The December update to Council's planning documents says they'll be examining the feasibility of the larger network. See page 110 here.
At a broadly estimated system construction and rolling stock purchase cost of around $1.5 to $1.8 billion at today’s prices (excluding ongoing operating and maintenance costs) for a staged, comprehensive city-wide network of five key routes linked to and through the Central City, a decision to initiate this project will be fundamental for the Council and equally importantly for Greater Christchurch.Today's cautionary tale comes from Norfolk, Virginia. They've a population of just under 250,000 for the city proper, but a total metro population of 1.6 million if we count the greater Hampton Roads area.
They put in a 7.4 mile starter light rail line for $320 million, or about NZ$400m - roughly comparable to what Council here wanted to spend on a slightly shorter line between downtown and the University. Norfolk's line, The Tide, has now been running for 6 months. They're getting an average of 4,642 riders on weekdays; they're forecasting it'll hit 7,200 daily riders within three years. They're claiming success against expectations of 2900 daily riders, but AntiPlanner puts paid to those claims; the initial projections said they'd get 10,400 riders on weekdays. And they're only charging $1.50 per adult trip. [HT: 36chambers]
Norfolk's Tide system connects a big medical centre complex, an art museum, the entertainment and commercial district, the courts, baseball stadium, Norfolk State University, and a couple of stations with park and ride facilities for mixed commuters in a metro region of 1.6 million people. It's a line roughly comparable to the Downtown to University line Council initially proposed as the start of a light rail network for Christchurch, but in a metro region that's more than four times bigger than Christchurch. And it's only forecast in three years' time to start getting the kinds of daily ridership numbers that might have a Christchurch line covering its capital costs (ignoring operating and maintenance costs).
Here's AntiPlanner on Norfolk:
And recall that where Norfolk's in a metro area of 1.6 million, Houston is 2.1 million for the city proper and a metro region of close to 6 million. Buffalo's greater metro population is also over a million.
I'd be putting money on a Christchurch light rail system being a worse debacle than the Dunedin stadium, but I hope I'm wrong.