The Eye of the Fish

October 14, 2010

Red-head Green Wade-Brown gets Gold

Well that was a surprise! Here in Fish City we get little in the way of advertising blurb from candidates, and so I was pleasantly surprised to see the result come through on the wire that we have a new Mayor. Not that I ever had anything against our previous Mayor, but you know – after 3 terms, its got to be time to give the reins to someone else, and we’ve got a new woman in charge. I just love it that we have a woman wielding the reins of power – and am glad that we didn’t have a choice between candidates like the bonkers John Banks, smarmy Andy Williams and the (to-be-honest) slightly freakily weird Len Brown. Luckily for Wellington, all our male candidates were well down the running order – some of them (Bernard, Al, you know who I mean) thankfully not being taken seriously at all.

So: brief eulogy for Kerry Prendergast: came in on a promise to deliver more than just babies. Her pet picks were a Ice Skating rink (sunk without trace, although apparently not without trying), World of Wearable Arts (a huge success nabbing that), retaining the Sevens (men in speedos and frocks, always a laugh if you’re into that kind of thing, which I’m not), and an Overpass for a bypass (which is in the process of fast disappearing up its own back alley, I suspect). She has been a safe, stable, supportive pair of hands over the last few years, dealing with a rebellious Council (thank goodness the argumentative Rob Goulden is out on his ear), faithfully turning up to every opening and event in the city and giving supportive speeches to all manner of people whenever called for. Glad you enjoyed the Footnote dance show the other night. I’ve got to say Kerry, if you’re still reading this, that I know you have worked incredibly hard over the past 9 years, and you deserve a well-earned break. Time to put those feet up and spend more time swimming in the harbour instead of just soaking up the sea views. Come on in, the water’s lovely!

So: Celia Wade-Brown – a bit of a change of style. Making her points clean and green right from the get go, it was good to see CWB turn up on a bicycle (yes, fish do need bicycles!) and all speed to you with the laying out of a decent cycle lane network at long last.

We’re also very glad to hear that the Inner City Light Rail Rapid Transit Public Transport (ICLRRTPT ? – let’s just call it Super Tram) may at last be taken seriously, and planned ahead for. Perhaps we can find out if the Manners Mall sub-base has been properly planned for a Light Rail system at least, and if you want a good man to help plan your Tram, then Kris Price and Brent Efford should be on the team as advisors at least. But I suspect you know all that.

For those that don’t: some sites for starters: Trans-Action. And here’s another on Light Rail, source of the picture above. But I can’t find the Option 3 info any more. How soon are we going to see action? CWB has been quoted in Scoop today as saying:
“I intend to complete the planning for the light rail system in my first term as mayor, to begin laying rails in my second term, and to see the system complete by 2020… We know from overseas case studies that light rail not only improves the transport infrastructure, it also drives good environmental stewardship and economic transformation. In the US and Europe many cities have discovered that light rail improves property values, draws in new businesses, and improves the quality of life for commuters and residents alike.” Way to go – no time like the present. You can listen to an August Scoop interview with CWB here.

14 - 10 - 10

Already trying to put the nail in the light rail coffin on 3 News.

What is it with the press and their headlines. “Wellingtonians still want roads over rail”, I beg to differ seeing as the new Mayor was wide open on her desire to implement it and she did get elected albeit by the slimmest of margins. Swampy says 80-90% of Eastern suburbs residents want more roads which is obviously representative of Wellingtonians. Of course they do Swampy, and then they’ll want more and more and more…

15 - 10 - 10

If there is one place in Wellington where there is absolutely no room for any more roads, it is the south and east of Wellington. Not sure where Swampy wants a road – but it can’t be in his neck o the woods. Let’s face it: roads in Wellington that will be argued over, total only 3-ish:
A second Mt Vic tunnel,
A second Terrace tunnel, and
an overpass / underpass / forward pass at the Basin Reserve / Memorial Park.

The other big road project is of course the Trannie Gully project (not IN Wellington, but arguably FOR Wellington), but I’ve always thought that it was pie in the sky and would never happen. It is a vastly expensive, completely stupid scheme that is ill thought through, but has been pushed into the government’s ‘Can Do’ basket because of political grandstanding by MPs like Peter Dunne. It is on a earthquake fault line, is on unstable ground, is long, steep, in the wrong place, unfundable by toll, and won’t solve any of the traffic issues. I haven’t spoken to CWB about it yet, but I imagine that she’s not that keen on it….

15 - 10 - 10

You’re right, Spence – the Press are keen to jump onto any thing they can, to slag anything off. Always keen to see the bad side of anything rather than the good side:

“Incoming mayor Celia Wade-Brown will have a fight on her hands to get a light-rail system linking the railway station, Wellington Hospital and the airport – with some councillors already having doubts over the project. Their views are backed by potential flaws flagged during the formation of the Ngauranga to Airport Corridor Plan approved two years ago by Wellington City Council, Greater Wellington regional council and Transit New Zealand. The plan includes a feasibility study, to start in June next year, to look at light-rail options….”

Having been one of the few people in the region who have actually bothered to read the Nga 2 Air report, I think the press are, as always, totally missing the point. The report was pitifully short of info on potential Light Rail, and so that is one of the key things that she wants to get under way. It is called a Feasibility Study so we can find out if a Light Rail system IS Feasible! Is there no one left at the Dom Post with any remnant of a brain….?

The important thing is to DO the study, to figure out IF a Light Rail system is actually feasible, to find out what routes it might take, or must not take. To find out if it is Feasible. It should have been looked at in that light many years ago. The fantastic thing is that now we have a Mayor who is committed to looking at just how feasible it will be.

15 - 10 - 10

Yep. Steven Joyce on 3 News last night showed just what the new mayors of Wellington and Auckland will be up against. He’s clearly a nutter for cars who thinks roads don’t need to provide any return on investment, but rail does. In time he (and National) will end up on the wrong side of this debate, better to recognise that early and get in front. Up north they should opt for the cheaper $200m SH1 upgrade and then fund the CBD tunnel. Down here they should postpone the Mt Victoria tunnel until after LRT.

