This is a cross post from Generation Zero whose Wellington team were perhaps felling a little left out our Congestion Free Network
By now you will hopefully have heard about the alternative transport vision for Auckland we’re pushing alongside the Auckland Transport Blog team; the Congestion Free Network. Quite a few people have asked, “when are you gonna do one for Wellington?”. Well guys, with the local government elections looming, the time has come.
Before I write any more words, allow me to drop the map.
It might sound clichéd, but Wellington is really at a transport crossroads. It’s on the cusp of a massive motorway expansion all the way from Levin to Wellington Airport, in the form of the Wellington Northern Corridor – one of the Government’s fabled “Roads of National Significance” (RoNS). The ramifications for the climate, our economy, and the special character of the “coolest little capital in the world” are pretty huge.
You might have heard John Key a few months ago announce that “Wellington is dying and we don’t know how to turn it around”. Apparently, the best answer is to spend well over $3 billion on some big new roads and tunnels through the heart of the city and region, to widen those state highway arteries. Surely this will get the blood pumping again!
The thing with a major roading operation like this, though, is it can have serious side-effects. In this case: “choking”, on all the extra cars it will bring into the city.
Gridlock is predicted to worsen across the Wellington region after Transmission Gully and the Kapiti Expressway are built.
Hardest hit will be Wellington city, as people from Porirua and the Kapiti Coast ditch public transport in favour of a faster, cheaper journey into the capital on the new four-lane highways.
The predictions are contained in a report commissioned by Greater Wellington Regional Council, which warns that local roads could struggle to handle the additional tens of thousands of cars hopping off State Highway 1.
There is some alternative therapy being offered in the form of the Public Transport Spine Study. This was supposed to tell us the best option for a high quality public transport solution along the city’s “growth spine” (Johnsonville – CBD – Newtown – Kilbirnie), particularly addressing the major bus congestion in the CBD that makes the current service slow and unreliable.
But, unfortunately, the Spine Study has problems of its own. It seems to have made an unfair and simply incorrect assessment of the light rail option, rendering the cost huge ($904m) and the benefits low (we’ll have a lot more to say about that). Even in the study’s best case option, Bus Rapid Transit, it projects the number of public transport trips in 2030 will only just claw back the lost ground as a result of the motorway building binge. And now the official line is that we can’t deliver this for at least nine years – five years after the International Energy Agency says global emissions should peak to be on a path to keep warming below 2°C.
We think Wellington deserves better. We see more and more cities around the world forging ahead fast with smart transport systems that help free us from dependence on oil and cars. These cities will be the ones prospering in the 21st century.
Wellington can’t afford a lapse back into the past – it’s time for a fresh, forward-looking transport vision. That’s why we’ve worked with some independent experts to develop…
It’s a holistic plan that we think builds on Wellington’s strengths to deliver better transport, a better economy and a better city. And it would cost much less than the planned motorway spend.
Over the coming weeks we’ll unveil and discuss more about Fast Forward Wellington. For now, I’ll just say a bit about the main components, shown in the map above.
1. A high quality “congestion free” public transport network
This means giving people the choice of reliable, high frequency PT services physically separated from traffic congestion, just like we’re pushing for in Auckland.
The first step would be building light rail on our alternative spine route from the Railway Station to Newtown then on to Kilbirnie over Constable St. We project this would cost less than $400 million and could be completed by 2020 by moving fast. Over future years the network can then be extended outwards – to the airport, Miramar, Island Bay and Karori. In the meantime these lines could be bus-only lanes connecting to the rail spine for transfers and some through services. Some routes like Brooklyn would probably remain as peak-hour bus only lanes.
2. A comprehensive Copenhagen-style cycleway network
This means giving people the choice of a safe and pleasant trip by bike with protected bike-only corridors.
Our proposed network would see about 150 km of segregated cycleways built throughout Wellington, Porirua and the Hutt Cities. This would be in conjunction with more on-road cycleways and traffic-calming measures to make the streets safer. With adequate funding of around $20 per resident each year, matched by central government, this could all be completed within a decade.
3. A city- or region-wide car share system
This means giving people an option of not owning a car but still having the service available for those occasions when they need one.
How does car sharing work? People pay a subscription plus a per-use fee, and can rent a car for minutes, hours or days at a time with little notice required. Systems are in operation in many cities around the world withZipcar. A company called CityHop has a small network in Auckland plus a couple of cars in Wellington and Christchurch.
Our proposal would see upwards of 200 vehicles rolled out across greater Wellington, making it a world-leader in car sharing. And for a cherry on top, how about making half of these full electric vehicles, with the rest plug-in hybrids or other high fuel efficiency vehicles?
There are some other components to the vision too. You might have also noticed on the map some new pedestrian zones or low-speed “shared spaces” on Lambton Quay, Courtenay Place and in the Newtown and Kilbirnie shopping areas.
And of course, there’s one pretty big point – Wellington doesn’t stop at the Railway Station. In fact about half of the Greater Wellington population live north of it. So, what could be done for those people?
We’re lucky to have some really good rail infrastructure to the north already, but there are a range of ways we can make it better – further electrification and double-tracking, building new stations, more cycle lockers and park & ride facilities, and much more.
And here’s one vital aspect: by building light rail in Wellington City and physically integrating this with the Railway Station, we unlock the potential for tram-train services from the north running through the CBD – rather than terminating at the edge. That means if you live in Johnsonville and work at the hospital, say, you could get there in one continuous train trip. A full public transport spine for Wellington, rather than a broken one.
In addition to this the cycleway network and car-share system would extend out, and we’d have separated bus lanes for Porirua (all day) and Wainuiomata (peak-hour only) connecting to the rail network.
So that’s the overview, and that’s probably more than enough for one post. We’ll have more coming over the days and weeks ahead as we work to push this vision onto the table in Wellington’s local elections, as well as putting out a quick submission form for Public Transport Spine Study consultation closing on September 30th.
Stay tuned, and we’d love to hear your feedback and ideas on the Fast Forward Wellington vision.