The Eye of the Fish

Leviathan
September 26, 2019

“Little Amsterdam of the South Pacific”

Last night I went along to the public meeting to meet some candidates for the upcoming election, labelled “Talking Transport”. With columnist Dave Armstrong conducting the proceedings, it was a fairly humorous evening at the ASB Indoor Arena, probably with the highlight being the very beginning, where Armstrong introduced our city with a sardonic viewpoint on how well we were getting on here – the quote above being a classic of what we’re not getting right. With a steady background noise of squeaky netball shoes in the background, and the pale blue of the daylight fading over the city, we sat down to listen – an almost 3 hour meeting for some.

Many of Wellington’s transport cognoscenti were there in the audience, including Mike Mellor, Demetrius Christoforou, Chris Calvi-Freeman, and representatives from all the pro-walking and pro-cycling pressure groups. I’d say their views were fairly evenly split from the audience: the general public seemed quite strongly pro-car in their mutterings. We were in the Eastern suburbs after all, where they face a daily one-sided battle to get into town. To them, getting to the Airport is the easy part of the day, it is the getting into town (past the Airport) that consumes their minds. Talks of routing Light Rail through the city to the Airport was not what they wanted to hear: they just wanted to hear that the candidates would sort out the buses.

So, that is exactly what was discussed. With the candidates on stage standing for the GWRC, what they heard is that everyone wants to sort out the buses. Everyone, that is, with the exception of a funny little man with giant ears called Phil O’Brien, who was so fervently pro-car that it was difficult to tell whether he was taking the piss or merely giving it away. The pro-cycling fraternity in the room soon turned against him, with his ridiculous pro-car statements, but I have a sneaking feeling that he will do quite well from the votes of the silent masses of pro-car audience members in the room. O’Brien soon became a crowd favourite, despite standing for the right wing “Wellington Party”, stating weird things like: “I’ve probably walked through the Mt Vic tunnel more often than I’ve driven, and there is hardly ever any pedestrians” (despite him living in Island Bay and being rather pro-car), and the classic “whenever I go for a walk, there is no one else around, I’m often the only one walking.” He kept hammering home the observation that what Wellington wants is more roads and more cars – because as he observed time and again, “Wellington people love their cars.” His solution therefore was to reduce the width of the footpath, as clearly no-one was using it, and that way there could be room for wider roads and more cars. Hmmm. I’m really not sure that the Wellington Party has picked the brightest candidates.

Statements by the other GWRC candidates there were all fairly uniformly pro-bus, pro-cycling, pro-mass-transit, pro-walking, pro-walking-bus, etc. The clapping from the audience fell away, as candidates merely parroted the vote-winning statements of the others. Everyone, it seems, reckons that the buses have been FUBAR by GWRC, and everyone wants to get them sorted. Some were specific with details: one candidate stated that he would bring back the number 22 bus and the 18E – whatever that means, they’re obviously staples of the Eastern suburbs. Everyone present supported a second tunnel through Mt Victoria, with most of the candidates qualifying it by saying: “but only for active modes and Public Transport, not for cars.” O’Brien, predictably, wanted it for cars but didn’t mind walkers, as long as they didn’t get in the way.

If you’re really into transport planning, Demetrius Christoforou has posted a very partisan list of who to vote for if you love Light Rail (available on Scoop) to which Chris Calvi-Freeman has posted a very fair riposte: “If you haven’t already voted, I suggest you support people who have some knowledge of or involvement in this field, rather than just anyone who says “why don’t we have light rail everywhere?” without necessarily having a clue as to how to make it happen.” Fair call!

Bryan Crump from RNZ and The Traffic Jam was there too, running wild with a malperforming microphone (I thought the King of the Sound-Clip would have been more in control of feedback than he was – some truly hideous screeching from the PA), but for me, the people standing out from the crowd were David Lee (transitioning from WCC to GWRC, spoke well and spoke intelligently and knowledgeably), and Tony Jansen (very clear lines of thought from this guy – no bullshit, but clever and to the point). Roger Blakely spoke well too, but I have an inbuilt dislike of any of the current members of the GWRC – how can anyone stand and tell us of what they are going to do in the next term, when they did none of the those matters in the previous 3 years?

After the Tea break (organised with military-like precision despite a lack of coffee), the conversation turned to the WCC candidates for the Eastern suburbs – not my constituency, so I left to return back to Castle Leviathan, to watch Grand Designs erect a giant wedge of black somewhere down south. It is ironic that from the ASB Indoor Sports Centre, everyone drove there and back – there is no bus route that stops outside the door, the way that a well-organised transport system should be. It is possible that one day in the future, there will be a fast transport link from the airport to the city, stopping off to collect people at the Indoor Sports stadium, but judging from last night’s performance, I’m not holding my breath.

Alan
29 - 09 - 19

So – if there was to be a light rail link along Cobham Drive going to the Airport, wouldn’t it be on the opposite side of the road from the ASB thingy? Wouldn’t quite be stopping outside the door now would it ?

starkive
29 - 09 - 19

Going out on a limb here, but I reckon they might want to run it in both directions. In which case they could choose which side of the road it was on (or even put it down the middle).

