Trams-Action is Trust based based in Wellington, New Zealand. last updated 23/11/2021
WE ADVOCATE A CONTINUOUS RAIL SPINE BY EXTENSION OF THE EXISTING TRACKS FROM THE NORTH THROUGH THE DENSE BUSINESS DISTRICT TO THE SOUTH AND EAST IN ONE CONTINUOUS ROUTE.
Artist's impression (W.W. Trickett): Modern tram-trains in Wellington. Left: In Lambton Quay / Hunter Street, one on its way to the airport, the other on its way to Queensgate in Lower Hutt. Right: The same tram-train in Ngauranga, using the suburban network tracks, shared with the electric multiple units.
WHY A CONTINUOUS RAIL SPINE?
Efficient mass transit starts in an outer suburb and runs through the region of greatest pedestrian demand, coming out the other side to another outer suburb. In Wellington, the obvious route is from Johnsonville on the existing tracks to the railway station, then through the Golden Mile where all the business and employment is located, to Courtenay Place, the hospital, the zoo, then through a single track / walking / cycling 800 m tunnel to Kilbirnie and on to Miramar where there is already a high existing demand.
The worst way to operate mass transit is to have it terminate at a stub terminal, exactly at the point of highest ridership and forcing the fully loaded (often overloaded) vehicles to empty out, change direction, load up again, and leave the same way they came it. Refer to image B:
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN DIRECT THROUGH SERVICE IS IMPLEMENTED?
Overseas evidence indicates that ridership can easily double or treble, taking an incredible number of cars off the road. Refer to images C (from Japan, the Echizen-Fukui railway) and D (four example lines from Karlsruhe, Germany).
INTRODUCING…. Let’s Get Wellington Moving (LGWM)
After the Basin Reserve Flyover was firmly rejected by a Board of Inquiry, a new partnership was formed between the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA, a government agency), the Greater Wellington Regional Council and the Wellington City Council. It is called Let’s Get Wellington Moving. It has now been operating for about 8 years and has absolutely NOTHING to show for it. At one stage, it was draining NZD $2 M per month of public funds. That’s enough to build 100 metres of light rail track or purchase half a light rail vehicle every month!
They claim that their aim is to reduce the number of cars coming in to the CBD, yet what we have seen from them so far indicates that they are bereft of ideas as to the most effective way to do that. The worst indicator of this, is that they have gathered data but proceeded to ignore the clear message to be gleaned from their own data.
In 2019, LGWM came up with a Recommended Programme of Investment which was explained in four brochures on their website. On page 7 of the second brochure (“Context”), there is a diagram showing where cars coming in to the CBD originate from. Refer to image A. Note: [We have added the figures per category in the pie graphs from the figures in their document and the approximate angles in their graphs.]
Their own statistics show that the number of cars coming in from the north is greater than the number coming from the south, east and west COMBINED. But the north is already served by mass transit (the Metlink suburban train service) so why aren’t more people using it? Clearly, it is not taking them to where they want to go and they want no part of the mass scrummage that takes place daily at the railway station, as all the trains empty out. So the whole rail system remains underutilised, while people continue to drive in to town. Soon, a brand new motorway (Transmission Gully) will open and make driving even more attractive. If you don't believe it is underutilised, consider this: One LRT route in Melbourne which runs through their main pedestrianised street carries more passengers per annum than the whole of our four-route Metlink system! That's eye-opening.
Other data they have gathered clearly shows that few people using the trains transfer to buses. The vast majority walk to their final destination, mostly close to the railway station. Does this mean that people living in Johnsonville, Kapiti or the Hutt do not want to go to Courtenay Place, the hospital, Miramar (e.g. Weta Workshop) or the airport? Or perhaps those that do, are not using the trains but driving instead?
Where will that leave LGWM, with their aim to reduce car use? They claim that their scope lies only south of Ngauranga and they see this as a way to avoid grappling with the problem. They want to reduce car use, but if the cars come from outside their scope, they can ignore them! Does that make any sense at all?
Recently, LGWM underwent a “health check” but it appears this has not helped at all. They clearly still lack an expert in mass transit, not to mention plain logic.
THE OPTIONS THAT AREN’T.
On 1 November 2021, LGWM released four so-called options for public consultation. But really, they are the same option window-dressed slightly to make them appear different.
1. None of the options offers integration with the existing rail system, not even with Johnsonville which currently carries only commuter traffic. If they don’t do that, where will their depot be? There is already an existing depot in the railyards which can be used with minor modification and expansion, provided the light rail is compatible (i.e. same gauge) as the existing system. Yet LGWM have turned a blind eye to the enormous cost saving that can result from sharing the existing facilities. When asked directly at a public engagement session about a depot, they were struggling to find an answer. Their brochures show a light rail stub terminal in Bunny St, a full 120 metres away from the nearest rail platform. How is that going to attract more people away from Transmission Gully and on to the trains, when they have to walk 120 metres, accompanied by a whole trainload of their fellow travellers? Even if it attracts a few extra passengers, it surely isn’t making maximum use of the potential of light rail. Refer to images B, C and D again if you need convincing.