As for Swampy’s survey… well it’s a survey, it all depends on what was asked, how it was asked, who it was asked of, which I don’t know. But given PT usage is high amongst commuters in the eastern suburbs, perhaps the answer those people really want to give is that they want both.

15 - 10 - 10

Regarding this kind of comment from Ian Morrison: “Spending three or four hundred million bucks to get you to or from the airport, I’m not sure too many people would want to do that as it is mostly businessmen who use the airport. They like to use taxis.”

I think that sums up why LRT needs to be presented as serving Miramar. It would either end up at the airport after passing through Miramar, or it would stop at the airport on the way to Miramar. By far and away any such line to be successful must be used by all of the existing commuters from the eastern suburbs, so given they are the ones that need to buy into this we need to make sure we’re presenting the right picture. Talking about LRT to airport can give the wrong picture to most people (e.g. Ian Morrison).

15 - 10 - 10

We discussed light rail a couple of weeks ago when Erentz detailed the case. It might be required in the long term, but I just don’t see why we’d even bother stopping to consider this in the short term.

There are buses to the airport every 15 minutes. If we needed a higher frequency then we’d just buy more buses for very little money. Light rail won’t be any more frequent and won’t be any faster. The current service isn’t overcrowded. So we’d spend maybe $500million and get exactly the same service, but sitting in a tram rather than a bus. Why? What is the benefit?

Coming at this from a practicality POV, Wellington has a few hills and we’ll still need buses for those since trains can’t climb hills. So we either need a Courtenay Place to Railway Station “spine” that can handle buses, trams, and trolley buses (unless the proposal is to scrap those, since I can’t imagine overhead wires compatible with them and the trams). Trams will need platforms. Buses don’t, and in fact platforms would interfere with buses. Buses might lose traction on the tracks, and crossing the tracks will tend to vibrate buses.

Or is the proposal to have two CBD transport spines, with one tram and the other bus? That would be a mess.

Or is the proposal to ban buses from the CBD, and transfer passengers from bus to tram once they hit the CBD? That is worse than the straight-through bus service we currently have.

This is a bizarre concept and I hope it dies a death before someone spends millions of bucks studying it.

As for the mayoral election, I think STV is going to almost guarantee a change in mayor every election. Who ever is currently mayor will have a proven record that will polarize people. No one is going to think the mayor did a good job, but rank them second or third. It will be either first or last. Which means that the least unpopular alternative candidate will always end up gathering up all the preferences until they win. Wade-Brown has to hope she gets over 50% of first preferences… yeah right!… or she’ll be out on her ear next time. How did we end up with this system? Wouldn’t it have been simpler to have just enacted a single term limit for the mayor?

15 - 10 - 10

I mean John. %)

15 - 10 - 10

It should be pointed out that the feasibility study was to be carried out under Kerry as well, so, despite CW-B’s green credentials (and I note that she is an Independent, and we shouldn’t forget that), this is a case of status quo (at this stage).

Celia’s election raises all sorts of ethical and moral issues, given the lack of clear mandate, and also her own policy platform. With Kerry we had someone who was aware of, and largely supportive of good urban outcomes on a broader city-wide level (let’s forget the immediate built environment for now). Under Kerry we had the ‘Growth Spine’ identified and built into future policy direction as a way of dealing with urban sprawl and related transport issues – something I was excited about at the time, and hope to see strengthened and continued.

Celia’s promise to ‘listen to the people’ could well throw a spanner in those works, however. The ‘people’ are not experts, and do not necessarily have the ability to see long term benefits at a city-wide level that we would expect our Council and invited experts to have. If we give these decisions over to the community, we could well find that the ‘greener’ strategies are less popular than those that favour the individual car/homeowner – who can probably easily outvote pt users and green activists. Kerry’s critics maintain that she didn’t listen enough – I say, this is how she got things done. What would ‘Johnsonville’ have said if they were asked at the time whether they would like to be a node on that spine…?

Not that I am against people having a say – I just recognise that it might not accord with either what I want, or even best practice urban planning. Celia has literally pledged to give the people what they want, and I would expect that in three years time, she will be judged upon that more than anything else.

When it comes to LRT, this is going to be an extremely hard sell. We already have a PT network that has a much more flexible scope than LRT, and if we do invest in LRT, then we have to fund that AND the existing bus network AND more roads (because that is what the ‘people’ actually want). How do we afford that – higher rates? Higher PT charges? Either is going to be very unpopular at the polls.

I foresee either an incredibly unpopular mayor, or a lot of going nowhere (or more probably both). We might get some decent cycle-ways at least…

Celia’s mandate is the other issue here – the closeness of the ‘race’ means that there isn’t a clear swing to ‘green’ policies, and I would argue that it simply signalled that base meme of ‘change’. I say ‘base’ because it isn’t built on any form of understanding of the implications of that change (or why exactly we need it) – it’s simply borne of little more than lazy politics, short attention spans, and the desire for ‘change for change’s sake’. When I queried those who were voting for change, none of them could even articulate what change they wanted – what was wrong with the status quo, what we might get (or even what they actually want) with the change, and so on…

At this point I simply give the Gallic shrug and walk away. We get what we deserve etc…

15 - 10 - 10

Aah – I see my long post has overlapped with david’s much more succinct one…

What he said.

15 - 10 - 10

Not meaning to rain on the parade, light rail would of course be fantastic, but Wellington city is already sitting on a debt mountain of $300 million, with another $80m to be borrowed to fix leaky homes & apartments, is this really the right project for the time?

We have an extremely good electrified public transport system as it is- some simple tweaks and it would be great. The Snapper cards have hugely sped up the boarding time on buses; and the bus priority lights around town have cut down the journey time through the CBD considerably. How about these to further improve the system:

* Realtime bus and train information boards at EVERY stop / shelter. Trial units were supposed to be in place years ago for buses but have been quietly abandoned- no doubt because they would reveal just how few show up on time. There’s nothing that makes me feel more like driving than waiting in the rain for 20 minutes for a bus that doesn’t arrive.

