Wellington Scoop

Revenge of the trackless tram

by Conor Hill
Light Rail is the second option being put forward by Let’s Get Wellington Moving for mass transit. While it is better than bendy buses, it has diverged alarmingly from what was supported by all tiers of government in 2019.

Most concerning is the thinking around the route.

It appears that what was almost clear in 2019 is now a complete mess. The route unanimously supported by cabinet and city and regional council in 2019 was “a mass transit system to connect the railway station with the Hospital, Newtown, Miramar and the Airport.” As a route it captures almost every major centre in south, central and eastern Wellington – the CBD, Massey University, the Hospital, and and a busy airport. This is an amazing spine with everything you would want – major population centres, busy destinations at either end, major workplaces, public facilities and huge capacity for more housing.

But now there appears to be a battle on about whether the mass transit route should go east or south.

This is crazy, given that the 2019 route captures almost every major centre in south and east Wellington.

Maps leaked to the Dominion Post appear to show that the route to the airport via the hospital may have gone altogether. This is so far removed from from the vision unanimously supported in 2019 that we may as well be starting again.

As well as this confusion on route, light rail is now being put forward as fairly low capacity.

The capacity mentioned by the Dominion Post is up to 300 people per vehicle, for an hourly capacity of 4500. Auckland Light Rail is looking at vehicles which can carry 470 people with hourly capacity of 10,000. Why such differing maximum capacities?

The core promise of Let’s Get Wellington Moving was always mass transit from the CBD to the airport via the hospital. If this route has changed and the capacity is something significantly short of mass, they’re essentially starting again.

Also by Conor Hill
Bendy buses won’t move Wellington

And eyeofthefish:
Let’s get Wellington leaking


  1. exLGM, 3. October 2021, 10:32

    That GWRC and LGWM are not able to compile a strategy for public transport suitable for the 21st century becomes more evident with each release. We had trackless trams but GWRC did not maintain them as required, abandoned them on spurious advice and now they are raised again. What gives?

  2. luke, 3. October 2021, 13:20

    It’s all delaying tactics until they get an even more road friendly government in for the airport motorway.

  3. michael, 3. October 2021, 16:34

    They have been trying to please so many different points of view, it has become impossible. They need to do what they are being paid for. Assess all the years of information, copious expert reports, consultations etc, put a line in the sand, and get on with it. No matter what decision they make there will always be people complaining, but noise suppressing headphones should sort that out.

  4. Conor, 3. October 2021, 19:56

    Michael – i agree. However, I thought some parts of that line had already been drawn. Indeed, LGWM’s own page on mass transit makes some things explicit – hospital and airport connection, and dedicated lanes. There’s no need to relitigate these.

  5. JAB, 4. October 2021, 0:32

    Can somebody explain why the Willis Bond building proposed for the MF car park can include parking within the building? Why does the council allow this while at the same time removing on-street car parking and allowing residential buildings without car parks and trying to develop a massive public transport scheme to get people through Wellington? Surely if we removed the in town commercial car parking then the traffic would lessen, all the expensive traffic schemes could be less and residents might be able to get around without needing to undertake massive journeys for the simplest of tasks. Maybe it’s time for a city residents only car park scheme?

  6. Glen Smith, 4. October 2021, 7:53

    I absolutely disagree that a mass transit route to the east via Newtown was ever anything even resembling sensible transport network design and it is good to see that LGWM have recognized this. Just as the Hutt and Kapiti are two separate destinations in their own right requiring two separate PT corridors that can’t just be melded into one corridor without serious design flaws (particularly deviating from direct routes and imposing unnecessary transfers on large numbers of travellers), so the eastern suburbs and southern surburbs are two major population areas each requiring their own corridors which will of necessity take different routes. The first of the LGWM designs has some solid features (a second Quays PT corridor rather than just the Golden Mile as initially proposed, a Taranaki route across the southern CBD then heading East just north of the Basin, an Option X basic design at the Basin, and a Wellington Road/ Kilbirnie Cres/ Rongotai road to the East) and the direct Basin to Wellington Road combined MRT/ traffic tunnel is ambitious and has some design elegance behind it. The glaring fundamental and fatal flaw in terms of ‘getting Wellington moving’ and combating climate change is the failure to present (or I suspect even to consider – whether due to lack of ambition, intellect or any ability to think long term or strategically) any options for removing the transfer at the Railway Station to produce seamless regional rail based corridors despite this being eminently achievable by ‘Tracksharing’ rail units of different weights/ characteristics on the same rail line (a strategy used by over 30 cities overseas with a similar number planned – see my article of 27 Oct 2020).

