Wellington Scoop

Finding out about the CBD

Let’s Get Wellington Moving confirmed its reputation as a data-gathering organisation with this week’s announcement of another survey.

But some of us were surprised to learn that LGWM needs to find out what’s going on in the CBD, after five years when we thought it had been doing just that.

Its website tells us it has…

… talked to people across the region and asked them to tell us what they love about Wellington City and what frustrates them about getting around it. Around 10,000 people responded. We used their feedback to develop 12 guiding principles to plan and assess our programme … The community’s message has been clear: we need to move more people with fewer vehicles.

After such enormous input, the last thing we expected was this week’s announcement that it is signing up for a survey by a Danish company to “help prioritise and evaluate future projects.” Isn’t that what it’s been doing since it was established?

Surveyors will be on the streets of central Wellington at the end of the month. They will observe pedestrian, cycle and vehicle movements, demographics, public transport and use of parking, green spaces and recreational areas. The data will then be analysed by the team of specialists in Denmark before a final report and recommendations are released in June.

How many more reports? How many more recommendations? How about some action …

Has LGWM lost track of a survey it carried out in 2019, when it collected information from 1700 people who said what needed to be done in the Golden Mile.

Then there was the survey in 2018, when 2000 people gave “a wealth of information” about Wellington’s transport future.

And back in 2017 LGWM told us it had a list of 150 improvements that could be carried out in the CBD. Have they counted how many of them were actioned?

Strange to think that the CBD is so unknown to the organisation that is supposed to be fixing it.

But then you could say that the city council has been showing an equally strange attitude to the CBD.

Remember when weekend parking was free – an extra incentive to go into the CBD for shopping. These days you pay seven days a week. And a council plan to double parking charges at weekends hasn’t been welcomed by anyone.

The council is obviously looking on the CBD as a “cash cow,” when you’d expect it to be making plans to encourage more shoppers to come in town, rather than pricing them out.

Of course, you can come into the CBD by bus. And some people have been suggesting that free travel would attract more people into the buses. At least at weekends – this would counter the increase in car parking costs.


  1. Andrew, 19. March 2021, 11:23

    They keep asking the questions but we keep giving the wrong answers

  2. Claire, 19. March 2021, 12:01

    Yes Andrew I wonder if this survey will have incomprehensible and skewed questions, similar to the Planning for Growth and DSP. Designed to give the answers wanted!

  3. Wendy, 19. March 2021, 13:51

    So the data is going to be analysed by the team of specialists in Denmark before a final report and recommendations are released in June. People who have never been here, never seen the city and probably know nothing about our culture and habits.
    Why not have a workshop with the inner-city population which is now the largest suburb in Wellington on the smallest area of land. They are the “experts” regarding inner city living in Wellington and would no doubt give advice for free!

  4. Alan, 19. March 2021, 15:22

    Doesn’t New Zealand have the sort of people who could gather and analyse what LGWM want, for goodness sake! We must have truckloads of these people seeing how many times we are asked for our views. Why pay people in Denmark? How much longer will this continual consultation go on before they do anything?

  5. luke, 20. March 2021, 12:40

    Lgwm will keep asking until the answer is “a motorway to the airport”.

  6. Guy M, 20. March 2021, 18:01

    Wendy, Alan, time to back up and walk away from the Panic button. Jan Gehl and Associates are a really good firm, that have advised cities all over the world, and have spent time on the ground in NZ before. Jan Gehl has spoken in Wellington before and his people have done a lot of work on the ground. To say “People who have never been here, never seen the city and probably know nothing about our culture and habits.” is just plain wrong, and rather insulting to them. They (Gehl Assoc) have improved cities all over the world – when the cities have taken the advice given. The previously completed Gehl report (over a decade ago?) was adopted by WCC but never implemented, and it seems it was never taken on board by NZTA and GWRC.

    The problem we have, unfortunately, is that our resident “experts” ie LGWM, are badly deadlocked – I suspect that NZTA want a certain result with roads, WCC want a different result for pedestrians, and GWRC need a different result for Rapid Transit. What I am hoping is that Gehl Assoc will be given the authority to FORCE the 3 parts of LGWM to adopt the strategy that Gehl recommends.