* Upgrades to the overhead cabling system for trolleybuses to improve reliability and cornering speed. Much of the system is ancient and needs substantial work apparently. This would enable more trolleys to be bought and lower carbon emissions and particulate pollution (not to mention noise pollution).

* Separation of public transport, car and cycle routes. There should be no reason that cars need to go down Courtenay Place, Willis Street, Tory Street or even Lambton Quay during peak times when there are perfectly good alternatives.

* Fewer bus stops / train stations – some rationalisation can surely be done. Remove duplicate stops and those with low patronage that are within a few hundred metres of another stop.

* Priority traffic light cycles for buses- less waiting at red lights.

* Combined ticketing for trains and buses.

There, I just saved Wellington $300 million!

15 - 10 - 10

Welcome back Wellywood, and its good to see some sensible commentary from davidp and m-d, although I do disagree with their conclusions.

let me put the Fish point of view.

We are a small city, with cars and buses. We will grow bigger, and given our landform, a lot denser as a city. We currently have a very readily identifiable transport spine. We need to investigate how to use that best.

Currently we have small traffic jams every day at peak hours. With more people using those same roads, and no more chance of new roads, we will experience more jams, more often. There are limited – very limited – roads through the central city, and through to the airport, and once these are jammed, the entire system grinds to a halt.

The only way for Public Transport to get utilised more than it is, is to make sure it is superior in some (or all) way(s). That’s going to be on price (ie cheaper) or time (ie faster) or comfort (ie roomier and smoother). Auckland has put in a dedicated busway, that is getting massive amounts of use over the harbour bridge each day, because it is faster, despite people saying that Aucklanders would not take public transport.

So: can we agree: the thing to do is to plan ahead?
Can we agree: that the thing to do is to look at the options?
Can we agree that the thing to do is to commission a report into the feasibility and viability and buildability of a higher speed, dedicated rapid transport route through Wellington? Written by people who know what they are talking about, not by people who only ever do roads?

All agreed on that?

It may be that the report does not support a Light Rail system, but that it recommends a dedicated Bus Lane system instead. It may say Pods. It may say, no, stay as you are, cars and buses are fine. Who knows what it will say – no one. Cos it hasn’t been started yet. But the first thing to do is to commission that study.

Kerry had 9 years in which to commission that study, and has not produced anything other than an election promise to have a look to starting to think about maybe planning a study.

Celia has been elected because of (presumably, a large part of) her stated mission to get a study underway.

As my good friend Marvin would say, Let’s get it on!

15 - 10 - 10

All good points Wellywood. I like these small incremental improvements rather than a grand (and impractical, IMHO) scheme. I’d add a covered walkway from the railway station to Lambton Quay, and a covered walkway along either Tory or Taranaki Streets as improvements that would benefit pedestrians.

While I think the case for keeping cars out of Courtenay Place is pretty clear cut, I think the Council makes a fortune out of car parking. There would be an irony if we couldn’t improve our public spaces because we needed every last dollar to replace buses with trams.

15 - 10 - 10

Max… Not agreed. The only way to make a light rail system faster than buses running along a bus lane is to put it underground or elevate it, and you’re not getting that for under a couple of billion dollars. Trams running at street level are limited by all the same factors that slow down buses such as intersections, nearby pedestrians, and the need for frequent stops to pick up passengers.

Some ideas fail a basic “does this sound even vaguely sensible” test and don’t require millions of bucks of consultancy. This is one of those ideas. Once the regional population is projected to go over, say, a million people then it is time for blue sky thinking. But the current system is pretty good and would be excellent if some of Wellywood’s suggestions were implemented.

15 - 10 - 10

Didn’t Kerry actually commission the study in question – or was that only talk of doing such…?

15 - 10 - 10

“ome ideas fail a basic “does this sound even vaguely sensible” test and don’t require millions of bucks of consultancy.”

I quite fancy the idea of WCC funding jetpacks as the answer to our transport issues – I thin it only fair that they at least commission an expert report into that too…

15 - 10 - 10

davidp, the idea with light rail is that everyone else stops for them, other than picking up at stations they keep on rolling, so I think they are actually faster. Valid research pointer or expert opinion anyone? Combine that with the fact they are more efficient at moving larger numbers of people. Aren’t we really talking about planning ahead here? Why are we waiting for the population to hit 1 million before thinking “maybe we need to implement light rail”, in the mean time we have spent however much money building another tunnel and double laning a “road of national significance” to delay the inevitable road congestion. We have plenty of RoNS because rail has never been seen as being significant. We might need to accept that rail should be significant and plan accordingly.

15 - 10 - 10

Spencer… It is easy to set up bus lanes with priority at intersections. That wouldn’t cost hundreds of millions of dollars. And we don’t need extra capacity. The buses aren’t full except at rush hour. If we needed extra capacity then buying a few extra buses is easy and cheap.

What you risk with light rail is that half-full buses are replaced by quarter-full trams and the pressure is for less frequent services. That is a bad outcome.

We do need to plan ahead, obviously. But we don’t need to plan for 2040 in 2010. Future people aren’t going to take any notice of decisions we make for them, any more than we feel bound to take notice of 1970s plans. Wellington’s constrained geography pretty much rule out dramatic increases in population and therefore any need to radically alter our public transport system.

15 - 10 - 10

I seem to remember learning somewhere that trams are quicker, like for like, given faster acceleration, and the fact they do not need to pull into and out of their stops.

But is this really about speed of service is it? I seem to remember those against the bypass ridiculed the minute or two of time-saving that it offered, so why are this argument being resurrected by those who ridiculed it before…?

Planning ahead is important, but the thought of us paying now, in the middle of a recession, when most of us are struggling with increasing rates and rents without the significant added cost of LRT, is fairly ludicrous. At this stage we should be dealing with needs, not luxury wants.

LRT is great, for where it is suited for, and who wouldn’t want one in an ideal world? But how they heck can we ever afford it, especially when it is only a partial answer to any solution, and in this case, would wholly duplicate parts of our existing infrastructure?

15 - 10 - 10

Here are some simple equations (I’ll gladly pass my consultancy fee on to more worthy needs – say, social housing…)

Can we afford to have LRT = No (at least, not now, or in the foreseeable future – which is actually quite short)

Can we afford not to have LRT = Yes (see Wellywood above)

The answer is obvious… isn’t it?