  7. Georgina Campbell, 4. October 2021, 9:22

    First mass rapid transit in Wellington was from the city to the airport, then a route out to Island Bay was in the mix, now it’s not a question of one or the other. BOTH routes will be included in EVERY package of LGWM options to be revealed in November. [via twitter]

  8. Clamobactor, 4. October 2021, 9:22

    LGWM has all the characteristics of a zombie project aimlessly lumbering on. It probably died years ago, but it’s been politically convenient to keep the life support systems turned on and provide an illusion of life. Signs of ill-health were noticed a while ago and the corpse was given a facelift and new management, but alas cosmetic changes are not enough. I suspect the malaise is deep seated with unworkable governance arrangements and a dearth of political support. It’s time to turn off the life support systems, learn the lessons, and try something more innovative.

  9. Claire, 4. October 2021, 9:55

    The first route went up Constable to the east, these were the old trams. And through Newtown to Roy Street. Then lumbering off to the seaside in Island Bay.
    So now it will lumber to the hospital past the eventual twenty tower blocks on lower Adelaide Road. Does it still need to go all the way out to the seaside? No.

  10. Mickey Mouse, 4. October 2021, 11:10

    So now it’s mass transit along Jervois Quay (well according to some Council maps anyway and some but not all other maps?) So will it be belching buses forever in ‘pedestrianised’ Lambton Quay? Will the cars then go along the waterfront former road race circuit? Now there’s an idea not yet regurgitated! Anyone else confused or is it only LGWM confused or deliberately confusing?

  11. Conor, 4. October 2021, 11:19

    Daran is saying one route will have light rail and the other buses, which we’ve already ascertained aren’t mass transit. He also is advising different capacities for the bendy buses than what his staff told the Dominion Post.

  12. Harold Rodd, 4. October 2021, 11:52

    I think that Mickey has missed the point. If there is any confusion it is just because councillors don’t want to do anything unpopular until after the next election.

  13. Mickey Mouse, 4. October 2021, 12:26

    So Daran’s confusing us as well? Or does he know something we don’t know? Doesn’t he head the LGWM governance group? What’s that you say? More consultation?

  14. Dave B, 4. October 2021, 14:21

    Public transport 1.01 for beginners:

    Module 1.
    – Buses run on roads.
    – Trams (trackless or otherwise) run on roads.
    – Mass rapid transit (bus, train or other) runs on a separate right of way. Without this it will be hopeless compromise.

    Question for homework:
    Mass road transport also runs on a separate right of way (called a motorway). Why are we prepared to pour so much into achieving this for road transport, but are so reluctant to countenance it for public transport?

    Module 2.
    In our case-study of Wellington, the eastern corridor from the CBD to the airport is the one that is earmarked for a motorway. The southern corridor to Island Bay is not. Does this fact help enlighten students as to why the former might be more needful of mass rapid transit than the latter?

    Questions for class discussion:
    i) Is there perhaps an agenda to withhold mass rapid transit from the CBD-to-airport corridor because this would weaken the case for that other agenda which is 4-lanes-to-the-planes? Should we be suspicious as to why Island Bay has so oddly and so suddenly become a preferred contender for MRT.
    ii) There is a suburb far more desperate for vastly-improved public transport than Island Bay, called Karori. This has at least twice the population and big problems with an overloaded road-connection. Why is Karori completely off-the-radar when it come to mass-rapid-transit attention?

