The Eye of the Fish

Maximus
August 3, 2009

Fishing the Basin

The Wellington Civic Trust is holding a Seminar this coming weekend on “Round About the Basin“, with a grand line-up of speakers and presentations so that everyone can have their say. The question still remains: “is anyone in power actually going to be listening?” – to which almost certainly the answer will be “lip service only.” It’s great that the Civic Trust takes it on itself to do these kind of things, although really it should be the job of the Council to talk to the people and gauge their views, and just occasionally take on their recommendations. The problem is here that its not really the Council in charge – it’s the newly pedestrian friendly Transit LTSA, NZTA in charge of the route of State Highway 1, that are so terrible at listening to the people and taking on their suggestions. Let’s hope that this time it will be different.
basin_killer_sm
There will be discussions on the following things, many of which are inter-connected:
Flyover
Tunnel
War Memorial
Adelaide Road
Supermarket

The main issue of course is the proposed aerial motorway onramp, euphemistically called the “flyover”. Looking something like the picture above, it was designed in the late 1950s, never built, and recently resurrected. The thinking behind should be as dead and buried as those that designed it in the first place. Sadly, it has the Mayor’s full backing, and therefore faces an uphill battle to get anything different on the table. Woe betide those who stand in the way of roller coaster of Kerry. But it seems to me, and more than a few others, to be designed on completely the wrong premise. For a start, there is a massive argument against building any more roads, as innumerable studies have shown that building more roads never solves anything. The only thing that brings a halt to traffic congestion is, well, more congestion. Building a flyover would merely move the bottleneck from point A to point B. The people at A will be ecstatic, the people at B much less so.

But let’s say, just for a moment, that the extra roading does indeed need to be built. Humour me here. Heck, humour the Mayor! The current clogging of the traffic drain is caused primarily by 2 lanes funneling into 1 lane, and each time it occurs, the traffic stops: and like turds down a blocked drain, causing unpleasant spillages over the nearby footpath or the neighbour’s driveway. So there is a great LTSA NZTA / WCC plan in action to make sure that 2 clear lanes exist all the way from the Airport to the motorway, in each direction: and tough luck if you (or your house) stands in the way. While I’m willing to bet that this full two-way will never happen, and that even if it does, it will still not unclog the traffic – but I’m on a losing streak with LTSA NZTA and so am prepared to say: Ok, what if we do have to have an extra tunnel or two? Let’s look at it graphically.
Here’s what we have at present:
mtvic1
Nice and simple: one tunnel right through the centre of the hill, dug out with primitive tools some 70 years ago. Trouble is, it doesn’t cope with the traffic, nor the pedestrians and cyclists: it needs to be at least twice as big. So what LTSA NZTA are proposing is this:
mtvic2
Aligned nicely with the existing tunnel, and scheduled to happen one day in the future – and of course, similarly half way up a slopey hill. Despite the current road being half way up a hill, apparently in future we won’t be allowed to do that – traffic must flow smoothly, like a snake. That leads the traffic engineers to think that there is only one way to get out of the tunnel, and that is via a flyover:
basin21
“There is no alternative”, they announce like a Dalek, with a similar aversion to logic (and to steps).
newdalek1
But we at the Fish say: “Oh, but there is!” What if you were to do this:
mtvic3
If you don’t start as high up, you won’t have so far to go down. That would / could look something like this:
basin32
It’s not very hard to come up with alternatives if you try. Or: it wouldn’t be hard for LTSA NZTA to come up with alternatives if they were to try. So: good luck to the Civic Trust. With a bit of luck and good management, we could seen some intransigence melting away, and a new method of resolving the Basin Reserve melt-down. Public invited as well: contact the Civic Trust for tickets.

Gary
4 - 08 - 09

You’ve wasted no expense with those graphics now, have you? That’s just class, pure class!

Maximus
4 - 08 - 09

Needs to be simple – the whole thing needs to be rethought from first principles…

P
4 - 08 - 09

Just FYI – LTSA has not existed for many years and was never responsible for state highway planning. I think you mean the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA).

Clarke
4 - 08 - 09

You’ve got to wonder about the approach of the NZ Transport Agency. In Sydney they’re lamenting the economic costs from inner-city congestion, exactly the same as we are. Their solution is to invest in light rail and plan the demolition of the Cahill Expressway, while we do exactly the opposite – build flyovers and ignore light rail. These clowns are 30 years behind the times.