15 - 10 - 10

I really don’t want to derail the thread, but it seems some subjects just never go away…

Any facadists care to comment?

15 - 10 - 10

Hey so if we build a second Mt Vic Tunnel and a second Tce Tunnel, what do we do with the extra traffic running between them? The Basin flyover would help with all of about 10% of one-half of the route but what about the rest? Vivian St and Karo Dr are already chocka. Allowing more cars through the tunnels will just make this worse. If the tunnel expansion is to assist with cross-city traffic (as opposed to trips terminating/commencing in town) then we’re gonna need the ICB Stage 3, oh yes we will.

15 - 10 - 10

Hey, how does the LRT get from Zoo to Kilbirnie? Tunnel from Manchester Street to Coutts Street? It’s 600 metres, plus you’d need to demo some houses in Kilbirne. And how does the LRT get from Tirangi to Airport? Tunnel along current cycleway route? That’s about 250 metres and it’s under an operating runway. Hot though. I think the LRT should then swing up to Miramar – gives some good options for turning and LRT barns. We should also consider Karori.

15 - 10 - 10

Light rail always generates lots of comments. :-)

I’ve detected one major theme that seems to perpetuate amongst light rail’s detractors: “WCC can’t afford it! We’re sinking in debt!”

The truth is that the city was never going to be paying for this, and I’m not sure if any of light rail’s proponents have ever suggested it was (correct me if I’m wrong). I think this argument has only come from light rail’s detractors, as a kind of FUD used to label proponents as being fiscally irresponsible.

Central government has always paid for major transport projects in this country. Just as it paid for the Urban Motorway in the 70s, the Inner City Bypass in the 2000s, and is proposing to spend half a billion dollars on the Basin flyover and new Mt Victoria and Terrace tunnels in the 2010s. All that is different now is that we are asking the government to change its outdated funding policies and start funding public transport on an equal basis. So, a half billion dollar spend over the next decade in Wellington City on *something*. What’s it to be: roads, public transport, or some mix of both?

I’d like to understand if the people talking about debt and recessions are suggesting New Zealand doesn’t spend this money on anything transport related? Because in that case they shouldn’t be attacking light rail, but attacking spending any money of any kind of anything.

Wellywood proposes sensible measures. Sadly most of the city councillors and former mayor over the last decade apparently disagree with these simple, sensible improvements, because they’ve repeatedly shot these measures down. E.g. they couldn’t agree to close Courtenay Place to cars during peak hours so busses would have priority, but shortly after they could agree to spend $11m on an expensive reconfiguration of Manners Street. I find that kind of behaviour incredibly irresponsible. Anyone talking about debt and fiscal responsibility hopefully didn’t vote for any of these contradictory councillors.

Wellywood: here’s hoping the very small changes in this council will gives us bus priority along the whole golden mile inside the next three years!

As David points out busses are only packed during peak hours. Like roads. Yet I find that most people who are against building rail are still for building roads. This isn’t rational is it? I’d be happier if they were consistent in their opposition to transport spending.

I also think it is wrong to suggest that Wellington’s constrained geography rules out dramatic increases in population. Certainly it might not be expected to grow on the spawling scale of Auckland, but the key about our growth is that unlike Auckland or Christchurch, when we do grow it is in a narrow strip. When I looked at the population projections from Statistics NZ a month or two ago their lastest medium projections for Wellington City from 2006 to 2031 had us growing at an average 1.0% annually. Unfortunately they don’t project beyond the next two decades, and unfortunately our central government and local government don’t actually have a population plan (they don’t really have a plan for anything it seems). But if we assume that 1.0% is reasonable for the next few decades we can calculate about an extra 70,000 people by 2040 or 100,000 by 2050. I think this is quite a lot of people, particularly when they’re all supposed to be housed along the proposed light rail route. (I also think we should be aiming for more in our population plan but that’s another probably very controversial debate).

So it seems to me the kinds of points we should argue are more like:

1. What’s the value of the rarely talked about light rail benefits? (Polution, etc.)
2. Should we be encouraging a mode shift to public transport? How? Should we first build a better public transport system to cater to this?
3. How many passengers will we need to cater for at date X?
4. What’s the difference in investment needed between competing systems?
5. How should we plan for diminishing oil?

15 - 10 - 10

Julian, your first point about the stretch across Te Aro from the Terrace to Mt Victoria. Answer: We’re screwed! That’s pretty much the offical response when I probed this extensively after the N2A strategy was approved. I think this is blatently stupid planning myself. We should’ve planned for eventually having a tunnel under Te Aro to carry SH1, or else a longer term and more expensive plan for a tunnel via Newtown (best solution in my opinion).

Regarding Zoo to Kilbernia, yep a tunnel. From there it could take three or four different routes. (You’re putting me in the mood to draw maps.)

And you’re bang on with it heading to Miramar, this is critical, why go all that way and not service the rest of the peninsula with all of its commuters, and its a perfect place for infill growth!

15 - 10 - 10

m-d : re your comment:
“Can we afford to have LRT = No (at least, not now, or in the foreseeable future – which is actually quite short)
Can we afford not to have LRT = Yes (see Wellywood above)
The answer is obvious… isn’t it?”

Sorry, your consultancy fee has been declined. As much admiration I have for your considerable knowledge on some things, the costing of urban infrastructure is not, I believe, one of your strong points. Nor, for that matter, is it mine. It is, however, the strong point of people who will be approached for the job, and until they have started and completed their report, I don’t think that you or I should be talking about cost.

I think that it has to be remembered that the city used to have a Light Rail system for many years, put in at minimal cost, and running until the 1960s. They were called trams then. In theory therefore, no new tunnels would need to be dug. The modern Tram could (repeat, COULD) go along the streets at ground level.

A separate route, ie either above ground or below ground, or at ground with some new tunnels, would of course make things faster, but at an extra C-O-S-T. Damn, there, I nearly said the C word.

15 - 10 - 10

m-d: “Didn’t Kerry actually commission the study in question – or was that only talk of doing such…?”

