Wellington Scoop

Under the surface: they’re still talking about a flyover option


by Tim Jones
The Let’s Get Welly Moving (LGWM) public engagement process has gone through another of its seemingly endless permutations, with a series of workshops and meetings during March and April giving participants the chance to state their priorities in areas including public transport improvements, state highway improvements, encouraging active transport (walking and cycling) and transport demand management.

But while the public face of LGWM is this slowly unfolding public consultation process, there’s a whole lot more going on behind the scenes. Some officials, politicians and lobbyists are pushing strongly for state highway “improvements” to soak up the lion’s share of the funding available for Wellington transport.

If that happens, then consequences could include building duplicate Mt Victoria and Terrace tunnels, four-laning State Highway 1 as it passes through the city, or undergrounding at least part of State Highway 1’s route through the CBD.

And what about the Basin Reserve itself? Well, after the comprehensive and epic defeat of the New Zealand Transport Agency’s Basin Reserve flyover proposal, LGWM is still talking about the possibility of … a Basin Reserve flyover. Maybe a smaller flyover, maybe a flyover with nicer decorations and a better colour scheme, but a flyover nevertheless.

To be fair, we have no evidence yet that LGWM has settled on a Basin Reserve flyover as its preferred option for that part of the transport system. LGWM’s High and Medium state highway improvement options include grade separation at the Basin Reserve. That could be achieved by a flyover, a tunnel, or a cut-and-cover option. But it’s very clear that a flyover is still on the table as a potential option.

Which raises the question: does the Transport Agency still think, as its own internal report on its failure at the Board of Inquiry suggested, that the main problem with the flyover was that they didn’t sell the idea well enough? Because if they think that was the biggest problem with their proposal, then they really need to go back and read the Board of Inquiry findings on why a Basin Reserve flyover was such a terrible idea.

When Let’s Get Welly Moving started out, it was supposed to be a chance for a rethink, a chance for the three constituent bodies – NZTA, Wellington City Council and Greater Wellington – to move away from the outmoded transport approach that more motorways meant less congestion and a better transport system, when the evidence both New Zealand and worldwide clearly shows the opposite.

More roads means more congestion, a worse transport system, a less liveable city and yet more greenhouse gas emissions at a time when the Government, the City Council and Greater Wellington have all made commitments to reduce such emissions.

So it’s depressing, if not surprising, to hear that the road-builders are making the play once again – even though one of the key objectives of the project is to reduce dependence on private vehicle travel.

The only thing that will save the day and ensure that the central city is not ruined by still more roads is public pressure. If you think that coming up with good solutions for Wellington transport should involve

– taking meaningful action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
– becoming less, not more, dependent on the private motor vehicle
– improving public and individual health through encouraging activity and reducing harmful particulate emissions
– making Wellington a more liveable city
– preserving and enhancing public spaces such as the Basin Reserve
– making Wellington better and safer for pedestrians and cyclists
– moving towards setting up a modern, efficient light rail system along with a bus system that meets users’ needs
– concentrating on managing travel demand
– and avoiding burning massive amounts of public money at concrete shrines to the car

then it’s time to speak up. Tell your local and regional councillors that you don’t want the car-dependent future that the road-building and heavy haulage lobbies are trying to foist on you. Make that message very clear to your MPs and local election candidates at the election. Don’t vote for candidates who want to focus transport spending on motorway building.

Engagement is great – so long as that engagement is meaningful. Officials may want the pond to stay unruffled, but the time has come to start making waves.

Tim Jones is spokesperson for the Save the Basin Campaign.

Read also
Congestion and a hidden agenda


  1. Lindsay, 12. April 2017, 9:20

    Great to know that they’re talking about undergrounding. Appalling that they could still be considering a flyover option. After not one but two legal defeats – with so much documentation demonstrating why such a structure is not acceptable – they shouldn’t be wasting their time by having any flyover option on their agenda.

  2. Trevor, 12. April 2017, 10:55

    Who are these lobbyists?

  3. Ron Beernink, 12. April 2017, 11:54

    It is not a road design question about underground versus flyover versus whatever. It is about a LGWM strategy that needs to reflect the clear messages from Wellingtonians to encourage public and active transport, and discourage non-essential private car use. A clear strategy sets the parameters that ensures right designs that reflect the agreed principles and outcomes.

  4. SueW, 12. April 2017, 12:06

    Thanks for getting us motivated.
    Why is LGWM so obsessed with a motorway slicing through our liveable city? Our local streets – Vivian, Arthur, Buckle, Ellice, Sussex, Dufferin, Paterson, Ruahine Sts, Kent Tce and Wellington Rd- are not a state highway. No matter how hard NZTA tries to turn them into one, it goes nowhere except to Cook Strait.
    LGWM’s own data shows at morning peak 82,000 people travel to or through the CBD, but only 800 people southbound on Aotea Quay use it as a through route, and only 1050 people continue from the Terrace tunnel to the Mt Victoria Tunnel. Surely they don’t need a motorway.

  5. luke, 12. April 2017, 13:24

    bill english wants the flyover. he referred to its opposition as non progressive. if they get back in i’d expect a law change to force the flyover.

  6. TrevorH, 12. April 2017, 13:37

    Separating a four laned State Highway One from CBD traffic will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from stop and start traffic and make Wellington more “liveable”. A flyover is a cheap but dumb idea aesthetically. We need to go under the Basin or remove it.

