Melbourne has the largest surface Light Rail network in the world (there were larger ones, mainly in the Americas, but these all fell to the fashion of the mid last century for all-in motordom). And this network, despite its foibles and peculiarities, is part of what makes Melbourne such a successful, connected, and particular city. The presence of the trams (as they are generally called) and the patterns they set undeniably shape the quality of the street experience there. Melbourne is, to an important degree, defined by its trams. And gloriously so.

They carry a fair load too: Melbourne’s 250km tram network carried 204m passengers in the year 2015-16, compared to 233m on the 830km train network. Buses moved 122m. So trams in Melbourne do a great deal of the work that in many other post-tram cities, like Auckland, is done with buses.

Melbourne is extremely fortunate to have retained this system; it would be prohibitively expensive to return such a widespread system to any city that lost theirs in the great global anti-streetcar pogrom of the 1950s (I’ve seen estimates over $A100b for Melbourne). Yet many cities across the world are rebuilding surface Light Rail systems, or more accurately are building new Light Rail routes, not returning to widespread bus-like networks. This includes Sydney which is currently adding its second LR route of the modern era. Its first, the Dulwich Hill Line, a strange hybrid of a rambling tourist focussed section and an efficient movement focussed conversion of an old goods line, is now hugely, almost problematically, successful; ridership up 59% over the last year.

Both these cities have fully grade separate rail networks, which are vital, and are currently being expanded. But as we know from all over the world even cities with widespread Metro systems still require surface Transit as well, and choosing Light Rail on key high demand and high place value routes is an increasingly popular option for cities across the world. We have looked at this possibility for Auckland primarily from a movement and transport economics perspective but it also has significant place quality effects and these are want I want to look at in this post.

So last month while in Melbourne I hung out on Bourke St with my camera, as this section of Melbourne’s network is most like what we can expect for Auckland’s Queen St. And what I had confirmed from this lengthy observation is exactly what you experience when passing through; there is something of an almost perfect mix between pedestrians and these big Light Rail vehicles which entirely defies the scale imbalance. It is like people are swimming freely with benign whales; slow and entirely predictable, generating no ghastly fumes, not silent, but discretely clanging and bell-ringing, while pedestrians shashay around them like so many pilot fish, in step with the big beasts’ movements, but effortlessly so and without palpable risk.

Rolling Public Realm

The difference between being inside or outside the trams here is small; or should I say seamless. The trams are as much place as vehicle: There is an elision between street and tram and tram and city. And this is certainly more true with the modern E-Class Light Rail machines than the older more angular streetcars. These are smaller with steep stairs and narrow doors, where as the round-nosed Jumbo-like E-Class with their low floors and and wide doors, more approximate moving rooms than metal boxes.  Focusing on this aspect of the technology may horrify our transport professionals, trained as they are in the math of travel time savings above all else, but it is a real value, though qualitative rather than quantitative.

For indeed, they are slow here, Melbourne’s trams average 11kph in the city centre. Yet they are well used, they work, they shift a heap of people every day. And of course have speedier sections away from the city centre, so the average speed over longer journeys is not entirely defined by this section. In fact it is not here that I think Melbourne’s trams routes are too slow, but it is further out that I think that Melbourne could get more value out of this already successful system, in particular by removing the curb-side parking on more streets (Brunswick St below).

Practical Street Theatre

While I was observing the dance on Bourke St I was treated to two police cruisers, one fire engine, an ambulance, and a rubbish truck using the Transit Mall. In each case these interlopers worked their way seamlessly between the near constant flow of trams, without holding them up nor appearing to be restricted in their tasks. Each vehicle used whichever set of tracks were free, helped of course by the certainty of the larger vehicles fixed direction and slow gait.

The same holds for deliveries, although these are organised temporally as much as spatially, which is to say they occur outside of the peak tram/pedestrian times, early morning most noticeably:

Moving Architecture

‘A train isn’t a vehicle. A train is a part of the country. It’s a place’ -Paul Theroux

The urban version of this might read: ‘A tram isn’t vehicle. A tram is part of the street. It’s a place’

Because of course this moving architecture also takes its luxury and something of the glamour of the city centre out to wherever it reaches, it values the suburban dweller and city visitor the same; it is some mighty democratic tin:

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75 comments

  1. Allow me to be a bit of a pedant. Melbourne has the worlds most extensive tram network, but by most definitions only a couple of line approximate light rail. Now of course there aren’t actually any firm definitions or rules about what is called what, but for the most part Melbournes system is street level, shared traffic, no-priority trams.

