Why community consultation is needed, not melodrama, after flyover rejection

by Christine McCarthy
The Architectural Centre, one of a number of groups opposing the Basin flyover, urges the region’s mayors and the Transport Agency not to shut the community out of discussions on possible future options for the Basin Reserve and other future Wellington transport projects.

On Friday the DominionPost reported that the mayors and the Transport Agency are to meet this week to hold hands and discuss their next steps after the board of inquiry declined resource consent for the flyover.

Group hugs won’t be enough if the Agency and the councils really want a long-lasting and durable solution at the Basin Reserve. Wider and more meaningful consultation needs to happen.

It is disappointing that the councils have reacted so melodramatically to the Board of Inquiry’s draft decision. Our understanding, from the expert evidence presented at the Basin hearing, is that saying no to the Basin Bridge will not have the negative impacts which are being claimed by these supporters of the flyover.

The Architectural Centre strongly supports improvements to public transport, and understands from evidence at the hearing that important improvements to public transport, including initial bus priority measures, could be implemented immediately without making any changes to the Basin Reserve. The Centre also considers that linking unrelated projects, such as the recently signed Housing Accord, is inappropriate.

It is a mystery how a developer’s decision to build homes in area north of Wellington (such as Johnsonville and Churton Park) could be affected by any decision pertaining to the Basin Reserve. Do the councils really think Wellingtonians will believe that? If the Board confirms its draft decision, the councils will need to move on, and be positive and proactive. We are certainly keen to be productively involved in discussions about future possibilities for the Basin.

The Board carefully considered all the evidence – and there was a huge amount of it. It found that the Transport Agency had significantly overstated the transport benefits of the project, alternatives had not been adequately considered, consultation was insufficient, and that the proposed flyover structure would have significant adverse environmental effects.

ellice before
corner of Ellice and Dufferin Street now

Just looking at what would happen to the corner of Ellice and Dufferin Street gives a small sense of the negative impact of the flyover on this historically significant Basin precinct.

ellice after
corner of Ellice and Dufferin Street after the flyover

The Architectural Centre is pleased that the councils and the Transport Agency are considering an application for proposed improvements to the Basin Reserve, the Mount Victoria Tunnel duplication, the widening of Ruahine St, and the new bus network, because these projects are integral to each other, and need to be considered as a single package. This will mean that the design development – which is yet to occur for projects such as Bus Rapid Transit – will increase the likelihood of a robust, durable, multi-modal transport solution, and that both the positive and negative effects of the proposal will be properly assessed across all of these projects.

Christine McCarthy is President of the Architectural Centre.

SOURCE MATERIAL

The Draft Report and Decision of the Basin Bridge Board of Inquiry is available at: http://www.epa.govt.nz/resource-management/NSP000026/NSP000026_NSP000026_Draft%20Report%20and%20Decision.pdf

Transcripts of the hearing are available at: http://www.epa.govt.nz/Resource-management/Basin_Bridge/Hearing/proceedings/Pages/default.aspx

Higher resolution of the Truescape visual simulation (before and after images of the cnr of Ellice and Dufferin St) can also be found at: http://www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/basin-bridge-application/docs/plan-set-trueviews-part-3.pdf – images 15 and 16.

The findings of the Basin BoI Draft Decision included the following:

“we do not consider the Project can be credited with being a long term solution.” (p. 158, para 558)

“Perhaps more importantly, we have no guarantee that either (or both) of those projects [BRT and Mt Victoria Tunnel duplication] will in fact go ahead. Indeed, as outlined elsewhere in our decision, we are required to make our determination on the basis that the Mt Victoria Tunnel duplication does not form part of the future state of the environment, and on the basis of the limited information currently available to us regarding the Public Transport Spine Study outcomes.

“That is the key result of the Transport Agency’s election to seek approval for the Project separately from that for the Mt Victoria Tunnel duplication, and in advance of the Public Transport Spine Study and its outcomes being finalised. … we cannot place any significant weight on a supposed (but not quantified) Project benefit which is not real — in that we have no certainty or assurance it will actually materialise” (p.159, para 565-566).

“we received no detail as to how the layout of the gyratory would be modified. Nor was any modelling carried out specifically for a dedicated BRT layout which would enable us to consider its effectiveness and how vehicular traffic would be affected” (p. 161, para 574).

“The evidence was that much or even most of the transport benefits from the Basin Bridge Project depend on completion of that sequence of road improvements and can be regarded as contingent benefits.” (p. 150, para 519). Contingent benefits were defined as “benefits flowing from related projects, which are intended but not consented” (p. 124, para 399).

