Wellington Scoop

John Milford wants all councillors to vote for a second Mt Vic tunnel

Press Release – Business Central – Wellington
Wellington City Councillors have ignored the wishes of the majority of ratepayers over priorities in the Let’s Get Wellington Moving project, says John Milford of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce.

“The decision by the majority of councillors to vote down an amendment to bring forward the second Mt Victoria tunnel in the project’s timeline flies in the face of what surveys tell us businesses and citizens wanted,” he says.

“It’s clear the biggest congestion problem in Wellington’s transport system is at the Basin Reserve, and last year when ratepayers were asked to make a choice, by far the most favoured option was the one that included a second tunnel at Mt Victoria to ease the awful bottlenecks, but the majority of councillors have ignored that.

“The Mayor and five councillors could see how important a second tunnel is to getting traffic flowing smoothly, particularly to the airport and the eastern suburbs, and we applaud them for that, but it seems the others can’t see that.

“It’s a pity that some councillors talk about keeping politics out of the issue and then vote along political lines to the detriment of the whole region.

“This vote basically puts a bit of handbrake on the project and I hope it’s not a sign of things to come.

“On a more positive note, at least the councillors, along with Wellington regional councillors, voted unanimously to advance funding to get the business case investigations for the whole project under way, as part of a new relationship and funding agreement.

“Hopefully that will guide LGWM on the best sequencing, including mass rapid transit and state highway improvements and put an end to the delays so we can get on with it.

“It was also pleasing to see the councils agree to fund the Bus Priority Action Plan through LGWM’s City Streets package.

“Business endorses the programme of ‘early wins’, including greater pedestrianisation of the Golden Mile, more bus priority lane work, and lower inner city speeds.”

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  1. Tim Jones, 13. December 2019, 13:49

    Good on the nine Councillors who voted to stick with the current programme and put the needs of the climate and Wellington’s people first, instead of bending to the will of the Chamber of Commerce and the trucking lobby. This Council vote is also consistent with Let’s Get Wellington Moving’s objective to reduce dependence on private motor vehicles. It’s John Milford and his mates who are trying to politicise the issue to benefit the National Party.

  2. John Rankin, 13. December 2019, 17:34

    Does the Chamber of Commerce accept that building more roads means more people driving (through induced demand), resulting in increased emissions and congestion? Or does it reject the overwhelming evidence for induced demand in favour of an unfounded belief that building roads fixes congestion? It appears the Chamber works in an evidence-free zone: “see how important a second [Mt Victoria road] tunnel is to getting traffic flowing smoothly”.

    Perhaps the Chamber could also explain how a second Mt Victoria road tunnel supports LGWM’s goal of “moving more people with fewer vehicles”. I put it to the Chamber that those who ignore evidence to promote their own populist agenda are the ones playing politics. Fortunately, Wellington’s voters elected a council where a majority of councillors make decisions informed by evidence.

    If any projects are brought forward, it would be: delivering mass rapid transit to the airport (currently scheduled for 2035 or later, I think, although the business case may change this date); and relocating SH1 eastbound off Vivian St onto a 2-way trenched Karo Drive (currently out of scope).

  3. Dave B, 13. December 2019, 17:46

    The council includes a goodly number of non-road-focused members which is as it should be. This reflects the spread of views over the electorate.

    If John Milford believes that “by far the most favoured option was the one that included a second [road] tunnel at Mt Victoria”, he is putting too much faith in “surveys” and not enough in the actual outcome of the election.

  4. Micky, 13. December 2019, 18:14

    The Council still need to sort out the buses not to build more unneeded roads and tunnels.
    And nothing in their plan will stop traffic delays so its a sad waste of our money.

  5. Chris Horne, 13. December 2019, 21:28

    Dear John Milford
    For several decades, governments around the world have been giving businesses and citizens what they demanded for moving around in cities – ever-increasing road capacity. The result has been massive rates of production of motor vehicles and ever-increasing congestion and emissions of greenhouse gases. Hence the deepening global environmental crisis of runaway climate change. The time has come to prioritise the environmentally sustainable movement of people around cities, and halt immediately the construction of more road capacity.

