Bulletin 80

09/09/2009 at 20:25 | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

090908 T-A logo small



Welcome to our ‘big eight-oh’ – our 80th fortnightly Bulletin, and welcome particularly to new recipients. Our primary email list is now 153, plus this gets copied to the Sustainable Energy Forum, LRPPro and forwarded on to goodness knows who else. Comments welcome.

1   Forthcoming events

(a) Our next get-together:
this Friday 11 September, 1200, at TRAX, Wellington Railway Station. The following get-together will be at The Front Page, on 25 September. (Second Friday = TRAX, 4th Friday = TFP.)

(b) Transition Towns Expo

6-19th September, Wellington Cathedral of St Paul, cnr Molesworth and Hill St, Thorndon
Displays and exhibits open daily from 10:00am till 4:00pm, with public debates / discussion throughout the week of the 6th to the 11th. Still to come:

  • Urban food production – Friday 11th Lunchtime discussion
  • Renewable Energy: transport and housing – Friday 11th Evening Panel (7:30 – 9) Speakers: Ian Shearer, Paul Bruce, Richard Morrison

Transition Towns initiatives are part of a vibrant, international grassroots movement that brings people together to explore how we – as communities – can respond to the environmental, economic and social challenges arising from climate change, resource depletion and an economy based on growth. By building local resilience, we will be able to collectively respond to whatever the future may bring in a calm, positive and creative way. And by remembering how to live within our local means, we can rediscover the spirit of community and a feeling of power, belonging and sharing in a world that is vibrant, just and truly sustainable. http://www.transitiontowns.org.nz

[The Expo is the type of event for which we are planning a portable display promoting Super-link, including an explanatory tram-train model – but not until next year.]

(c) Find out more about the Matangis

The Wellington Group of the NZ Railway and Locomotive Society is hosting a presentation by Albert Bossward of KiwiRail & GWRC about the new Matangi EMUs currently under construction for Wellington. Wednesday 7 October, 6 pm, Turnbull House, Bowen St. All welcome, $5 door fee, please.

2   Trans-Action gearing up for 2010 campaign

After years of trying to figure out why the Wellington tram–train plans of the 1990s are now forgotten about, and the very concept is derided by our politicians while their counterparts overseas are cutting the ribbons on new light rail lines, Trans–Action members have concluded that a re-education of the public, council politicians and their advisors is necessary. There is no better opportunity than next year’s local body elections.

One already-announced candidate for the Wellington mayoralty is making light rail a high-profile talking point and hopefully others could follow. Many successful mayors overseas, and in Christchurch and even Auckland, are enthusiastic rail transit boosters and in rail-suited Wellington it is about time we had the same.

We need to ensure that (a) when the politicians talk about light rail they know what they are talking about and (b) such talk gets the endorsement of  a voting public keen to see a complete rail system achieved after so many decades of false starts. Auckland seems to have achieved a critical mass of political support for a completed rail system, with considerable help from the Campaign for Better Transport, and now it is up to us to do the same.

To help this process along a number of different activity streams are now under way:
(a) We are planning to formally register as a charitable trust, after years of informal email and lunchtime get-together co-ordination, in order to improve our legal standing without the full bureaucratic burden of an incorporated society. Mike Mellor is advising us in this step.
(b) Julian Gonzalez has taken up the challenge of getting that all-important website established, without which nothing much else will work. A sub-committee of 4 will run the site.
(c) Brian Jameson is co-ordinating the Super-link tram-train campaign and is our main spokesperson on the issue, having achieved several articles in the local media. The main statement about Super-link which Brian compiled was circulated with Bulletin 77.
(d) Tram modelling expert Ian Robertson is co-ordinating a group of model tram hobbyists to construct a diorama to be part of public information displays, to show in 3D how light rail would fit into the Wellington environment.
(e) Demetrius Christoforou has written a pamphlet for public distribution, including to commuters struggling through the streets to the Railway Station.
(f) I am continuing to work towards a set of video (YouTube and DVD) and PDF resources to be hosted on the website, as well as continuing to publish this Bulletin.

There is much to do, but the number of willing hands is increasing all the time. Great! New volunteers can either email me or turn up for lunch as above.

A continuing need is for skilled submission writers and presenters to comment on the sustainable transport implications of mainly Wellington but sometimes national (e.g. bigger trucks) issues. Because our membership overlaps with kindred-but-not-rail-focussed sustainable transport organisations, our best people often submit on behalf of those organisations and I am left to do any Trans-Action submission work by default. Which means a lot of opportunities to present a distinctively ‘pro-rail’ and ‘transit-oriented development’ point of view fall through the cracks. Some new blood in this area would be welcome.

We have hitherto been a zero-budget operation but inevitably finance for printing, website hosting, display materials etc will eventually be required. Ways of obtaining finance are being considered (rich benefactors welcome) and this will be taken further once the trust is set up and the website is running.

3   Loads of roads: predictable NLTP increases petrol addiction

Few will have been surprised by the new Government’s increased emphasis on roads in the new 2009/12 National Land Transport Programme. With “sustainability” now banned from the Government’s vocabulary, and future-eating and being a ‘reluctant follower’ on climate change now the official fashion, it is hardly surprising that the new Programme with its emphasis on ‘roads of national significance’ (RONS) envisages and encourages a continuous increase in road use and fossil fuel consumption.

With new rail funding now removed from the NZ Transport Agency’s responsibilities (and likely to lead to semi-starvation, since this Government doesn’t believe in a ‘sustainability’ justification for rail investment), the Agency has reverted to the road agency role of the old (and mis-named) Transit NZ.

The planned expenditure is:

(Graph copied from an NZTA presentation, bottom axis in billions)

Much of the ‘public transport infrastructure’ spending is the completion of the Auckland and Wellington rail projects started under the previous Government – without, in Auckland’s case, any certainty about rollingstock to run on the new electric system.

