On the day that the Sydney Morning Herald runs an intelligent editorial showing a grown-up attitude to the disruption that comes with important infrastructure builds…

The Herald remains a strong supporter of the light rail project to run through the inner city and eastern suburbs, and urges the Baird government to prosecute the case forcefully for the line.

Construction of the project, due to start on George Street in October, will be painful and frustrating. Mistakes will be made, and they must not be excused.

But any conception of the transport needs of central Sydney must begin on the basis the status quo is unsustainable.

That status quo represents an over-reliance on bus transport through crowded city streets.

The streets are so crowded that the buses are unreliable. They consistently fall behind timetable well before they have left the city and entered the suburbs.

…AT has released more LRT images:

Town Hall LRT_800

Note in both images all cars are gone, and there is a sort-of cycle lane, that in practice will really be part of the big shared space, yet indicated. Personally I think this is a good arrangement for this pedestrian dominated place and means that it is a slow speed and take care place for riders. The parallel routes of Nelson and Grafton Gully are for getting places at pace; good crosstown cycling connections will be needed to link these all together.

Queen St LRT_800

This would be a spectacular upgrade to the Queen St valley in terms of access but even more so in place quality. And just at the right time, or at least the proposal certainly isn’t ahead of the need; downtown is booming and development is spreading up the hill. We will be able to taste the sea air again in the city! I just can’t wait to get the fume-belchers out of our main spine.

Also from a purely transport capacity angle this will add a whole new access point for people into our uniquely motorway severed City Centre, as currently buses have been restricted on Queen St to the local access only City Link, and the AirBus, because of the unattractiveness of too many diesel buses in core pedestrian places. Adding Queen St to those other two north-south streets of Albert and Symonds as a route to move high volumes of people, while reducing the total bus numbers.

As the SHM goes on:

The Herald does not support any one mode of transport over another. In a metropolis like Sydney, trains, buses, the private car, light rail, cycling and walking all obviously have their role to play.

But the government should invest money in the mode of transport that fits the particular need of a particular space and of a particular travelling public.

And in central Sydney, the use of a growing number of buses to get people to and from work is no longer fit for purpose.

Without major changes to the city – without replacing some of those buses by new rail links – it will be impossible to increase the frequency of bus services to those areas not served by rail.

This argument represents much of the benefits inherent in the CBD light rail project down George Street, as well as the North West Rail Link and its eventual connection to the inner city.

This is exactly the situation Auckland finds itself in; the City Rail Link for connection to and through the core and the further out West, East, and South, and buses upgrading to LRT when capacity limits are hit on surface routes elsewhere. Including, in my view, across the harbour from Wynyard in tunnels to a balancing North Shore network, instead of the bloated and destructive third road crossing. Or a bridge, either way it would be direct, fast, and way way cheaper than NZTA’s current, yet last century, plans:

Light Rail Bridge
Light Rail Bridge

All up it renders Queen St just like Bourke St in that other Australian city:

Bourke St Transit Mall, Melbourne 2014
Bourke St Transit Mall, Melbourne 2014

I have requested an image of Dominion Rd LRT too, so will follow up with that and other info in the days ahead.

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91 comments

  1. Patrick,

    >> “The parallel routes of nelson and Grafton Gully are for getting places at pace; good crosstown cycling connections will be need too to link these all together.”

    Good crosstown cycling connections were already desperately needed to link the multitudes of existing buildings, streets and people within the CBD area together, regardless of gullies and off-ramps.

    But yes, I agree that the Queen St proposal looks sound.

  2. Those cycle lanes will be perfect. Riders and pedestrians alike will work out the different areas pretty quickly. As for the rest, when do we start?

    1. AT are saying Wynyard to Dom Rd north. My view is that because the route to Wynyard is unclear and faces opposition, and Wynyard still has a way to go before there is really high demand, they should start from just south of Customs on Queens St and go all the way to the end of Dom Rd as soon as. The great thing about LRVs is they don’t need to turn around; they’re double-ended so can can just ping back and forth. The players are Wynyard will soon then be screaming to be connected once they see it in operation. This order also delays further work on Customs St at a time when it is being disrupted by CRL stage one too. It’s a tidy way of bounding the removal of vehicles from Queen too.

