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Why we need both

by Glen Smith
The debate over the Quays vs the Golden Mile for a public transport route is irrelevant – we need both.

One of the main faults of the profoundly flawed Spine Study was that it demonstrated that one high quality across town PT route was inadequate but they didn’t bother to look at how to establish a second one. LGWM blundered forward with this fundamentally basic flaw in their four ‘scenarios’ before finally realising their stupid error.

Unless you go underground, there are only two across-town routes suitable for high quality PT corridors close to the CBD – the Golden Mile and the Quays. We need one PT corridor on each.

What mode should run down each?

Most PT commuters from Wellington suburbs travel by bus. Forcing them to transfer by imposing a ‘Trunk and Feeder’ model, either on to bigger buses (as with the disastrous recent bus changes) or on to trains (as FIT proposes) is illogical given Wellington’s size (see my article on direct vs indirect services [1]). One PT corridor should be bus based for direct services from all Wellington suburbs.

In contrast, Kapiti and the Hutt are serviced mainly by very efficient rail corridors but these are hamstrung by terminating at the northern end of our city, meaning rail is vastly underutilized for transport trips across the CBD (the majority of trips from the north, based on car data). The result is our motorway and city becoming a quagmire of cars with no viable PT option.

One of the main barriers here is the potent transfer penalty at the station but, a little like initially ignoring the need for a second PT corridor, there is no evidence LGWM have bothered to try removing this transfer, despite very viable options. Hopefully they will recognise and address this fundamentally basic stupid design error as well (don’t hold you breath).

So we need one corridor for buses and one for seamless rail. Fortunately, and mainly by luck, the city is well suited to this. The Golden Mile is an established efficient bus corridor and the Quays are ideally suited for across-town rail. This fits well with walk distances, with most studies showing people are prepared to walk at least 200-400m to a bus stop but 400-800m or more to high quality rail.

We of course also need car access and a cycle corridor. Featherston Street/ Victoria Street and the western side of the Quays form a natural southbound and northbound one-way system close to the CBD. With the Golden Mile pedestrianised, those able bodied can either take public transport or park on the outskirts of the CBD and catch free buses along the Golden Mile to their destination. Side road parking close to the GM would be reserved for less able bodied (policing this could be an issue).

The only really viable option for a dedicated cycleway is Featherston Street/Victoria Street which fortunately is also a good route. The overall LGWM cycleway proposals look quite good (with a few exceptions).

So LGWM is gradually settling into a good overall design (the ‘master plan’ Ralf mentions) with a few notable exceptions. The main exception is failing to remove the Station rail transfer. Others include the apparently unilateral decision on a Taranaki Street route for rail (without consultation and when I suspect a Wakefield Street/ Kent Terrace route would be superior) and the stupid plan to take rail via Newtown for no good reason, at far higher cost and logistical challenge, and without apparently objectively comparing it to a Mt Victoria Tunnel/ Ruahine Street route.

The main issue however is the mindnumbingly slow proposed timeframe – with rail not planned until 2036 and no explanation for the delay.

Modelling shows congestion will have almost doubled by then as the city descends into an unworkable gridlocked quagmire. I note skilled workers are opting not to come to Wellington due to the appalling infrastructure planning. How many will still be left by 2036?