Last week we saw some images of what the proposed flyover around the basin reserve might look like. They came about as the proposal is currently going through the fast tracked Board of Inquiry (BOI) process and the board required the NZTA to provide them. Also released along with the images is a peer review of the traffic and transportation related aspects of the NZTA’s application. The outcome of the review is extremely interesting and raises a number of questions not just about this particular project but many others too. The most concerning part of the review relates to how the preferred option was chosen however there were other important issues raised.
The information provided for the BOI process shows that the NZTA had examined quite a decent number of alternatives from different consultants in the past. Opus who were doing the alternatives review for the NZTA narrowed the alternatives down to 5 main options (each with some sub options). These were described as options A to E of which A and B involved the use of an elevated structure – like currently planned while options C and D were at grade options. Option E retained State Highway 1 at grade and raised the local roads over it but was not thought to be feasible.
Opus then put the various options through a qualitative evaluation and selected Option A as the best one. The peer reviewers say they have attempted to replicate the results and they say that their analysis shows that actually option D performed best. What’s more is that the numbers from Opus suggest that Option D is $25m to $60m cheaper and has a better Benefit Cost Ratio too. So why did option A come out on top? the reviewers have noted the comment ”…the differences between the at-grade and grade-separated options in terms of economic benefits and BCR is relatively small for an urban project of this nature…“. In other words it doesn’t really matter about the cost and while Option D had a better BCR and was cheaper yet it it was dismissed as the predicted traffic time savings from Option A were much better. They say this doesn’t mean that Option A shouldn’t have been chosen but it becomes important when considering the next part.
After the government started talked about putting Buckle St into a tunnel in front of the War Memorial the NZTA looked at a range of tunnel options for the project. These were named Option F to M with Option F being the preferred one out of that group. It was then compared against Option A but crucially it used different assessment criteria to what was used in the earlier stages. In the assessment criteria the tunnel performed much better than Option A but was dismissed due to the estimated cost of the project. They note (and the emphasis is theirs:
2.17 – In the opinion of the reviewers, Option F provides better overall outcomes to Option A in respect of the criteria it has been assessed against. However, it appears that Option F has not been selected on the basis of it being too expensive to construct.
2.18 – While the reviewers acknowledge that cost is a very important consideration in the evaluation of any project, the weighting assigned to this factor does not appear to be consistent with the approach used to identify Options A and B as being preferred to Options C and D in the evaluation of the initial options. In that instance, the assessment concluded that a difference in BCR of circa 0.5 was insignificant for a project of this scale. Whilst the reviewers do not share this view, the difference in BCR between Option A and Option F is likely to be of this magnitude given the additional costs of Option F and the similar level of benefits generated by each option.
2.19 - The apparent inconsistency and lack of transparency in the underlying process by which options have been compared at different stages of the project is a significant concern of the reviewers.
So cost wasn’t a factor when deciding to go for a bridge vs an at grade option but was a factor when choosing between a bridge and a tunnel.
The reviews go further saying that they aren’t able to double check the actual tunnel costs as the breakdown of them wasn’t included in the report like the other options were. That’s not to say the costs mentioned are wrong but that they haven’t been able to be reviewed.
There was also quite a bit of concern around the pedestrian and cycling facilities being provided. They say:
Whilst the project upgrades existing facilities and provides new facilities to the north, east and to a certain extent to the south, there is almost no provision to the west of the reserve in terms of cycle or shared paths or crossing facilities for pedestrians / cyclists. Cyclists travelling northbound on Adelaide Road who then wish to head west would be required to travel through the Basin Reserve coming out onto the shared area and use the crossing on Cambridge Terrace before continuing westbound through the War Memorial Park. This is a circuitous route compared to following Rugby Street and Sussex Street and is unlikely to appeal to all cyclists. The reviewers observe that the provision for cyclists on the western side of the Basin Reserve is not ideal.
Section 7.1.3 of TR4 also assumes that pedestrian and cyclist demand “is forecast to grow at 2% per annum”. However this does not match with Mr Dunlop’s evidence which provides information obtained from the WCC Transport Monitoring Surveys (2009 – 2013) that show a 62% increase over a five year period for cyclists at the John Street intersection (which may in part be due to the Countdown supermarket opening in the interim) and 123% increase over a five year period for pedestrians at the crossing of Buckle Street west of the Basin Reserve.
It is unclear if there is a particular reason for these significant increases. For example, if the increase in cycling demand at the John Street intersection is due in part to the opening of the Countdown supermarket then this may suggest a similar increase could occur on Rugby Street where the consented New World supermarket is to be built. If the future pedestrian and cyclist demand follows the trend shown in the WCC Transport Monitoring Surveys rather than the predicted 2% then potentially the pedestrian and cyclist facilities could be insufficient or under-designed
The evidence of Mr Dunlop also states that pedestrian and cyclist movements could “…double following the duplication of the Mt Victoria tunnel and associated improvements to the existing poor cycle and pedestrian facilities linking the south east”. This, in combination with the recent large observed increases in pedestrian activity in the general vicinity of the project, raise some questions over the suitability of the design of the proposed shared path facility. The reviewers consider the suitability of the 3m wide shared facility should be reviewed in light of the potential significant increases in walking and cycling activity that may eventuate over that currently experienced. Of particular interest to the reviewers is the large speed differential that may exist on the ramp between cyclists travelling downhill and other users, and the lack of escape route for users travelling too fast to avoid a collision.
If the growth in cycling continues like it has then getting the cycling facilities right will be crucial.
