The Eye of the Fish

May 4, 2008

Transport – the route ahead

In what seems like a record fast time for Public Consultation, Greater Wellington Regional Council and Transit have turned out results from the public consultation round.  As Transit’s “Phase 2 Consultation Report” notes, there was a total of 4673 submissions, including 3750 Option 3 “Green Alliance” postcards and 482 Chamber of Commerce postcards received, and a mere 71 actual written submissions from various bodies and organisations.

It is gratifying to note that the Eye of the Fish’s comments were also noted on their “Media Article Log” page, with all three of our postings listed, along with other bloggers including Poneke, Wellurban, the Greens, and (and of course the old-style mainstream media of Dom Post and Capital Times etc). It would be nice to think that we (readers and writers alike) can have a positive outcome on the possible future of our city. We’re not sure how the study will balance the clearly massive media push from Option 3 with their highly successful postcard mail in re the Ngauranga to Airport study, vs the more carefully considered deliberations from other organisations (such as that published online by the Architecture Centre), and as wide ranging as the Heavy Haulage Association, Pukerua Bay Artist Collective, the Disability Reference Group, and (i kid you not) Dial A Nerd.

Someone clearly has a task ahead of them! Or have they? Is the next phase going to be a considered appraisal of the submissions, or perhaps just a week-long response period to the GWRC’s “Draft Plan“.   It seems from the GWRC’s press release that the committees of WCC, GWRC, and Transit are to consider the Draft Plan in a week, then recommend it to the Regional Land Transport Committee, “followed by public consultation.” Yes, that does seem like unbelievably fast haste for local and central government to move at, but the moves are mostly quite good, in the short term at least:

Planned changes, to be implemented within the next 10 years, include:
– More bus lanes, signal pre-emption and real time information along the Golden Mile….
– Bus priority measures on all arterial routes….
– New and substantially improved walking and cycling routes throughout the area….
– Adding two more lanes, at peak times, to the motorway between Ngauranga Gorge and Aotea Quay
– Reallocating existing lanes on the Hutt Road for bus lanes and possibly high occupancy vehicles
– A graded traffic separation of north-south and east-west traffic flows at the Cambridge Terrace end of Basin Reserve 
– Detailed feasibility studies to look more closely at duplicating Mt Victoria and The Terrace tunnels.


It is noticeable that the immediate future (the next ten years) doesn’t yet include more tunnels (just a closer look at the feasibility), but nor does it really look at light rail as an option, just merely notes that beyond ten years it could “Investigate improvements to the passenger transport spine giving consideration to further bus improvements, light rail or new personal rapid transport systems.” So, despite the vast majority of submitters requesting that the study look “without delay” at Light Rail (remember those 3750 Option 3 postcards?), the Draft Plan at least looks like putting that on the back burner.  To us here at Eye of the Fish, that’s just not a good enough attitude.  

Although probably a corollary of Transit’s involvement – despite their Vision of “a transport system that builds a better New Zealand“, they have a blinkered “roads only” outlook that is not necessarily in tune with Wellingtonians. While the draft plan notes that Transit will be looking at extra tunnels through Mt Vic and under the Terrace, it’s down to the Wellington City Council to look at Bus improvements, Light Rail, or those pesky Pod people. But this is only a Draft Plan. GWRC and WCC still have a week in which to ensure that the wishes of the people are included here, and that the WCC does take a serious and immediate hard look at Light Rail.

It’s too important to be left up to the likes of the inept roading boffins at Transit, the people who bought you the disorganised chaos that is the Inner City Bypass. Despite being a fairly obvious dismal failure for most Wellingtonians, while arguably being a mild success for inward-bound Upper/Lower Huttians, the Inner City Bypass has chopped apart both the pedestrian and local (Brooklyn/Aro) vehicle flows with the sheer stupidity of the ground level intersections at Willis St and Karo Drive. Cities are too important to be left to Roading Engineers to design.

Seamonkey Madness
5 - 05 - 08

WRT the last paragraph, I think you’ll find the ‘Roading Engineers’ which you speak of aren’t the ones to blame for the unwieldy edifice with which Wellingtonians were landed with.

