Wellington Scoop

Regional Council planning public transport for ten years – more electric buses

electric bus
Photo from RNZ

News from Greater Wellington Regional Council
The Regional Council’s Transport Committee today endorsed the proposed draft Wellington Regional Public Transport Plan 2021-31, which will be consulted with the public.

“The draft Plan has been built around the strategic priority of an efficient, accessible and low carbon public transport network, achieved through mode shift, decarbonisation of the public transport fleet and improving customer experience”, says the council’s Transport Committee Chair Cr Roger Blakeley.

“The draft Plan could not be more timely given the Government’s Declaration of a Climate Emergency yesterday”, says Cr Blakeley. “Decarbonisation of the public transport fleet in the Wellington Region will be a key contributor to reducing Greater Wellington’s carbon footprint. Public transport contributes 50% of Greater Wellington’s carbon footprint, with 37% from buses and 13% from rail”.

Cr Blakeley says “The draft plan includes the previously announced increase of the number of electric buses by 98 to 108, which will be progressively delivered from mid-2021 and take the proportion of e-buses in the fleet to around 21%, which is high by international standards.

“Investment on this scale is driving us towards meeting the draft plan’s goal to ‘accelerate the implementation of an electric bus fleet in the region by 2030’, in particular through retiring diesel buses and replacement with electric buses when the operator contracts come up for renewal in 2027.

“The draft Plan also includes additional rolling stock on the Wellington Metro Rail Network, and planned new rolling stock on both the Palmerston North and Masterton train lines, including investigating the option of battery-electric trains.

Positive moves are also being made towards decarbonisation of the harbour, with investment by East by West Ferries, our harbour ferry operator, in the development of an electric ferry which will be commissioned in 2021. The draft Plan envisages further exploration of decarbonisation of the ferry fleet”.

Cr Blakeley says that another strong feature of the draft Plan is a target of 40% increase of mode share of public transport, walking, cycling and micro-mobility by 2030.

This will be achieved by working together with Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency and local councils on initiatives such as accelerating ‘Let’s Get Wellington Moving’ projects of Mass Rapid Transit and Bus Priority Action, increasing urban development density near public transport hubs, improving walking and cycling facilities.

“Mode shift will contribute to reduced carbon emissions and reduced congestion, by making public transport, walking and cycling an attractive alternative to private cars.

“Under the draft Plan, the National Integrated Ticketing System, enhanced Real Time Information and improved digital technology will positively increase customer experience and deliver our objective of a truly integrated and connected transport network.

“The draft plan has been developed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that experience shapes our planning for the next 10 years. Since coming out of lockdown, we’ve seen public transport patronage recover to over 80% of pre-COVID levels, higher than any other city in New Zealand. That is an indicator of the confidence and value our residents place in the public transport network, and the draft Plan aims to deliver on those high expectations”, says Cr Blakeley.

The council will be discussing the draft Plan initially with its strategic partners, and public consultation is scheduled from 15 February to 19 March.

DomPost: All electric buses by 2027

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  1. Dave B, 3. December 2020, 18:03

    What is the plan to get a “40% increase of mode share of public transport, walking, cycling and micro-mobility by 2030”? The policy most visible around the region is massive road construction and constant advocacy for more. How will this persuade people to reduce their driving and switch to public transport?

    Introducing more electric buses is all very well but if the service remains basically the same as at present, how will this attract more people out of their cars?

    The only situation I am aware of where PT mode-share reaches 40% is among commuters to Wellington CBD from other parts of the region with some 45% choosing to take the train (less-so from Johnsonville). Why is there no plan to extend rail in order to bring this benefit to more areas? Improvements like the present Trentham-Upper Hutt double-tracking are great to see, but these are dwarfed by the scale of the inducement car-users are getting with the likes of Transmission Gully etc.

    Is there a plan to reverse the trend towards more driving and greater use of fossil-fuel-hungry vehicles such as SUVs? If there is I can’t see it.

  2. Kara, 3. December 2020, 20:39

    E-buses plus lower fares will attract more bus users.

  3. Lindsay, 3. December 2020, 22:01

    Is Cr Blakeley trying to say that we might have an all-electric bus fleet by 2030?