    Module 3.
    This lesson is aimed at equipping present and future transport decision-makers to devise a rational transport plan for our case-study city, Wellington. Mistakes of the past to learn from:
    1) Not extending the rail system when it was seriously proposed in the 1950s and 60s.
    2) Destruction of former tram system to make way for more cars.
    3) Decades of pouring resources into roading while public transport was systematically starved.
    4) Destruction of the former trolleybus system with no clear plan or costing for a battery-powered strategy.
    5) Continuing to pour resources into major regional motorways which suck-up transport-funding, funnel more traffic into Wellington and further lock-in car-dependency.

    In this session we will explore how best to turn around this shambles and how to avoid transport-planning continuing as a series of agenda-driven expedients that fail to learn from past mistakes.

  15. Wellington Commuter, 4. October 2021, 18:51

    LGWM is still focused on building MRT to Wellington South & East while the WCC Spatial Plan now focuses on population growth to Wellington North & West. Still not sure what LGWM is trying to do but if it’s about supporting future population growth they’re going the wrong way. [via twitter]

  16. Cr Daran Ponter, 4. October 2021, 20:30

    Conor Hill. No, that is not what I am saying. In early November the public will be presented with a set of complete options. Each option will:
    a) have a type of MRT to the South and East – the options will not present the South and East as choices. The bigger the projected intensification along the routes, the more likely the mode will be LRT (i.e. anticipated patronage is key to the decision on mode);
    b) present different solutions for addressing the traffic convergence at the Basin Reserve; and
    c) present different solutions for tunnelling Mt Victoria
    – none of which involve a “long tunnel”.
    The leaked maps in the DomPost are from old material and do not reflect the current options development.

    Wellington Commuter – Kent/Cambridge – Adelaide to Newtown is earmarked to be the most intense area of housing in Wellington City. The Regional Growth Framework has identified development areas (brown and greenfields) in other parts of the region – the task is now turning to how these areas will be served by infrastructure etc.

    Dave B – many other parts of the city will see bus priority measures in place – Karori will be one of these.

    Harold Rodd – there is no evidence to me that Councillors from either WCC or GWRC are prevaricating here – the options are coming and will be delivered for consultation eleven months ahead of the October 2023 local government elections.

    Georgina Campbell – you have done better than me at summarising the approach.

    Glen Smith: the issue of LRT track gauge will not be addressed until the next detailed design phase, though submitters are of free to raise it in the November consultation.

    Michael – yes, it feels like that at times. At the end of the day, the LGWM project team is committed to the objectives of the programme. This means that what you will see in November is the result of dedication to the programme objectives and not the pushing and shoving that is going on amongst different interest groups. They get to have their say over November/December.

  17. Hel, 4. October 2021, 22:40

    Sorry to be pessimistic but just don’t see these LGWM guys delivering anything significant.

  18. Dave B, 5. October 2021, 1:22

    Cr Daran Ponter, thanks for your extensive and diplomatic reply.

  19. Conor, 5. October 2021, 7:56

    Thanks for your open communication Daran.

  20. Conor, 5. October 2021, 8:01

    I should note that if mass transit is going both south and east, then both directions will be upzoned as per the NPS-UD. A plan change (or amendment to the draft) will need to incorporate this – Hataitai, most of Kilbirnie, Rongotai and anywhere south of Berhampore that mass transit goes will be getting zoning different to what’s currently in the Spatial Plan.

  21. Ralf, 5. October 2021, 8:21

    The last time LR was killed (is it almost ten years already?) was because two LR spines (one to the hospital and one to the airport) was considered to have to low a BCR. While the underlying numbers were probably wrong (if a mass transit solution is implemented seriously it will outperform the initial estimates, see e.g. Auckland’s busway) the idea was by combining these two routes the demand along the route would be high enough to justify the investment. Splitting it again means that you need strong political will to implement it.