Kerry got Space Syntax in to look at the possibility of turning Lambton Quay into a pedestrian zone, amongst other things. She did not commission a report from anyone into Light Rail. She has said:
“I am committed to planning a rapid transport system from the Railway Station to both the Airport and Hospital. To do this we need to develop capacity first. Wellington was built with narrow roads and we still need streets for cars, bikes, and service vehicles. Duplicating the tunnels, widening Ruahine St – Wellington Rd, the Basin Reserve and Adelaide Rd improvements, will all allow rapid bus transport down those corridors. Future Councils will then decide whether the huge capital and running cost of a light rail system will be appropriate to replace the buses.”

That very carefully worded statement doesn’t mean she supports planning for Light Rail, nor that she would have commissioned a report into it. It means what it says: Build more roads, dig more tunnels, fill them with buses, and then, maybe sometime later, someone else may decide to put in Light Rail.

16 - 10 - 10

I see that the Press today is reporting that Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker is also very keen on furthering their city’s current Light Rail (a Heritage Tram service):
“Christchurch’s re-elected mayor has put his vision of a tram-train or light-rail system back on the agenda. Bob Parker, buoyed by the “absolute vindication” of the light-rail policies of the new Auckland and Wellington mayors, said yesterday he hoped the first street-based tram trains would be running within five years. A new Christchurch-based industry that made and supplied tram trains could come from the idea, he said.

“Light rail or tram trains is an argument whose time has come.”

Parker first raised the idea late last year after he visited several American cities with light-rail services.”

16 - 10 - 10

How about we just drill a tunnel from the airport to say.. Paraparaumu?

16 - 10 - 10

Aaah, those Swiss, eh? Just under 8 million of them, and yet they can build a 57km long tunnel through solid granite. And yet we can’t even think of building a tunnel through 1/4 km of Mt Vic? I’m sure we can do it!

16 - 10 - 10

Well, yes, 57 km long, and $18 billion. That’s, ooooh, about $315 million per kilometre. For a 1/4 km long tunnel under Mt Vic, then that’s about $78 million.

The first Mt Vic tunnel didn’t cost that much, of course. Opened in 1931, it only cost £132,000 – and Wikipedia says it is 623m long – that’s more than twice as long as your 1/4 km. Pro rata, that’s about $190million.

£132,000 in today’s money is only a measly $3.7m, according to a web-based inflationometer I used. That must be wrong – or else they must have been exceptionally clever workmen. Certainly they weren’t using a big expensive tunneling machine.

Numbers eh? Can’t trust them…

16 - 10 - 10

Max – no matter how much it costs, it still costs more than if we did not do it. And surely even you and I could determine that the cost of improvements to our existing infrastructure would be a whole lot cheaper than LRT – given that the rail upgrade is almost finished, and a dedicated PT lane would, in effect, need to be created for LRT anyway. How could laying tram tracks and new overhead wires (and investing in up-to-date rolling stock), possibly be less expensive than not laying tram tracks and new overhead wires?

Everyone else in the world (‘cept for the US of course), has taken stock of finacial positions in the aftermath of the recession, and are focusing on paying off debt – not getting into more. Why would we be that daft??

And, this isn’t a national issue, so I don’t see why we should be cap in hand to the Govt. Why should the good farmers of Gore pay for expensive toys for the capital. I am sure the rest of NZ must have better priorites like, I don’t know, health, education, etc – or dare I say on a site such as this – tax cuts even!

Erentz – I certainly don’t advocate more roads (unless they’re tolled perhaps?). Let the traffic build up, making PT more sustainable (if it can be separated from it). More walking, more cycling, etc, too… So, yes, I am pretty consistent in my opposition to transport spending – I think we have much better priorities to be focusing on.

What I note about the many who are in favour of LRT is that they share a sense of entitlement, such that everybody else be expected to cough up, without question, for an item that really only has prestige in its favour over existing solutions.

16 - 10 - 10

The currently austerity measures being taken in Europe are by countries with debt to GDP ratios over 100%. The NZ debt ratio is in the 30 to 40% range and is in no risk of having the problems that countries like Greece, Ireland, the UK are facing.

There is a painfully naive perception that government needs to cut back during a recession because families have to cut back. This attitude is the equivalent of suggesting NASA engineers use star trek as a model for their missions. Government is not equivalent to a household. Simplistic notions of budgeting do not apply.

As for those austerity measures, world economists have warned that it is the absolute worst thing to be doing right now, that it runs the risk of a double dip recession. At a time of economic turn down the government is the only entity that has the ability to spend and get work moving.

This whole notion of not spending during a bad economy is a rubbish argument. Spending on infrastructure is EXACTLY what you should spend on during a downturn. As the original tunnel cost for the mt vic tunnel demonstrates – these projects only get more expensive over time, not cheaper, above and beyond inflation.

Secondly, this is the perfect environment for infrastructure projects because everyone (engineers, designers, trades) are hungry for work, resulting in more competive bidding. Who in their right mind would think bidding at the height of the economy (when the government is raking in tax receipts) would be a good idea? It’s fundamentally not based in market economics.

Lastly, in a slow economy projects like these can employ hundreds if not thousands of workers – both white collar and blue collar.

It has been established that fixed transport systems drive future development patters in a way that bus transport does not. The reason this work needs to be started now is to establish a market force to push denser development into specific locations. How much more sprawl and terrible planning will occur in the next 20 years while we wait?

17 - 10 - 10

But M-D it’s the planning ahead I’m talking about. You say we can’t afford to do it. I say we can’t afford not to.

Look at the case of Auckland, the city that thinks itself so shit hot, and yet the rest of the country just laughs at as they sit there in their daily traffic jams. Chronic case of failure to plan ahead. In the 1960s there was a Mayor there called Dove-Myer Robertson, who was backing a plan to put in a decent suburban / urban rail system. Instead, the gov / city went for the plan of expanding the motorway system.

They’ve been expanding it ever since, and every time they build more motorway, the day after they open it, it’s full.

And now they’re talking about trying to shoehorn a rail system into the city, in the gaps between where the roads aren’t, and it’s going to cost eleventy zillion because they didn’t plan ahead.