Of interest is the ‘Public transport services’ item (operating subsidies) – if there was measurement of the privately-funded expenditure on motor vehicle purchase and operation (a cost to the economy, albeit not to the Government) it would doubtless take the width of several graphs to show for the same period!

See http://www.nzta.govt.nz/publications/nltp/index.html .

4   Motorway madness makes no sense

One of the first victims of RONS is likely to be the Kapiti area. Media release from Lyndy McIntyre, Paekakariki/Raumati councillor

31 August 2009

Motorway Madness Makes No Sense

“The Government’s plan to spend nearly a billion dollars on an expressway through Kapiti is madness and makes no sense,” said Kapiti Coast District Councillor Lyndy McIntyre today. “As the enormity of the proposal sinks in, the community is realising the disastrous implications.”

Lyndy McIntyre said the proposal brought no benefit to the local community or economy and every expressway option created more problems than solutions.

“This is all about shaving a few minutes off the journey through Kapiti for long-haul travellers and providing a fast lane between Wellington and Auckland for trucks,” she said. “Far from benefiting Kapiti it will shut down local businesses, destroy hundreds of households, create problems for emergency services, and fragment local communities.”

Lyndy McIntyre said the community should not be duped into thinking that four-laning the Western Link Road would improve the proposal.

“The bottom line for Government is a 100 kph highway through Kapiti with a minimum of exits. Putting it through the centre of Kapiti solves nothing,” she said. “This option is bitterly opposed by iwi, and would be an environmental and community disaster for the centre of Kapiti.”

Lyndy McIntyre said the Government’s claim that State Highway 1 is “heavily congested” was a joke.

“The vast majority of the time the highway is not congested,” she said. “The short peak-hour periods on weekday mornings and evenings could be addressed by dramatically increasing the number of daily rail commuters who travel to Wellington to work. If Government can find $1billion for the expressway, they could extend our public transport service to Otaki and make rail attractive to the overwhelming majority of Kapiti commuters who choose to drive to Wellington to work.“

Lyndy McIntyre said motorways were old thinking and out of touch with the key issues facing the planet – peak oil and climate change.
“None of three options suggested by the Minister of Transport are remotely sustainable. The best interests of the Kapiti community and the Nation would be served by an Option Four, the sustainable option, which addresses the actual problem of too much traffic at peak times and provides solutions.”

She said the Option Four solution would include:

·         A state-of-the-art rail service between Wellington and Otaki and eventually Palmerston North, accessible to all local communities, an affordable and efficient bus service throughout the Kapiti district and moving freight to rail
·         A scaled-down Western Link Road, including a second bridge over the Waikanae River
·         Capping “think big” developments, such as the airport development, which are predicted to trigger massive local traffic increases over the next 20 years

For more information contact Lyndy McIntyre 04 9055 185 or 021 0232 7047

5   Phoenix light rail shows interesting results

The new Phoenix, Arizona light rail line opened in December 2008, featured in past Bulletins, has been operating long enough to generate some interesting rider data, relevant to Wellington:

A survey shows light rail ridership on Phoenix Valley Metro’s 20-mile starter line does not follow traditional patterns and Federal Transit Administration has agreed to take this into account when evaluating funding for a short eastern extension into downtown Mesa, The Arizona Republic reports.
“Metro found that only 27 percent of the patrons ride the light rail to and from work. In many large cities, commuters make up the dominant share of riders. The survey found that sports fans, shoppers and people going to and from the airport or cultural events form the largest group.
“Other surprises:
 More people take the trains during the middle of the day than during either the traditional morning commute or evening one.
 More people walk, bike or skate to the trains than take buses or drive. Survey personnel didn’t ask how far passengers walk.
“Less surprising is that two-thirds of riders own cars and one-third had never ridden transit. Light rail was designed to attract riders who won’t ride buses.”
There are reasons for off-peak ridership:
“The starter line connects two city centers, other business districts, schools, colleges, sports venues and shopping centers, giving riders reasons to travel in both directions and during the off-peak.”

and …

A survey has profiled the passengers who are using Valley Metro’s $1.4 billion, 20-mile starter light rail line. ABC 15 posted this report (full text):
“Survey reveals ‘characteristics’ about Light Rail riders
Reported by: Dana Caporaso
Last Update: 9/02 5:43 pm

PHOENIX – Who’s a typical METRO Light Rail rider?

More than 3,000 people were surveyed in April to determine some of the most common characteristics, according to METRO Spokesperson Hillary Foose.

Foose said the data will be used to help METRO in its future planning efforts.

The results of the survey are as follows:

– 35 percent of METRO riders surveyed are new to public transit.

– 40 percent use light rail to travel between home and a destination other than work, such as attending special events, enjoying a night out with friends or running errands.

– 30 percent of respondents use METRO to commute between home and work exclusively.

– Approximately 20 percent of respondents use METRO for trips where neither end of the trip is home (i.e. going to/from lunch during the workday, meeting friends after work or going to school from the workplace).

– 45 percent of respondents walk, bike or skate to a METRO station to connect with light rail; the other half either drive to a METRO station, usually using a park-and-ride facility (29 percent) or connect from a bus (26 percent).

– 68 percent of respondents have at least one car available for the trip they were making on light rail.

A more comprehensive on-board survey is expected to be held the fall of 2010.
[end text]
For additional details on the survey, see this Valley Metro document:

[The high proportion of discretionary riders (those who could drive but choose to go by transit) and those new to transit is typical of new LRT systems. That is what our strap line “transport choice for Wellington” is all about. What is not so typical is the high level of non-work and contra-flow trips in Phoenix. This would be a predictable result for Super-link in Wellington, directly linking high-density inner-city housing, the Courtenay Place entertainment district, Basin Reserve, Regional Hospital, eastern suburbs and Airport with all the destinations on the existing rail system.]

