29 October, 2008

Wellington Transport Plan

I heard a very short (four minute) article/interview on Morning Report this morning [MP3 of interview here --- not permanent] concerning the Wellington Regional Transport Plan (WRTP) which has just been approved. In the interview, councillor Iona Pannet derided the report (maybe I've put that a little strongly) for its roading-heavy focus and for it not doing enough to help Wellington reduce its greenhouse gas emissions from transport (estimated to be 30% of total emissions in the city).

The long-term WRTP has a reported total budget of 600 million. In the scarce details I have so far, the funding for the next two years is split into 20M for public transport, 30M for bus lanes (like the one planned for Manners Mall, thought by some to be a cynical mechanism to allow more carparks.) and 30M for easing congestion at the Basin Reserve. I.e., for building the seemingly unpopular Basin Reserve Flyover.

I was hoping to hear something about plans to fund the construction of a cycle way to fix the gap between Petone and the City as part of the Great Harbour Way. (more info here.) N., do you know any more about this?

The Flyover is interesting for a couple of reasons, firstly because it is linked to the current pinnacle of idiocy in the (mis-)use of the word "terrorist" (and "fundamentalist too possibly"). As reported in the Dom-Post, a backer of the fly-over labeled one of its opponents (Cr Pannet from this mornings' interview no-less) a "terrorist" because of her opposition. Nice to know that without even being part of the "war on terror" a NZ individual (Wellington councillor Rob Goulden) leads the world in labeling as a terrorist anyone with an opinion other than his own. Wellington Mayor, Kerry Prendergast opted for a related jibe accusing Cr Pannet of "fundamentalism".

Aside from the name calling it induces from some of its backers, the flyover is curious for other reasons. It's part of the Ngauranga to Airport transport corridor plan. The "artist's" (mis-?)impression of the fly-over shown in the WRC draft plan looks quite nice --- as nice as dirty great concrete roading projects ever look I guess. The Basin Reserve Trust are however, not so optimistic about the aesthetics of the fly-over and what it might add to the park (apart from concrete and road noise) and plan to build a new stand to obscure it if/when it goes ahead.

Aesthetics aside, look again at that picture of the proposed fly-over, taking up most of the picture is a light-rail line with swish looking trains. Does this mean we are about to get some light rail in Wellington city? Nope! Well, not in the near future in any case. Section 1:2 of the GWRC Ngauranga to Airport draft plan states of light-rail options: "none were found to be feasible within the next 10 years.". Though there is at least a concession that light-rail might be a good idea some time in the future "The draft plan proposes to.... protect the option of developing a light rail network by developing a dedicated bus priority network (which could become the light rail or bus priority routes of the future)." That is, the immediate plan is to build more roads maybe with some green paint down one side of them to make a bus lane. It rather looks like the artist's impression we are being sold doesn't match up with the reality of the GWRC plan.

Just out of interest, this is what the Ngauranga to Airport plan says under the heading of Walking and Cycling:
"Region-wide walking and cycling plans are being developed. The plans aim to create, improve and better coordinate walking and cycling routes and facilities to make these means of transport safer, more convenient and more attractive."
Details? Nope, that's it. Just because the law requires cyclists to ride on the road doesn't mean they get considered as traffic when it comes to transport planning. And pedestrians, they're probably all fundamentalists or terrorists. (Sorry.)

Meanwhile, Wellington has rising numbers of cyclist deaths, rising fuel consumption and more traffic accidents per population than Auckland.

The fly-over will certainly come in handy eventually though. This rather crude Google Maps mash-up shows the effect of a 12m sea-level rise on the capital. A fly-over be one of the only ways to get across the depression that runs between the central city and Mt Vic, etc. Of course the airport would be underwater by then too, along with most of the other parts of the Ngauranga to Airport corridor.

24 October, 2008

Bicycles Locked to Poles

Just received this excellent photo from Kiwi Jen, who is traveling about Middle America at the moment.

It manages to capture the feel of the photos by John Glassie from his excellent book "Bicycles Locked to Poles", but with a more human touch.

The book by Glassie with it's somber photos from the NY city streets, is must for every coffee table, eliciting reviews such as
"Bicycles Locked to Poles is a rare treasury for anyone interested in bikes, poles, locks, or the forgotten artifacts of the urban landscape."