    Wendy’s suggestion that the residents of central Wellington (of which I am one) are the experts at living here is nice, but unrealistic. How many of us inner-city residents have experience or qualifications in rapid transit systems, or in pedestrian flow, in implementing cycle-ways and e-scooter lanes in a major city? It takes years of practice to gain that knowledge – what we need to do as a city is to listen to these highly trained people, take on board what they end up recommending, and then implement it in full without delay.

  7. Claire, 20. March 2021, 19:40

    Guy M: I think they should engage at least the inner suburbs also, as it’s the flow through the CBD to the inner suburbs and beyond that which will be a reality one fair day hopefully.

  8. Conor, 20. March 2021, 19:56

    Gehl report was in 2004. Read it and weep.

  9. Andrew, 21. March 2021, 8:45

    Surely it would be more cost effective for lgwm to find a consulting company which will give them the answers they want rather than going back to a company which has already given them answers they didn’t want to listen to.

  10. Wendy, 21. March 2021, 11:48

    Guy, Please note I had no intention of insulting anyone but questioned data being analysed by specialists in Denmark.

    I agree that local residents may not have “experience or qualifications in rapid transit systems, or in pedestrian flow, in implementing cycle-ways and e-scooter lanes in a major city”, but surely local knowledge about experiences and frustrations living and getting around in the city, particularly as many of us walk, is an important part of the equation that will be missed by merely “observing pedestrian, cycle and vehicle movements, demographics, public transport and use of parking, green spaces and recreational areas”. And, will these observers be taking into account the huge number of residential developments in the pipeline that will result in a large increases in population in areas that at the moment are not developed. And, as Wellington inner city has a dire lack of green space which will have to be increased to match the population increase, how will all of this be factored into the overall plan?

  11. Pablo, 21. March 2021, 21:35

    As an inner city resident, the proposal to shut Tory St to traffic seems sad and ill thought through. Already we have a large volume of traffic re-directed through a previously quiet Steet, Hania St. We have a great ‘hub’ built up in and around Tory St of cafes and retail outlets. All of which is likeelyeley to disappear just as the lack of parking and high cost of parking has seen retailing in the ‘golden mile’ decrease (coupled with the trend of working from home)
    Many will choose to live outside the city if the joys of living in central Wellington progressively are eliminated.

  12. Guy M, 22. March 2021, 8:48

    Wendy – good to hear. I think that both locals and imported experts will have no problem observing the problems present in Wellington – you only have to stand on a street corner for 10 minutes to observe that our city has some real issues. The advantage of using a company like Gehl is that they will (hopefully) know how to get us out of this situation, whereas many of us locals just stand here and weep at the ineptitude of our elected officials and their un-elected officers. Our local consultants have been tried and found wanting – remember the debacle of the Basin Bridge? There were 53 separate consultant companies employed by NZTA to give advice, to try and support a scheme which was badly flawed from the start. The Board of Enquiry process found that the consultation had been done poorly, while the numbers it based its traffic calculations on were erroneous – the 6 and a half minutes of traffic savings were attributed to the Basin itself and a 250m long flyover was proposed – while the actual answer, under questioning, was around 30 seconds for the Basin and the rest from other areas including a second Mt Vic tunnel and other possibilities. Meanwhile, a group of local architects called Architectural Centre proved that a simpler scheme could be done at ground level, with just a short bridging of SH1 by Sussex St and no flyover at all, with similar time savings, at far less cost. But, of course, that is egg on the face of NZTA to admit that even now, a decade on, they were backing the wrong horse and really had no idea how to make it less ugly. The Arch Centre scheme is undoubtedly the answer that they will have to go with in the end – it will happen, I’m sure – but someone within LGWM and NZTA just needs to swallow their pride, admit they were wrong, and move on.

    So, we already know some of the answers – and Gehl will be given the information for all the city (i hope) and asked to put it together and give our city ONE overall masterplan with Everything tied in together. More …

  13. Concerned Wellingtonian, 22. March 2021, 8:59

    I wonder if we would have got an airport bus by now if Daran Ponter was GW’s CEO instead of its Chairperson?

  14. K, 22. March 2021, 10:22

    I don’t mind at all that they are consulting Danish experts who have long experience in creating more functional liveable cities.

    In terms of consulting locals, that is something you use to help find out what the problems are – but is not the way to find solutions. The solutions come from people who have experience in changing cities for the better to solve the problems already identified by the local population.

