Wellington Scoop

More buses – the last thing we need

by Kerry Wood
Light rail in Wellington is clearly needed, so why has LGWM suddenly proposed trackless trams? They are one of several proprietary guided-bus systems, little different from an articulated bus, and the last thing Wellington needs is more buses. The problem is this:

— Too many buses coming into the central city: double the desirable maximum. The result is poor timekeeping, making hubs unpopular.

— Wellington has very little space for more bus routes. A second route is possible, on the waterfront, and a picture on the latest document from LGWM (Advance Notice of a Contract Opportunity) suggests that this is where a new bus route will go.

— The Climate Change Commission is clear that New Zealand cities must increase public transport use substantially: four or five times more passengers than today.

— Wellington badly needs public transport routes having much greater capacity than a bus route. They need to be integrated with the bus routes, which needs hubs, and hubs need good timekeeping.

A useful approach can be copying other cities, and a recommendation for Wellington is Zürich: (Paul Mees, Waka Kotahi research report 396). Some 30 years ago, Zürich began a public transport upgrade which has continued ever since. When I visited Zürich in 1994, public transport timekeeping was generally within a two-minute range: between 30 seconds early and 90 seconds late. If a bus or tram broke down, or was late, a relief vehicle replaced it.

Wellington’s solution has to be public transport hubs, supporting two ‘layers’: rapid transit on main routes, for capacity and speed, and buses for local use. This will need another change: limiting all roads to a maximum 60 buses an hour, each way, to improve timekeeping and make the hubs reliable. This will need widespread traffic-signal priority for buses.

In Auckland, and almost certainly in Wellington, ‘rapid transit’ means light rail, not least to share with Auckland. ‘Trackless trams’ are no more than guided buses, extending Kiwirail tracks is far too costly, and ‘light metro’ is generally some three times the cost of light rail (Greater Auckland website, 14 June). Modern trams are much quieter and smoother than buses.

Light rail capacity depends largely on the length available at stops. Wellington is fortunate here, and 60 m seems practical, at least on the Railway Station to Airport route.

New modern tram systems generally use vehicles 2.65 m wide, with a track-gauge of 1.435 m. The body is 150 mm wider than a bus, which allows a wider aisle, much better for prams, wheelchairs and all passengers. In Wellington, trams like this will have a capacity of about 470 passengers, giving a route capacity of about 6300 passengers an hour. This is based on a frequency of 16 trams an hour (a usual limit, to manage junction delays to other traffic) and an allowance for running below maximum capacity.

At present Wellington’s Railway Station to Airport route is the only light rail route studied in detail. It is the best choice for population and workplace density, but another one or two routes seem plausible, such as to Karori. Light rail might be worthwhile in the Hutt, but it seems more likely that Kiwirail is already providing the service needed.

Combining buses and light rail will make the whole system more effective:

— Fewer buses coming into the city centre. At 60 buses an hour, the golden mile will flow freely.

— Hub delays limited to a minute or two, making most trips faster than at present.

— Passengers transferring from bus to light rail at various suburban hubs. At this stage the best-understood example is probably Miramar Shops. A proposal made for LGWM by MRCagney is that two bus routes loop around the Miramar Peninsular and converge on a passenger hub. The hub has two island platforms, about 350 mm high, each with buses on one side and light rail on the other. Ramps at either end provide easy access, but most passengers simply cross the platform. The light rail tracks would be side by side, so that buses could loop around from one platform to the other. This layout is already used, for local buses, at Albany, on Auckland’s North Shore.

Another bus route runs parallel with light rail as far as Kilbirnie, then past both Massey and Victoria Universities, with a link to Karori. The reason is minimising passenger transfers: one transfer is accepted, but a second avoided where practical.

— Light rail will often be faster than a car, attracting more passengers.

Other bus passengers can connect with light rail at other stops, usually cross-platform. The proposed stops are Airport, Miramar Shops, Kilbirnie, Zoo, Newtown, Hospital, Basin Reserve, Te Aro, Courtenay Place, Civic Sq, Queen’s Wharf, and Railway Station. Perhaps the most important stop will be the Hospital: easily reached by disabled passengers transferring from local buses.