    Congratulations to the foresighted majority of Wellington City Councillors for voting not to bring forward the construction of a second Mt Victoria Tunnel. Those nine city councillors voted in accordance with Parliament’s ratification of the COP21 Paris Accord which commits New Zealand to slashing its emissions of greenhouse gases.

  6. Glenn, 14. December 2019, 7:34

    Well done john, at least someone talking some truthful/common sense.

  7. TrevorH, 15. December 2019, 7:44

    Well, we know now which councillors to hold responsible for the congestion at the Basin and the Mt Victoria tunnel. They are clearly motivated by ideology and have shown their contempt for the wishes of the majority of Wellingtonians, especially those in the Eastern Suburbs. Every effort should be made to unseat them at the next election.

  8. John Rankin, 15. December 2019, 11:17

    @TrevorH: I would have thought those who support building a second Mt Victoria road tunnel in the belief that it will fix congestion are the ones “motivated by ideology”, since this idea has no evidence to support it. All the evidence tells us that adding road capacity just induces more traffic. Perhaps @TrevorH has other evidence, in which case let him present it.

    I vote for councillors who can think for themselves and make considered decisions for the benefit of all Wellingtonians, based on the best evidence available to them. It seems to me a bit presumptuous to claim to know “the wishes of the majority of Wellingtonians”. The best evidence we have, from the LGWM consultations, is that most Wellingtonians support the goal of “moving more people using fewer vehicles” by investing in public and active transport. A majority of our newly-elected representatives appear to agree.

    Waiting for the results of the business cases is surely the prudent thing to do, no matter how much noise the road-building fans make. The Chamber has a bad case of tunnel vision.

  9. Traveller, 15. December 2019, 11:41

    TrevorH: If you believe you know who to blame for congestion at the Mt Vic Tunnel or the Basin, then tell us who are you blaming for the congestion at the intersection of the Arras Tunnel and Taranaki Street, and the intersection of Cuba Street and Karo Drive, and the total congestion along the length of Vivian Street (otherwise known as State Highway One)?

  10. Northland, 15. December 2019, 21:43

    @John Rankin. You say: “All the evidence tells us that adding road capacity just induces more traffic”. There is something missing here. This is not a complete argument against road construction in itself. If it were, then logically we should solve the issue by removing road capacity everywhere and thus ‘reducing demand’. E.g. remove the roads that connect populations together. No motorways in Britain, no Autobahn in Germany, no Freeways in USA. The obvious downside to this utopia would be that the populace would find it difficult to travel from one region to another unless they were fortunate enough to live right next to a train station or airport.

    So I think the solution lies in having an appropriate level of roading capacity. Here we should remember that roading capacity also enables cycling and public transport via bus lanes.

    I think all that John Milford and TrevorH are saying is that 2 lanes each way between the eastern suburbs / airport and the city is an appropriate level of roading capacity in this instance.

  11. Ralf, 16. December 2019, 7:45

    @Northland: Two lanes each way sounds like a good compromise. Currently I count way more than two lanes, e.g. along the harbour, along the Tasman sea, through the tunnel and Constable Street are some obvious ones. This makes already for 4 lanes each way. So following your advice we could shut down some of these. I wouldn’t go so far to completely shut them down but suggest to reuse them. The harbour road could become a cycling/pedestrian zone and the tunnel could be used for public transport. This leaves two lanes each way for cars.

  12. Northland, 16. December 2019, 19:55

    @Ralf my feeling was that they were talking about a second Mt Vic tunnel as in two lanes each way through the tunnel(s) – and John R was arguing that it shouldn’t happen because it would induce demand. I’m sceptical of that idea being the one on which you base your road planning. You might want to consider also how large the populations are and what kind of access they have to existing transport modes that don’t require any more roading.