  22. Mike Mellor, 5. October 2021, 8:54

    Thanks, Daran – all interesting and useful stuff.

    When looking at where MRT should go, I imagine that LGWM will be considering projected demand from existing developments as well as from projected ones; and will also be looking at two-way demand? As the American expert pointed out at the recent stakeholder briefing, having passengers both ways is an important factor in effective and economic transit operation, maximising efficiency.

  23. Keith Flinders, 5. October 2021, 9:57

    Daran Ponter: You wrote the options are coming and will be delivered for consultation eleven months ahead of the October 2023 local government elections.

    A typo or do you know something the rest of us don’t? I thought 2022 is when local government elections are due, the last ones being in 2019.

    Whatever the planning comes up with for modes of transport, I just hope that it projects far enough out the rate of population growth in the eastern suburbs in particular. The Spatial Plan, if adopted as is, could see one parcel of land currently occupied by three 90 year old dwellings replaced with 16 – 20 new homes. This will place more pressure on public transport and the roading infrastructure.

  24. Concerned Wellingtonian, 5. October 2021, 13:30

    Keith, Labour insiders have known for at least a week that October 2023 is the date for the next local election. The government announced its plans to introduce the necessary legislation last week.

  25. Cr Daran Ponter, 5. October 2021, 15:54

    Keith Flinders – a typo…..but who knows with Covid.

  26. Cr Daran Ponter, 5. October 2021, 17:02

    Ralf- the real killer for LRT last time around was the insistence by some councillors that LRT be driven through Mt Albert. As a consequence the BCR for LRT went through the floor – from memory to about 0.05 (which might be just above the floor!). Anyway, the Mt Albert tunnel proposal really did for LRT. Moral of the story – don’t go overboard in dressing up your proposals! The more bells and whistles the harder the sell.

  27. Ray Chung, 5. October 2021, 18:38

    I’d like to believe Daran that the date for the Local Body elections was a typo! I dread the thought of this current council being there for another year without being called to account next year. Daran, many thanks for the comprehensive explanation.

  28. Wellington Commuter, 6. October 2021, 8:06

    Daran: The 2013 Spine Study did indeed find that Light Rail to/from Wellington East would need its own tunnel while Bus Rapid Transit could share a duplicated Mt Victoria Tunnel with cars (much like the Auckland Harbour Bridge which carries more by bus than by car despite not having a dedicated bus lane). As outlined in the detailed costs from page 8 of Appendix E of the final Public Transport Spine Study, the “LRT 2 tunnel Option” total construction cost was estimated to be $938M while the Bus Rapid Transit construction cost was estimated to be $207M. The report specifically notes the cost of LRT excluding the rail tunnel as $558M.
    What this means if, even if the LRT could operate through a second Mt Victoria tunnel (which it cannot for safety reasons), it would still be twice as expensive as the BRT Option.
    But the rail tunnel cost is just a distraction from the really important finding of the Spine Study which was that LRT only provided half the benefits of BRT. This is because most people who take public transport from these suburbs live beyond walking distance of a LRT station. This means most riders must bus or drive to a LRT interchange at Kilbernie, Newtown or somewhere and then, after a wait catch a tram. They must then repeat in reverse to get home in thee evening.

    In contrast, a BRT approach enables buses to travel direct between suburbs and the CBD (as they can do now since the GWRC largely ditched the bus hubs) but BRT will get the buses past traffic congestion using dedicated lanes where necessary. BRT will provide a better alternative transport service to the whole area rather than good service to the favoured few who can afford an apartment by the few LRT stations and a worse PT service to most everyone else.

  29. John Rankin, 6. October 2021, 10:30

    Daran: is LGWM planning to make available its demand projections for the 2 proposed corridors? These should include base demand on opening, mode shift assumptions over time and transit oriented development assumptions over time, for each corridor. For example, one way some cities approach this is to set a goal that all demand growth on the corridors will be met through public and active transport (ie the number of private vehicle trips remains the same — representing some mode shift by existing drivers, offset by increased goods and services trips as a result of economic development).