  4. Cr Daran Ponter, 3. December 2020, 22:04

    @ Dave B – You must not have heard Dave:

    In addition to the double tracking from Trentham to Upper Hutt and the upgrade of the Catenary system on the Kapiti and Hutt lines, the Government has committed $211 Million for significant track improvements on the Wairarapa line – including passing loops, new signalling, refurbished track, reduced number of level crossing, upgraded Featherston platform and stabling for new trains. This $$$$ will also provide for the clearing of the “Wellington throat” (lines coming into Wellington Railway Station) and for the late-life upgrade for the Capital Connection (while we await new trains).

    The Government and GWRC have also committed to a detailed business case and tender process for the purchase of regional rail vehicles (cost circa $300-500 Million) to replace the Capital Connection and Wairarapa trains, provide additional services on those lines, and for patronage growth on the Kāpiti and Hutt lines.

    Finally, yes, GWRC and Tranzurban and NZBus have committed to the purchase of more electric buses (98 – taking the fleet to 108 or 21% of the entire fleet). This is more than just buying electric buses as this will provide more buses for patronage growth and so we can extend services.

    The national integrated ticketing programme is advancing and is now into the tendering phase. First priority is to introduce integrated ticketing to trains in approx 2-3 years. Integrated ticketing will also herald a new fare structure for the network to further incentivise public transport travel.

    …..and there will be more to come.

  5. Wellington Commuter, 3. December 2020, 22:05

    With buses cancelled daily, commuters are more interested that their bus turns up rather than whether it’s electric when it does so. So what does the PT plan say about paying drivers enough? [via twitter]

  6. Jack Yan, 3. December 2020, 22:14

    Remember when our buses were already powered by electricity? [via twitter]

  7. Patrick Reynolds, 3. December 2020, 22:19

    Great news. But this sentence in the article is clearly not right: “Public transport contributes 50 percent of Greater Wellington’s carbon footprint, with 37 percent from buses and 13 percent from rail.” Perhaps that should be: of land transport emissions? [via twitter]

  8. Ross Clark, 4. December 2020, 1:47

    Trying to encourage public transport use is one thing; but what will the politicians do to actively restrict car use? That nettle has not been grasped in a very long time. Prioritising buses on the roads is a small-scale fix that could be done now, and without too much political cost.

    The point is, that for all sorts of reasons, people like their cars and they like using them.

  9. Claire, 4. December 2020, 8:17

    Most people drive cars and will continue to do so. In time they will be electric. Hopefully that can be sped up. PT needs to be attractive on time and very low cost to convince people. That can be done easily. Cycle use is low compared to to car use. Does anyone have the numbers? Trying to imagine cars not on the roads is naive.

  10. k, 4. December 2020, 10:37

    It is almost useless putting a lot of effort into attempting to change people’s personal car ownership habits, given New Zealand suburbs were built around the assumption of car ownership, and the transition to EVs is already rapidly occurring. Eventually all cars will be EVs and in a country like New Zealand with a very green electric grid, that means emissions will be vastly lower from cars in the near future than now.

    I’m all for accelerating the transition to EVs and for encouraging public transport/cycling in suburbs that can support it, but let us please focus climate-change reductions on areas other than “reducing car usage” (since that won’t be a factor in climate emissions soon) and put all out effort towards our much harder-to-change emission sources like livestock and commercial/industrial fossil fuel based systems. We should be capping the national livestock number and having that cap reduce each year (this would actually be good for farmers as their herds would increase in value, and the main downside would be for those looking to grow/start a new farm operation which is a much smaller group).

  11. luke, 4. December 2020, 12:28

    Wishful thinking to assume EVs are a panacea for climate change. Batteries don’t last forever, where does bitumen come from, is manufacturing a car carbon neutral?