“The second Traffic and Transportation Joint Witness Statement dated 5 February 2014 recorded that the modelling shows that the Vivian Street/Kent and Cambridge Terraces/Pirie Street intersection, with the improvements proposed as part of the Project, is anticipated to be near capacity by 2021.” (p. 157, para 552)

“The evidence is that Vivian Street will have to be revisited in about five years time (to allow time for planning another upgrade), and that the creation of additional eastbound capacity, especially at intersections, can be expected to have significant environmental implications.” (p. 158, para 557)

“The Project would make some improvements for circulation of cyclists and pedestrians in the Basin Reserve area, but as these are mostly in the form of shared paths they would introduce potential conflicts between these modes. The benefits of the major new facility — the shared cycleway/walkway part of the Basin Bridge structure — are mostly contingent on a better connection eastwards as part of a second Mt Victoria Tunnel.” (pp. 151-152, para 527)

“the Transport Agency’s own surveys have shown a dramatic increase in walking and cycling in the last five years. … the 2013 Census records that there has been a 73% increase in cycling in Wellington City (since the 2006 Census)” (pp. 141-142, para 476).

“We remain uncertain of the extent to which consultation, particularly with those most likely to be most adversely affected, has been undertaken by the social impact assessors specifically related to the assessment work” (p. 400, para 1396[a])

“We find the consideration of alternatives has, in the circumstances of this case, been inadequate for the reasons set out above, which include:

[a] A lack of transparency and replicability of the option evaluation; and

[b] A failure to adequately assess non-suppositious options, particularily those with potentially reduced environmental effects.” (p. 440, para 1535[a] and [b]).

The decision also referred to the joint statement agreed by all of the transport experts:

“There are uncertainties relating to the Project as a result of decisions which have not yet been made but which have the potential to affect the Project. The Joint Witness Statement from the caucusing identifies that these uncertainties are particularly in relation to:

[a] Whether or not the Mt Victoria Tunnel duplication will proceed and if so, when; and

[b] The form and timing of the high quality public transport system to be delivered through the Public Transport Spine Study.” (p. 160, para 568)

Evidence from the hearing (Transcript references are in brackets) indicated:

1) There is no guarantee that the Mount Victoria Tunnel duplication project will be funded. (Day 5:561/ll. 28-30)

2) The lack of clear evidence as to the relative contributions to SH1 travel time savings (both directions) from the Mt Victoria Tunnel duplication and Terrace Tunnel duplication without the Basin Bridge. (Day 10:1195/ll.44-46; 1196:2)

3) There is a lack of evidence that the Basin Bridge is needed prior to Mount Victoria Tunnel Duplication. (Day 24:2761/ll.12-14); especially for SH1 (Day 51:5890/ll. 41-45; 5891/ll. 1; 5897/ll. 13)

4) Currently traffic entering the Basin from Mt Victoria tunnel, which the only traffic which would use the proposed flyover, is constrained by the Mt Victoria tunnel (Day 5897/ll/ 13-19.)

5) An independent transport expert found that a detailed assessment of the Basin intersections (SIDA intersection modelling), which would have provided a much better understanding of the degree of congestion, was unable to be undertaken because current congestion is affected by the works being undertaken to build the Buckle St underpass and on the Taranaki/Buckle St intersection (Day 49:5624/ll. 9-38)

6) Funding has not been approved for BRT, and will be part of the RLT programme July 2015 (Day 11:1442/ll. 30-34; Day 11:1442/ll.38-45; 1443/ll. 1-2)

7) Developed design of the PT Spine is yet to occur and will take 12-24 months (Day 11:1442/ll.38-45; 1443/ll. 1-2; Day 12:1459/ll. 34-40)

8) There are many aspects of BRT implementation which are not dependent on the Basin Bridge project (e.g. bus priority, higher frequency bus service) (Day 12:1449/ll.1-6).

9) Initial bus priority measures, signal priorities etc. could be done without the Basin Bridge. (Day 12:1494/ll.9-34)

10) The introduction of BRT will be incremental change (rather than a “step change”) and is not dependent on changes at the Basin Reserve, and will take over 10 years to fully implement (Day 11:1442/ll. 23-28; Day 11:1443/ll. 6-14; Day 18:2130/ll; Day 18:2129/ll. 42-45; 2130/ll. 1-44; 2131/ll.4-41.)

