Meeting one: For central, northern and western suburb voters. Wednesday September 18th; 6.00 to 8.30pm. Loaves and Fishes Hall (next to the Anglican Cathedral in Molesworth Street). MC: Bryan Crump.
Meeting two: For voters in the southern and eastern suburbs. Wednesday, September 25th, 6.30 to 9.00pm. Upstairs meeting room, ASB Sports Centre, Rongotai. MC: Dave Armstrong.
We’ll be inviting city and regional council candidates, but that won’t mean a thing if you don’t turn up as well.
Do you trust the people who signed off on Wellington’s bus revamp to do a better job next term? Do you want to get rid of them all? Are some worth keeping?
Do you want representatives prepared to make difficult decisions about reallocating road space away from private motor vehicles, or maybe even more challenging, away from on street parking?
Or maybe you want more off-road parks, and more roads to fill them?
The plans outlined by Let’s Get Wellington Moving have shifted priorities from the private to the public, from the motorised to the active.
But it’s timid. We know what we are not getting (more space for cars) but we don’t know what sort of rapid transit system the city will get instead.
Out in the Hutt, there won’t be a new road from Grenada, or a new Melling Interchange. But where are the public transport alternatives?
Who’s talking about extending the Melling Rail Line across the river into Hutt City? Or a rapid busway over the hill to Tawa? Or even a rail link from Plimmerton to Haywards?
Change has a better chance of success when it comes with a mandate. From an alternative to car point of view, the best one can say about the current situation is that it’s delayed some major roading projects. We’re waiting for word on most other stuff.
Those roads could easily be back on the agenda with a change of leadership.
So whether you’re a bus or rail user, a pedestrian, a cyclist, a motorist or (most likely) all of the above, you can’t afford to miss the opportunity to make sure your vote goes to the candidates with the transport solutions you want for your city.
And it’s why you have to put at least one of those Transport Candidate meetings in your diary, and tell your friends while you’re at it.
Those dates again:
Meeting one: For central, northern and western ward issues. Wednesday September 18th; 6.00 to 8.30 pm. Loaves and Fishes Hall (next to the Anglican Cathedral in Molesworth Street). MC: Bryan Crump.
Meeting two: For southern and eastern ward issues. Wednesday, September 25th, 6.30 to 9pm. Upstairs meeting room, ASB Sports Centre, Rongotai. MC: Dave Armstrong.
See you there.
Melling – Rob Kitchin / Stuff
Parking lot: the internet, multiple sources none with attribution
Wellington Mayor Justin Lester is keen on forgoing steel wheels for rubber tyres when Let’s Get Welly Moving decides how it will link the central rail station with Newtown and beyond. He reckons our creative little capital could shine as an early adoptor. Why are many public transport advocates worried?
The timetable for Let’s Get Wellington Moving might be as vague as a long range weather forecast but it has placed Rapid Mass Transit at the centre of its strategy. Problem is, we don’t know what form that RMT will take.
Or is the spine linking the central city with its southern and eastern suburbs served best by a more tried and tested light rail approach?
For a start, what’s the difference? Basically, light rail runs on steel wheels rolling over steel rails. It’s what we used to call a tram, and some still do.
Light rail differs from heavy rail in that its vehicles can negotiate tighter curves and steeper grades, and they don’t weigh as much – funnily enough. Heavy rail’s greater mass enables it to carry heavier loads and run more powerful locomotives. This makes it ideal for freight and higher speed passenger services.
A trackless tram operates much like a light rail vehicle does. If differs from light rail in that it rolls along a road on rubber tyres.
So what’s the difference between a trackless tram and a bus? Well, that’s when things get a little more subjective.
Ideally, your trackless tram has its own designated road way and uses an automatic guidance system to follow a pre-determined route, as our trackless example in ZhuZhou does. Its interior space is similar to Light Rail. You can board or exit from any door, and like light rail, the vehicle runs in either direction.
However, at least one of the trackless examples cited in my research, runs like a bus, and steers like a bus. To paraphrase somebody’s remark about walking and talking like a duck, doesn’t that make it a bus?
