The Eye of the Fish

Maximus
September 30, 2013

Spine Study

The Greater Wellington Council / NZTA / WCC study on the transport spine for Wellington closes today, Monday 30 Sept, at 4.00pm (even though their website says it has already closed). We here at the Fish would like to encourage you all to put in a submission ASAP this morning, as it is important.

By now, I’m sure you know the issues, and the outcomes. I think we have reported about it here in the past, but the issue is: what form should our major method of public transport take in the future? We are presented with a paltry three options: Buses, or More Buses, or Light Rail. The Spine Study then basically presents some pretty dodgy figures to justify why Light Rail would cost about half a billion more than a dedicated BusWay. Personally, I think it is pretty shoddy, and should probably be binned, but it is probably quite important that you have a read of it yourself, and Make a Submission today. Before 4.00pm right?

The report starts with an option for increasing our Busedness. Enhancing the Bus routes. Only costing $59 million. But a full on Bus Way would cost about $300 million more. I’m a bit dubious about these two, the way they are presented, as surely the first is just re-phasing the traffic lights, painting more buslanes on roads, and putting in a new light at traffic lights, that lets the bus go first? Shouldn’t we be doing all that sort of thing anyway? Why would you even need to ask? Just f***ing Do It already!

The second option I’d for the introduction of a complete Dedicated BusLane system – so solely dedicated it is, that it is called a BusWay. That means that no other vehicle can go down the same hallowed piece of Tarmac. In fact, it may even mean that they have to dig up the Tarmac, and replace it with concrete. And have concrete curb walls about 300mm high everywhere, just so that no one else can sneak in. The great thing is that suburban buses could just drive on into the busway at either end, and steer themselves along the busway. Of course, there are issues, like: what happens when a bus breaks down in the busway. Best not to think about that – after all, the Spine Study hasn’t thought about that either. In theory, new, bigger, longer, bendier buses will run the route, although I’m not really a fan of them. They had them in London for a while, before they threw them all out. People hated them – they made you feel like cattle going off to slaughter. They got stuck in streets, going round corners. Still, I’m sure we won’t be bothered by that here – we’ll just knock down the building! Problem solved!

The third option is Light Rail, which the Spine Study has carefully made sure comes out lots more expensive. It also requires a dedicated route, although does not need 300mm kerbs sticking up, but instead needs 2 rails inset into the road surface. To do that of course will mean digging up the whole route, and placing a concrete bed throughout, and then concrete sleepers, and then rails set flush with the surface. So flush in fact, that cars could share the same surface, only they mustn’t, as it needs a dedicated route with no interruptions. Curiously, the Spine Study says that Light Rail would require its own tunnel through Mt Vic, adding a minimum of $300million onto the cost of the BusWay option, which suddenly doesn’t need to be having its own dedicated route after all. It just shares a tunnel with cars after all. That’s nice. Very comfy. No dedicated lane there. Guess what? It’s not going to be any faster if the Busway shares the road with the cars.

Anyway – no time to lose – have a read of the Generation Zero submission (they do short and sweet well), or a much longer report by Kerry Wood, a retired Traffic Engineer (warning, slow download ahead), or the many reports and opinion pieces on the Scoop website (don’t expect much from the DomPost of course). And please put in a submission today.

Maximus
30 - 09 - 13

It’s interesting that Daryl Cockburn and Neil Douglas are getting so much attention on Scoop with the proposal for Light Rail along the waterfront. http://wellington.scoop.co.nz/?p=59349
It’s a logical plan, for sure, but it is nothing new. In fact, until about a decade ago, it was still in Council’s long term plan to do just that. the Fish went over all that a few years ago, looking at where would be the best place to route public transport. There are, of course, just three options for the Lambton area: either along the Golden Mile of Lambton Quay, or along the Waterfront edge, or down Featherston St.
While the first two have the greatest mileage in terms of minimizing any potential collisions with vehicles along the way (there are almost zero side roads off Lambton Quay to the west, and the same almost none along the waterfront to the east), there is also a sweet logic to using the dead straight Featherston St as a lane for Light Rail, and banning cars from there, as it would serve a direct route through town.
Regardless, the big issues are of course at the ends: a clusterfuck of tangled congestion at 3 key points: the initial interchange at the main Railway Station, the pinch-point at the Old BNZ Bank corner, and of course, the old favorite: Manners St. They’re the points that need to be resolved no matter what system is implemented, and I’m kind of surprised that the Spine Study didn’t do any work at all in these areas.

