Wellington Scoop

Plan for affordable light rail proposed to end CBD bus congestion

News from FIT Wellington and Generation Zero
A proposal to help reduce traffic congestion around the Basin Reserve and also provide rapid public transport from the Railway Station to the Airport was presented to the Regional Transport Committee yesterday.

Making sure we get Fair Intelligent Transport for Wellington is the aim of a group of Wellington professionals who want to see a change in the dominant ‘private motor vehicle culture’. We want to live in a healthy, safe and vibrant city designed for people, not cars. We want a reliable, low-cost, fast and convenient public transport system that takes people where they want, when they want and will complement better walking and cycling facilities.

“FIT Wellington in collaboration with Generation Zero, has concluded that the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) proposal will be a waste of money; it will not go to the airport; it will not be rapid; Lambton Quay will be even more congested; it will not reduce emissions; it will not cope with expected passenger growth” said Michael Barnett, FIT Wellington convenor.

“FIT Wellington has proposed an alternative light rail (tram) system from the station via the hospital, to Kilbirnie and the airport. The proposal is described in a report released to regional mayors today (8th September). This tram proposal will significantly reduce bus congestion along the Golden Mile and around the Basin Reserve; reduce emissions; offer great passenger growth potential; and is affordable. It complements the important ‘do-them-now’ bus improvements already proposed for the Golden Mile.”

“If we start planning now, we could have a world-class light rail tram service between the Railway Station, via the Hospital, to the Airport by 2030, for an estimated cost as low as $450 million” said Mr Barnett.

The FIT Wellington study of tram systems around the world has shown that cost estimates and assumptions presented in the Public Transport Spine Study were inaccurate and are no longer appropriate.

An outline of the proposal, including several options routes, can be viewed here.

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  1. Luke, 8. September 2015, 12:37

    Do it. Would be amazing, much better than the bus proposals.

  2. Peter Dunne, 8. September 2015, 16:25

    This is the type of thinking we need to be taking seriously for Wellington’s transport future

  3. Ross Clark, 8. September 2015, 20:33

    LRT would be a big improvement – though I have questions on the price tag being “only” $450m. But the only way to get a city designed for “people, not cars” is to start tackling the availability of parking. This could be done now – and with the benefit that if we *could* control parking, the bus system into the city would work a lot better. So there would be an immediate, low-cost, benefit.

  4. Curtis Nixon, 8. September 2015, 21:34

    Light rail up Taranaki Street to Newtown – an excellent idea.
    There will still be lots of commuter buses going through the CBD – what about moving them to the Quays, Victoria and Wakefield Sts and running light rail trams along the Golden Mile?

  5. Maxwell Taylor, 8. September 2015, 21:47

    This is the type of thinking we don’t want. Just as most cities around the world are ditching lite rail, FIT et al want to foist another transport layer on us. This will be uneconomic and inefficient.
    I want to go to the GC on holiday. Do I take the bus from Wadestown to the station, then put my bags on a tram and go to the airport. No thanks!
    Of course this is another example of the inability of people to understand that airports shift our regional goods around the world and bring prosperity to us. It’s not all about passengers and airfares. Wellington is a transport nexus to the South Island and the world. Sorry lite rail, you just don’t cut it.

  6. Curtis Nixon, 9. September 2015, 15:13

    “The following is a list of cities that have current tram/streetcar, heritage tram/heritage streetcar, or light rail systems as part of their regular public transit systems…. only includes systems which operate year-round and provide actual transit service, not ones that are primarily tourist services, are seasonal-only, or are excursion-type tram operations.”
    African cities = 8
    Asian cities = 46
    European cities = 289
    Nth American cities = 41
    Australia = 4
    Sth America = 7
    Total = 395

  7. southcoaster, 9. September 2015, 16:12

    Great idea and much better money spent than the runway extension!

  8. MG Taylor, 10. September 2015, 1:32

    How do you get the figure of “as low as $450 million” FIT and Generation Zero?

  9. Paula Warren, 10. September 2015, 6:09

    Great idea. But we also don’t have to wait for these long term things to improve public transport. The Basin isn’t the big problem. Lambton Quay is, and that is fixable now. Cars out. Side streets closed off and loading zones and mini parks put in. Median gardens changed so buses can overtake each other.

  10. Wellington Commuter, 10. September 2015, 8:52

    Paula, I agree. But Mayor Celia and Transport Chair Andy don’t think it can be done. WCC transport leaders are unambitious on our behalf 🙁

  11. Kerry, 10. September 2015, 10:56

    Light rail is do-able by 2030 (it takes about a decade) so the buses will have to manage for some time yet.