    THis leads the question, can we achieve the same democratic tin with our rubber wheeled buses, or is there a je ne sais quoi that requires streetcar tracks?

    1. I think the answer for Auckland is to look at Melbourne & go the Light Rail level routes compared to Streecar/Tram routes work best lets copy the former model rather than the latter.

      Can we achieve democratic tin with buses I believe so just have to go to the right bus builder like Van Hool & use them on routes which don’t require super high capacity. Can we achieve democratic tin & the capacity needed is another question.

      If Dominion Rd which will need a bus a minute or 2 on Queen St then no.
      If Sandringham Rd with much less buses per hour using Wellesey then definitely should be considered compared to our conventional buses.

    2. Nick
      1. No one, least of all me, is proposing to replace our bus network with trams everywhere (i thought that was clear in the post)
      2. The short answer is we haven’t. In the sixty years since Queen St was ‘improved’ with buses, they simply have none of the attributes of the LRVs in Bourke St, well except one: they’re slow, but, unlike in Bourke St that’s not because they are making way for people, but because there are still cars there for no good reason. And therefore Queen St has none of the positive attributes described above. Buses are great, but they do not perform the role outlined above.

      So your question should perhaps be; is there both sufficient transport and place quality value in the difference? My case above only attempts to address the second half of that question, and finds, unquestionably that the difference, qualitatively, is high. And therefore, for the Queen St valley, it is clear to me that a well designed modern low floor LR service would profoundly improve that place and this city.

      The capacity, speed, frequency, and travel demand question are addressed elsewhere.

      1. I think you can achieve this with the right designed bus however with LRT you would have a LRV every 5-10m each way while even with high capacity well designed buses it would be every 1m or 2m each way. Doesn’t matter how pretty the bus is if you have wall to wall of them on Queen.

        Its the LRV’s spatial efficiency that gives it the true edge in its ability to deliver placemaking in my opinion.

      2. I think that is maybe what I am getting at Patrick. Can Auckland achieve that sweet spot of movement and place using common or garden variety buses, or do we need to start a shift to something else?

        1. A friend and I regularly enjoy early morning coffee at the city end of Mt Eden Rd and like to sit out on the footpath. While its great to watch full buses go by, I would have to say that our garden variety buses are anything but benign. They are so loud that we’re often unable to continue a conversation, and of course they belch clouds of diesel fumes. I would say that the sweet spot will be hard to achieve until we move towards electric buses at very least.

      3. Patrick
        I strongly agree with you on the place aspects. Regardless of the capacity or ability to attract passengers, tram/LRT lines make a street a more pleasant place to be. I think this is a worldwide experience. It has been true in Melbourne, Portland, Nantes, Jerusalem and many places in between.

        The most successful (high patronage and high city activation benefit) systems have been integrated into the streetscape like Melbourne, but had traffic priority in exclusive lanes throughout (especially at traffic lights), removed roadside parking, and used the liberated space to not only put the tram/LRT in segregated track, but wherever possible widened the footpath or put in trees, grass track and planter boxes. There are some beautiful examples.
        So the place- making is a central aspect of doing this well.

        By contrast, even if you look at busways that have been built to a high standard (and at similar cost) e.g. Brisbane, they have not had the same place impact. There is no evidence in the literature that they have created the same degree of redevelopment along the corridors either. I agree it is a pity transport planners are not trained to look at this more.

      4. You seem to be saying that somehow the buses are responsible for the cars and lack of place making? That to seems like a similar line of argument to Bill Englishes “mrarajuana is illegal therefore it should be illegal”.

    3. I think it is a good question Nick – because if we could achieve something approaching light rail quality with buses, it would allow us to have many quality transit corridors for the price of one.
      It is impossible for buses to perform as well as rail in terms of capacity – although there are some very big improvements that could be made. Dedicated bus lanes and no sharp turns would allow long bendy buses, and changing the seating arrangement to give more standing space would significantly improve capacity. I would guess they could almost triple the current capacity of a Dominion road bus with those two changes – that would buy us a lot of time before we need light rail. Is there such a thing as a double decker bendy bus?
      Another big problem is the noise / fumes which make them unattractive and not suitable for Queen street. But they surely could be electric. Obviously trolley buses are an option. But why not battery powered and swap the battery out at the depot for a charged one?
      Apart from those two big issues, there are a number of minor issues that can easily be resolved if AT were to treat buses the same way as trams: a 24×7 dedicated corridor taking the most direct route, less bus stops, no cash, double doors on the side, etc. Even painting ‘tracks’ or similar on the corridor would help – just to indicate to people that this is a quick, frequent, turn up and go route.

