Sunday, October 23, 2011

Light rail comparisons "duplicitous" - are we talking serious porkies?

Tranzwatching in Hobart, Tasmania, a peek at Christchurch too.

A Tasmanian academic has described comparing light rail in Hobart with Perth and Gold Coast City as "duplicitous" a word implying dishonesty, if not an outright lie, at least self serving in bending the truth.

Bob Cotgrove, a regular voice on Tasmanian infrastructure issues is an honorary research associate at the University of Tasmania. He has special interests in urban geography, human development and environmental economics.

Last month in an article in The Mercury Cotgrove drew attention to the campaign for light rail in Hobart (population 202,000) continuing to seek an $80 million upgrade of a northern rail line to carry light rail whilst ignoring a professional study which canned the idea.

"Proponents of the NSLRS base their arguments on comparisons with similar light rail systems planned for Perth and the Gold Coast.

The Perth system, due for completion in 2031 when Perth is expected to have a population of 2.2 million, is planned to connect Curtin in the southeast to Mirrabooka in the north and Stirling in the northwest, passing through the dense inner core of the city.

The Gold Coast system will connect Broadbeach through to Griffith University in the southern suburbs of Brisbane, passing through a dense corridor containing more than a million people within the rapidly developing megalopolis from the Gold Coast to the Sunshine Coast.

To compare these schemes with Hobart's NSLRS is duplicitous.  The NSLRS is planned to go as far as Claremont and service a population counted only in the tens of thousands."

One wonders what Mr Cotgrove might make of Christchurch !! 

Here sloppy research and failure to understand how world-wide public transport is funded or draws patronage from metropolitan areas, rather the single city hubs, mars almost every comparison rail and light rail advocates put forward.

Sloppy or duplicitous? No comment. 

Here are some gems from the files 

"New light rail systems were working well in the French city of Grenoble, which was similar to Christchurch."  
- Former City Councilor Denis O'Rouke in The Press September 8 1999.
Grenoble is a city of over 600,000  in a land area half the geographic area of Christchurch in the French department of Isere (a third the size of Waimakariri District) with a population of 1.1 million . Presumably the size disparity between Christchurch and Grenoble is not new, approximately 3 times the population; one third the land area 

For example, in Zurich, Switzerland, which has a similar population to Christchurch residents make an average of 417 public transport trips every year, which is more than one trip every day" - Ecan - Metro document 2010
The Zurich metropolitan area is an urbanised area of international importance constituted by a population of nearly 2 million inhabitants. See past NZ in Tranzit posting for greater details

Tram-Trains are now in service in Kassel in Germany as well as Mulhouse in France, both of which are smaller than Christchurch, connecting these to surrounding towns
- Richard Worrall in "Right form of Transport Vital, "The Press" October 10th 2011
Wikipedia notes Kassel is the administrative seat of a district of 1.2 million, itself part of Hesse an area the size of Waimakariri District with 6 million inhabitants. It also pays to recognise that German public transport infrastructure costs are met 50% by Federal Government, 40% by region and only 10% by actual city

... Also re Mulhouse Tram-Train in Wikipedia "Mulhouse Tramway".. re the actual section of line itself shared by both trams and diesel railcars a rather telling phrase "Freight trains also run at night"(Mulhouse immediate region 742,000 in an area half the size of Waimakariri District, Mulhouse itself population density six times that of urban Christchurch)

In other words  typical tram and light rail routes in Europe probably cover less than half the width of Christchurch, cost only about 20% or less in direct property taxes, have the equivalent of about four times more passengers per stop just on population (let alone the added frequency greater patronage allows), and serve a surrounding regional population area 3-15 times larger with all the added internal passenger traffic within the hub city this generates. Where's the comparison here? Should we look at North America....
Early Studies

As part of the Draft Central City Plan's development, early outline investigations have been taken city-wide into the system form and function, constructional and system operational implications,and economic viability of introducing a next generation light rail system at the nucleus of the city's new public transport network.

Appropriate comparisons have been sought with cities around the world of a similar size to Christchurch, including some with broadly shared objectives to stimulate economic growth and regeneration, as well as introduce fully integrated transportation systems in central cities for a host of wider social benefits."

Draft Christchurch City Council Central City Plan section on Transport p90

Helloooo? Does the fluffy phrasing here send up some very large warning flares? Bullshit detectors ringing? Mine certainly were. Getting correct facts is endlessly time consuming and difficult but at least public advocates and professional organisations should be trying! For a start there are NO cities comparable in size, density, shape or funding base to Christchurch that are building light rail -  the only thing vaguely similar being in the elongated footprint Kitchener-Waterloo in the Province of  Ontario (where 14.5% of fuel tax is committed to funding public transport) - "KW growth" suggests it will hit 750,000 about the same time Christchurch reaches 450,000.  This, next best-match, the most relevant city appears nowhere in any city document I have seen.Also noted; Noted; Public passenger patronage figures in Canada are twice per capita than those in USA, whose smaller city transit systems typically also lag far behind NZ in frequency, spread of routes and hours of service and farebox recovery [typically only around 20%]

Secondly, I have followed public transport issues in Christchurch for years and regularly scan and read council agendas and reports.  Never in recent times have I seen any reference to a studies involving "appropriate comparisons ..with cities of a similar size to Christchurch".regarding light rail.

I am sure if studies of a city a similar size had been produced they would have been widely reported - indeed just as widely reported as was the trip by Mayor Parker, CEO Marryat and senior planner Thelan to "study" four North American cities with metropolitan populations six to twenty times bigger than Christchurch (Portland,Oregon and  Vancouver, Seattle and San Francisco in 2009).

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for reading my opionion piece re tram trains. Good to see it getting a mention.

    Just regarding population of Mulhouse: The 742,000 figure you refer to covers half the entire region of Alsace (3500km2) known as HautRhin not metropolitan Mulhouse which is still smaller than Christchurch. Also while the population density of Mulhouse is high the Tram Train operation connects Mulhouse with Thann (pop 7981 and basically static since the 1960s) so smaller than Kaiapoi, Rangiora and soon to be smaller than Rolleston all of which are growing quickly.