Maximus
5 - 08 - 09

P – actually, no, you’re wrong. And so am I. LTSA and Transit combined to make NZTA. A peculiar mix I agree, but there you go. Follow the link to LTSA and you end up at NZTA, just like magic: http://www.ltsa.govt.nz/

I think it is really just easier to keep calling them Transit, as I don’t think they’ve really got to grips with anything other than road transport yet.

Peter
5 - 08 - 09

A useful contribution Clarke. A reminder of the Aucklanders who moan that the city should have acted on Mayor Robbie’s light rail plans and the Wellingtonians who regret the phasing out of the tramways. All a bit ‘back to the future’. Meanwhile, this council will no doubt be swayed by Infratil’s support of a new tunnel to increase the airport capacity while on the other side of the world, massive resources are being channelled into high speed rail. The UK is the latest to commit to going down this track (www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/aug/04/high-speed-rail-adonis).

Has anyone done a survey of the taxi flows between the city and the airport and considered how much capacity could be freed up with the alternative of a quick, quiet, comfortable and efficient light rail option?

Kent Duston
5 - 08 - 09

When the second Mt Victoria tunnel was being talked about at the beginning of last year, local residents commissioned a traffic survey at the Basin Reserve intersection with the existing tunnel. Just over 70% of cars traveling in both directions at peak hours were single occupant, and >90% of taxis had one passenger. (We counted Crown limos as taxis, btw!)

It was pretty obvious that NZTA aren’t really interested in moving people – they only want to move cars. When we presented the findings as part of our submission on the Ngauranga to Airport Corridor Plan, the NZTA people said “yes, that’s pretty consistent with our surveys …”

davidp
5 - 08 - 09

Placing a flyover over (and sort of around) the current Basin roundabout means that flows around the Basin are improved. If you’re on a bus heading along Cambridge/Kent Tce to Newtown then your trip will be faster as you won’t be delayed by traffic crossing from the Bypass to Mt Vic tunnel. It is almost a prerequisite if you were to eventually run light rain out to Newtown.

Personally, I think the current Mt Vic tunnel needs to be replaced by two modern tunnels. The current tunnel isn’t wide enough to safely carry two lanes of traffic, even if both lanes are heading in the same direction. If you get rid of all traffic, then the current tunnel can be used by bicycles and pedestrians and their ears will be protected from all the car horn honking.

Maximus
5 - 08 - 09

“90% of taxis had one passenger.” and probably 100% of those were going to or from the airport.

The airport is the real key drawcard for vehicular traffic through Mt Vic tunnel, especially for taxis. Put in a light rail from City to Airport, and make it faster than a cab, and it’ll be a winner.

erentz
5 - 08 - 09

davidp, public transport would be better served by a north-south tunnel under the Basin. I suspect the flyover *as proposed* will actually add to the cost of any LRT project, and that any serious LRT scheme assessment would favour a north-south tunnel.

The major problem is that this is all based on a car dominated scheme assessment that is almost a decade old. There have policy changes that could seriously affect the outcome and the stated goals for the flyover are now very different from what they were originally (from moving cars, to now improving public transport apparently).

There needs to be a new scheme assessment, and it needs to considers the wider context (e.g. a Memorial Park tunnel). Its evaluation of the options should align to the updated policy and goals for the project. And if this was done it would easily end up supporting a different solution.

A new scheme assessment was suggested in the N2A “strategy” before any work be done at the Basin, but this hasn’t happened. They’re just going ahead with the old options from the old scheme assessment.

Kent Duston
5 - 08 - 09

The other factor to bear in mind is that traffic volumes are falling, not rising. The GWRC figures at Ngauranga Gorge show that there have been measurable decreases in traffic numbers in the last two years, rather than the 3% per annum growth that the NZTA models assume. This will undoubtedly be confirmed at the next census when the big traffic assessment occurs.

So if the traffic volumes are static or falling and we know a massive concrete flyover will effectively ruin the Basin as a test cricket venue, why are we spending $50 million building this thing? Or is it simply the monomaniacal obsession of a bunch of dinosaur traffic planners at NZTA?

davidp
6 - 08 - 09

Why do we need two international cricket venues in Wellington? That must be expensive. Every time I’ve been to see cricket it has been at the Cake Tin, and I can’t imagine why someone would want to pay to maintain a second cricket ground on the other side of the CBD.