Light rail costing and design needs care: some cities get it badly wrong. Sydney is notorious, with modern light rail running at half the speed of the old trams. Concepts such as trackless trams tend to be responses to fears of runaway costs, but good light rail is often cheaper than buses. The main reason is that driver’s wages are some 70% of operating costs, for either buses or light rail, but trams carry many more passengers. Two sources indicate the savings available:

— A Transport for London cost-curve shows light rail costs cheaper than buses from about 2300 passengers an hour, in Wellington equivalent to only 5 trams an hour.

— Montpellier (France, city population 285,000) built four light rail lines, with a total length of 55 km, opening between 2000-2012. Montpellier tram-lengths very between routes: The tram-length is 40 m, compared with a probable 60 m for Wellington: Costs are in Euros per passenger, for the line opened in 2000:

Light rail.
Capital cost € 0.93
Operating cost € 0.53
Total cost € 1.46

BRT (inferred from Nantes)
Capital cost € 0.84
Operating cost € 1.27
Total cost € 2.11

Capital cost € 0.49
Operating cost € 1.61
Total cost € 2.12

Wellington public transport users dislike hubs, but when the hubs work, so will the golden mile.

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) seems cheaper than light rail because it has no tracks, but the BRT construction costs in Montpellier are much closer to light rail than buses, and the total cost equal to buses. Two reasons are:

— BRT needs more space than buses: two lanes in each direction: see the ITDP design code (Institute for Transport and Development Policy).
— An additional BRT cost is purchasing private land to make space for stops, as at Albany.


  1. Jonny M, 21. June 2021, 9:40

    Don’t forget the drivers! If light rail is in place, there will be fewer drivers required and the drivers who were on the bus routes that have changed to light rail can drive the other routes. Maybe for once they can actually run to schedule!

  2. Mike Mellor, 21. June 2021, 9:58

    Interesting post, Kerry. You say that Wellington public transport users dislike hubs, but passengers in the region have been using them for decades, so that’s not actually the case. What people disliked was the unmanaged, poorly designed and late bus/bus hubs introduced by the Laidlaw and Campbell regime at GWRC. Fortunately the regime and some of its hubs are now consigned to history, but at an ongoing cost in money and in public opinion. In contrast the rail/bus hubs on the Wellington rail network continue to be accepted and used by the travelling public.

    While a secondary public transport route may go down the quays, the primary one should continue to go along the Golden Mile, because that’s where passengers want to go. The design shown on that picture would be particularly bad, with half the stops the wrong side of a six-lane highway and the harbour being a large part of the catchment area. Haven’t we had enough of expensive mistakes?

  3. Kerry, 21. June 2021, 11:00

    Thanks Mike. Perhaps I was relying a bit much on GWRC surveys for hub popularity…. Yes, light rail on the golden mile would be best, but not very practical. When I tried it I gave up, on both curves and stops, and I see that MRCagney also chose the waterfront. A partial ‘cure’ would be a covered overhead walkway above Willeston St, with escalators at the stop, Victoria St & Willis St.

  4. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 21. June 2021, 11:09

    Thank you Kerry for such an invaluable and well-researched article. And thank you Mike for your contribution: hubbing can and should work, when and where the hubs are well-designed, well-located and well-serviced by vehicles running on time – the very antithesis of the bustastrophe network when it was introduced in 2018 (and perpetuated by the current driver shortages and consequent bus cancellations).

    I also agree with you, Mike, on the CBD routing for light rail. The Quays route was apparently the brainchild of WCC’s former CEO and Chief City Planner, and was envisaged to speed up the LRT service and avoid disruption to the Golden Mile while tracks were laid. However, commuters and casual users value overall journey time, not just the time they spend on an LRT or bus. An LRT route that (for example) doesn’t take business air travelers right from the CBD but instead forces them to walk several blocks and cross a six-lane arterial won’t be attractive, whereas two or three minutes longer on the LRT for a railway station to hospital passenger isn’t a game-changer given that the LRT would be much faster and more comfortable than the current bus offering.

    The recent news that the CBD is to go car-free is welcome (notwithstanding concerns that need to be addressed regarding deliveries and disabled access etc) but begs the question: will the opportunity be taken to renew the three waters systems and strengthen the carriageway (as necessary for LRT) at the same time as the kerbs are moved and footpaths widened? Or will one project be advanced without regard for, or to the exclusion of, another?

  5. Helene, 21. June 2021, 14:58

    Why is no one looking at Featherston St for all buses in the meantime and light rail one day (soon?) direct from the Railway Station? Is it too narrow or what? Then we could take the buses out of Lambton Quay and have full pedestrianisation of Lambton and an efficient route to wherever.

