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Time to build light rail “urgently,” say Greens

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The Wellington Central branch of the Greens has told LGWM that it supports Scenario A, which prioritises public transport, walking and cycling in the central city. But it wants more support for these modes of travel – “this is what the public supported loud and clear in the early LGWM consultation.” The Greens’ submission states:

We wish to make the following points:

1. We support Scenario A, which prioritises public transport, walking and cycling in the central city. However, we would like to see more enhancements to support these modes of travel – this is what the public supported loud and clear in the early LGWM consultation.

2. We reject Scenarios B, C and D as too car-centred and because they violate many of the LGWM Principles. We can’t take our cars onto a plane, so we don’t need four lanes! We need rapid public transport to the airport from the North end of the CBD.

3. Principle 8 requires special consideration:

“Predictable travel times – Significantly reduce the impact of congestion on journey time predictability for all, at all times. All includes commuters, tourists, movers of freight, trades people and anyone travelling throughout Wellington city and the region.”

The problem with this principle is that it may conflict with the other principles, while they are mutually supportive. If this principle is to be retained, then it can only be achieved by a combination of road or congestion pricing (not by increasing road capacity) and increasing the mode share of walking, cycling and public transport, and this should be confirmed in the LGWM proposals.

4. Scenarios B, C and D are attempts to build our way out of congestion, explicitly rejected in Principle 5:

“Demand and Supply – Recognise that we need to do more than just build infrastructure and consider a range of ways to manage travel demand and supply across the network.”

5. The consultation document has this to say about road pricing:

“Another option is to introduce some form of road pricing such as congestion charging. A range of possible options could be used in Wellington, although most would require a change in the law. A levy on parking in the central city could also be considered. We have not specifically included any road pricing in our scenarios, but we will be looking at the role that pricing might play in the longer term.”

In our view, road pricing should be explored as a matter of urgency with the new government. While the previous government (under which most of the LGWM work occurred) was opposed to road pricing, the Greens have long been advocates for such measures to manage road traffic demand. Road pricing is a very real option now, which, in combination with Scenario A, would work towards satisfying all of the LGWM principles and help to produce the sustainable transport future that Wellingtonians so desire.

6. Principle 11 calls for:

“Travel choice – Provide better transport choices for the region. In alignment with the sustainable transport hierarchy in the Wellington Urban Growth Plan and the Regional Land Transport Plan.”

Under this principle, LGWM should be talking explicitly about reducing car share of trips to 20%, with 80% by walking, cycling and public transport, within central Wellington.

7. We note that the Mayor of London’s draft transport strategy would have 80% of CBD trips by walking, cycling or public transport by 2041 and believe that Wellington should plan to do the same. The three key themes of the plan are:

a. Healthy streets and healthy people;
b. A good public transport experience;
c. New homes and jobs.

There’s nothing about new road schemes!

8. Principle 3:

“Clean and green – Improve environmental outcomes for the city and the region. Through a transport system that respects nature and makes a positive contribution to environmental improvement.”

This should be expanded to require greater emphasis on reducing carbon and other emissions from transport, which further repudiates Scenarios B, C and D.

9. Leading Dutch sustainable transport planner Arie Bleijenberg gave a presentation on “New Mobility” to the Transport Knowledge Hub seminar in Wellington on 4 December 2017. This was attended by many central, regional and local government transport planners. Arie stated that we should not be trying to beat congestion or guarantee predictable travel times for cars, as this is self-defeating. We should instead be reducing travel times by increasing urban densities (thus reducing travel distances) and improving rapid public transport in the hearts of New Zealand’s cities. Arie recommended that we support walking, cycling and public transport (and good urban design), rather than continuing to support car mobility.

10. The Director of the Global Designing Cities Initiative, Skye Duncan (a New Zealander based in New York) has recently published a Global Street Design Guide (freely available in PDF format) which demonstrates these principles. We request that LGWM consider all proposals against the Global Street Design Guide. We believe that this would lead to a dramatic improvement of the standards of any proposed urban transport infrastructure.