  7. Durden, 12. April 2017, 15:09

    SueW. Can you point me to the LGWM traffic counts please.
    “LGWM’s own data shows at morning peak 82,000 people travel to or through the CBD, but only 800 people southbound on Aotea Quay use it as a through route, and only 1050 people continue from the Terrace tunnel to the Mt Victoria Tunnel. Surely they don’t need a motorway.”
    If < 2000 vehicles (1850) during peak time are causing the horrible traffic jams at both peak times, then the roading must surely need fixing fast?

    TrevorH's point is absolutely right.

  8. Michael C Barnett, 12. April 2017, 16:54

    Tim. Congratulation on your summary of the workshops and the concerns about NZTA and the Basin Reserve. I too have my doubts that NZTA can change its spots and work toward coming up with truly progressive solutions that will lead to Wellington becoming a congestion free city.

    SueW is absolutely correct when she questions why we need a through route when the LGWM data indicates so few people are passing through the city. Durden, the figures she quotes can be found on page 14 of the LGWM Progress Report of Feb 2017

  9. Ian Apperley, 12. April 2017, 17:23

    LGWM will fail.

  10. Glen Smith, 12. April 2017, 21:52

    I also attended the LGWM workshop and sadly my worst expectations were realised. What had the potential to be a serious rethink of transport options starting with a clean slate quickly revealed itself to be a minimally changed rehash of the failed Spine Study. We were asked to rate what level of priority (level of segregation/ priority at intersections etc) we would like to give to public transport but it was clearly stated that these were all based around a single Golden Mile route using buses (oh dear I’m getting Baldrick images again) with no mention of the fact that the Spine study concluded this would be completely inadequate. There was no suggestion of rail options except as a ‘maybe in the future’ step up from buses (read- this is never going to happen). The only tunnel option was the same 2 lane Mt Victoria Tunnel that the NZTA had tried to foist upon us previously. No suggestion was given about any consideration of what is really required which is a high quality fully dedicated across town rail based corridor and no suggestion that any dedicated PT corridor to the airport is being considered.
    I was left wondering what is actually going on. It’s hard to believe they have taken this long to come up with the rehash we were presented with. And it is hard to reconcile the ‘scenarios’ with Chris Laidlaw’s talk about a ‘rapid transit corridor worthy of the name’. Clearly, as Tim says, there has to be a whole lot more going on behind the scenes ( or maybe they have all just spent a lot of time going out for coffee!). I guess in time the public (the clients they are supposed to be working for) will be told what has been decided for us.

  11. TrevorH, 13. April 2017, 7:59

    You can selectively quote figures all you want but observation and experience confirm the increasingly serious congestion that exists for hours each day both ways across town to and from the airport because of the inadequacy of the tunnels and the impediments posed by the Basin Reserve. It’s going to get worse when the Shelly Bay development gets underway and, God forbid, the runway extension. The last major initiative to address congestion on this route was in 1931. Perhaps LGWM will issue its conclusions by 2031?

  12. banana, 13. April 2017, 8:53

    Spot on Trevor. What I’m finding seriously funny (and why I keep coming back to read Scoop) is how misinformed people are about how intertwined all transport modes actually are. I asked one of the LGWM peeps how many people understood that if they wanted the uninterrupted free and easy active and public modes through and around the city (ie medium/high response) this necessitated an equivalent medium/high response to the roads? The sad response was that “they generally had no idea”.

    Anyway – I was sceptical that LGWM was going to end in a failure akin to the Basin Bridge fiasco. But, from what I have just seen, they are looking at everything and how each response interrelates, so I am pretty confident there are going to be good outcomes for the city.

  13. JC, 13. April 2017, 12:56

    Agree with 100% with TrevorH.

  14. Brevet Specific, 13. April 2017, 13:09

    Hey Chris CalviFreeman: get the flyover off the table. Can’t believe this is back. More tunnels & motorways will not getWellyMoving, [via twitter]

  15. Kerry Wood, 13. April 2017, 13:30

    Some hefty misconceptions here:

    Trevor H thinks ‘four lanes to the planes’ will reduce greenhouse emissions and make Wellington more liveable. This is plausible so long as you ignore supply and demand, assuming that cheaper driving does not attract more drivers. In the real world the most congested cities are those that have spent most on roads.
    The contrasting effects can be seen in Wellington, which has ‘tram suburbs’ such as Roseneath and Newtown, laid out for easy walking to public transport, and ‘car suburbs’ such as Churton Park and Newlands, laid out for easy access to the motorway. The car suburbs are much more costly to build, and much harder to properly serve with public transport.

    banana thinks it obvious that a medium/high response for public transport also demands a medium/high response for ‘roads’, which are assumed to be for cars. This is plausible while you assume that the way things are done today is the only rational response.
    In the real world light rail (x 15), walking (x 7), cycling (x 6) and bus-only lanes (x 5) all have much greater person-carrying capacity than motor traffic lanes. The figures are the average increase in people capacity obtainable by converting a 3.0 m lane from private motor vehicles to another mode, for example from 600-1600 people an hour in cars (average 1100), or 8000-9000 people an hour walking (average 8500). Figures are from the Global Street Design Guide (2016).