Who does pay for the Basin… Some cricket body, or the City Council?

erentz
6 - 08 - 09

Kent, maybe we’re a bit too hard on the NZTA planners sometimes (I know I am). Aren’t they really just bureaucrats, mostly doing what they’re told? A lot of the planning work is outsourced these days. Surely responsibility is squarely in the hands of a) WCC/WRC for not having a proper transport strategy and therefore not giving the right directions on what we want out of the planners, and b) central govt for their ridiculously out of date transport funding strategy. Given the rising popularity of the National Govt, and Steven Joyce’s complete ignorance on what a bus or train is, I don’t see that changing anytime soon, unless something drastic happens.

W G Grace
6 - 08 - 09

You must be one of the young ones. Cricket has Always Been Played at the Basin until that blasted infernal stadium stole it off the Basin. There are those that believe it should be there still. I believe it is owned by a separate Trust – or at least run by one.

Imagine a vision of a sunny afternoon relaxing on the soft grassy bank of the Basin , with the gentle thwack of leather on willow wafts across the field. Now imagine that same scenario with an elevated 2 lane highway overhead. Atmosphere totally ruined.

Now shine that once more, this time with all traffic removed from the Basin. Sash, that’s the vision.

P.
6 - 08 - 09

Maximus – The Land Transport Safety Authority (LTSA) existed until 2004 when it was merged with Transfund (land transport funding agency) to form Land Transport NZ. This organisation had land transport safety and funding responsibilities only.

In 2008 Land Transport NZ was merged with Transit NZ to form the NZ Transport Agency.

The http://www.ltsa.govt.nz site is still used for some strange reason which seems to be the cause of the confusion but the organisation itself is long gone.

Hope this makes sense.

phil_style
7 - 08 - 09

“it should be the job of the Council to talk to the people and gauge their views, and just occasionally take on their recommendations.”
Having been (and continually being) invovled with infrastructure planning/consultation I’m always sympathetic to the organisations that are charged with building these kinds of schemes. Too often the ‘public’ don’t present a consistent response to a scheme. Minorities can shout very loud, disparate groups form with different ideas, often not backed up with sound engineering rationale . . in the end it’s almost impossible to get an idea of “what the public want”, if they do, in fact collectively want anything. Acting on the plethora of different opinions becomes a nightmare. . . .

However, the scheme designers should be required to assess altrnatives. Will any be presented? Sometimes that’s the best way forward. Proposed some sound engineering options and see which one is the LEAST HATED. ;0

Maximus
7 - 08 - 09

Phil – as one of the minorities shouting very loud, I know what you mean. However, in terms of sound engineering options, we’re so far only really being offered one, with alternative window dressings. Despite Mayor Kerry saying that options would be presented in the new year (we’re now 3/4 way through this particular year), we still haven’t been shown a sausage (sorry, wrong simile).

I suspect we’re not going to get alternatives – ie a bridge, a tunnel, a ground level diversion – instead I have this horrible feeling that we are more likely to be shown a bridge with stick on concrete panels with either tacky sunrise motifs, or tacky leaping dolphin motifs.

Seamonkey Madness
7 - 08 - 09

What if the flyover was built to service a mix of light-rail and traffic? i.e. one lane for LR (akin to the bus tunnel with phasing at either end of it) and one or two lanes of one-way traffice (City to Airport direction).

I think it would solve two problems at once and although would still neccessitate a ghastly flyover, the outcomes would be better.

Re: the North-South tunnel under the Basin. Nice in theory, but in practice it would be a disaster if not invested in enough. The Basin as we’re all well aware is an old shipping dockyard that was upheaveled after Ye Olde Major Earthquake. The resulting ground underneath being totally unsuitable for anything structural to be placed there – I would love to know how far down the R.A. Vance stands piles go!
Add into the mix that you would have a significant, continuous de-watering exercise as a tunnel would be well below the ground water level, and with the nightmares that the harbourside apartment blocks with underground carparks are causing the Moa Point sewerage plant infrastructure (with briny groundwater), I don’t think they would be keen to add more to the problem, at least without getting people who pay the rates (residents of said apartment blocks) to offset this cost.

