Seeing as a grey murk of impenetrable gloop has descended over the prospect of a PWC report actually making sense, then I thought that I might have a look to see if I could untangle what the report was actually about. Firstly: the nameless PWC report examined options: 5 of them, by the look of it.

That’s not really 5 options now, is it, but more of just a series of gradients between doing nothing and doing a full Bus Rapid Transit. ie option 1 do hardly anything, option 2 pretend to do a little, option 3 actually block a road off etc. But where exactly is the detail of what they would propose to do? Remember that every cent of this has been costed out, so they must have based it on something. So I read on.

There is a fair amount of pointy-headed accounting-speak gobbledygook in the report – the humanoids at PWC obviously very keen on TLA, as the following sentence says in their “introduction”:

“It is anticipated that this IBC will be followed by a DBC, which will develop the preferred BRT option in detail…”

Hmmmm….. I’m going to need to keep a glossary handy, as well as a bucket. More fully, it says:

“This business case assesses the case for a proposed investment in BRT in Wellington City.
This business case follows the Transport Agency business case approach. This approach is based on the Treasury Better Business Cases guidelines, which are organised around the five case model designed to systematically test whether an investment proposal:
• is supported by a robust case for change – the ‘strategic case’
• will deliver optimal value for money – the ‘economic case’
• is commercially viable – the ‘commercial case’
• is financially affordable – the ‘financial case’, and
• is achievable – the ‘management case’.
This document is an Indicative Business Case. Its objectives are to confirm the preferred way forward for the proposal and to develop a short-list of options for further detailed analysis. It focuses on developing the strategic and economic cases for the project and includes an outline of the financial, commercial and management cases.
It is anticipated that this IBC will be followed by a DBC, which will develop the preferred BRT option in detail, including detailed design and a detailed economic evaluation, as well as detailed consideration of financial, commercial and management aspects.”

Oh for God’s sake, get on with it! Heavens above, are they just being paid to stall indefinitely?
Do you get my point? They don’t actually know a single thing about transport – all they know about is money, and what stacks up – or what doesn’t stack up. Anyway, be that as it may, they identify the problem areas as:

Problem 1: Congestion, within the constrained PT Spine corridor, will continue to adversely impact levels of service.
(Gosh, congestion – how glad I am that we hired these geniuses to point this out…).

Problem 2: A failure to grow bus patronage, due to unattractive and unreliable PT services compared to private vehicles.
(Yes, and so your proposal is for…. More of the same? And that is a good thing, how?).

Problem 3: A failure to maximise the capacity of the PT Spine corridor is restricting Wellington’s economic potential.
(Brilliant. Just brilliant. I would never have thought of that).

and the corresponding benefits:

Benefit 1: Improved road and PT network efficiency.
Benefit 2: Increased bus patronage.
Benefit 3: Improved bus user experience.
Benefit 4: Increased economic activity in the proximity of the PT Spine.

I’m amazed that they have come out with such gems of knowledge. So glad that we are paying them vast sums of money for their wisdom. So, we increase passenger numbers exactly how? Show us the figures? Vast increases in people using buses?
However, none of this is borne out in PWC’s projections of passenger numbers:

So after 20 years without BRT, we end up with a few hundred people less using the buses. And if we spend millions on a PWC BRT, we see a small increase, but after 20 years, we get… A couple of hundred less people using buses. Thats not a massive success story really, is it? That’s….. less than startling. In fact, the more common term for that level of “improvement” is a simple 4 letter word: Crap.
Projected usage is actually going backwards, not forwards. How is that good? In what world does that ever make sense? We spend tens or even hundred of millions of dollars, and get a worse service, with less people using it? Our city population is projected to increase, yet our use of public transport is projected to decrease? No, I don’t buy that.

Let’s take first things first. Where does it go?

Ummm, yes, that’s it, apparently. I think we knew that already. In this tiny, grimy little toerag of a map, grey with an almost invisible blue line at a scale deliberately where we can see nothing of any detail. I can see that it goes down the Golden Mile, but that’s about all. I can see that the existing bus tunnel, the one part of the current scheme where the buses can move faster than the general Basin traffic, is steadfastly ignored. All traffic must go through the Basin, and so the report makes clear that none of this will work out unless the Basin Bridge flyover goes ahead, and a second Mt Vic tunnel is bored through the hill. I think that NZTA made sure that line was in there….

But so there are two “branches”, one to Newtown, and one to Kilbirnie. Except that in an effort to save some money, the Kilbirnie branch can be considered to be dropped in some cases. So that’s really going to work for an active route to the airport then, isn’t it? How brilliant is this business case exactly then?

Look, honestly, in case you hadn’t picked up on my subtle murmurings, this report is shit. PWC’s knowledge of transport is lower than low. Their level of actual detail in what might be planned is less than robust – or simply non-apparent. That all comes in another report, still to come, which will cost us more money, and still get nowhere. Because there has to be another report after that. This is just the IBC. The next report will be the DBC. I think I will be long dead and buried by the time something actually happens on the ground here.

You asking me what I would do? Well, you’re not, but I’d tell you anyway. I’d stop right now spending money on a project which says that after 20 years we’d have less people taking buses than we do now. I’d employ some actual traffic engineers to start looking at what we can do about major junctions in the city, and how we can get more buses through. I’d stop looking at a scheme which professes to be Bus Rapid Transit and yet has to share the same tunnels as the cars going through Mt Vic. While I agree that the Mt Vic tunnel is badly outdated and needs to be redone to get better, more modern safety standards for cyclists and pedestrians as well as car users, having the buses share this tunnel is an act of stupidity, forcing them to go the same speed as the average driver. That’s not Rapid Transit. That’s Average Transit.