6   Todd on TOD: most Americans prefer smart growth

Another significant paper from Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute:

One of the often-repeated claims by transit critics is that virtually all Americans prefer large-lot, suburban, automobile-dependent homes, so transit-oriented development and investments in alternative modes are wasteful and harm consumers. Our research indicates otherwise. It indicates that a majority of households now prefer living in more accessible, multi-modal communities and demand for such housing will increase significantly over the next two decades. This may be useful background information for this debate. See the following new report:

“Where We Want To Be: Home Location Preferences And Their Implications For Smart Growth” ( http://www.vtpi.org/sgcp.pdf )
This report investigates consumer housing location preferences and their relationship to smart growth. It examines claims that most households prefer sprawl-location housing and so are harmed by smart growth policies. This analysis indicates that smart growth tends to benefit consumers in numerous ways. Market research indicates that most households want improved accessibility (indicated by shorter commutes), land use mix (indicated by nearby shops and services), and diverse transport options (indicated by good walking conditions and public transit services) and will often choose small-lot and attached homes with these features. Demographic and economic trends are increasing smart growth demand, causing a shortage of such housing. Demand for sprawl housing is declining, resulting in oversupply and reduced value. The current stock of large-lot housing is adequate for the foreseeable future, but the supply of small-lot and attached housing will need to approximately double by 2025 to meet growing demand.

7   More snippets from overseas

Thank you to LRPPro and Ed Havens for continuing to forward these stories from local news media.

(a) Portland: “galloping me-too-ism” – suburban cities jockey to be next for light rail

Light rail has proven to be so popular and to have such an important economic impact that suburban cities in the Portland area are jockeying for position so they aren’t left behind during system expansion, The Forest Grove News Times reports:
“Since the first MAX light-rail line between Portland and Gresham opened in 1986, transit has evolved into something far more than just an energy-efficient way to move people around. Transit is seen as a catalyst for new housing and business development.
“That faith was in abundance when TriMet held an Aug. 6 ceremony to mark introduction of 22 new-generation light-rail trains to its fleet. Dozens of regional officials rode a new train from Portland to Hillsboro, where speaker after speaker praised the MAX system for spurring development.
“‘This transportation system is so beneficial to business,’ said Beaverton Mayor Dennis Doyle, who hopes to build a new Triple-A baseball stadium for the Portland Beavers near a transit center in the heart of his city.”
A report on projected regional growth is to be released Sept. 15 but there’s already a tentative priority list for LRT extensions:
Forest Grove Mayor Richard Kidd is unhappy that a line from Hillsboro to his city is low on the priority list.
“Kidd plans to resign in October and run for an open seat on the Washington County Board of Commissioners, where he hopes to convince Metro to move Forest Grove up higher on the list.
“‘They’re treating Forest Grove like a stepchild,’ insisted Kidd, who also believes his city needs a light-rail connection to grow. That light-rail line, Kidd said, would connect the city to Washington County’s employment centers.”

(b) Portland: new Green line videos

This is what the suburban cities want more of. I videoed the new downtown shared bus-rail mall (yes, it can be done! See how in the first video) and new cars being tested when I was there in early May, but these videos are better:

Portland new Green Line South – speeded up – 7 minutes to cover the whole line

Portland new Green Line Nortth – returning at high speed

Green Line first ridee – includes interviews with TriMet GM Fred Hansen and local politicians

Safety – are the idiots multiplying?

(c) Melbourne: Freeways no magic time-saving bullet


September 4, 200
BILLIONS of dollars spent building freeways across Melbourne since 1995 have failed to deliver the spectacular time savings promised to justify their construction, a study to be published today shows.

Transport analyst John Odgers, from RMIT’s school of management – in the first analysis of its kind for Melbourne – has reviewed the promises made by consulting groups whose work was used to successfully argue for several big freeways built in Melbourne since the 1990s.The roads include CityLink, the Deer Park bypass, EastLink and the extension of the Eastern Freeway. The average speed Melburnians travel on freeways today is 78 km/h, the same as it was in 1995.

Chief among the rationale for building each major new road, the study shows, was the travel time savings the roads were promised to create. The road builders claimed the savings would bring huge economic gains to Melbourne, as businesses and individuals moved about the city more efficiently.

But Mr Odgers’ study shows this has not happened – something disputed by those who worked on the road projects. Mr Odgers has compared the forecast of travel time savings for the Melbourne urban road network made before CityLink was approved, with actual travel times reported each year since 1994 by VicRoads. They show that Melburnians are spending hundreds of thousands more hours on freeways – leading to zero gains in speeds or travel times, as roads fill up as soon as they are built.

Speeds on Melbourne’s roads have dropped since 1995, from an average 44 km/h to 40 km/h. Average speeds in Melbourne in the morning and evening peaks are the lowest they have been since 1994. In the morning peak, freeway speeds have fallen from 67.4 km/h to 58.8 km/h, and during the evening peak from 80.2 km/h to 73.5 km/h.

However, if monitoring the entire day, Melbourne’s freeway speeds have remained virtually static – except for a brief respite in 2000 shortly after CityLink opened.

Many new roads, such as the $750 million Frankston bypass and the Government’s proposed $5 billion WestLink freeway tunnel under Footscray, are being justified using similar predictions of travel time savings.

”Perhaps the German word schlimmbesserung – meaning an improvement that makes things worse – is an apt descriptor for the massive program of new road construction that has marked Melbourne’s ‘solution’ to its transport challenges over the last several decades,” Mr Odgers’ report concludes.

But Dr John Cox, one of the main authors of the cost-benefit analysis used to justify construction of CityLink in the late 1990s, said the study did not stack up.

