Wellington Scoop

Traffic vs pedestrians – the problem isn’t solved

by Lindsay Shelton
It’s regrettable that last week’s LGWM announcement does nothing to fix the problem of State Highway 1 traffic running through the entire length of Vivian Street.

Confusingly, the plan released by LGWM suggests that something is to be done – the plan includes undergrounding SH1 in both directions on the alignment of the Karo Drive bypass, and making Vivian Street a two-way city street again. (What a relief that would be.)

But this didn’t get included in the Transport Minister’s list of components of the package, and the DomPost’s Damian George and Katarina Williams report that it was not approved for funding by the government.

So the dire experience of being a pedestrian at the top of Cuba Street or Taranaki Street, waiting forever for the cars to pause to enable you to take advantage of the brief period when you’re allowed to cross the road, seems set to continue … forever? As does the stop-start experience for drivers on the state highway facing traffic lights on every block through the central city.

(A second Terrace Tunnel is also listed in the LGWM but has also failed to get approval from the government – no disagreement with that decision which would have done nothing except to enable more cars to get into the central city gridlock more rapidly.)

Justin Lester makes it clear that he wants the first LGWM major project to be mass transit – either light rail or trackless trams. Writing in the DomPost:

The cornerstone of Wellington’s future will be mass transit, the first of the major projects to kick off…..Logical mass transit spine routes exist from the CBD to the Airport and, ultimately, Island Bay and Karori. Our immediate focus will be the eastern corridor, but depending on which form we choose, light rail or trackless trams, there is scope for extending further. We’ll make this decision swiftly….

And then:

…A second tunnel at Mt Victoria and improvements to Ruahine Street will be phased next.

Last September, there was no uncertainty about what mass transit would be. Damian George reported that the project planners were aiming to get fast-track approval for light rail. Public consultation showed 63 per cent support for light rail.

But in the eight months since then, the trackless trams possibility has emerged, adding a new level of decision-making to the prolonged process. Light rail isn’t even mentioned in Phil Twyford’s statement:

The design and preferred mode of rapid transit will be determined by the business case.

So it’s good to have the mayor’s assurance that there are only two choices – light rail, or trackless trams.

And as for speeding up traffic flows around the Basin Reserve, until a solution is also found for the stop-go problems for state highway traffic on Karo Drive and Vivian Street, drivers – and pedestrians – have no reason to feel any happier.


  1. Alana, 20. May 2019, 15:55

    I’ve always thought it was strange that an everyday city street could be designated a state highway with all the right of way expectations that brings with it.

  2. Ms Green, 20. May 2019, 16:34

    Are we now going to get “trackless trams” i.e updated electric buses (long ones)? called mass rapid transit?? Were we not promised a whole lot of electric buses long ago…before GWRC canned the electric buses (trolleys) that we had, and replaced them with diesels and then messed it all up? Who can guess what real improvements will be made next year or the year after, for a $6B spend?
    It seems to me from the mayor’s article today that we will get more diesel buses (if drivers can be found) bunching up up on the Golden Mile, spewing more diesel into cyclists’ and pedestrians’ lungs.

  3. BHS, 20. May 2019, 16:37

    Trackless trams were mentioned six months ago in a Wellington.Scoop article in which Neil Douglas reviewed Australian (and Auckland) developments.

  4. Mequil, 20. May 2019, 17:36

    How can you be supportive of undergrounding SH1 along Karo Drive and not be supportive of the Terrace Tunnel duplication? It’s ridiculous to have 4 lanes stopping at the Terrace Tunnel and restarting them again at Mt Victoria. Complete the road network so that people can get around the CBD, and provide the Rapid Transit solution for travel to/from the CBD. It’s what the Ngauranga-Airport study concluded 10 years ago.

  5. Ellen, 21. May 2019, 11:06

    Well said Lindsay. There is little detail in the proposals released except to say that about $90 million will be spent on pedestrians!
    There have been no improvements for pedestrians since the LGWM project started and not even while the Basin flyover debacle unfolded (apart from a few countdown timers on some crossings – which served to highlight how little green time pedestrians get to cross the street). With 20,000 people now living in the central city, this has got to change.
    We need to spend money on what we want, rather than vehicle travel at any cost. Wellingtonians have been pretty clear what they want and it is a more liveable city – compact and walkable.

