Back on track: the numbers game
After my last post mentioning that the Dominion Post article had a serious typo (stating that only 56 rather than 456 people supported light rail), I didn't bother writing in to correct them, assuming that such a glaring error must have been picked up and corrected since then. I still haven't seen any such correction, and from a letter in today's paper it's clear that even rail supporters are still being misled by the mistake. So I fired off a quick letter to (hopefully) correct the misconception that virtually no-one supports light rail:
Kevin Anderson is right to point out that rail is cleaner, more popular and more space-efficient that buses or busways. He is also right to be sceptical about support for the busway, given that 87% of the support came on pro-forma submission forms provided and promoted by a vested commercial interest.
He is wrong, however, to say that rail and light rail attracted a combined total of 645 supporters. The figure is actually 1045, since light rail was supported by 456 people rather than the mere 56 that your article erroneously reported. It's not really possible to add the options together, since submitters could choose multiple options, but nevertheless Kevin Anderson can be assured that support for rail is much greater than your article suggested.
I've also previously questioned the definition of "North Wellington" that includes suburbs far from the Johnsonville line, when all of the proposed options centre on the future of the line. Criticising the Johnsonville line for not serving Woodridge makes as much sense as me blaming the Eastbourne ferry for not helping me get from Te Aro to Lambton Quay. Thankfully, the summary of submissions (350kB PDF) breaks them down by suburb (page 15) and into three geographic clusters. The cluster that is actually served by the Johnsonville line comes out strongly in support of rail, even if you include the Bus & Coach Association forms:
This clearly shows the popularity of rail compared to a busway along the same route.
It's also worth noting that the busway option would be incompatible with some of the council's stated policies. The report on council responses to peak oil (115kB PDF) recommends that the council should "agree to take into account the peak oil issue and rising fuel prices when making future transport investment decisions, by promoting and designing a transport system that encourages more efficient use of and reduced reliance on oil-based products." Specifically, "because very little electricity is generated from oil in New Zealand, the Council's support for electricity-based transport options is an important way to reduce oil dependency." In this context, it hardly makes sense to replace an electric rail line with diesel buses.
Secondly, it's notable that among the reasons for supporting the busway cited by submitters (page 29 of the summary), "potential for growth in northern suburbs" was listed as an advantage. Given that the council's Urban Development Strategy is committed to focussing most population growth along a compact "growth spine" (Johnsonville - CBD - Airport), encouraging more sprawl in the suburbs north of there seems like a distinct disadvantage.
To sum up: people who use the train don't want it converted to a busway; buses are incompatible with the council's peak oil advice; and the busway would encourage growth where the council doesn't want it.