LeviathanJuly 5, 2020
Like you, I’ve been sitting down reading all the millions of pages of information provided by LGWM in their first major release of proposals for Wellington. They’ve just been talking about the Golden Mile so far, and they have narrowed the thinking down from 256 options down to 21 options and then later to just three simple variants (Do Nothing is not an option).
Option 1 – Reduce Traffic
Option 2 – Bus emphasis
Option 3 – Bus + Pedestrian emphasis
They’ve then broken the route down into 4 different segments – ie Lambton Quay, Willis Street, Manners Street, and finally Courtenay Place. What is important to note tis that it may be possible to “mix and match” ie take Option 1 for one part, option 2 for another and option 3 for yet another part, although I think that may have horrible consequences if we do. Although we are being presented with just three options (in an effort to make this simple and understandable by the general populace), in reality we still have many options. Here is one of their graphs showing one of the key drivers for all this: large volumes of buses and passengers up and down the Golden Mile.
Unlike the Basin Bridge fiasco, where the only two options presented to the public were A) a silly flyover and B) a silly flyover with a sillier route, at least in this scenario there has been some really good hard work in looking at all the options. It’s interesting – the team involved has some similarities, with Selwyn Blackmore being once again present for NZTA, but with a new team of consultants that is almost completely different. Calling themselves Futuregroup, the Opus presence from the Basin Bridge has now rebranded and is now WSP, while the others have been more wholly changed: Athfield Architects is gone and replaced by Jasmax; Wraight Associates has gone and is replaced by Boffa Miskell and new boys on the block Local; and whoever the engineers were before – now its Aurecon (formerly a local engineering practice, now part of a global giant consulting practice). There’s also the interesting addition of MR Cagney into the mix, who have also previously provided much of the grunt behind Greater Auckland, and that gives me hope that the schemes will indeed be nuanced better towards the public. There’s also EY and Stantec in there – EY used to be accountants, but with their new branding who knows what they are now. Number crunchers or branding experts, or perhaps they just make good coffee. Stantec are also formerly a local engineering practice, now part of a global giant consulting practice – in this case having swallowed up Traffic Design Group, so I presume that they will be doing the traffic calculations, arguably the most important task of this project.
Of course the best thing for you to do would be to go off and read all the bumpf the same as I have, but honestly, it is exhausting and boring, and so I’m going to present you with some of the options. Let’s look at Lambton Quay first. Here’s their first option:
So, Option 1 at Lambton Quay lets some cars (Private Motor Vehicles / PMV) through, but parking on Lambton is removed to the side streets. Cars can travel on Lambton for certain blocks going South, but only for a block and then your car would be cast out again. There is a full length lane driving north for cars, so overall, not much change from at present to my eyes, and therefore not really worth doing. Let’s make a decent change while we’re here.
Option 2 on Lambton Quay shows that instead of the cars travelling South on Lambton, they are simply stopped altogether from entering from the side streets. Presumably there would have to be an area created for cars to turn around at the end of each newly created cut-de-sac at the sort of orangey coloured patches on the map above. There are two lanes for buses going each direction – so it is best for buses but not so good for pedestrians. This gets a big tick for improving bus speeds and is probably the one that the LGWM team are going to be pushing for.
Option 3 on Lambton Quay aims to provide both speedier buses and speedier pedestrians, by keeping both the bus lanes on the West side of the street, and drastically enlarging the east side pedestrian area as well. There is just one bus lane each direction, instead of the two lanes offered in Option 2. This is of course a lot more expensive, as new paving etc all costs money. But hey, if you’re saying let’s go for the theme that offers the best experience for the city, then this has to be the one.
There’s another thing to this which is not really touched on much in this – and that is the integration with the masterplan for the whole city (thanks GreenWelly) which I’ll touch on in another post, and also things like a master cycle network, of which, amazingly, they publish in this study by-the-by, as if it is of no consequence. Have you ever seen this before? No, me neither…..
There are some important things to note from the Cycle Network diagram (fig 28 above) – that the main cycle route north would be up/down Featherston St, and mostly up Willis and down Victoria St, leaving a lot of Willis St to buses only. Looking at the other end of the Golden Mile, down at Courtenay Place, there are again the 3 options, and with some variations. Taranaki Street also gets a green line, as does Kent/Cambridge, but curiously, not Tory Street. This is really odd to me – it seems so obvious to me that Tory Street is the best Cycle route for everyone. But I think we can probably agree that at this stage, fig 28 is at best, unresolved.
Okay, I’ll leave you today with their simple 3 options about Courtenay Place.
Option 1 on Courtenay: Cars are stopped from driving onto Courtenay from Blair and Allen, the east-end slip lane is closed off to traffic, but otherwise there is still the continuance of cars crossing over at Tory and Taranaki. Remember that the long term plan is for Mass Transit to be coming up Taranaki, so there will always be a big intersection there. Look at the state of that intersection – that’s a clusterfuck if I ever saw one… There is also a sharing of both buses and cars coming up Courtenay in both directions.
Option 2 on Courtenay: Two lanes of bus lanes up and down each side of Courtenay, still allowing car traffic to cross over on Tory, but a lot simpler at Taranaki Street.
Option 3 on Courtenay: Like the Option 3 at the other end of the Golden Mile, there is just a single bus lane up each side of Courtenay, and considerably widened footpaths. Traffic is stopped crossing over on Tory Street, as well as Allen and Blair. Interestingly there are a couple of sub-options here, noted as 3a and 3b. To do with Cycling.
You can notice from 3a that there is a cycle path each way on Courtenay – on either side of the road. But in 3b, there is just the one cycleway, on the south side of Courtenay. That clearly works a lot better at the junction of Taranaki and Dixon.
I’ll tackle the two middle sections of the Golden Mile another day, but they are simpler, as there is not as much room to wiggle around due to width constrictions. So, now that you’ve seen them all, what are your thoughts?