LibertyScott speaks more about this, but basically The Greens/Te Aro Hippy Collective or some similar lobbyist group got in the way enough to make sure that the cut and cover scheme was too expensive an option to go ahead with. So to blame ‘Roading Engineers’ is a bit of a cop out.

5 - 05 - 08

yes, you’re right, the ‘left’ faction sufficiently delayed the proposal from the 1959 De Leuw Cathers (i think that’s the correct spelling) so that there was not enough money to put the Bypass fully underground, as it was originally designed. However, the design of the road, the crossings, and all the surrounding tomfoolery is completely layable at the doors of the design engineer. And it sucks, in a rather large manner. As I am sure most of Brooklyn would agree….

Seamonkey Madness
5 - 05 - 08

Would you rather they put footbridges at every intersection?

It was an all or nothing design. You coulnd’t have some of the ‘bypass’ in a tunnel and then magically have it reappear at the intersections you wanted.

As for the resulting ‘tomfoolery’, the llot of a roading/traffic engineer at times is not a a happy one.

5 - 05 - 08

Great article. WCC has just got such a freakishly 80’s mindset to transport. THe thing is, the only people they’re listening to is the chamber of commerce who think we shouldn’t have stopped at the tiny sliver of road that is the bypass, but should have kept going and bulldozed and concreted a multilanded superhighway through the rest of wellington.

But didn’t we just vote in a record number of green councillors …wtf is up with them?

5 - 05 - 08

summary: cars cars cars, until at least 2050, maybe we’ll think up another strategy then. Oil might get expensive but we’ll do nothing now as some other technology may appear.

If you think my version is unfair theirs doesn’t read much better:

“While there is an assumption that car ownership and therefore use will continue to rise in line with economic growth, the rate of car ownership growth is forecast to taper off as we near a saturation level. Reaching this theoretical saturation level is forecast to be beyond 2050, so current projections show there is a need to ensure the community’s needs for private vehicle transport are reasonably accommodated.”

“In an era of rapidly rising fuel prices vehicle use may decline or at least the rate of growth may slow. Conversely, if there is a large up take of alternative fuels or electric vehicles then the rates of car use may increase. These statistics will be monitored and any material changes may require the Plan to be amended.”

Meanwhile the chief economist at the IEA says: “Leave oil before it leaves us”

I don’t understand the disconnect – the council assures us that they are “monitoring the statistics” – yet they seem to ignore them.

6 - 05 - 08

It all seems like its ideology not logic thats prevailing to me. Whole process needs a good fisking because there are contradictions, and illogical conclusions all throughout. And there’s still nothing strategic about the approach, it’s reactive, not proactive.

The thing is there is the opportunity for it to be rehashed later on by the sounds, just need to vote in even more sensible councillors next time. Just means that sensible PT solutions will be delayed even further and will cost even more later on.

Meanwhile, I’ve just relocated to Perth, and PT here is amazingly good _except_ after 6pm, or on Sundays, when it’s strangely almost non existent (but that’s because Perth shuts down during that time).

Still the trains, ooh the trains, level boarding, wide, open and airy, so quiet, plenty of space for wheel chairs and your bikes. I hope in Wellington they go with single level trains, and raise the platform heights, as opposed to split level. Also shows why they shouldn’t compromise the EMU design because of the Jvill line (i.e. width), and should treat that separately. Perth runs same narrow guage as us.

7 - 05 - 08

sorry to hear that you have relocated to the West Island and thanks for your useful entries over the last while. Hopefully you can keep us up to date with useful snippets from Perth.

The Dompost yesterday reported on the Draft Report, currently being considered by the WCC et al, although the rest of us haven’t had a chance to see it yet. But already it has apparently discounted any chance of Light Rail ($140million) while going ahead with extra road tunnels ($250million). Transit will obviously agree with that. Wellingtonians possibly less so….

We’ll keep you posted on developments.

7 - 05 - 08

I wrote an email to one of the councilors. It sounds like there may be enough support to at least get the council to commission a report on light rail in Wellington. This report plus strong public support could change things.

8 - 05 - 08

re the Bypass ? my favourite bit has to be those park benches so thoughtfully located on the Willis St corner, set slightly back from the intersections, in 2 or 3 places. Fantastic thought Transit, well done – when i am old and grey, I too want to pass my days away by sitting at the edge of a traffic jam / motorway onramp, watching the pretty cars go by and sucking in the pollution. Aaah, such a lovely prospect – and such careful urban design too!