All up the reviewers have listed 49 key issues they found with the report, some serious where they are saying the NZTA needs to provide a lot more information though to some which are just a comment but no action is required for. I wonder if we will be able to get the BOI for Puhoi to Warkworth to require a similar independent peer review?
As part of the EPA process, the NZTA have released some new images showing before and afters of the ugly flyover they are proposing called the Basin Bridge.
The prime minister has announced that work on Transmission Gully will start next year, just before the elections.
Construction on Wellington’s controversial Transmission Gully road link will begin in the second half of next year – and open to traffic in 2020.
Prime Minister John Key confirmed the move at a keynote speech to Wellington’s Chamber of Commerce this afternoon.
It follows contentious comments he made earlier this year, claiming the city is “dying”.
Key confirmed work on the $2.5 billion “northern corridor” – from Levin to the city’s airport – will begin next year.
The preferred bidder would be announced early next year, probably February, Key said.
He emphasised the Capital’s importance as a transport hub.
“The recent earthquakes have boosted the already-strong case to upgrade routes into and out of the region so it can better cope with such events,” he added.
The upgrade will shave 40 minutes off the morning peak travel time from Levin to the Capital, he said. It will also cut road fatalities from 140 to 100 within five years of opening.
And he claims it will create “thousands of new construction jobs”.
However, the project has encountered opposition from locals.
The route also lies on a fault line.
Others say the money should be spent on upgrading a rail link.
A public-private partnership will maintain and operate the link for up to 25 years.
There are a lot of issues with Transmission Gully that I will try to go into in greater detail in a future post however the main problems are that:
- it performs poorly economically -primarily due to its massive cost at about $1 billion.
- it isn’t all that clear it would perform any better in an earthquake than the existing coastal road
- it will be built as a PPP which will save us the upfront cost but will lock us in to paying huge annual fees over a 25 year period that will see us paying about 3 times what it cost to build. The NZTA have even removed the risk for the winning companies as they will have to pay for the road even if no one uses.
- Due to some steep elevation changes it is unclear that trucks will even bother using the route, especially if it is tolled
The map below shows where the road is going
The image below shows the change in elevation over the route.
While the videos below give an idea of what it will look like. You can see there are going to be some absolutely massive cuts into the sides of hills along with some massive embankments just to build the route.
This is a Guest Post by Generation Zero Wellington member Paul Young
Following an 18-month process, the Wellington Public Transport Spine Study was finally released in June and picked bus rapid transit (BRT) in favour of light rail as the best option for a new high-quality public transport system in Wellington city. Greater Wellington Regional Council is currently taking submissions on where to next, closing tomorrow. On one hand it’s positive that things are progressing.
However, the results and many assumptions of the study are highly dubious and have raised the eyebrows of many in the transport world. World-renowned transport academic Professor Peter Newman (also a board member of Infrastructure Australia) weighed in on it while in Wellington recently, saying the study “doesn’t do justice to light rail”.
Generation Zero has put together a quick submission form for people to easily have their say along the lines of our views, as explained in this handy little graphic.
Now there is nothing inherently wrong with BRT, and we aren’t blind light rail evangelists – in fact following the release of the study I was pretty convinced BRT was the way to go. But having read up and considered the evidence we believe it’s a short-sighted and problematic choice for Wellington. Light rail is a future-proofed option that we believe would deliver more benefits.
Here are some key points from my perspective about the study and the two options.
Cost and route
The study gave an extremely high cost for light rail ($940 million) because it chose a split route which involved building a whole new tunnel through Mount Victoria. Meanwhile the BRT option got a free tunnel by sharing the second Mount Vic car tunnel proposed to be built following the Basin Flyover. Doing this, by the way, would no doubt cause problems and delays by buses getting caught up in traffic congestion.
We believe cheaper options that avoid the need for a tunnel are feasible. In particular, a single line from the Railway Station to Newtown and then to Kilbirnie over Constable St and Crawford Rd was unduly dismissed in the study. The original reason cited in the study was just that it was “too slow”, but this later evolved into “you’d have to demolish a row of houses”. A quick play on Streetmix suggests otherwise, so long as we could find a way to remove the on-street parking.
Based on a similar cost per kilometre used in the spine study (~$56 million/km), this route would cost less than $400 million (compared with the study’s $207 million for the BRT option).
This route also doesn’t depend on building big new roading projects first, and avoids destruction of town belt land to widen Ruahine St. It would mean adjustments such as loss of parking on Constable St and slightly slower travel times to the CBD for Kilbirnie passengers, but benefits would include higher frequency service for Kilbirnie and Newtown residents and hence shorter waiting times.
In narrow corridors typical of Wellington, light rail has a much higher maximum capacity than BRT – approximately 10,000 passengers per hour in each direction, compared with just 3,000 for BRT. This is primarily because of smaller vehicle capacity (Wellington could handle buses for about 100 people, but trams for up to 300) and restrictions on how many vehicles can use the corridor per hour in order to give them full priority at intersections and maintain reliable service.
Retired transport engineer Kerry Wood gives a detailed explanation in this post on Scoop, and you can read his full 30-page submission here.
The study actually found that for the proposed BRT route, service from Kilbirnie through the proposed second Mount Victoria tunnel was at capacity from day one – let alone with any patronage growth. Information about service in the Golden Mile is unclear in the report but it seems BRT may be overloaded from the beginning here too. 
What is certain is that BRT doesn’t allow for significant future growth in ridership without compromising the service reliability and quality. Why invest hundreds of millions in a short-term option that will struggle from the beginning?
