Wellington Scoop

Are they flyovers? No, they’re bridges


by Lindsay Shelton
We called it a flyover. The transport planners called it a bridge – before and after it was rejected first by a Board of Inquiry and then by the High Court. And in spite of those two rejections, last night they announced not one, not two, but three options which include a bridge (or bridges?) alongside the Basin Reserve.

At the Let’s Get Wellington Moving meeting last night, Tim Jones of Save the Basin asked some reasonable questions about the bridge options. “How long will they be? How high will they be? Where will they be? And if we don’t like them, what then?” His questions weren’t answered. “They are not the only options,” said LGWM’s Barry Mein. “We are trying to be less obtrusive.” But he asked us to believe that nothing – less obtrusive or otherwise – has yet been designed. He wants feedback without telling us what the bridges will look like.

He suggested, however, that people giving their opinions should say whether or not they want such structures at the Basin. As if the planners don’t already know what people think.

At last night’s meeting, Let’s Get Wellington Moving announced four “high level options,” which they described as scenarios for making the city’s transport systems more reliable. They said they’d come up with objectives, and they’d identified problems. Without something being done, they warned us, then by 2026 there’ll be slower travel times and longer delays.

“We can’t respond by adding more road space,” said Barry Mein. “We need to move more people without more vehicles. We want to give priority for public transport, walking and cycling.” So far so good.

Scenario A is the cheapest and most affordable – only $150m to $200m. It would prioritise public transport from the station to the Basin, there’d be cycle lanes and “higher priority” for walking on key routes, and Vivian Street would be a clearway at peak hours. It would “improve” road layouts around the Basin, and it wouldn’t build bridges.

Scenario B would include everything from Scenario A, but would add a second Mt Victoria Tunnel, and use bridges and/or tunnels to separate east-west traffic at the Basin. Cost: $700m to $900m.

Barry Mein acknowledged that a flyover had been “legally rejected,” but he kept on talking about bridges. He sounded more credible when he said that the best option would be to put SH1 into a tunnel under all the local streets. “It’s more challenging, it’s doable, but it’s more expensive.”

That idea is included in Scenario C (which includes everything in Scenarios A and B including “tunnels or bridges.”) It would move State Highway 1 out of Vivian Street and place its east-bound traffic in a cut-and-covered tunnel on Karo Drive. Cost: $1.5b to $1.8b. Then there’s Scenario D, which includes everything from A, B and C as well as a second Terrace Tunnel and an extra southbound lane on the motorway from Ngauranga to Aotea. Cost: $1.9b to $2.3b.

Two years ago, after its Basin flyover plan had been rejected for a second time, the Transport Agency commissioned a report to tell it what lessons it should have learned. The report said:

…it is clear that proposing a bridge in this area of Wellington would be likely to draw strong opposition. Given the confidence the project team had in the option’s identification and evaluation work, it is surprising that the project team didn’t do more to demonstrate to the community and wider stakeholders why an at-grade solution would not be workable and why a bridge would be preferable to a tunnel.

At last night’s meeting, there was again no attempt to explain why an at-grade solution would not be workable, or to justify the need for a bridge rather than a tunnel. We were asked, however, to say whether or not we wanted grade separation at the Basin. But it’s not a poll – if a majority vote to keep the road on the ground, there’s no guarantee that the planners will be persuaded.

Let’s remind them that there’s been public opposition to a flyover/bridge at the Basin Reserve for nine years. Writing on November 27 2008, I described

a meeting of a hundred people who gathered in St Josephs Church to launch the campaign to oppose the flyover. They were told that public consultation showing 79 per cent opposition to the flyover plan had been ignored by the Transport Agency. Then-councillor Celia Wade-Brown spoke of the joys of walking and cycling, and how the Basin Reserve was an oasis for pedestrians and cyclists heading into the city. An oasis which would be destroyed if the flyover was built.

Nothing has changed. The Basin is still an oasis, if still an under-developed one. There’s still substantial opposition to a flyover at the Basin. But after nine years, the planners are pretending to have forgotten.

