What About Light Rail?

Monday, July 11th, 2011

I lived in Szczecin, Poland, until I was 14. I had family in other large centers in Poland. All those cities had something in common—extensive and very well utilised light rail networks.
The trams were a different colour in each city, usually coincident with the colours of the city’s coat of arms. Even at the lowest pointduring the communist regime when the people were at their poorest and the country was in a huge debt the trams were going strong, taking commuters to work, home, school, parks, shopping (when there was something to buy, anything really would do). I certainly don’t remember anyone not being able to afford to use the tram service.

The NZTA propose a new system of roads to divide our city. Roads that will induce more traffic and increase our reliance on non-renewable sources of energy generation. The proposal, which apparently aims to “improve traffic flows and reduce journey times for public transport”, does not seem to acknowledge the future of the city. It simply concentrates on a particular solution, to a potentially non-existant problem, mandated for today only.

What about creating options and opportunities for the future growth of the city?

I believe that one of the reasons why light rail was so successful in Szczecin and other major centers in Poland was because it was well established over the decades. Since its introduction in the early 20th century it’s been constantly improved, extended and above all taken into consideration whenever the city grew or changed in some way.

The point is that there are plenty of precedents in the world suggesting the sensibility of establishing an electric light rail system in Wellington, especially in the face of oil going the way of dinosaurs (or is it the dinosaurs that went the way of oil). At the very least any proposal for major infrastructural changes to the city should address alternatives for public transport and look toward our future needs rather than knee-jerk in a reaction to our current bad behaviours.

 


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Posted under: Basin Reserve issues, Uncategorized, urban design | 14 Comments »

14 Responses to “What About Light Rail?”

  1. tom Says:

    Do you think light rail will get people out of cars or just take people out of buses?

  2. Frank Says:

    Depends upon convenience and speed of service most probably. If the service didn’t improve on the current PT service, there would be no change (which is why we must be careful to factor in the inconvenience of the necessary mode-switch within trips as well)…

  3. Guy Says:

    Speaking personally, I tend to use a car more than a bus, for anything more than simple walking distance. But I can promise you, that if light rail was put in to the Airport, I’d take that every time.
    The issue of taking cars to the airport is crazy. The parking in the airport is prohibitively expensive, the nearby streets are full of cars all day long for the surrounding half a kilometre or so, and the price of taxis from the airport is climbing steadily. The logical issue of taking the bus there does not always work – it does not run late on Sunday evenings, when people return to Wellington from a weekend away, and it takes a slow and circuitous route to the airport.
    If a Light Rail system was installed that was quick and cost effective, I’m sure many people, like me, would use it every time.

  4. m-d Says:

    Looking at the latest vision for Kilbirnie, there is the suggestinon of using the K-town bus barns for a mixed-use residential/commercial development that would support the development of k-town as a transit-oriented node in the Wgtn growth-spine. I did note, however, that the possibility of this depends upon finding a new location for bus storage.

    How about (now bringing this back on topic), Infratil (NZ Bus and Wellington Airport remember) locate bus storage at the airport. In my world this would mean that airport services could run later for a start (and possibly more frequently as well?). It seems to make sense to me that an interchange/node at the airport would be advantageous for both of Infratil’s companies… (and Wellington more generally).

    Just putting it out there…

  5. m-d Says:

    That is in recognition that LRT isn’t going anywhere near the airport any time soon…

  6. IS Says:

    I’m a regular bus user, but I certainly wouldn’t consider taking a bus to the airport.

    For a start it would require at least one change of bus, and it is difficult enough getting luggage onto a bus let alone having to do the on/off thing twice. The cost is also prohibitive – it is much cheaper to have someone drop you off, which I suspect that, outside of business travel, is the most common way of getting to/from the airport.

    It would probably also take an hour or so (if the timetables of the 2 services did align neatly), compared to 25 minutes or so by car. I also wouldn’t trust the reliability of the services when a flight is needing to be met, although I admit, the bus services have been pretty good lately – but still,

    Business travel – as the biggest airport user? – is not subject to the same tendencies, as parking is an acceptable business expense – you’ll never get that ‘demographic’ on the buses for the reason that all things being equal (cost not being personally borne), getting there in a car is a billion times easier and more convenient.

    If by chance, I couldn’t manage to find someone to drop me off – I’d either park the car there for the day (if it was a day trip), for between $9 – $31 depending on the day, or else I’d just grab a shuttle for $30 – 3 times more expensive than buses to be sure, but worth it I think…

    BUT even so, that doesn’t mean that I think we need to improve SH1 to the airport. There is no way I consider our roads as badly congested, even at peak times driving to the airport is a doddle.

  7. IS Says:

    I note that my second-last paragraph runs counter to my saying that the bus cost is prohibitive – but I am unlikely to not be able to scab a ride to the airport from someone or other, hence that paragraph is largely hypothetical…

  8. Den Says:

    The greater Wellington populace gets to use trains that we in Wellington pay for but large parts of Wellington that can fairly easily be connected to a light rail/tram system are left with slow and ineffective buses… This may be Wellington’s last chance for a very long time to get a proper light rail connection between town and the wild east – let’s make sure a new tunnel is made wide enough to include for rail also!

  9. Guy Says:

    Den,
    interestingly, from what I understand, the new road tunnel proposed by NZTA has absolutely nothing to do with any kind of allowance for a Light Rail system. It is presumed that IF and WHEN any light rail system is proposed in Wellington, that the route would go through Newtown (past the Airport) and would never even be considered for the 2nd Mt Vic tunnel.

  10. Brent Efford Says:

    Guy – I presume you mean Newtown (past the Hospital)! Quite right – that would be a necessary node on a light rail line and complement the City Council’s growth spine plan. Trans-Action has been campaigning for light rail (or more accurately tram-train, because it would be an extension of existing train services) for about 20 years. If anyone wants to get our email newsletter just send me a message at info@trans-action.org.nz.

  11. Keith Flinders Says:

    It is one thing to propose a tram/light rail system city to airport, but has anyone calculated how many will use it, and the cost to install it. There is already the regular Airport Flyer bus service from the central city to the airport and back, including onward to the Hutt valley. Buses offer the only economic and affordable public transport system in Wellington, due to layout and topograhy.

  12. m-d Says:

    Plans for an investigation of “high quality public transport” are currently being tendered – according to the Mayor in yesterday’s Capital Times*… I’m assuming looking at LRT feasibility will be a part of that?

    *…where she also put forward our Arch Centre Basin scheme as an interesting alternative to the NZTA proposal (all but an endorsement…?)

  13. Den Says:

    Brent – Good luck with the campaign. With Celia in the house hopefully your 20 years of campaigning will see a development that puts Wellington on the map as a green city. I do think there is a need for a reasonably rapid light-rail/tram between the city and the airport as the growth in passenger numbers at the airport is being greeted by a growth in parking rather than a long term public transport system. Via Newtown might make this journey a little too drawn out to be sustainable. Other than a small hole in Mt Vic, the space is pretty much there for a direct route all the way between Wellington Railway Station and the airport.

  14. Keith Flinders Says:

    At $5 million per km (using the Christchurch model) to lay a single set of light rail tracks, and some double tracking will be required, plus a spur line to the hospital, will be $100 million. Add to that the passenger units, the overhead and underground electricity reticulation, changes to road signalling, and cost of disruption during the work, then $250 – $300 million could be the initial cost, plus a tunnel if the old tram tunnel can’t be incorporated into the route.

    This would double the debt the city would have to finance.

    Trolley buses offer a green alternative, at a fraction of the cost, and are more suited to the passenger load the airport generates.

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