ChCh Action On Light Rail


Christchurch may get a light rail system, in addition to its heritage trams and buses.

The city’s mayor Bob Parker, and the top council officials, the CEO and the strategy and planning manager spent a fortnight visiting to San Francisco, Vancouver, Seattle and Portland.

As a result, they are recommending at a council meeting on Thursday that the CEO be allowed to start a full investigation into the scope, opportunity, scale and costs of “developing a rail based (including streetcar, light rail and heavy rail) to facilitate and support urban regeneration, in concert with existing and future public transport tools and mechanisms.”

Mayor Parker buzzes about light rail in his report to the council on the trip.

“All of the transit authorities spoken to ran buses, rail (some ferries) and all had mixed systems.  Buses were often identified as the backbone services but generally conceded to be a social service.

In contrast rail (both light street rail and heavy rail) was credited with generating a positive shift in public transport behaviour.

“Where such lines had been put in they were carefully fitted between key destinations, they were well (seamlessly) integrated with other modes, their quality, safety and efficiency made them respectable, and development was generally hubbed around stations or routes.  This not only reflected the significant carrying capacity of rail, but also that these authorities had successfully transitioned it from a mode, which communities moved away from, to a mode which they were drawn to.

“The streetcar of both Portland and Seattle were identified as key elements in the success of the Pearl, and as a life line to achieving success in the Denny Triangle/South Lake Union area of Seattle.”

TriMet’s MAX (Metropolitan Area Express) Light Rail (shown below)  connects downtown Portland with Beaverton, Clackamas, Gresham, Hillsboro, North/Northeast Portland and the Portland International Airport.

Portland's light rail branded Max with one x

Mr Parker’s report says light rail was found to be the key to urban regeneration.

“Public transport was both a tool and a catalyst for regeneration. There was a clear link between public transport and the affordable housing focus of some redevelopment areas, but equally, and in particular where rail was introduced it was seen as a tool to shift communities from cars to public transport.
“This reflected both a desire to address issues of pollution, congestion and sprawl, but also to overcome any sense of disconnectedness where the areas were outside a natural walking distance to the centre of the city. In such circumstances the streetcars in particular were on relatively short routes, but focussed on being highly accessible (eg. In the Pearl, no point was more than 1 block from the streetcar line). ”

He considered funding for projects could include private public partnerships.

“One of the key tools that each major city used was the injection of affordable housing monies, and land into the development mix. However in each of the cities visited the authorities eschewed dedicated ‘affordability” developments, and invariably used PPP models with private developers, to provide integrated developments (the preferred ratio of affordable units to market properties was 1 in 6 [15%]). Each agency had a range of tools at its disposal to protect the affordability dimension over time.
” As with Christchurch each of the cities were focussed on reinvigorating their central city areas a living environments.
“The essential keys in this were creating a place for a real community to flourish, a human scaled environment, the use of the public realm as part of that living environment (parks, pavements, laneways) and localising residential, entertainment, and employment activities were consistent themes. While each city’s development reflected the geography, climate and temperament of the place there was a key focus on humanising the central city. ”

Thursday’s council meeting will also discuss an extension of the tram service.
The opportunity for part of the extended tram route to pass through the CPIT campus will be argued as one that will greatly enhance the role and function of the tram.
A report to the counmcil says: The proposal has been endorsed by CPIT and has featured as a key element in their campus redesign. It plays a key role in consolidating the physical and experienced connections between the CPIT and the remainder of the central city. Accordingly a route through the campus site should be supported.
” One of the key challenges in managing this is how the tram exits from the site. Under this option the tram enters CPIT land in the vicinity of Coventry Street, follows the to-be formed boulevard (“High Street Extension”) north-westwards aSt Asaph Streets intersection, from where it crosses into High Street.




  1. Anthony says:

    How Fantastic! i know they are just talking but at least they are trying to do something. Someone had actually made a great site about the how well the city could do with a large light rail system but I can’t remember what it was called.

  2. Steve W says:

    At least they are the one city in New Zealand with a light rail system (and it’s expanding). I was there in August and was impressed in how well it was run. This is compared to my last ride on a Christchurch Tram back in about 2004 when I thought at the time that it was less than professional.
    New track was being laid for an expanded system when I was there Jon. I’ll send you a couple of pics


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