Wellington Scoop

Mass transit – a decision for a citizens’ assembly

by Jenny Condie
The largest investment in Let’s Get Wellington Moving is mass transit. The highest profile decision we need to make on mass transit is: which vehicle technology will we use?

The contenders are bus rapid transit (BRT), autonomous BRT (sometimes called “trackless trams”), or light rail.

Bus rapid transit is cheaper, but has lower capacity. Light rail is more expensive, and has much greater capacity. Autonomous BRT may be able to provide slightly greater capacity than BRT, but not as much as light rail. Its big advantage over BRT is needing fewer drivers. Given that Wellington is currently cancelling bus services due to a driver shortage, this is an important issue for our decision on mass transit. However, autonomous bus technology is new and they are still being tested. (All can now be delivered using electricity, so there is no major difference on emissions.)

In Auckland, this decision was easy – they are a much larger city and clearly needed the greater capacity that light rail can provide. The provisional business case on mass transit prepared for Let’s Get Wellington Moving indicates that Wellington is near the capacity boundary between BRT and light rail. Therefore it is unlikely that a business case will deliver a clear “winner” on the best mode.

The decision will then boil down to a matter of value preferences (cost vs capacity). The people best placed to make decisions about their preferences and trade-offs are ratepayers themselves.

People are smart. I believe the best way to choose the transit technology to take Wellington into the future is a citizen’s assembly.

What is a Citizen’s Assembly?

A citizens’ assembly asks a representative group of people to develop an informed opinion on a specific issue based on expert advice and evidence. Citizens’ assemblies have been used in a growing number of countries and cities.

“Citizens’ assemblies give members of the public the time and opportunity to learn about and discuss a topic, before reaching conclusions. Assembly members are asked to make trade-offs and arrive at workable recommendations.” from citizensassemblyni.org/faq/

There is growing evidence that this form of participatory democracy is effective:

“The balanced and structured process of deliberation results in more informed preferences. A requirement to justify opinions, for example, counteracts the bias of prior beliefs. Opinions tend to be neither polarised nor uniform, with participants developing increased respect and understanding for opposing viewpoints.”

A member of the Irish citizens’ assembly on abortion described her experience in an article for The Guardian:

“The atmosphere was friendly but serious – we were proud to have been given an important task. We wanted to take in all the information, help shape the debate and make solid recommendations that were representative of our views at the end of a period of deep learning about the topics.”

When Melbourne held a citizens’ jury on obesity they used social media to include others in the process. One of the members of the jury discusses her experience in this video.

How will a Citizens’ Assembly on mass transit work?

First, there will be a detailed business case prepared on all the options. We need to make sure that analysis is thorough and of high quality. The analysis in the business case will provide the evidence base that will be presented to the members of the citizens’ assembly.

City council would fund the citizens’ assembly. It will be organised based on best practice from around the world. This may mean that an independent group would be given responsibility for running the assembly.

As mayor I will support the preference of the citizens’ assembly. I will advocate for their choice to the joint decision makers on Let’s Get Wellington Moving – Wellington City Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and New Zealand Transport Authority.

Jenny Condie is a candidate for the Wellington mayoralty.


  1. John Rankin, 6. September 2019, 10:16

    A Wellington mayoralty candidate saying something sensible about transport. There is hope!

    But LGWM needs to fast-track the “detailed business case” referenced in the article. Let’s have a little urgency, by convening the Citizens’ Assembly to start sitting one year after the election. Give the business case team a fixed deadline to focus their collective minds.

  2. Helene Ritchie, 6. September 2019, 13:37

    Good one Jennie. Well researched and explained! Citizens Assemblies are great for some decisions. But on this one, it’s time fir ACTION…not more talk, copious plans.

    Personally I think Light rail is the only way to go for Wellington’s mass rapid transit – to achieve our aim of moving most people in the least number of vehicles (and reliable ones at that!). Have a look at my report on Scoop news. My research shows that the Government looked into Light rail for Wellington in 1995-nearly 25 years ago…and concluded then that it was “economically, environmentally and transport appropriate.”