    In Wellington, ‘four lanes to the trains’ for public transport would have a minimal effect on motor traffic capacity, dwarfed by the new people-carrying capacity:
    — Buses on the existing golden mile would carry fewer passengers than at present, with no delays, say 2000 people an hour.
    — Light rail on the waterfront (at Frank Kitts Park, with other options to both north and south) would carry say 5000 people an hour initially, with up to three times greater capacity available if and when needed.
    — The only capacity loss would be one or two lanes on the waterfront, much less than the capacity gain from light rail.

    Why double the Mt Victoria tunnel, when light rail is so much cheaper?

  16. John Rankin, 13. April 2017, 13:49

    @GlenSmith puts his finger on the central problem with LGWM. In spite of Chris Laidlaw’s statement that “Every option is on the table”, the one option that would offer a congestion free service, a dedicated rail corridor with feeders to aggregate demand along the corridor, is off the table. All the evidence shows that the solution to congestion relies, not on creating more road capacity, but on a concerted effort to reduce the number of private vehicles on the city’s roads. The proposals LGWM makes for public and active transport will not do this, although the traffic demand management interventions might.

    Which brings me to @banana’s insight. If @banana is correctly reporting the LGWM view, that “uninterrupted free and easy active and public modes … necessitated an equivalent medium/high response to the roads”, LGWM already knows its proposed public and active transport interventions are not fit for purpose. They are just a smokescreen to justify building more roads.

    So the LGWM strategy boils down to this: let’s keep doing what we have always done, and this time the result will be different. But LGWM earns bonus points for “future-proof for light rail.” The concept of future conversion appeals to politicians as it appears to save money, at least in the short term, but it doesn’t usually make much sense in engineering or operational terms and often ends up costing more in the long run. And it appeals to officials because “future-proof” sounds like prudently managing the Crown’s risk, and when the future arrives, it’s Someone Else’s Problem.

    Where are LGWM’s reference cities for a “future-proof for light rail” approach that has been successful? Until they give references, I’ll side with @GlenSmith, “this is never going to happen.”

  17. Michael C Barnett, 13. April 2017, 14:26

    Trevor/Banana. Where is the evidence on which you base your assertion that four lanes to the planes will solve Wellington’s congestion problem? Personally, I find Kerry’s well-researched measured comments make far more sense.

  18. TrevorH, 14. April 2017, 9:25

    Michael: There is no magic bullet that will solve all Wellington’s congestion problems. These have been building up as a result of dithering and obstructionism. Wellington needs fast, efficient and reliable road transport connections to the wider region and the rest of the country to grow its economy. Four-laning to the airport will ameliorate current problems and provide some future-proofing. We also need to separate as far as possible state highway traffic from CBD traffic. The Basin Reserve and Karo Drive need urgent attention in this regard, and going “cut and cover” here seems logical. CBD commuters must be encouraged to use public transport which in turn needs to be convenient and quick. A congestion tax on vehicles entering the CBD between say 7am and 9am would be achievable, as would designated time-bound car pooling lanes on the motorways.

  19. luke, 14. April 2017, 10:07

    a lot of those on-street car parks would be better off as peak-time bus ways, allowing buses to bypass the congestion.

    along tinakori rd from the botanic garden to bowen st in the mornings, and from cambridge tce to the bus tunnel for example.

  20. Brent Efford, 14. April 2017, 20:42

    Thank you for this, Tim. I attended the same workshop as you, and came away with the same frustrated feeling, that LGWM is really only a glorified traffic engineering exercise. All the conversation was road-oriented; even in the most extreme PT intervention, light rail was only something to be ‘future-proofed’ for. The elephant in the room – the lack of a city rail link to give public transport a better chance of competing with car commuting via SH 1 & 2 – continues to be ignored. Even though the lack of such a rail link through the CBD is Wellington’s distinguishing deficiency in the world of rail transit. (Auckland is the only other city I know of that stops its rail transit at the CBD edge – and look at the amount being spent there to overcome the handicap!)

  21. Luke, 15. April 2017, 17:23

    Two lanes for the trains. Time to stop building more and wider roads, cities are for people not cars.

  22. Paula Warren, 17. April 2017, 7:10

    At the 10 April workshop, the thing that struck me most, and that came out in people’s comments, was how different “high” was for each subject. “High” for SH improvements was massive expenditure and impact on other things. For active transport it was pathetically minimal. For PT it didn’t include LRT – just future proofing for it. If we can afford to double both the Mt Vic and Terrace tunnels, we can afford LRT. I started a trend at our table of scoring for high+ rather than high, and putting on the form what was missing from their high option.

  23. Brent Efford, 17. April 2017, 7:11

    Trams-Action has taken up the offer of a special meeting with the LGWM team – but we have been allotted only an hour for what was hoped (by us) to be a detailed question and answer session. It seemed to be clearly signalled at the workshops that momentum had already developed to rule out any rail-based solutions.

  24. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 17. April 2017, 10:54

    Paula – I raised precisely that point at the LGWM governance group meeting a fortnight ago and made it very clear that LGWM would lose support from several quarters if it didn’t make a clear commitment to fully investigate LRT as part of the process, to the same level of detail and rigour as roading improvements and to a similar potential level of capital investment. GWRC representatives supported this view, and I anticipate some changes being made to the consultation material to reflect this. I would expect this to show a commitment to fully investigate LRT and to safeguard in due course whatever route that might be established as appropriate, which is not necessarily the currently-proposed BRT spine route. If LRT is proven as viable, it should probably be on the 10-20 year plan, not something to be implemented immediately, but this would have a bearing on shorter term investment in BRT and roading improvements.