  6. Steve, 21. June 2021, 18:58

    Trackless trams seem like the way to go, particularly with traffic being removed from the Golden Mile. I don’t see how there is any benefit in laying expensive tracks. Light rail had a BCR of 0.05 back in 2016, must be half of that in today’s construction market.

  7. Cr Daran Ponter, 21. June 2021, 20:42

    Kerry Wood – not sure where you have seen a sudden proposal for trackless trams? Let’s Get Wellington Moving is working up the business case for Mass Rapid Transit. There are three mode choices being looked at – Bus Rapid Transit, Light Rail and trackless trams. This has been the case since the inception of the business case work.

    No decisions have been arrived at yet – and whatever is proposed in the business case will undoubtedly cause ripples throughout the community – along with issues such a MRT on the Quays vs Golden Mile; String of pearls design vs two separate lines (one to the East, the other to the South); Cape vs standard gauge; and the staging of development, and I’m sure there will be many other issues to debate.

    Note the Business Case is only first major gate. It will be followed by consultation before decisions are taken on a preferred option. Detailed design work will then commence. Business case out in a few months (not brave enough to put a date on that!).

  8. Dave B, 21. June 2021, 21:56

    Wellington CBD needs a new north-south transport corridor. That corridor should be an extension of the existing regional rail network – independent of road traffic, independent of pedestrians

    Kerry, you say that “extending Kiwirail tracks is far too costly”. On what do you base that statement? The only costing I have ever seen is that produced by De Leuw Cather Consultants in 1963 for a 1.9 mile, 4-station extension as far as Courtenay Place (£11 million, 1963 prices) – as against £20 million for the “Foothills Motorway” which is all that got built. An updated cost-benefit assessment is vital before this necessary addition to Wellington is dismissed.
    Given the array of design possibilities, optimisations and ‘smarts’ that could be applied with focussed attention from those who are expert in the field, it is not appropriate to simply declare it as “far too costly”. The alternative may well end up being even-more costly regional roading expansion if we do nothing to curb growth in regionally-generated road-traffic.

  9. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 22. June 2021, 9:03

    Daran, the “string of pearls” mass transit route (Railway station – Taranaki St – Adelaide Rd – Hospital – Zoo – Kilbirnie – Miramar/Airport) was agreed within the LGWM governance group last triennium (2016-19) despite your GWRC predecessors banging on about buses. Since then, the impetus appears to have been completely lost. Are you suggesting it’s all back to square one? Heaven help us if we expect to ever see anything built if that’s the case.

  10. Conor, 22. June 2021, 9:45

    Daran, the Labour Party mayor was very hot on trackless trams, so can understand why some might be concerned. As to the route – I think with Golden Mile pedestrianisation happening, Light Rail will go on the waterfront. Can’t dig it up twice in 5 years.

  11. Kerry, 22. June 2021, 9:58

    Helene. A Featherston Street route is fine for buses or light rail, as far south as Hunter Street, but then it gets messy. On-street light rail needs fairly large-radius curves, at least 30m on-street, and preferably more like 50m, for greater speed.

    Dave B. Heavy rail through the city would have to be in a tunnel. In an emergency, light rail can stop as quickly as a bus, but a Matangi would take much longer. A Karori route (if there was one) would be steep for light rail but too steep for a Matangi.

  12. John Rankin, 22. June 2021, 10:43

    Daran, I hope amid all the options analysis, the one thing we keep sight of is that we are supposed to be investing in rapid transit. It’s too easy for CC-F’s “two or three minutes” to become five or six minutes, as cost-saving compromises creep in (like the 4 right angled turns required at the Basin in LGWM’s preliminary route design). In my view, it would be better to build a shorter first stage to a high standard than cut corners to go further.

    The illustration Mike Mellor and CC-F reference above, where rapid transit appears to use lanes one and six on the waterfront quays is, as Mike says, particularly bad. I also hope the business case makes some reference to why the option of extending the existing rail network was not evaluated. Even if it’s the most expensive option, as Dave B often reminds us, it offers the highest level of service (high frequency, high speed, high reliability). As such, perhaps it ought to be the benchmark against which other rapid transit options are measured.