    I want the Regional Council to take the lead….next year call for EOIs (expressions of interest) and then an RFP ( Request for Proposal) to further refine the project it…and have funding, an indicative timetable and Heads of Agreement contract in place no later than June 2022. it will still take maybe a decade to finally complete even if we started tomorrow.

    By the way I sent you an email invite to participate in a fun debate of women candidates which I am organising…you would be the only mayoral candidate…the others are too busy! Email me and I will give you the details if you want to star!

  3. Henry Filth, 6. September 2019, 13:37

    Are Wellingtonians allergic to taking decisions?

    Is the fear of action so deeply rooted as to prevent all action, preferring the illusion of progress given by endless rounds of consultation and review?

  4. Concerned Wellingtonian, 6. September 2019, 19:05

    It’s good to see Helene back in action.
    Her spirit and nous have been sorely missed.

  5. Kerry, 6. September 2019, 21:14

    Jenny. Now that is a good idea. A representative group pulling together informed opinions on an agreed objective. My own view is that light rail is the way to go—with an early start—but a Citizen’s Assembly can check that. There is a bit of checking to do…

    An important barrier is misinformation, and BRT is itself an example. Greater Wellington (GW) made some crass assumptions in the 2013 Spine Study, generating false results. Worse, it was never withdrawn, and many people still see the study as valid. GW’s error was ‘BRT creep’ (it is in Wikipedia). BRT comes in several versions, and GW chose the cheapest option, without checking its capacity; the project had never defined BRT properly.
    Other barriers are time and habit:
    — LGWM took a long time from initial survey to Cabinet Paper (both necessary processes). Near the end, a New Zealand programme for carbon-zero by 2050 appeared. LGWM is proposing a 15% reduction in car use by 2034, but is that enough?
    — A habit example was on the news this evening; a major upgrade of Kiwirail’s North Auckland line. The usual, ‘do the roads first,’ response appeared, but the point is to get freight off the roads, in this case to Marsden Point; rail is far more energy-efficient than road.

    LGWM see Wellington as near the capacity boundary between BRT and light rail, but this may be a false choice. A fundamental problem in Wellington is that no central Wellington route is wide enough for four lanes at stops, so that buses can overtake and avoid delays. BRT in Auckland is fine, because the stops all have passing lanes.
    — The golden mile is overloaded at peak hours, and badly needs fixing to improve bus timing. Some buses will have to take an alternative route, which almost has to be the waterfront, but there is still a problem. If buses are taking two lanes on the waterfront, where find space for both motor traffic and building light rail?
    — Trackless trams may become a competitor for light rail, but right now are still at the prototype stage. Wellington is too small and inexperienced to be a pioneer, and a likely best choice is ‘the same as Auckland.’
    — If BRT is installed in Wellington and fails, replacing with light rail will be much more costly than starting with light rail. It is a proven technology, available from multiple suppliers.

    Perhaps the best approach would be simply getting on with light rail, say from the Railway Station to Wellington Hospital, reaping the advantages of an early start:
    — Medium-density housing development along the route will begin at once, creating space for inner-city housing with little need for a car.
    — Commuter bus routes passing the Hospital will attract passengers to light rail, as a faster and more reliable trip. LGWM plans show the same approach at Kilbirnie and Miramar, but with alternatives to minimise passengers having to change twice.

    Light rail may prove to be cheaper than its rivals. European studies show that if light rail is carrying more than about 3000 peak-hour passengers an hour (about a third of route capacity), the operating costs are lower than for buses, and the savings sufficient to pay the extra capital costs. A main reason is fewer drivers, because the vehicles are so much longer.

  6. John Rankin, 7. September 2019, 8:00

    As always, @HenryFilth asks a good question: “Are Wellingtonians allergic to taking decisions?” Yes and no. Wellingtonians, as ordinary people, are very good at making decisions. Sadly, our elected representatives and their officials would rather talk and consult, trying to find a mythical consensus that will please everyone at least cost. Not to mention relitigating past decisions at election time in search of votes.