      But also I think it is vital to get up Dom Rd as soon as, as this means replacing whole bus routes, but also it is expected to hit bus capacity as early as 2019, so there is some urgency there. And they’ve been hanging out for that upgrade for sooooo long. Showing it’s not just about City Centre is important too, I reckon.

      1. Given the offices being built the projected apartments and the ASB Theatre the players already want the connection. Given the low number of people in the area it would be a good time to start after the services in to the building have been installed. One issue with a track is that it cannot be dug up like a road as the tracks have to be re-laid properly. One solution is like in London where services are supplied via an underground tunnel where disruption by digging up the road would be too much,

  3. The Council needs to set a date for the closure of Queen St to cars so we can get on with this. It would completely transform the Aotea Square precinct.

    1. I guess the construction IS the way to get the cars out; they’ll have to go for that, just don’t let them back in. Useful confrontation avoidance! Also as youtube can show you car v tram is no contest, even at the size that Americans like to build their cars.

  4. It would be a mistake to allow bikes where pedestrians should be free to cross Queen Street anywhere. Just pedestrians and light rail would be the perfect use of space. The propaganda images always show people on upright bikes going slowly. But we all know that usually isn’t the case.

      1. Yeah, we know all cyclists are really scofflaws. Look, even in *artist images* they break the law by going in the wrong direction (first slide) 😉

        1. I think cycling in a shared space is OK, as long as you ride slowly.

          And “people on upright bikes” is exactly how it works in other cities.

    1. You are really confusing ‘cyclists’ with people on bikes. No mamils will certainly not be speeding down queen street when grafton gulley is unencumbered.

  5. I was in Breman a few months ago, beautiful 16th century city, but fairly intensified with 3 story + brick buildings. Their entire main road is paved with cobblestones and there are two tram tracks which go straight through the road and main square. There is very little separation between the pavement and the rails and if people or cycles don’t move out of the way of the tram path fast enough, the driver blasts his horn at you. http://s18.postimg.org/v10v8pna1/P1000261.jpg

    1. Most germans don’t wear helmets. It’s hard to keep your head warm and wear a helmet. Plus cycling infrastructure is so much better, bike safety is so much better, drivers are far better behaved, I guess they don’t need helmets to be safe on a bike.

      1. I always wear a hat when riding or walking, but rarely a plastic one; strange that my government has clothing laws.

        Happily Auckland cops clearly also find it strange as they seem to have no interest in enforcing the ‘all hats must be plastic and ugly’ rule.

      2. Only two countries in the world silly enough to have a universal helmet law, NZ and Australia.

        Has been a huge success in killing off cycling as a means of transport.

      3. Of course they dont need need helmets to be safe on a bike. There is plenty of evidenced mandatory bike helmet laws make it unsafe to be a cyclist. Just look at how bad cycling in NZ became!

        1. What are you trying to tell us – that without helmets cyclists would ride a lot more carefully, and wouldn’t try and compete with other motor vehicles on the roads?

          1. Car drivers are more careful around cyclists with no helmets. Cyclists are more careful without helmets. Without helmets there are many more cyclists, and so drivers more commonly expect to see cyclists on the road and will allow for them in their driving patterns, indeed without helmets a car driver is more likely to be a cyclist themself.

          2. Individuals are safer with helmets, cycling individuals are safer when helmets are non-compulsory.

        2. And anyway that’s great, that’s your personal choice, long may you be allowed to make it.

          The key issue is that many do not wish to wear a plastic hat and are forced off their bikes by the bullying law, which anyway is in no way effective for lowering injury and fatalities compared to providing proper protected bike lanes.

          1. I agree. Let the Darwin awards cycle without helmets, and encourage children not to do so either. Now why was that law in place again… something about criminal negligence and public safety. Nah those things are far less important than a $20 hair style.

  6. Great Images

    LRT Routes that would be perfect
    1. Queen street
    2. D Road
    3. Mt E Road
    4. Manukau Road
    5. CBD to St. Heliers
    6. S Road

    Questions are one for the manukau road route is CBD via Parnell or Grafton better. Also the LRT routes don’t cover the whole routes which go to Blockhouse Bay, Hillsbourgh and etc. transfer points need to be set up for them I’d assume.

