Bulletin 80

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

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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


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