    Brent – it’s at least a start. I don’t think it’s too late, although progress does need to be made soon in levelling the playing field of options. What’s clear to me is that a one-mode solution will not get Wellington moving – we will need improvements to roads as well as public transport and cycling infrastructure, as well as some carefully tailored travel demand management in the medium-long term. But before we spend any real money, we need the agreed vision and commitment to the final result.

  25. John Rankin, 17. April 2017, 13:04

    @ChrisCF why do you think light rail is a “10-20 year” option? Wellington city’s main transport corridor already ticks all the necessary boxes for a successful light rail investment. In particular, it greatly exceeds the 3000 passengers per hour or 75 buses per hour minimum needed for LRT to be viable, and it has major sources of all-day travel demand, like the airport and hospital.

    We know NZTA likes “BRT now, light rail one day” as a strategy, but you need to ask them for evidence of cities which have successfully done this. As far as I know, the very few cities that have tried found it cost more and was more disruptive than if they had gone straight to light rail. And the upgrade to light rail happened sooner than they planned, so poor value for money all round. The fact that so few cities have tried this approach (I found 2) tells us a lot.

    Perhaps a better strategy would be to recognise that light rail may take up to 10 years for the first line to open, so we need to start now, by identifying and safeguarding the route, and make PT improvements to tide us over. Let’s aim for “light rail within 10 years.”

  26. Brent Efford, 17. April 2017, 16:48

    Right, John. Why light rail should be perpetually “decades away,” when the very slogan ‘lets get Wellington moving’ implies some degree of urgency, is a mystery to me – unless, that is, it is just a cynical fob-off.
    But at least I take some heart from Chris’s insistence that light rail be taken seriously, not just ‘future-proofed’ – whatever that can mean in a city which is already so well suited to light rail and had electric trams operating along the natural PT spine for 60 years.

  27. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 18. April 2017, 19:14

    John: “Perhaps a better strategy would be to recognise that light rail may take up to 10 years for the first line to open, so we need to start now, by identifying and safeguarding the route, and make PT improvements to tide us over. Let’s aim for “light rail within 10 years.””

    I don’t think that’s unreasonable. One reason I want to see LRT fully evaluated as part of LGWM is that, if LRT proves to be feasible, any bus priority improvements on the main spine route should be limited to those that will give intermediate benefits only; alternatively, if LRT is shown to be impossible, we should develop more extensive bus priority / BRT improvements. Remember also that the contracts for the new bus routes to commence July 2018 are generally for 10 years, so the end of that period would be the ideal time to introduce LRT. And yes, the analysis, planning, consultation, detailed design, construction and implementation of light rail could conceivably take 10 years, especially if the route needs to diverge from the current spine route.

  28. Brent Efford, 18. April 2017, 21:20

    Yes, Chris – the throwaway “… IF light rail proves to be feasible …” is the nub of the problem.
    The technical feasibility of light rail along the spine is beyond doubt – it has already operated along it for 60 years (more, if you count the horse and steam tram predecessors) and far more challenging alignments are mainstream modern light rail routes around the world. Many hundreds of them, in fact.
    The issue is whether the politicians are prepared to commit serious money (which can come from many sources) to developing zero-emission, attractive, high-quality public transport which will transform the urban environment and economy for the better – possibly at the expense of the highway building they appear to love so much. In progressive jurisdictions the answer is a resounding “yes”. In Wellington, and NZ generally – claiming environmental consciousness but stuck in a 1950s car-based view of the ‘transport of the future’ – maybe not so much.
    Our biggest affliction is politicians who don’t want to make the call, and flick the responsibility for the ritual ‘paralysis by analysis’ off to officers and consultants apparently carefully selected for their LACK of knowledge of light rail – egregiously obvious in the Public Transport Spine Study and, many of us fear, ‘deja vu all over again’ as far as LGWM is concerned.
    The Americans say “yer gotta wanna” as the first step if you want to succeed, and we are all too familiar with politicians who don’t ‘wanna’ using advisors as cover.
    As a matter of interest, 1995 is the last time consultants with real implementation experience in light rail were engaged by the GWRC (and the city council) to report on its feasibility for the Golden Mile. It was a ‘given’ that it would be an extension of the suburban rail network. Dusting off that favourable report would be a quick and effective way to bring LGWM up to speed.

  29. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 18. April 2017, 22:35

    Brent – speaking personally, I’d love to see LRT in Wellington, if it can be built and operated reliably and at a fair price. If I didn’t think it had a chance I wouldn’t be advocating the study as part of LGWM. I’m aware, however, that there are lots of different visions as to what an LRT/tram network in Wellington might look like and how it might work. There could be huge advantages in putting the right system in, but some disadvantages too, not the least of which is resilience to disruption from earthquakes.

    You may believe LRT is feasible, but it would be a huge investment and we will need to tease out all factors including route/s, vehicle sizes, frequencies and interrelationship with other public transport. I’m aware of the suspicion (derision even) with which some LRT proponents view the spine study. We need a new study that is objective, interactive and iterative – i.e. that involves LRT proponents (and opponents) at each step of the way, giving everyone a chance to present their case, query the assumptions and influence the route, so that, hopefully, whatever conclusions are reached can be accepted as the correct ones, giving assurance to those who will need to make the final decisions and secure the funding.