    1. I spend a lot of time on Tamaki Drive and in the bays and I can assure you that if there is a hint of LRT coming to the Central Beaches then I will be lobbying my face off for it! There is already a natural turn-around point at Vellenoweth Green in St Heliers – going along Goldie St and along Polygon Road to Turua Street and then back around the corner onto Tamaki Drive again, if it needed to loop. Otherwise a line could stop at the Green itself, but this is pretty far removed from the shops and St Heliers itself is perfect for trams. In an ideal world you would be able to run it back up to St Heliers Bay Road and St Johns Road to meet up with the old Meadowbank line, but dreams are free, tram networks are not 😛

      In all seriousness though, at some stage the issue of the sea wall, the shared path and the parking on Tamaki Drive is going to have to be revisited. It’s not going to be a small job so I hope they take the time to get it right the chance to add LRT to any future plans.

        1. Old fashioned trams didn’t need to turn either, the few that did were normally converted to be like that as an economy measure

      1. Do the future projections of bus numbers justify it? I didn’t think there was going to be a huge amount of intensification out that way.

        1. I think their are a few routes that go through their, but it is also a very popular area for tourists. Not sure on the figures though.

        2. I think it can only be justified with up-zonning on the arterials. Something for the locals to decide. Do they want this? If so, they’ll have to accept some apartments and offices above shops on the likes of Dominion Rd… No need to change the swathes of houses in the back streets, but certainly the tatty existing commercial along Dom, and some of what is currently single housing on Dom Rd itself. That’s my view, anyway, be interesting to see the numbers…

          1. I agree. My comment was actually about Tamaki Drive though. What a great idea though – extend the trams to the top of DomRd and dangle the carrot of an extension but it comes in lockstep with upzoning. Do the same on all the other routes.

          2. We have lobbied AT to consider LRT along Remuera corridor like it used to be – but in the distant future after LRT comes to Newmarket (15 years away). The Remuera Road corridor Management plan is being finalised now.

            Lots of upzoning can go along the corridor and with the GI and Tamaki intensification underway that corridor will become a major corridor to/from Newmarket whether the NIMBYs allow it or not.
            But its got a few multi-storey apartments along it already, so thats already underway, and the UP allows it.

          3. Yes Dominion Road should have 5 storey apartments along it’s length with shops etc on the ground floor.

          4. I’m totally in favour of upzoning along Dom Rd (and Sandringham Rd, for that matter) but I thought the point about Dom Rd was that it can already justify LRT with current PT volumes and expected growth? The ‘tatty’ shopping strips add a lot of character and I wouldn’t want to see them fancied up too much, but there’s plenty of scope for more residential choices as well.

            If they propose upzoning + LRT along Sandringham Rd, I’ll be right there arguing in favour.

  7. I’m interested to know how trams would operate outside of Queen St. Would they have their own lane or be stuck in traffic like all the other vehicles?

    1. Yes that’s right, I’m guessing, like on Gold Coast. But most importantly they would have signalling priority. Because one tram with say 450 pax capacity would replace 5+ buses with 60, meaning a 5 minute headway instead of one every 60 seconds. So better for PT users and better for drivers, and other road users, even though they’ll have to yield both road space and priority.

      1. Depends, for most of the non Queen area of routes I would assume the parking is more likely to go rather than road space. So the road lanes move across into the old parking spots. Though I guess drivers would count that as their road space 😀

      2. Is there any progress on removing parking/installing permanent bus Lanes instead of parking on Dominion Road and Mt Eden Road now?

  8. LRT down Queen St is simply like Skypath was – an idea whose time has come. Captures the public’s imagination like nothing else, and its no contest really.

    Get on with it AT, we need it sooner than CRL for Dom. Road and other places.

    1. Can’t agree with the either/or idea. Completely different projects serving completely different needs. CRL more urgent. But CRL is a wider whole Network fix, LRT is a super bus and place upgrade. Compatible and complementary.

      1. Never said it was either/or – I said its needed now for Dom Road and the like.
        CRL doesn’t help these guys one jot, but they’re suffering now with too full buses.

