As you’ve probably noticed, the WCC is canvassing for opinions on the proposed change to the bus route through Manners Mall.
We’re a bit surprised how little public dialogue there has been so far on the proposal – and so we thought we’d open up a place for your informal dialogue and discussion to go. The picture above is of Manners Mall, taken on the corner of Cuba, just a few days after mid-winter. Its a little after lunchtime, and so the afternoon sun is streaming into the mall, keeping those pedestrians happy. Seems like a nice place to walk, no? Or better as a route to drive a bus down?
The premise is simple: buses to be re-routed so that they no longer do the dog-leg through Mercer-Victoria-Wakefield-Cuba-Manners-Courtenay, but instead they’ll continue along Willis a bit longer, and take a turn straight down Manners to Courtenay.
Simple on the face of it, but what is behind it – what is it really for? The Council is very keen on connecting up the 2 parts of the Golden Mile – at present it is a little disjointed – and they commissioned a scoping report earlier (the Jones Lang LaSalle – Spargo report), that had this to say:
There would be a substantial cost in resources and time in redevelopment of the current streetscape… a large proportion of the funding for this would ultimately come from the community. Therefore, robust and defensible analysis on the impacts to change the current status quo will need to be undertaken to mitigate any negative public feedback…… Proposed bus stops … could cause congestion…. Pedestrian flows and retail spend … may not organically increase… incentives for people to actually stop in the area will need to be investigated…. Noise, possible pollution from diesels… may diminish the existing amenity value of premises in Manners Mall.
None of which greatly add to its attractiveness to be sure! However, on the more positive side, the report noted that:
The number of ‘impulse buying’ retail premises in the precinct could change if transport networks are changed or introduced… The adaptation of current bus routes through Manners Mall provides a quicker and more practical route though the CBD. This could reduce transit times for commuters… The proposed changes on introducing buses through Manners Mall could be beneficial for future introduction of light-rail.
Now that’s interesting. That’s the first real mention of possible Light Rail we’ve seen since the white wash report that is the GRWC Ngaraunga to Airport rubbish ‘consultation’. There’s also a lot in the report regarding Malls Re-Opened to Traffic in Australia:
approx 48 malls were constructed during the 1960s and 1970s, mostly in NSW. Since that time, 10 malls have been removed and the future of others is under consideration… Comments included: Increase in property values, increase in retail turnover, reduction in crime, vacant sites decreased dramatically, etc.
That intrigues me – I can imagine those being valid concerns if indeed Manners Mall currently had low Pedestrian counts, but at present it has the distinction of having the second highest pedestrian count in the whole of Wellington (Lambton Quay counts for 4 out of the top 5 spots in wellington – and indeed, Lambton Quay has the highest counts in the whole of New Zealand). And indeed that comes to the nub of my suspicions: Manners Mall, although it may be full of baby-goths and mock-punks, fluoro-emos and squealing teens, is still a fantastic traffic-free zone for pedestrian perambulation. It enables Wellington to have the enviable position of being able to get from Parliament to the top of Cuba St without crossing any streets: from Bowen, along Lambton and Willis, to Manners with narry a crossing (Woodward doesn’t count). Trams used to run this way before, so buses will be able to run this way again, although it certainly doesn’t feel like it is wide enough. But trams even went up Cuba St once, apparently. Hard to believe, I know, dodging the Bucket fountain and all. Joking! Enough already. More info at the Cuba Street Memories Project if you’re interested.
Is the real reason the Council is proposing this: to rid the street of the emo crowd who hang out in front of the Burger King and the Regent Cinemas? Surely not. Is the real reason to save us a 2 minute extra slot on our ride home? Despite a cost of millions? Feedback to the Council is needed by Friday 5 December. Click here for WCC.Or you can post your comments here if you wish.
But what do the pedestrians of the city get back in return? The Mall would be turned into a bus only 2-way street, so no cars allowed – not even taxis. And the existing part of Manners, opposite DoC house (the old Mid-City) would convert to being 2 way as well. Which means therefore that the crunch point comes back to the corner of Boulcott, Manners and Willis. The corner’s a nightmare now (well, that’s overly dramatic, but it’s certainly not a highpoint of any bus trip through town).
It would be nice if Dixon St was converted into pedestrian only in return for losing Manners Mall, and in a way, it would be a better swap for the city. Imagine if Te Aro Park only had a road on one side of it, instead of the ridiculous wind-blown wedge that it is now. Take away Dixon St at that point and have trattoria opening out onto the sunny pavement, on the edge of a small urban park! The Dixon St Deli, Wishbone, Subway, Hope Bros, Bambalina, Habebe, 4 Kings, Curry Club, etc etc are there waiting – even the Santa Fe stripclub could get a leg up in life, instead of just a leg over.
And Terry Serepisos and his hideous mirror glass Disney castle on the old Deka site – even that could get a sunny pedestrian site (and hopefully a do-over) before they start. Just one thing of course: the cars. They’ll have to go too – my pick is Wakefield St, or Ghuznee St, but let’s get them out of Dixon St. So: comments please! Or better still – could someone with great photoshop talents whip up a quick rendering of Dixon St as a car free zone? Aren’t all the landscape students sitting around twiddling their thumbs at present? Any volunteers?