To sling another cliche at you, why bother dressing mutton as lamb?
Firstly, say its supporters, because it’s cheaper to build than light rail. Secondly, because when a bus looks and behaves more like a tram, it’s funkier and more people want to use it.
It’s not entirely clear how the trackless tram idea reached Wellington. I first noticed it entering the conversation last year. In fact one of the first articles in this part of the world extolling the virtues of trackless traction appeared in this Australian blogsite last year, written by Peter Newman, Sustainability Professor at Perth’s Curtin University.
A few months ago one of Newman’s colleagues, Marie Verschuer, was in New Zealand with a similar message.
I tracked her down by phone for an interview in Perth, in which she described Trackless Trams as the “evolution of the bus”.
You get something that looks and feels like light rail with less disruption (less digging up streets to lay tracks) which means lower initial cost, which means less pressure on rate and taxpayers.
Marie argues if you want to increase the uptake of public transport and reduce reliance on cars, the trackless tram offers easier pickings.
When local media published Marie’s comments, FIT Wellington’s John Rankin was one of the first to respond. He reckons we should stick with the steel wheels, at least for the initial line through the central city to Newtown and the eastern suburbs.
FIT stands for Fair and Intelligent Transport. It’s a collection of engineers, planners and health professionals trying to increase this country’s transit IQ. This was his initial response to the Trackless Tram excitement here.
You can listen to John’s reasons for sticking to the tracks in the podcast above, but I’ve also listed them below.
First, longevity. Steel rails last at least 25 years. Roads need resealing. Some will need strengthening. Chances are we’ll still have to dig up a lot of road to enable it to handle a trackless tram load.
Second, light rail currently has greater capacity. Trackless tram fans can point to the currently experimental set up in the Chinese city of Zhuzhou, but a more established version could look like this. Marie describes this as an example of a trackless tram. Others regard it bus rapid transit. Whatever you call it, it doesn’t offer the same capacity as a typical light rail setup, such as this one currently going into service in the capital city across the ditch, a city which just happens to be about the same size as Wellington.
Third: light rail uses less energy to operate. Simple physics. Steel wheels on steel rails encounter less friction. Rubber’s greater grip does enable trackless trams to climb steeper hills, but for the planned route run from Wellington Rail to the eastern suburbs, steel rails eat up less juice. Light rail literally is greener. It can even run in the grass.
That’s nice. In fact that is Nice.
Fourth: Whatever option you choose – and here Marie and John are in agreement, it has to have its own designated right of way. If you’re supporting Trackless Trams because you think they can just slip in and out of ordinary traffic, you’re doing the rest of us a disservice. If it gets bogged down in existing congestion you’re no better off than you are in a conventional bus. You might as well stay in your car, if you’re not prepared to walk, cycle or scoot.
Fifth: The investment effect. Light rail encourages residential and commercial development along its route and the people who move into those developments tend to use light rail instead of a motor vehicle. Perhaps it’s unfair to compare the two kinds of trams just yet, given the trackless technology in its higher capacity form has only been around for a few years. Still, is it wise to use a new technology for such a key part of the city’s transit spine?
In my conversation with John I suggested steel wheels have another potential advantage over rubber; access to the heavy rail network. If we build it to the same track gauge, what’s to stop us running a light rail service from Johnsonville or Melling to Mirimar?
John is unconvinced. The conventional wisdom is light and heavy rail don’t mix. When a heavy rail vehicle collides with a light one, the results are disastrous for the latter, and anyone inside it.
Still, I’m curious, and hope to revisit that possibility in a later Traffic Jam.
But I’m getting off track. Back in the world of rubber wheels there is potential Wellington could tap into. John sees Trackless Trams as an option for Karori, a route that doesn’t have the traffic to justify investing in light rail. Interesting to see at least one local body candidate is already on board with that idea.
Then there’s the issue of retro-fitting rapid mass transit inside our post 1960s suburban sprawl. Just think of all the development around Whitby, Paraparaumu, and Waikanae that’s only going to grow in response to Transmission Gully and the Kapiti Expressway.