They were given much more to think about at last night’s meeting. There was applause when a member of the public said that three of the four scenarios were “just more road space,” in spite of the statement about more roads not solving any problems. (Barry Mein reckoned that only Scenario D provided more road capacity.) Another speaker felt the planners had been asking the wrong questions and therefore getting the wrong answers. “You should be doing more to get people out of their cars and into public transport.” A third speaker had taken part in earlier consultation which had overwhelmingly favoured light rail. “And yet your plan is for more roads.” Barry Mein’s answer: “More capacity doesn’t mean four lanes to the planes. It depends what you do with it.”

As for light rail, he said the costings had been based on mass transit by buses. “If it was light rail, the costs would be up to $500m more.”

After feedback – starting today, and ending before Christmas – the planners will “identify one preferred scenario,” and then there’ll be more consultation. Will we then be asked to tell them, again, that we don’t want flyovers or bridges … whatever they may be called?

Save the Basin appalled by flyover options


  1. Dave Armstrong, 16. November 2017, 11:11

    My new job at Let’s Get Welly Moving is to compile a thesaurus. Can anyone add to my entry for Flyover? “Bridge, Basin road/tunnel solution, Raised motorway, Built-up highway, Overfly, Elevated traffic platform, Airport congestion solution, NZTA default solution for anything…”

  2. greenwelly, 16. November 2017, 11:16

    “grade separation” is a common one

  3. Chris Horne, 16. November 2017, 16:46

    Scenario A is the winner. It is sound in environmental, social and economic terms. It will improve the livability of our city, and help us to make Wellington a carbon-neutral capital.

    Scenarios B, C and D, which include proposals for enormously expensive roading projects, show that the project team have failed to grasp the fact that increasing the capacity of road networks always encourages the use of motor vehicles, so it is ultimately self-defeating. We are in the 21st century now. We found out in the 20th century that it is impossible to build our way out of traffic congestion. When will our transport planners and politicians accept this obvious fact?

  4. Sue Kedgley, 16. November 2017, 19:22

    The centerpiece of any modern, future focussed transport network should be a mass transit, electrified light rail network, not a series of new roads and tunnels that will increase traffic congestion and carbon emissions. But Lets Get Welly Moving relegates light rail to a possible add-on in some distant future, once all the new roads are built. It claims to be ‘multi-modal’ but in fact it’s just old roading proposals dusted off and presented in a new guise yet again. And don’t even mention the resurgence of the fly-over which we thought was long since dead and buried…. have we learnt nothing over the years about how to reduce traffic congestion and make a city more livable.

  5. Kay, 16. November 2017, 22:16

    I suggested to the #GetWellyMoving team at the March consultation meetings that future scenarios should use accurate maps showing the bus tunnel that buses go thru, as well as the Mt Victoria tunnel, which they don’t use. They nodded but in November they are still talking in 4 scenarios about public transport without showing where buses go. Why only look at infrastructure changes for roads and tunnels used by cars and trucks? What about widening the one lane bus tunnel to reduce the congestion at peak times of up to six buses waiting to take their turn through the tunnel?

  6. Rumpole, 16. November 2017, 23:03

    It breaks Hilda’s heart to see the overhead cables for our emission free trolley bus network now being dismantled. GWRC chairman Laidlaw has a lot of explaining to do. Perhaps a few free taxi vouchers would be a good idea to cause a diversion.

  7. Curtis Nixon, 16. November 2017, 23:41

    ^^Dave . . . Uber bridge?Electric light rail is the way ahead.

  8. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 17. November 2017, 8:14

    For clarity, there is no proposal for a long flyover in any way similar to the previously-rejected NZTA “Basin Bridge” proposal. One option is broadly similar to “Option X” as presented to the Basin Bridge inquiry by a group opposed to the flyover. Other options have tunnels/subways. [via twitter]

  9. Lindsay, 17. November 2017, 8:40

    Chris C-F: That’s valuable information, but why was it not provided at the LGWM meeting? Tim asked “how long, how high…” but Barry wouldnt reply, saying only (and sounding evasive) “they are not the only options, there may be better options.” Pretty hard to give meaningful feedback when the plans are so vague.

  10. Larry Foster, 17. November 2017, 8:41

    Sue Kedgley loves advocating public transport and is only seen using it for a political photo-op. The Green-wash politicians should be ignored. Light rail is going to be obsolete within ten years. Why install overhead wires when battery electric technology is moving in leaps and bounds? Why install tracks when vehicle autonomy is also moving in leaps and bounds? Electric buses in platoons could operate like trams on main routes and branch off into streets in the suburbs. The costs would be much lower, with much more flexibility.