The modelling done in the study made no consideration for the higher ridership appeal of light rail over bus rapid transit, when there is strong international evidence demonstrating this.
A recent meta-study by Peter Newman and colleagues  shows rail outperforming bus in attracting trips from 1995-2005 throughout Australia, the US, Canada, Europe, Singapore and Hong Kong. Another meta-analysis for North American cities found that from 1996-2003 public transport trips increased by an average of 16% in cities that built light rail versus just 1.7% in cities that built bus rapid transit.  For a range of reasons, people tend to find light rail more appealing.
The study concluded that light rail would only attract as many extra PT riders as an enhanced bus service – overall growth of just 1% by 2040 – and that bus rapid transit would attract a lot more riders. This is way out of line with international experience and warrants strong scrutiny. The low predicted patronage growth in general needs to be questioned in light of NZ evidence shown on this blog of annual growth on the order of 16-20% following the opening of Britomart and the Northern Busway, vastly exceeding projections.
Transfers and the wider network
The main reason given for light rail coming out so bad compared with BRT is transfers. The study says light rail requires a lot more of them because – in theory – the BRT buses can continue out the ends of the corridor.
The modelling used a “transfer penalty” of 5.5 minutes – which is added to the actual expected waiting time – to capture the “inconvenience of transferring and boarding another service”.  Apparently this is actually a lower value than often used overseas. But again, the results are strongly at odds with observed outcomes in New Zealand and overseas and need to be questioned. Another point to note is that feeder bus services were not optimised.
It seems questionable whether BRT buses will really be able to continue outside the main corridor – at least without considerable adjustments and cost. Remember these will be big, articulated “bendy buses” (I suspect double-deckers may be a hazard on the infamous windy days!). Will Wellington’s tight streets really be able to handle these big buses as is, and will local residents tolerate it? It appears the study assumed no extra infrastructure cost outside the main spine route(s) despite the suggestion that “BRT” buses will be doing this:
Note that the dedicated corridor only operates between the black dots.
Perhaps the bigger question this raises is about reliability. If you have a light rail or BRT system operating entirely in a dedicated corridor with priority at intersections, the service can be very reliable and maintain regular frequency. If BRT buses are venturing out of the corridor they are bound to get delayed in traffic causing variable trip times. This was not considered in the study.
And while we’re on the topic of buses mixing with traffic, will the BRT really have dedicated right of way through the proposed second Mount Victoria tunnels? If not, will the supposed 3 minute time saving of the split route to Kilbirnie simply be eaten up by buses getting stuck in car traffic?
The spine study suggests approximately equal overall land value uplift from light rail or BRT of about $240 million, but again this seems at odds with international evidence that light rail offers larger and more reliable increases in property value.
Calculations by Tom Pettit as part of his postgrad research on the PT spine gave an expected land value uplift for light rail of $2.5 billion based on an an international review of over 50 installations across the world – an order of magnitude higher than the study’s estimate. He also estimated the increase in rates and fare recovery over 30 years would be $712 million, nearly paying the capital cost back twice. 
So that’s some of the key points, leaving aside some of the more intangible things around benefits to the urban environment, benefits of electricity as a fuel source, and so forth.
I guess a good note to end on might be to return to another nugget from Peter Newman, reported by Tom Pettit: There are 170 cities around the world with less than 150,000 residents that have light rail that is working. Why can’t Wellington?
We encourage readers to make a submission by Monday either using our form or the one on the GWRC site.
 Wood, K. (2013). Submission on Wellington Public Transport Spine Study. See “BRT capacity” section, p15.
 Newman, P. et al. (2013). Peak Car Use and the Rise of Global Rail: Why this is happening and what it means for large and small cities, Journal of Transportation Technologies, Vol. 3, No.4.
 Henry, L. & Litman, T. (2011). Evaluating New Start Transit Program Performance: Comparing Rail And Bus. Victoria Transport Policy Institute.
 GWRC, PTSS Short List Evaluation – Modelling Report. See pp79-80.
 Pettit, T. (2013). Bus Rapid Transit or Light Rail? Presentation at Exploring the Spine Study event, 23 September.
This is a cross post from Generation Zero whose Wellington team were perhaps felling a little left out our Congestion Free Network
By now you will hopefully have heard about the alternative transport vision for Auckland we’re pushing alongside the Auckland Transport Blog team; the Congestion Free Network. Quite a few people have asked, “when are you gonna do one for Wellington?”. Well guys, with the local government elections looming, the time has come.
Before I write any more words, allow me to drop the map.
It might sound clichéd, but Wellington is really at a transport crossroads. It’s on the cusp of a massive motorway expansion all the way from Levin to Wellington Airport, in the form of the Wellington Northern Corridor – one of the Government’s fabled “Roads of National Significance” (RoNS). The ramifications for the climate, our economy, and the special character of the “coolest little capital in the world” are pretty huge.
You might have heard John Key a few months ago announce that “Wellington is dying and we don’t know how to turn it around”. Apparently, the best answer is to spend well over $3 billion on some big new roads and tunnels through the heart of the city and region, to widen those state highway arteries. Surely this will get the blood pumping again!
The thing with a major roading operation like this, though, is it can have serious side-effects. In this case: “choking”, on all the extra cars it will bring into the city.
Capital will choke on new highways – Dominion Post 2/9/13
Gridlock is predicted to worsen across the Wellington region after Transmission Gully and the Kapiti Expressway are built.