Perhaps trackless trams are the future for lower density suburbs? Perhaps, if we really want to link Petone and Grenada we use rubber wheels to get the tram over the hill?
John Rankin shared a quote with me. It’s from Peter Newman, the academic who got the trackless conversation rolling in this part of the world; “If a Trackless Tram is to be able to attract value capture opportunities it must be more like a train than a bus. It must be more like a fixed service that will not be easily removed from serving a station where developers are needing to see a return from their investment.”
Which brings this post to its final point. A lot is made by some politicians, and even a few bloggers, of how trackless trams can deviate from their route; no worries about a disabled train blocking your way, and if there’s an earthquake, you don’t have buckled rails shutting down the system.
However, fixed rails and wires, and even earthquakes haven’t stopped existing trains and even our dear old departed trolley buses from working in a Wellington setting. Sure, it might be handy to pass a disabled unit every now and then, but if that’s happening on a regular basis, you’ve got a crap system.
Worse, what if the knowledge the “trackless tram” canget around an obstacle gives others licence to sneak onto its path?
People tend not to park on rail lines.
The thought of them or their car being taken out by a train (no matter how light) puts them off.
There was a bit of a fracas in the Wellington cycling community the other day, over this…
The standard sort of anti-lycra meme, only this one was posted by a senior manager at one of bus companies serving Wellington, Tranzurban. Now, I’m all for a joke, but given the lack of passing space some buses give bikes on the road, I did feel the company’s initial response to cyclist queries – along the lines of – don’t worry, he’s only having a laugh, cut it like a truck cutting me off at the corner.
So it didn’t surprise me, once I’d passed this story onto a colleague in the RNZ Newsroom, to see the company change its response. Good. Next time, think before you post, Mr Tranzurban Manager. Turned out, a few of the people you shared your joke with on social media were cyclists.
Which brings me to the point of this blog post. We are all multi-modal. When was the last time you drove to the counter at the shop? Sure, they’re talking about drive-in supermarkets in Dubai, but really, what happens when you meet an SUV coming the other way in the male hygiene products aisle? How many of you own a bike in lieu of a second car? Or take the bus when it’s too wet to scooter?
Actually I felt a little sorry for the Tranzurban man. It’s probably stressful work dealing with an omnishambles, even if some of it is partly your own making. A joke at some other road users’ expense might just help ease tension with the foot soldiers.
But what we all ought to be doing is looking out for each other, and showing support and appreciation when we do.
I’ve had many close calls with motor vehicles. I’m here today writing this because I often anticipated their mistake before they made it. Does this mean all motorists are wankers?
I can also think of the dozens of times a car has given me space this month. Just yesterday, an SUV waited until I cleared a narrow piece of Aro Street before overtaking. I gave him a wave. Riding with my son along the shared path at Balaena Bay, a ute waiting to enter the main road, reversed so we didn’t have to cycle around it. I gave him a big thank you.
So I decided to dedicate the latest episode of The Traffic Jam to courtesy. Using my regular “Quax” down to the Sunday market as a vehicle for chatting about some of the things I do to help other people on the road, and thank others when they help me.
Waving vehicles past at a blind corner when I can see the way ahead is clear: I don’t want to hold up others any longer than I have to. The sooner they safely pass me the better.
Waving a thank you for vehicles that stop for me at a pedestrian crossing: They could get away with rushing past, but they chose not to. I want them to feel good about the choice they made.
Going slowly on shared paths when pedestrians are around: Having someone on a relatively large and hard object speed by a few centimetres away is no fun. If they have their back to me, and there’s not much room, I gently let them know I’m approaching (a little tinkle on a bell works a treat). If they still don’t hear me and the way is blocked, an “excuse me” usually works. If it doesn’t, I simply wait until there’s room. If I’m in a hurry, there’s almost always the road (yes I know the road can be scary, which is why I’m all for calming traffic and more separated lanes for cycles, skates and scooters).
