Wynyard tram to get $6.6m boost
Auckland Council may spend $6.6 million extending the Wynyard Quarter tram line to the Viaduct, despite it running at a loss and few people using it.
Councillor Cameron Brewer said the council had set aside $58.7 million for waterfront development in the 2013/14 budget, of which $6.6m had been earmarked for the tram extension. The budget is yet to be approved.
The extension would see the tram line, which currently does a circuit of Wynyard Quarter precinct and is used by around 500 people a week, extended through the viaduct to the Maritime Museum. The Te Wero pedestrian bridge would be modified to accommodate the plan.
There are plans to extend the tram's route to Britomart in the next few years and it could eventually travel to the Parnell Baths and rose gardens, Bastion Point and Orakei Marae, as well as the village centres, parks and beaches of Mission Bay, Kohimarama and St Heliers.
Waterfront Auckland board documents show that for the month of September the tram service ran at a $3000 before tax loss - although they expected to lose $39,000.
Brewer said the proposed Viaduct extension was "unnecessary".
"Some people think that if you take the tram to the people it will be better utilised ... I think if it's not working we should defer the extension and reduce the hours of operation until we have got more commercial, retail, residential tenants and amenities [at Wynyard Quarter]."
Waterfront Auckland spokesman Luke Henshall said a fast, frequent, high-capacity and low-impact transit service between Britomart and Wynyard Quarter was seen as "essential to realise the potential" of the waterfront area.
"Expansion of the current tram circuit (future proofed to carry modern light rail vehicles) to Quay Street may be the first step in this."
Henshall said in the year to the end of October 27,780 passengers used the tram. In the past few months the numbers of passengers have increased month on month - August 2,257, September 2,345 and October 2,421. Patronage of the tram has come under fire since last year's Rugby World Cup and in March numbers slumped to 1,933.
Henshall said the Dockline Tram Loop was proving "highly popular", but was primarily a tourist activity rather than a public transport system.
"It has supported the early activation of the Wynyard Quarter providing a visitor attraction which many people have enjoyed.
"It is also as much an eye to the future, get public interested in this form of transport again and the real game changer was always going to be extension to Britomart."
Brewer said councillors accepted the tram would always need some sort of subsidy but an expansion was unnecessary.
"I'm not saying let's send them back to Melbourne, but let's contain the costs, reduce the hours . . . but let's not go on this big expansion process."
The council will consult Aucklanders on the Draft Annual Plan 2013/2014, including waterfront plans, in January.