”Imagine if CityLink was stopped – you would get a lot of travel time costs,” he said.

”To say that CityLink doesn’t cause travel time savings is pretty silly really.”

Melbourne University’s transport research centre will publish the Odgers study on its website today.

Professor Nicholas Low, the centre’s director, said the report threw fresh doubt on the methods of assessing the time savings that would be made by building new roads


(d) APTA: Transit users save $9k yearly

Individuals who ride public transportation can save on average $9,147 annually based on the September 3, 2009 national average gas price and the national unreserved monthly parking rate, according to the American Public Transportation Association <http://www.apta.com/Pages/default.aspx>  (APTA).

“The Transit Savings Report” released monthly by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) calculates the average annual and monthly savings for public transit users.  The report examines how an individual in a two-person household can save money by taking public transportation and living with one less car.

Transit riders can save on average $762 per month. The savings amount is based on the cost of the national averages for parking and driving, as well as the September 3 national average gas price of $2.596 per gallon for self-serve regular gasoline as reported by AAA, a slight decrease from last month’s price.

The national average for a monthly unreserved parking space in a downtown business district is $154.23, according to the 2009 Colliers International Parking Rate Study. Over the course of a year, parking costs for a vehicle can amount to an average of $1,850.
To calculate your individual savings with or without car ownership, go to http://www.publictransportation.org <http://www.publictransportation.org/> .

[Perhaps if NZ had a proper all-modes public transport industry group, rather than just the rail-bashing Bus and Coach Association wing of the road lobby, a similar study could be commissioned here!]

(e) Dallas: biggest, fastest light-rail expansion in North America

To Kiwis, the TV image of Texas is lotsa guns, executions, big oil, barbecues and George W Bush. But its two biggest cities are leaders in using light rail, with the successful downtown Houston starter line about the extend into the suburbs (a mirror image of our Super-link scheme to take the suburban lines downtown) and Dallas further extending its already-large system:

Dallas Area Rapid Transit [DART] board chairman Randall Chrisman hosted a media tour yesterday of the new Green Line light rail branch and said the project was on time and under budget, Dallas Morning News reports.
“Traffic lights are turning red more often in downtown Dallas, for instance, to accommodate more trains. Wait times at Trinity Railway Express stations are getting shorter, too, and you might see the familiar yellow DART trains ghosting along unfamiliar tracks, sans passengers, as operators kick the kinks out of the new route.
“It’s all part of the changes ahead for DART, and for Dallas, as the city’s 26-year-old transit agency prepares to add its first major new line in more than a decade. The Green Line, which will debut four stations later this month and 16 more by 2010, adds 28 miles of rail to DART and has cost about $1.8 billion.
“And the new line is just the start of a four-year expansion that by 2013 will include the new Orange Line through Irving to D/FW International Airport, and a Blue Line extension to downtown Rowlett.
“In all, the $3.3 billion expansion will add 45 miles, 28 stations and about 60,000 more daily trips to Dallas’ light-rail system, the biggest, fastest light-rail expansion in North America.”
On Saturday, Sept. 12 before the LRT debut DART will host public parties at each of the four new stations to thank the public and businesses for putting up with construction-related disruption.

… and the video is …



Brent Efford
Co-ordinator, Trans-Action


TRANS-ACTION BULLETIN 79 – Q&A post-Civic Trust seminar; Christchurch Tramway makes liars of Wellington councils

25/08/2009 at 11:08 | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Welcome to our 79th fortnightly Bulletin, and welcome particularly to new recipients. Our primary email list is now 150, plus this gets copied to the Sustainable Energy Forum, LRPPro and goodness knows who else. Comments welcome.

1   Forthcoming events

(a) Our next get-together:
this Friday 28 August, 1200, at The Front Page, Boulcott St. The following get-together will be at TRAX, Wellington Railway Station, on 11 September. (Second Friday = TRAX, 4th Friday = TFP.)

(b) Transition Towns Expo
6-19th September, Wellington Cathedral of St Paul, cnr Molesworth and Hill St, Thorndon
Displays and exhibits open daily from 10:00am till 4:00pm, with public debates / discussion throughout the week of the 6th to the 11th

  • Wellington: Sustainable and resilient? – Sunday 6th 6:00 (Free drinks and nibbles – mix and mingle)
  • Will Peak Oil save us from Climate Change? – Monday 7th lunchtime debate (12:10)
  • Global warming will be fantastic for Wellington – Tuesday 8th Lunchtime debate
  • Local economies offer a solution to economic meltdown – Tuesday 8th Evening Panel (7.30 – 9pm)
  • Urban food production – Friday 11th Lunchtime discussion
  • Renewable Energy: transport and housing – Friday 11th Evening Panel (7:30 – 9)

Transition Towns initiatives are part of a vibrant, international grassroots movement that brings people together to explore how we – as communities – can respond to the environmental, economic and social challenges arising from climate change, resource depletion and an economy based on growth. By building local resilience, we will be able to collectively respond to whatever the future may bring in a calm, positive and creative way. And by remembering how to live within our local means, we can rediscover the spirit of community and a feeling of power, belonging and sharing in a world that is vibrant, just and truly sustainable. http://www.transitiontowns.org.nz

[The Expo is the type of event for which we are planning a portable display promoting Super-link, including an explanatory tram-train model – but not until next year.]