  12. Dave B, 4. December 2020, 13:01

    @ Daran Ponter – thank you for listing the PT improvements that are in the pipeline. I was remiss in not acknowledging that an impressive amount is set to happen soon. However much of this is necessary – renewals or maintenance – such as track and catenary replacement. These are equivalent to road-resurfacing that happens without fanfare every 10 years or so on most roads, yet if added up over the 70-odd years that the track in the Rimutaka Tunnel has lasted, would probably also constitute major investment. Integrated ticketing and improved services on existing rail routes are definitely a step forward, but while these help to make better use of existing resources, they are hardly ‘breaking new ground’ for public transport (à la Transmission Gully, for car-use). For instance, what is planned to improve PT-connectivity to the beleaguered Southern Suburbs which are remote from rail, very car-dependent and clamouring for more motorway construction? I struggle to see how PT mode-share will increase to 40% (or by 40%) there, without some major new PT initiative that does indeed ‘break new ground’. But I am grateful that the general trend for PT is at least in the right direction now, even if not happening fast enough for those of us who have been waiting decades for meaningful change.

    @ K, there are far more societal costs to our excessive car-dependency than just carbon emissions, and going all-electric will not solve these. There is a need to “Move more people with fewer vehicles” (LGWM’s stated aim), so yes we do need to look long and hard at our driving habits. No-one is suggesting “Trying to imagine cars not on the roads” (@ Claire), but many are advocating policies which make driving less-necessary and which cease to encourage more of it.

    As regards prioritizing a reduction in agricultural emissions over reducing car-use, it needs to be borne in mind that Ag emissions do not add extra carbon to the environment the way digging-out and burning of fossil fuels does. Ag emissions should not deflect us from the need to cut back on practices that add extra carbon, such as fuelling NZ’s vehicle-fleet that is currently still 99.5% fossil-powered. Ceasing to build car-dependent suburbs is an important place to start.

  13. greenwelly, 4. December 2020, 14:14

    The elephant (hopefully not white) in the room is LGWM; the rollout of a new fleet of buses post 2027 will be highly dependant on the what/where/when of the MRT. It is promised to be in place around 2029?? which will likely result in another significant reorganisation of southern bus routes with a high capacity/high speed spine, and likely to result in a significant increase in Hubs and shorter routes.

    I have a feeling that many of the bus companies will attempt to retain their existing fleets and sweat them a bit longer until it’s clear what the actual demand requirements post the MRT actually are.

  14. Cr Daran Ponter, 4. December 2020, 19:51

    @ Dave B you might not agree with some of the other measures for shifting the dial on mode share, including:

    a) cordon/congestion charge/higher car parking charges – some discussions required with Govt, some WCC
    b) regional fuel tax – requires Govt action
    c) new fare structure to incentivise PT travel – GWRC
    d) lower fares, but higher rates – GWRC
    e) stronger focus on transit oriented development at key locations – a theme that will come through the regional spatial plan and then play out in changes to district plans
    f) MRT in Wellington City – not necessarily focused on Wellington Airport as its terminus
    g) denser urban living – district plans

  15. GK, 6. December 2020, 13:22

    @Cr Daran Ponter, Why are some old the oldest buses being used all day everyday, while newer buses sit idle in depots? In particular, NZ Bus using 1400 series (2003/2004), 2300 series (2004/2005) and 2400 series (2005) on weekends (routes 2, 3, 12, & 18e). Should be using the near new double-deckers plus the 2100/2200 series large single-deckers dating from 2010.

  16. Andrew, 7. December 2020, 13:00

    While impressed with the proposed changes to PT that Cr Daran Ponter has listed, I also wonder if it’s enough to achieve the stated goal of 40% mode share across the region.

    I imagine the fundamental driver of mode share will be network coverage and frequency? Aside from proposed (and welcome) improvements to the Manawatu and Wairarapa services, the proposed draft Wellington Regional Public Transport Plan 2021-31 makes no mention of any expansion to the cities’ regional rail network. Is this because there are none or, if there are ambitions for network growth, are they outside the ten year time frame of the plan?

    An extension of the Melling line across the Hutt River, rail to Wainuiomata, a spur towards the Kapiti Coast beach communities, third track along the Hutt line etc. Surely there’s some appetite for network growth? It was nice to see mention of the North-South junction and that this is on the “to do list”. KiwiRail’s time frame was disappointing though. In the meantime, I’m sure the changes in the proposed ten year plan will go some way towards encouraging PT use. And that’s good news in itself. Keep up the good work Daran.