    Wellington needs the inner city bypass completed and improved bus based public transport. Public transport serves radial routes very effectively, the nonsense over bridge/flyover nomenclature is a truly byzantine effort to argue that ANY form of grade separation of one road over another is suddenly going to induce vast amounts of new car traffic. It’s just nonsense.

    Build a cut and cover bypass as originally planned, build a two way flyover to two Mt Victoria Tunnels, build the second Terrace Tunnel (the 25yr evaluation period by NZTA is a nonsense for tunnels, which do not need new capital every 25 years) and focus on bus priority and next generation buses.

  11. Citizen Joe, 17. November 2017, 9:01

    Hey Larry, I thought it was the personally owned car that is soon destined for recycling as NZ leads the brave new world to shared battery bubble cars communicating with each other to make Wellington super efficient and without the need for anymore roads, flyovers, bridges,tunnels, parking.

    Where’s this IT-techno scenario in LGWM’s planning?

  12. Traveller, 17. November 2017, 9:09

    Larry: You’ll be pleased that a cut and covered bypass is included in Scenario C. But the scenarios are all vague about flyovers and bridges – not a clue about their size or impact. Seems the planners want us to believe that they havent started designing them yet. For the sake of the city, we must tell them: No bridges! No flyovers!

  13. glenn, 17. November 2017, 10:49

    Really Sue? You have to be joking don’t you? Aren’t they now tearing down the trolley bus wires?

  14. NigelTwo, 17. November 2017, 12:25

    Scenarios – blah. This is just steps 1 to 4 of a single plan. It will stop at the point we run out of funds.
    And don’t we love the wording. For example:
    “Vivian Street would be a clearway” means Vivian St will be 3 lanes!

  15. David Bond, 17. November 2017, 15:32

    Larry, if you are right that “Light rail is going to be obsolete within ten years”, then numerous cities in other countries that are currently pursuing rail-based transport policies must be wrong. This seems unlikely.

    You don’t state your credentials, but I somehow doubt that you are qualified to make such a pronouncement. Perhaps you should preface your comment with the words, “In my limited view as someone with little experience in this field…”

  16. congestionfreewelly, 17. November 2017, 16:07

    Thanks, ChrisCalviFree! Assurances are great, but verifiable, quantified plans and details are what we really need. Surely these have already been drawn up? [via twitter]

  17. Larry Foster, 17. November 2017, 17:57

    David Bond. You’re a charmer. So everyone else can state their opinions on here, but when someone disagrees with you then you “doubt he is qualified”? In fact I have been advising authorities in multiple countries on transport policy and planning. You’re a rail advocate, but I don’t see in your largely pejorative response something resembling analysis.

    Many cities have got it wrong, politicians like big shiny solutions that look like they are doing something transformative. Across the US roads are potholed while light rail lines are placed to serve politically important locations, and congestion doesn’t change. Canberra is now installing a single tram line along a corridor that barely gets congested for less than an hour a day, and will replace a bus service at many times the cost. The entire automotive industry is transforming itself for the reasons I said, and a few planners who learned the thinking of optimistic but misguided US planning schools from the 1970s and 1980s are ignoring it. Legacy tramways with dedicated rights of way have use in high density cities with O-D pairs that don’t quite justify full metros (Hong Kong, St Petersburg), but there are few objective stories of success for new ones in terms of congestion relief, mode-share shift from private car use, let alone enhanced access.

    The limitations of buses compared to trams (internal combustion engines, following distances) are being overcome completely. Wellington shouldn’t tie up taxpayers’ money that will never remotely be recovered, in technology that is becoming obsolete.

  18. Michael C Barnett, 17. November 2017, 20:21

    LGWM project director Barry Mein, has presented four scenarios. In reality it is one scenario, broken into four stages; from doing very little to offering more roads and tunnels, which will inevitably lead to more traffic congestion not less.

    Traffic congestion in Wellington is primarily a problem of too many cars entering and departing the CBD during peak hours. The solution rests with getting commuters out of their cars and onto other transport modes, thus freeing up the road space for essential users. The LGWM scenarios are lacking in vision and will fail to achieve the project’s stated objectives.