      I actually think the biggest barrier is a complete lack of desire to make these changes; the management at AT would rather have their name on a big ticket project like light rail.

  2. Good read and with the photos great viewing too. One very minor point helped: clearly the photos were taken on a cold day, the pedestrians are in heavy jackets and scarves, etc. This site has too many artists impressions sufficiently unrealistic to put one against the subject matter.

    1. Its hard not to have artist impressions when trying to promote infrastructure. But the artist impressions, normally done by consultants are normally not far off the actual demographic in that specific area. And when promoting a project you normally choose to display it on a nice summers day to get people in the right mood. Hardly going to choose a cold miserable winters day for promotional reasons.

  3. Quite a pleasant post to read and the pictures were great too.
    Having spent a lot of time in Melbourne, one observation I would add is that they frequently do have accidents between cyclists/pedestrians/cars and trams (not as frequently as could be imagined but it does happen). In most cases that tram line then grinds to a halt (especially if it serious as the police get involved etc). In Melbourne this isn’t such an issue as they have multiple parallel lines in many cases so people can switch to another tram, alternatively the trams back up and switch over at the next crossover – people can then walk around the accident and continue their journey.
    In Auckland this could be more of an issue if we just have the one line that is being used as mass RT. For Dom Rd and Queen St that isn’t so much of an issue as they can probably do as above and walk around the accident and get on another LR vehicle. For the airport however this is one of the disadvantages of LR – people trying to walk along the street with their suitcases to get in another LR vehicle – not too mention the actual time of the holdup before this actually happens (they don’t just turn around right away).
    I’d like to see LR run Queen St and Dom Rd with HR from Puhinui/Otahuhu/Onehunga – pick one (I would suggest Puhinui especially if the 3rd main is being built. Then if required LR could be extended down to Onehunga and across to the airport in the future for that local traffic (most will still opt for the HR since it will be faster, more comfortable, stop less, smoother).

    1. RE: Onehunga – That place needs more love. More (better designed) PT and less de facto motorway.

      Same goes for Mangere Bridge. LR stopping at Mangere Bridge would be transformational for that suburb.

    2. This is where the latest European systems with LRVs in segregated track and separate bike lanes are much better. Tram tracks and bicycle tyres do not mix well – they should be kept apart.

    3. Remember most users will be workers in and around the airport area. I’m more and more inclined to start with the “Southern LRT” route from Botany/Manukau which goes through an upgraded Puhinui heavy rail station. For Onehunga I think the HR line should be converted to double tracked LRT, which gives better options to then connect to the eventual Wynyard/Queen St/Dominion Rd/SH 20 LRT to the airport. Means don’t need to grade separate & double track HR Onehunga line, perhaps just close a couple of low use roads that currently cross. This could then extend up to Ellerslie interchange. Then gets a bit messy but leaves options for E/Panmure Highway to Panmure linking with AMETI or carrying on up Great South Rd probably as the main route will be Panmure to the city.

      1. Actually you would probably terminate at the Ellerslie “Interchange” on Kalmia St (ie gives ped link on overbridge to Ellerslie town & HR station). Add in two additional stations on the Onehunga line at Maurice Rd (near Mt Smart Stadium) & Alfred St.

      2. Not sure LR that doesn’t run through the CBD is going to be the best use of funds. I think these could all be achieved with buses with good priority (a busway from Puhinui to the airport) for a fraction of the cost.

        While the CBD is not the be-all and end-all of PT it is certainly the biggest anchor in terms of providing patronage. I imagine a bus every 10 mins would be more than enough to provide capacity from Puhinui to the Airport.

        1. Sure start with a busway from Puhinui to the airport, then upgrade as necessary. First stage of CBD LRT can be done as well/before the Puhinui is upgraded to LRT and or extended.

        1. There is no reason for concept graphics to be unrealistic. Invariably they do not reflect the true demographic with respect for age – not only are many Aucklanders older than they show but they are a growing demographic and they have more spare time so are more likely to get out and about. Then there are many cruise liners arriving in the CBD with the average age of passengers over 60 but the pictures always show young people only. It is like finding an elderly nurse on Shortland street – old people are hidden away and when shown they are usually victims. My apologies for being ageist but us Goldcard holders deserve some respect – all these projects are being built with our taxes for you youngster’s benefit.