8 - 05 - 08

Further to the mention of the thoughtful supply of spectator seating on the barren (but grassy) slivers of left-over cityscape around the Bypass, when do readers think the dinky-town relocations will be made available for occupancy and the more substantial areas of unused land (behind the Synagogue, for example) be released onto the market for some sadly needed street-edge building? Or is the aim to permanently Tawa-ise Te Aro?

8 - 05 - 08

Yeah, that was a classic case of Transit not really having their eye on the ball. Stated reason they are empty comes from need to offer them back to the “descendants of the original occupants” which it seems that they only thought of this near the end of the project.

If they had offered them earlier, they could have had them occupied from day 1 of the Bypass. But by carefully preserving them in their mock old fastidiousness, and keeping them empty and paying security to keep those nasty anarchist people out (in case they start selling t-shirts again), they’ve really managed to kill off any possible vibe of being ‘alive’.

Pity really. Moral of the story: DO NOT get Transit to run your urban renewal programme.

8 - 05 - 08

oh, and to answer your question: min one year from when it was finished. If no original Tonks etc can be found, they’ll sell ’em off.

13 - 05 - 08

I say the great tragedy for Wellington is that the Tunnellink cut and cover bypass proposal died because of lack of political will, and Transit gave up when road money was tight. The nonsense that is Transmission Gully will be four times the price but because some politicians are in favour of it, it have some legs. The Tunnellink could have been built with or without tolls, but would have enabled Te Aro to be properly regenerated. Oslo has seen the advantages of a major inner city bypass which has helped public transport, walking and cycling, but a narrow minded group of anti-road fanatics didn’t have the vision to see that there will always be cars and trucks and taxis, regardless – and that taking through traffic off of urban streets is positive. Wellington’s half arsed bypass was always meant to be a 10 year interim plan until the full Tunnellink.

On the bright side though, the plan for the next ten years isn’t bad at all. Sensible, not wasteful and the issue of the tunnels can be confronted after that. Given Wellington has bought a large number of new electric units and refurbished trolley buses, the light rail fetish will be parked for a generation. There simply is no need to buy extra vehicles of a different design.

13 - 05 - 08

Transmission Gully? I’m betting that one will never get built. Not a chance. Way too steep, route way too long, soil too unstable, and the price will be way too expensive. Its not the way to the coast – its the way to financial hell. If you put tolls on it, everyone will stick to the Ngauranga Gully. If you put tolls on both, then its suicide at the polls, as every single driver in or out of Welly will have to pay, every day.

Just aint gonna happen.

my (humble) 2c worth….

13 - 05 - 08

maximus is probably right. The geotech report will probably come back adding an extra load of cost. Then people will realise the time scale for its construction and the lack of money, rising oil prices, etc. just make it a silly investment.

liberty, Don’t agree with the argument that light rail shouldn’t be used if we have EMUs on our suburban lines. The EMUs that they are buying will be partly compromised in design to fit on the Jvill line. That is a good reason right there to use something more fit for purpose. And LRT is perfect for the Jville line.

All transport systems around the world are composed of various types of technology and within those, various different makes/models. Ours is currently composed of a mixture of bus types, including trolly bus types, and a mixture of EMU types. Plus some loco hauled carriages of different types. Plus ferries, etc. But regarding just rail which I think is your point: I can’t think of a single rail transport system I’ve been on anywhere in the world that didn’t have different types of units on it. It just isn’t realistic. (We could end up using our existing EMUs for a long while yet depending on capacity demands along side the new ones.)

In the distant future we may see LRT extended onto the suburban lines in the form of tram trains. But I doubt we’d ever see these run all the way through to the airport. There’d still be a different set of requirements for that (due to the more constrained capacity of the line). And you’d probably require a seperate segment for it through the city (e.g. waterfront). (which has other added benefits, e.g. rerouting LRT from the tight golden mile route during crisis, or maintenance, etc) So you’d have tram trains to courtenay place or taranaki street, and you’d still have LRT from Jville to the airport.

So they should still build LRT now, and when the new EMUs come up for replacement, or they look to increase capacity of them, look at tram trains.