  15. Wellington Commuter, 22. March 2021, 10:51

    “The solutions come from people who have experience in changing cities for the better to solve the problems already identified by the local population.” Yeah, that sure worked when an overseas transport expert redesigned our bus service into a “hub & spoke” approach … it took over a year before the Regional Council recognised the imported design wouldn’t work here despite locals telling them even before it was put in; only recently was this design mostly undone. (Except for North Wellington where the locals – who told the council in hundreds of submissions to undo the planned “Johnsonville Hub” – avoided being hit by that part of the Bustastrophe.

  16. Guy M, 22. March 2021, 11:15

    Wellington Commuter – as far as I am aware, the problem with the bus hub system was that the Regional Council took the advice and then decided to do something similar, but not the same. Fiddling where they didn’t have enough knowledge to really fiddle, and as a result, a mess. But I don’t know enough about buses to say more than that. The whole point of the bus hubs was to avoid things like the 14 buses in a row I saw down Willis St last month – a problem we evidently still have.

    But also: Bus Hub. Interesting term. Don’t you think it deserves more than just a bus stop? Wouldn’t a Bus Hub have things like toilets, a drinking fountain, food and drink, rest facilities for drivers, seating for commuters under secure cover, as well as an increased number of buses? No wonder that bus hubs failed when they were provided with none of those.

  17. Pedge, 22. March 2021, 11:17

    Very well said Guy. I couldn’t agree more, it seems to me for a country of well travelled people, we a very slow to recognize and learn from the cities around the world that are creating or have created great urban centres. Pablo above is the perfect example of confused thinking. How would reducing traffic on Tory St be a bad result for the area? I’m disappointed every time I see the poster in Moore Wilson’s, scaremongering about how the area will be destroyed. Pedestrianized areas and walkable neighborhoods improve cities.

  18. Jim Candiliotis, 22. March 2021, 12:54

    Mmmmmm, wasn’t Wellington designed by another bunch of experts from out of town, England, on a flat table top with no contour lines on the map. Yep, let’s do it again.

  19. K, 22. March 2021, 13:29

    Did anyone read the link provided by Conor above? The last plan provided from Gehl from 15 years ago would have turned Wellington into an absolutely fantastic place if it had been followed. Discounting international experts because locals decided not to correctly follow the advice they provided is the issue, not the experts themselves. “The death of expertise” in the age of Trumpism-like self-aggrandisement is the problem of the age.

  20. Kerry, 22. March 2021, 14:46

    Yes, the bus hubs failed, but they are still the most effective solution. Auckland uses bus hubs and and bus rapid transit (BRT). Both work because they are done properly, used only in suitable places, with off-road hubs. Central Wellington is not suitable for BRT because there is no space for suitable stops, and the golden mile is carrying too many buses. Unless the bus stops have overtaking lanes, the effective limit is about one bus a minute, simply because one-minute stop delays are commonplace.
    All this matters because quality hubs require quality timekeeping. Best Practice can be seen in Zürich, where buses and light rail are never more than 30 seconds early and seldom more than 90 seconds late. When things are that bad, a relief bus is run on-time, so that the delayed bus can make up time. Zürich has been recommended as a model for Wellington, because it has solutions to Wellington’s problems.
    If the golden mile bus-timing problems cannot be solved, the solution will have to be light rail, on the waterfront

  21. Mike Mellor, 22. March 2021, 17:10

    Guy M’s response to Wellington Commuter is correct: the network as implemented was planned by the Regional Council itself, not by an overseas consultant.

    And Kerry is correct, in that it’s not hubs that are the issue, it’s the way that they were done. Proper implementation would have had well-situated, accessible hubs worthy of the name, fully completed before implementation; trunk bus routes with priority, so buses could run reliably; drivers briefed as to what connections were to be made, and what was to happen if services were disrupted; timetables planned so that waits were no more than 2/3 minutes at the most; and on-vehicle information about what connections that particular bus was going to make.

    Sadly (and disgracefully) none of these happened; fortunately new Metlink management has seen the light, and much of this has been fixed or is in the process of being fixed.

    But Kerry is wrong in saying that if we can’t get fix bus timing there should be light rail along the waterfront. Light rail yes, but avoiding the commercial heart of the city and region to run along a road where half the catchment area is water makes little sense. The LGWM Golden Mile option that was overwhelmingly supported in public consultation (but hasn’t been heard of since) would provide the right environment for reliable public transport, and put it where it is needed, at the centre of things.

