Key workshop to make decisions on route of public transport spine

Press Release – Paul Bruce
A feasibility study on options to deliver a high quality public transport spine for central Wellington was completed last year. A joint WCC/GW workshop will be held on the 21st February to consider the recommendations from this report.

This will be a key meeting to determine what happens. If you have strong views about what should happen, or information you think will help councillors in their discussions, you should talk to your Wellington city and/or Regional Councillor personally before the meeting (see below for link).

Decisions on the spine aren’t just about a choice between LRT and BRT. You won’t be surprised to know that I do not support the proposal to adopt BRT (I’ve set out some of my reasons below), but the nature and route for the spine are even more important at this stage. Regardless of whether BRT or LRT is to be used, we must ensure that the spine serves as much of the city as possible, and can ensure that the public transport network is efficient and effective.

If you want to have a say in decisions that will determine the quality of public transport and the effects that public transport has on the CBD environment, call one or two of your Regional and City Councillor this weekend and before 21st Feb.

Councillor contact details can be found at:
http://www.gw.govt.nz/council-and-councillors/
http://wellington.govt.nz/your-council/mayor-and-councillors

Bus priority needed now
If we want good public transport now, we urgently need to have full bus priority or dedicated bus corridor for the Golden Mile and through Adelaide to Newtown. That isn’t an expensive or difficult thing to achieve. Without that, bus services will continue to be hopelessly unreliable, and we’ll be wasting a lot of our money paying for buses to idle in traffic and at intersections.

That dedicated bus corridor needs to follow the Wellington City designated growth spine, and be within walking distance of the largest possible number of people. The proposed Mount Victoria road tunnel doesn’t meet that test, as it would put the spine through an area with few houses or businesses. Other options have been discussed (a Y spine going through the Hataitai Tunnel to Kilbirnie, a single spine going over Constable St, a single spine going through a new tunnel near the zoo), and I believe further work is needed on the full route for the spine. But the immediate short term priority in any case is the spine from Lambton Quay to Newtown via Adelaide Road. Let’s get that right, and have more discussions about the routes to Kilbirnie once that’s been sorted.

To solve at least some of the problems with the current bus system, we need:
• removal of private vehicles along the Golden Mile
• blocking off access from side streets.
• phasing of traffic lights
• off-vehicle ticketing or other ways to reduce the time buses spend at stops
• integrated ticketing
• other measures to improve the efficiency of PT services and safety of active modes

BRT versus LRT
I am still a supporter of LRT because:
• We have the number of people to justify LRT.
• Most of the higher costs were because of the route chosen (the extra tunnel), rather than because of a major difference between the two modes where they are designed and operated in much the same way.
• Large bendy buses will not work without the provision of passing lanes, which are not available in Wellington’s relatively narrow streets.
• We have not been able to find a city anywhere in the world similar to Wellington that has gone for this option. In contrast, hundreds of cities in the United States and Europe of comparable size to Wellington and urban design have gone for light rail successfully. Freiburg in southern Germany, is excellent example, with a well integrated network, including light rail, bus and safe cycle ways.

High quality overseas cities use a network approach with the integration of modern (high capacity) tram/light rail (LRT) with connecting buses, safe cycle and pedestrian spaces. That’s the vision I have for Wellington.

The Spine Report, and the subcommittee report set up to consider this, goes for the second best option, Light Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) which cannot operate efficiently without passing lanes, and will cripple our ability to shine above other cities. The Spine Route chosen includes Mt Victoria tunnel and Ruahine Street, which will be in conflict with local traffic and limit access to the service.

Further details of the meeting are below.

Next steps on the Spine Review
A briefing on the draft report will be provided at the forthcoming Joint WCC/GW Workshop.
Subcommittee draft report and recommendations

It is an opportunity for both Councils to consider the draft findings of the Subcommittee and identify any additional issues for consideration. Following this workshop the Subcommittee will finalise its report, which will be considered by the Regional Transport Committee (RTC) on 4 March.

Joint Council Workshop
The Joint GWRC/WCC Council Workshop is to be held on 21 February (10-12.30 at GWRC).
There are 3 items on the agenda:
• PT Spine Study (90 mins)
• Wellington bus network and fleet configuration (45 mins)
• Petone to Grenada (P2G) and Ngauranga to Petone cycleway projects (30 mins).

Background to PT Spine
Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) is working in partnership with Wellington City Council and NZ Transport Agency on this project. The first step was to undertake a feasibility study on options to deliver a high quality public transport spine for central Wellington. This action was proposed in the Ngauranga to Airport Corridor Plan, agreed by the three agencies in 2008. The report, prepared by consultants AECOM, was completed in June 2013. Since that time a comprehensive public consultation process has been underway, culminating in a hearing and the draft report from the Subcommittee.

Next Steps
Once a decision on the preferred option has been confirmed by the Regional Transport Committee in March, each organisation will consider how it will implement the project. The primary role of GWRC is in procuring and managing public transport services, and a number of work programmes are already underway that will contribute to the implementation of the PT Spine project, including the:
• Review of the Regional Public Transport Plan
• PTOM procurement process
• Investigation of alternative vehicle types and power sources.

In addition to these specific actions, GWRC will continue to be involved in a working partnership with WCC and NZTA, to ensure consistent implementation. WCC has a key role in the next phase of the project as the owner of many of the affected roads, and will have primary responsibility for any physical changes to the corridors and traffic light phasing. We are already working closely with NZTA to ensure that the preferred option of the PT Spine Study is able to be factored into the proposed design of both the Basin Reserve and the Mt. Victoria Tunnel duplication projects.

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