    What Wellington and the region needs is a transport system based upon a rail network as the prime people mover. This should include light rail from the rail station to the airport and Miramar via the hospital in Newtown and on to Kilbirnie, supported by an all electric bus network. This will have health, environmental, economic and social benefits, not offered in the presented scenarios.

  19. David Bond, 17. November 2017, 21:49

    Larry F, I don’t know what advice you have been giving to “authorities in multiple countries” but your failure to acknowledge successful rail systems telling, and your bald statement, “Light rail is going to be obsolete within ten years” invites ridicule. Try telling that to the many European and Eastern Bloc cities – large and small – that have these systems in place and are still expanding them. Even Britain is in on the act, though in a stop-go fashion sadly-characteristic of the English-speaking world.

    From your comments you appear to limit your purview to the USA and Australia. This is a poor basis for judging the success of rail, unless your aim is to bias your advocacy. You are ignoring numerous regions where rail-based public transport is a thriving way-of-life, and in cities often smaller than Wellington (for example Lausanne, Switzerland, pop. 138,000).

    Such baseless denigration of rail smacks very much of certain American-based organisations that appear to have this as their agenda (does ‘Demographia’ mean anything to you?).

    As regards Wellington, please consider that it already has an extensive regional rail system that according to GWRC, transports some 44% of all commuters from elsewhere in the region to the CBD. This is a *massive* contribution. Where it falls down is in its failure to serve the southern part of City and the all-important city-airport corridor. The same benefit that it confers elsewhere could and should extend over this corridor also.

    And in case you are wondering, I am not advocating light rail, but an extension of the system we already have. Why? Because it works!

  20. Gwynneth, 18. November 2017, 10:23

    Couldn’t agree more Michael.C. Barnett, and with Transmission Gully moving towards completion there will be even more vehicles streaming into the city. The Transmission Gully project has effectively stymied plans for a future coherent public transport system which isn’t road/car based. As for Barbara Donaldson and the GWRC – please don’t get me started!

  21. Paul Dunning, 18. November 2017, 15:52

    We need to be looking further into the future and building infrastructure that will be futureproof, that we can build on. Larry, the automotive industry is transforming itself. The GWRC needs to recognise that autonomous Battery Electric Vehicles are the future. Not in decades but within a decade. We need to be building “roadways” not roads as we know them now. There is a need for $60 million to be spent on re-laying the Wairarapa line through the Rimutaka tunnel. I say spend that on tearing up the track, sealing it and making it an Autonomous Roadway Corridor for BEVs. You can replace all rail from Masterton to Upper Hutt with Autonomous Buses; passengers hop off and catch a unit from there. This is future proofing. There is no room for heavy rail in the public transport future. This AR Corridor would also allow other Autonomous Vehicles to use it by joining in at the railway stations. The Railway Stations would allow people to park and ride on Autonomous Buses. The point is we need to be thinking to the future not just more of what we have had and are used to. That is not the future that is repeating the past and the reason there will be a change is because we can’t keep doing what we are doing as it’s not working. We build more roads and there is more congestion. So don’t build more roads. Autonomous Buses, Autonomous Public Transport on rail corridors is my suggestion.

  22. Peter, 18. November 2017, 17:33

    How many BEVs would it take to shift a trainload of logs from the Wairarapa to Centreport within a decade Paul?

  23. John Rankin, 18. November 2017, 18:11

    @DavidBond: could I add to your comment by putting in a plug for Canada’s cities with light rail? For example, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, and Ottawa. I can testify that the more enlightened US transit planners regularly visit these cities to learn how it’s done.

    The cities listed above achieve *twice* the number of transit rides per capita that Wellington achieves. This makes for a less than flattering comparison with LGWM’s aspiration to increase public transport mode share by between 3% and 14%.

    It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future. But we can say with some confidence that the laws of geometry are unlikely to change any time soon. Big things (cars) will never fit in small spaces (cities) — in car-based cities, congestion is inevitable.

    A person travelling by car requires about 20 times as much space as a person travelling by light rail. Investing in space-efficient transport modes (walking, cycling and public transport) is a smart way to future-proof a city. I don’t think Wellington is going to acquire TARDIS-like capabilities any time soon.

