Let’s not pussyfoot around – Wellington needs a Rapid Transit system and that simply cannot be more buses. And it needs to be Rapid (like the name suggests) so it needs some new direct routes – that means new tunnels. Yes, plural: Tunnels.
Dame Kerry Prendergast was wrong, like many people with limited vision of her era, in that she is seeing Wellington in the past, not the future. She thinks – and stated – that Wellington’s answer to its traffic problems is more buses. And that is simply wrong. Remember when another Mayor, Dame Celia Wade-Brown, commissioned a study into Wellington’s transport, and the answer was: Bus Rapid Transit. So that has been the answer for the past ten years or so. And have you noticed anything get better? More buses? Less traffic? No more congestion? No, I didn’t think so either.
Buses simply cannot transport enough people quickly enough, to satisfy the needs of our main transport spine, even at present, let alone when we have another 30,000 people living on a spine route down to Island Bay. The answer is quite simple really – we need bigger vehicles, safely running on smooth paths, powered by electricity, and the only answer is a modern tram system like Light Rail. We need them to take the main strain of the main route, and other feeder transport methods, like buses, can link into them. Yes, we are still going to have lots of buses, as well, but they cannot be the main answer. Firstly, we establish the Cycling Network, fully, as shown in pink below.
So at long last we have some Light Rail choices to discuss and vote for. Ignore Option 2 with buses – don’t even go there. But LGWM have not really broken things down in a very clear way. To my mind, with my Eye of the Fish brain, we need to think about things a little differently. Firstly, from the Railway Station to the Basin. Secondly, around the Basin and out the other side. Thirdly, tunnels under the Mountain.
Firstly: like Erentz, a new (old, returned) writer on Eye of the Fish, i think that the major stumbling block with Wellington’s transport system is that we have this ridiculous situation of all our trains stopping on the edge of the city. We need some continuity between the systems, and with Johnsonville growing in height to become what it has always wanted to be: a destination in itself, then the logical thing to do is to convert the Johnsonville line to Light Rail and to continue it through the city.
Personally, unlike Erentz, I would run rail lines down the Quays, and keep some buses serving people on the Golden Mile of Lambton Quay, because we want lots of shoppers jumping on and off the buses, buying things in shops and going to lunch with friends. On the Quays we want less stops and more speed, with two sets of steel tracks zipping passengers at faster speeds along the waterfront and out to the airport. I see that the train tracks need to have as few crossings with cars and buses as possible, so the less congestion the better. Hence, I would probably go up Taranaki St.
The LGWM team need to take this opportunity to move the south-east-bound SH1 route away from Vivian St and put it underground alongside the north-west-bound SH1 route. Either do it now, or leave room to do it later, but if you’re going to dig a hole in the city, dig it now and get it out of the way. The more you put underground, the less problems it will cause in the future, and the more us Wellingtonians can walk and scoot and ride around our own city without all those pesky cars. Pukeahu Park was a great beginning. Now do more of that.
Getting round the Basin is the next step, and the LGWM team have come up with a brilliant answer – thank you David Dunlop, I knew that you could do it. The complete grade separation of north-south local cars from east-west SH1 traffic is what is required to fix the Basin traffic jam, and the adoption of the Arch Centre’s Option X solution enables that to happen with minimal fuss. It’s a simple and stylish solution that let’s the traffic move, and also gets the Light Rail through the city with minimal fuss. Then on to the big question: where to next?
Again, personally, I think that LGWM is selling itself short by even offering options that do not have new tunnels. We have an existing tunnel under Mt Vic that was dug in the 1920s by pickaxe and with horse and cart, and was opened in the 1930s when we had about 2% of the cars on the road that we do nowadays. It is an indisputable fact of life that our existing tunnel is not fit for its existing purpose, ie that of both cars, trucks, pedestrians, and cycles. We need to dig a new, fit for purpose tunnel, and to my mind we need to dig 2 tunnels. Dig the one for Rapid Transport first, and a new road tunnel second. Why? Well two reasons, one because if you dig them in the other order we know what might happen to the other one… but secondly, because they are going to different places.
Answer me this question: who or what is the largest employer south of the Parliament?
Yes, the correct answer is: the Hospital. And the nurses and the people visiting patients are having problems parking at present. Clearly the answer is to take the mass transit, the Rapid Transit, the Light Rail, PAST the Hospital. That has to be the only logical conclusion and I defy anyone to say otherwise.
And then where? As we all know, the team at LGWM have had a change of heart about the airport and Miramar, instead plumbing for the Island Bay. My feeling is: why not both? One of the key issues for the design of any transit system is “Where are you going to keep the vehicles?” and in Island Bay there is no readily available terminal shed, or place for one. But there is in Kilbirnie – a vast, partly derelict bus shelter that take up a hectare of land or more. Its needed for buses of course, but it would also make a perfect place for an interchange as well as a train depot. Its almost beyond repair, and may have to be torn down and rebuilt, but it is the best thing we have. So in my mind, trains need to go at least as far as that. And to get there, they have to go past the Hospital and then off to Kilbirnie, under the hill. Here you go:
Done? The advantage of this is that it sorts out the cars from the Light Rail, for once and for all. It solves the storage problem at the southern end, and leaves the routes open for buses to connect or for more Light Rail in the future. But for me, this is the minimum that LR needs to do to get major uptake from all the population. Its a winner ! Feel free to reference this in your submission to LGWM, closing in just 2 weeks….