17 - 10 - 10

Think of this another way. CWB has been reported as saying she’s not keen on building any more roads. That’s a fair enough comment, as I think we all know by now that road traffic simply expands to fill the space available.

But if your public transport system runs on those same roads, then as the cars get clogged up and slow down, so too does the public transport. Hence the rise of dedicated bus lanes, which is a short term answer.

However, buses are not the same as light rail in terms of moving people around. Light rail can take far more people, in more comfort, quicker and with more satisfaction – these points have been established time and time again.

17 - 10 - 10

Historical side note, as it relates to Auckland’s thwarted rapid transport plans that Maximus raised:

Before De Leuw Cather was brought in to create the comprehensive transport plan for Wellington, the plans were for a subway from Thorndon, down The Terrace, across Te Aro, and through to John St in Newtown, comprising of six stops. I thought I had a copy of the old graphic for this somewhere but I can’t seem to find it.

De Leuw Cather of course put the kaibosh on the waterfront motorway (thankfully), but also reset this plan to being a subway to a terminus at Courtenay Place, and despite all the bashing of that plan, they clearly espoused the virtues such rapid transport. Unfortunately while the planners of the time went wild over the motorway parts of the plan, and made designations that left upper Te Aro a wasteland for decades after we (thankfully) ran out of money to finish the original surface motorway plan, they did absolutely nothing about protecting a subway route. At the time this subway was costed at 11 million NZ pounds. (16m for the longer one to Newtown. Or roughly $380m and $560m respectively in today’s dollars, which is surprisingly accurate when compared to recent estimates.)

If you like to imagine alternate histories, consider how the city might’ve developed had we built that Newtown subway. We’d probably be talking about a doing a conversion to light metro and extending to Kilbernie and Miramar instead of arguing light rail vs. bus lanes vs. car lanes.

17 - 10 - 10

interesting link for the lrt vs. brt debate. They have their own agenda of course.

17 - 10 - 10

“dedicated bus lanes, which is a short term answer”


17 - 10 - 10

Bus lanes could be short term, or could be there for the long term, but the thinking behind buslanes means you are stuck with buses. The arguments against them are that they are smelly diesels (easily solveable by going to electric trolley bus or similar), erratically / not smoothly driven (driver training can solve some of that, but overall modern trams are smoother than buses), but most of all is that buses can not take the loads that Light Rail can.

For that, I’ll refer you to the link provided by minimus just now – where it says:
“There seems to be a widely held notion among the public – including many politicians, journalists, etc. – that rail transit systems, such as light rail transit (LRT), are weighted down with substantial heavy capital expense, while buses are more or less “free”. Rail transit critics exploit this misconception by emphasizing the relatively high installation costs of new rail systems (“BILLION$$$ for rail”) vs. the relatively lower costs of simply operating buses on city streets and freeways. “Why build expensive rail? Buses can do the same thing cheaper” is a familiar refrain in local debates over proposed new rail transit starts.”

The summary of all that is that : “LRT still comes out about 15% less than bus service In terms of work performed (i.e., passenger-miles carried).”

So – why are bus lanes a short term answer? Because long term, it would be better (more cost efficient) to install LRT, and so the buslanes will eventually get converted to LRT when the time is right.

17 - 10 - 10

from the same link – regarding Brisbane’s BRT system

Obtaining the costs of Brisbane’s busway projects is not particularly easy – the public agencies involved don’t publicize them to facilitate access. However, the following two documents (recently available) have proven to be an extremely helpful source of basic information needed:

• Public Transport Mode Selection: A Review of International Practice

• State of Queensland (Queensland Transport) 2009 — Busways

Splicing together data from these two sources, we’ve been able to ascertain the actual cost, converted to current (2009) US dollars, of several of Brisbane’s major busway projects, as follows:

• South East Busway (completed 2001):
15,6 km (9.7 mi), US$421 million
$27 million/km
$43 million/mile

• Inner Northern Busway (completed 2008):
4.7 km (2.9 mi), US$408 million
$87 million/km
$141 million/mile

• Northern Busway Project (currently under way):
1.2 km (0.7 mile), US$158 million
$132 million/km
$214 million/mile

These unit capital costs seem staggering, and it leaves little wonder why they are not more readily publicized by the authorities and “BRT” promoters.

These costs are particularly striking in comparison with the costs of LRT lines on exclusive rights-of-way (comparable to busways). There is no project in Australia in such an alignment (the Adelaide LRT was an upgrade of an existing railway alignment), but two projects in US urban areas could be considered comparable:

• Charlotte — Lynx LRT, South corridor (completed 2007):
9.6 mi (15.5 km), US$496 million
$32 million/km
$52 million/mile

• Sacramento — Folsom LRT extension (completed 2004):
7.4 mi (11.9 km)
$25 million/km
$41 million/mile

(Again, all costs above expressed in 2009 US dollars.)

These comparative costs would certainly seem to call into strong question the claim of “BRT” promoters – in Brisbane and elsewhere – that busways are significantly “lower-cost” investments than LRT lines.

17 - 10 - 10

15% (Is that just running costs, or does it include Cap Ex as well…?),
would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that you are duplicating the bus service – or are you arguing that the residents of, say, Strathmore, Kingston, Wadestown, etc, have to suddenly mode-change, and if so, how does this improve PT for a significant proportion of users?

17 - 10 - 10

At the end of the day, as a frequent peak-time bus commuter from previously Eastern suburbs, and now ‘notorious’ Karori, I can say that I am completely stunned that it only takes a 1/2 hour to get to work in a capital city – in complete comfort. I have to keep asking myself as I read this thread – what exactly is the problem?? We haven’t even made the obvious improvements (such as a continuous dedicated buslane), so the system still has scope for improvement.

There are, to me, much bigger fish to fry – for example, how we go about managing growth more generally. Rather than just assuming it is to be all denser residential suburbs with consequently greater travel demand to the centre at peak commuting times, why not think intelligently about alternatives. Employment opportunities, along with greater residential density, could be concentrated at key nodes, which could be interconnected to form a backbone of sorts, holding the metropolitan area together. Let’s just call it a ‘growth spine’ for arguments sake, and while I’ll give you that it does require a good transport network, I don’t see why it can’t be based on the systems we have in place already.