    LGWM has concluded, I think reasonably, that Wellington’s demand sits on the 2-lane busway / on-street light rail part of the demand ladder. In contrast, again I think reasonably, Auckland has concluded that its proposed MRT project sits on the on-street light rail / light metro part of the demand ladder. However, without a better understanding of what LGWM thinks the future demand will be on the 2 proposed corridors, it’s hard to have an informed opinion on which mode(s) we should choose.

    Currently, one might say that if you think the demand on a corridor in 2045 is going to be greater than about 4000 passengers per hour, build on-street light rail; otherwise build a 2-lane busway, but budget to upgrade to light rail starting in 2045. Include the upgrade cost, appropriately discounted, in the cost-benefit analysis.

  30. Claire, 6. October 2021, 10:43

    Wellington Commuter: the latest iteration of the draft spatial plan has been released prior to District Plan consultation. It has fanciful walking distances to either the city centre or fictional new transport stops. This supposedly gives more scope for intensification. But it’s good to see Kent and Cambridge Tce earmarked for devt.

  31. Dave B, 6. October 2021, 11:08

    But Wellington Commuter, Wellington’s existing metro rail service functions well in spite of trains not being able to serve every remote suburb. It gets around this apparent weakness by a number of means:

    1) Historically, suburban development has occurred along the rail corridors and communities have nucleated themselves around station-stops. Prime examples are the Hutt Valley settlements of Naenae and Taita, where the station is in the centre and walkability is key. New densification rules are intended to encourage this elsewhere.

    2) Bus feeders have long been utilised as a means of connecting more-distant suburbs to rail. Prime examples – Wainuiomata, Stokes Valley, Whitby, Titahi Bay etc. Integrated ticketing (when we get it!) should make 2-stage bus-train trips much more user-friendly.

    3) The park-and-ride concept has developed as a means of attracting the car-dependent to rail by the provision of extensive free car-parking around key stations. This carries the disadvantage that it ties up valuable land which could be used for walkable-densification, instead for inefficient storage of cars, but it at least helps keep these cars out of the CBD.

    The achilles-heel of Bus Rapid Transit claiming to directly-service remote suburbs is that the service-frequency is reduced, once buses leave the trunk-route and diverge-off into these places. For instance, the high-frequency No.1 route running between Island Bay and Johnsonville every 10 minutes, diverges at Johnsonville into a service every ½-hour to Grenada Village, Churton Park and Johnsonville West. A significant number of people opt to drive to the nearest trunk-stop then park-and-ride from there, rather than wait for a less-frequent ‘ordinary bus’ at a stop somewhere on the street. In other words, the principal attractiveness of BRT is its high-frequency trunk-service rather than its flexibility to diverge – exactly the same quality offered by LRT or metro rail.

  32. Kerry, 6. October 2021, 11:58

    Daran. There is something wrong here. If the Benefit:Cost ratio for light rail is uneconomic, what is the alternative?
    Trackless trams are proprietary guided buses, and costly if the supplier is bankrupted: no spares. Light rail is well established and a far lower risk.
    It won’t be Bus Rapid Transit, which in Wellington is impractical. Auckland uses BRT for some suburban routes, but not in the central area. The Institute for Transportation & Development Policy has a complex design standard for BRT. My copy is dated 2020, and states: “The BRT Standard is a bus-based rapid transit system that can achieve high capacity, speed and service quality at relatively low cost…” It comes in three standards: bronze, silver and gold. A crucial requirement is that buses can overtake at stops, which needs a stop-width of some 30m, double the width of Manners Street. Where in central Wellington — or central Auckland for that matter — is a suitable route to be found? Oddly, building a two-lane route and calling it BRT doesn’t make any difference.
    That leaves buses, and Wellington already has too many. At peak hours the golden mile carries more than double the recommended maximum of about 65 buses an hour, needed to manage stop-delays, such as ticketing, without bus queues forming.
    Wellington needs light rail, and this is where things get really interesting. A conventional quality public transport system often uses both buses and light rail. Light rail has far greater construction costs than a bus route, but far lower operating costs. Overall, light rail is generally cheaper than buses when capital and operating costs are compared on a per-passenger basis.

