Mayor. I don’t know the makeup but I’m thinking they might know something about transport? Compare and contrast with GWRC councillors. Might the difference in experience account for decisions made?

     
  42. Glen Smith, 9. April 2018, 22:03

    Mile Mellor. Thanks for the information. I wasn’t proposing tram-trains but ‘medium’ weight rail carriages. That is train units as close as possible to Matangi units but having altered specifications (weight,turning radius,acceleration, deceleration etc) that would allow them to run along a high- quality fully-dedicated at-grade across-town corridor. This is a corridor which can’t be achieved down Lambton Quay, Featherston St, through Newtown or in any other crowded multipupose space but I believe is possible using only existing or planned road corridors/ open space if it is done in conjunction with the NZTA’s plans for a second Mt Victoria Tunnel and changes on Ruahine St/ Wellington road. Given such a ‘medium’ weight carriage (which I think would be similar to a Matangi unit) what are the technical differences that allow Matangis to share with freight units but not units such as this?
    Taking Hutt rail to the west of the Kapiti line would (correct me if I’m wrong) allow doubling of capacity through the ‘pinchpoint’ south of Kaiwharawhara station where the Hutt and Kapiti lines merge into one double line entering the station. Simply extending the 4 lines wouldn’t achieve this since the exiting Hutt trains would have to cross (and therefore share space with) both Kapiti lines.
    Chris CF you say this pinch point is already at capacity at peak times in terms of units per hour (although units could be made larger). How long do you estimate it is before this bottleneck starts to limit plans to expand rail share from the Hutt and Kapiti?

     
  43. Cllr Chris Calvi-Freeman, 9. April 2018, 22:10

    @Roy Nothing, hopefully. Our expectation is that GWRC will compensate WCC for this, as was their decision to contract these buses to run on on WCC roads. Officers from both councils and NZTA are in discussion.

     
  44. Citizen Joe, 9. April 2018, 22:29

    Dave B, are you proposing to tunnel under the harbour and miss out some CBD stations? Google measures it at 9.7 kms (Rail Sta to Airport via SH1). Perhaps leave the Colin McCahons at Te Papa?

     
  45. IanS, 10. April 2018, 7:15

    The LRT waterfront route must ensure that the new light rail stop has a fully integrated facility designed into the entrance of the new Chinese Garden. And the weather-protected pedestrian link across the road is a multi purpose design for these facilities. But I am sure the City has this detail already included in the proposed leases related to the Chinese Garden. We are beyond the silly times when the left hand did not know ……

     
  46. Wellington Commuter, 10. April 2018, 9:06

    @CCF. As far as I can tell, there is nothing in the GWRC proposed budget about paying for any bus road access or maintenance by these new heavier buses. I say this noting the GWRC IS planning to increase their funding of KiwiRail track access for rail units to $14m/year (+$4M) and their 2018/19 budget also includes funding for bus shelter maintenance and cleaning. Road damage by these heavier buses is predicted to cost someone several million/year so it looks like the WCC ratepayer will get the bill. Public submissions to the GWRC Annual Plan close on 29th April … perhaps the WCC can submit to the GWRC about this issue ?

     
  47. John Rankin, 10. April 2018, 9:22

    @ChrisC-F said “An extra minute spent on an LRT isn’t the same as an extra minute walking – the latter has a higher disbenefit”. Yes, but we have to pay the piper. For a given cost, a slower service must run less frequently, which means a longer average wait for the next service.

    So for a given investment, the choices are:
    a) a waterfront route that’s faster and more frequent; or
    b) a city route that’s slower and less frequent.

    Or, if you want to same frequency:
    c) a city route that’s slower and more expensive.

    @DaveB: perhaps we might see a Scoop article that sets out your proposal in more depth?

     
  48. Neil Douglas, 10. April 2018, 9:26

    Kerry’s cost graph (previous article) was for Croydon Light Rail and is therefore rather dated (I see Roger Blakeley referred to it in Dom Post letters today). The 28km Croydon line was built between 1997 and 2000 at a cost of 200 million pounds. This makes it NZ$21 million per kilometre (NZ$3/pound as it was back then). Allowing for inflation, say by doubling it, puts the cost at $40 million per km.

    Now $40m/km strikes me as reasonable whereas today’s Australian prices (reaching $250 million per km for Sydney are not). So get the Croydon engineers over here.

     
  49. Cllr Chris Calvi-Freeman, 10. April 2018, 10:58

    @Wellington Commuter. Thanks for this but it’s in hand. I would expect an announcement shortly.

    @John Rankin. Yes, but if you take that to its illogical conclusion you have an express LRT from airport to station, that runs very “efficiently” but serves very few. Somewhere along the line (NPI) a compromise must be reached between operational efficiency and meeting the needs and desires of passengers and thereby maximising patronage. LRT running costs are low – it makes sense to budget for adequate rolling stock and run it frequently, about 18 hours a day. An important point (in my prediction at least) is that the LRT would replace the vast majority of buses coming from the south and east, so there wouldn’t be many complementary/competing bus services running along the golden mile for people to transfer to if they wanted to avoid the walk between the harbour quays and the shopping precinct. This vast reduction in buses would of course make the LRT journey through the CBD pretty fast and reliable too.

    @Neil Douglas. Much of the Croydon tram link was built on existing tracks or at least existing rail alignments, hence the very low construction cost per km.

     
  50. Jonny Utzone, 10. April 2018, 19:31

    CCF – note that central government money is for RAPID rail not snail rail.
    [Comments are now closed – we’ve reached the maximum that our system can handle. However there’ll be a third article on this subject soon.]