When a vehicle chooses to wait, rather than risk passing me at speed in a tight space, they get a wave when they do eventually slip by. I do the same if the lane is so narrow I have had to ride in the middle of it: They could have bullied me with their extra mass, power and speed, but they choose not to. I want them to know I appreciate that.
Thumbs up for people who stop at yellow lights rather than rushing red ones: because the city is so much more chill when we decide to be the first off the rank on the next green, rather than the last to shoot through on someone else’s.
Am I mad? Naive? Possibly. But now you know what that crazy guy at the lights was on about.
There’s going to be a lot of discussion about how we share the road over the next few months. Let’s Get Welly Moving is saying, in its own mother of all roundabouts way, more space for cars is not the number one priority.
Fair call I reckon. I think 50 years of car-first policy is enough. However, that change in approach is going to upset quite a few people, and until we up our game on public and active transport in some of the outer suburbs, it’s going to make life harder for some as well.
In recognition of that, I’m putting away the middle finger and trying on the positive mindset. Being a cyclist, as well as the part-owner of a car, has made me happier and healthier, and I want to share some of that happiness. In the battle for common sense, I reckon a smile is an under utilised weapon in the arsenal.
I even end Episode 14 with some positive thoughts on the new bus system.
Those bike racks, for example, make it possible to Quax, even when you live 150 metres higher above sea level than the market. They’re also handy when taking kids to distant cycle paths.
But I might save those thoughts for another blog, lest you think I’m on someone’s payroll.
Still, I’d love to get some of your’s on sharing our highways and byways, while spreading the love, so feel free to comment.
There’s a problem with Let’s Get Wellington Moving.
Well, you’d expect that in a document that comes out in May 2019 with October in the headline.
But where Let’s Get Welly Moving really comes unstuck is it’s a local fix to a regional problem.
Much of the traffic LGWM is designed to address comes not from Wellington City, but from the growing suburbs and commuter towns to the north, and the new roads built to accommodate, and in some cases, encourage that growth.
Those advocating for better alternatives to the private car, celebrated the LGWM announcement. So they should. For a start Wellington Mayor, Justin Lestor, and transport minister, Phil Twyford, chose the city’s railway station as the venue for their big reveal.
And it is significant their announcement did not include a major programme of new roads at the top of the list.
But the roads are still there, just buried in the text. Their importance open to interpretation. Will Wellington build a mass transit link from its railway station to Newtown before it builds a second Mt Victoria Tunnel? At the same time?
Then there’s the unanswered question as to what form that mass transit will take. Trackless trams? Light rail?
It took Auckland a long time to convince the previous National lead government to proceed with its City Rail Link. That may have been frustrating for the CRL’s supporters, but it did bring one benefit. By the time John Key and then transport minister, Simon Bridges, recognised its merit, Aucklanders (including Auckland businesses) were pretty united in their support for it.
The same can’t be said for Wellington. Let’s Get Welly Moving might have come up with a plan, but I’m not convinced it’s achieved consensus. The Chamber of Commerce still wants the roads, if not first, then at least at the same time as the other stuff. Local National MPs have been vocal in their calls for the Government to complete road projects promised by the previous administration.
And all the while, that low density car focused residential development continues. In Whitby, above the Hutt, and along the Kapiti Coast, as the increased traffic flow of Transmission Gully and the Expressway extension approaches with the inevitability of an advancing glacier – not that we see many of those in real life these days.
Let’s Get Welly Moving’s first tranche of proposals involve plucking the seemingly low hanging fruit of calming city traffic, giving more road space over to buses, cyclists and micro-mobility users, encouraging walking; all the stuff that a growing number of poeple living in the central city love.
But their needs are on a potential collision course with those from the North, who either choose, or have no option but to live in Carland.
And if you didn’t click on the link, here’s a bit of the sales pitch to give you an idea of what I mean;
The suburb of Whitby, within Porirua City, is set to leverage off the infrastructural benefits of the Transmission Gully project which promises to cut commute times to Wellington city.