    How does that sound?

  30. Tony Randle, 19. April 2017, 9:19

    Chris – Light Rail proponents (including many city and regional councillors) have again successfully stalled all plans to invest in an improved bus service for another few years. To my knowledge, not a single dollar has been invested in the past decade in infrastructure that would get the buses through traffic more reliably. It is therefore no surprise that, since 2006 (after growing consistently year on year), bus patronage has stalled. The only bus PT increases implemented since then have been are fare increases.

    It is clear from comments that many light rail advocates have been invited to the LGWM workshops and Trams-Action (aka Brent Efford) even has been given its own hour long meeting to pitch the light rail case. Everyone has now heard from multiple light rail proponents about their issues with LGWM workshops but did LGWM invite ANYONE to voice the case for improving our bus service at these workshops? I don’t think so.

    It is therefore of interest to me that you have just said:
    “We need a new study that is objective, interactive and iterative – i.e. that involves LRT proponents (and opponents) at each step of the way, giving everyone a chance to present their case, …”

    From the point of view of a PT advocate who believes that investment in buses is the way to go, the LGWM workshops have been neither objective nor open. You speak good words above but it seems from the outside that the whole decision making process around Wellington PT is being railroaded.

  31. Alana, 19. April 2017, 10:40

    Look out Wellington. The National government may just swoop in and cut off funding as Brrownlee has just done in Christchurch. Better behave ourselves.

  32. Wendy, 19. April 2017, 10:48

    What makes anyone think that Wellington light rail will be an option when it will require considerable central government funding. With the government funding Auckland’s endless transport problems there isn’t going to much left in the pot for Wellington, or anyone else. Let’s face it, Wellington does not have the same clout or importance with the government as the Auckland super-city, and all the delays and infighting going on here doesn’t inspire any sort of confidence that the right decision will be made.

  33. Glen Smith, 19. April 2017, 12:22

    Chris. This sounds like an excellent plan. It is not surprising that there are a lot of different ideas about what rail might look like, given the lack of information regarding costs, practicalities of routes etc. I suspect once more information is available, including modeling of options, that more of a consensus will be reached. This will be a big task since, as Tony Randle indicates, bus options or a mix of bus and rail options should be examined. I personally think a dual/rail system is sensible with extension of rail supplying a ‘rapid transit’ across town corridor via the Quays in conjunction with probably 2 ‘principle’ bus routes via the Golden Mile- a ‘north/south’ route and an ‘ east/west’ route. Ten years sounds a sensible time frame for implementing changes. And delaying decisions about key bus changes until an overall plan is developed is prudent – as you indicate there is no point in spending the projected $200-300 million trying (in my view futilely) to improve the Golden Mile up to a standard where it can act as the required ‘rapid transit’ corridor if that money would produce better transport outcomes spent on a Quays corridor. However Tony is right about the time this process is taking – the Councils need to get the process going and aim to progress quickly (I had thought it might have started as soon as the flyover was rejected). And if Brent is correct about the lack of expertise in rail amongst advisors in the GWRC and WCC, then clearly independent advice is called for. I am more confident than Wendy about the ability to attract central funding especially if the costs of not implementing rail are examined (particularly congestion costs) and if local body councillors hold their ground and absolutely refuse to agree to an unbalanced transport system.

  34. Kerry Wood, 19. April 2017, 14:54

    Tony: I see no evidence that light rail advocacy has ever delayed bus improvements in Wellington, and at least one group, FIT (Fair Intelligent Transport), fully supports bus improvements as a necessary short-term step: Wellington will not see light rail in much less than ten years.
    — The central city bus route is grossly overloaded and the only effective measure proposed has withered and died: the ‘secondary spine’. GW’s new proposals for running fewer buses will help, but real change demands more space for bus stops, with none available.
    — There is no room for BRT. Brisbane’s successful BRT system demands a stop width of 27 metres, which on the golden mile needs a lot more land.
    — The double-deck buses will help by increasing capacity, but will also make things worse by aggravating stop delays. My guess is that the delays might win.
    — Light rail cannot replace buses on the golden mile because it would be very costly and disruptive (underground services) and seriously inconvenience too many passengers: think of local routes such as Hataitai and Brooklyn.
    The good news is:
    — Light rail can do on two lanes what BRT can do on four, probably more cheaply (land purchase for stops and flyovers for motor traffic capacity).
    — The bus route is so badly overloaded, up to about 6000 passengers an hour, that light rail could operate above minimum break-even passenger numbers from opening day.
    — Light rail would have an ultimate capacity about three times initial capacity, with potential for several other routes (most light rail systems are extended). It has real potential to be the backbone of a cheaper and much more rational transport policy.

    FIT proposes cutting the existing bus route down to one every two or three minutes, enough to provide a good service without overloading. Light rail can then run on a separate two-lane route, with a stop on the waterfront at Frank Kitts Park. The rest of the route can be:
    — To the north, either continue on there waterfront or cross to a stop at Midland Park, for both buses and light rail, then on to the Railway Station.
    — To the south, run to another shared stop at Te Aro, then on to Wellington Hospital, Kilbirnie and the airport by a variety of routes. FIT’s present preference is Taranaki and Wallace Sts to the hospital, Riddiford and Mansfield Sts to the Zoo, a single-track tunnel to Karori, then Coutts St and an underpass to the airport.