          Since I hate wearing my bike helmet (thinking it unnecessary at the speed I cycle) it rubs me the wrong way when artists draw flowing long hair not neat cycle helmets.

          I’m sounding grumpy again whereas the note should be as per Alkldude – ‘the pictures were great’. And I am enjoying the many well informed comments again.

          1. “all these projects are being built with our taxes for you youngster’s benefit.”
            Stirring, stirring… you deserve what’s coming, Bob.

          2. Actually my issue with the graphics is not the lack of old people but the fact they are usually all white.

            Also not sure people on gold cards are paying for young peoples infrastructure since most people on gold cards don’t work.

          3. “My apologies for being ageist but us Goldcard holders deserve some respect – all these projects are being built with our taxes for you youngster’s benefit.”

            Seriously? Most Goldcard holders are retired, it is us paying the taxes. Paying your pensions, paying to fix up a lifetime of your mistakes in the economy, infrastructure and transport systems. All those roads you built, all that paving, all those building destroyed to push motorways through to expand the city out over a broad, low density area… that has created a timebomb of operation costs, maintenance and renewals that we the current workers are having to pay for.

            Sorry but if I hear another boomer moaning about ‘kids these days’ after a lifetime of cradle to the grave welfare and terrrible management of our urban and environmental conditions…

          4. Well, in our nation one can (currently) collect the full pension regardless of whether they are still employed, have copious assests, or have passive income. So there are a few Goldcarders/penioners that do pay tax, but most don’t pay much.

          5. If you are a home owner, goldcard holder you sure pay rates and if you have any money left to buy food you pay GST and if you work after 65 your income is taxed and profits on investments you are taxed.
            Since I have had a gold card I visit the CBD far more often because it is now free and the buses and ferries empty; pre-goldcard it was an expensive indulgence.
            So if you youngsters are in the CBD you ought to be working in those fancy offices and leaving the public areas to us old-timers who have paid and are still paying for them (and maybe one or two graphic artists working on their next project).

            It totally baffles me that Goldcards are not universal – I once took two kids aged 5 and 9 to the zoo by bus and it cost about $18 for their bus journeys although I travelled free. Next time I borrowed a car.

            I like the concept behind many of these complaints about free-loading old-timers – logically there should be tolls on the Harbour bridge paid for by everyone younger than the bridge – yet another piece of infra-structure built and paid for by pensioners but used for free by greedy unappreciative youngsters.

          6. It’s not the capital development that hurts, its the legacy of operations and maintenance that must be paid year in year out for ever that hurts. Like giving a “youngster” an old Mercedes and expecting them to maintain it for you for ever.

          7. “If you are a home owner, goldcard holder you sure pay rates and if you have any money left to buy food you pay GST and if you work after 65 your income is taxed and profits on investments you are taxed.”

            You poor thing, imagine who hard it would be if you also didn’t get the pension or Supergold and hadn’t rigged the property market in your own favour for your entire adult life.

            I can never believe that boomers continue to insist they have it hard. It is empirically untrue.

  4. Referring the perception of space in a low floor E and D class tram, compared to the oldest Z class, they are essentially the same width 2.65-2.67m. The first of the articulated series the B2 are a bit wider 2.77m.
    The Z class were built with a conductor station behind the driver, so were expected to board single file through the front door, which was a disadvantage to the very old wooden trams which previously had roving conductors and a very wide centre door.
    At that time, the savings from converting from trams to buses was mostly about not having a second person to collect fares. Melbourne went through a stage of the drivers collecting fares before the current automated system.

  5. Bourke st is a heck of a lot nicer than Queen St or Wellingtons golden mile. I put that down to lightrail/trams being a better fit for pedestrian thoroughfares than endless buses.

  6. For crying out loud, moving architecture?
    when does an 11km/hr tram become a fast light rail? With the proposed LR from Airport to Queen is there a special transformer station where one morfs to the other during the greenfieldy Mangere section to the Dom Rd street section?
    I can already feel the excitement of the 100km/hr LR from airport as it whooshes through the Mangere suburbs being replaced with disappointment at the snail like 11km/hr progress along Dom into Queen.

        1. LRT won’t be doing 11km/h on Queen either.

          My issue is that LRT speeds get based on the lowest speed possible, yet the same people want me to judge HR speeds based on two odd sections of track where our EMU’s can get close 110km/h but for the most part don’t get anywhere close.

    1. Why would it be 11kmh? That’s 50% slower than the existing buses, which don’t have properly dedicated lanes or any signal priority.