Hardest hit will be Wellington city, as people from Porirua and the Kapiti Coast ditch public transport in favour of a faster, cheaper journey into the capital on the new four-lane highways.
The predictions are contained in a report commissioned by Greater Wellington Regional Council, which warns that local roads could struggle to handle the additional tens of thousands of cars hopping off State Highway 1.
There is some alternative therapy being offered in the form of the Public Transport Spine Study. This was supposed to tell us the best option for a high quality public transport solution along the city’s “growth spine” (Johnsonville – CBD – Newtown – Kilbirnie), particularly addressing the major bus congestion in the CBD that makes the current service slow and unreliable.
But, unfortunately, the Spine Study has problems of its own. It seems to have made an unfair and simply incorrect assessment of the light rail option, rendering the cost huge ($904m) and the benefits low (we’ll have a lot more to say about that). Even in the study’s best case option, Bus Rapid Transit, it projects the number of public transport trips in 2030 will only just claw back the lost ground as a result of the motorway building binge. And now the official line is that we can’t deliver this for at least nine years – five years after the International Energy Agency says global emissions should peak to be on a path to keep warming below 2°C.
We think Wellington deserves better. We see more and more cities around the world forging ahead fast with smart transport systems that help free us from dependence on oil and cars. These cities will be the ones prospering in the 21st century.
Wellington can’t afford a lapse back into the past – it’s time for a fresh, forward-looking transport vision. That’s why we’ve worked with some independent experts to develop…
It’s a holistic plan that we think builds on Wellington’s strengths to deliver better transport, a better economy and a better city. And it would cost much less than the planned motorway spend.
Over the coming weeks we’ll unveil and discuss more about Fast Forward Wellington. For now, I’ll just say a bit about the main components, shown in the map above.
1. A high quality “congestion free” public transport network
This means giving people the choice of reliable, high frequency PT services physically separated from traffic congestion, just like we’re pushing for in Auckland.
The first step would be building light rail on our alternative spine route from the Railway Station to Newtown then on to Kilbirnie over Constable St. We project this would cost less than $400 million and could be completed by 2020 by moving fast. Over future years the network can then be extended outwards – to the airport, Miramar, Island Bay and Karori. In the meantime these lines could be bus-only lanes connecting to the rail spine for transfers and some through services. Some routes like Brooklyn would probably remain as peak-hour bus only lanes.
2. A comprehensive Copenhagen-style cycleway network
This means giving people the choice of a safe and pleasant trip by bike with protected bike-only corridors.
Our proposed network would see about 150 km of segregated cycleways built throughout Wellington, Porirua and the Hutt Cities. This would be in conjunction with more on-road cycleways and traffic-calming measures to make the streets safer. With adequate funding of around $20 per resident each year, matched by central government, this could all be completed within a decade.
3. A city- or region-wide car share system
This means giving people an option of not owning a car but still having the service available for those occasions when they need one.
How does car sharing work? People pay a subscription plus a per-use fee, and can rent a car for minutes, hours or days at a time with little notice required. Systems are in operation in many cities around the world withZipcar. A company called CityHop has a small network in Auckland plus a couple of cars in Wellington and Christchurch.
Our proposal would see upwards of 200 vehicles rolled out across greater Wellington, making it a world-leader in car sharing. And for a cherry on top, how about making half of these full electric vehicles, with the rest plug-in hybrids or other high fuel efficiency vehicles?
There are some other components to the vision too. You might have also noticed on the map some new pedestrian zones or low-speed “shared spaces” on Lambton Quay, Courtenay Place and in the Newtown and Kilbirnie shopping areas.
And of course, there’s one pretty big point – Wellington doesn’t stop at the Railway Station. In fact about half of the Greater Wellington population live north of it. So, what could be done for those people?
We’re lucky to have some really good rail infrastructure to the north already, but there are a range of ways we can make it better – further electrification and double-tracking, building new stations, more cycle lockers and park & ride facilities, and much more.
And here’s one vital aspect: by building light rail in Wellington City and physically integrating this with the Railway Station, we unlock the potential for tram-train services from the north running through the CBD – rather than terminating at the edge. That means if you live in Johnsonville and work at the hospital, say, you could get there in one continuous train trip. A full public transport spine for Wellington, rather than a broken one.
In addition to this the cycleway network and car-share system would extend out, and we’d have separated bus lanes for Porirua (all day) and Wainuiomata (peak-hour only) connecting to the rail network.
So that’s the overview, and that’s probably more than enough for one post. We’ll have more coming over the days and weeks ahead as we work to push this vision onto the table in Wellington’s local elections, as well as putting out a quick submission form for Public Transport Spine Study consultation closing on September 30th.
Stay tuned, and we’d love to hear your feedback and ideas on the Fast Forward Wellington vision.
Some big news out of Wellington yesterday with the release of the Public Transport Spine Study as well as more news on the Basin Flyover and Duplicate Mt Victoria Tunnel. Both are actually fairly intricately tied together. Here are the two press releases from the NZTA about the spine study (why did we need two). First let’s look at the PT spine study. It was described by the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) as:
The Public Transport Spine Study (PTSS) is about determining what a future public transport solution for Wellington city might be – one that is high quality, modern and meets the longer term aspirations and demands of our city.
The study has been undertaken by AECOM, and was commissioned jointly by Greater Wellington Regional Council, Wellington City Council and the NZ Transport Agency. These three agencies are working in partnership to ensure this work is aligned with economic and transport developments in Wellington City and the wider region.