        CRL is needed too, but can’t be started due to Government malfeasance, but we can’t put everything on hold until the Gov’t changes its mind, or the left gets in – the traffic and population and PT usage growth won’t wait.

    2. I think the reasons Trams will be easier to sell, is that they are both new/modern/sexy, and they return to historical roots which bring up nostalgia for the “good old days” of Auckland. Tourists love them, and even people who hate PT kinda like them. The CRL isn’t sexy its practical.

  9. An operational question, where would the maintenance facility for the Light Rail be?

    I’m guessing that it would be standard gauge so it won’t be able to use the current train tracks to more the out of service units somewhere else.

    1. The plan is to hang a right from Dom Rd just before SH20 and run down the rail reserve behind all that new big box retail to at terminus at Owairaka; there would be a depot somewhere in there, and some nice free running and a couple of stops. Also would link up Dom and Sandringham rd routes. Pretty cute; kills our Mt Roskill rail spur idea however, but gets that route used without the problem of crossing New North Rd, the park, or thinning out western line frequency at a somewhat strange point [before New Lynn]:

      The other branch would presumably have its own depot too.

      1. I was thinking the May Road or city depots would be great places to run the maintenance facilities, pity about the May Road depot.

        I’m sure if enough thought t was put in, the Mt Roskill spur wouldn’t be completely impossible and as the start of an airport route, provides an option.

      2. If they do build through W Quarter then wouldn’t the perfect place for the depot and terminus be surely on the site of the possible W Quarter station for North Shore Line (LRT, DRT or Standard Rail). This would allow for easy transfers + save a spot for the future station.

    2. Standard gauge would match the current Tram lines (Wynyard to Wynyard, MOTAT 1 – western springs- zoo- motat 2) and it’s cheaper to buy standard gauge everything. Because it’s, well…

  10. A key part of the message should be that installing tram tracks in Queen Street could be done in as little as one weekend, with the appropriate preparation. This is all it took to renew tram tracks in Swanston Street Melbourne last weekend. Last Friday night I saw the trams moving normally along Swanston St, then over a long weekend the tracks were ripped out and replaced. The replacement included several tram-tram intersections. Trams started operating normally again by 5 am Tuesday.

    http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/swanston-street-disrupted-for-days-as-tram-tracks-are-ripped-up-20150606-ghi4x4.html

    An essential part of such a project would be the engineers and contractors either having experience (from a city like Melbourne), or gaining it through exchange visits.

    As an example of their level of skill, one night earlier this year I watched in fascination as a Yarra Trams repair crew fixed a broken rail at the Swanston Street / Collins St intersection while trams were running. A tram was held up briefly while a welder welded the rail. Once the welding was finished the site supervisor waved the tram through across the hot rail, then a few seconds after the tram went through the crew were smoothing the rail with an angle grinder. Trams in the opposite direction, and on Collins St were completely unaffected. A less experienced crew would have wanted a full occupation for several hours.

    1. Depends how much of a street upgrade we want to do with the track laying. One of the many place improvements that could come with this are much wider footpaths, or rather an entirely level surface as shown in the renders. This would take a bit more work, but then I see this as an advantage as it shuts the street down for the mindless lost traffic that currently uses it. That is not including the important delivery and emergency vehicles that will always need to be accommodated.

    2. It depends on what is done with services. You can cheap out and leave all the services as they are and run the risk of periodic closures, or you redirect services, install ducting etc which is more expensive.

      Also, you need to construct the track slab. The rails don’t just sit in the existing pavement.

    3. Surely replacing a bit of existing track is far simpler that the initial set up as you would need to build stronger foundations.

      However you do raise the question of whether the track laying and the beautifying need to be done at the same time.

    1. Yes, but their is possible 3 that are not but one is in the distance, and two are walking away so you can’t tell. But yes it does look like someone from Grammar Zone designed it.

  11. So this looks great but what are the chances of a/this actually happening and b/happening soon? Over the last 25 years there have been a few light rail proposals that have gone nowehere. Given the transport funding pressure currently on the council and central goverment’s lack of interest in funding anything that’s not a road how likely is this to actually proceed?

    1. I think they want to fund it off books as a PPP. The consortium of companies builds it, and has rights to it for x years. After that in which by that time AT pays it off and the ownership is transferred back. A bit like Vector Arena I guess.

