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The suggested route aims to maximise ridership by offering predictable, frequent, well-connected service, and travel times competitive with travel by private car. People choosing light rail enjoy a congestion-free journey. The route can be extended in future, such as to Karori and Johnsonville.
The route FIT proposes differs from the LGWM “mass transit” route in the following ways.
A string of pearls route offers the maximum number of one-seat light rail trips and many origin–destination choices. A branching route, on the other hand, means service operates at half the frequency on each branch, and people wishing to travel between branches have to change at Courtenay Place. A string of pearls route costs less to build and operate, while delivering a higher level of service.
The suggested route replaces a Mt Victoria road tunnel with a shorter Mt Albert rail tunnel. It passes through areas with high population density and creates opportunities for transit-oriented development around stops.
A waterfront route offers a faster service for longer trips, with buses on the Golden Mile offering a complementary slower service for shorter trips. A Golden Mile route offers much better service to the CBD, but would operate at a slower speed through this pedestrian area (maximum 25 km/hr). Buses would need to be relocated to other central city streets, to avoid holding up the light rail service in narrow sections.
A waterfront route involves far less disruption to central city retailers than a Golden Mile route.
A hub at the north end of Taranaki Street in Te Aro supports easy connections to bus services on Manners Street and is close to Te Papa and the site of the future convention centre. A short rail tunnel under Mt Cook from Taranaki Street to Adelaide Road avoids light rail potentially conflicting with traffic at the Basin Reserve.
A Golden Mile route continues on Courtenay Place to Kent and Cambridge Terraces, to the Basin Reserve. One possible option for separating light rail from east–west traffic is a short rail plus road flyover on Sussex Street.
The route shows a rail tunnel under the airport runway from Kilbirnie, with a stop at the airport, continuing to Miramar town centre. An alternative option would be via the ASB Sports Centre to Miramar town centre, with a terminus at the airport. This would be slightly longer, but cheaper and less disruptive.
Tunnelling under the airport runway may be impractical, so it may be necessary to use an alternative route.