Wellington Scoop

Destination: CBD

by Lindsay Shelton
This week’s reports of growing morning congestion should have acknowledged the fact that all the traffic is heading into (or through) one place – the centre of Wellington, where there’s no room for any more of it.

Whether south-bound traffic is being channelled through one or two Terrace Tunnels, all the vehicles are emptying out on to Vivian Street, where extra lanes cannot be added. It’s already at capacity, for 12 hours a day.

The DomPost quotes a rush-hour report commissioned by the Regional Council:

The morning rush period is becoming longer as commuters try to beat the gridlock. New figures show traffic heading south into Wellington between 5am and 7am on weekdays has increased 50 per cent over the past six years, with early bird commuters putting further stress on an under-pressure state highway network. The result is those trying to beat the rush, which traditionally starts about 6.30am and is at its worst between 7am and 9am, are extending the peak period and making the commutes for those behind them even worse.

The response from Barry Mein of LGWM:

“There is increased demand for people coming into Wellington and if we don’t do anything about it, that’s going to continue to be a problem.”

The LGWM options for “doing something,” which were released at the end of last year, include a fourth southbound lane on the urban motorway between Ngauranga and Aotea Quay, widening Ruahine Street, and duplicating the Mt Victoria and Terrace tunnels. But the LGWM planners should be admitting that the centre of the city is already at capacity, and they should know what happens when you build more roads:

New Zealand Transport Agency data shows average travel times on six “strategic routes” across the Wellington region increased by 8 per cent in both the morning and afternoon peaks over the past four years – a period that saw the opening of the $630m Kapiti expressway and Wellington’s smart motorway.

There are other ways to deal with traffic congestion – there was a reminder of one of them when a representative of 130 doctors spoke to regional councillors. Recommending cycling as not only a way of reducing congestion but also a contributor to better health, she criticised delays to building the cycleway and walkway between Petone and Ngauranga:

In 2012, it was ranked second out of 26 projects, before slipping to fifth in 2015 and eighth this year. That was “appalling” given the health benefits it would have for people who used it.

Then there’s rapid transit (almost everyone’s favourite is light rail) which should top of every list of solutions to traffic congestion. It was one of the subjects discussed when regional mayors met Transport Minister Phil Twyford last week.

The transport priorities set out by the mayors include investing in inter-regional and intra-regional rail, rapid transit (likely light rail), sub-regional connections like the proposed Cross Valley link road, and better access to the hospital, airport and port. The DomPost reports that Twyford said “lots of things would be on the table” for funding, including … tolling roads and congestion charging which was “distinctly possible.”.

The Wellington City Council yesterday highlighted its own modest attempt to deal with traffic congestion. In its ten-year plan, – it wants more bus-priority lanes:

Councillor Sarah Free, the public transport portfolio holder, says Wellington’s population is expected to grow by up-to 80,000 people in the next 25 years so it’s important the city has an efficient and user friendly public transport system. “A reliable and affordable bus service is vitally important if we don’t want to end up with gridlock as the city grows,” she says.

She was no doubt thinking about all those cars coming out of the Terrace Tunnel and unloading themselves into Vivian Street.


  1. Citizen Joe, 9. May 2018, 10:40

    The elephant in the room is population growth. Without the last decade of population growth we’d be fine and with the continuation of such growth we’ll be literally stuffed.

    So how many people should Wellington accommodate? When is enough enough?

  2. Josie B., 9. May 2018, 10:48

    There is a cycleway from Petone to Ngauranga which I’ve used but many cyclists prefer the road because it’s smoother and gets swept regularly whereas the cycleway gets strewn with road detritus that’s bumpy and punctures thin road-cycle tyres.
    I’m sure whatever cycle-ways get built, faster cyclists will prefer the remaining road unless they get banned (as per SH1 motorway).

  3. luke, 9. May 2018, 11:28

    the new Ngauranga-Petone cycleway needs to be built now, the current one requires using the hard shoulder of a defacto motorway for 800m. To make matters worse there is approx 100m of unusable cycleway overgrown with trees.

  4. greenwelly, 9. May 2018, 12:25

    @Luke, the original plans for the PET-NGAU link in the “Great Harbour Way” were heavily predicated on using a chunk of the spoil from the Petone-Grenada link, which has now likely fallen off the radar……Until it becomes clear what Wellington funding is available from the Draft GPS, things like this remain in limbo.

  5. Barbara S, 9. May 2018, 13:31

    Let’s just maintain what we’ve got and make it attractive. The approach to Wellington is spectacularly beautiful but the roads and railway landscape is ugly and wasteful. Piles of rubble, scruffy bushes, hectares of underused railway sidings and port land. Clean it up and use the space efficiently!