  13. GK, 22. June 2021, 10:47

    Daran, Conor: If no decision has been made, why does every LGWM concept render show a tram style vehicle but without any rails? These renders are obviously done by NZTA as the use the same vehicle body as their Auckland light rail concept renders which show rails every single time. Looks awfully like concrete slab guided bus fake tram for Wellington and proper light rail for Auckland …

  14. Cr Daran Ponter, 22. June 2021, 10:53

    @ Chris Calvi-Freeman – no, I am suggesting that the purpose of the detailed business case is to fully consider the high level propositions.

    In the case of LGWM we are likely to end up with some quite different proposals (or possible one proposal) which will challenge us all, irrespective of where you stand on the car – PT – active modes spectrum.

  15. David humble, 22. June 2021, 11:19

    Having seen light rail go in in other cities, the underground works to move pipes cables etc from under the track bed can be a major component of the install. Also what about post contingency (earthquake) – buses can be rerouted. Light rail not at all.

  16. Mike Mellor, 22. June 2021, 12:03

    Conor, you’re right that we can’t afford to dig up the Golden Mile twice. So to avoid short-term actions dictating long-term plans, we shouldn’t be digging it up until a final decision on the mass transit route is made.

    That means the GM physical changes should initially be done using tactical urbanism techniques, as are being used throughout the country in Innovating Streets projects, and can be done very well. There’s an excellent example right here in Wellington: the artificial turf in Te Ngākau Civic Square transformed overnight and has stood the test of time, so there’s an option for extending Midland Park and greening other areas.

    We mustn’t let the urge to do something permanent quickly mean that we miss out on the opportunity to do something really good (whatever that might be!).

  17. Kerry, 22. June 2021, 13:25

    David. If you were right, making public transport effective in Wellington would be impractical. In practice:
    — Light rail can stand up to minor earthquakes fairly well, as the tram tracks did in Christchurch.
    — After a major earthquake, the only short-term transport methods will be walking and cycling.
    — Altering underground services so that they can be maintained without stopping light rail is standard practice. Avoiding Sydney-like disasters is simple enough: use ground-penetrating radar to locate and identify all services.

  18. K, 22. June 2021, 15:21

    It’s amazing the hundreds of millions being discussed for mass transit option price tags, when there are other options not around 5 years ago. Boring company digs tunnels for $10 million USD per mile, and it is vehicle agnostic. Could put anything in them, including just pavement for micro mobility solutions provided by riders and private ride share companies. Really a lack of open minded thinking the way everyone (including the critics) is trapped in 20th Century solutions that are 10-100x more expensive than modern alternatives.

  19. Dave B, 22. June 2021, 18:04

    ‘K’, I wish it were that simple. The Boring Company (tunnellers for Elon Musk’s “Hyperloop” concept) may be able to achieve US$10m per mile for a small-diameter tunnel through the dry desert soils of Las Vegas, but they would be taking a bold risk to offer this rate for any tunnel, anywhere. Also, the costs of the actual tunnelling are but one component of the costs of a mass transit system. There are the tunnel fit-outs with whatever transit system is decided on, the stations and their integration with what exists above, the control systems, power systems, ventilation systems, safety systems … and of course the vehicles themselves which in the case of Wellington would need to provide many times the tiny capacity of the Las Vegas Convention Centre system. Auckland’s City Rail Link and London’s Crossrail offer some indication of the costs of mass-transit tunnelling, but it is important to recognise these are massive projects which encompass far more than just the tunnels. The costs-per-mile of these projects may be an over-estimate for what things might cost in Wellington. Each application has a unique set of circumstances and each needs its own tailored design.

  20. Ross Clark, 23. June 2021, 1:27

    I live in a city in the UK whose bus use, prior to Covid, was two and a half times the rate of Wellington’s. With that background in mind:

    As light rail schemes, both Edinburgh and Sydney were under-costed and neither would have proceeded had the initial costings been realistic. So, whatever is quoted for the cost of a Wellington light rail scheme, add 50 percent and hope.

    If buses are properly segregated from cars, they can work pretty well at moving people, but there needs to be the political will to do this. On that note, light rail needs to be pretty thoroughly segregated from cars for it to be any faster than a bus service. Ergo, if you can segregate for light rail you can segregate thoroughly for buses as well. Transfer-based systems only work where there is a high frequency (8 services/hour or so) across both links. Otherwise, people will probably prefer direct services, which is why we still have some direct buses from the Hutt to Wellington, AFAIK.