  6. William C O'Donnell, 21. May 2019, 19:48

    Well why don’t they take 1,000,000 steps backward to 1968, and build the 2nd Tce Tunnel & 4 lane motorway below ground in the Willis St to Mt. Victoria tunnel avenue, more or less as originally proposed. Cars & trucks & buses will still be needed to enhance the Airport in years to come, especially if they extend it (something else that should have been done in the beginning). I will be delighted to say “I told you so” as I took this stance at several meetings of the “Save Te Aro” greenies & meanies. They could not get, that a cut & cover method would have taken nothing away permanently, just temporarily until the roadway was completed and soil replaced & buildings reinstated. What bunch of short-sighted wankers on both sides; spent up to $100M or more, & 2 commissions, so far, over the years, to have it all torn up & replaced with what should have been built in the first place ! A 4 lane below grade Motorway, & tunnel. Us Wellington taxpayers should sue the perpetrators of this debacle to get recompense for this most stupid cockup in Wellington’s history!

  7. Donald T., 21. May 2019, 21:15

    Well said Alana. I think it was Tranzit NZ (Now NZTA) who moved the ‘end’ of SH1 from the Terrace Tunnel to the Airport. A land/power grab? I bet NZTA wished they hadn’t and had instead moved the ‘end’ northwards to the Interislander Terminal! Fixing and funding the inner city transport problem would then be Wellington City’s problem.

  8. Andy Mellon, 23. May 2019, 2:12

    Over in Slovenia at the moment and one nice, cheap feature for pedestrians, is a count down timer for the pedestrian crossings on main thoroughfares. At this stage, I’d take any improvement that I can for the walking I do round Wellington. At least then I’d know that it’s better to wait 60 seconds for the lights than play chicken with the SH1 traffic. Sadly, I feel the pedestrian benefits will be either weak or intangible. Cars still rule in Wellington.

  9. greenwelly, 23. May 2019, 11:50

    @Andy, We’ve got timers in Wellington too.. but they countdown the time pedestrians have to get out of the way before the cars come through :)… I always thought they should do a double duty and should also have a countdown until the next pedestrian phase.

  10. Tony, 23. May 2019, 21:55

    @greenwelly, They’d need more digits to count down the long delays at Vivian St & Karo Drive. I cannot see why they can’t give more intervals for pedestrians on Cuba Street to cross Vivian Street; putting twice as many would still give most of the time to car drivers, who hardly outnumber pedestrians at this intersection.

  11. Andy Mellon, 24. May 2019, 5:43

    @Greenwelly – yep. Poor description from me there. In Slovenia, the countdown shows the time until the next pedestrian phase. It was quite helpful.

    I presume there hasn’t been any detail yet on the proposed pedestrian package? And I see they’re planning to put in a light-controlled crossing on SH1 near the airport instead of a proper solution where pedestrian/car conflict doesn’t happen. Why do we continue to do these things on the cheap?

  12. Barbara, 24. May 2019, 9:07

    Definitely need to change the traffic signals at the Bowen/Tinakori Rd/ Glenmore intersection as its too short to walk across the road before it turns green for cars turning into Bowen St who give me the stare / a parp. Scary and not pleasant! Please WCC Traffic Engineer give us 5 more seconds to cross safely.

  13. Barbara, 24. May 2019, 20:43

    And another thing! The new Motorway Hawkestone St turn off arrangement to stop queue jumping has created dangerous U turning on Hawkestone St.

  14. Gillian Tompsett, 26. May 2019, 8:03

    Andy our councillors use us, Wellington ratepayers, to validate doing things on the cheap because it suits their agenda to do so, whether it’s a pedestrian crossing over SH1 or the introduction of an all-diesel (in the eastern suburbs – very old) fleet of buses. I’d like to know who these mythical “ratepayers” are that ONLY care about cost over value for money and don’t give a damn about public health and public safety. I agree – it beggars belief.

  15. Robert, 3. June 2019, 9:21

    A bit of cut and cover just below the surface in the 1950s or 1960s to make the Wellington tramway system a bit longer would not have cost much. It was done in many European cities.
    In terms of the rather extraordinary statement of Mayor Lester that the Christchurch tramway loop is a purely museum tramway – in fact it was installed as the base of a modern tram system, with a rather unrealistic very expensive airport – square – Sumner route being considered which at 15 miles would have been hugely expensive. The Christchurch tramway’s loop concept is based on US practice, where a one way loop and a series of parallel one way installations or conjoint loops is far cheaper and more practical than either conventional double track or independent right of way light rail systems.
    In March 2019 Tramway and Light Rail there is an interesting article on the El Paso system (800,000 population) where the tramway has reopened as a new 4.8 mile system consisting of two one way conjoint loops thru the major CBD area for commuters and inter city movers rather than tourists and using eight rehabilitated trams at a total cost of $US92 million. Which suggests that at a cost of $NZ300-350 million a three loop system of one way conjoint loops might cover the area from Kilbirnie to the rail station.