    Our elected representatives seem unable to decide whether to invest in public and active transport first (including the start of a rapid transit system), or build 4 lanes to the planes first, or do a bit of both (badly), or (waves magic wand) do both for the price of one and get someone else to pay for it.

    As I read Jenny’s proposal, she wants to commit to rapid transit and give the question of what form it will take to a properly informed citizens’ assembly. Then she wants to fund and build it. This proposal could be Wellington’s best shot at getting something truly game-changing done quickly.

  7. Matthew, 7. September 2019, 9:37

    We have a citizens’ assembly – it’s called Council. We elect (and pay!) councillors to represent us and make decisions. Stop fudging. Make decisions.

  8. Roy Kutel, 8. September 2019, 8:03

    There has been a business case for which Wellington Ratepayers spent $1 million. It was the Spine Study done by international consultancy firm AECOM and peer reviewed by local experts for GWRC led by Luke Troy. Bus priority won and Light Rail came last producing 5 cents of benefit for every dollar of cost. Do you think that LRT benefits can be increased twenty-fold (assuming costs don’t change) to get a positive result?


    Is Wellington going to keep on doing studies until a result is concocted that everyone likes? Which means studying options forever?

  9. John Rankin, 8. September 2019, 13:25

    The only grain of truth in @RoyKutel’s comment is that for the project assessed in the Spine Study, light rail was a poor fit to the requirements. If I have a bag of nails and do a business case to choose between buying a hammer or a screwdriver, it tells me a hammer is better. Is Roy saying that therefore I should never buy a screwdriver?

    To deconstruct Roy’s argument a bit more:

    1. Noting that the study was carried out by AECOM is just an appeal to authority (argumentum ad verecundiam). It tells us nothing about the validity of the conclusions.

    2. The LGWM rapid transit proposal is completely different from the project proposed and evaluated in the spine study. In particular, building the light rail line proposed in that study would have imposed a large transfer penalty on most of the potential riders, for little or no benefit.

    3. If WCC had designed and implemented the bus priority measures identified (at a high level) in the spine study, it’s likely that many of the problems collectively described as “bustastrophe” could have been avoided. The spine study business case may have reached the right conclusion, but nothing was done.

    4. We know from light rail business cases in overseas cities that most of the benefits come from new economic value created through transit-oriented development along the rapid transit corridor and around the stations. This benefit was not included in the spine study business case. Bus-based options create little new value.

    5. The capacity of bus priority or bus rapid transit in Wellington is about half that of light rail. Given the projected growth along LGWM’s rapid transit corridor (new information since the spine study), any new business case must include the cost of upgrading a bus-based solution to light rail when demand outgrows capacity. This cost was omitted from the spine study business case.

    Now that I have a box of screws instead of a bag of nails, perhaps I need to have another look at the case for buying a screwdriver. For LGWM’s rapid transit proposal, I predict:
    – light rail will have a higher benefit than bus rapid transit, arising from the transit-oriented development opportunities
    – bus rapid transit will cost more than light rail, once we include the cost and difficulty of upgrading the corridor to light rail when demand exceeds BRT capacity

  10. Roy Kutel, 8. September 2019, 18:03

    JR – I think you didn’t like the result and would continue to advocate your option which I think is Light Rail even if ten reputable consultancy firms all came up with BCRs less than 1. The only problem for ratepayers is that ten studies would cost us $10 million. Then again that’s what LGWM has probably cost ratepayers and taxpayers (if not more).

  11. Keith Flinders, 8. September 2019, 20:12

    Other costs that get forgotten comparing bus to LRT are the expense of maintaining the road surfaces the buses chew up, the rubber tyre and brake pad contamination, plus the shorter life span of a bus.

    Now that Wellington has declared a climate emergency then the only type of buses that must be considered are electric ones. No more diesels, in fact no diesels at all. Start factoring in the cost of electric buses at about $1.5 million each, their 12 – 15 year life span, and their battery replacements every few years at about $0.5 million per bus. Now add on the several electrical installations required to recharge them, then on that basis compare them to LRT. A typical LRT vehicle will have a life span of around 25 – 30 years.