  13. Dave B, 16. December 2019, 21:20

    @ Northland. I think if you look around the developed-world, you will see that most cities have a choice. They can choose to become car-dependent by encouraging the car as the default mode of transport, or they can focus on providing good public transport and other alternatives, so that the pressure for most travel to be by car is greatly reduced.

    Examples of cities that have tried to fully-embrace the private car can be found in many parts of the USA. Motorways everywhere, minimal public transport, minimal choice, and congestion often not solved.

    Examples of cities that have taken the other approach can be found in many parts of Europe. Many continental-European cities, some as small as Wellington, have installed great public transport systems and have chosen not to commit the majority of resources to accommodating cars. These cities offer real transport-choice and are delightful places.

    NZ is in that group of fence-sitting countries that think they can have it both ways but end up doing neither properly. A result of our colonial past perhaps, given that Britain is in this conflicted category also. And of course if you look outside the developed world you will see many unfortunate cities which have allowed cars to dominate without having the resources to control them or provide anything better. Such places can be traffic-hell-holes.

    So all-in-all, I’ll take the European model thanks, and I will advocate for it. The problems our eastern suburbs face stem from inadequate-choice based on inadequate-public-transport. Providing more road capacity will not correct this. It will just encourage (induce, force) more people to opt for cars.

  14. Brendan, 17. December 2019, 6:21

    DaveB so why is it that NZ and Australian cities often come top of the best cities to live? I think Auckland came top in a survey this year. I doubt you’d agree and probably put Lodz Poland top of your list because it still has creaking trams and steam trains from the halcyon days of the soviet planned economy as opposed to the tyranny of the private automobile from the bad old USA.

  15. Neil Douglas, 17. December 2019, 11:06

    I’m driving into Wellington this afternoon DaveB. Unfortunately, I can’t say Wairarapa rail is of any use to me even if it was extended to the airport. I have two Labradors, one cat and a fledgling sparrow that fell out of its nest that I’m looking after. We are all going to get in my Mini 1,000 and cruise over the Rimutaka hill from 20 minutes out of Carterton. Human occupancy 1, Critter car occupancy 4. That’s not too bad is it?

  16. glenn, 17. December 2019, 12:47

    I’m sick of hearing the old chestnut of what European cities do, and comparing them to Wellington; while most may geographically be the same size, the population, and therefore the rates base, is way more than Wellington.

  17. Dave B, 17. December 2019, 13:35

    But Brendan, I agree that NZ and Australian cities (or at least parts of them) can be great places to live, and for many reasons other than transport. But the more they sell their souls to cars and motorways the less-nice they will become. The choice to shape-up or stuff-up is still very-much there. In this regard it’s great to see Auckland at last curtailing its destructive motorway mania and focusing on public transport, walking and cycling instead. Proves there is hope.
    By the way, I’ve never been to Lodz in Poland. If it still has creaking trams and steam trains it is probably not the best example of cities to emulate.

  18. Dave B, 17. December 2019, 15:28

    Well Neil, I’ve heard many excuses for using cars in preference to public transport but yours is a first. Are you sure your menagerie wants to make the trip to the big smoke and be thrown around in the back of the car on the hill? They might be happier if you left them in the paddock and made the trip yourself (by train!).

    And Glenn, when I referred to “cities the same size as Wellington”, I meant in population-terms. Many of those European cities are not that big you know. But they choose to spend their resources on good public transport, reducing the need for expensive and problematic roading. But you are of course free to block your ears to such facts if you don’t like them.

  19. Neil Douglas, 18. December 2019, 7:37

    DaveB – we got stuck in a 40 minute traffic jam at Melling Interchange apparently due to a breakdown on SH1 near Nauranga. Edith the sparrow got frustrated by it all and tweeted a lot but Percy the British Blue and Henry and Harriet (Scoop Dogs) just slept through it. I was a bit late to my Xmas drink with Brent Efford up at the Kelburn Village pub but he’s a patient man.

