Get moving already: mass transit

The centrepiece of Let’s Get Wellington Moving is mass transit. Here’s some basic stuff for when you’re grumping to fellow Wellingtonians at the bus having missed your connection…


Stuff’s transport reporters have done a nice piece “The long and winding road to the start line for Wellington’s proposed mass transit system” .

It’s got a good summary of the process, worth reading about. And worth noting the useful comparisons with Auckland’s light rail, skilfully covered over on our cousin blog Greater Auckland.

(Sidebar: It does highlight some of the archaic thinking that persists, like the infographic featuring labels like “motorists within 30 minutes of the CBD” – because of course any human living north of Ngauranga has car keys welded to their hand).

However the process outline is really useful and interesting.

To complement it, and fill in some gaps, two good pieces on the trackless trams v tracked light rail are below. We like them because the experts (including one guy who seems actually to be a climate scientist not a transport expert?) are getting a lot of press. And the piece authors below unpick the pros and cons for Wellington itself.

New blog TraNZport has a clearly written piece laying out some pros and cons. “Trackless Trams: believe the hype?”

You may not want to just paint lines on a road, you may want to change how the entire road space is used; that’s the benefit of rapid transit. The claims relating to cost ignore all of this, isolating the expenditure to one thing; the need, or lack of need, to lay rails. There’s much, much more to it than that. Claiming that you simply need to paint lines on the road is, in my opinion, highly misleading.

And TraNZport introduced us to this great concept: BRT creep!

One notorious “BRT” in New York – service has “crept” down to offering people neither the big B nor in fact the R nor the T of the promised “BRT”. By AEMoreira042281 Wikimedia commons

It’s a risk peculiar to bus-type mass transit that’s not experienced by its rail-based cousins. Do we need to worry about it? Won’t leaders keep their promises?

Well, Wellington bus service levels have been not just “creeping” down but leaping, tumbling and flinging themselves down of late. Plus LGWM decisions will include influence from some local politicians, a species featuring fundamental ignorance of urban physics. We wouldn’t put it past them to chip away at a public transport service til it was barely worth the name. So yes, “BRT creep” definitely seems something to be wary of.

So bendy and so trackless!

Another useful piece on Scoop Wellington Trackless trams – claims that don’t stack up”. This one goes through the stated advantages one by one, and also features (bonus!) useful debate in the comments. It’s a combination of laypeople and people who seem to have some particular insights, actually interacting and responding usefully to one another, and literally show their sums! (Better quality of debate (we reckon) than the interest.co.nz commenters who go on wild flings about Jetsons style microcars and flying taxis, Ak vs Wlg rates, and make the poor author repeatedly beg people to read his pretty good article.)

There are a few other things about LGWM to make us frown too. The Scoop article’s author John Rankin, quoted in Stuff, queries some of the timelines for the design-build process.

Plus there’s some funny biz about the bus network with LGWM – why have we not had bus priority put in YESTERDAY already? It’s a zero-brainer to improve our bus network and why not warm people up to the big “digging stuff up” changes by helping us change our driving and parking habits in the obvious greater good? Hmmmm.

Have you read a good “mass transit options” piece recently? Pop a comment in so we can read it too!


Banner image: Canberra’s new light rail in action, by Greater Auckland
Bendy ART in Zhuzhou, China: The Conversation

3 comments on “Get moving already: mass transit”

  • mason says:

    These trackless trams look like bendy buses to me, wearing a light rail costume. Im guessing they will be sold as cheaper than light rail but end up carrying less people and chewing up the roads a lot more. Thus fulse economy.

  • Pamela Jefferies says:

    Who says mass transit has to take up road space. Canada Line Vancouver has two people moving trains/trams one in each direction suspended above footpaths. Every three minutes no staff no problems. The Canadian engineering company that recently bought Optus Wellington were behind it so go to talk to them.

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