      1. In Melbourne, there are two contributors to the lower average speed, both of which Public Transport Victoria is aware of and looking to address, initially through the route 96 upgrade.
        The first of these, as alluded to by Patrick is that the majority of the network shares road space with other traffic. They don’t have signal priority at the traffic lights, so are subject to the same delays as other vehicles.
        The other is that Tram stops are on average 200m apart, compared to an average of 400m in other cities with light rail. This results in more stops by each tram, slowing them down overall.
        For more information on the improvements planned, see https://static.ptv.vic.gov.au/siteassets/Trams/Route-96-Modernising-Melbournes-Tram-Network-Brochure.pdf

        1. Thanks for that link Martin. They have been slowly improving the RoWs in the city centre but the rest of the route on all services needs this. If they do it well, and fight off the car parking lobby, it will make the services amazingly more useful, demand is likely to skyrocket…. a good but nontrivial problem to have!

          Because of where I stay I am usually on the 11 and the 86, but I’d probably walk a block to get the 96 if they implement all those improvements:
          -intersection priority
          -right of way improvements (park car removals)
          -fewer stops

          Three things, I might add, that are intended right from the start on the Queen St/Dom Rd route, and, if taken to the airport thereafter full grade separation.

          1. Agree that thus should bring significant improvement to this route. It also appears that this would then be implemented on other routes if it delivers the desired improvements.
            The other item that might be contributing to the patronage on the trams in Melbourne is the CBD free Zone where there is no fare for travelling on the trams within the central city – see https://static.ptv.vic.gov.au/siteassets/PDFs/Maps/Network-maps/PTV-Free-Tram-Zone-Map.pdf. This is great for getting around between offices in the CBD etc. I’m not sure whether this would work in Auckland as the network is designed for moving people from the wider ithimus to the city and not around the city, though there will be some short trips e.g. Up/down Queen street. If workers (and others) use PT for short trips during the day partly because it’s free, I would surmise they would be more likely to also use it for longer journeys.

    2. I am starting to feel that if Auckland builds all these proposed light rail lines, a tunnel (with underground stations), at least under the CBD will required. This will be because Queen Street will have a limit of many light rail trains can operate efficiently per hour.

      1. Yes or you have the option of running a second surface corridor on Albert St.

        That is one of the great things about LRT we can stage & build on it over time rather than have to front up all the CAPEX at once which would make much harder to fund.

        Its another reason I am a big fan of a PT bridge we could easily future proof it for four tracks allowing us to double the capacity of the CFN2 LRT network either using Albert St second LRT corridor or a Light Rail Tunnel which would still be cheaper than a HR one as dimensions can be smaller, can have tighter curves and can cope with much higher grades.

      2. I agree – If we’re going to have light rail to the airport, and as a part of our developing rapid transit network – we need to make it rapid transit. That means segregated, with stops spaced 400m or more apart, and with dedicated priority, infrastructure and user experience planned from the start. The idea of having airport rail running through the middle of a pedestrianised Queen St I think is just ridiculous. It’s almost like suggesting the NEX run through O’Connell St.

        AT needs to not 1/2 arse this project. If they want four commuter corridors with light rail to be included in their rapid transit network, a tunnel, or two, should be built so that we don’t have ‘rapid transit’ sharing the street with people. It wouldn’t be especially hard either – when they do eventually decide to pedestrianise Queen St from (hopefully) Mayoral Drive down, they’d have to rebuilt the street anyway. Even though it might take longer, I think it’d be worth it to cut and cover some light rail tunnels below it.

        1. San Diego has an excellent light rail system that runs on dedicated corridors through the suburbs but on street in the CBD. This works well, of course a tunnel would be better but it is a matter of weighing up the significant costs involved, as generally stops are closer together in the CBD so the benefits of speed are not as great.

          1. Jezza I agree, this is LR’s special power; running free where the right of way allows it, then right to the front door in dense centres. Tunnelling is expensive, the CRL is costed at $1m per metre. We can have Light Rail and and an amazing main street for a fraction of that on the surface.

          2. Tunnelling ruins the placemaking aspect of light rail, too. People who only use the tube in London often don’t know their way around above ground.

          3. Heidi – agree, I was baffled to find how close some attractions I visited were to each other, after catching the tube between them!

          4. Haha me too, I have to confess to making the completely noob error of catching the tube from Leicester Sq to Covent Garden as a callow youth fresh off the boat… Almost certainly walked way longer in tunnels and stairs than it would have been on the surface!