Maximus
30 - 09 - 13

There is also a really good discussion going on in Auckland, about the Gen Zero proposal for Wellington, and their comments on the Spine Study.
http://transportblog.co.nz/2013/09/29/chance-to-give-wellington-some-spine/
I am soooooo impressed by the Auckland-based Transport Blog. It is really doing wonders for Auckland. More on this later, but for now we have revamped our links, and put Transport Blog in our link down below, along with a few other good links around the land.

greenwelly
30 - 09 - 13

@Maximus, lightrail along the waterfront is lovely but is an unfortunate distraction,

The problem wellingtop is trying to solve is commuters from the South getting into the CBD, the Waterfront lightrail scheme essentially makes it easier for those 10% of train passengers who travel more than 1km into the CBD, or those in innercity suburbs who currently walk to work.

This does very little for those who already get on buses at Kilbirnie, Island Bay, Miramar or Karori, other than potentially force them to transfer at the Embassy Theatre or Railway station as they come into town, ( along with adding to their travel times- Their current bus service drops them on the golden mile with a number of stops throughout the trip, while this would only give them 3 choices, likely, on average, further from their place of work)

Its a lovely nice to have, but we need to solve the current gridlock that is the bus network through the CBD to the south, This proposal only marginally impacts on this core problem and certainly offers no solutions to the spine issue

Maximus
30 - 09 - 13

Agreed.

davidp
1 - 10 - 13

I’ve probably said this before, but the current trolley bus wires are bloody ugly and I’d be very pleased if they were all pulled down so we’d get an unfiltered look at the sky. Replacing buses with trams is just trading one sort of ugly for another, unless you manage to buy battery powered trams somewhere.

Maximus
1 - 10 - 13

Davidp – really? I’m not as worried about the visual look of those as you appear to be. Trolley buses do have to have 2 lots of wires, at a precise sort of distance apart, whereas alternative energy systems could do with possibly just one overhead wire, or even systems buried in the ground. But then the $$$$ start going up again…

m-d
2 - 10 - 13

Your image selection belies an avid concern for the ‘visual’ my dear fish…

Maximus
2 - 10 - 13

m-d – Aaaaha! I think you meant to say “Nice Spine!”

Well, let’s face it, its a lot nicer to look at than asphalt…
If you’re going to have a spine study, make sure that you have some nice spines to study…

davidp
2 - 10 - 13

>I’m not as worried about the visual look of those as you appear to be.

It’s like tagging the sky. I’m a photographer of sorts and there are a number of buildings that you can’t reasonably photograph because of the tangle of overhead wires.

This might be okay if trolley buses were a great idea. But they’re slow on the flat, miserably slow on hills, expensive to maintain, and last time I rode one (which was a long time ago, mercifully) we had to stop three times going around the Basin so that the driver could get out and dick around with the poles. This might be acceptable in Quito or Ulan Bator or some other third world place where infrastructure is supposed to be flaky and odd. But we’re supposed to be modern and efficient.

Mike
2 - 10 - 13

Trolleybuses are actually fairly common in third-world countries with flaky, odd infrastructure such as Switzerland, Germany and France, and electric motors are a lot cheaper and easier to maintain than diesel engines, gearboxes and transmissions.