      1. I believe the argument goes that there are serious operational savings: One tram driver replaces 5+ bus drivers, electricity instead of diesel, etc. And that by financialising the capex AT can get it all built, the machines, and the operations for a similar operational cost to the current buses….? Would love to see the numbers.

    2. A bit behind the times within the last decade billions have been spent on non road transport. Not to mention the subsidies to the private companies running the services regardless of their increasing profit margins. Oh and the rebranding opportunities every 2-3 years of all those plastic cards and letterheads to let us know all that money is being well spent.

    1. “how you paying for it?”

      Really, really easy. Cancel all the unbuilt, unnecessary, 1950’s-style motorways on the government’s books and use the money saved to build a modern transport network suited to the needs of the 21st century.

    2. The cost is higher than that budgeted for BRT Bus Rapid Transit. In return you get something that has the capacity to carry new commuters along the growth spine from Wellington Railway stn to Newtown and Kilbirnie. Lower operational costs than
      BRT will mean that it will eventually pay for itself.

  12. Modern day tram rail laying techniques mean there is very little disruption to traffic if a section of the track has to be worked on. The old technique of laying track in concrete, as can be seen in the tram tack between the two MOTAT sites at Western Springs, has been superseded by a new technique of laying the track on a bed of concrete, and then covering it with a layer of hot mix asphalt, as per the track at the downtown tram line at Western Viaduct, a technique copied from Melbourne. This means that replacing a length of track is little more disruptive than repaving that stretch of road, and night or two at the most.

  13. Love the light rail bridge concept. Especially if it had a cycle way and a walkway on it. How cool would that be? As well as SkyPath not instead of.

  14. Won’t a link from Sandringham through to Queen St undermine the CRL? Pax transfer at Kingsland to LRT and on to Queen St. Should we not complete the CRL first before this segment?

  15. The challenge for the Council to close Queen Street to traffic will be how long Albert Street is closed for the CRL.
    I cannot see the Council having both these routes closed at the same time.

    1. Well CRL on lower Albert St is about to start. Probably after xmas for anything really disruptive. But I agree the key thing will be to get the main works going and reinstatement of Albert St as quick as possible.

    2. Also Queen Street shouldn’t be used a traffic bypass for Albert Street, there’s Nelson Street and the Grafton Gully motorway for that. There’s more than enough road space in the city.

      1. Don’t even need that, regular intersections on Queen St can just become loading zones in the cul de sacs created.

  16. There are a few buses besides City Link and Airbus Express such as 299, 312, 392, 606 etc that use queen steet down to the civic centre. I asume these will be rerouted to other midtown routes…

  17. So in essence these images propose a mass discrimination against the disabled, closing off large sections of the CBD for them. Sure cyclists will be happy they can travel with less care to and from the places they already travel to. They can even walk the bourgeoisie weekend warriors who trumpet the voices of the rich and well positioned. The images above sickens me as many of the public meetings are actually at the town hall. Including the ones for the disabled regarding transport, (did you wonder why there was such a low turnout or were you being selfish again?). Seriously in this city a disabled person would be better off dead. They have little options for employment as it is, little options for social engagement, a hard enough time to try to get to medical appointments at hospitals and gps, and now the position to actually go to the public consultations for them will be taken away thanks to a 3bit designer with a hardon for cycling. Next time you force a disabled person onto a train or bus you would be better giving them a head concussion first and break a limb, (it would save both parties time and provide the same result).

  18. How can light rail be discriminatory – those vehicles are practically scraping their undersides along the ground, so in theory it should be very easy for the disabled to get on and off them.
    Maybe we could be looking at other ways to make it easier for the disabled to get around, such as the council/government subsidising a lot more taxi vans with special wheelchair lifts, or encouraging the importation and subsidisation of tracked wheelchairs that have the ability to climb kerbs, small stairs etc. And before I get jumped on, I spent some time in a wheelchair while recovering from paralysis caused by a bad bout of encephalitis.

    1. How about a 100% low floor level boarding transit system complemented by much widened footpaths and no car lanes to cross between the accessible platform and the sidewalk… oh wait, that’s exactly what they proposed.

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