And once you've bought the book and it's piqued your interest in the whole bicycle/pole thing you can check out the even more somber ghost bike project; ghostly tributes to cyclists killed on the roads. Maybe if more of these cyclo-centric versions of the roadside white-cross were to be put up it would raise (driver) awareness of cyclists and perhaps encourage safer roads.

On a more positive note, it seems DKNY were out placing fluro-orange bicycles locked to poles about NY city in an attempt to promote cycling in the city (and presumably their own brand at the same time). I quite like the idea but I guess I can see that things could get a little messy, encouraging the police to remove the bikes. The story does sound a little bit like a good idea which was spoiled by bad communication.

21 October, 2008

Hello there!

Welcome to N who will make the occasional entry here now. The first one is this one right here.

The Great Harbour Way

I went to a meeting a couple of weeks ago organised by a bunch of people interested in improving recreational and commuting routes around Wellington harbour. The grand plan is called "The Great Harbour Way" and consists of a continuous, safe, signposted walkway and cycleway around the whole perimeter of Te Whanganui-a-Tara - Wellington Harbour from Fitzroy bay in the west to Sinclair Head in the east. That is a 72 kilometer continuous stretch of coastline. At the moment almost all of it is walkable and cycleable - with a notable exception being the stretch between Petone and Wellington, where cyclists can risk themselves on a very narrow and rough cycle lane down the side of SH2 (on the opposite side of the railway tracks from the harbour) but there is no route for walkers at all.
In addition to finding it a great idea in principle, I had the pleasure of discovering that the people who organised the meeting have a very serious plan for getting transport funding for this section of road. Some of the presentations from the meeting can be found here.
Some fun facts that I picked up along the way:
  • The health benefits of walking can be roughly costed at $1 per kilometre that you walk instead of driving/staying at home. Admittedly that is the benefit to council/government/society rather than money in your own pocket, but it still seems a pretty significant figure to me.
  • Cycling is apparently only worth 50 cents per kilometre - I am curious as to how much of the 'lost' 50 cents is due simply to the increased risk of cycling on NZ roads, and whether the figure would be higher elsewhere.
  • The cost of a 3.5m wide path for cyclists and pedestrians has been costed at $50 million. It was pointed out that this equates to 1km of Transmission Gully!
No word yet on how long this will take (it was pointed out that the project will require consent/support from at least 7 interested parties) but I will keep you posted.

20 October, 2008

Delights of the Manawatu, Tararua and Kapiti districts

Saturday: a little climbing at the Manawatu gorge, followed by secondhand shop browsing and coffees with neenish tart and similar delights in Woodville (I do recommend the secondhand shops there.)

08-10 Manawatu Gorge & Woodville

Sunday: A walk up Mt Hector with N. and some people from her work. Weather stayed nice the whole time --- barely a breath of wind, unlike last time when my sunglasses got blown off my head on the summit. Some gliders were out enjoying the calm conditions over the Tararuas too. One passed less than five meters above our heads.


08 October, 2008

Abel Tasman Coast Track Photos

Just a quick post to put up a few photos from the Abel Tasman coast track which I walked with Lorraine and N. last weekend. We took the ferry over Friday night after work and walked to Bark Bay hut on Saturday. Had we known how much faster we would be than the posted track times we could have carried on to Awaroa hut and avoided a 5am start the next morning, necessary to get to Awaroa inlet while it was still low tide (7:30am) in order to make it across easily. We made it to Whariwharangi hut (an excellent hut in a 110 year old farm homestead) mid-afternoon Sunday and enjoyed the last of the day's sun. Monday morning we had an hour to walk out to Wainui before driving back to Picton.

More photos in the Picasa gallery:
08-10 Abel Tasman

02 October, 2008

Wellington on a Good Day

After the beautiful waterfront weekend weather in Wellington I was thinking that I must say something here about how Wellington on a good day is an unbeatable city. Eye of the Fish wanted to express the same sentiment too
With the help of Lorraine, Nicolas and Aurelie, N. and I moved to a new apartment last weekend. Things went faster than I had expected --- on account of the excellent help. This left plenty of time for walking around the waterfront on Sunday afternoon, enjoying the summer weather and the excellent public spaces down by the harbour.

Cuba street too, had it's share of sun seekers.

Also very enjoyable was the newly opened OurSpace at Te Papa where we sought out photos from Dan, Arne and Estelle.

Excellent, also, is arriving back to your new apartment to find it warm and filled with sunlight. It's ture; you can't beat Wellington on a good day.

08-08 Walter St & Wellington