The Automobile Association’s Mike Noon made an observation about “lifestyle choices” when I got his reaction to LGWM the other day. And he has a point. The kids are marching to stop climate change, but many Mums and Dads are still buying SUVs. They’re still investing in low density housing, and even when someone suggests a bus service might be a good idea, some of them oppose it.
Most of the people who move to such places expect to be able to drive where they want without encountering congestion, and for the first few years that’s often the case. Think about the space you currently enjoy on the Kapiti Expressway. Just like the artists impression at the top of this blog…
It won’t last. Soon more homes pop up, housing residents with more cars and the same expectations. Now the call is for an Expressway all the way to Levin to the north, and “Four Lanes to the Planes” to the south.
That’s why I spent a bit of time up the coast the other day. I needed the reality check. As the (probably) outgoing chair of the Wellington Regional Council said of the LGWM launch; “it’s the beginning of the beginning”. Mr Laidlaw hasn’t exactly covered himself with glory recently, but he’s right about that.
Let’s Get Welly Moving isn’t locked and loaded. The results of this year’s local, and next year’s national elections will have a significant bearing on what gets priority – although it is important to note, as Isabella Cawthorn from Talk Welly does so well in this edition of Traffic Jam, for once, the motoring lobby isn’t in the driving seat.
But we can’t solve Wellington City’s mobility problems and ignore the needs of the wider region. That’s why investment in public and active transport in Kapiti and the Hutt is key. That’s why the choices residential developers make on greenfield sites matter. That’s why the connectivity of whatever mass transit mode Wellington City decides on, is crucial.
Why would you ditch the car for the train in Kapiti, if you have to walk several hundred metres through a subway at Wellington Railway Station to catch a trackless tram to get to Newtown? In fact why would even bother driving to Waikanae station on a week day when the park and ride is already full?
Or, as I hint at the end of my podcast with Mike Noon, is there an even deeper question? Is the low density housing model an unsustainable solution subsidised by roads?
I’m not quite ready to declare war on cars. I still like to drive, as well as cycle, bus, walk and train. However, I am enjoying a podcast by those who have. For a fresh view on mobility with a nice light touch, I recommend these guys.
In the meantime, keep asking the questions, keep the smart debate going, and when you’re stuck in a jam, keep thinking.
Cycle Aware Wellington is trying a new tactic; pop-up bike lanes created by human bollards. It sounds heroic, if not entirely practical. Will support for such action drop off as Autumn turns to Winter? And what happens if a truck doesn’t spot the change in the road layout?
However, in this case, the medium (or is it the median?) is also the message; there’s been some progress in creation of separated cycle ways, but they’re not coming fast enough for a lot of cyclists, especially in the central city.
So far, CAW’s human bollards have popped up on Featherston and Victoria Streets, greeting cyclists with a 25 metre stretch of protected bike lane. Not much, I grant you, but not many bollards give you a wave and a cheer as you ride by.
Of course 2019 is local body election year, and as Wellington Councillor Chris Calvi-Freeman rightly pointed out to this blog on Twitter, while public transport is a regional council issue, the provision of local roads is a city affair. So if you agree with CAW, it’s to the City Council you go, which is exactly where the opponents of such cycle ways are sure to be going (as well as taking the council to court).
With the benefit of hindsight, I wonder if the likes of Victoria Street, with its key role funneling people out of the central city (be it on foot, bus, bike or car) might have been the best place to start the whole cycle-lane conversion.
My recollection of the thinking around Island Bay was; “here’s a nice wide road with plenty of room for everyone, surely no one’s going to mind if we give a little over to the cyclists?” Turned out quite a few motorists were rather attached to that wide bit of asphalt.
I wonder how much the concern over maintaining motor traffic flow out of the city played in the decision to begin the city’s recent cycleway upgrade in the suburbs? A lot of cyclists use Victoria Street to exit the city to the south. True, there are protected lanes between Ghuznee and Able Smith Street, but for most of the way, it’s a can of paint or nothing at all, and we all know how colourblind folk can be.
Perhaps more tricky trade-offs between space for motorists and everyone else using the roadway, need to be happening at the business end of town?
