The Eye of the Fish

May 1, 2012

Light Rail, Heavy Rail, MonoRail

Actually: Not Monorail, that should say : Bus.

Just when i thought it was safe to dip my fishy fingers back into the water of the war on the waterfront, a new challenge comes along. Yes: its the proposed Transport Spine interim review, and it is proposing 8 options for consideration. You may have read about it here in the DomPost “Subway Proposed“, or here “8 Options” or possibly here or even here in the Scoop reports.

We’ve even previewed it here a couple of years ago: The Syntax of Public Transport and Tram Stop and in a post called Tunnel Vision. That last one noted:
“We haven’t got much info on the latest NZ costs, but some comparisons on overseas costs in year 2000 US$ went something like this:
Norway $ 3 million / lane / km
Sydney $ 15 million / lane / km
Boston $ 47 million / lane / km
Tokyo $ 230 million / lane / km”

But back to the spiny study.
The eight options being presented for Wellington are:

• Two high quality on-street bus options along a central alignment (essentially the Golden Mile) or along a waterfront alignment (essentially following the Quays), with both options then continuing south along Kent/Cambridge Terraces, through to Adelaide Road. (Dompost states this will cost $0.1m to $25m a kilometre)

• Two bus rapid transit options along the same two alignments as above. Bus rapid transit involves buses running in an entirely separate space on the road from other traffic. (Dompost states this will cost $0.1m to $25m a kilometre)

• Two light rail options along the same two alignments as above. (Dompost states this will cost $12m to $141m a kilometre)

• A heavy rail extension underground along an alignment to be determined. (Dompost states this will cost about $105m a kilometre)

• A heavy rail extension at street level along a waterfront alignment. (Dompost states this will cost about $105m a kilometre)

To which the most logical retort would seem to be: why the heck would you consider light rail or heavy rail?

I need to sit down and have some time to actually read the report, something that the DomPost has evidently not even tried to do yet. I’m not an expert, but something tells me that heavy rail undergound would have a vastly different cost than heavy rail at grade, and also light rail costs above and below ground are likely to be very different. Obviously, light rail is also probably going to come out somewhat cheaper on grade, than if it was underground. And buses are being positioned as being the cheapest thing since sliced bread. More reading required. Back Soon ! thankfully, no one is mentioning a MonoRail at all…..

Except, of course, in the Stuff comment section. My God, those monkeys writing there are a right wing barrel of know-it-all fascists. Some sample comments from the 106 comments so far:
Kennan #106 11:47 am May 01 2012
“Another dumb idea from some idiot high paid planner or immigrant engineer who doesn’t understand Wellington is on a earthquake fault ready to let loose….”

jarrod #70 08:59 am May 01 2012
“lol what are they talking about there are all ready enough subways, we need more burger kings”

Cess #63 07:51 am May 01 2012
“Heavy rail along the waterfront????!! Noooooo!! Are they CRAZY?? This idea should be shot down in flames before it gains any traction amongst the woolly woofters….”

60 MPa
1 - 05 - 12

Stuff comments are nearly as bad as Kiwiblog comments.

Dedicated bus lanes look the most sensible option – are we coming full circle back to trams but calling it light rail instead? Live long enough and you see everything, they say..

Red route South one way and Blue route North one way? Either way that Arch Centre’s idea for a sensible Basin solution is looking more desirable.

Flyover my arse.

1 - 05 - 12

I’m a fan of a heavy rail underground extension along the waterfront with new stations at Civic Square and newly demolished Chaffers New World.

1 - 05 - 12

Seattle (which should be noted is a 1) waterfront city and 2) also has earthquakes) built a bus tunnel which later became the route for the light rail/subway.
Perhaps that’s something to consider..

1 - 05 - 12

Minimus – Seattle had massive cost over-runs – don’t even mention it as an option. I think Arch Centre had a post on how wildly far out of kilter that was.

1 - 05 - 12

>“lol what are they talking about there are all ready enough subways, we need more burger kings”

This isn’t wrong. Subways seem to have cropped up all over town recently. It isn’t Maccas globalising our food, but the sandwich people.

Any transport spine that runs along the waterfront is mad. You waste half your catchment to the harbour. The route needs to be far enough inland so that people on the waterfront don’t mind walking to it, people on the Terrace don’t mind walking to it (with maybe an elevator transfer), and people all over Te Aro don’t mind walking to it. The current bus spine is in the right place.

There are (international, not just US) underground costs discussed here:

The median point seems to be around NZD200million per kilometer, but it isn’t hard to triple that. New York has managed to spend a whopping USD4billion per kilometer on one of their lines.

I don’t understand what the issue is that people are trying to fix. The current bus system is fast and frequent and never really crowded. It is also really inexpensive, both for ticket buyers and the ratepayer. Plus, Wellington CBD is easy to walk around. Wellington isn’t growing significantly that we need to add a lot of capacity. Our suburbs aren’t growing fast, and skyscrapers aren’t popping up all over town attracting tens of thousands of extra office workers.

If improvements are needed I’d concentrate on tidying up some of the bus route. The Manners Mall changes made a lot of sense. And I’d have less stops, since more stops mean a slower service.