    On a side note, and not irrelevant in our discussion, the French city of Nantes plumped for a busway because its cost at the time – €50m for 7km – was less than a third of what they had been quoted for a light rail line, and at that stage the French central government wasn’t going to put in any money. So, I wonder if a better strategy would be to see how much money central government is prepared to put into this scheme, confirm the matching local share, and then we have a budget to work to. Rather than coming up with a great scheme and then the whole thing falling through because the Feds won’t “cough up”.

  21. Kerry, 23. June 2021, 10:43

    Ross. The whole point is to avoid the ‘add 50% and hope’ approach. It does happen, of course, but the only reason to believe that light rail will be worse than NZ roads, for example, is lack of experience. That can be overcome with care, such as overseas consultants and ground-penetrating radar. Nantes has 44 km of conventional light rail and 7 km of BRT. The BRT is more recent, 2007, using single-articulated buses on a two-lane route. BRT in Nantes is more costly than light rail, as shown in the table above, provided that both capital and operating costs are considered. It looks as if some French bureaucrat blew it.

  22. John Rankin, 23. June 2021, 15:13

    Ross Clark says “if you can segregate for light rail you can segregate thoroughly for buses as well.” I’m not sure this assumption is valid. Ross rightly says “light rail needs to be pretty thoroughly segregated from cars.” The cities most successful at retrofitting on-street light rail recognised that at some points along the line, the only way to achieve adequate segregation is through grade separation. I exclude Canberra, which provided for rapid transit when it laid out its streets and is not comparable to Wellington. Full segregation on-street is rarely possible, e.g. going underground through the city centre or elevating light rail over the busiest streets.

    I suggest to Ross that in Wellington, thoroughly segregating light rail from cars is not practical without investing in grade separation at some points along the railway station to airport corridor. That is, to perform as rapid transit, on-street light rail usually needs to incorporate some segments that are more like light metro in design. For example, would we be willing to run a light rail line down the centre of the waterfront quays and Taranaki St and ban right turns across the tracks? Or ban left turns if light rail runs down one side?

  23. Peter S, 23. June 2021, 21:42

    Exciting times ahead. LGWM due to actually deliver some concrete ideas, and some “small wins” (real concrete), before the end of the year? Yeah right.
    I can’t understand the obsession with rail (light or heavy) as the only viable solution for Wgtn MRT PT. Really, there are only 2 critical factors. Firstly, the choice of route. It can’t be the Golden Mile, otherwise all the local buses would have to go elsewhere. That leaves the Quays as the only viable route, I would expect the 2 western (city side) lanes, then up Taranaki St. After that it gets decidedly tricky if you want it to go through Newtown, on to Kilbirnie, and through to that certain quaint airfield (the one with delusions of grandeur of becoming a major international hub). Seems like a few really expensive tunnels needed.
    Secondly, and more importantly, whether the route can actually be made “rapid”. Have you seen how many intersections there are on that route? Unless an MRT system only stops for passenger ingress/egress, and nowhere in between, then there isn’t much point building it. How to solve this problem? Seems like really expensive grade separation needed, or more really expensive tunnels.
    As a pop-up cycle lane in Berhampore has shown, you don’t necessarily need to spend eye-watering amounts of money to achieve a solution. So rather than the endless debate of rail versus buses, let’s have a tough conversation about the route and how to make it rapid.

  24. Mike Mellor, 23. June 2021, 21:51

    Ross C: “Transfer-based systems only work where there is a high frequency (8 services/hour or so) across both links” – they also work at lower frequencies if the connections are scheduled and maintained reliably, as happens in locations in e.g. Switzerland (and also for bus/train transfers at various stations on the Hutt Valley, Kapiti and Wairarapa lines); “..which is why we still have some direct buses from the Hutt to Wellington, AFAIK” – those buses still exist because they service Lower Hutt en route between Eastbourne and Wellington, or because they operate after midnight.

    John R: Britain has expanding light rail systems in Birmingham, Edinburgh and Manchester, none of which have any grade separation in their respective city centres (the two English cities do have grade separation where they take advantage of former rail alignments in the suburbs).

