Tauranga City Council is going to take a second look at a proposed monorail system that is claimed to be cost effective and able to operate without ongoing subsidies.
SkyCabs CEO Hugh Chapman told councillors the New Zealand designed system is cheaper than most public transport alternatives at a transport committee meeting on Monday.
The cost per kilometre of two way SkyCab track is under US$20m per kilometre, compared to $15-25m for part busway and bus lane, $31-43.5m for light rail, and $62m for a standard monorail.
It's also the fastest option, with an average speed of 60kmh compared to 30kmh for bus lanes, 24kmh for light rail and 42kmh for a standard monorail.
The cabs seat eight, with standing room for peak hour or for bikes, strollers etc.
Seated capacity is 4800 in each direction, almost equivalent to two lanes of motorway in each direction on each line, says Hugh.
Peak hour carrying capacity is 9000 people per hour in either direction, with waiting times between cars of from 30 seconds to four minutes.
“We see this as a system that could really change travel patterns,” says Hugh.
The crunch comes with the price. The whole system with lines from Mount North to Baypark and across the bridge to Greerton will cost $560 million.
The project can be split with the first phase costing $384 million. It is a long term system with a life of 50-100 years, says Hugh.
He is proposing the government pay for half, and the regional council put up ten per cent. The rest would come from private equity and bank loans.
“That means this system can operate without an operating subsidy, that's a huge advantage in terms of its future if you like,” says Hugh.
Fares will be higher but travel times across the city will be considerably reduced and be faster than travel by car, says Hugh. As passenger numbers increase fares can be reduced.
“It is a very efficient operating system, computer controlled, just like lifts. It is very different to what is in the current public transport arena,” says Hugh.
He was unable to tell councillor Larry Baldock what passenger numbers will be required to make the proposed Tauranga SkyCab network pay.
“I would expect you would have some more details on it,” says Larry. “That's a pretty important claim given it is the operating costs of these schemes that hit us hardest. You have to do a lot more work to convince us that you can actually do that.”
Mayor Greg Brownless says it's interesting to see a public transport mode that doesn't conflict with current road use.
“I guess in a way if the funding was able to be achieved, whether it makes money or not would be at the risk of your company SkyCabs?”
He is also pleased no capital cost is required from the city council, as the regional council looks after public transport.
“Something we very much appreciate,” says Greg.
“We do have a bottle neck from 15th Avenue to Welcome Bay. You would be flexible to other routes being included?”
Hugh says the system is very adaptable and can incorporate some quite big spans, and the cabs just hang off the sides of the beam.
“Going up and down or across something is really quite feasible.”
Committee chair Councillor Rick Curach says the system would certainly be iconic for Tauranga.
They will have a discussion of the project and send feedback to SkyCabs, before SkyCabs comes back to the committee at some later stage.