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Why we care about trolley buses

What’s been our most-read topic over the holidays? No doubt at all. Trolley buses have attracted more than twice as many readers as any other subject on wellington.scoop over Christmas/New Year.

As the regional council today offers free rides on a hybrid bus [1] – a technology chosen to fill the gap till the promised all-electric fleet is introduced in 2025 – it should remember that there’s big public support for keeping the trolleys.

And there’s plenty of authoritative proof that keeping them is not only possible, but would be less expensive than scrapping them [2], as regional councillors have decided must happen next year [3]. Not one but two engineers have explained why keeping them would be cheaper. [4]

Trolley buses are healthier too [5], as Sue Kedgley and Paul Bruce have convincingly pointed out. But they’re the only two regional councillors who voted in support of the trolleys.

Generation Zero is another trolley bus supporter. It gave the regional council a “keep it clean” petition [6] signed by 2000 people. But the majority of councillors were unmoved. And they had nothing to say when another lobby group branded their decision a “big step in a stupid direction.” [7]

Long before the final decision was reached, a contributor reminded us that the regional council’s anti-trolley policy conflicted with its climate change policy [8].

It was strange to see Regional Councillors dutifully lining up to make climate change worse by voting to get rid of the trolley buses. In the same week that the council started to consult on its climate change strategy, the majority of our elected councillors took a firm step backwards and decided to increase Wellington’s transport emissions. Yet the information about the climate change strategy seems to pretend this never happened: “Currently we do this through activities such as promoting and providing low emission transport options, supporting ecological restoration activities and sustainable land use, and encouraging household energy efficiency” (emphasis ours).

And more:

Given the very clear air-gap between what the Council is saying and what the Council is doing, it does beg the question as to what the purpose of the climate change policy actually is. Despite the increasingly urgent need for significant emissions reductions – clearly identified in the strategy – the Regional Council’s transport policies have headed in exactly the opposite direction; massive roading projects have been enthusiastically championed, railway stations have been closed and the bus network is now being aggressively re-carbonised. So perhaps the climate change strategy is merely window dressing, meant to give Councillors a warm glow without necessitating any tangible action.

Saying one thing and doing the opposite. This seems to be the record of most of our regional councillors, with their vote to scrap the trolley buses next year.

Study shows: Climate change benefit from electric vehicles [9]