2   Myths, questions and quibbles

The 8 August Saturday seminar Around the Basin (see the previous Bulletin) provoked quite a lot of discussion about light rail, including emails since. The discussion included the usual myths, questions and quibbles. Let’s have a look at some of the ones I have recorded:

(a) “Wellington is not ready for light rail”
This was stated ‘authoritatively’ by a senior local politician, as though there was an objective test that Wellington had failed. In fact the evidence is all the other way: we have an electric heavy rail system which carries twice the traffic density required to justify a low-cost rail system – and that system does not even serve the corridor with the greatest density! Wellington was considered ‘ready’ for a southern extension of the (heavy!) rail system 50 years ago, even before much of the current motivation for travel south of the Railway Station had developed. Significantly, former GWRC councillor Terry McDavitt, former chair of the Regional Land Transport Committee, in his presentation admitted that  “Wgtn CBD, south and east routes are at patronage levels that could justify LRT“ but then went on to blot his copybook with …

(b) “But LRT has … higher operating costs”
Er, yes – in the same sense that a bus has higher operating costs than a taxi. So why don’t we use taxis instead of buses? Aside from the congestion, it is obvious: it is the cost per passenger kilometre that is the issue. Where the passenger flow is sufficient (and those are the only routes on which you would consider a new rail line, anyway) light rail operating cost per passenger km (or mile) is about 3/4 that of buses, according to the American Public Transport Association fact book  (http://www.apta.com/research/stats/documents09/2009_apta_fact_book_with_outer_covers.pdf ) – i.e. 60c per passenger mile as against 82c for buses. (An even more striking result applies in Wellington’s own PT system: rail operating contracts cost $18.5M in the y/e 30/4/09 but diesel bus operating contracts cost $26.9M – even though rail carries 70% of the Region’s total passenger km!)

(c) (Referring to the Super-link video) “You show different routes for north and south-bound light rail in Willis and Victoria Streets. For the sake of legibility we must have a single route for the Golden Mile.”
Please note the split route in the centre of the CBD is not my (Brent Efford’s) idea but assumed as necessary in the 1995 Works/MVA report. It even had a picture of a tram outside the Public Library in Victoria St on the cover. IF it was possible to exclude motor traffic, including service vehicles, from Willis St then two-way transit in that street would be feasible. BUT, to avoid a sharp curve from Hunter into Customhouse (tight even for buses now), the line should be two-way beside the Old Bank at the south end of Lambton Quay, too. I would like to be reassured that this is physically feasible for mainline-width (2.65m) trams. Although the Golden Mile was 2-way throughout its length in the original tramway days, those vehicles were very narrow compared to what is expected, or would be useable for tram-train, nowadays. The sunken footpath beside the Old Bank would definitely have to go, for a start.

The 1995 report proposed a split route for a reason, and those consultants had access to accurate data on the width of streets etc which I have not. I agree that 2-way trams in Willis St would be the ideal but it depends on both physical and political (WCC willingness to exclude traffic from Willis St) factors.

(d) “According to my notes yesterday you gave the capital cost of light rail as $40 million from Johnsonville to Courtenay Place. This sounds light: I saw a recent rule-of-thumb figure that translated to about $50M/km. The original (1992) estimates for Superlink were: Johnsonville to WRS $44-56M; City route $39. Something wrong here?”
No, nothing wrong. I prefer to use real-world Australasian experience, now that there is enough of it available (there wasn’t in 1992), rather than ‘rule of thumb’ figures probably gleaned from averaging Northern Hemisphere systems with all their right of way acquisition, subways, viaducts, gold-plated stations, etc (and may include pro-rata vehicle costs, too – something I don’t do unless bus proponents are willing to do the same for their schemes. Over the lifetime of a modern articulated tram, the vehicle cost of 3 generations of multiple diesel buses to do the same job is essentially the same.)

$20M per km is a rounding up of experience with Adelaide (CBD extension = AUD 33M for the same length as the Golden Mile), Melbourne – Vermont South, Box Hill and recent Docklands extensions (exact prices not at my fingertips right now, but from memory all around the AUD 15 M/km mark) and Christchurch – original tramway about 1.6 single track km, car shed, power etc for $5.45 M in 1995 and the 2-stage extension now under way of about the same length for $11.5M. [See item 3 below!]

The Adelaide and Christchurch experience is also CBD-based, so will include dealing with underground services, business disruption etc. However, I concede those factors may be more intense in Wellington (they need not have been if the WCC had included a light rail corridor in Golden Mile street works post-1995) and hence the ‘rounding up’ rather than ‘averaging’ approach.

Other than the question of platform heights if low-floor cars are used, I am not assuming any significant further investment in the existing renewed J’ville infrastructure after a tram-train conversion. It should be pointed out, though, that if extra track etc is contemplated to achieve further increases in capacity, it is more cheaply done using light rail rather than heavy rail standards (e.g. a line could be taken down Thorndon Quay rather than the upheaval of squeezing a 4th main track into the rail yards.)

(e) “No, not convinced. Taking the city route, the only possibly gold-plated figure in Superlink is for underground services. If you halve that, the city route will still cost $35 million or so, plus escalation. Remember that cutting costs too far is a risk.”

Refer to item 3 below. There is no cost-cutting in Christchurch – new tram rail and a thick concrete foundation is part of the job. The doubling of the Christchurch costs to arrive at a $40M cost for the Golden Mile tramway is in fact very ‘generous’ and conservative. Unless some huge unexpected engineering issues arise (unlikely on a route that carried 1st-generation trams for 60 years!) the finished cost is likely to be somewhat less.

(f) “On the Johnsonville Line, you will need to fight your way out of the station yard somehow: either a steep ramp from the overbridge down to Thorndon Quay, or along the western boundary of the rail yards and out at Davis Street, or just possibly through the station frontage. None of these will be cost-free.”
No – in the video the optimum route was identified as from the Platform 1 & 2 area, over Featherston St, through the bus standing area and so on down Lambton Quay. Exiting from the side of the station would be like Victoria Station in Manchester. Only the demolition of an unimportant single-story service wing of the station building would be involved, and it would make a great commercial development site. It is desirable to have light rail use the same platform array as the heavy rail services – a design used to advantage in many places like Dallas, Sacramento, Croydon, Manchester etc … but “through the station frontage”??? Obviously not acceptable – and not the best route even if it was.