This PTSS is a key action from the Ngauranga to Airport Corridor Plan (2008), which seeks major improvements to public transport to provide a high quality, reliable and safe service between the Wellington Railway Station and the regional hospital. It sits alongside significant improvements to the strategic road network that are now being planned and designed as part of the RoNS programme and major upgrades to rail network.
The study initially looked at a number of different options from simple bus lanes all the way up to extending the existing heavy rail network. From there the options were narrowed down to three:
- Bus priority – $59 million, which involves more peak period bus lanes and priority traffic signals for buses, along the Golden Mile and Kent Terrace, through the Basin Reserve and along Adelaide Road to Newtown and through the Hataitai bus tunnel to Kilbirnie.
- Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) – $209 million, which involves a dedicated busway, for modern, higher capacity buses separated from other traffic as much as possible, along the Golden Mile and Kent/Cambridge Terrace then around the Basin Reserve and along Adelaide Road to Newtown and through the (duplicated) Mt Victoria tunnel to Kilbirnie.
- Light Rail Transit (LRT) – $940 million, which involves new tram vehicles running on dedicated tracks along the Golden Mile, Kent and Cambridge Terraces then around the Basin Reserve along Adelaide Road to Newtown and through a separate Mt Victoria tunnel to Kilbirnie
One I noticed straight away which is odd is that the LRT option required its own tunnel under Mt Victoria whereas the BRT option was using the duplicated road tunnel. I imagine that this is a large part of the cost difference between the two. The NZTA say that the road tunnels will be limited to 50kph so I’m not sure why buses can use it but why LRT can’t (the official reason given is concerns over fire and safety issues of LRT in mixed traffic – something that doesn’t seem to be a problem elsewhere in the world). It’s also worth noting that buses through the tunnels wouldn’t have any bus priority. One thing that is crucial to later on in this post is the report notes that buses would also be able to run in the LRT corridor. Anyway here are the routes that were assessed.
The report also contains cross sections of various parts of the routes showing where the lanes would be located within the street environment. For both the BRT and LRT options this means on either one side of the road or down the centre. But it isn’t just routes or modes that are important, so on to the impacts these options would have. As you would expect, each option seems to have been assessed multiple ways. The ones I’m most interested in are the impacts on patronage, travel times and the economic assessments.
The travel time savings for both the LRT and BRT options seem fairly impressive. From Kilbirnie these two options each save over 10 minutes while they also save 6-7 minutes from Newton.
Each option has been assessed at both a regional level and in the South and East, the area served by the infrastructure and here is where I think things get interesting. The modelling only looks at the AM peak period – something that has been happening in Auckland too – and even in the reference case shows patronage dropping between 2021 and 2031. Presumably this is caused by the RoNS making it easier to drive. At the regional level the report suggests that even the best performing option – BRT – will only add 900 passengers (2.6%) to the morning peak period by 2041. By comparison it suggests that LRT will only add 400 (1.1%).
The impact in the South and East gets even weirder with LRT only being suggested to increase patronage over the base case by 80 passengers (1.1%) compared to 220 (3.1%) for bus lanes or 550 (7.8%) for the BRT option.
To be honest, it wouldn’t surprise me if there is something funny going on in the modelling. We know from the CCFAS that our modelling of PT usage is very poor, and even after a lot of effort is put in to improving it. Considering that we don’t have any cities in New Zealand using LRT for PT purposes the impacts of it are probably not being assessed properly. Further when considering just how much time the BRT and LRT routes save, it seems even weirder that patronage numbers are so low.
All of the options appear to perform very poorly in an economic assessment however reading through some of the report it is clear that there is a massive issue identified in the standard assessment.
There is no limitation on the number of car trips that can be made to the CBD, the implication is that parking will increase to meet demand.
So effectively I read this as saying is that the RoNS will create a whole heap of road capacity which will encourage people to drive and that our economic assessments assume that more parking will magically appear in the city centre to cope with this. The report says that capping parking would increase the patronage from both the BRT and LRT options by 1600-2100 peak trips which is a fairly significant increase. Even with that in place the BRT option only just scrapes over the line.
One other comment from the press release caught my attention
The benefits are calculated using NZTA guidelines. These apply a monetary value to travel time savings experienced by existing and new public transport users and are offset by ‘disbenefits’ experienced by motorists because road space has been allocated to public transport.
Now I agree that when assessing these options the impact on road users from less road space being available needs to be taken into account however I would almost guarantee that the opposite thing isn’t taken into account when roads are being assessed.
Looking over all of the different aspects of the report it is fairly clear that the BRT option is what has come out on top. This doesn’t surprise me and as much as I might like to see light rail installed, even if it were half the price it just doesn’t seem feasible.
The other major piece of news mentioned is that hat NZTA has lodged applications to the Environmental Protection Authority for the Basin Flyover. They like to call it the Basin Bridge to make it sound cuter than it is but that doesn’t change the fact it is likely to end up a very imposing piece of infrastructure. This kind of thing is what cities around the world are now starting to tear down. Even the NZTAs own very pretty videos don’t make it look appealing – unless you are driving.
One on-going question that has been bubbling away quietly in the background is what will happen to our train fleet once electrification is completed and we have all of our new electric trains. We know that we are not going to need them to run services past Swanson as Auckland Transport are going to close Waitakere. We also know that AT want to extend electrification to Pukekohe although they don’t know how they are going to pay for it.