2. All four options have mass transit going along the waterfront. Three of them are rail-based, one is bus-based but there is no option for the public to comment on a better route. Effective mass transit must operate along the spine of maximum demand and that is along the Golden Mile. Furthermore, light rail attracts pedestrians from at least 500 m on either side of the route. Along the Golden Mile, it would have a potential catchment as far away as the Kelburn campus of the university, whereas along the waterfront, half the catchment is lost (on the seaward side), unless, of course, LGWM are counting the fish in the sea as potential passengers! Consider too, that a waterfront route will do nothing to create demand for the light rail during the day between the peak periods.
3. All four options have mass transit going to Island Bay. They try and justify this in two ways: (a) that Island Bay is more resilient than Kilbirnie to sea level rise. This is nonsense, as the average elevation above sea level of both suburbs is identical. (b) That Island Bay offers more potential for urban development. This ignores the already existing demand in the east. Furthermore, an integrated rail transit spine (see point 1) would encourage transit-oriented development throughout the wider region. Why limit residential densification to Island Bay? Is Kilbirnie going to be abandoned and put into a state of managed retreat?
MAKING A SUBMISSION
The public have until 10 December to make submissions on these four non-options. They have a website where you can answer meaningless childish questions such as:
“What is the main way you get to and around Wellington?” “What do you think is the most important for the future of Wellington? Please rank [10 statements] in order of importance (1-10).”
“Have a look at the four possible options: What do you like about these options? What don’t you like about these options? Is there something missing? Which type of mass rapid transit do you prefer? Why?”
Note the implication that there are only four “possible options”, hence cunningly diverting you away from considering others. This is a blatant attempt to coerce the public into accepting one of these four inferior options. Do not be fooled. Do not play their childish game. The best option is to write a few words of your own, and send them to email@example.com
Below is a paragraph to guide you, if you are short of time. You can add more if you like, but this should be sufficient to get the message to them:
Tell LGWM that their four options are very similar and do not offer real meaningful choice. Tell them that they should offer a Golden Mile route as an option, also to have the light rail going to Miramar, where there is already a high existing demand, and finally tell them that you want light rail to the existing KiwiRail gauge of 1067 mm so that it can share the existing depot and to leave the option of connecting Wellington’s light rail system to the existing Metlink suburban system at some later stage. To put in a non-compatible system is unconscionable and future generations will curse them for it.
If you are stuck for what to write, feel free to copy and paste this into an email:
Your four options are very similar, offer no real meaningful choice and I don’t like any of them. Genuine consultation would include genuine alternatives, such as a Golden Mile route for light rail, which is my preference. Another missing alternative is to have light rail serving the east (Miramar and the airport), via the hospital, where your own statistics show that there is already heavy demand. This is also my preference. Note that future urbanisation elsewhere can be met as the need arises. Thirdly, light rail is my choice, but it must be specified at 1067 mm gauge (the existing KiwiRail gauge) so that the existing depot can be shared with the light rail vehicles and leave the option of connecting the new light rail system to the existing Metlink suburban system at some later date. To put in a non-compatible light rail system defies all logic.
Furthermore, I believe that light rail to the eastern suburbs should be completed before any further road tunnelling takes place. We may find that once the light rail is operating to its full potential, no further road expansion will be necessary. The bus option to the east appears to be a thinly veiled attempt to justify a second Mt Victoria tunnel, but has the potential to increase car commuting, instead. No second Mt Victoria tunnel is required for light rail or any public transport improvements.
Send your two paragraphs to firstname.lastname@example.org with your full name, age, gender and which suburb you live in. This is a requirement for their submissions.
The German city of Karlsruhe experienced the same problems in the 1990s that we are experiencing today: Car congestion and a railway station distant from its commercial heart. They also had a short, isolated railway line which was declining in patronage. This line, the Albtahlbahn, was “rescued” by extending it into town, and should serve as a good lesson for us. Converting the Johnsonville line to light rail, would enable it to act as a starter line for light rail and it could be extended through the Golden Mile and beyond, in small manageable stages with no disruption. Karlsruhe developed the concept to the stage where their light rail vehicles actually share track with heavy rail trains and this is now widely known as the Karlsruhe Model.
TramTrain connects Town and Country. A brochure illustrating the potential of direct through service between suburbs and town centres. This brochure is published by Albtal-Verkehrs-Gesellschaft (AVG), the company that operates rail and bus services in the Karlsruhe region.