    What about two bus routes? not very effective if the existing route is carrying twice the desirable maximum. But if you have a better option, let’s hear it.

    Alana and Wendy: Hang in there: LGWM has a problem, and ideas on transport policy are changing fast. New Zealand can’t live in the 1960s forever.

  35. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 19. April 2017, 15:52

    Sounds good Kerry, except the tunnel would go to Kilbirnie, not Karori!

  36. K, 19. April 2017, 21:49

    Damn: turn left at the Zoo, not right!

  37. Tony Randle, 20. April 2017, 0:34

    Kerry outlines the need for representation by pro-bus advocates as part of LGWM when he makes false claims about Bus Rapid Transit like “There is no room for BRT. Brisbane’s successful BRT system demands a stop width of 27 metres, which on the golden mile needs a lot more land.” The Brisbane busway can handle nearly 300 buses per hour … hardly a relevant example to the much more limited Wellington situation. But the misrepresentation of facts about the possibility of implementing BRT in Wellington is only to be expected from rail fans frustrated at their continual failure to make the case for their mode.

    There are, of course, successful BRT solutions along narrow corridors and also unsuccessful light rail solutions, but light rail advocates are unlikely to mention either of these/ They have a bridge, no I mean, a rail line to sell you.

  38. banana, 20. April 2017, 9:31

    Well done Tony – you have correctly identified the major issue with this article and the majority of its comments. The solution(s) will cover bits of everything (PT – be it bus, BRT or rail, Road, Active, etc.), but everyone is so focused on being pro-something/anti-something else that they can’t see the interrelationships between them all.
    From what I have seen of the LGWM outputs to date, they understand this, so while I’m not overly happy with how long they are taking, I’m confident that the right outcome will result.

  39. luke, 20. April 2017, 9:56

    Seems easy enough: light rail from the station along the quays and extend in stages towards the airport, with reduced amount of buses on the golden mile. Pity the govt is against any non rubber tyre based solutions.

  40. Brent Efford, 20. April 2017, 10:10

    Chris C-F: a huge amount of study has already been done re light rail, in its ‘tram-train’ flavour, in Wellington, dating back to 1878 but particularly concentrated in the 1990s, when it became part of the GWRC’s ‘long-term’ (2004-19) strategy (though forgotten by 2004, of course).
    I have summarised this, and applicable overseas experience, in a large ‘Wellington City Rail Link at a glance’ drawing which has been exhibited at many meetings and which you have been sent in PDF format in the past as a member of our email list. I will send it out again in the next mailout.
    Until Fran Wilde and the National Government version of NZTA got involved and muddied the waters in order to snub Celia Wade-Brown, ‘light rail’ in Wellington always meant completion of the existing rail network (which operates quite like a large US light rail system already) through the CBD, thus remedying the big deficiency of our rail network which reduces its ability to compete with state highway car commuting.
    Bigger buses or the so-called, and now tacitly abandoned, ‘BRT’ plan, are irrelevant to this problem – except in the minds of certain rail-haters who have even urged the replacement of our existing trains by buses!
    That, rather than just local PT for the eastern suburbs (which buses could continue to handle, with difficulty, albeit without attracting many more passengers) is the real elephant in the Wellington transport room.

  41. Kerry, 20. April 2017, 10:38

    Tony: You are partially right, but if you rule out a successful mode of public transport on ideological grounds (including ‘too expensive’), then you fall into error when conditions best suit that mode. If you include all plausible modes — as the spine study did in the initial phases — you are much more likely to get a cost-effective solution.

    In Wellington a single modern tram could carry over 400 people, nominally replacing six or eight buses. In practice it often replaces many more because it is so much more productive. Think of those long queues of Wellington buses: up to 13 by my count, soaking up 13 driver’s salaries. Bus advocates need to understand how those queues develop, and there is an excellent explanation in the 2011 Bus Review for GW (MRCagney).

    The reason why trams are more productive — with much better timekeeping — is that they run six or eight times less frequently. They can be given junction priority, briefly and when needed. This is impractical for buses running, on average, more than twice a minute. One reason why BRT would be likely to cost too much in Wellington is a need for flyovers at busy junctions, such as Whitmore Street.

    The fact that BRT in Brisbane runs more buses than in Wellington is irrelevant. What matters is whether the stops have overtaking lanes. With no overtaking possible at many Wellington stops, the 2011 Bus Review recommends a maximum of 60 bus/hr, compared with Wellington’s present 140-odd. Consultants for Auckland Transport recommend even fewer. It is the stops that generate the queues, and the double-deck buses GW have chosen are slow at stops.

    Where you are partially right is that some two-lane bus routes are called BRT and work very well. In Europe these are often called BHLS (bus with a high level of service) but the concept is unsuited to Wellington because it is limited to 20–30 bus/hr. There is much confusion around the term BRT, and I suggest you look at the latest BRT Standard, put out by the ITDP (www.itdp.org). It was developed to help cities around the world avoid creating under-performing systems. The GW version never had the slightest chance of meeting the standard, making failure inevitable.

    The FIT proposal would reduce bus numbers on the golden mile to a maximum of about 40 an hour, making practical the BHLS system you advocate.