1 - 05 - 12

Yes – here it is:

1 - 05 - 12

$200m / km? No way. The Spine report research showed an average of about $20-30m / km. Which is entirely feasible for Wellington if we wanted to.

1 - 05 - 12

Max>The Spine report research showed an average of about $20-30m / km.

For an underground railway? Absolutely no way. Auckland’s proposed rail tunnel is $2.4billion for about 3km. Including stations, but I assume that Wellington would want stations as well. The Jubilee Line Extension in London cost about $500million per kilometer, that was back in the 90s, and involved tunneling through London clay which is about the softest material you can dig thru.

2 - 05 - 12

well in my extensive career as a civil engineering QS…. (bullshit)
I cannot imagine $20/$30/km for a tunnel option could be achieved. Every system that I’ve seen published is over $100M US per mile.

So here’s my radical idea. along lambton quay there is a whole level of dire 1st floor (above ground) tenancies that are either unoccupied, under-utilised, unvisited, or generally just shit. Let turn that it into a transportation spine.
I have no idea how to make that work, but you all can figure out the details.

2 - 05 - 12

DavidP and Minimus – sorry, I had a crossed wire there. I was talking about figures for light rail at grade, rather than underground. My mistake.
I do think though that all the possibilities of underground will be discounted and have just been put out there to excite people into believing it is unaffordable. And they are right: Wellington will never be able to afford an underground subway system – plain matter of fact. And nor do we need one either. We have ample space at ground level, which is where we have our existing buses, and so that is what the choice will come down to: either buses in dedicated lanes at ground level; or just possibly, light rail (modern trams) at ground level. It really is as simple as that. And we already have a good bus system, which will happily feed into that, so it is almost certain to end up being a dedicated bus route rather than trams.

The Real issue to discuss though, is the route. Contrary to what the report says, there is actually three routes:
1. Waterfront. Advantages : speed and less disruption to services. Disadvantages: a bit far away from where most people want to go, and takes out a couple of lanes of car traffic.
2. Golden Mile Lambton Quay: advantages: slower and twistier, but right where you want it. Disadvantage : more costly due to disruption to services. Clashes with trees and carparking. High pedestrian count so concerns over crossing points.
3. Featherston St. Advantages: it’s straight and uncluttered and close to Golden Mile. Disadvantages: services underground, and crosses lots of smaller roads.

There is a lot to be said for running the main public transport route up and down Featherston St. It really would be simple to implement. The crossover points into the rest of the city are the key crunch points though – at the Railway Station the road continues straight, and it is very wide there. Simple to do at ground level. It is the other end, at the junction of Lambton and Willis, that the fun starts. As we noted in a post ages ago, Wellington is one road short of a picnic there, and that’s the real problem to solve.

2 - 05 - 12

With the shift to inner city apartment living in the Aro Flat area isn’t it a sensible idea to consider the shift of population is west of Cambridge and Kent… A route using Taranaki through to John street for a separate and perhaps dedicated public transport route might be better than what is a blockage in Wellington’s transport network… It also avoids the Basin and the various issues of that.

Re costs, anything below the ground through the city is likely to avoid expensive property purchase costs that overground systems have. Counter to that is the issue of water table and inner city flooding risks which makes the building of anything below ground in the city area hazardous and expensive also… Below ground services are unlikely to be an issue as underground systems tend to trave well below anything of that nature.

To be costed properly though, should mean concept designing full routes and establishing good detail. I reckon per mile or per kilometer rates are dangerously inaccurate…

I would love to see a light rail bus combo. Anyone wo reckons the buses are not reaching their capacity doesn’t travel at peak periods.

2 - 05 - 12

Heavy rail option will mean less stops and will therefore need to be serviced by a bus network through the city as well. Light rail will allow more stops and will therefore probably not need a bus network as well.

However the main question I have to ask with any of these options is where is the dedicated bike route through the city? Where is the Cophenhagen type bike lanes with special light signals at intersections allowing bikes to travel faster than cars through the city? This is really important if you are going to take out one or more lanes of traffic with a light rail route. Bike lanes need to be put in. The waterfront is just too congested with pedestrians to make it a fast bike route and the roads are just too dangerous along the Quays. We need a holistic transport network through the city.

2 - 05 - 12

You know, I’m absolutely sute that the Mayor has someone working on that right now. I certainly hope so – that’s what we elected Celia as Mayor for, isn’t it? You don’t elect a green, bicycle-riding mayor to implement a road network – we want, and expect, progress to be made on Cycle paths throughout the city.

Personally, I’m dismayed we haven’t seen a single cycle path proposal from Mayor Wade Brown yet. And if she doesnt do that soon, she’ll be tossed out at the next election. And you know, you just Know, that the headline in the DomPost that day is going to read: Celia – on your bike!

16 - 05 - 12

Having been to Strasbourg a few times and experienced their tram/light rail running through the centre of the city’s shopping areas, I wouldn’t have any concerns about similar running along Lambton Quay, Willis Street and Courtenay Place. Clean, fast, cheap and therefore extremely well patronised.

Wellington’s not big enough to need heavy rail running through it, and I can’t see what benefits it could bring over light rail/tram. Below ground options seem daft to me, in light of water table/seismic issues, with the exception of a tunnel through Mount Victoria.

Does anyone know what the maximum gradient that light rail/tram can ascend?