Call me visionary, I know, but someone’s got to come up with the leftfield ideas when priorites get shifted, and more emphasis is put on how to get from A to B rather than what should actually be at A and B (becuase that is the part that really counts).

18 - 10 - 10

OK, I’ll call you a visionary.

You are, of course, absolutely right: places of work can and will change. In fact, the only thing we can be sure of is that change will happen. So: looking forward to suggestions of what will happen at A and B.

18 - 10 - 10

m-d, sounds like you’re making a good case for light rail along the growth spine. Encourage development along a corridor with a mixture of policy and investment in high quality fixed public transport. Our new residents move in to their swanky infill housing. (Maybe you get sick of the snow up in notorious Karori and move in too.) New business and industry establish along the growth nodes in locations appropriate for their needs or budgets, e.g. Film Industry in Miramar, health care in Newtown, so on …. And we end up with all our ducks in a row.

18 - 10 - 10

No, but kind of. I’m talking about nodes of mixed use intensification, providing local opportunities and vitality (and let’s face it, many of our suburbs are lacking a little of the latter) – which reduces travel demand, in term of both the length and quantity of trips. There is no reason why existing services wouldn’t be inadequate.

This is much different from simply infill housing, which, as we have seen here in Welly, without appropriate local developments just exacerbates tarnsport issues.

Max – you realise my ‘visionary’ comment was in jest (before I get accused of plagiarism)…?

And, finally, having waited at a bus stop this evening for over half an hour for a delayed service (annoying, but the first time in ages I have struck this), a thought occurred to me – our expensive new trolleys can simply disconnect and drive around any ‘obstacles’ when the inevitable happens – so chalk up another (minor) advantage for existing services.

On the other side of the coin, Wgtn Airport have made some encouraging noices re: LRT to the airport. A decent public/private partnership may just swing this for many…

18 - 10 - 10

Former Bank of England policymaker David Blanchflower today warned that the UK economy is in “desperate danger” of slipping back into recession and the government’s planned spending cuts will make matters worse.

andy foster
19 - 10 - 10

Hi all – a really good discussion. Sorry Maximus not to have participated in the last few weeks – that virus thingy at the wrong time was a bit off putting!

m-d – the idea of densification and mixed use at points on a spine is exactly the direction we are bit by bit going. Johnsonville – CBD – Adelaide Rd – Kilbirnie are the currently identified spine, though Newtown probably already fits the bill too. Hopefully in future other areas which fit the bill – good PT and services – such as Tawa, Miramar and sunny Karori (notorious !?)can be added.

I’m pleased that the feasibility study for LRT is in this Council term. When we did Nguaranga to Airport I argued that it should be on the same timetable rather than later than the feasibility studies for the tunnel duplications. We should be doing the PT before roading because done the other way round there is much less chance of getting modal shift.

Will LRT work? I’d like to see a more level playing field between PT and roading in terms of considering investment. At the moment state highways are 100% state funded, PT in the same corridor is funded to a lesser extent. (generally 50-60% though the major Wgtn rail upgrade was I think 90%). Your time as a bus passenger is valued at about 1/2 the rate per hour as if you are in a car (??), and some RONS roading projects don’t seem to have to have a rational economuc justification.

The hub and spoke model currently under consideration would make LRT potentially quite attractive. At the moment virtually all bus services run right through the CBD, often buses are only part full, and certainly impeded each other. The hub and spoke model could see low frequency service areas (say Miramar Heights) having more frequent services just down to a hub (say Miramar/Kilbirnie) where there would be a comfortable small interchange, and a 5 minute type frequency probably express bus into the CBD. Obviously that would fit more with LRT than the current arrangement where virtually all buses run through the CBD. The pluses would be reduced congestion through the CBD, better frequency to outlying areas, and potentially express services, offset by the need for interchange. It should also be more efficient in terms of use of bus space and therefore reduce CO2 emissions, operating costs etc. There is obviously a lot of work to be done because it would be a huge change but initially it looks promising – even essential as the city grows.
Obviously a dedicated PT route on key congested areas is vital to both bus and LRT models.

Real time information has been successfully trialled by GWRC on the #14 route, and the last I heard it is planned to have some 290 sites operating by RWC at all key bus stops and rail stations throughout the region. It’s been a while coming but that will be brilliant. Well done to GWRC !

Final comment Erentz – completely agree with you about a population strategy. It’s staggering that very few countries seem to have an explicit (or even unspoken) strategy given that population drives almost everything – resource use, planning, health, environment, etc etc. I recently heard a speech on Australia’s population projections which indicated something up to a staggering 200% increase in population by the end of the century – but no apparent strategy in sight.

Keep up the great debate.

Warmest regards

Andy Foster

19 - 10 - 10

Thanks Andy. I heard through the grapevine that you were keen on Fishing – glad you’re back now that we’re virus-free, and congratulations also on getting back in to Council. I’m hoping that this Council will be able to get a few things done – without the acrimony that seemed to be prevalent sometimes in the old Council. We’re all watching, with interest, and trepidation, and anticipation, of who gets what portfolio, and how well Mayor Wade-Brown gets on.

Like you, we found the Ngauranga to Airport omission of an analysis of Light Rail as a Public Transport option to be severely problematic. Hopefully the Council can make up for that in this term by having a focused report – undertaken by appropriately knowledgeable consultants. It would be good to get LTSA and GWRC focused on their responsibilities to a wider range of transport as well.

The issue of changing buses is a big one – not impossible, but as you note, its there whether people are changing from one bus to another, or from a bus to a tram. Either way, its the length of time waiting that can lose passengers. Looking forward to seeing more on all that.

19 - 10 - 10

I’m very supportive of the hub and spoke model, for all of the reason Andy says. For me this is the direction we need to be headed. The number of half full buses through the CBD is an inefficiency that ends up with poorer bus service outside of the CBD.

