Wellington Scoop

Basin Reserve traffic problems – the mayor’s solution doesn’t require a flyover

by Celia Wade-Brown
Some expensive ideas about Basin Reserve traffic flow are being worked on by the New Zealand Transport Agency, the city council and the regional council. I disagree with a flyover or any large increase in capacity. However, we could improve north/south bus flow without expensive and intrusive infrastructure.

The westbound traffic often backs up from Taranaki Street in the mornings and evenings, so I fail to see how increasing capacity at the Basin would help even in the short term. Many people who have travelled overseas think our traffic congestion is pretty mild compared to other capitals.

In other articles I have written about improving cycling, walking to school, and public transport … This article is about some immediate low cost improvements for north/south bus priority. When the Adelaide Road morning bus lane went in, it reduced travel time for buses and other traffic alike – it was no great penalty for anyone.

My proposal
I have a diagram in Word that I can send to anyone who’s interested. I’ve already sent it to the Transport Agency and the city council.

Morning flow (northwards)
The main holdup is at the Adelaide Road/ Rugby Street intersection, partly due to limited time against priority given to SH1 traffic, and partly tailbacks blocking buses and other north-heading vehicles from getting to the inner lane around Basin.

My solution puts the northbound bus lane right up to the lights. The lights’ first phase is bus-only, then the bus light turns red so only cars go in the second “green phase”. This enables buses to get from the western Adelaide Rd to inner lane. No bus lane north is needed round the Basin since there is rarely any congestion heading north at this point. The cross-hatching enables buses and other vehicles to get across the tailback along SH1 from Taranaki/Tory Street that sometimes blocks the two outer lanes and prevents access to the inner lane.

Evening flow (northwards)
Unlike many other places, the worst evening congestion on Adelaide Road is also heading north, taking traffic from Newtown towards the city centre and State Highway 1. Therefore my proposal would have an evening bus lane in Adelaide Road and the description above would work the same. There are also tailbacks from Taranaki/Tory in the evening – any change to the Mount Victoria tunnel will NOT address that bottleneck.

Evening flow (southwards)
All buses heading East should use the Pirie Street tunnel. So we are only looking at southbound buses.
My proposal is that the lights at Kent Terrace should be synchronised with the rest of the Basin Reserve lights (rather than only activated by a pedestrian button). There is an existing bus lane along Kent Terrace – it should start further north at Courtenay Place and may need to go till 6:30 not just 6pm as the peak time spreads. The lights at the Kent Terrace/Ellice Street intersection already have a bus priority light, but this should go to red after a certain point so buses are not crossing two lanes against other vehicles. The crosshatching at Ellice Street is necessary so a backlog from the Mt Victoria tunnel does not block a bus from getting to the Basin lanes. I suggest the inner lane should become a bus lane since it is less heavily used now. But it could be either lane.

The lights at Dufferin/Paterson would have a bus priority sequence – again one that gives a number of buses a head start and then goes red to reduce conflict across lanes. On exiting the Basin Reserve, the southern lane along Rugby Street is usually fairly free – or a bus lane could be created. Not that buses also go to the school pick-up area. The crosshatching on Dufferin Street is necessary to get across any backlog from Taranaki/Tory.

Emergency vehicle access to/from the hospital
Ambulances and police cars would be able to use the bus lanes and cross hatching, so this proposal could ease their access too.

Private vehicles – this does not reduce capacity significantly. Though there may be slightly more delay in getting the lights for the private vehicle phase, they will be helped by the cross-hatching from getting stuck in east/west queues.

Pedestrians – no difference. But there could be improvements if cycling access through the Basin was clarified by a clearer marking of the gates.

