Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The green bandwagon

We're getting to the pointy end of the election campaign, so the candidates are out in force in Wellington now. We've had the Maori Party bus outside Midland Park for a couple of days now, and I must say that waiata at lunchtime are a nice change from a load of pants at Vic and bomb threats and other bollocks in Tauranga. Today's gimmick was this Green Party train tootling around the CBD.

I've tried not to be too political in this blog, though with my interest in sustainable urbanism (not to mention my colour scheme) it's not hard to tell where my sympathies lie. I was impressed by the Greens' Ride the Wind package for Wellington, since it contains real, concrete, functional solutions rather than just feel-good waffle: a true example of thinking global and acting local.

Anyway, I hope that the motive force for this little train was electric! I'm not sure that Thomas the Tank Engine is the best way to promote public transport as modern and forward looking, but I guess they want a friendly, positive image rather than a dour "shame on you, V8 drivers" message. I watched it go north along Lambton Quay, wondering whether they'd be cheeky enough to use the green bus lane, but no, they were well-behaved road users and kept out of it. I doubt that the bloke in a ute stuck behind them was too impressed, though.

Update: a slight correction - it's actually Henry the Green Engine, not Thomas. Also, frogblog have added a link to this post.


At 2:19 pm, September 15, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice pictures and write up. You mean that in Wellington there are permenant, all day bus lanes? In Auckland they are all 7-9am or 4-6pm only and the rest of the time they are full of parked cars.

At 2:31 pm, September 15, 2005, Blogger Tom said...

I'm not sure if all of the bus lanes are all-day, but much of Lambton Quay has been "buses and taxis only" for as long as I can remember. I use the buses a lot more now than I used to (I pretty much walk everywhere), because it seems like after they enhanced the bus lane system last year they're finally faster than walking through the CBD. It's not quite as radical a difference as when London introduced congestion charging, but it seems to help.

I still long for proper mass transit, though, and frequent after-hours service in particular.

At 3:00 pm, September 15, 2005, Blogger Kate Borrell said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 3:00 pm, September 15, 2005, Blogger Kate Borrell said...

I know it's probably not practical but I'd love it if Wellington had lots of lovely trams like Melbourne and San Fran. Wouldn't that be cool! I'd frequent the one with bar/restaurant on it.

At 3:15 pm, September 15, 2005, Blogger Tom said...

It's probably not practical to have lots of routes, but we could certainly justify one along the Golden Mile or waterfront. Melbourne's trams are great, because they mix a few historic ones for the tourists with some more practical modern ones that also go onto the old train tracks to zip out to places like St Kilda.

That's what I'd like to see happen here: convert the Johnsonville and Hutt lines to light rail, then extend them along the streets to Courtenay Place to start with, and eventually via the hospital and Constable St to the airport. Add a tourist loop along the route of the city circular bus, take cars away from the Golden Mile, and now we're talking!

And yes, I'll meet you on the bar tram, especially if Johnny from Boulot's making the cocktails! But will they have free bubbly for "ladies" on Thursday nights?!?

At 3:25 pm, September 15, 2005, Blogger Kakariki said...

And damn it was fun to ride on!

At 10:22 pm, September 15, 2005, Blogger Libertyscott said...

Can you explain if all you light rail advocates are willing to pay for it? Pay to put in the infrastructure, maintain it and pay the operating costs - when it is several times that of buses which perform (on bus lanes) effectively the same job?

At 10:07 am, September 16, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

as a long-time activist, I echo Kakariki's post, and also that this is the most fun my kids have had in any of our family activism outings....

At 2:26 pm, September 16, 2005, Blogger Martha Craig said...

I thought maybe the train was Percy - Henry is a very big engine.

Can you guess I have a three year old son?

At 2:28 pm, September 16, 2005, Blogger Tom said...


Buses don't do the same job as LRT (light rail transit). LRT can take more passengers in a more compact corridor. LRT may have higher setup costs, but lower operating costs (as much as 50% less per passenger-km) makes it more cost-effective in the long run. LRT systems also have an emotional appeal that buses lack, thus increasing ridership.

One of the supposed downsides of LRT lines (inflexibility) is actually a benefit, because the fixed nature of the lines gives the confidence for investment. Transit Oriented Devlopments are risky to build around bus routes, because they can be rerouted at the drop of a hat. Conversely, property values are known to rise around LRT stations.

Oh, and a couple of specific benefits for Wellington: LRT can make use of existing heavy rail lines as well as city streets, so they don't get stuck in road congestion. Creating one integrated mode of transport from J'ville to the airport, without changing at Lambton interchange, makes a lot of sense. Also, if we bring back the tram lines to the CBD, we can run some heritage trams on them as a tourist attraction (like Christchurch).

So yes, I'm happy for us to pay for the infrastructure, maintenance and operating costs given the long-term benefits.


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