    As for the Gehl report, it’s linked here , and a very good read it is too. Being Danish certainly didn’t stop them understanding the issues and making excellent recommendations, many of which are still very relevant.

  22. John Rankin, 22. March 2021, 19:18

    Mike Mellor’s wish to run mass rapid transit on the Golden Mile seems to me to be desirable but impractical. According to LGWM, once mass rapid transit is implemented, it will reduce the number of buses on the Golden Mile to about 40 per hour in each direction during peak periods. But the Golden Mile is only 2 lanes wide between Panama St and Taranaki St. So if those 2 lanes are given over to MRT, where will the buses go? And why relocate buses, with frequent stops, elsewhere, to make room for rapid transit, with few stops? As I understand it, standard overseas practice for light rail vehicles operating in an otherwise pedestrian area has a 20 kph speed limit. So not really rapid transit.

    As far as I can see, running on-street light rail along the Golden Mile could not operate as rapid transit. On the other hand, LGWM’s route with mass rapid transit on the waterfront and Taranaki St would have stations at Frank Kitts Park (at 150 metres from the corner of Willis St and Lambton Quay, the closest point on the waterfront to the Golden Mile) and Te Aro Park, which is on the Golden Mile.

    LGWM states that their MRT route is designed to deliver travel time between the railway station and airport of 20 minutes. What travel time would a Golden Mile route deliver? I fear that running on-street light rail on the Golden Mile would deliver a streetcar level of service that we pretend is rapid transit. The line isn’t long enough to recover time lost on a slow central city section on a fast suburban section (which would need a dedicated right-of-way, not the current plan). I don’t suppose there is any chance of building rapid transit underground or overhead through the city centre? To me, that may be the best option.

    K said: “The last plan provided from Gehl from 15 years ago would have turned Wellington into an absolutely fantastic place if it had been followed.” Yes. Sigh.

  23. Mike Mellor, 22. March 2021, 19:54

    John R: I think you’re falling into the trap of focusing on vehicle speed rather than passenger speed. Yes, vehicles on the waterfront will get past (but not to) the CBD faster, but since any stop will be on the edge of the CBD the average passenger (and the Golden Mile will almost certainly have the busiest stops) will have to walk further – the offices on The Terrace, Willis St or Manners St are a long way away – and cross the busy quays. For the average passenger, 20km/h along the Golden Mile is likely to be at least competitive with 50km/h max along the quays, plus 5km/h walking, plus who knows how long to cross the road. It would also offer a fast, convenient trip between the CBD and Wellington station, something that would be difficult for a quays route (people would probably walk instead).

    Going fast is pointless if it doesn’t take people to where they want to go.

  24. Dave B, 22. March 2021, 23:03

    Mike – many people currently walk from the railway station to offices on The Terrace, Willis St, Manners St etc. A waterfront MRT route (or a waterfront-extension of existing rail) would bring these destinations closer to rail than they are now. The disadvantages of trying to run MRT down the Golden Mile would work against what regional MRT should be trying to achieve. Imagine what Cuba Mall would be like if MRT tried to run there. Remember what Manners Mall used to be like before being dominated by today’s Mass Slow Transit.

  25. Kerry, 23. March 2021, 9:29

    Mike. Going fast does take some people where they want to go, and a waterfront light rail stop at Willeston St would be barely 200m from the golden mile. Not everybody will choose that option, but they could also change from light rail to bus at either the junction of Taranaki and Manners Sts, or the railway station. Once bus and tram timekeeping is sorted out, either would be good options.

  26. John Rankin, 23. March 2021, 13:26

    Mike Mellor and I must agree to disagree. AFAIK, data from other cities show that people choose to walk further for a faster journey. Some planning guides say the catchment for a rapid transit station is about a 500 metre walk. Also, while a shorter walk to a slower service may be a benefit to some of those getting on and off at that station, for everyone else on the MRT vehicle all they get is a slower journey. To a degree, you can offset slow service by increasing the service frequency, but that also increases the operating cost.

    So to my mind, LGWM’s proposal for rapid transit plus a longer walk between station and destination is better value than slow transit plus a shorter walk. I think underground or overhead through the city centre would be ideal (it’s what most cities with MRT do), but I can’t see that happening in Wellington.


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