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Wellington Regional Transport Plan – Submission from Fair Intelligent Transport (FIT)

FIT Wellington,  Submission to the Regional Transport Committee on the Draft Regional Transport Plan (RLTP) 2015

Date: 15 February 2015

Contact: Michael Barnett

299 Karaka Bay Road,  Karaka Bays, Wellington 6022

Tel 970 5487,  Mobile 0210836 8114,  Email mbarnett@paradise.net.nz

Introduction

FIT Wellington opposes the Wellington Regional Land Transport Plan 2015 and seeks a comprehensive review and modification of the Plan to accommodate the following:

1. Abandon proposals to expand the road corridor from Ngauranga to Wellington Airport and call a halt to RoNS in the wider region, where these are not already committed.

2. Abandon plans to introduce BRT on the main transport spine and adopt high capacity, high frequency Light Rail Transit (LRT) running from Wellington Rail station, through the CBD via the hospital and Newtown shopping centre, then on to the airport.

3. Retain the existing trolley bus fleet for the remainder of its design life or earlier if battery buses become as effective as trolley buses.

4. Investigate options and implement measures to enhance the Basin Reserve roundabout.

5. Reallocate funds currently budgeted for expanding the road corridor from Ngauranga to Wellington Airport to investment in improved public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure.

6. Introduce measures to reduce commuter traffic from entering the CBD during peak hours, including parking controls and congestion charges.

FIT Wellington – Organization and Vision

FIT Wellington stands for Fair, Intelligent Transport for Wellington.  We are a group of concerned Wellington citizens, who wish to see a change in the present culture where the private car dominates over cheaper, safer, more economic, healthy and climate-friendly transport alternatives.  We see in the RLTP 2015 a continuation of old-fashioned transport planning, working in isolation from urban planning and peopleʼs needs, to the detriment of the urban environment.

FIT Wellingtonʼs vision for Wellington is a modern, vibrant city designed around the needs of people, not cars.

Our vision includes the following:

A healthy and safe city where the unique character and beauty of our harbour capital is enhanced by the built environment, including its transport system.

A city that has reliable, low-cost, fast and convenient public transport, that takes people to where they want to go.

A city where walking, cycling and electric public transport are actively promoted to reduce transport costs, encourage physical exercise and mitigate against pollution and climate change effects.

FIT Wellingtonʼs response to the RLTP

The RLTP 2015 contains eight key strategic objectives. We would add further three objectives:

1. Interconnected walking and cycling and passenger networks

2. Highly accessible and attractive ʻactivityʼ or shopping streets

3. To reduce the commuter road traffic entering the CBD, particularly at peak hours

We believe that a many of the 17 prioritized activities in the RLTP will not be conducive to achieving these objectives.

These activities are predominantly new roading projects and are dominated by so-called Roads of National Significance (RoNS). Of the $1.392 billion of prioritized projects over $5 million budgeted over the 6 year period 2015-2021 $1.181 (85%) is for state highways and local roads, $168 million (12%) is for public transport and $43 million (3%) is for cycling and walking (Refer Table on pages 156/157 in the RLTP).   Fit Wellington does not support spending such large sums of public money on motorways, tunnels and flyovers. The money would be better invested in higher quality public transport, walking and cycling modes.

The only RLTP activities supported by FIT Wellington are:

1. Priority 7 SH 58 safety works, conditional on the proviso, that walking and cycling facilities that meet current NZ standard guidelines are included.

2. Priority 9 Regional Rail Plan—passenger rail improvements

3. Priority 10 The Ngauranga to Petone cycleway/walkway.

4. Priority 11 Integrated fares and ticketing. – We supports this concept provided it can be demonstrated to work with the desired high capacity public transport network. However, we do not believe integrated ticketing using the current driver-checked smart cards will achieve the desired result, because boarding times will be too slow. The system must allow for all-door loading and a law change to make it the passengerʼs responsibility to have a ticket.

FIT Wellington strongly opposes Priority 4 Wellington City Bus Rapid Transit Infrastructure Improvements based on the following considerations:

BRTʼs allowance for patronage growth is only about a quarter of the growth rates seen in Auckland, on the Northern Bus way and the electrified passenger rail. The proposed BRT system would be overloaded as soon as 2025.  Wellington’s narrow inner city streets will result in buses stopping in places where following buses cannot overtake, thus eliminating a critical feature of BRT and replicating present-day delays.  ʻHundred passengerʼ buses are not defined. Double deckers will be too slow at stops, bendy-buses may not fit, existing buses with most seats removed to increase capacity will not be popular. Their effect on pedestrian or cyclist safety is not stated, We believe their use will have greater adverse effects than the observed deficiencies of the current bus system.

BRT as proposed currently configured relies on a second Mt Victoria Tunnel and a six lane route containing up to 7 lanes on the airport side of Mt Victoria. This can only be achieved by destroying part of the Town Belt and housing along Wellington Road.  Congestion and bus delays are inevitable because the capacity on the CBD route will be grossly inadequate.

The plan to abandon the existing clean electric trolley buses with a working life of a further 15 to 20 years and replace them with untried hybrid buses with diesel- electric drive is irresponsible. Trolley buses should be retained for their working life or until a suitable alternative is found.  Hybrid buses are costly and will still have polluting diesel exhausts containing known carcinogens, operating along the busiest bus route in New Zealand and beside the busiest footpaths.