An article this morning in the Dominion Post gives us one option to help answer both questions. Wellington brought a fleet of 48 two car trains a few years ago to replace its aged of English Electric trains as well as some of the newer – but still old – Ganz Mavags (Ganz). The worst of the Ganz have already been removed from service and the intention was to refurbish the rest and keep using them for another few decades with them even going to the extent of refurbishing one set as a test. But the Greater Wellington Regional Council then got an offer from the manufacturers to keep the production line going that has turned out to be too good to ignore.
New trains have been confirmed for Wellington, while the old ones are to be shipped off to South Africa, in a deal that has been described as a “win-win” for commuters and ratepayers.
Greater Wellington Regional Council says it has come to terms on deals to buy another 35 two-car Matangi trains and sell 42 of its ageing Ganz Mavag fleet.
It plans to sign both contracts next week.
Angus Gabara, the council’s rail operations manager, said the deal with Matangi manufacturers Hyundai-Rotem was “in the region” of $160 million, with the NZ Transport Agency paying half.
The deal included $10m worth of upgrades for the 48 Matangi trains already in operation, which will see them fitted out with automatic couplers and LED lights with 30 times the life.
The new couplers will speed up the linking process and remove the need for KiwiRail staff to do the potentially dangerous job, while the new lights will reduce the minor network delays that can happen when bulbs are blown.
“There’s been some advances in technology since we bought our first Matangi, and we’re taking the opportunity to make the entire fleet more operational efficient, safe and flexible.”
More Matangi on the way
Like Auckland, it seems that Wellington will be able to get the benefits out of having unified fleet, especially when you consider that the high cost to properly refurbish the existing trains would only have extended their life by 15 years whereas the new trains are likely to last for 35
Mr Gabara said the deal made good economic sense, as the alternative of a refurbishing the Ganz Mavag fleet would only give them about 15 years, whereas the new trains had a life expectancy of about 35 years.
The budget for refurbishment was $90 million but would have likely crept a lot higher, he said. “The cost benefits of this deal are clear-cut.”
But the most interesting part is what will happen to the trains that will no longer be needed.
Meanwhile, Mr Gabara said the council had also managed to offload all of its Ganz Mavag fleets, bar one, which it intends to keep for “historical purposes”.
Fifteen Ganz Mavags have already been withdrawn from service and another 28 will become surplus to requirements when the new Matangi replace them.
Mr Gabara was keeping quiet on the sale price until the deal was finalised. But he said the buyer was from South Africa and intended to keep the trains running there.
While we don’t know just how much the old Ganz fleet will be worth the outcome is certainly an indicator as to what might happen in Auckland. Auckland Transport is not going to want to hold onto them once they have finished with them so selling them is the most likely option. The proceeds of a sale could be very usefully put towards paying for a decent chunk of electrification to Pukekohe. It is also worth noting that I think I remember hearing that a paper would be going to the AT board soon on just this issue although I imagine it won’t be made public for some time.
This had to happen eventually, in fact I’m surprised it took this long:
After a long night of discussions, the Wellington City Council has voted in favour of exploring alternative options to the proposed Basin Reserve flyover.
The decision came the same day Auckland architect Richard Reid announced he has drafted a solution to the traffic congestion, without needing the $90 million dollar flyover proposed by the New Zealand Transport Agency.
Councillor Justin Lester said the council will apply $50,000 toward looking at different options including Mr Reid’s idea of a second tunnel.
The vote was won eight to seven.
The flyover proposal is straight out of the 1950s transport engineering handbook – the kind of thing that most cities around the world are tearing down. Let’s check what it might look like:
There has also be a bit of a row break out about this process as the NZTA sent a letter to the council effectively saying that if the council changed its mind then it would re assess a whole host of other transport projects in the region, this has led to accusations that the agency is trying to bully the council into accepting the deal. This part in particular is probably what is causing the most offence and I had to particularly laugh at the line saying that the NZTA won’t invest in sub-optimal transport developments.
My understanding of part of what has caused both the regional and local council to start reconsidering their support of the flyover has been the governments decision to underground Buckle St to remove traffic from between the National War Memorial and Memorial park, a project I believe the NZTA weren’t previously keen on.
I think out of all the Roads of National Significance projects, the Wellington Northern Corridor is probably the worst – for a variety of reasons:
- Wellington’s population is hardly growing so there unlikely to be massive future demand for transport improvements, unlike Auckland which may grow by up to a million extra people over the next 30 years.
- The cost-benefit ratios for sections of the Wellington RoNS are simply terrible: 0.6 for Transmission Gully and 0.2 for the Kapiti Expressway.
- The urban impact of many sections of the Wellington RoNS are horrific, with the Basin Reserve flyover being the worst example of this.
I don’t know Wellington’s transport situation that well, but it seems that there must surely be better and more sensible options available than the $3 billion proposed to be ploughed into an unnecessary and destructive motorway?
This is a Guest Post by Louis Mayo and follows on from this previous post about Wellington’s PT fare review
Following on from the discussion on the previous post I thought I’d propose a scheme that, in my opinion, would make for an excellent and ‘world class’ fare structure.
Number of zones:
There would be four zones:
- Blue: Covering the entire Wellington City area & the northern suburbs.
- Red: Covering Hutt, Porirua and as far north as Pukerua bay & Upper Hutt
- Green: Covering Kapati as far north as Waikanae and South Wairarapa as far north as Greytown.
- Yellow: Covering everywhere further north to Levin and Masterton. Does expand into the area of Horizon’s council but it seemed fair to have a reasonably straight line west from Masterton.
I have prepared a map showing indicative zones:
The gaps in between the colours are the ‘overlap’ areas. You can view a zoomed in version here.
