Note: The opening of the Waikanae Railway Station was the scene for a major protest about the proposed Kapiti Expressway – those involved say that the Dominion Post has underestimated the number of protesters. In this post, Paula Warren considers the significance of the station itself and the associated track developments.
Electrification to Waikanae – the importance of trains
Waikanae Railway Station and the new double tracking and electrification from Paraparaumu to Waikanae were officially completed this Saturday. Regular train services are now running from there.
There is considerable enthusiasm for this new service, and a lot of money was spent to provide it.
And yet Waikanae residents currently have a bus frequency that is similar to the frequency of the new train service. So why so much enthusiasm?
A comment from one user – which essentially boiled down to “I can’t wait, because I won’t have to sit in a rattley bus on the state highway” – highlights one of the reasons. Even our old trains are far more comfortable than a bus, because they are operated on a dedicated line without sharp bends, on steel rails, and with drivers who are taught to start and stop their vehicle smoothly. That is probably a key reason that research overseas shows that changing from buses to trains, even without other changes to the services, increases patronage.
Another possible reason is that for those who choose to use their car rather than a bus to get to the train, the trip will be far shorter (and perhaps parking more available). It is unclear as to how much of the reluctance to use a feeder bus relates to a distrust of connections, dislike of buses, or the cost of the extra fare (eliminated for regular commuters by Kapiti Plus).
And of course for those using a bus, a transfer is eliminated if they are within walking distance of the station (but that won’t be the case for those in Waikanae Beach).
The effect of public transport vehicle type on modal choice is something that seems to be under-recognised by councils and NZTA. It would be good to see some research around the opening of Waikanae to measure the effect of a change from bus to train on modal choice. And that can feed into the thinking about changes to light rail in Wellington, and extension of electrification to other suburbs (e.g. north of Upper Hutt).