Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Why light rail must go ahead in Wellington

Why light rail must go ahead in Wellington

Paul Bruce | Greater Wellington Regional Councillor
13th June 2013

In introducing a debate on Wellington’s future, the Dominion Post challenged us to think about big changes. The current transport model has failed to deliver, and all the recent studies show more of the same is going to make things worse. We need a different approach if we want a vibrant, economically successful city.

The Wellington Spine Study has identified the solution to one of the big problems. It confirms what earlier studies found - we need high capacity public transport through a single spine if we are to deliver high quality and reliable public transport across the whole network. But it goes further than the earlier work, and tells us that only light rail on the spine can deliver all the benefits of a fully functioning public transport system.

Improved public transport will also reduce traffic problems, by allowing those who would like to use public transport to shift modes. In contrast more roads will make traffic problems worse. A 2012 Arup and Opus report predicts that the RoNs programme (Roads of National (Party) Significance) would ultimately lead to 96% increased AM peak period congestion along with longer commuting trips.

It’s been widely reported that the Wellington “Spine Study” report shows that light rail is too expensive. But it actually shows nothing of the sort.

All recent reports on transport through central Wellington have confirmed that we have a problem that must be fixed – our bus system isn’t working. That’s because there are too many buses competing for too little road space, and also competing with cars. The Public Transport Spine Study is looking at what might be a durable solution to that problem, and also provide a high quality service to users, and help support new businesses along the spine.

The Wellington “Spine Study” (to be released 18th June) has already confirmed what other cities have proven – light rail has huge advantages over other options. The high capacity vehicles will solve the bus congestion problem that is making our bus system slow and unreliable. Rail guarantees level boarding (no stepping over that huge gap between the bus and the kerb), is more comfortable for passengers, and will generate greater business development and attract more users. And of course it allows us to have quiet, electric vehicles – no more noisy and smelly diesel buses next to shops and footpaths, and pose less risk to pedestrians.

Bus congestion is now recognized as the key problem for Wellington public transport. When your bus is late, that’s probably because it was held up in the Golden Mile, this run or on a previous run. Delays of 5-20 minutes are common, and eventually add up so much that services just get cancelled.

A Wellington bus review has grappled with that problem. The experts said we had to get numbers down to 60 an hour. The bus review has only managed to get it down from 140 to 110 in the AM peak.

Light rail can also be integrated with the existing heavy rail, allowing seamless journeys into the CBD for those users currently forced to get off their train at the railway station and walk or bus to work.

A light rail system offers a 21st century mode of transport in keeping with progressive cities around the world, such as Freiberg, Portland and Melbourne. The Dominion Post is leading a debate on how to make Wellington a more successful city. One feature that would attract business people, visitors and new migrants alike is a functioning public transport system, with light rail at its core, that makes travel in from the airport and suburbs simple and swift. This is the kind of transport that sophisticated overseas visitors and returning professionals are used to having. The walkability and public transport provision of Wellington is already a competitive advantage over Auckland – with light rail the difference would be huge.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that light rail can’t work in Wellington, because it is too small. But overseas cities with successful rail networks are a similar size, and often have more challenging geographies. The spine study work has confirmed that light rail will work in Wellington – a conclusion also reached in earlier studies. Indeed, light rail was part of a 1999 regional land transport strategy.

Another argument is that the money isn’t there. But the National Government is forcing a $2.7 billion road building spree on the region, with many of the roads having negative economic benefits. Public surveys show that this isn’t the transport spending priority of Wellingtonians – and in fact it isn’t even NZTA’s transport priority for Wellington. Both the public and NZTA’s only strategic work show that improving public transport is a far higher priority for available funds.

Bus options simply can’t do what light rail can, and any bus option that came close would undoubtedly cost as much or more. There isn’t a cheap option out there, notwithstanding what can be read into the spine study. There are also some serious questions about the accuracy of their costing – the costs cited for light rail are significantly higher than those in other studies and in other cities.

But even if their costings are right, light rail would cost far less than the proposed roading developments, and provide real, long term solutions, not temporary patches and new long term problems.

But the benefits identified in the study are only some of the benefits. Because the study was limited to the area from Ngauranga to the Airport, the flow on benefits to the suburbs of reliable and fast public transport, and the benefits to rail users commuting from the other cities, haven’t been added in. Put those in, and the benefit cost ratio of even an expensive light rail option will be high.

Light rail could provide a new choice to commuters along the WCC preferred growth spine, and at the same time allow some of the 70% of commuters coming from north of Wellington Railway Station a faster way of reaching destinations to the south.

Because of its limited terms of reference, the Spine Study conclusions are answering the wrong question. But the detailed analysis, when applied to the right question, tells us that we need light rail, light rail is feasible, and light rail is affordable.

I will be arguing to our Council that the Regional Passenger Transport Plan should be updated with a series of staged projects that would deliver modern light rail as part of the desired integrated network.

In my view, the spine study shows what other cities have demonstrated – high quality public transport is essential to Wellington’s future, only light rail can deliver that, and the cost will be far less than the government’s planned road building programme.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>

ALSO:

Buildup:

Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>

ALSO:

Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>

ALSO:

Max Rashbrooke: Why The New British Conservative PM Is Talking Inequality

In a major speech, May honed in on one key theme: an economy “that works for everyone”. It was strikingly like the language that the former British Labour leader, Ed Miliband, used in last year’s election campaign, as he put inequality front and centre of his – unsuccessful – political pitch. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news