I have decided to go for the option of having a smaller number of larger sized zones. Zones are combined into to new zones at a ratio of around 1:3.5. It will mean that each zone can have its own dedicated colour (I personally can’t think of 14 different colours!) This has a number of advantages such as simplicity and easier to understand and also encourages people to use PT to make multiple transfers because they have a larger area for them to do so.
There is obviously a disadvantage with using zone based systems. For example person A could be going just across the zone boundary and end up being stung with a high fare for an extra zone even if they were only going a few stops. Meanwhile person B could make a much longer trip from one end of the boundary and only pay a one zone fare
There are two ways that this can be partially resolved. One is by having zones ‘overlap’ at each other (i.e some stops would be in two zones). My, very crude,”measurements indicate that both zones red and blue are around 15-16 kilometres long end to end “as the crow flies”, and the overlaps I have measured at around 4 kilometres long between blue & red and red & green and 6km between green & yellow zones. Obviously this does not solve the entire problem and there will be some that still end up paying more than what may be deemed equitable.
The other way is by having clear geographical marks to establish the cut off points. An example of how this could work is on the Kapati line – almost all PT users heading into Wellington will be on the train. There is a long distance between Takapu Road and Wellington so this works as a natural zone boundary. The good thing about having larger zones is that there are only issues drawing lines at three boundaries rather than at thirteen different boundaries as there currently is.
Paper tickets would be paid for in cash and purchased on-board a bus from the driver or from a vending machine or from staffed ticket booths (major stations only). There is the possibility of having tickets that are sold on-board buses to be “no change given” as used in many overseas cities. This will speed up boarding times but I do worry a little about this that it may put off some people. If I was an inexperienced, first time user of the system and handed over a $10 note expecting $6.50 change and not getting it then I’d be pretty annoyed. It is an issue that makes for a very interesting discussion.
Vending machines and counters will have cash and EFTPOS and would be located at every train, cable car and ferry stop on the network, but you could also roll this out major bus stops, which would facilitate faster boarding times. But this has the potential for fare evasion. Currently the bus driver acts as a reasonable barrier against it so GWRC would need to employ random ticket inspections (as per below) on buses as well which will increase costs.
The paper ticket would have the zone and expiry time clearly printed on the ticket. No tickets will be sold onboard trains and all passengers must have a ticket before boarding and must retain it for the entire journey.
Smart cards should be an RFID system similar to Snapper, but hopefully a lot ‘smarter’. Internet top ups (without needing to pay a horrific $40 for a USB card reader) will be available as well as the facility to have the card directly linked to a bank account for automatic topping up, two features that Snapper lacks at present. I envisage that most regular users would be on smart cards as the discounts and the benefits of not carrying cash would pay for itself over time.
The ideal would be a single smart card that works across Auckland and Wellington, and potentially other cities as well. Not sure what the chances of achieving this are, but dreams are free. Surely there must be advantages from economies of scale to be gained from using the Thales system after it has been installed in Auckland?
Time based ticketing:
All fares would be time based – more like a ‘subscription’ to the chosen zones rather than just a single trip. I propose offering two hour and daily time periods. I personally see nothing wrong with people using two hour passes to make a return journey if it is within the two hour window.
In addition for smart card users there would be weekly and monthly ‘fare caps’, i.e once you reach that cap over that week / month then you can receive free travel over that / those zone/s for the remainder of the week / month.
The following people will pay discounted fares at all times:
●All people under 20 years of age.
●Beneficiaries / very low income earners.
Photo I.D would need to be carried at all times to qualify for concession fares. Children should travel free when travelling with an adult during off peak hours in order to make transport more affordable for families and will further incentivise off peak travel.
Off peak fares:
All people would receive discounted fares during the off peak hours. These would be 10am-2.30pm (deliberately set to end before the after school period) and after 7pm during weekdays as well as all day weekends and public holidays (and potentially for contra-peak journeys as well) This provides an incentive for people to choose other times of the day to travel and will help manage crowds during peak hours. Free travel for senior citizens off peak would continue.
Price of fares:
Suggested fare prices are shown in the tables below. A one zone fare is set at the price of what is currently a two zone fare, but would give you the equivalent of around three zones worth of travel which does mean that there is some cross subsidisation to longer trips from shorter trips. The reasoning is that PT is less likely to be competing with walking and cycling for shorter trips and more likely to compete with car travel for long trips and also because longer trips end up getting very expensive without some cross subsidisation and I would say that the marginal cost of providing for longer distance trips is lower.
To incentivise smart card usage, a 20% discount is offered. Weekly fares are set at day fare x 4.5 and monthly fares at weekly x 3.5. As it is an electronic transaction, fares do not need to be in fifty cent multiples. Prices are as below:
There is again a disadvantage with the larger zones. The jump between a one zone and a two zone fare is quite large from $3.50 to $6. The next increases are not so bad.
I think these fares are realistic, as much as I’d like to have cheaper fares I am wary that budgets are at considerable strain and there is not really the scope to be charging lower fares. Although for some there will definitely be an initial shock of what appears to be a fare hike. But over time most will change their behaviour and get better value for money. For example someone making a one zone commute into work may be shocked to find their fare has increased from $2 to $3.50. But over time they will find that they can get a smart card and travel off peak and only pay $1.60 and might find that they can use the network to go for a meeting in another part of the city and avoid an expensive taxi fare.