    This was demonstrated in a 2011 paper by Marc Le Tourneur, studying a new route in Montpellier, the first of four light rail routes in Montpellier (population 285,000):
    Light rail statistics, then Bus statistics
    Passengers/year: 30,000; 18,620
    Capital cost: 407 million Euros; 105 million Euros
    Capital cost/pass: 5.6c; 2.2c
    Operating cost/pass: 3.2c; 7.1c
    Total: 8.8c; 9.3c
    Capital cost/pass: 0.93 Euros; 0.49 Euros
    Operating cost/pass: 0.53 Euros; 1.61 Euros
    Total: 1.46 Euros; 2.10 Euros

    Overall, light rail is 70% of bus costs. Greater savings are possible using longer trams. Montpellier uses 40m, but in Wellington another 30m seems practical.

  33. Greenwelly, 6. October 2021, 12:03

    Dave B, The Route 1 “divergence” was created because of objection to the original plan that terminated the service at the JVille Hub and then required a transfer to a “local feeder” … It was deemed that a lower frequency “one-seat” service was more acceptable than forced hubbing.

  34. Dave B, 6. October 2021, 14:45

    Greenwelly, point taken. There is a debate to be had on the relative merits of one-seat rides vs interchanging, and under what circumstances one or other may be the most appropriate.
    But the point I was trying to make above, is that the bus-feeder concept seems to work well with Wellington’s existing metro rail system. Maybe bus-feeders work better feeding into trains than into other buses? Of critical importance is reliability of the connection, and it seems this is what let down GWRC’s unfortunate foray into buses feeding into other buses.

  35. John Rankin, 6. October 2021, 15:48

    Kerry: the Auckland Light Rail Project disagrees. They have noted that for BRT to match the capacity of on-street light rail, it needs 4 lanes at stations, as the buses need to be able to overtake. That is why Auckland has rejected BRT for its city centre to Mangere project. However, they disagree that “building a two-lane route and calling it BRT doesn’t make any difference.” They point out that a 2-lane busway with intersection priority can deliver rapid transit levels of service up to about 4500 passengers per hour. Using LGWM’s numbers, that would be a bendy-bus every 2 minutes or 30 buses per hour per direction. This is less than half your recommended maximum of 65 buses per hour. There is no requirement for overtaking at stops, provided that (as LGWM proposes) the bendy-buses have all-door boarding with off-bus ticketing.

    So provided that 4500 passengers per hour is considered “high capacity” (and some people may not), a 2-lane busway can meet the minimum BRT service level. Problems will arise if LGWM tries to:
    – push more than 30 bendy-buses per hour through a 2-lane busway; or
    – allow other vehicles to share the busway lanes.

    LGWM’s business case will need to be careful not to claim the benefits of BRT without properly accounting for the full costs of building a true dedicated busway. These costs may include upgrading the corridor to light rail, if the 4500 passengers per hour capacity limit is subsequently exceeded as a result of demand growth.

    Kerry, I think you will find that the spine study business case envisaged a MRT demand of less than 4000 passengers per hour, in which case it is not surprising that BRT came out as better value than light rail. However, with LGWM’s renewed emphasis on urban development, mode shift and “moving more people with fewer vehicles” it remains an open question whether the projected demand on LGWM’s proposed corridors will require a 2-lane busway (able to move up to 4500 passengers per hour) or 2-lane on-street light rail (able to move up to some 9000 passengers per hour). We cannot dismiss a 2-lane busway as impractical without presenting evidence that the demand in Wellington will exceed a busway’s capacity. Until we see evidence either that a 2-lane busway is sufficient or that light rail is necessary, it is too soon to jump to conclusions.