  25. Ross Clark, 23. June 2021, 22:34

    Kerry – I don’t get your capital cost per pax-km for Nantes Light Rail. Montpellier #2 cost €450m for 19.5 km (so,€23.1m/km) and Nantes were quoted €150m for 7km of route (so, €21.4m/km) – quite comparable for the time (mid-2000s). The busway cost €50m for 7km of route, so €7m/km. To my mind that is the comparison worth making, even if that sort of busway would not work in Wellington – though it’s worked a treat on the North Shore.

    John Rankin – How much segregation if not full grade-separation is needed for Wellington is an excellent question, and I would value others’ comments (am not sure myself as to the answer).

  26. Kerry, 24. June 2021, 9:00

    Ross. I rode on the North Shore busway a couple of months ago, and I was impressed. All the North Shore stops were off-road, on surprisingly large sites, but at the city end the routes fanned out to several conventional bus stops. It is a good solution, but not in central Wellington: no space for stops. I dare say your €7 million/km for the Nantes bus route is correct, but I think my figures give a better indication of overall costs: the combined capital and operating costs, both expressed on a per-passenger basis.

    Peter. You say “So rather than the endless debate of rail versus buses, let’s have a tough conversation about the route and how to make it rapid.” We already know how to make a bus route rapid: cut the peak-hour bus numbers back to about 60/h. Stop delays are usually less than a minute, so the route can be free-flowing. Wellington’s problem is that the golden mile is now carrying 120 buses an hour, so buses in the Hunter St area will need 4 lanes immediately, and at least another 2 lanes for future growth. However, the Climate Change Commission is now calling for a four-or five-fold increase in bus numbers. Where do you suggest they go?
    Light rail to the airport will need one tunnel, beneath Mt Albert, probably Zoo to Coutts St. Yes, it will reduce car-carrying capacity on the route, but the route’s passenger-carrying capacity will be far greater. Cars are far the most space-inefficient mode of transport, as well as a major source of carbon emissions.

  27. John Rankin, 24. June 2021, 11:06

    Mike Mellor: using pre-existing rail rights of way outside the city centre is a practical and low-cost way to lift the performance of a rapid transit service that runs on-street through a city centre. Calgary did the same with its first line and Edmonton is building physical separation into some sections of its latest line while running on-street through the city centre.

    I think it’s too soon for Kerry to conclude that “Light rail to the airport will need one tunnel, beneath Mt Albert”. Rapid transit route designs may include grade separation for geography or performance. A Mt Albert tunnel is needed for geography. Unless the designers are able to achieve thorough separation from traffic at grade on the rest of the route (as Ross notes is required), either rail over / under passes will be needed, or the service will not perform as rapid transit. Whether the design needs to provide for grade separation in places to deliver a rapid transit service remains an open question. I know from Edmonton that retro-fitting grade separation if you get the design wrong is difficult and expensive, so you may be stuck with the original mistake(s) for a long time.

  28. Casey, 24. June 2021, 12:51

    Rapid as a term for Public Transport:
    1. To most it means a fast journey from where they get on the bus/train/tram to where they want to get off.
    2. To transport planners it seems to refer to the frequency of services, so if you miss one bus then a maximum wait of 10-15 minutes will see a following service arrive.
    Definition 1 in Wellington isn’t achievable unless the private vehicle usage is dramatically lowered.

  29. John Rankin, 24. June 2021, 18:23

    Casey, the Ministry of Transport defines rapid transit as “a quick, frequent, reliable and high-capacity public transport service that operates on a permanent route (road or rail) that is largely separated from other traffic.”

  30. Ross Clark, 25. June 2021, 5:00

    Casey. Definition 1 in Wellington isn’t achievable unless the private vehicle usage is dramatically lowered. And this is the discussion we don’t want to have; because without a big cut in private vehicle use, LRT will not really work. OTOH, no private cars in the Golden Mile would mean that it could probably manage 120 buses/hour, if not perfectly. On that note, does anyone have any stats as to how many cars/direction/hour the Golden Mile is currently handling?

  31. Kerry, 25. June 2021, 9:20

    John. I am not clear why you are so concerned about light rail speed in Wellington. You call for sections ‘like light metro in design,’ with grade-separation. There is no need to ban motor vehicles turning across the tracks, except for a few seconds every two minutes or so (assuming a peak-hour LRV each way, every four minutes).
    Wellington’s Railway Station to Airport route allows reasonably large-radius curves, with plenty of straight sections, and has reasonably large stop-spacings, all useful contributions to speed. The only exceptions I can think of are in the Roy St area at Newtown Park. Reasonably fast trips should be practical, at little or no extra cost. Grade separation might be needed in the Cobham Drive area, or traffic signals on the roundabouts would be an alternative: another few seconds every two minutes.
    A possibly helpful exception would be light rail on a bridge in Taranaki St, over Vivian St, but this is speculation. The correct response will be modelling of light rail and motor traffic, together and separately. Could it be that the Vancouver example you give was the result of bad modelling, or excessive concessions to motor vehicle users? Climate Change is now a much more important factor.