So, a couple of high powered thinkers drift into town on a mission to get people back on their feet. How do you tackle the topic?
Take them for a walk around the block of course!
This week, Otago University released a report arguing New Zealanders need to get more active when it comes to getting around. It concludes the health benefits are too great to ignore, and our leaders need to prioritise walking, cycling, and other forms of human powered transport for the good of the nation.
The Report, Turning the Tide, lists these goals for 2050;
“Double the proportion of trips walked to 25%. Double the proportion of cycling trips in each of the next decades, with the ultimate goal of 15% of all trips being on bicycles. Increase the proportion of all trips by public transport to 15%”.
If anything, these goals seem slightly on the conservative side, given the availability of electric assistance on bikes and other forms of micro-mobility is only likely to increase. I see no reason why smart motors won’t be able to kick in when you’re pushing off on a scooter, or using your roller skates, let alone bikes.
Of course, you could argue, if micro-motors are where we are headed, by 2050 we’ll all be floating around on our own personal pods.
All the more reason to encourage exercise while we can.
The report’s name suggests the situation we find ourselves in towards the end of the teen years of the current century is the result of a long term trend. Anyone who remembers 1980s high school bike sheds stuffed full of Choppers, Raleigh 20s and Healing Ten Speeds will relate to this.
In terms of winning over others to active transport (given I’m one of the converted) I think the surest route to success might be through our children. Adults who earn enough, can afford to compensate their sedantary existence with gym passes, but I don’t know of many parents who wouldn’t like to see their children living a more active lifestyle.
For this week’s Traffic Jam I took two of the report’s authors, Otago University’s Dr Sandy Mandic, and Wellington consultant, Andrew Jackson, for a 30 minute walk around the block.
You can read the full report here. It’s the result of a lot of brainstorming which came out an Otago University run gathering of active transport specialists earlier this year. Hopefully it won’t be the last.
It’d be great to see data from the University’s longitudinal study incorporated into a case for human powered travel. I’d also love to know what health outcomes populations in countries with more active transport (The Netherlands, Denmark) are achieving. Are the Dutch less obese? Do they have less heart disease? These were questions Sandy and Andrew were unable to answer.
Last year over a hundred Wellington doctors got off their chuffs to argue more cycling infrastructure is a public health no-brainer.
I’d wager there aren’t many schools in the city that couldn’t do more to encourage kids to make their own way to class, especially if parents push them in that direction.
Sandy and Andrew are now taking their ideas to local and central government officials around the country. It’ll be interesting to see how many of them turn up as council and departmental policy in a few months time.
I was hoping this would be a reaction piece, but there’s nothing to react to, although Stuff reckon they had the inside running with this a few days ago.
I’m talking about Let’s Get Welly Moving of course.
Instead, my latest Traffic Jam is a set of wish lists from a couple of observers; one a Wellington National MP, Nicola Willis, who has been very prominent in her criticism of the Greater Wellington Regional Council’s new bus network.
Here she is doing a Selfie with me on the No 2 bus to Karori. I’m the one on the right.
Nicola is a National MP. As such, her views are a pretty good indication of how the mainstream is moving when it comes to transport. Or at least, how National views the mainstream is moving.
My other guest was Arron Cox from Generation Zero – as in zero carbon .
Arron isn’t so well versed in the art of politics, and forgot to get a selfie with me. But he sent a nice one from the slopes of Mt Taranaki.
That’s Arron on the left.
The set-up for this podcast was simple; two guests are given the time it takes the No 2 bus to get from Lambton Quay to Karori, to tell me what they want out of LGWM and why. Luckily, we were traveling off peak, so transit times were pretty much identical.
If you’re a fan of less catering for cars, you might find Nicola’s views aggravating. However, given Arron benefited from a private vehicle to get to the slopes of Mt Taranaki (and he’s a greenie) what would you suggest instead?
Who knows? By the time you read this the Government may have decided where it’s putting its money. I’m half hoping, in posting this, I’m triggering Murphy’s Law.