    One of the most useful messages from the Auckland Light Rail Project is that with mass rapid transit, we get what we pay for and there is no free lunch. As we move from 2-lane busway, to on-street light rail, to segregated light metro, to heavy rail, the cost per km to build goes up, the passenger-carrying capacity goes up, and the cost per passenger goes down. Matching MRT supply with passenger demand is the hard part. Hence the ability to scale up to meet demand growth (and accommodate uncertainty) is really important. The most scalable form of MRT is heavy rail, the least scalable is a 2-lane busway. For Wellington, we may prefer on-street light rail over a 2-lane busway on scalability grounds alone.

    If my “back-of-the-envelope” analysis is flawed, no doubt some of the many smart people who comment on this site will set me straight.

  36. John Rankin, 6. October 2021, 17:22

    DaveB says, “Of critical importance is reliability of the connection”. Yes! The so-called “transfer penalty” is a measure of how much travellers trust that their connections will work. In general, train-train connections are the most trusted, bus-bus connections are the least trusted, with bus-train connections somewhere in the middle. System operators build trust by demonstrating that connections “just work”. GW introduced hubs without first establishing an environment in which good time-keeping is the expected norm, with the result that connections often didn’t work and passengers objected strongly. The solution is to let buses behave more like trains, by giving them their own lanes.

  37. Cr Daran Ponter, 6. October 2021, 17:55

    John Rankin – yes, the population projections will be available when the options go live.

  38. Julienz, 6. October 2021, 18:07

    John Rankin agree totally and I would add provide decent sheltered interchanges.

  39. Wellington Commuter, 6. October 2021, 23:46

    There has been much talk about how much more PT capacity will be needed in the future due to the planned city population growth. I would note the following:
    * Maximum PT capacity is needed for the 2 hour morning peak which is currently about 3,000 bus commuters coming from Wellington South and 3,000 bus commuters from Wellington East which is about a 22% mode share (Source, 2016 Cordon Count used by LGWM)

    * The Spatial Plan has the following growth predictions to 2036 (Source Three Waters Popn Estimates Sept 2020):
    ** Wellington South Current Popn 34,710 + Max Growth 5,390 = 32,458 (+16%)
    ** Wellington East Current Popn 39,210 + Max Growth 5,988 = 32,458 (+15%)

    * If there is no mode shift towards PT then by 2036 we’ll need to carry up to 4,000 commuters each from the South & East or about 2,000/hour along each PT corridor.

    * However, the GWRC, WCC and LGWM have all committed to achieve a 40% increase in walking, cycling and PT mode share. If the PT mode share from Wellington South & East goes up to 31%, then we’ll need PT to carry up to 5,500 for each area (noting this will be about 2,700/hour from Wellington East and 2,800/hour from Wellington South).

    The bottom line is there’s simply not much population growth planned for Wellington South and East under the WCC Spatial Plan. There is more population growth planned for Wellington West alone than is planned for Wellington South and East combined. And Wellington North is planned to have the population growth of Wellington East, South and West combined. There is more information on my Blog here.

    When I tweeted, “Still not sure what LGWM is trying to do but if it’s about supporting future population growth they’re going the wrong way” I was not kidding.

  40. Kerry, 7. October 2021, 9:08

    John. I do agree with the Auckland Light Rail Project, because they are not pretending that “building a two-lane route and calling it BRT doesn’t make any difference.” They are using two-lane busways, which can be improved in two ways: traffic signal priority, as you say, and longer buses. Zurich has three-section articulated buses to increase passenger capacity, practical because the rear sections are steered, slightly, so that their wheels follow the traction axle on the first section.
    I see it as important that the terms used for each system are explicit, and ‘Bus Rapid Transit’ is notorious for muddled definitions: the term should not be used for two-lane routes. Wellington’s Spine Study was a good example of bad practice.