Cycling – could be improved via the Basin Reserve if
a) there was a central bike approach up Adelaide Road instead of the left hand one that expects cyclists to wait for two phases of the lights
b) there was a “please indicate” sign at Buckle/Ellice so cyclists felt more confident about crossing to Cambridge Terrace without going via the lights
c) there were two cut-outs in the kerb at the Buckle/Cambridge corner so cyclists coming off or going onto the shared walk/cycle way could access it without going to the Cambridge/Kent lights
d) the outer ring of the Basin (especially the eastern side) was marked as a shared cycle/walk path – this would enable safer access to the Mt Vic tunnel and would also work when Basin access is closed due to events.

This article was published on the celiaformayor website during the election campaign


  1. Jack Ruben, 29. October 2010, 16:10

    Congratulations Celia for reiterating your opposition to the Basin Reserve Flyover. You need to flush Councillor Morrison out into the open. He voted FOR the flyover in council, then denied he had so during the election campaign. Is he ‘for’ or ‘against’? And what about other supporters of the flyover?
    Your proposals seem to be carefully thought-out, inexpensive steps to improve traffic-flow, Quite honestly I am not in a position to fully understand the practical effects of your ideas, and await the reaction of those most affected. But nevertheless, I am certainly prepared to support them, knowing that they can be modified after trials, and they do not involve large, irreversible capital expenditure.
    Well done for acting so positively. Let’s see other initiatives like bringing Wellington Waterfront Ltd back into council, and your already hinted-at reduction of expenses, and I predict you will gain the support of the majority of Wellingtonians.

  2. john morrison, 29. October 2010, 20:06

    Wrong again Jack — I have never voted for a Flyover at The Basin Reserve.
    John Morrison

  3. Geoff, 29. October 2010, 20:11

    How about a REAL bike lane to AND from Lower Hutt. None of this riding among 100km/h traffic bullshit.

  4. vryn evans, 30. October 2010, 9:40

    Geoff’s short,sharp para on cycletrak says it all. Many of us in our youth (long before the lycra wearing, sky pointing posteria, lawless bicyclists – not all tho’-) rode safely along the Wellington to Petone dedicated cycle track . Even then it was considered suicidal to even consider using the Hutt Road but apparently our highly intelligent Road Safety authorities and other Government agencies associated with traffic enforcement and rules consider cyclists using this heavily trafficked road are perfectly safe! Perhaps the real agenda is to bring the speed limit down to 30kph to accommodate the surge in bicycle usage. Get the cycle track fixed now !!!.

  5. Hamish McConnochie, 30. October 2010, 13:35

    Geoff, much of SH2 is outside of WCC’s jurisdiction.

  6. Alana Bowman, 30. October 2010, 14:41

    Jack – can you provide documentation or a reference to the WCC website for your assertion, denied by Cr Morrison, that he voted for the flyover?

  7. Cycleway sense, 30. October 2010, 15:14

    The Bourke Street cycleway in Sydney is an example of a city council led by Clover Moore biting the bullet and going for it properly. Not just painting a few lines adhocly here and there.

  8. Jack Ruben, 30. October 2010, 19:59

    I clearly remember reading that John Morrison voted in favour of the Flyover. However I cannot remember where – probably the DomPost. My ignorance of how to check it on the computer prevents me from finding the evidence. Can anyone help?

  9. Dave, 30. October 2010, 21:28

    The Bourke Street cycleway in Sydney is a classic example of a city council pouring ratepayers’ money (in this case about A$10million per kilometre) into a highly-publicised PR stunt without regard for international cycleway design standards or for the wishes of local cyclists. We can and should do better than copy this silly and dangerous “pretend cycleway”.

