by Lindsay Shelton
What answer would you expect if the Transport Agency asked its experts to assess the Basin flyover plan? Such a request was made – the Agency asked its specialist project team to assess nine aspects of the flyover. Their judgement is surprising: the flyover proposal gets a negative mark for seven of nine categories.
Here’s how the Transport Agency’s specialists rate the effects of the flyover:-
Ecology – minor negative
Archaelogy – significant negative
Air quality – minor negative to insignificant
Noise – minor negative
Built heritage – severe negative
Urban design and landscape – minor to moderate negative
Urban design (peer review) – moderate negative
Social impact – minor positive
Transport – significant positive
These ratings are detailed in a report dated last August  which we’ve found on the NZTA website. Not surprisingly, the report needs to seek other areas which it can use as justification for building a flyover.
Would you believe that the project will result in a reduction of traffic flows … around the Basin Reserve? Well, no. The report actually says: “The project will result in a reduction of traffic flows at street level around the Basin Reserve.” (My emphasis). All the traffic will still be there, but lots of it will be up in the air, more visible and audible for everyone. Sounds like another negative.
Then there’s the issue of travel time variability. (Don’t you worry about this every day …) The report promises “a 40 per cent reduction in travel time variability” for westbound traffic on the flyover. There’s more. Up to a 30 per cent reduction in travel time during peak periods. (My emphasis, again. It’s a bit like this week’s sale advertisements, offering “up to” 50 per cent reductions on everything. ) The report doesn’t explain how this will happen, except that it promises “optimising” of the intersection with Taranaki Street and Karo Drive. Work that out, when there’ll still be traffic lights at this bottleneck. And at Victoria Street, and Cuba Street, and Willis Street. The promise makes more sense if you remember that “optimising” means “to make the best of …” As in a bad job.
The report promises 80 per cent less traffic passing the southern gates to the Basin Reserve. (That’s a way of estimating the amount of traffic which will be travelling nine metres above the ground on the flyover.) It also promises to save 45 seconds for buses travelling between Kent Terrace and Adelaide Road. Which hardly seems to be a gain, when the city council has been working all year to slow down buses, rather than to speed them up.
The report does, however, acknowledge some problems.
It says there needs to be “further consideration” to minimising the impact of the bridge structure on views down Kent and Cambridge Terraces, and minimising the impact on the Basin Reserve heritage area. As we wrote last year, this is an impossible dream.
It also wants more consideration of developing the streetscape around the Basin Reserve “in a way that respects and celebrates its historic significance.” It doesn’t however make any claim that the flyover will either respect or celebrate that historic significance.