  41. Conor, 7. October 2021, 14:02

    Daran – Do the population projections take into account that as per the NPS-UD, any mass transit station will be up-zoned with a 10-minute walk unless there are qualifying matters?
    Wellington Commuter – A mass transit route will go from the railway station to the Basin – this area alone is seeing more growth than most of the rest of Wellington city. Add other suburbs which are not counted as south Wellington in the Spatial Plan ( Mt Cook and Newtown) and the growth is even greater.

  42. John Rankin, 7. October 2021, 14:52

    Kerry, I suggest you re-read the basic characteristics of a BRT system. As far as I can tell, a 2-lane busway as LGWM is proposing meets the definition and LGWM is correct to use the term BRT. LGWM could, however, do better at explaining the maximum capacity of the 2-lane busway they are proposing. Meanwhile, we have to rely on the Auckland Light Rail Project’s figures. If LGWM’s proposal does not satisfy the BRT definition (the suggestion that the busway will be shared with other traffic in the outer suburbs is problematic), the LGWM business case cannot claim the benefits of BRT. Do you have a source for the claim that “the term should not be used for two-lane routes”?

    Wellington Commuter: that is very helpful; thank you. Um, is there an arithmetic error? The two occurrences of 32,458 don’t seem to add up (34,710 + 5,390 and 39,210 + 5,988).

    I wonder if the population growth projected for Wellington North is a result of (a) the National Policy Statement for Urban Development instructing councils to plan growth along rapid transit corridors and (b) WCC’s belief that the Johnsonville rail line delivers rapid transit service to Wellington North. If so, building high density housing without also investing in high quality rapid transit is likely to end in tears.

    The numbers are in line with the message implicit in LGWM’s latest presentation that we would invest in light rail on the south and/or east corridors primarily to promote transit oriented development. Unless that is the goal, a 2-lane busway for each corridor may well be sufficient for many years. However, if transit oriented development is the desired outcome and light rail the preferred mode for achieving this, the WCC spatial plan will need to be revised to reflect this.

    I hope LGWM sheds light on its thinking for how the 2 proposed corridors fit with the wider city growth plans that Wellington Commuter has summarised. For example, it may be better value for money to build a 2-lane busway from Miramar to Karori, with light rail from the station to Island Bay, keeping a possible future upgrade to the Johnsonville line in mind. Are LGWM’s mass rapid transit proposals stage one of a longer term N-S and E-W rapid transit network?

  43. Kerry, 7. October 2021, 14:57

    Daran. Apologies, I see that I missed something in my earlier comment: the Mt Albert Tunnel. It will make light rail costs ($/m) in Wellington greater than in Montpellier. I understand that a reasonable maximum light rail gradient is 7-8%, but some sources go much wider than this.
    The Mt Albert Tunnel gradient will be about 7%. Alternatively, a route down Constable St and on to Kilbirnie will need a similar gradient, which might be too difficult. Another advantage of a tunnel is better access to high-density Newtown and on the Zoo. Greater cost may have to be accepted, unless buses are seen as an acceptable alternative.
    Another problem to watch is the Hospital, because easy access is so important. Mass rapid transit needs to either go past it, or offer a simple change at a hub, to a route which does go pass it.

  44. John Rankin, 8. October 2021, 11:10

    Kerry: is there a suggestion from LGWM that the north-south mass rapid transit line will bypass the hospital? Previously, MRT past the hospital was a core requirement, as Conor points out above. It would be unwise for MRT to bypass the biggest source of all-day demand in the region. It is particularly important to offer all-day, every day service to hospital workers, many of whom start work early or finish work late. Transferring between E-W and N-S MRT is one thing, but as DaveB notes, transfers involving buses are problematic in Wellington. I hope Daran can reassure us that MRT past the hospital is still the plan.

  45. Cr Daran Ponter, 9. October 2021, 16:35

    John Rankin – MRT will pass the hospital.


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