    The goal posts have moved dramatically since the spine study of 2013, so consign it to the recycle bin. As for suggesting BRT, just what were they thinking of in Wellington’s narrow streets which cannot provide the space for the extra lanes required to make it work.

    Also reflect on the idiotic decision to remove all the overhead trolley installation that could have been deployed for In Motion Charging for new electric buses on routes not served by LRT. Karori for example. Four of those standing in this year’s GWRC elections voted to get rid of the trolley buses and they hope that voters will trust them again.

  12. Wellington Commuter, 9. September 2019, 0:09

    @Roy. Thanks for highlighting that the LGWM is going over the same ground as the 2013 Spine Study that found investing in Bus Rapid Transit was the best way to deliver great PT to Wellington East and South.

    @John, in response to some of your points:
    2) Yes the Spine Study recommended a different LRT design with one track to Newtown and another via a LRT tunnel direct to Kilbirnie. But you are wrong when you say the LGWM LRT would have a lower level of hubbing and interchange than the Spine Study LRT. LGWM documents state that all bus services from East and South of Kilbirnie must become feeder buses with interchanging onto LRT at hubs. A huge advantage of BRT is peak buses can run from the end suburbs such as Seatoun and Lyall Bay directly to the CBD without interchange as with BRT the service will be reliable running on bus lanes.
    3) I agree that implementing bus lanes and bus priority before the new bus network design would have made the new network run better but they would have also made the old bus network run better. GWRC adding interchanges and double deck buses meant the bus service is significantly cheaper to run but, as everyone knows, the service is worse. A LGWM LRT future of running all Wellington East PT via the zoo and Newtown means an even slower service compared to a direct bus into town.
    4) I dispute the claim that BRT does not add value to local real estate. But the key point people are realising is building LRT will make little or no difference to PT travel to most suburbs. What LRT will do is hugely increase the value of areas beside LRT stations. This is because most people want to walk-bus-walk to work but with LRT that only can happen in a few places and only the rich will be able to afford to live close to great PT.
    5) Now that buses can be as electric as trams, light rail fans only have the old “BRT doesn’t have enough capacity” excuse left to oppose investing in buses. Most areas are easily within normal bus service capacity let alone BRT. The only area of genuine high capacity is the northern half of the Golden Mile and even here peak patronage levels can be managed by a good quality bus infrastructure … hell we STILL haven’t got a continuous bus lane both ways along the Golden Mile yet LRT fans point to the current neglected service as evidence BRT won’t work.
    As for population growth, Wellington South and East are the areas predicted to have the LOWEST level of population growth in Wellington City. Wellington West will grow as much as South and East combined and Wellington North might have to grow by twice that. But trust politicians to focus billions of dollars for mass transit investment on the wrong area.

    The LGWM business case for LRT will be interesting because the writers will struggle to make an indirect route to Wellington East better than a direct BRT route via a second Mt Vic tunnel. My prediction is LGWM will try to justify LRT as better than BRT by assuming the second Mt Vic tunnel is not built and so will only consider a BRT option that uses the same indirect LRT route via Newtown and the Zoo.