11. We want to create a liveable city with more green spaces, affordable housing and vibrant businesses (Scenarios B, C and D start to undermine this, and/or entail huge costs for tunnels). Results of previous consultation that WCC has undertaken shows overwhelming support for the walkability and vibrant pedestrian friendly nature of Wellington. We are concerned that the focus on roads, tunnels and flyovers that are included in Scenarios B, C & D moves away from the values that Wellingtonians have expressed in past consultation. We believe that the additive nature of the Scenarios in the format currently presented will bias support for Scenarios C & D during this consultation and that this likely bias should be taken into consideration when evaluating the public feedback. It is only natural for people to assume that the the biggest proposal is the best.

12. We would like LGWM to advocate to increase the price and reduce the quantity of CBD car parking over time, to reduce car travel demand.

13. We want Wellington to build light rail urgently to connect Wellington railway station, the CBD, Newtown, Kilbirnie, the airport and Miramar, with easy connections to buses, trains and planes. In addition, we would like to see the Wellington City Council foster high-quality, medium and high density land development along the route and at its stops. In the future we think that consideration should be made for this LRT route to be extended out to the Interislander ferry terminal, which would support commuter patronage from the Thorndon, Wadestown, Wilton and Khandallah areas as well as inter-island ferry patrons, cruise ships and the Stadium.

14. We support facilitating car share (to around 500+ cars-for-hourly-hire in 2018) complementing active and public transport for better land use, and encouraging active and public transport use.

15. We want numerous safe pedestrian crossings over SH1 between Willis St and the airport with higher priority given to pedestrians and cyclists over motor vehicles, to make walking and cycling easier and more attractive – with 2018 priority given to Vivian Street, Ruahine Street, Wellington Road and Cobham Drive at the ASB Sports Centre. Wellington is known internationally as a walkable city, but this situation has predominantly been created by the natural topography, not by design. SH1 runs through a highly walkable Te Aro flat area not once, but twice (Vivian Street and Karo Drive), severing the area into three discrete land parcels. The CBD is cut off from the waterfront by six lanes of traffic. Mt Victoria is cut off from the CBD by six lanes of traffic. LGWM is an opportunity to fix all of these things to make Wellington not only compact as defined by its topography but also an environment conducive to safe and easy walking and cycling.

16. We reject a flyover or bridge at the Basin Reserve (Scenarios B, C and D) as these perpetuate car dependence, with massive funding better spent building a vibrant, people-friendly city. We believe that investment in light rail with a route that avoids the Basin Reserve (such as that included in the FIT Wellington Scenario A+ proposal) is a much better way to avoid conflicts and congestion than flyovers or bridges for road traffic. A tunnel through Mt Cook, under the Museum and to the South-West of the Basin Reserve would allow for a mass transit solution to take traffic away from the Basin Reserve and avoid conflicts with roads in that area at the same time.

17. We request that LGWM heed Transport Minister Phil Twyford’s statements: “I think some of the Let’s Get Welly Moving options don’t go far enough” and “I’m keen to talk more with the council and public about transformative ideas, like rapid transit”. Here we bring your attention to Minister Twyford’s use of the term ‘rapid transit’ and note it’s differnce to the term ‘mass transit’ which is quite different. We believe that rapid transit is what Wellington requires to ‘get moving’.

18. We want LGWM to work with central government to introduce travel demand management, such as regional fuel taxes, road congestion pricing, and parking management.

19. We want LGWM to request government to change current funding models so that urban state highways aren’t 100% funded by government as if the costs were shared between central, regional and local government then urban state highways wouldn’t seem so attractive (as they would no longer be “free” roads).

20. Public transport customers shouldn’t have to pay half of operating costs through fares. In Australia, the farebox recovery ratio is only about 25%, meaning that public transport fares are much cheaper. We want LGWM to take heed of the overwhelming public requests for cheaper public transport as documented in the previous stages of LGWM public consultation. This public feedback appears to have all but been ignored in the presentation of Scenarios A, B, C & D, despite it being the number one request received from the public.

21. We request more transport modelling estimates of the benefits and costs (including economic, health, and carbon price sensitivity) of all scenarios and major components.

22. We request transport modelling predictions of how the mode share (walking, cycling, public transport, truck and car) varies with each scenario.