Maximus
2 - 10 - 13

Yes, I caught 2 trolley buses yesterday through the central city, and both of them were as smooth as honey. No dicking around. Luck of the draw, I guess… Incidentally, Ulan Bator is now quite a bit more modern than it used to be. They now even have vehicles with wheels.

mep
3 - 10 - 13

Davidp’s comment is just more proof that we can’t take right wingers ideas about public transport seriously. Most of them like David don’t even take public transport so why should we even listen to their bizarre ideas? They must simply be defeated in elections and dragged into the future unwillingly.

Seamonkey Madness
3 - 10 - 13

mep – davidp, a right winger? Do you have proof?

Do all right wingers hate public transport? Certain breeds of them do, sure – just see the current crop in Parliament.

But you would be mistaken to think that there isn’t one (or two) out there who dream about buses, trams, trains and ferries at night, much as the majority of us dream about flying, chocolate, spaceships, hotties, lost civilizations, fast cars or being suddenly naked during a high school calculus exam.

Tony Randle
3 - 10 - 13

@Davidp: I agree the trolleys are both a visual and operational problem.

Operationally they cause bus congestion in three significant ways:
* They cannot pass each other turning our bus peak service into a giant queue through the CBD. Yes, I know there are limited passing opportunities through the CBD (e.g. Manners Street and the southern end of Lambton Quay) but there is no point in changes to enable pass passing such as “skip-stop” if most of the vehicles cannot skip. Interestingly, the Spine Study does not change this approach (instead they propose using larger buses and pushing the diesel bus services from North Wellington onto the Alternate Spine (Featherston/ Victoria/ Wakefield and back along the quays)
* The trolleys stop at the railways station rather than continue north to Johnsonville (matching the high capacity bus route to Newtown/Island Bay). This means Wellington cannot have bus services that travel through the CBD. Instead, buses from north are unloading passengers share must scarce road space with buses heading south picking up passengers.
* Trolleys can only along the golden mile even if they are “Out of Service”. I regularly see the empty “Out of Service” Mana/Newlands buses travelling north along the quays and motorway to reposition for school runs after dropping commuters into the CBD.

Trolleys are also a serious cost problem requiring per passenger subsidies that rival rail users travelling much longer distances.

The review of their ongoing operation will commence soonish, probably early next year and NZBus has already told the council they do not want them to continue. Another transport debate to look forward to …

Maximus
3 - 10 - 13

Tony, interesting comments, thank you. Any basis of fact that I can check out regarding their impending demise (not doubting you, just want to be able to read and quote something)? Also, do you know if we could have a single wire pantograph system like they do on trains, instead of the tracked wires that trolleybuses need to use? Seems to me to be easier to have a simple device just in contact with the wire, than to have to maintain 2 continuous grooved things on poles….

I know that i can’t speak for all Wellingtonians, and that some people do hate them, but most people I know absolutely love the fact that trolleys are quiet, not diesel powered, can be thought of as wind-powered, and feel way more environmentally friendly than a big sooty bus. Diesels are for trucks, not for humans.

Tony Randle
3 - 10 - 13

Maximus, I cannot point to any documentation about a review of the trolleys . . . it is just something I “heard”. I do know about the NZ bus position, I was at the 2012 Annual Plan submission when it was made to the GWRC.

Anyway, why are you talking about the “impending demise” of the trolley buses ? What defeatist talk is this ?

Just because a public transport vehicle is provibly expensive, inflexible, only able access some areas and prone to total failure has never outweighed a decision to keep them or even increase their use . . . at least not by Wellington politicians over the past decade.

meh
3 - 10 - 13

Exactly, as you can see the RWNJs have a real handle on what Wellington needs: more diesel buses with loud grunty engines belching toxic fumes over pedestrians. Just like now only more so. Paradise on earth.

davidp
3 - 10 - 13

mep>Davidp’s comment is just more proof that we can’t take right wingers ideas about public transport seriously. Most of them like David don’t even take public transport so why should we even listen to their bizarre ideas? They must simply be defeated in elections and dragged into the future unwillingly.