    Costs are given in the proposal:
    — Overall cost $40 million per kilometre, based on newer but not-too-fancy systems in Europe (one system cost only $30m/km)
    — Extra for tunnels, price from the spine study
    — Extra 20% for design, supervision and contingency

    $450m for a route by Constable St with a short tunnel under the airport runway: cheapest but messy at the Kilbirnie end of Crawford Road

    $650 for a route by Wellington Zoo and a tunnel to Kilbirnie: a better route because is a bit faster and serves more mixed-use, medium density areas, including Berhampore

    Don’t forget the running costs. A tram can carry over 300 people, faster than a bus, with much better labour productivity.

    The ideal is both buses and trams on or close to the golden mile but nobody has come up with a workable option yet. Next-best seems to be trams on the waterfront and buses on the golden mile. That leaves the buses for passengers making trips too short to justify a transfer, or wanting the shortest possible walk to their destination. If light rail went on the waterfront, passengers could transfer to buses at Taranaki/Cuba St, the Railway Station or perhaps near Farmers

    Many existing bus routes would transfer passengers to light rail: mostly at the Railway Station, Hospital or Kilbirnie. Most of these trips would be faster with a transfer than without because of quick transfers, minimal traffic delays on light rail and much better bus timekeeping on the less congested route.

  12. luke, 10. September 2015, 16:24

    it doesnt need to go to the airport yet anyway, Newtown is more urgent but the airport/kilbirnie can make do with buses (terminate the #11 at newtown for light rail transfers) and send the rest thru the bus tunnel. light rail limited stops along the quays from the station to courtenay place.

    golden mile buses only and duplicate the terrace tunnel so traffic can genuinely bypass the cbd freeing up road space in the cbd.

  13. Guy, 11. September 2015, 7:47

    Maxwell Taylor – you raise an interesting point when you say:
    “I want to go to the GC on holiday. Do I take the bus from Wadestown to the station, then put my bags on a tram and go to the airport. No thanks!”

    Well, I would have thought: Yes.
    Would you otherwise plan to drive to the airport and park your car there for 5 days at a minimum of $25 / day? Or do you get a taxi there and back, at a minimum of about $40-50 per trip, possibly getting stuck in traffic on the way there or back? Or do you pay $3 to get to the central station, and say $5 or $10 to get to the airport, and arrive unworried by traffic, on time?

    I certainly know what I would prefer to do.

  14. KB, 11. September 2015, 17:30

    I’m actually a big supporter of green initiatives, but this proposal is incredibly short sighted. By 2030, autonomous electric vehicles will have transformed our transportation system, mostly doing away with the need for public transport (no one is going to take a bus if you can get a driverless über door to door for under $4) Don’t invest half a billion in a public transport project that will be redundant before it’s even finished.

  15. Robert M, 13. September 2015, 15:58

    Reasonably serious proposals have been made to restore five of the Auckland tram routes abandoned in 1954-56, with the laying of a Melbourne type conventional street track system on concrete block mounting. The Auckland tram routes were widened around the time of the depression in the 1930s to improve the tram flow, but the Onehunga route would not be possible for trams in current road flow levels because total congestion exists much of the day from around Royal Oak on. In reality part of the network would have to be put down as single flow loops..The actual cost and possibility depends on whether modern second hand trams are avaialble and whether the installation is fast enought not to cause too much disruption and commercial opposition. Because it will be an on road system, the cost should be vastly cheaper than a light rail system which runs on the streets only in the CBD and on lightly transited secondary roads.

  16. Mike, 14. September 2015, 13:21

    KB; if self-driving cars are going to “do away with public transport”, that means that roads will have to have sufficient capacity to handle them, eg room for 35,000 extra vehicles at peak times along SH1, and corresponding increases on all Wellington arterial routes. NZTA/WCC/GWRC have known for years that there is insufficient capacity on Wellington’s roads to cope with the traffic likely to be generated by the government’s RoNS schemes (see also http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/comment/71901722/editorial-motorway-tolls-might-help-solve-capitals-transport-problems), so where are all these self-driving cars going to go?

    And a particular Wellington issue is narrow streets – no-one has yet worked out how (or indeed if) two such cars can handle oncoming traffic in two-direction single-lane streets.

    It’s not supporters of public transport who are short sighted, more those who speak green and then advocate the complete opposite, and without appearing to appreciate the consequences.