23. We request consideration of a continuation of the southbound lane from the Terrace Tunnel, as a third lane through the Bypass Cut and continuing all the way east along Karo Drive, through the Arras Tunnel to the Basin Reserve. This would allow Vivian Street to be returned to a quiet, pedestrian- and cycle-friendly two-way local road (ideally 30km/hr or at most 40km/hr) and to concentrate SH1 traffic onto one combined route, which already exists. It has a similar effect as the proposed Karo Drive Tunnel without the huge cost, connection to at-grade road issues, disruption, earthworks and carbon dioxide emissions. It doesn’t encourage extra cars into the city as a second Terrace Tunnel and Karo Drive tunnel would do.

One lane southbound should be sufficient for through traffic; traffic destined for the CBD could still use Vivian Street, but traffic volumes (and speeds) there would be much reduced. People walking and cycling could then be given much higher priority when crossing Vivian Street at Willis Street, Victoria Street, Cuba Street, Taranaki Street, Tory Street and Kent and Cambridge Terraces making the Te Aro area dramatically more vibrant and accessible on foot or cycle. Combining SH1 onto one east/west route halves the conflicts with potential light rail routes on either Taranaki Street (as proposed in FIT’s Scenario A+) or Cambridge/Kent Tce.

The Bypass Cut is 13m wide which should allow for two northbound lanes at 3.5m each plus one southbound lane at 3.5m plus 1.25m of buffer at each side. If this was deemed too narrow for safety reasons then it could be slightly widened at relatively small cost and construction inconvenience (compared to the proposed alternative of a Karo Dr road tunnel).

Even if a cut and cover road is implement to replace Karo Drive, it is paramount that this combined route not be widened to two lanes heading South and East as the current constraint of one lane works effectively as a natural deterrent to private car use during periods of peak demand and shouldn’t be undermined by extra road capacity heading into the city.

We request that LGWM analyse this in its future transport models and advise us, and the wider public, about the merits and implications of this proposal as a matter of urgency.

22. Wellington is predicted to grow in population by between 50,000 – 80,000 by 2043 (source. Statistics New Zealand) and the LGWM process should enable Wellington to plan to cope with this, not chase its tail in 15, 20 or 25 years time. Improved walkability, safe and attractive cycling infrastructure and light rail along with a fostering of sustainable compact residential development along the light rail corridor can help the city grow in a sustainable manner to cope with this anticipated population growth. New Zealand has a well acknowledged affordable housing crisis and Wellington currently has a considerable shortfall of housing, creating unwanted pressure on rental and housing ownership costs. We believe that a light rail system would have significant positive impacts in supporting attractive housing in areas such as Kilbirnie, where there is ample flat land with development potential, without additional pressure on the existing road infrastructure.

23. We note that scenario A plus light rail and demand management is the best fit with:

● LGWM principles;

● WCC plans such as the Urban Growth Plan, and Our City Tomorrow;

● Regional Council plans to prioritise sustainable transport;

● Government priorities expressed by Ministers of Transport;

● Government promises that NZ becomes a net zero-emission economy by 2050 ;

● Much of the public feedback collected by LGWM;

● International best-practice for transport planning and city-making.

24. We draw your attention to the United Nations Sustainability Agenda 2030 and the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) which Aotearoa New Zealand, along with all other nations, has committed to. In particular we note the following:

Goal 3:
Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

In particular, the following Goal 3 targets:

– By 2020, halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents;
– By 2030, substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination.

Goal 8:
Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all

In particular, the following Goal 8 target:

– Improve progressively, through 2030, global resource efficiency in consumption and production and endeavour to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation, in accordance with the 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production, with developed countries taking the lead.

Goal 11:
Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

In particular, the following Goal 11 targets:

– By 2030, provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons;
– By 2030, enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management in all countries;
– By 2030, reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management.

Goal 13:
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

In particular, the following Goal 13 targets:

– By 2030, achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources;
– Promote public procurement practices that are sustainable, in accordance with national policies and priorities;
– Develop quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, including regional and transborder infrastructure, to support economic development and human well-being, with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all;
– By 2030, upgrade infrastructure and retrofit industries to make them sustainable, with increased resource-use efficiency and greater adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies and industrial processes, with all countries taking action in accordance with their respective capabilities.

Wellington Central Branch
Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand

Read other submissions to LGWM
Residents want better public transport and liveability
Living Streets wants a friendlier environment
Cycle Aware wants new CBD biking networks
Civic Trust sets its priorities
Fit Wellington wants light rail
Save the Basin states the case for urban design

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