What Makes Light Rail Succeed


Wellington is an ideally-sized city for light rail. It will reduce congestion and support higher-density housing.

Road space is valuable

BRT (Bus Rapid Transport) is impractical in Wellington’s narrow CBD and is less space-efficient. Private cars need up to 20 times as much space as light rail to carry the same numbers.

Buses are cheap to buy but expensive to operate; light rail is the opposite. A light rail vehicle lasts twice as long as a bus, runs at twice the average speed, and one driver can move 7 times as many people.

Buses are better for some trips, such as links to light rail from the suburbs. At the railway station, light rail connects to heavy rail.

Density rules

Light rail has the best chance of success when one goal sits above all others — maximize ridership. Light rail needs to go where lots of people are, and busy all day — shopping areas, the regional hospital, and airport; not people deserts like the town belt.

Time is money

Successful light rail needs to be there when people need it: high frequency all day, every day — at least every 6 minutes during peak periods, every 12 minutes off-peak. Plan for at least 5000 passengers per hour in peak periods, 2500 passengers per hour off-peak.

People don’t mind transferring when the service is reliable and often.

Inflexibility works

Light rail must be long enough to be fast and predictable — at least 5km with widely-spaced stops. Wellington railway station to the airport is about 9km, travel time less than 20 minutes.

Light rail needs an exclusive right-of-way, with priority over regular traffic at intersections. Cars and buses will sometimes have to wait, but less than waiting at the lights for the hundreds of extra cars and buses that light rail replaces.

Success for all of us

Overseas light rail appeals to everyone — rich and poor, young and old, of all shapes, sizes and abilities find it inviting and welcoming.

Build the right project; build the project right.