What a strange rant. I have no idea why you think I don’t take public transport. It’s certainly not something I’ve said. I don’t know what aspects of my views you disagree with because you didn’t manage a coherent counter-argument. So I’ll deal with both trolley buses and trams…

Trolley buses. The main issue I have with them are the wires. I avoid them because I think the experience for a passenger isn’t as good as a regular bus. In terms of a public transport mode, they’re kind of an irrelevance. There are only about 60 of them and I don’t think they run at all on weekends. It’s like transport planners want to appear to be promoting electric transport but know that they’re expensive and hopeless, so they don’t want to have the public transport system relying on them. People like them because they feel they’re iconic and make people feel nostalgic for the 50s, but heritage doesn’t make an efficient public transport system. I’d just scrap them, tear down the wires (hooray!!!), and replace them with regular buses. Or build the busway, which appears to make a lot of sense.

Trams. Again, my main objection is the need to keep the wires. But I’m also concerned about forcing trams through the CBD. Trams seem to work well when they run along wide long boulevard-style roads, like the St Kilda Road trams in Melbourne. Our CBD has narrow streets and tight turns. A tram weighs something around 50 tonnes, which is about the weight of a modern tank. As a pedestrian I’d object to an army (but not the NZ army which doesn’t have any vehicles anywhere near as heavy) hooning around the CBD in a tank… throwing it around tight corners like exist at the Old Bank Arcade. It’s the same with trams, with bonus wheel-against-track screeching. I spend most of my time in the CBD as a pedestrian and would like public transport to add to the ambiance of the city rather than making it worse. In terms of public transport mode, I believe the Spine Study shows that trams have a BCR of a tiny 0.15 and will actually REDUCE the number of people using public transport. That’s because people don’t like transferring between bus and tram. (Cue Erentz to disagree here, but I think he is in the minority). I’m completely baffled why anyone would promote a project that reduces passengers and has such a hopeless BCR just because trams have metal wheels and track, rather than the rubber wheels used by our current buses or busway buses.

Maximus
6 - 10 - 13

Davidp – thanks for that explanation. I too hate ugly overhead wiring, and as a sometime photographer myself, I get frustrated with intervening wires crisscrossing my pics – yet, for me, the quietness and use of electricity of the trolley bus more than compensates for it. I am (obviously) a lover of architecture, so that view up to the sky being spoiled by some Blake lines is irritating, but I’m also a lover of this planet, and it’s future, and the black smokey dust fume from the arse end of a diesel bus is something that I detest with a vengeance. Badly tuned diesel buses are a health hazard both directly (if you happen to be standing or cycling nearby) and indirectly (I live near a main road, as you do too) as diesel particulate is not only messy and grimy, but also very bad for health. That’s why I’m backing trolley buses.

But your comments about steel wheels screeching around corners in the CBD is an interesting one. It’s one that we can’t really debate, until that day arrives – if they did build them, would they screech? My recollection of trams I’ve used recently in Auckland and overseas is not one of screeching, although of course I was on the thing, not standing nearby. They’ve certainly got a rumble as they tootle along – which is not a bad thing if you’re an iPod-toting road-crosser who isn’t looking where you’re stepping. I’ve been more concerned at the thought of people getting hit by a tram, rather than by a bus, because they couldn’t hear or see them in time – so in a way any screechiness would be good – the old Auckland vintage tram (actually, I think it is a Wellington tram they have running in the Wynyard Quarter isn’t it?) does squeak a bit as it goes round some very tight corners, but the trams I used in Europe were far more smooth and quiet. They clanged their bells to make themselves heard, as they were so quiet running.

In Wellington, there would be no noise along Willis St, which is straight, nor Manners St, but the junction of those two, and the junction of Willis and Lambton Quay, would be the main places that noise would emanate from. Personally, and on behalf of all of us here at the Fish HQ, I’d be happy with a little more squeaking noise…