by Celia Wade-Brown
(First published on Wellington.Scoop on October 29, 2010)
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. 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.
I have a diagram that I’ve sent 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.
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.
No difference. But there could be improvements if cycling access through the Basin was clarified by a clearer marking of the gates.
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 first published on the celiaformayor website during the 2010 election campaign in which Celia Wade-Brown defeated Kerry Prendergast and became the mayor of Wellington.