FIT Wellington opposition to the other 11 activities is due to the over emphasis on new road projects to the detriment of investment in public transport, walking and cycling.

Achieving the key strategic objectives

FIT Wellington believes there are several missing items that need to be included in a revised RLTP in order to achieve the following key strategic objectives.

Objective. A high quality and high frequency passenger transport spine.

Light Rail Transit (LRT)

FIT Wellington strongly believes that plans to introduce BRT on the main transport spine should be dropped and be replaced with a plan to introduce high capacity, high frequency Light Rail Transit (LRT) instead in order to address the key issue of congestion along the Golden Mile.  We believe that LRT combined with a network approach to other linking public transport, is the only feasible option that will provide the needed capacity and achieve a goal of significantly reducing private car use. LRT was rejected in the Public Transport Spine Study (PTSS) on spurious financial grounds, where an extra tunnel was costed for LRT, but not BRT. Further, the route chosen does not follow the high passenger demand route (hospital and Newtown)and will adversely affect the Town Belt.

The principal advantage of light rail is adequate capacity on a single two-lane route. Other advantages include scope for better urban design because there is less need for wide roads, much greater passenger appeal including for the elderly (rapidly increasing in number) and people with disabilities (a smoother, safer and more comfortable ride), and increased commercial and residential property values along its route.  We understand that a light rail route from the Railway Station to Kilbirnie can be built for under $400 million including design and GST.

Objective. Inter-connected and convenient local street, walking, cycling and passenger networks.

The effect of current roads policy is to suppress choice by promoting private vehicle use notorious for high costs, poor safety and poor use of road space.  To achieve this objective, higher priority should be given to developing to public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure with the aim to markedly increase mode share of these sustainable transport options. This includes bringing all walking corridors up to the standard specified in the NZ Pedestrian Planning and Design Guide as a minimum, and providing a Level of Service C or better at pedestrian road crossings everywhere within the CBD and key suburban areas.

Priority should be given to a comprehensive review of the Wellington road network to identify roads that require additional cycle facilities or where slower speeds and other means will make roads safer for all. A comprehensive cycling network should include physical separation of cyclists from motorists and pedestrians where possible.

Objective. Highly accessible and attractive ʻactivityʼ or shopping streets.

Attention needs to be given to the desired urban form and identifying key streets in the CBD and suburban areas where people and moving vehicles can meander in a safe and harmonious manner. This will require urban designers, road and traffic engineers working together and giving top priority to designing our streets and public spaces around people and their needs, not the automobile.  We consider a pedestrianized Golden Mile with light rail transit would transform the cityʼs heart and should be given a high priority.

Objective. Plans to reduce the commuter road traffic entering the CBD

FIT Wellington would like to see measures introduced to reduce commuter traffic from entering the CBD during peak hours. Such measures should include:

Parking controls: reduce the space available in the CBD for commuter vehicles and make the cost of long-term parking considerably more expensive. On-street parking should be given lower priority and priced so that spaces are usually available

Road pricing to discourage unessential trips into the CBD during peak hours The technology is there, Singapore has been doing it for decades and other cities around the world have followed. Here in New Zealand it is time we started designing our cities around people movements, not the motor vehicle.  We need to plan for less traffic entering the CBD at peak hours and we need major investment in public transport and other transport modes.

The Basin Reserve Project.

The Environmental Protection Authority Board of Inquiry declined the applications for a resource consent for the construction of a flyover at the northern end of the Basin Reserve in August 2014. The NZ Transport Agency has subsequently lodged a High Court appeal to this judgement.  The Draft RLTP states (page 143) that “Pending the outcome of this appeal the intention is that  stakeholders will work together in order to achieve a solution to address conflicting transport demands at the Basin Reserve intersection that is safe, effective and efficient for all users and transport types through Wellington City.”

FIT Wellington considers the NZTAʼs decision to appeal the Board of Inquiryʼs judgement is irresponsible and will result in an unnecessary and high expense court case, when other low cost and workable solutions to congestion around the Basin Reserve have been identified. We believe that this money and effort should be applied to implementing modifications to the existing layout of the Basin Roundabout to provide for dedicated bus lanes, walking and cycling facilities.

Concluding Comments

FIT Wellington reiterates that it opposes the Wellington Regional Land Transport Plan 2015 as presented and seeks a comprehensive review and modification of the Plan to accommodate the following:

  – Abandon proposals to expand the road corridor from Ngauranga to Wellington Airport and call a halt to RoNS in the wider region, where these are not already committed.

  – Abandon plans to introduce BRT on the main transport spine and adopt high capacity, high frequency Light Rail Transit (LRT) running from Wellington Rail station, through the CBD via the hospital and Newtown shopping centre, then on to the airport.

  – Retain the existing trolley bus fleet for the remainder its design life or earlier if battery buses become as effective as trolley buses.

  – Investigate options and implement measures to enhance the Basin Reserve roundabout.

  – Reallocate of funds currently budgeted for expanding the road corridor from Ngauranga to Wellington Airport to investment in improved public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure.

  – Introduce measures to reduce commuter traffic from entering the CBD during peak hours including parking controls and congestion charges.

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