11) It has not been established that dedicated bus lanes around the Basin are essential for all PT improvements, or for BRT. The lack of the need dedicated lanes on Sussex St to achieve the project’s stated PT objectives further supports this. Other options could also provide for BRT. (Day 10:1199/ll.1-14)

12) It is expected that there will only be a small increase in bus patronage as a result of proposed BRT introduction (Day 18:2129/ll. 42-45; 2130/ll. 1-44; 2131/ll.4-41).

13) The PT Spine design is dependent on the Mount Victoria Tunnel Duplication. (Day 11:1443/ll. 16-31)

Excerpts from Hearing Transcripts referred to in the section above. Transcripts are available from the EPA website: http://www.epa.govt.nz/Resource-management/Basin_Bridge/Hearing/proceedings/Pages/default.aspx

Day 5:561/ll. 28-30 MR BLACKMORE: That has happened and the Mount Victoria tunnel duplication project has progressed. That project is programmed for a 2018 start but there’s no guarantees around that funding.
Day 10:1195/ll.44-46; 1196:2 MR MILNE: But we don’t know, do we, of the overall journey from Evans Bay to the tunnels what Mount Victoria Tunnel and Terrace Tunnel duplications just to that without the Basin Reserve?

MR DUNLOP: No, we don’t.

Day 10:1199/ll.1-14 MR MILNE: And the western side of the Basin Reserve [Sussex St] is outside the scope of the project isn’t it?

MR DUNLOP: It is indeed. There is no changes to be made on that western side.

MR MILNE: Is it still possible then to say, or is it correct to say that the Basin Bridge project will enable bus rapid transport if that’s the decision?

MR DUNLOP: It certainly will enable, correct.

MR MILNE: Could that enabling occur via other options?

MR DUNLOP: Completely.

Day 11:1442/ll. 23-28 MR BENNION: Now what’s the timetable for delivery of the public transport spine improvements and BRT?

MR TROY: Well that decision hasn’t yet been taken, but it is anticipated that it’ll be an incremental phased implementation of that, over a number of years, over the next 10 plus years.

Day 11:1442/ll. 30-34 MR BENNION: Well when will we be able to say – well, just while we’re there – what’s the – what’s the current situation with funding for BRT, do we know if it’s been – that fundings been approved for it?

MR TROY: No, there is no funding approved yet.

Day 11:1442/ll.38-45; 1443/ll. 1-2 MR TROY: Well obviously the decision on the preferred option has to be taken by the Regional Transport Committee, which is coming up in March. Subsequent to that, there will be a need to do detail design of various corridors, and that will – that will all need to be funding for those design stages and scheme assessment, and then probably in about two years’ time perhaps there might be funding as agreed as part of the Regional Land Transport Plan and the programme that is attached to that now for the implementation and construction phases, so it would be included within the next Regional Land Transport programme which is agreed in July 2015.
Day 11:1443/ll. 6-14 MR BENNION: And when would you think construction of bus rapid transit will begin?

MR TROY: It obviously depends on decisions made by a number of parties including, or in particular, the Wellington City Council who is the road controlling Authority for most of the routes and it is possible that there may be some early works to put in place, priority measures, within the next few years, but the complete implementation of BRT system would, I imagine, take over 10 years to fully put in place.

Day 11:1443/ll. 16-31 MR BENNION: So does that suggest that the bus rapid transit system is either going to arrive on current timetable at about the same time as the duplicated Mount Victoria Tunnel or even slightly after?

MR TROY: Well certainly – there are in the Public Transport Spine Study, there are two key corridors identified. One is the corridor that goes through the Basin to the regional hospital, and the other corridor goes around the Basin and through the duplicated Mount Victoria Tunnel to Kilbirnie, and certainly the branch to Kilbirnie can only happen once the Mount Victoria Tunnel is duplicated, it can’t happen before that as it is envisaged in the study. So that has a date before which it cannot be fully implemented.

The corridor through to the regional hospital may be able to be put in place earlier than that, and that is the expectation, and it is a project that has many different facets and won’t happen at one particular time.

