Long Read: Mass Rapid Transit in Wellington

The latest version of ‘trackless tram’ (TT) has been developed by CRRC in China. A trial system has been running in Zhuzhou since 2017, and should be coming onto the market about now. It is of interest in Wellington because of potential cost-savings over light rail, but comes with corresponding problems and is barely commercial at this stage. TT is distinct from BRT but shares some important characteristics.

An open letter on trackless trams

Dear Roger

I write on behalf of FIT Wellington in response to your request for background information regarding the capabilities of autonomous trackless trams (a form of bus rapid transit). I understand these are being considered as an alternative to light rail. Here are some issues for you to consider.

How FIT’s proposed light rail route has evolved

In developing its proposed route for light rail, FIT sought to meet several objectives:

  • maximize ridership

  • travel times compete with private car

  • form part of a rapid transit network

  • promote transit-oriented development

  • mitigate construction phase risk (eg business disruption)

Meeting these objectives requires a route with dedicated lanes for light rail and priority over other traffic, including grade separation at busy intersections. Those who wish to will find fault with whatever route is chosen. The challenge is to understand the trade-offs and choose the least compromised option.