(g) “I am not sure what you mean about pro-rata vehicle costs. Any credible estimate must include the capital cost of vehicles and a depot. What would be your estimate be with vehicles and connections at the railway station included?”
When you account for the greater number of buses required for the same load (ignoring that not as many people will ride buses!), and the much shorter life of buses, the long term capital cost of a bus fleet and that of a smaller fleet of much more expensive light rail vehicles is about the same – i.e. cost-neutral. The trouble is the cost of the vehicles is hidden when bus systems are proposed, so I believe that to be realistic the same methodology should apply to rail systems. Because the obvious strategy is to replace the current Ganz fleet with trams when the former life-expire in about 7 years, and the whole principle behind tram-trains is integrating light and heavy rail operations, extra depot facilities will not be required.

(h) “Why convert Johnsonville at all? Timetable and capacity limitations will restrict what can be done in the city and light rail will be struggling to carry the existing traffic, let alone match the capacity of six Matangi cars, run every 15 (12?) minutes. Four hundred passengers every twelve minutes, including standees, won’t cut it.”
The Railways Corporation in the 1980s concluded that trams to Johnsonville would actually increase the capacity of the line. The short length of the Johnsonville line when many customers want to go much further, and the need to replace many of the buses going down the Golden Mile – including the ones from J’ville – make its conversion a no-brainer. Worldwide experience, the 1995 report and commonsense observation all suggest that tram-train on a properly designed route would have adequate capacity. It is hardly sensible to argue on the one hand that Wellington is too small for light rail but on the other that it would have inadequate capacity! Note also the last paragraph of (d) above.

3   Christchurch tram progress makes liars of Wgtn councils

A Canterbury correspondent, Bryan Blanchard, has forwarded to me this photo report (below) of current work on the first stage of the extension of the Christchurch Tramway. Thank you, Bryan, and ‘K’ (whoever you are)!

The first section of the tramway opened in 1995 and is primarily a ‘tourist trundle’ using heritage cars. It is a one-way loop of about 1.6 track km and cost all up $5.45 M in 1995. The extension now being constructed in 2 stages will link to the Christchurch Polytech Institute of Technology campus and give the tramway more of a ‘streetcar’ circulator character, as is now becoming widespread in the US (like the SLUS – see the last para in this Bulletin). The cost of the extension is $11.5 M.

Constructed with new Ri60 rail, essentially the track design is what would be used for the Super-link tram-train line along Wellington’s Golden Mile – a project similar in size to the completed Christchurch Tramway. Except, of course, that our tram-train line would be 1067 mm gauge – slightly cheaper to build than Christchurch’s standard, or 1435 mm, gauge. Adding and rounding up this suggests about $20M in 2009 dollars – about what the Wellington City Council has spent since 1995 on Lambton Quay and other Golden Mile streetworks that have so far done nothing for public transport (fortunately, the next Manners Mall rebuild will be different in that respect).

(In giving ballpark estimates for the Golden Mile tramway I actually quote $40M, to be ultra-conservative and allow for extra cost factors – more complex underground services, for example – which may intrude in downtown Wellington. See 2(e) above. It ensures I cannot be accused of deliberately under-stating the probable cost. Incidentally, the Adelaide CBD extension of the same length cost AUD 33M!)

Christchurch, of course, does not have nearly the inner-city density of Wellington, nor the geography that provides natural dense corridors for rail, nor an electric rail commuter system already carrying 40,000 passengers a day, most of whom want to go further than the current terminus. Christchurch does have a Mayor and councillors with imagination and a sustainability orientation, who have the example of the existing tramway, now the icon of the city, already before them. See http://www.tram.co.nz/ .

Even though they are without the advantage of an existing rail transit system like Wellington’s, they are nevertheless considering the possibility that the CBD tramway could one day grow into a regional light rail system, essentially following the pattern of a starter line followed by extensions as seen in several US cities.

So for all those Wellington city and regional councillors and planners who say “it is all too difficult” and “Wellington isn’t ready for light rail” or “it is just too expensive” … look … and learn!

Our Christchurch readers and more than a few others, have been following with interest, the tracklaying in the inner city, for the tramway extension. I had occasion to be in that precinct, complete with camera, with the following results,…………………………

Cashel St. end nearest Oxford Terrace. From here, it will continue down what is locally known as ‘The Strip’, towards Worcester St. You will note that the rail material is genuine tramway section, brand new and rolled to radius. We did some calculations, which suggested the finished concrete pad would be about one metre thick.

The previous picture more or less reversed. Showing the Bridge of Remembrance.

Serious welding. No fishplates in use on this job.

The opposite end of the line in Cashel St. Gives an idea of the finished look. Track curves right into High St. (Yes, a surprise to me too.)

Track comes from left in Cashel St., coming towards us, now in High St. The other side of the cross proceeds down High St. to what was once called the ‘Bottle neck’, where there was the intersection of a number of routes where they all joined Colombo St., to go into the Square. This was an area where a tram photographer could have a field day. Many pictures exist, showing a great number of trams at the one time. This was dynamite in the (then) rush hour. Interestingly, the original tracks are now being lifted in the affected area of High St.

The material section of the cross is rather less than the rest, resulting in this method of soundly joining the offending two ends.

This concludes my efforts in this field. If anyone reading this could help with more detail, I would be more than pleased to add more on the subject. Is there anywhere else in the world doing such work in the CBD of any City? I take my hat off to all involved, from the design, methodology, though to the finished work. It is an exceeding well thought out and produced product. The existing tramway loop which has been running since 1995, has great trackwork, which has laid to rest all the doubters who loudly decried the project, citing the waterlogged potholes and shoddy roadworks of those days. (Among countless other failings) Mainly occasioned by WW ll. The idea of the trams going to the side of the road to allow traffic to pass while loading and unloading, silenced those who still saw this happening in the centre of the carriageway, as formerly.

