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.