  13. Kerry, 9. September 2019, 11:02

    Wellington – To repeat, you are making the same mistakes as the Spine Study, which was unworkable.
    Only the weakest form of BRT will work in Wellington, with a capacity of about 60 buses an hour. The golden mile now carries up to about 90 buses an hour, and is badly overloaded.
    A second bus route on the waterfront will work, but only until Wellington needs a total of 120 buses an hour: not far away. At some stage it will would replacing with light rail, which would be much more costly than doing light rail early.
    Replacing with BRT is not an option because no plausible bus route in central Wellington has enough width for stops arranged so that all peak-hour buses can leave as soon as the doors close, with no queuing. The 60 bus/hr limit is explained clearly in the 2011 Bus Review.
    The sole exception is the five-section version of ‘Trackless Trams,’ not yet commercial, because they are long enough to have adequate capacity at 60 bus/hr. Choosing this option would be irresponsible until it is commercially proven and reliable, which may be too late for Wellington.
    You are thinking of BRT fanning out to provide a quality service to all suburbs, but this is another fallacy; the pretence that Wellington public transport doesn’t need hubs because bus routes can be duplicated indefinitely.
    Light rail adds value to housing because relocating is costly, making the route a long-term commitment to service. BRT is a commitment until the next election.
    Light rail to the airport will make a difference in many suburbs, from Island Bay right around to Miramar. Passengers will be able to catch a bus to Miramar, Kilbirnie or Wellington Hospital, then make a fast and reliable trip to the city. LGWM papers show a layout with a bus alternative to light rail, to Karori, minimising the need for passengers to change twice. Light rail will also benefit the other suburbs. Most need only a quality bus route on the golden mile, which is much easier if light rail is doing the heavy lifting, on the waterfront.
    Public transport in Wellington City needs three layers, plus trains north of the Railway Station:
    — Light rail on the waterfront and to the destinations that best justify its capacity. LGWM has chosen hubs at Wellington Hospital, Kilbirnie, Miramar and the Airport, plus fairly widely-spaced intermediate stops.
    — Feeder buses to light rail at the chosen hubs, plus a though bus route to Karori to minimise the number of passengers having to change twice.
    — Conventional bus routes in other suburbs, running on a reliable golden mile.

  14. John Rankin, 9. September 2019, 11:43

    @RoyKutel: thank you for telling me what I do and don’t like. What I want to see is a business case from LGWM like the economic analysis carried out for the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro project (which is for fully segregated BRT, not light rail). This takes full account of the wider economic benefits of rapid transit, which the spine study ignored. Unlike Roy, I am not going to second-guess what the outcome will be.

    @WellingtonCommuter: I do not know (and neither do you) whether or not the rapid transit route LGWM proposes is the best option. Their published documents make it clear there are arguments for and against the route they have proposed. That’s why LGWM is doing a detailed business case. If the route currently proposed is properly designed, a journey time from the airport to the railway station of 20 minutes ought to be achievable. Because, as you say, it is not the most direct route, it has to be optimised for speed.

    @WellingtonCommuter needs to compare apples with apples. Suppose the LGWM single line route runs every 10 minutes. A split route running every 10 minutes, with one leg to the hospital, Newtown and the zoo plus another leg to Kilbirnie, Miramar and the airport, means each leg has a 20 minute service. Otherwise you have to double the frequency (and hence the operating cost) to maintain a 10 minute service on the 2 legs. So while a person getting on at the airport may well have a faster journey, she will wait 10 minutes on average, compared to a 5 minute wait for the single line route. Or the cost will be higher to deliver the desired quality of service. Let’s wait and see what the business case concludes.

    The best route and the best technology to run on that route are two quite separate decisions, which should not be conflated.

    The comments from Roy, Keith, Wellington Commuter and me nicely illustrate why Jenny’s proposal for a citizens’ assembly is a good one.

  15. Roy Kutel, 9. September 2019, 14:09

    Well said Keith – it’s a pity you are not standing. I doubt I’ll vote. Axing Wellington’s trolley buses was an act of eco-vandalism. Voting in a climate change emergency added insult to injury.

  16. John Rankin, 9. September 2019, 18:48

    What is @WellingtonCommuter’s evidence for the claim that with LRT “only the rich will be able to afford to live close to great PT”? This is not my experience in overseas cities with modern light rail networks. What typically gets built around LRT stations is medium density, low rise mixed-use commercial and residential buildings. For stops closer to the city centre, the density is higher.

  17. Roy Kutel, 9. September 2019, 20:22

    @JR – The Spine Study did include Wider Economic Benefits in their CBA. See section 5.4.1.
    “Wider economic benefits (WEB’s) describe the productivity advantages that arise from the close spatial concentration of economic activity. There is a strong link between transport provision and the benefits that arise from the spatial concentration of economic activity. The contribution of the Bus Priority, Bus Rapid Transit and Light Rail Transit options to the upgrading of the Wellington public transport system qualifies for the wider economic benefits to be taken into consideration. For the purpose of this economic evaluation the WEB’s were assumed at 25% of all other benefits. Such a figure is consistent with the amount of WEB’s of similar projects.”