William
29 - 09 - 19

Does there need to be a bus stop directly outside the ASB Sports Centre when there is an existing short pedestrian walkway through to buses on Rongotai Rd (beside 71 Kemp St, nearly directly opposite the ASB front entrance)?

Which is another reason to eventually run light rail along the centre grass strip on Rongotai Rd, then South along Salek St, east along Coutts, & under the runway. Running it along Cobham Drive would carefully avoid places people do things other than drive!

Betterbee
30 - 09 - 19

Levi, there are bus stops nearby on Rongotai Rd, with RTI screens inside the ASB showing their departures.

Alan/William, the proposed light rail route here is the same as bus no. 2: Rongotai Rd/Troy St/Cobham Drive/Miramar Ave/Hobart St to Broadway. It looks as if the proposal is to run in the central median all the way, but to my mind it would be more sensible to run alongside the east/south side of Troy, Cobham and Miramar cutting, the only conflicts with road traffic on this stretch being at the Rongotai/Troy and Cobham/Calabar intersections. A shallow tunnel under an active runway would present some challenges, and would bypass Miramar – a much more important traffic objective than the airport.

greenwelly
30 - 09 - 19

William, Its generally seen as exceptionally difficult to go under the Airport

To bore a tunnel, Due the nature of the reclaimed runway full, it is estimated a 20 meter depth is required, those requiring over 400 metres of ramping and potentially an underground station ….

To do anything else would likely require a new cut and cover tunnel, which would likely need to have a runway closure for some of the construction time — ( not going to happen)
see specific questions and answers here

https://www.getwellymoving.co.nz/assets/Documents/Technical-Documents/25-June-2019/8-Preferred-mass-transit-route-response-to-further-queries-LGWM.pdf

Leviathan
30 - 09 - 19

Indeed there are stops on the present bus route – although I confess to thinking that the Light Rail (I’m still holding out for it !!!) would have a different route to the buses. But we went into that in some depth on this previous post:
http://eyeofthefish.org/to-the-airport/

William
1 - 10 - 19

I hadn’t seen the earlier post from 11 July.

Greenwelly, page 7 from that pdf is honest about making many (pessimistic) assumptions.
Prior to the airport being built Coutts St used to extend all the way across and joined onto Broadway. Both of those roads are still at their original levels, the runway is only slightly higher, so the depth of fill there must be very little if any.
Assuming the last kilometre or so only needs single track, dropping the floor of the present tunnel could be an option, although I admit the alignment isn’t great for getting to the terminal. And that would exclude pedestrians.

They haven’t completely excluded a tunnel, however the interesting statistic on page 8 of that pdf is “Only 20 – 35% of car traffic along Cobham Drive currently comes from the Airport”. Given that, a route through the cutting into Miramar does make sense.

Levi
1 - 10 - 19

Yes, William, I certainly think that it makes more sense to go direct to the airport and then up to Miramar, but when I suggested that before I got shouted down very firmly… The big issue is of course how do you tunnel across under an existing operational runway without causing the slightest ripple in the runway surface above. Yes, a fully balanced TBM could do that but that is way too big a machine to assemble for such a relatively short drive. In reality it would have to be done very carefully by hand – as you say, dropping the floor of the tunnel by another metre or more, and possibly widening it. The insurance costs you would have to take out would be sky high!

But the consensus (if there is any) seems to be that the route would go along Rongotai Road (easy) and then onto Cobham Drive and then through the centre of the two roundabouts (bloody tricky I say!!!), then off to Miramar (how? somehow, magically) before going down Hobart St and then to the airport. Seems a bloody sight harder to me than going to Coutts and a deepened tunnel, but I’m told that I am wrong…

Betterbee
2 - 10 - 19

Levi, you still seem to be missing the point (picked up by William) that mass transit (whatever form it may take) is not primarily about the airport.

And, as previously discussed, there’s no need to go through the centre of the two roundabouts, and there’s room in the existing road reserve to get to and through the cutting.

You’re right about the difficulties of tunnelling under the airport (which the airport company would fight tooth and nail, I suspect): the floor would have to be dropped by up to three metres, and doubled in width to maintain existing walking and bike access. Then there’ll be a need to find a route into the airport itself and completing a 270-degree turn to head to Miramar, or else building some sort of people mover…

No shouting, honest – just speaking firmly.

Levi
2 - 10 - 19

Betterbee – i’m all for discussion, so no problem with me – I know who you are and I greatly respect your opinion. However, the WCC/LGWM illustrations on Cobham Drive appear to show the Light Rail units running down the grass median in the centre of Cobham Drive – and so therefore would presumably only go through the centre of any roundabout. Personally, I think that is really dumb. Putting a LR set of tracks down a median is fine, but it would then need ot cut across the roundabout on 2 sides – halting traffic everywhere and potentially causing crashes. Having the tracks just to the south of the roundabouts makes a lot more sense to me, but then puts a crossing at the point immediately on exit from the roundabout – only one clash instead of two, but still ridiculously bad for traffic clashes.

I still strongly believe that the best way for different forms / speeds of transport to be operating safely on the same plane, requires separation: either vertically or horizontally. Any time you have a heavy vehicle (ie tram/bus) colliding with a light vehicle (ie car / scooter / bicycle) sharing the same road space, there is always potential for the two to clash, and when that happens, we all know what happens. The heavier object wins. The lighter, less guarded option dies.