  6. Tara, 10. May 2018, 9:56

    Great article Lindsay. The thing you’ve only lightly touched on (wrt Sarah Free’s comment) is something LGWM explicitly excludes: how to make it so fewer of the 65% of the region’s workers who commute to Wellington CBD – from north of Ngauranga – are jumping in their cars in the morning to get to work.
    ATM the overwhelming incentives are to do so, and the only tools anyone’s talking about to address that are at the destination. Where is the enhancement to regional public transport so it becomes a meaningful choice for more of those “out of scope” northern people?
    Or the deliberate accessibility focus in those urban growth areas, so people there have meaningful choices not to commute at all?

    I”m beginning to wonder if regional planning is too much to ask of our leaders?

  7. Andy Mellon, 10. May 2018, 12:00

    Looking at the design for the Melling Interchange rebuild that was put out earlier this week, I’m left wondering why the opportunity isn’t being taken at the same time to extend the Melling line to the Kennedy-Good interchange and provide a rail option for Kelson/Belmont.

    The Melling carpark is full to overflowing with people from Maungaraki now taking the train. Surely this is something to encourage and the Melling redevelopment makes this more achievable. The idea of shortening the Melling branch, making it harder for commuters from the Western Hills to take the train is counter-productive.

  8. Peter Barlow, 10. May 2018, 23:20

    The Petone to Wellington cycleway needs to be on the seaward side of the motorway and run into a complete network to access the city. The Thorndon Quay situation with angle car parks and no cycle lane will not attract new cyclists. People are at risk without dedicated cycle lanes. More cycling leads to a healthier livestyle, is environmentally beneficial and space saving.

  9. Roy Kutel, 11. May 2018, 9:06

    @Peter, there is a cycleway on the seaward side of road for most of SH2 between Petone and Ngauranga. But it has fallen into disrepair through neglect. A new cycleway would need to be properly maintained.

  10. Andrew, 11. May 2018, 10:34

    The existing cycle way also ends several hundred metres before the Petone foreshore. People travelling north are expected to head the wrong way into oncoming traffic in a 100 km/h zone. Crazy stuff.

  11. Dave B, 11. May 2018, 13:11

    Actually cycling “the wrong way into oncoming traffic in a 100Km/h zone” in this instance is safer than cycling with the traffic on the other side of the road. Why? Because you can see what is coming at you!

    In both cases cyclists ride on the shoulder, clear of the main traffic-lanes. But there is no guarantee that an inattentive motorist will not stray onto the shoulder where you are riding. If this happens behind you then you will very likely be unaware until too late, and a cyclist’s worst nightmare is to get rammed from behind by a vehicle at 100Km/h.

    On the “wrong” side of the road you can see what is happening and you have a much better chance of taking evasive action if you see an approaching vehicle straying over the line into your space. But better by far to build a proper off-road cycleway so that cyclists and dangerous vehicles do not have to mix.

  12. Andrew, 11. May 2018, 15:55

    Dave B, the wrong way and also sharing the shoulder with cycleway users heading south. If that is not a Mickey Mouse solution I’m not sure what is. In my opinion having a silly design like that for decades is a litmus test and shows general disfunction behind the scenes. Why should the new walk/cycle way be held up because of the Grenada to Petone project? Howikiwi quarry is adjacent, after all… The WCC is pushing resilience and the walk/cycle way is also meant to reinforce the coast next to the train lines.

  13. Sekhmet Bast Ra, 11. May 2018, 15:59

    Oddball arty installations like this one imposed on businesses and drivers in lower Tory Street are not helping one bit. The comments are a hoot, from the suggestion of possible consumption of psychedelic substances within the halls of local government, right through to the grand old idea of making Manners Street into a mall.

    Cue the sound of the cash register ratepayers, the cost to you on top of the obvious inconvenience amounts to the princely sum of $141,000.

  14. Eddy M, 11. May 2018, 18:33

    Why not spend $150,000 to rehabilitate the existing cycle-way and then request cyclists use it? Until 51% use it, they don’t get the rest of the cycle-way built.

  15. Ellie, 11. May 2018, 18:56

    Wonder if the NZTA is merrily improving roads into Wellington so that there will be so much traffic the council et al will roll over and agree to extra lanes, car parking removed and overbridges … four lanes to the planes.

  16. luke, 12. May 2018, 10:51

    The 800m hard shoulder could be made a lot better for cyclists with some armadillo temporary barriers until they build the proper shared path.