Day 12:1449/ll.1-6 MR TROY: This project is just a small piece in the puzzle of a number of elements that need to be put in place to achieve the overall PT Spine project so there is physical improvements to the corridor, this being one of those, as well as the vehicles, the networks and fares and a number of other elements that go to make that potential for mode share.
Day 12:1459/ll. 34-40 MR TROY: Well, I think this just reflects the different timing of the different projects and whilst the decision on bus rapid transit will hopefully be made in the next month, it will only be after another 12 to 24 months beyond that, that we actually have detailed designs available for the corridors and will have decided on the types of vehicles that we will be using and only at that stage, would it be possible to do a full integration of the designs.
Day 12:1494/ll.9-34 MR TROY: No, I would not imagine you would wait. I mean that is obviously subject to decisions but the expectation would be you could, you might want to look at your corridor and protect your corridor straightaway and you might be able to put in some interim, some initial bus priority measures on the existing road corridor without needing any, going through any consenting procedure.

You might be able to be put those in now and you might be able to look at your signal priorities on some of the route and put them in now so there might be some early wins in the next few years.

MR BAINES: In fact you could actually do those things without the Basin Bridge project?

MR TROY: You could, but you would have obviously a gap in the middle.

MR BAINES: But you could actually do them? You could actually introduce this continuous green lane and signal prioritisation, presumably what it means is with the higher levels of traffic that are still going through there, that has a greater impact on, if you are slowing them down, it has larger adverse effects on the other users in order to achieve your – - -

MR TROY: I see, obviously you could reallocate the traffic signals to provide priority for public transport but then you would be significantly affecting the state highway flows and NZTA as the road controlling authority is very unlikely to agree to that situation, I would imagine.

Day 18:2129/ll. 42-45; 2130/ll. 1-44; 2131/ll.4-41. MR BENNION: The Island Bay (INDISTINCT 3.45) is that trips of a 100 more people in 2031, sorry, is that how I should understand the table, that there will be a 100 more people on a buses in 2031 as a result of bus rapid transit?

MR SWAINSON: Yes, that is correct.

MR BENNION: Under ideal conditions?

MR SWAINSON: Yes.

MR BENNION: Model conditions?

MR SWAINSON: Yes, and as you have said the numbers are in general fairly small.

MR BENNION: Yes, and again, the 90 people you expect in 2031 from Newtown, the 90 extra people, again, that is the straight north-south trip?

MR SWAINSON: Yes, that is correct.

MR BENNION: There has been talk of a four percent change in demand and is this table going somewhere to say what that looks like in terms of trips in the peak, for example? 20

MR SWAINSON: The four percent increase in demand figure, my understanding, was quite aspirational and in fact movements since those forecasts were made have indicated that some real concerted effort, albeit through step change, or by other means, is required to get anywhere near that four percent level.

So in a sense these numbers are actually reflecting what will so become a perhaps revised downwards figure from that four percent.

[10.02 am]

MR BENNION: In your answer just then you talked about a step change and step change has been used by a number of people in evidence to the Board, and I want to understand what you say is a step change.

I have heard of it in two contexts, I might be wrong here, but I have heard in a context of an increase in public transport patronage, but I have also seen it used in relation to physical infrastructure such as VRT being in existence will be the step change.

How are you using the term ‘step change’?

MR SWAINSON: That is a good question, and I actually don’t like – - – …

MR SWAINSON: Actually, step change is probably not a word that I enjoy using and should have used, because I think while we talk about step change more often, it is not a step but more like a gradual incline similar to a disabled access route, just simply because many of the things that we are trying to do will happen gradually rather than suddenly, they will happen incrementally rather than suddenly.

And so in terms of public transport, the step change that I think is often referred to is moving from the existing bus service with some limited bus priority, through to bus rapid transit. Now, the reality is that bus rapid transit in the Wellington context would not look the same, as for example, bus rapid transit in the Brisbane city context where you have dedicated bus lanes separated by barriers from general traffic.

The reality is, and this is the dilemma for Wellington City, is that as the controller of that road space, it has to consider all the users and try and allocate the space to get the best outcomes.

Personally, I don’t believe along any of the routes that have been identified that we are going to be able to go to a full gold standard bus rapid transit solution, the severance that that would create for pedestrians and others would be unacceptable.

So when people are talking about step change in relation to public transport in the Wellington context, I think – as I say, it is going to be more of a transition and probably we are yet to define where we fit on that continuum from bus priority through to gold standard bus rapid transit.

MR BENNION: I think in the memo that came in the other day, or a subcommittee report on public transport, the spine study has mentioned we might aim for bronze standards. Is that the sort of thing you are thinking of when you talk about where it might ultimately end up?

MR SWAINSON: Yes, and in fact I believe that the real solution for Wellington will not be so much something related to an international standard but more, I guess, a bespoke system that is able to be retrofitted to our environment.