  18. Wellington Commuter, 10. September 2019, 15:56

    @Kerry You claim “Replacing with BRT is not an option because no plausible bus route in central Wellington has enough width for stops arranged so that all peak-hour buses can leave as soon as the doors close, with no queuing. The 60 bus/hr limit is explained clearly in the 2011 Bus Review.”

    I have repeatedly refuted your repeated misuse of this statement in the Bus Review, most recently about a year ago. Your cherry picking of this particular “fact” that suits your case against BRT really detracts to the many valid points you have made. Even the most casual bus user will understand you can get more than one bus per minute down a road if you start with a Billion dollar budget.

  19. John Rankin, 10. September 2019, 19:02

    @RoyKutel: nevertheless, the spine study ignored the new economic value light rail creates through redevelopment of under-used land around stations. Unlike Wellington Commuter, my take on the evidence is that such value creation is absent from the bus priority and BRT schemes in the spine study. To succeed, we need to plan light rail as an urban development project, not just a transport project. If we treat it as just another transport project, the way the spine study’s terms of reference required (and which determined its choice of consultants), we are setting light rail up to fail.

    So the spine study was sort of right: if you want to solve a transport problem, there are better-value solutions than light rail. But if you want to solve an urban form problem, light rail is the best solution we currently have. It’s possible that once the technology matures, so-called trackless trams (light rail vehicles running on virtual rails) will be a viable alternative.

    In the case of the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro (CAM), the value of additional jobs and housing dwarfs the transport benefits and wider economic impacts (see figure 7). The CAM also shows that gold-standard BRT can deliver similar benefits to light rail (at similar cost). Of course, Wellington is not Cambridge, but their example shows the importance of evaluating a rapid transit project as a strategic investment, not just as a transport tactic.

    Let’s leave it to Jenny’s citizens’ assembly to decide what problem we want to solve and how best to solve it.

  20. Derek G., 10. September 2019, 20:18

    @JR – I thought LGWM had spent the last two years determining our problem and the best way to solve it, which followed the Spine Study and 8 years of planning at GWRC introducing Bus Hubs.

  21. John Rankin, 10. September 2019, 20:45

    @WellingtonCommuter: I’m having difficulty understanding your comment to @Kerry above. Could you clarify:

    – What happens to cross traffic if you push more than one bus a minute down a road, given that you will need pre-emptive signal priority to maintain a BRT level of service (ie better than just bus priority)? How much grade separation will your $1bn need to buy to avoid long cross-street tailbacks during peak periods?

    – If BRT is on a Golden Mile route, how would you provide space for a passing lane and a stopping lane at the BRT stations between Panama St on Lambton Quay and the intersection of Manners and Taranaki? The road-widening potential is pretty limited.

    – If BRT is on the waterfront (where LGWM proposes rapid transit will run), how do you propose widening the Quays and Cable / Wakefield to provide for bus passing lanes at the BRT stations while maintaining 2 traffic lanes each way?

    It seems to me that given the physical constraints on Wellington’s streets through the city centre, unless you are proposing a radical reallocation of space from cars to buses, maintaining BRT service levels even at 60 buses per hour is a big ask. More likely, you would have to dial back the frequency so that you can run BRT service quality on 2 lanes (like a light rail or trackless tram, but with lower capacity vehicles).

    Bus priority is necessary, practical and should have been done years ago. But achieving even Bronze-standard BRT looks really tough to me, even with $1bn to spend. As far as I can tell, it’s challenges like these which have led CAM to propose running BRT underground through the centre of Cambridge, which would cost Wellington far more than $1bn.

    OTOH, perhaps I’m missing something.