  10. john morrison, 31. October 2010, 0:00

    No Jack, nobody can help you because it has never happened — I repeat for you and others that I have never voted for a flyover at the Basin Reserve.
    Why on earth you want to harp on about this is beyond me — no group have dedicated themselves more to the protection and enhancement of the Basin Reserve than the Wellington cricket fraternity of which I am very proud to be one of — we have, in case you haven’t noticed protected and saved the Basin Reserve from all manners of attack and threat since 1857 — and we will continue to do just that I can assure you.
    That Jack is why it is still there and that Jack is why it is regarded so fondly today.
    John Morrison

  11. ViV, 31. October 2010, 7:35

    I drive regularly from Upper Hutt to Eastbourne to Porirua and am amazed at the ignorance of cyclists and their failure to use cycle lanes. Eastbourne – Seaview (narrow, some of it has a designated cycle lane), Stokes Valley – Tip Road ( separate cycle lane, raised, very narrow), Petone – Ngaraunga ( regularly see workers cleaning/sweeping), Western Hutt Road SH2 (break down lane) up to 4 abreast. Cyclists regularly fail to use these assets in an appropriate way and in fact abuse the “road courtesy rules” by riding two, sometimes three abreast along these stretches. Therefore the expenditure of resources, on cyclists to keep them safe, is a waste of ratepayer funds while their “we have wheels and a right to use the road no matter what” attitude exists.

  12. Peter Brooks, 31. October 2010, 14:58

    I am sure Councillor Morrison knows whether or not he voted for the flyover. I take his word for it that he did not. But does it matter? We should be delighted he is now against such a structure. It was not always so. On 30 July 2009 he is reported in the Dominion Post as saying “..the latest flyover option being looked at was a “sensation’ for the Basin. It looks like the road could be butted up against Construction House, behind the derelict buildings across from the ground, and we could end up with an extra 20 metres. ‘We may be able to have a really nice entranceway through landscaping…and we would still like to put a small stand there too.’ “

  13. Benjamin Easton, 31. October 2010, 16:45

    Has anyone read what the mayor wrote? If yes, have you considered the practicality in detail? If yes, would you please reply?

  14. Jack Ruben, 31. October 2010, 17:43

    Luckily for so many of us there has been a change in mayors, and thereby different policies will hopefully result.

  15. Frustrated to Hell, 1. November 2010, 11:18

    In support of ViV – I am shocked at the temerity of the cycling mafia who are demanding a ‘proper’ cycle lane between Petone and Wellington. There is a perfectly good pathway off SH2 that was put there for cyclists. Why do you insist on causing traffic chaos by not using it!
    The biggest barrier to cyclists in this city is their own ignorant and dangerous behaviour. We don’t care if you ‘think’ you have a right of way… if you are riding on a 100kph highway when there is a safer alternative then you are the authors of your own demise.
    Until cyclists start growing up a bit and being more responsible they will not be able to get the support (or respect) from the majority of vehicle users in Wellington.

  16. Latke, 1. November 2010, 17:48

    Frustrated to hell: Take a look at the state of that “pathway” and you’ll know why cyclists don’t use it.

    More to the point, Celia mentioned that the cycle lane approaching the Basin Reserve should be in the centre of Adelaide Rd. This is a good idea that should be considered for other the major routes though town. Most streets are wide enough that they have pedestrian refuges or other buffer zones between the opposing traffic streams. They also avoid visibility problems posed by parked cars and open doors etc.. Riders would be encouraged to access the lanes from bike boxes at major intersections, by the same sort of light phasing suggested for buses.

  17. andy foster, 1. November 2010, 21:06

    ‘Frustrated to Hell’ – Latke is absolutely right. The existing cycleway between Ngauranga Gorge and Horokiwi is narrow, frequently strewn with debris from the road (great for tyres!), and critically stops several hundred metres short of Petone overbridge at Horokiwi (the boundary between Wellington and Hutt Cities). Riding head on on a road shoulder into traffic coming at you at 100kph isn’t exactly a ‘safe alternative’.

    It’s also worth thinking that a large number of people simply don’t cycle, even though they would like to, because they don’t feel safe – hence the desire for a safer, more attractive connection between the two cities. (ie The Great Harbour Way)

    There are plenty of examples of great seaside or riverside walkways around the world which rank as some of the greatest assets of their respective cities. In New Zealand one of the best examples of civic transformation through such a waterfront walk/cycleway is surely New Plymouth.

