Back on track: CBD light rail
I was planning a series of posts comparing the various proposals for LRT (Light Rail Transit) in Wellington, but it looks like the current proposals are all very similar. So far they're only concentrating on the route as far as Courtenay Place, but with less specific plans for an eventual extension to the hospital and/or airport: despite the article from two weeks ago, I haven't found any specific suggestions for a CBD-airport route. There are still rumours of a LRT option in the upcoming Johnsonville corridor report, but that has yet to surface. So for the moment, I'll look at proposals that extend from the northern suburbs to Courtenay Place.
The main proponents of LRT are:
Option 3 only mention a Plimmerton-Courtenay Place route, but that's understandable given their focus on a sustainable alternative to Transmission Gully, and I imagine that they're interested in other routes as well. WELL-TRACK adds a Hutt Central line and the Greens add both a Hutt Line (with a Melling-Waterloo link) and the Johnsonville line, and both mention a waterfront heritage tram as an option. Of all of them, WELL-TRACK has much more detail, though the only place I've seen the detailed proposal online is as Appendix 1 of Efford's Transmission Gully paper (195kB PDF). For this post, I'll concentrate on the details of the CBD section, based upon Efford's report.
The main Golden Mile loop starts on the western side of the railway station, with LRVs (Light Rail Vehicles) switching from the existing suburban rail lines to on-road tracks that cross the very top of Featherston St to the Lambton Hub bus terminal. From here, a double track line goes as far as Hunter St, using existing bus lanes as far as Bowen St and a new exclusive transitway (shared with buses) along the western side of Lambton Quay. Peter Dunne would hate it, of course, since cars would be restricted to the eastern half of the Quay, but it has the huge advantage that LRVs and buses won't have to deal with traffic lights.
The route would split between Hunter St and Manners Mall, a bit like the bus route does at the moment. The difference would be that southbound LRVs would follow Victoria St rather than doing the complicated zig-zag that the buses do (and will continue to do, to avoid Manners Mall). From Manners Mall to the end of Courtenay Place, the line would be double-track again.
Efford also mentions a waterfront route using heritage trams. While this would be primarily a tourist attraction like the Christchurch tram, Efford points out that there are plenty of reasons why this would be a more practical transport option than when a similar idea was suggested in 1993 (2.3MB PDF). Back then, there was no Stadium, no Te Papa, no Harbour Quays and virtually nothing on the waterfront, and the WELL-TRACK proposal now suggests a much more extensive route.
The line would start at the Ferry terminal and travel along the existing track beside Aotea and Waterloo Quays, thus servicing passengers from the Interislander and cruise ships as well as the Stadium and Harbour Quays. From there it could travel along a single lane of Customhouse and Jervois Quays (now with added pohutukawa!) and Cable St as far as Waitangi Park, with a link to Courtenay Place. It would mostly be single track, with passing tracks at Kumutoto and Te Papa, and there would also be a link along Bunny St to the Golden Mile line.
Next time, I'll look at possibilities for the Courtenay Place to Airport section.