  20. Guy M, 18. December 2019, 7:39

    The plain and simple problem with widening our existing SH1 through the city into 2 lanes each way, all the way, is that it will allow more cars to come into the city; and frankly, we simply do not have enough room on the actual streets of Wellington to house them. It’s a fact that people like Milford don’t seem to understand: Wellington’s motorway into the city was deliberately designed to make the traffic trickle in, not flow in at a great rate. We are a small and very narrow city with proportionately very few roads – we simply don’t have the wide avenues and road space of other cities that could soak up traffic. Instead: widen the roads and you not only spend billions and sever the city in two, but you don’t get the answer you want – in fact, you may well make the traffic problem worse. The congestion pinch-point will just move from one place to another.

    That’s the practical reason – the moral reason is that ideologically we all know that we should be using cars less, but that it seems that “other” people should use their cars less, without restricting our own personal freedom. But many of us have no option, as there is little alternative – or so it may seem. A public transport system like buses, that use the same road space as the cars, will get just as caught up in congestion, and prove to be a failure. So, logically, the only answer is a separate, competing PT system, like Light Rail in its own protected route, or a physically separate cycling/scooter lane, away from the traffic.

    That’s why some of us believe that the best answer is to copy the examples of Europe, where Light Rail systems are still working well, and where every year more cities install more Light Rail. They too are small cities, often with narrow roads, but they have not allowed themselves to be bullied by the tyranny of adding more cars. A reliable smooth-running system along the major route through the city – Wellington is perfectly set up to succeed, due to our reliance on Public Transport through the city focused on one central route, and closeness of other destinations such as the Hospital and the Airport – the simple answer to our traffic woes is staring us in the face, and it is NOT more roads.

  21. glenn, 18. December 2019, 10:44

    Why is it that the light rail brigade think us car drivers only want to get to either the airport or the hospital?

  22. John Rankin, 18. December 2019, 15:36

    @glenn: I realise yours may have been a rhetorical question, but I’ll have a go at answering it.

    The goal of mass rapid transit like light rail is to join up places with high demand, all day every day. That includes the city centre, major shopping areas, hospitals, large educational institutions, medium and high density residential areas, and yes, the airport. You complement the light rail line with feeder bus services, thereby extending the system’s reach. By focusing on areas with high demand, you attract a lot of people who would otherwise use their cars. So car drivers like you who don’t want to get to “the airport or the hospital” are no longer competing for scarce road space with those who do.

  23. Groggy, 18. December 2019, 16:06

    @ Trevor H. “we know now which councillors to hold responsible for the congestion at the Basin and the Mt Victoria tunnel….. Every effort should be made to unseat them at the next election.” Since the election has only just happened, clearly the majority of Wellingtonians disagree with you. Indeed I believe a couple of the awful nine are Eastern Ward representatives, so even the majority of your suburban neighbors disagree.

  24. Mike Mellor, 18. December 2019, 17:57

    Trevor H: shame that you don’t appear to believe in local democracy, nor to understand that councillors have no jurisdiction over state highways.

    If you’re looking for somewhere to point your finger, the clear target must be NZTA and the previous government. For years both parties have been encouraging more and more traffic into and through the city through large increases of speed and capacity on both SH1 and 2, a process that is continuing with Transmission Gully and Peka Peka to Otaki North.

    Meanwhile the parallel rail network has had just a few short increases in capacity and very small increases in speed. So the balance has been tilted significantly towards cars that clog up the roads, and away from trains that don’t – NZTA predicts that Transmission Gully alone will mean Kapiti rail patronage will be a quarter less than it would have been without the new road. And of course there has been no improvement in public transport from the eastern suburbs – in fact the reverse (as the regional council now fortunately recognises).

    Add NZTA’s woeful mismanagement of the Basin and it’s very clear where responsibility for the woes caused by today’s extra traffic lies.