Kent Duston
7 - 08 - 09

Seamonkey – On the structural side, the NZ Transport Agency confirmed in an OIA response that they had not conducted any geotechnical investigation of the site, which makes their assertions that they can build the structure for anything like the $25.3 million they quote look absolutely hilarious.

But to get back to the main point; the Basin is used for a huge range of events, from test matches to carols by candlelight, the annual Sandwiches SummerSet concert to hot air balloon spectacles. None of these events will be improved one iota by a flyover. Yet this ugly concrete monstrosity will only save motorists going from the Mt Vic tunnel to Buckle Street a sum total of 11 seconds. It hardly seems like a good trade-of, let alone justification for the $50 million it will probably cost.

phil – It can be difficult trying to distill what the public want at times, but in this case it’s pretty obvious. In the Ngauranga to Airport plan opposition to the flyover was running at 79%, and by the time the Regional Land Transport Plan rolled around it had risen to 89%. At this point the sensible person would have gone back to the drawing board and re-thought the scheme. The fact that NZTA has done nothing of the sort simply highlights the entrenched paternalistic arrogance of the agency, IMHO.

phil_style
8 - 08 - 09

Maximus, I’d advise boning up of Schedule 4 of the RMA. “where it is likely that an activity will result in any significant adverse effect on the environment, a description of any possible alternative locations or methods for undertaking the activity” ..must be included in the AEE for the scheme. Once the NZTA submits for planning/RMA apporoval they will HAVE to show what alternativee they’ve considered. You might want to use the Official Information Act to demand details of alternatives that have been looked at to date (especailly if you can demonstrate you are affetced by the proposal). .. this could also help you (as a potential objector) later on if NZTA try to retro-fit their application with alternatives they’ve not really looked at.

Maximus
9 - 08 - 09

If anyone went to the Civic Trust’s seminar, and wants to post some feedback on the day: feel free to post it here. I’d love to know how it went down. And, if, somehow, anything can be done about that proposed overbridge….

Peter
10 - 08 - 09

Live blog available – http://mtvictoria.org.nz/?q=node/110

Kent Duston
11 - 08 - 09

And there’s a community meeting on tonight at New Crossways in Roxburgh Street to discuss what came out of the Civic Trust seminar if anyone is interested in more detail. http://mtvictoria.org.nz/?q=node/111

Maximus
11 - 08 - 09

Thanks Peter and Kent – that ‘live’ transcript was interesting to read. Who was the author? It didn’t appear to say.

My favourite snippets include:
10:30 – Morgan noted that Kerry Prendergast has stated that that “a bottom line … is that the ambience and relative tranquility of the Basin Reserve will not be compromised by any changes to the road.” Morgan thinks we all have a part to play in leadership – it should not be left solely to local and national government. Quoted Kerri Hulme: “Together, all together, they were instruments of change”

10:52 – Dr Deb Hume from NZTA is speaking. …
10:58 – Deb noted that she thinks the statement by Kerry Prendergast is a guiding principle for the changes around the Basin Reserve. She also said that public transport is the main people mover, that there needs to be a ring route around the main shopping areas, and that there need to be walking and cycling improvements. [All good intentions – a pity the statements aren’t backed by reality!]… … She noted the funding plan will be made public on 27 August.

11:46 – Elsie Joliffe from Wellington East Girls is speaking on behalf of the proposed changes around the Basin. There are about 970 students at her school, 1500 at Wellington College and 360 at St Marks. Pupils come from all over the city, and there is a very large dependence on buses – at least 75% of Wellington East pupils travel at least one way by bus. They are concerned about the impact of changes around the Basin. Elsie’s grandfather designed the main stadium at the Basin Reserve! She noted that traffic congestion is a daily problem for all students, and she is also concerned about pedestrian safety. It’s not clear why there isn’t a footbridge across the road to improve safety and access. Students are confused about the second tunnel – and they think there are safety issues for pedestrians in the Pirie Street bus tunnel. She thinks there will be lots of disruption and hazard to students from constructing another tunnel. “Don’t do anything to the Basin – it’s perfect the way it is!”

Hmmm… not quite perfect i think. In fact, far from it. Great to see that discussion is continuing to happen, and that designs are not yet set in concrete.

Kent Duston
12 - 08 - 09

The author was me – which is why there are no notes from the discussion bits, as it was too hard to both participate and write. It’s true – blokes really can’t multi-task. :-)