  22. John Rankin, 10. September 2019, 20:54

    @DerekG: correct, but @RoyKutel and some others reject LGWM’s analysis. Also, the final route configuration and preferred technology are still open questions, awaiting the outcome of the detailed business case. My opinion is that LGWM’s analysis is generally good, with some areas which can still be improved. I trust the next stage of work will lift the design to the next level and we can get on and make it happen. Enough talking, let’s get moving.

  23. Wellington Commuter, 10. September 2019, 23:51

    @JohnRankin. Here is a link to the “Transit Capacity and Quality of Service Manual, 2nd Edition” “Part 4 – Bus Capacity” which is the reference used in the 2011 Bus Review for the statement that the maximum capacity of the Golden Mile is 60 buses per hour. Note the full section states on page 4-37:
    “A study of bus operations in Manhattan recommended the following desirable maximum a.m. peak hour bus volumes for arterial street bus lanes:
    • Two lanes exclusively for buses: 180 bus/h;
    • One lane exclusively for buses, partial use of adjacent lane: 100 bus/h;
    • One lane exclusively for buses, no use of adjacent lane: 70 bus/h; and
    • Buses in curb lane in mixed traffic: 60 bus/h.”

    Note the LOWEST maximum bus volume is 60 buses per hour … just having a continuous dedicated bus lane enables 70 buses per hour. Chapter 5 (pages 4-47 to 4-55) is dedicated to Arterial Street Bus Lanes … there are numerous ideas to improve bus capacity through the CBD so do have a read.

    Yes the road space between Lambton Quay and Manners Street is very constrained but with a budget of $1,000,000,000 (which is more than the combined cost of the 2nd Mt Vic tunnel and the 2nd Terrace tunnel) you could probably buy some space for pull-over (called off-line) bus stops along this bottleneck.

    Finally, it must be noted that PT passenger capacity is only high for the kilometer south of the railway station during the peak times. Investing in better dedicated space for buses will give a better idea of the real capacity of the Golden Mile.

  24. Kerry, 11. September 2019, 12:43

    Wellington. You have forgotten about northbound buses, also carrying morning-peak passengers, with sometimes serious queuing at Cuba St and probably other stops too. Sixty buses an hour is the figure given by MRCagney in the 2011 Bus Review (for single-deck buses), but a different source is given. Some variability is acknowledged, but 90 bus/hr is clearly too high. Seventy buses an hour might work, but is not certain and will make little difference; quality public transport growth can consume such a gain in two years.
    Light rail is going to be needed, and the more it is delayed, the greater the difficulty of finding space for two bus routes and a light rail route under construction.

  25. John Rankin, 11. September 2019, 19:23

    @WellingtonCommuter: thanks for clarifying that. I’m not going to die in a ditch over 60 or 70 buses per hour. As I read the data, once you have more than a bus a minute, the probability goes up quickly that an unplanned delay at a stop on the bus in front will hold up the bus behind. This in turn leads to cascading delays and unpredictable journeys. So yes, I agree with you (and LGWM) that we need to implement bus priority measures starting yesterday.

    I am less sanguine than you that we can afford to wait and see before starting to build a rapid transit line. It will take at least 10 years to build light rail (say) from the station to the airport, longer if we adopt LGWM’s leisurely pace. It’s time we started to build ahead of demand, instead of constantly playing catch-up. This is especially true if we want to use rapid transit to foster transit-oriented development and intensification within Wellington. Bus priority alone will not do this.

    On further reflection, I take back my comment about 2-lane BRT being practical in Wellington. As I understand your BRT proposal, it would not be a trunk and feeder design; rather, buses would leave the BRT corridor to get to their final suburban destinations. There would not be enough capacity on the BRT part of the routes to serve all the destinations, while still reaching even Bronze-standard BRT service levels.

    That leaves LGWM’s trunk and feeder high-capacity rapid transit design, using either light rail or trackless tram. At this point, I am sceptical that trackless tram is ready for prime time. I also think there is water to flow under the bridge before the route is finalised. The LGWM proposal is a good start, but as the LGWM documentation shows, all route options have limitations. There is no one obvious right answer; at some point soon, we will just have to pick one and go for it.