  25. Northland, 18. December 2019, 20:56

    Mike, the old state highway 1 had everyone crawling through Mana, Pukerua Bay, Paekakariki and Waikanae, then Otaki. Not sure how that is seen as preferable to having an arterial route which also provides resilience.

    European countries which contributors here often reference for their excellent transport policies also have notable arterial road connections between cities and provinces. Admittedly it would be fantastic if we had the same intercity rail connections as the likes of Germany, but I think this is unrealistic given the geography and population base of NZ

  26. Mike Mellor, 19. December 2019, 6:41

    Northland, why is it reasonable to have European-style roads and unreasonable to have European-style railways? And cars may not be crawling through Pukerua Bay, but commuter trains (much more space efficient, with very small carbon footprint) on NZ’s main railway line are still being delayed on the single-track bottleneck there, with no plans to do much about it.

    That’s just one example of the disproportionate treatment of road and rail that has led to Wellington’s traffic congestion, which will get worse next year, when there are planned to be four lanes all the way to beyond Otaki. The relevant authorities have known this for years – just Google for GWRC’s TN24 report – yet have carried on regardless with congestion-creating policies.

    It’s quite clear where responsibility lies.

  27. glenn, 19. December 2019, 6:45

    We don’t have the space/money/patronage to implement and maintain a light rail system. Then on top of this, buses will also feed into this system. As soon as a light rail system is planned, you have a set route and cant deviate.
    If there was a proper two ( you might want to sit down for this) or more laned/seperated road between the end of what we have now and the hospital/airport/eastern suburbs with a dedicated bus lane, then the options are far superior, not to mention the cost.

  28. Keith Flinders, 19. December 2019, 11:48

    But, Glenn, the commuter rail network from the Hutt Valley, Johnsonville and Kapiti runs on set routes fed by buses, and look how well it manages passengers. Wellington would be even in more of a mess, transport wise, had those running councils and government pre WW2 not had the vision that saw the future needs.

    The tram routes were fixed and the trolley bus routes followed several of them to the benefit of most commuters.

    At peak times we see convoys of buses holding each other up now, and unless dedicated bus lanes can be aligned with dedicated bus passing lanes, then this situation will get worse as population and population density increases.

    Sure there is a major cost factor with light rail, however building a system that will endure for 80 or so years needs to be factored in. Present Wellington Mayor Foster throws up the cost argument, but is right behind the loss making $200 million convention centre that will cater for at best a few thousand people per month.

    Public transport carries tens of thousands per week.

  29. Barney Bubble, 19. December 2019, 14:45

    Keith – $200 million would buy you a kilometre perhaps 1.5kms of Light Rail based on recent Australasian costs.

  30. Keith Flinders, 19. December 2019, 17:24

    One would hope that the cost of light rail in Wellington would not be based on the highly over-engineered standard used in Sydney. LRT Railway Station to Miramar/Airport will cost in the order of $1.5 billion, and be used by tens of millions over its lifetime. The convention centre might be used by millions over its lifetime, and all the out of town people flying in will be adding to the pollution. LRT will be using renewable energy.

    The cost of a second tunnel and approach roads will not be cheap either.

  31. John Rankin, 19. December 2019, 17:27

    Perhaps the reason we don’t have the space for light rail, the most space-efficient form of urban transport, (as @glenn states) is that we have allocated so much of our scarce road space to cars, the least space-efficient form of urban transport.

    Bus lanes are great, up to a point. But. If we opt for bus lanes on the Ngauranga to airport corridor instead of mass rapid transit: (a) they will be at their maximum carrying capacity on the day they open; and (b) they will do nothing to shape the city’s future growth. Wellington is at a fork in its road. If we turn our back on the opportunity to build mass rapid transit now, we will lock ourselves into a car-dependent future for another generation.

    Let’s support LGWM’s approach and push them to deliver mass rapid transit to the eastern suburbs and airport more quickly.