I think the whinging about changing modes is a bit unfounded, but the key is FREQUENT service for shorter routes that serve the hubs. Plus the opportunity to use smaller buses more frequently and through more areas should be something that should be explored. We also need to get the signage indicating when the next bus/tram is coming, as this is what makes changing modes frustrating. If you get off one mode and can see that you are minutes away from the next service it is easier to wait than if you are sitting there hoping something might show up, but are unsure.

19 - 10 - 10

minimus – your costing comparisons are interesting, but you should note that the Brisbane busway is quite some project, including many significant changes to roads as well as a cut and cover tunnel etc – it isn’t quite apples with apples given that no one is proposing a busway of that nature here. But, numbers can be made to support any argument, can’t they…

As for spending out of recession – Great in theory (inasmuch as much theory tends to be great), but UK has at least EU/German economy to help facilitate credit (I guess). We don’t have that luxury, and like the US, are at risk of becoming too indebted to China, with who knows what consequences later on. If you are talking long term strategy, then we really need to understand what it means for our sovereignty to become so indebted to a nation that no one really knows how it will behave as a global citizen into the future – it could be that those consequences are much worse than a double-dip recession (which is really outside our control anyway – given other global factors). Good policy at this point would seem to be becoming as self-reliant as we can manage – which means that extra spending usually means cuts in other areas. I for one would prefer more spending on R&D and Education, etc, at a national level, at the expense of transport budgets. There was a meme of “knowledge economy” some time back – I’m all in favour of resurrecting that idea.

At a local level, I think there are better strategies for accommodating growth rather than just accepting the existing structure of our city and increasing the commute to cope with it, as I’ve stated above, and as has already been identified by Council planners (Andy, my suggestion of a growth spine was tongue in cheek, fully recognising that it is already a developed Council strategy…). We just need to become more focused on how we get there – and I see the whole LRT debate as something as a red herring – a distraction that won’t solve anything apart from providing minor relief for the daily commute (and I would argue mode-change is a significant issue when it comes to shifting existing customers who have enjoyed a single service for a long time – whether valid or otherwise)

When it comes down to it, I’d really love LRT (or an eq-proof subway system for that matter), but I believe we have much bigger fish to fry at this point, and we need to get on with that as an urgent priority. Unfortunately, the necessary changes will be unpopular at a community level, where general feeling is understandably conservative, and this is why I think Celia may not be as effective as Kerry wrt to progress in this area. I hope I am wrong.

19 - 10 - 10

The point of the comparison was to compare equivalent busway with LRT to point out the savings are not as extensive as claimed.
As for spending out of a recession, when it comes to theories I’m going to go with economic nobel laureates over your opinion any day.

The anti-chinese sentiment is racist and xenophobic, as discussed on the other thread. It’s an investment. Any move by the chinese to subvert their investments inhibits economic growth for them and throws the precarious balance of acceptance of the government up in the air. If the economy of china collapsed due to screwing around with their investments 1989 would return and this time actually become something. There’s not logical threat that’s any different than any other foreign investment.
And as for public debt New Zealand has one of the lowest ratios in the world.

and external debt is also low with comparison to the world

your fears of chinese debt are without merit.

20 - 10 - 10

My anti-Chinese sentiment is not racist, and I would argue not xenophobic either. It is really seriously bad form to try to shut down argument by pulling out the r-card. People who do that are pretty destructive – by dragging debate down to that level.

Race has nothing to do with it. China’s rise is as a global power presents a large unknown, and it is a fear of the unknown, rather than who/where they are, that is a key factor in contemporary geo-politics. Only the hawkish resent the rise of China to being a global player – and I certainly don’t begrudge any nation that status. And I readily accept that fears of Chinese debt may well be without merit – but no-one can actually say at this point – and that fear is not based on anything other than a lack of track record to go by.

The debate on the other thread is wholly different, and deals with private ownership rather than geo-politics. I don’t really care who owns our farms as a matter of fact.

Your use of figures is again rather shallow. You will note that most of the countries with greater public debt that aren’t considered to be in the financial poo (so to speak), also have much higher GDP per person, and therefore have a much better chance of trading their way out of debt when times get better. Are you arguing that we should move up the list of indebted countries to be like Ireland or some such. In the best case scenario this just increases the length of the recession for us…

There are, of course, other, multiple factors, at play that are well beyond (as you have noted), my economic understanding. You’ll note also that economic gurus, including nobel laureates, are divided on such issues – so you and I arguing is not really going to convince anyone (least of all each other) of anything, and is getting a little too far off-topic anyway…

But, for the record, debate here on eotf is usually polite and civilised – I would hate to see that change by the bandying about of defamatory insults for point scoring – I simply head over to Kiwiblog for that kind of activity..

20 - 10 - 10

MD- Every comment you make is negative and condescending, and the thought that you would lecture anyone on tone is laughable. Have a look in the mirror before you starting pointing your finger. I stopped reading this blog for several months because your predictable doom and gloom ruined every posting. Clearly you lack the ability to self-reflect and instead project all of your worst qualities on to everyone else. Good luck with that.

20 - 10 - 10

Ok then… I’ll take that on board and try to self-moderate a little more… (although I feel, in reflection, that I have been guilty more of pragmatism rather than negativity – in this thread at least), but this is getting too personal to be a productive discussion (although i kind of thought we all started off in the right ‘tone’).

As you were…

6 - 11 - 10

I’m just going to store this letter here, published in the DomPost -I think I’ll come back to it later… published 3Nov2010

“OPINION: Though I wish Wellington Mayor Celia Wade- Brown all the best, she certainly has some different views from those of the previous administration – some good, some not so good.

In the latter category, that which stands out as the nuttiest is the concept of a light-rail system, basically to service the airport.

There are three types of air travellers:

Business people, with neither the time nor inclination to wait around for trains to get them to the airport, with the consequent extra wait there to ensure they don’t miss their planes. They will continue to use cars or taxis.

Holiday-makers, who won’t be inclined to lug around suitcases from home to light rail, then to check-in. They will continue to use cars or taxis.

Backpackers, who will probably use light rail.

I’m disinclined to see $300 billion spent on backpackers.

I hope Ms Wade-Brown drops this idea like a hot cake.