Wellington (central) train station is easily gated. Due to the heavily radial structure of the network, most train travellers will hit the gates at Wellington, but it would be good to see some of the other busier stations to be gated as well in the longer run. Lambton cable car station already has gates which would simply need to be adapted for the new system. There is no reason why gates could not be rolled out busy bus stops as well.
I had assumed that all gated stations would need to be staffed. Stuart, however, informs me that Amsterdam have a system where people trying to exit without a ticket can press a button and the gate will open but they will be recorded on camera. I had envisaged that there would need to be staff to help people in wheelchairs, etc to get through the gates and stop the odd dunce from trying to jump over the gates. Wellington actually has quite a few staffed stations, Porirua and Waterloo I know but I think there are a few others as well. Inspections will have to be carried out regularly and officers would need to have the power to issue infringement notices as just forcing people to pay the fare will not be enough.
I feel this system would provide a convenient and easy policy that has many advantages. There are definitely disadvantages but they are outweighed by the positives in my personal opinion. Please do comment as there is important and very interesting discussion to be had and I’m very interested in the opinions of others on this matter.
I remind you again to go to www.farereview.co.nz and fill out a quick survey (takes 5 minutes) or attach a document of a longer submission – 14th September is the closing date. The criticisms I have of the survey are that it doesn’t address transfers and they have some auto system that pre judges your survey answers before you submit.
Some pretty exciting news for Wellingtonians today – with an announcement that instead of refurbishing the rather old Ganz Mavang trains, Wellington will instead replace them with an extension of their current order for new Matangi trains:
Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) and the NZ Transport Agency announced today they intend to replace rather than refurbish the existing Ganz Mavag trains to complete the region’s peak train requirements.
“When all 48 2-car new Matangi trains (or 96 cars) are in service later this year, at least a further 26 trains will still be needed for peak hour services,” GWRC Chair, Fran Wilde, said today. “In the immediate future the older Ganz Mavag trains are being used, but the ageing and increasingly unreliable fleet needs to be refurbished or replaced to ensure reliable services are provided as demand continues to increase.”
Last year, based on a comprehensive cost/benefit analysis of refurbishment versus replacement, GWRC decided in principle to refurbish the Ganz fleet subject to funding and final comparison costs. The NZ Transport Agency agreed to fund at least 50% of this refurbishment project.
“However, we have recently received a competitive offer from Hyundai Rotem, supplier of the Matangi, for up to 35 additional new trains (or 70 cars). This offer is less than half the cost estimated in 2011 and with more robust information on the maintenance cost of the Matangi and Ganz fleets, buying more Matangi units looks considerably more favourable than it did last year.
“Importantly our reviews and independent analysis show that buying more Matangi trains would have about the same impact on regional fares and rates as refurbishing the Ganz Mavag fleet because debt repayment would be spread over a longer period.
“The key issue is that if we refurbish the Ganz trains we still would have to purchase replacements for them at the end of their life in fifteen years’ time at whatever the price is in 2027,” Fran Wilde said.
“Buying more Matangi trains offers a rare opportunity to completely renew an entire fleet in one extended procurement process.
“The Council will be considering this at its September meeting and if approved we would then begin negotiations. The financial evaluations and economic modelling we have done as part of our due diligence so far show that it is a ‘no-brainer’ to pursue this option.
“We expect that during the 35 year life of the new trains there would be a $228m saving over the cost of refurbishing the Ganz fleet and replacing them in 15 years.”
Jenny Chetwynd, NZ Transport Agency’s Regional Director says the NZTA’s contribution of at least 50% of this investment in new trains reflects the strength of the proposal.
“These new trains will be a great investment that provides good long term value for money and will significantly improve state highway congestion issues as well as the reliability, capacity and quality of Wellington’s public transport services. This should help to encourage future passenger growth and help economic productivity throughout the region. This is a significant and worthwhile financial commitment which delivers on the NZTA’s investment priorities and the regional transport strategy.”
Cr Peter Glensor, Chair of the Regional Council’s Economic Wellbeing Committee, which oversees the council’s public transport activities, said that the replacement option offers two benefits: facilities on the trains and reliability.
“An all-Matangi fleet would mean that all of Wellington’s metropolitan trains would be modern, efficient, fully accessible, air-conditioned and reliable. We anticipate that more people would use the new trains which would help reduce peak congestion and transport-related pollution. Thus apart from the competitive price on the table – half of last year’s market estimate – an important issue is the performance and high quality passenger experience of the Matangi fleet, and the improving levels of punctuality,” Cr Glensor said.
“We are also pleased with the very positive feedback we are receiving from drivers and on-board crew as they become more familiar with the new Matangi trains.
“Having a single fleet also makes good economic sense: driver training would be simpler and more consistent; no heavy maintenance would be needed in the short term; warranties would be extended; spare parts and inventory holdings would be reduced; and we would not need to undertake further major rolling stock procurement for at least 30 years,” Cr Glensor said.
Crs Wilde and Glensor said that from the beginning they had explored the issue of the impact of this decision on Hutt Workshops.
“However, we have been informed by KiwiRail that the workshops have enough current and planned work for the existing workforce and are not reliant on the Ganz Mavag refurbishment work. All regular maintenance on the Matangi trains will also continue to be done locally.”
Ms Wilde says that if negotiations proceed, delivery of the first unit could be around the middle of 2014, with the entire fleet in service by mid 2016.
So by mid 2016 both Auckland and Wellington will pretty much have entirely brand new passenger rail fleets. That’s pretty cool.
I also think we need to come up with a proper name for Auckland’s new electric trains.