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Why not Bus Rapid Transit?
A BRT line has about one stop for every 3 regular bus stops. BRT and regular buses cannot both run on the golden mile, because there is no room for the faster BRT vehicles to overtake the slower buses. The only solution is another route but Wellington has few options; this dilemma is the primary reason why Wellington needs light rail.
The options for running BRT are:
In the city centre, once the golden mile is eliminated as too narrow, this leaves:
Unless all on-street parking is removed, in most places The Terrace is only 3 lanes wide and difficult to widen. These limitations make it unsuitable for BRT. It remains useful as a relief route to take some buses off the golden mile, either before light rail is built or if extra buses are wanted on the golden mile.
That leaves BRT on the waterfront only.
Understanding BRT means recognising several varieties.
The first is almost-BRT that operates more as an express bus service on regular streets. Neither the golden mile nor a Terrace route is suitable for an almost-BRT service: there is insufficient width for passing regular buses at bus stops.
Almost-BRT can be a cost-effective interim solution while a real rapid transit service is built, but is impractical in Wellington.
The second is Basic-BRT operating on a dedicated 2-lane corridor, such as FIT’s proposed light rail route. It would be limited to about 30–40 buses an hour. A double-articulated bus has a capacity of about 180 people, compared with about 470 on a much longer modern LRV. Hence the capacity of basic-BRT is about half that of a 2-lane light rail corridor and Wellington would soon run out of capacity.
At that point a large problem would appear: how to find space for light rail construction?
Basic-BRT is impractical as a long term solution in Wellington.
Full-BRT has similar capacity to light rail (say 10,000 passengers an hour), but in Wellington it would be very disruptive because of the width needed. Full-BRT has to run more frequently: say a LRV every two and a half minutes, but a bus every minute.
Full-BRT needs careful route-design: the ITDP ‘Gold’ or ‘Silver’ BRT Standard. This will need:
Full-BRT is very unlikely to be cost-effective in Wellington.