  42. Kerry, 20. April 2017, 12:17

    Brent, Chris: The initial study that Brent refers to was in 1992, and I was responsible for the technical side. At that time, I remember no intention to do more than convert the Johnsonville Line to a tramway, and no thought of tram-train running on all KiwiRail tracks.
    The problem I see with tram-train is that substantially higher costs can be justified only by avoiding transfers at the Railway Station. Most of the benefits can be obtained by improving transfers rather than avoiding (most) of them, at substantially lower cost.
    In the interests of persuading the govt to reverse its plans for more urban motorways, and to spend more on Public and Active Transport , we think combining our forces will achieve most. FIT therefore wishes to have a cordial working relationship with Trams Action and all the other transport groups pushing for light rail to be put on the agenda right now. To that end, FIT remains very willing to consider a business case for tram-trains.

  43. Leviathan, 20. April 2017, 16:20

    In a similar manner, there is discussion and plans over on Eye of the Fish, debating not so much the method (tram / train / bus) but what, to me, is the most important – the route.

    Seriously: this is the most important part and needs to be resolved first.

    I’d encourage you all to have a read and nominate which route makes more sense to you for stage One – Green (Customhouse Quay, Jervois Quay), Orange (Lambton, Willis, Manners), or Pink (Featherstone St). Your feedback is welcome over there on the Fish or here at Scoop.

  44. luke, 20. April 2017, 16:26

    Transfers are not a problem if done correctly, The London Underground map is an example of this. Therefore imo a standalone Light Rail system is better suited to Wellington than the added cost of trying to provide tramtrains for one seat rides from everywhere to everywhere.

  45. Tony Randle, 21. April 2017, 0:17

    @Kerry: Thanks for quoting the 2011 Wellington Bus Review by MR Cagney … “With no overtaking possible at many Wellington stops, the 2011 Bus Review recommends a maximum of 60 bus/hr”. I was on the Bus Review Reference Group and am very familiar with this study (even discussing it with Jarad Walker aka “Human Transit”). This statement on page 54 actually refers to the 1995 US Transport Research Board Report 100 on Transit Capacity Part 4 Bus Capacity where it states in Chapter 3 Page 4/37:
    “A study of bus operations in Manhattan recommended the following desirable maximum a.m. peak hour bus volumes for arterial street bus lanes: …
    • One lane exclusively for buses, no use of adjacent lane: 70 bus/h; and
    • Buses in curb lane in mixed traffic: 60 bus/h.”

    The 2011 Bus Review states multiple times that it is focused on SHORT term bus improvements (NOT the long term infrastructure investment being considered by LGWM) such on Page 12:
    “…if public transport can be given a reliability advantage through a chokepoint, this advantage will benefit public transport users over a large area. This effect is already apparent at the Mount Victoria public transport tunnel. The tunnel not only makes public transport faster than driving for trips between the CBD and Hataitai, it also benefits trips to the CBD (and all the connections there) from a large area east of the tunnel, including not just Hataitai but Kilbirnie, the Airport, and Miramar. The commercial Airport Flyer service might not be commercial without this travel time and reliability advantage. While this study does not address these possible future infrastructure improvements, it identifies obvious opportunities where small projects could have large benefits.”

    So the 2011 Wellington Bus Review actually recommends that , WITHOUT investment, there should be a maximum of 60 bus/hour on the Golden Mile.

    What is the potential capacity of the Golden Mile with investment? We can turn again to MR Cagney and their 2016 Auckland City Centre Bus Reference Case Section 4.2 Bus Stops and Lanes that includes Table 15 that states the following bus capacities:
    * Buses per hour: 54 to 74 | Number of bays required per stop: 4 | Single bus lane required, buses can stop in lane
    * Buses per hour: 75 to 95 | Number of bays required per stop: 5 | Single bus lane with indented bus stops required
    * Buses per hour: 142 to 164 | Number of bays required per stop: 8 | Single bus lane required with indented bus stops, skip stop pattern required

    This and many other BRT studies state that WITH planning and WITH investment, one bus lane with indented stops can handle a lot more than 60 bus/hour. Any objective study will again find that in Wellington, for any equivalent investment, rapid bus will give a superior service to light rail.

  46. Glen Smith, 21. April 2017, 8:22

    It is not a matter of buses OR rail but ‘horses for courses’- finding the mode that is best fit for each situation. If you look at the new very good plan for Auckland you will see a mix of ‘heavy’ and ‘light’ rail along with BRT and traditional buses. A similar mix is likely the best solution in Wellington. Also the aim is to attract commuters out of their cars and one of the disincentives is transfers. Neil Douglas did some interesting research on this in 2013 (search ‘rail transfer penalty Neil Douglas 2013’) which isolated the ‘pure’ transfer penalty (how much of a perceived disincentive the process of transferring is, separate from the actual walk and wait time). The average rail-bus transfer penalty for rail users was a 17.5 minutes (i.e. the disinclination to take a 30 minute rail trip with a transfer was the same as if it were a 47.5 minute trip). This largely explains why so few rail commuters transfer to bus and provides further compelling evidence that we should be extending rail and removing transfer at the station (I have yet to see a good reason why we can’t). If we had an existing BRT system I would be advocating extending this but we don’t – we have an existing high quality rail network servicing 75% of the population.
    On the other hand it will, in my view, be a long time before rail to many of the major suburbs (eg Karori, Island Bay) can be justified and these should remain as buses with bus lanes, bus priority etc introduced to make corridors that run via the Golden Mile and are as close to BRT standard as possible.