    LGWM’s message to Wellington seems to be, “What we have been doing for the last 50 years has caused big problems, so let’s do more of it.” This is not the future I want.

  24. Paul Dunning, 18. November 2017, 22:16

    Can I suggest Peter, that there are other options being developed for freight. See http://evtalk.co.nz/tesla-electric-truck-unveiled/

    We must think to the future and not be bound to think that improving existing technology is necessarily the way forward. If you build more of the same thing we will get more of the same thing. We need to focus on invention, automation, autonomous vehicles, change and the future.

  25. Brendan Coe, 19. November 2017, 7:48

    Public transport is an inconvenient and unreliable way to travel at the best of times. Not to mention its huge cost to the rate payer. The car is King and the various scenarios of the LGWM have us on the right road. Let’s hope they keep rolling.

  26. Michael, 19. November 2017, 11:07

    If the WCC ever starts doing what it claims on its website, by actually taking “an environmental leadership role, as the capital city of clean and green New Zealand”, we might begin to get somewhere.

  27. Andy Mellon, 19. November 2017, 19:42

    @Brendan Coe. Public transport is a waste of money and unreliable? I catch the train every day, and the reliability is pretty good. Can you imagine the productivity wasted if every public transport taker was to drive in instead? If you drive a car to work, surely you want as many as possible other commuters to be taking public transport? It makes your journey vastly better.

  28. PG, 19. November 2017, 21:14

    What most of you seem to have missed is that for the city to truly solve its transport/congestion problems it must move more of its citizens into the city, removing the need to travel these distances by road/bus/rail. Try new housing over the motorways/roads/rail corridors – many world class cities are already doing this and/or planning such. Even placing airport bus/rail transport corridors underground such as Schiphol in the Netherlands would be a good start. Why do you think the most successful real estate developers are building units along rail corridors !

  29. Coastal, 20. November 2017, 12:45

    Those logs Peter should be going to Napier anyway.

  30. David Bond, 20. November 2017, 13:02

    Paul Dunning, what evidence can you offer that ripping up the Wairarapa rail line and asphalting it for use by autonomous battery vehicles is necessarily going to be better or cheaper than keeping it as rail?

    Just remember that road transport (in general) only *seems* cheaper than rail because provision of roading infrastructure is normally taken for granted and is not directly costed against those using it.

    I believe there is plenty of evidence that steel rails on ballasted track are the most efficient way to move significant loads over a given corridor, if there is no roading option thrown-in at no charge.

  31. CPH, 20. November 2017, 17:07

    Coastal is right. Quite what the regional council thinks its doing by shipping logs out of Wellington is beyond me. It’s a very low value product that they lack the land to marshal effectively, and devoting that much space to logs less than a kilometre from Parliament in the country’s capital city just seems bizarre.

    The whole idea of having a commercial port in Wellington is doomed to fail. It’s just made a massive financial loss because of the earthquakes, it’s very exposed to further damage when the next earthquake comes along, but it’s too small to ever have the scale necessary to compete with the big ports or to draw the big ships. I predict it will be a black hole for ratepayers.

  32. Mark Shanks, 20. November 2017, 20:23

    CPH is right on the money. The Wellington dockside has to be re-purposed as a low rise waterfront hub that shows off the talent that abounds in Wellington, and could include lots of precious green spaces, and return the fantastic views of the harbour to the people. Cruise ships will want to stop here. That’s our market! It must be part of an integrated transport and marketing strategy for the region. Bring the tourists by boat then there’s no need for the airport extension.

  33. Paul Dunning, 20. November 2017, 20:35

    None at all. I very much doubt there has been any research done on this subject as I only thought of it a few weeks ago. It may already be a thing but I haven’t seen it discussed. If there is anyone interested in doing the research or knows of any research then I would be interested in contacting them.

    There is no doubt plenty of evidence on rail as it has been around a long time. I have many ideas on how this new public transport system would look and work which could form the start of research but that is not my thing and I could start but would never finish.

  34. Francis McRae, 25. November 2017, 8:38

    If wellington wants to reduce congestion it should toll motorways. If it wants increase capacity between city & airport it should build mass transit. This plan proposes neither. [via twitter]