Any further offerings I will share as they come to hand.  Cheers,  ‘K’.

4   Auckland CBT commuter rail campaign

From our friends in Auckland’s Campaign for Better Transport:

Support United for Commuter Trains to Auckland

Campaign For Better Transport
Press Release: 23 August 2009

Yesterday the Campaign For Better Transport (CBT) visited towns in the Waikato asking residents and businesses to show their support for commuter trains to Auckland and they received an overwhelmingly positive response, with over 1,000 postcards signed in just a few hours.

Members from the independent transport lobby group Campaign For Better Transport spent several hours yesterday in Huntly, Ngaruawahia, The Base shopping centre in Te Rapa and in Hamilton Central, collecting signatures on postcards which are aimed at making local Hamilton MPs Tim Macindoe and David Bennett, as well as the Minister of Transport Steven Joyce and Prime Minister John Key, aware of the train service the region urgently wants.

“People from all walks of life and from many different Waikato towns back the call for commuter trains” says Jon Reeves, a CBT spokesperson. “The Campaign For Better Transport is surprised that local MPs have not got behind this train service”, says Reeves “even businesses are calling for trains to and from Auckland. Then their staff can work while en route using modern technology like laptops as well as mobile phones, which will be banned from motorists in November. All these can be used on board the trains proposed for the service and increase productivity of the region’s businesses”.

Hamilton East MP David Bennett has publicly stated his opposition to increasing transport options in his electorate through commuter rail, but the CBT has done the ground work and knows that Waikato people want commuter rail services to and from Auckland. Jon Reeves says “Perhaps Bennett should talk with his electorate about the transport improvements they actually want?”

Despite what David Bennett says, the proposed train services will not be competing with the Waikato Expressway for funding. However, they will give the region a much needed alternative to driving into Auckland, and an option that completely misses all the traffic congestion. The price of oil is on the way up again, and commuter trains will provide a fuel effective alternative to driving. David Bennett believes the future is electric cars, but his arguments ignore the unproductive time workers spend behind the steering wheel and the fact that electric cars make traffic jams just like petrol powered cars, even if everyone could afford to get themselves an electric car.

The community support for the postcard campaign has proved so spectacular that the Campaign For Better Transport will shortly need to get more printed.

“Unlike any of the so called ‘Seven Roads of National Significance’, the train service has an excellent proven Cost Benefit Ratio that is higher than is the case for many local roading projects”, says Reeves “This is a classic no brainer for the Government to give the green light to rail. Now, let’s see if common sense prevails and they get the trains on the tracks to Auckland. Failing that, we will continue to send them thousands of postcards in support of the trains.”

Postcards can be downloaded from the CBT website and sent FreePost to an MP. The link is:
http://www.bettertransport.org.nz/campaigns/hamilton-auckland-rail <http://www.bettertransport.org.nz/campaigns/hamilton-auckland-rail>  .

In the next few weeks a team from CBT will also be around the Waikato region with more postcards.

“We have the passengers, we have the stations, now all we need is the trains” said Reeves.

Business Case Study undertaken by Environment Waikato in May 2009.

Waikato Commuter Trains NOW! Spokesperson:
Jon Reeves 021 535 295

CBT Convenor:
Cameron Pitches 027 288 9313

Website:  www.BetterTransport.org.nz

About CBT:
The Campaign for Better Transport is a voluntary incorporated society dedicated to promoting sustainable transport and better use of New Zealand’s transport assets and modal options, including roads, rail, ferries, cycling and walking. CBT is independent of all political parties and has as its core objective the aim of ensuring that funding is available to provide sustainable transport choices.

The CBT has had high profile successes with a number of its recent campaigns and its membership is now growing throughout New Zealand. The Waikato region is the second largest membership base of the CBT outside of Auckland.

5   Truck weights – comment from Seattle


I read your latest bulletin [77] with alarm.  New Zealand has arrived
at the top of the “stupid” list if they think that increasing the
permissible load weight and dimensions will be beneficial to anyone other
than a small cadre of truckers.
1. Increased weights will result in the roads being pounded to
pieces.  In California, the so-called ‘slow lanes’ (the ones at the
extreme right side of the freeway) are so rough that most passenger
vehicles stay out of  the lane to avoid having their passenger’s teeth
vibrated out of their sockets.  The slow lanes are frequently nothing but
chunks of concrete that used to be a continuous pavement, but are now
like a loosely assembled jigsaw puzzle.
2.  Increased loading will INCREASE truck traffic, not decrease
it.  The increased loading will permit the trucks to compete more
effectively with railroads, barge lines, and other non-road carriers of
freight, increasing truck traffic and thus increasing the contribution of
truck traffic to road destruction.  Are the NZ taxpayers willing to
contribute more of their hard earned money to subsidize these road
crushers?  I suspect New Zealanders are just as grouchy about increasing
their tax burden as Americans are.  The trucker lobby will effectively
fight off any attempt to raise their contribution to road maintenance.
So John Q. Public gets stuck with the bill…or the roads go to pieces
and JQP gets stuck with higher automobile repair bills as a result of
driving on the rougher than heck roads.  There is no winner in this
3. From an energy point of view, increased truck size is a step
backward, shifting freight from energy efficient railways and water
carriers to a mode of freight transport that consumes 4 times the fuel to
haul the same tonnage the same distance.  This is utterly inexcusable in
a world that now sees the effects of carbon emission into our atmosphere,
our life support system.  Carried to its extreme, this is just another
road use project that sacrifices the longevity of human life for the
personal profit of a select few.  The human race is not immune from the
dangers of extinction!