    Warmest regards

    Cr Andy Foster
    Wellington City Council

  18. Political Busker, 2. November 2010, 13:18

    Are cyclists lawfully allowed to use the bus lanes in Wellington City?

  19. andy foster, 2. November 2010, 18:29

    Benjamin – cyclists are allowed to use bus lanes. Indeed – finally – we have got signs up at least on some of the bus lanes (rest to come) to say what vehicles can use bus lanes – ie cyclists, motorcyclists, emergency vehicles and more recently in-service taxis.

    However cyclists/taxis/motorcyclists are not allowed to use bus ONLY lanes, which include Willis Street, Lambton Quay southbound, and will include much of Manners Street. The signage is quite clear – the understanding obviously is not. (I know even bus drivers often have to be reminded of the distinction). Hopefully the new signage will help understanding over time.

    The main distinction between bus lanes and bus only lanes is that bus lanes tend to have a general traffic lane outside them, travelling in the same direction (they are referred to as ‘with flow’ lanes. Bus only lanes tend to have no such general traffic lane outside them, and therefore vehicles passing, say, a bus at a bus stop would have to move into the oncoming traffic lane.

    I suspect you’ll make the comment that that is what will happen at times in Manners Street. But the distinction there will be that we are only talking about buses passing other buses and the oncoming traffic also only being buses – thus much lower numbers of vehicles than in placves like LQ and Willis.

    Hope that helps.
    Cr Andy Foster
    Wellington City Council

  20. Benjamin Easton, 4. November 2010, 14:04

    Andy, in response to your last paragraph:
    The buses’ ability to overtake has been removed through the implemented design. This is going to cause additional congestion. The cycling policy was not considered in the plans and because cyclists are unpredictable their interaction with the buses can only be measured after it is operational. With the first day of operation being 28 November, there is still time for councillors at their meeting on 11 November to opt for opening only the south bound lane through Manners Mall as a bus only lane. This would give the public and bus drivers time to get used to the new operation before it is fully functional. It would also allow for the intersections of Victoria and Willis to be tested prior to the maximum impact being forced on everyone. Once the problems are identified and corrected, then the two way route should be given the go ahead.

  21. Igor, 11. April 2011, 23:39

    I realize this thread is a few months old, but has any consideration been given to taxing cyclists to pay for cycling road improvements?

    Motorists pay hefty fuel taxes and other fees, why not tax cyclists to pay for improvements on cycling infrastructure?

  22. Jamie, 14. April 2011, 1:07

    Latke. You referred to Celia’s proposal to have a cycle lane in the middle of some roads, such as Adelaide Road. My comment is that her proposal will be in conflict with WCC engineer Steve Spence’s ‘traffic calming’ policy. This is the policy whereby he puts thousands of tonnes of concrete all around Wellington’s streets, including in the suburbs, mainly by extending curbs and footpaths ridiculously out on to the roadways, together with placing masses of concrete in countless positions in the middle of the roads, including at intersections. This concrete would make it impossible to have safe cycle-ways in the middle and I don’t believe Steve Spence would ever agree to it. And he’s the boss.

    He also is consistently on the lookout for putting in speed humps – like the unbelievable 13 in quick succession that the South Karori buses have to crawl over, using extra fuel and producing more pollutant gases every time they have to pick up speed after a ‘hump’, and is also always looking to put in more traffic lights, like the unjustified, time-wasting new ones in Rintoul Street.

    All this concrete causes damage to vehicle tyres and wheel alignments, more fuel usage, more pollution and I believe in some instances creates hazards worse than any that existed before.

  23. The City is Ours, 14. April 2011, 18:27

    Jamie – if these humps slow down buses, the Fire Service and Free Ambulance surely must have difficulties too, as their response times would be affected in case of a call out.