Is there a case for light rail on the golden mile?

Several regional councillors have spoken in favour of running light rail on the golden mile. Here are some questions for supporters of a golden mile light rail route, rather than via Waterloo and Jervois Quays.

As with all public transport decisions, the devil is in the detail. Given a choice, most cities run light rail lines:

  • on dedicated rights-of-way, separated from other traffic; or

  • on dedicated lanes, in the middle of wide streets.

Waiting for light rail / Tom Parkinson (used with permission)

Waiting for light rail / Tom Parkinson (used with permission)

1. Where will the buses go?

Much of the golden mile is too narrow for both buses and light rail, making the choice either buses or light rail, but not both. If the choice is light rail, the buses must go elsewhere, preferably on the same route in both directions (for legibility).

The Public Transport Spine Study did not find a solution to this question.

2. What will be the design approach?

Will you design for people who cannot walk far, as at present, using about six intermediate stops?

Or, will you provide for a faster system to make hubs more acceptable, with one or two intermediate stops?

Note that some existing bus stops will be impractical for light rail, because block-lengths are too short.

3. What cruising speed do you expect to achieve?

The Global Street Design Guide implies a maximum of 30 kph north of Panama St and 20 kph between Panama St and Taranaki St.

The Government Policy Statement includes provision for funding rapid transit. Do you consider a speed of 20 kph qualifies as “rapid”?

If you are hoping to see higher speeds than these (to offer a true ‘rapid transit’ service), what are the implications on pedestrian safety in a location such as Lambton Quay?

© Dmitry Vereshchagin / Adobe Stock

© Dmitry Vereshchagin / Adobe Stock

4. What will be the approach for bus users who cannot walk far?

Will they change to light rail at one of the hubs at each end of the golden mile, which would require multiple light rail stops?

Or, with one or two light rail stops, will they stay on the bus, or change from light rail to a bus at one of the hubs?

5. What will be the additional costs?

How many additional light rail vehicles (and drivers) will be needed, because of lower speeds and more stops?

How much will it cost to relocate services in these narrow streets? Willis Street will be exceptionally difficult because it has so many underground services.

How will retailers be compensated for lost business during the construction phase? How many retailers do you expect will go out of business?

How will service vehicles access the golden mile once the system is operational?

6. What are the benefits of light rail on the golden mile?

Why is it better than retaining a much-improved golden mile bus route providing easy access?

What additional benefits make it worth the additional costs and construction delays?

How will the increased costs be recovered? Will there be higher fares, bigger subsidies, or additional fare-box revenue?

Which do you expect to have higher ridership, a faster quays route or a slower golden mile route, and why?

7. Who has the final decision on the route?

The most effective option is likely to be a similar approach to the LGWM study, perhaps with options for tenders.

Is this a decision for the Regional Council alone?

Or is it NZTA's responsibility as the project delivery agency?

Or is it a decision for the commercial partner(s) chosen to design, build and operate the light rail service, in consultation with the Regional Council?