I wish you all success in fighting off this bone-headed proposal.  New
Zealand should be looking toward restricting long distance truck
movements, requiring them to be placed on rails for movements beyond xxx
miles.  A good start would be imposition of a ton-mile tax on truck
haulage so that the damage they cause to roads and people’s lives can be
compensated at least partially from the ton-mile tax funds.  How do you
compensate an automobile driver for the death of his wife and children at
the hands of one of these overloaded monsters on rubber tires.

Best Regards
Tom Irion
Auburn, Washington

Absolutely, Tom. Fortunately many organisations with infinitely more clout than Trans-Action, including the likes of IPENZ (Engineers NZ) (see http://www.ipenz.org.nz/ipenz/media_comm/2009/Vehicle-weights.cfm ) and the Auckland Regional Council have said similar things.

(Tom was the Project Manager for the recently-completed South Lake Union Streetcar in Seattle – a local circulator adjunct to the new light rail line( http://www.seattlestreetcar.org/ – watch the movie – just what Wellington needs!). Tom, and Carl Jackson, the Supervisor of the operation, kindly gave me a detailed tour of SLUS when I visited Seattle in April.)

6   Just received: SEF open letter to the Minister of Transport

Dear All,

The Sustainable Energy Forum has released an Open Letter to the Minister
of Transport calling for a rethink of the Government transport policy. I
have pasted the text below, and you can find the document in PDF format on
the SEF website at http://www.sef.org.nz/papers.html

Tim Jones

25 August 2009

An Open Letter to the Minister of Transport

Dear Minister,

Since coming to office, the Government has embarked on a land transport
policy which strongly favours road transport, and in particular private
road transport, for both vehicles and freight. This approach has been
reflected in a reallocation of funding away from less oil-dependent
transport modes, as demonstrated in the Government Policy Statement on
Land Transport Funding 2009/10 – 2018/19.

In its briefing to the incoming Government of December 2008, the
Sustainable Energy Forum pointed out that, in an era of concern about both
rising oil prices and climate change, transport policy should instead be
focused on increasing the resilience of the transport system and
decreasing its reliance on non-renewable fossil energy sources. This
requires increased investment in rail freight (particularly electrified
rail, where feasible), rail and road public transport, active modes such
as walking and cycling, and a comprehensive and effective sea freight

So far, the Government has chosen not to follow this advice. This month,
however, two developments which should cause a rethink have occurred.

1. The IEA predicts a future oil supply crunch. As a member of the OECD,
New Zealand is also a member of the International Energy Agency (IEA). The
IEA has usually taken an optimistic view of the future of world oil
supplies, but its view has become considerably more pessimistic over the
past two years. As reported in The Independent (UK) on 3 August 2009:

The IEA estimates that the decline in oil production in existing fields is
now running at 6.7 per cent a year compared to the 3.7 per cent decline it
had estimated in 2007, which it now acknowledges to be wrong.

“If we see a tightness of the markets, people in the street will see it in
terms of higher prices, much higher than we see now. It will have an
impact on the economy, definitely, especially if we see this tightness in
the markets in the next few years,” [IEA Chief Economist Dr Fatih] Birol

To illustrate the scale of the problem, Dr Birol said that 64 mb/d of
gross capacity needs to be installed between 2007 & 2030 – six times the
current capacity of Saudi Arabia – to meet demand growth and offset
decline. He went on to say:

“Many governments now are more and more aware that at least the day of
cheap and easy oil is over… [however] I’m not very optimistic about
governments being aware of the difficulties we may face in the oil

Putting so many eggs in the state highway basket suggests that New Zealand
is among the countries which are not aware of these difficulties. The
IEA’s warnings are too urgent to be ignored any longer.

2. The Government sets greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. The
Government has adopted a 2020 greenhouse gas reduction responsibility
target of between 10% and 20% on 1990 levels to take to the December 2009
Copenhagen climate negotiations. New Zealand will be under heavy pressure
in the negotiations to accept a final target at or above the upper end of
this range. Although some of the needed reductions can be achieved
offshore and through the use of forestry offsets, it will still be
necessary to make substantial reductions in domestic emissions.

Domestic transport greenhouse gas emissions increased 64% between 1990 and
2006, and constitute approximately 20% of New Zealand’s total greenhouse
gas emissions. A transport policy which concentrates on increased
provision for private motor vehicles will see transport emissions continue
to rise over the period to 2020, given that electric vehicles are forecast
to form only a very limited part of the private vehicle fleet by 2020.
Both local and international research shows that building new roads to
relieve congestion simply results in further congestion.

Thus, we are faced with the combination of further steep oil price rises,
and the need to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport. In
the light of these, the Government should rethink its current approach to
current and future transport policy. The Sustainable Energy Forum calls on
the Government to:
•    Rethink the shape of New Zealand’s future transport system in the light
of the twin imperatives of reducing greenhouse emissions and reducing the
transport system’s dependence on oil.
•    Focus infrastructure development on areas which will reduce New
Zealand’s exposure to high oil prices, and increase New Zealand’s
resilience in the face of oil depletion and climate change. Such suitable
developments include the wider roll-out of fast broadband; increases in
the range, reliability and quality of public transport systems; a strong,
effective coastal shipping system; and the electrification of the
transport system wherever this is feasible.
•    Avoid infrastructure development which makes us more dependent on fossil
fuels and leads to further increases in New Zealand’s greenhouse gas
emissions. Such unsuitable developments include converting coal to liquid
fuels, and continuing to spend money on new state highway construction.

Yours sincerely
Tim Jones
Convenor, The Sustainable Energy Forum Inc

… And I think that is about enough for now!


Brent Efford
Co-ordinator, Trans-Action

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