  47. Tony Randle, 21. April 2017, 10:51

    @Glen: I am happy for a ‘horses for courses’ solution … I was just refuting Kerry’s claims that a bus-only based solution is not in the race and that Wellington needs light rail.

    I will take issue with your statement “If we had an existing BRT system I would be advocating extending this but we don’t – we have an existing high quality rail network servicing 75% of the population.” This is a disingenuous view of Wellington PT services where 2 of every three PT users rides a bus. You can claim that rail services 75% of the region’s population but the vast majority in these areas still drive to work; it is only in Wellington suburbs serviced by bus that PT use gets to over %20. The bus service with zero investment still works for many more than the “existing high quality rail network”, just think what would happen if the councils actually spent some money on it.

  48. John Rankin, 21. April 2017, 10:57

    @GlenSmith: ‘Horses for Courses’ yes yes yes. Rail and buses have complementary strengths and weaknesses, so the mix a city needs depends on what one is trying to achieve. Light rail offers speed, frequency, on-time performance, and accessibility. It has the capacity to meet an increasing demand for mobility to serve major routes and link outlying areas. If that’s what Wellington needs, and I think it is, then light rail is a good option. As you and I have noted before, Wellington needs 2 lanes for rapid transit and 2 lanes for buses. The reason I am sceptical of BRT now, upgrade to light rail in future, is that nobody has been able to tell me how such an upgrade could be done without causing enormous disruption to PT riders, and we end up paying for 2 sets of infrastructure.

    I’m not sure it’s correct for Tony Randle to characterise LGWM as ‘long term’ when it has excluded light rail from consideration, except as some undefined ‘future-proof’. I have no idea what ‘future-proof’ means in this context and LGWM so far hasn’t said.

    Jarrett Walker has some interesting observations about transfers and connections: why transfers are good for cities, including the comments at the end. He cautions against generalisations regarding ‘transfer penalties’ as these depend on the nature of the connection experience. It’s no surprise that so few rail passengers transfer to buses, since the connection experience is so unpleasant — the system is basically sending the message that ‘you can transfer if you insist, but you are not going to like it.’

    I also wonder if it’s too limiting to view extending the existing rail service as primarily a commuter service. Running rails through the city is going to be an expensive exercise. It will be easier to make an economic case for doing so if it aims to maximise ridership, which means attracting riders all day, every day, with a frequent, fast, reliable service. I suspect the case for such an extension will depend on the ability to attract a strong base of off-peak demand.

    This thread is an interesting and constructive discussion. Thanks to everyone who has posted so far.

  49. Brent Efford, 21. April 2017, 20:26

    A lot of talk on this thread iw apparently motivated by anti-rail ideology and/or ignorance of the big wide world outside.
    Re ‘interchanges’: there is all the difference in the world between small suburban PT interchanges, where one train at a time deposits passengers to no more than two or three buses just across the platform, these buses departing within a couple of minutes of the train arriving – the efficient arrangement that has operated for decades in northern Wellington region – and One Big Interchange with many trains depositing passengers for any of nearly 30 bus routes, adding at least 10 minutes to any through journey.
    Several years ago, NZTA (in the days when it had a mandate other than unrestrained road building) sponsored a visit by Norwegian PT network design expert Prof G Nielson. He made this point, and the report that he co-authored is still available as NZTA396 . Note that Wellington’s geography and general situation is compared to Zurich’s, considered by many in the industry to have the best tram system in the world (and trolleybuses, a metro and suburban rail)!
    If stopping all rail transit at the edge of the CBD, and forcibly transferring passengers to buses (or walking, or 50%+ not bothering and driving instead, as happens in Wellington) was a sensible and efficient way of organising a PT system, then every transit system would do it and save billions on the cost of building subways or even ordinary street tramways. In fact, though, no transit system does this – except Wellington’s. Even car-dependent Auckland is investing nearly $3 bn in a city rail link to achieve CBD penetration and through travel.
    And, finally, two quotes on the subject from two whose expertise far exceeds anyone who has contributed to this thread:
    “We always came to the same conclusion. Light rail as a stand alone service (Station to airport) was not a winner. We needed to extend to Johnsonville or even the Hutt. We looked at operating standard units and light rail on the same tracks and then allowing the light rail to extend into the City. We saw no problem with this.”
    – Dr David Watson, Wellington Regional Council Transport Manager, 1990s (in a private communication to Trams-Action).
    “It seems likely that the public transport market share in Greater Wellington could be put on a strong growth trajectory by operating most of the regional rail service through the central city, and beyond. For many people this would provide direct access to all major central city destinations and trip generators within the 900m catchment area criterion of station platforms cited in the Options Evaluation report. In addition, this would provide single-transfer connections with central city bus and trolleybus lines making it easy to reach many other destinations outside Central Wellington. By increasing the range of trip origin/destination pairs that can easily be made by public transport, a significant impediment to making public transport more useful in Wellington could be removed. The termination of “commuter” rail lines on the edge of the CBD, with a transfer required just to complete a basic journey to the centre of town… is an antiquated concept based on historic precedents that are no longer valid.”
    – Tom Matoff, Director, Transportation Planning, LTK Engineering Services, Winters, California, USA, in a memorandum to Trams-Action regarding the Johnsonville Line, 03/12/2013
    (Note particularly the last sentence!)

  50. lindsay, 24. April 2017, 11:21

    Comments are now closed, as 50 is the maximum number that our system can handle.