  32. pedge, 25. June 2021, 9:30

    Ross and Casey. You’ve highlighted the problem of cars clashing with trains but I think the solution is relatively easy. It’s just a matter of priority. We’ve been prioritising private car use for decades and therefore NZers can’t get their heads around prioritising a rail corridor. Have a look at an old photo of Lambton Quay, full of people and trams. Roads are not just for cars. Wellington is a small city, the worst case scenario I can imagine for a private car user is parking a short walk from where you want to go (maybe a block or three, which is already the case, despite local businesses thinking you can park outside their door currently), and driving a bit further to get around a rail line that might be in the way (which could be an incentive to get the train). When Jan Gehl and others redesigned Copenhagen for people, the media and public asked where the cars will go….the mayor said something along the lines of “we are as interested find out as you”.

  33. John Rankin, 25. June 2021, 13:01

    Kerry, I remain concerned for the reason you give, “The correct response will be modelling of light rail and motor traffic, together and separately.” If LGWM has done this, it has not published the results. I note that MRCagney in its advice to LGWM proposed disallowing right turns across light rail tracks for best performance. If we want on-street rapid transit to perform at the highest level practical, I agree with Ross Clark that it needs to be “thoroughly segregated from cars”.

    Edmonton (not Vancouver) learnt from an earlier mistake and for its most recent line, modelled every major intersection with and without grade separation. City council made the final decision on which crossings would get grade separation. For those that did not get grade separation, the operating contract specified performance standards for both rapid transit and traffic movement. In the current absence of such modelling here, I think it’s prudent to keep an open mind as to what will be appropriate.

  34. luke, 29. June 2021, 13:33

    Whilst light rail seems the way to go, I don’t see why heavy rail “has to” be in underground tunnels. There is a section of skyrail in Melbourne that’s 3km from end to end (carneigie to hughesdale); a replica of that would get heavy rail thru the CBD. The waterfront route looks ideal for that.

  35. Dave B, 29. June 2021, 14:50

    Luke, heavy rail does not have to be in tunnels. The basic choices are: 1) at ground level, 2) elevated, or 3) tunnelled. Elevated railways are built on viaducts all over the world, and many legacy viaducts of the past were built with an elegance and beauty that gives them heritage-status today. Unfortunately the average modern concrete structure does not demonstrate this (e.g. the ugly motorway viaduct over Thorndon), and a wariness of this surely contributed to the opposition to the proposed Basin flyover. This may have created an irrational aversion to any viaduct.
    Tunnelled is ideal in that it is out-of-sight, out-of-mind, but the costs and potential disruption during construction can be large (particularly if cut-and-cover).
    The other alternative, if the “severance” aspect of heavy-rail at ground-level cannot be countenanced, is to build it at ground-level and then build a structure over it to cover it up. This can then be landscaped and made a feature of, or built-on and developed. If we could countenance de-trafficking of the Waterfront Route (a possible strategic move in the bid to reduce car-dependency), then a railway-extension, covered-over at first-floor level, may be a possibility at least as far as Civic Square.
    All options need to be looked-at with this.

  36. Kerry, 29. June 2021, 16:41

    John & Ross. I am not clear why motor vehicles making right turns across light rail at traffic signals is a problem, unless the turns are a separate phase and delay light rail for too long. But if MRCagney support it, so do I.

  37. Ross Clark, 29. June 2021, 20:55

    Dave B – agreed. Taking the traffic off the Quays could have significant amenity benefits as well, by removing the severance between the city and the harbour which the Quays have created.

  38. John Rankin, 30. June 2021, 11:05

    Kerry, see slide 7 on this presentation to LGWM by MR Cagney. According to MR Cagney, current best practice for safe, reliable, rapid on-street light rail operation is no right turns across tracks. The practical implication is that if turning traffic is mandatory, invest in grade separation for that crossing.