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LGWM offers three ways to get traffic (but not buses) off the Golden Mile

by Lindsay Shelton
Let’s Get Wellington Moving has released a “short list of options” [1] for reducing traffic on the Golden Mile. It’s 176 pages long. Some short list. There’s also a “long list” version, if you need to keep reading. And a strategic case [2] with more than 150 pages, which lists four outcomes:

 a faster, more reliable bus system;
 improved pedestrian safety;
 improved pedestrian convenience; and
 increased amenity value.

The strategic case states that bus travel times on the Golden Mile are slow and unpredictable and says there is not enough space for pedestrians. It says demand for travel to and from the city centre by public transport is expected to grow by between 35% and 50% in the next 30 years and the current transport system cannot accommodate this increase. Without mentioning light rail, it states:

The LGWM programme includes a project to deliver Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) along the waterfront and parallel to the Golden Mile in 2036. Until MRT is operational, the Golden Mile must be optimised for people that travel by bus and on foot.

On the LGWM website [3], there are answers to dozens of questions about retailers, parking, loading zones, taxi stands, mobility parking, traffic and buses, walking and cycling

LGWM is proposing three options for the Golden Mile – two of them would remove all private vehicles, and one would restrict private vehicles. All of them would “improve bus efficiency.”

In the NZ Herald, [4] Georgina Campbell has summarised the proposals as:

Three options to axe cars from Wellington’s Golden Mile … The most drastic creates up to 75 per cent more footpath space at the expense of up to 200 car parks. The most conservative option would close the Golden Mile end of some side streets to general traffic, relocate taxi stands and loading zones, and scrap up to 120 car parks to make more footpath space.

She reports

The option with the most changes could cost almost $80m, compared to the most conservative’s $22m price tag. The changes include completely removing all general traffic from the Golden Mile, adding more bus lanes, and dedicated space for people on bikes and scooters. They would … create a total of up to 75 per cent more footpath space.

She quotes LGWM programme director Andrew Body as saying that if people wanted more space and more priority for buses, car parks would have to be removed. But he said it was important to put that in context:

“120 car parks is about half a per cent of all the available car parks in town, so there will still remain plenty of options for people who need to use their cars.”

There’s now to be public consultation, with the preferred option to be confirmed in September.

News from LGWM
Three different concepts for making the Golden Mile better for people and buses have been released for community feedback today. “Improving the Golden Mile is an important part of Let’s Get Wellington Moving’s plan to move more people with fewer vehicles and support Wellington’s growth,” Transport Minister Phil Twyford said.

The Golden Mile is the shopping and entertainment heart of Wellington City and one of the busiest pedestrian areas in the country. It runs from Lambton Quay through Willis and Manners streets to Courtenay Place. It’s also the core of the city’s bus network – bringing 36,000 people to and from the city on a typical weekday.

“On a normal day, the Golden Mile is at capacity – buses get stuck in congestion and footpaths are overcrowded. Fixing these issues now will help pave the way for better public transport and create a more attractive place for Wellingtonians to spend time and shop,” Mr Twyford said.

The three concepts are “Streamline” which takes some general traffic off the Golden Mile while making buses more reliable, “Prioritise” which goes further by fully prioritising buses and pedestrians, and “Transform” which changes the road layout to make pedestrian spaces up to 75% wider, bus lanes and, in some places, dedicated areas for people on bikes.

The preferred option, to be confirmed in September, may be a combination of these three concepts. Detailed planning and implementation will be underway from 2021.

“These concepts reflect the changes people have told us they want for the future of their city. We’re trying to create an accessible, liveable city with more space for people and great public transport, and the Golden Mile is a key part of that vision. Improving the Golden Mile will help get the city ready for other Let’s Get Wellington Moving projects including bus priority on key suburban routes into the city, an integrated mass rapid transport network, improvements at the Basin Reserve and an extra Mt Victoria tunnel,” Mr Twyford said.

Wellington Mayor Andy Foster says there’s been a long-held desire to make changes to the Golden Mile, but how far people want to take these changes vary.

“This is a chance for all Wellingtonians to have a say about the level of transformation they really want for this key part of our city. Deliveries and pickup spaces are important to business owners along the Golden Mile. That’s why Let’s Get Wellington Moving will be talking to delivery companies and businesses about the workability of proposals of changing or removing on-street parking and relocating loading zones,” Mayor Foster said.

Chair of Greater Wellington Regional Council Daran Ponter says bus priority on the Golden Mile is one of the key levers for reducing travel time variability in Wellington City.

“We welcome these options. Bus drivers tell us that no two days in Wellington City are the same and that they are locked in a constant battle against the city’s layout and pinch points like the Golden Mile as they try to get from one side of the city to the other.

“Alongside better pedestrian and cycle access, bus prioritisation on the Golden Mile also means we can make the most of our current and future electric buses, making the core of our city a cleaner and greener place to work, shop, visit and enjoy,” says Chair Ponter.

In late 2019, Wellingtonians were asked how they’d like to see the Golden Mile improved. Many people wanted private vehicles removed from the Golden Mile entirely or some of the time, buses to be given priority, more cycle lanes, and closures of side streets. On the footpaths people wanted to reduce crowding and clutter, and make sure people on bikes and e-scooters weren’t using them. These ideas helped develop the three concepts the community are now being asked for feedback on.

From this week residents, business operators and property owners along the Golden Mile will receive letters encouraging them to give feedback. There will also be events for businesses and the community – an opportunity to ask questions of the project team.

Feedback on the three concepts is open until 26 July. Find out more and have your say at lgwm.nz/goldenmile [5]

Let’s Get Wellington Moving is a partnership between the Wellington City Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency. Let’s Get Wellington Moving’s vision is to build a great harbour city, accessible to all, with attractive places, shared streets, and efficient local and regional journeys.