Day 24:2761/ll.12-14. MR YOUNG: “The second point, no improvements to the existing roundabout are required until the Mount Victoria Tunnel is duplicated.”
Day 49:5624/ll. 9-38 CHAIRPERSON: Sorry, just before you move on. Going back to that table in appendix I, you made a comment “it would have been good to have had that detail for the Basin intersections”?

MR SMITH: Ideally, yes.

CHAIRPERSON: Would that give a much better understanding of the degree of congestion?

MR SMITH: It would, however, that sort of analysis hasn’t been possible due to the blocking back which occurs from downstream intersections. So in order to be able to undertake the sort of analysis, which is included in appendix I to Technical Report 4, it would be necessary to be able to go on-site and to be able to measure the queue lengths in isolation from the blocking back which is occurring downstream on the State Highway 1 network. So it’s unfortunate that this level of analysis cannot be done and certainly it would be inappropriate to do that sort of analysis without a properly calibrated model based on survey data.

CHAIRPERSON: And that would be quite time consuming I would expect?

MR SMITH: Well, it’s not terribly time consuming no, not at all, but the difficulty is actually getting out there and getting reliable queue lengths to understand the performance of these intersections in isolation because it is not possible to do that due to the downstream blocking back from – well, prior to the Buckle Street Underpass construction that would have occurred from the Tory/Buckle intersection and now it occurs from the Taranaki/Buckle intersection. That’s the reason why it is not possible to collect that data and calibrate a SIDRA model such as this.

Day 51:5890/ll. 41-45; Day 515891/ll. 1. MR SMITH: … Where along with the other experts I observed a model which included the Taranaki Street intersection improvements and Buckle Street underpass improvements including three lanes being operational but without the Basin Bridge flyover and this relieved congestion along Buckle Street. It also resulted in improvements in traffic flow around the Basin.
Day 51:5897/ll. 13-19. MR SMITH: For the State Highway One westbound there would be traffic blocking up at the eastern point of the Mount Victoria Tunnel. That would be the remaining constraint for westbound traffic, and to the west of there traffic would flow freely around the Basin without any significant congestion which addresses that State Highway One westbound movement but it is the north-south I was referring to where there would still be congestion.
 

3 comments:

  1. nato, 25. August 2014, 8:34

    A bit more bus priority would go a long way to easing congestion. Get rid of some on-street parking if need be.

     
  2. Mike Mellor, 25. August 2014, 20:25

    I fully agree with the need to avoid melodrama, and all concerned should read the BoI report and the relevant bit of the Ngauranga to Airport plan. That relevant Measure in that plan says, in full:

    Design and construct improvements at the Basin Reserve to improve passenger transport, walking and cycling by separating north-south flows from east-west traffic; and implement complementary bus priority measures on Kent Tce, Cambridge Tce and Adelaide Rd.

    Re public transport, walking and cycling, the Board’s draft decision says:
    [445] Looking specifically at the main commuter flows — north in the morning and south in the evening — the journey time savings predicted for public transport in 2021 are less than the predicted journey time savings for general traffic, suggesting that the improvement for public transport would be unlikely to encourage mode shift:

    [458] … we have no evidence about the effect of what is proposed here on mode share, which is an objective of the planning document

    [494} … We do not see the package of proposals as a truly multimodal long term solution for cycling and walking in the project area.

    In addition, it says:
    [362] … there is dispute about whether the present problems identified by the Transport Agency are anything more than inconvenience at peak times. There is dispute about the causes of the present traffic delays in the Basin Reserve area, and there is even more dispute about whether traffic flows will increase in the future as predicted by the Transport Agency and whether growth in traffic could be addressed without the proposed bridge

    Also re congestion:
    [424] …. Westbound motorists would have a clear impression of saving time as they took the more direct route across the Basin Bridge, but the reality would be that often their journey would actually be no quicker than the average journey morning peak journey under the do-nothing scenario.

    Finally:
    [558] Thus we do not consider the Project can be credited with being a long term solution.

    As nato says, let’s focus on bus priority measures that can be achieved.

     
  3. City Lad, 26. August 2014, 9:19

    Negative comments made by the Regional and Wellington City Councils regarding the Board of Inquiry draft decision weren’t cricket.

    Their contempt for the intelligence and professionalism of BOI members requires disciplinary action. They need to learn very quickly that the umpire’s decision is final !

    Well done Christine.

     

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