          5. You do tend to learn a city by the mode you use. I’d imagine we’d all keep Alzheimer’s at bay if we had to know our way around the city by canoe, by bike, by hot air balloon…

          6. But who do we primarily build undergrounds for? The regular user or the occasional visitor?

            No way would London function with only light rail in the streets. And like Auckland, it used to have an extensive tram network, but IN ADDITION to the Underground.

            Sure, there are short journeys that may be quicker on foot than using the Tube, but these are easily gauged by the expedient of consulting a free-issue street map.

            Most users of the system are commuters and locals who know where they are going and are not interested in watching passing shopfronts from a much-slower tram! Conversely, for those that want to “do London”, there are open-top double-deckers running around with a running commentary, specially for them.

            Sure, it would be fantastic if London could have its tram system back and slash the number of diesel buses in the streets, but the tram/bus network serves a quite different function from the Underground, as it does in Melbourne, and as I am sure it will in Auckland.

            And for those who are opposed to tunnels, be aware that congestion in the streets forced even the old London trams down into tunnels in places (Google “Kingsway tram tunnels”) – http://74f85f59f39b887b696f-ab656259048fb93837ecc0ecbcf0c557.r23.cf3.rackcdn.com//assets/library/image/h/medium_gallery/holborn_stop_1933_web.jpg

            Many European cities also have undergrounded their light rail through the CBD, freeing-up streets above from dominance by trams and freeing up their transit systems below to be rapid.

            Stuttgart:
            https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/fc/Stadtbahn_Stuttgart_-_Hst_Rathaus.jpg/1200px-Stadtbahn_Stuttgart_-_Hst_Rathaus.jpg

            Karlsruhe (the problem)
            http://p1.storage.canalblog.com/16/50/1127995/112425132_o.jpg

            Karlsruhe (the solution)
            https://www.schuessler-plan.de/abbildungen/bilddb//001037.jpg

        2. After seeing all the work that has been done so far on Albert Street (digging holes, moving cables, covering holes with metal plates, digging trenches, boring holes, pile-driving, removing old pipes, upgrading said pipes, operating temporary traffic signals, moving traffic lanes and redirecting pedestrian routes, etc, etc) – and all that without even starting on the cut and cover proper yet – I would hate to think how much time and money it would take to put a cut and cover rail line down the length of Queen Street.

          Once the pedestrianise it, there’ll be heaps of space for a couple of rail lines down the middle.

  7. Melbourne’s transport network is so good. I visit there relatively often, and travelling around is so easy. I’ve jumped between bus, train, and tram, gone all over the city. My PT trips around Auckland are never as convenient.

  8. It’s interesting you pick up the thing that I reckon totally undermines the tram system here: on-street parking. If Auckland’s going to do it, they MUST ensure that the trams can’t get stuck behind traffic that could be using the spaces where cars are parked. Or stuck in car traffic period.

  9. I expect that part of the reason for the acceptance of trams in Melbourne’s cbd is because they’re not belching out diesel fumes (and no, I’m not saying buses aren’t accepted in Auckland).

    Interesting observation about the emergency vehicles. By only having trams to navigate this should make it much quicker and safer than negotiating many vehicles as is the case in New Zealand cbds.

  10. The contrast between Bourne St and NZ’s only transit mall, the former Manners Mall in Wellington, is stark. The former looks like a wide promenade, full of strolling people; the latter is a vehicle carriageway complete with kerbs, yellow lines etc etc flanked by narrow footpaths. The difference is that trams are part of the urban streetscape, fitting in nicely, while buses are interlopers with all the necessary road-vehicle paraphernalia.

    Once correction, though – if “fully grade separate railway network” is meant to mean that there are no level crossings in Melbourne, that’s far from the case. There are 50-odd of them, so many that there’s a Level Crossings Removal Authority spending a fortune on getting rid of some of them, generally by trenches or lengthy viaducts. A short road flyover in Wellington attracted a lot of opposition, so you can imagine the concerns raised by higher, lengthier ones, even if there are trains rather than cars using them.

      1. Optical guided buses have been around for years in places like Rouen have massive issues

        The rails reduce likelihood of head on collision thus you can run at faster speeds than buses on a smaller corridor saving space.

        For example Northern Busway has max of 80km/h and would need median barrier to increase. LRT that speed restriction reason wouldn’t exist.

          1. 🙂 With an emotionally sensitive chemical response system. As a cyclist, I tend to like a little more space from them. As I would from anything not on rails.

        1. I wonder if they are old school technology. I can’t see why it wouldn’t it be possible to guide a bus with reasonable precision?

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