Wellington Scoop

Bi-partisan approach needed to fix transport problems

by Ian Apperley
It’s 3:30 on Saturday afternoon and traffic from the airport to the motorway is back to back. As I drive in the other direction, I am astounded by the queues, sadly now commonplace.

PCGM wrote a great piece last week using his Magic Eight Ball to determine what is going to happen with different transport options. The positive part of me hopes that he is correct. The Black Hat in me sees differently.

Andy Foster was right a couple of years back when he said that a lack of decisions over the Basin Reserve tangle would set transport back years. PCGM suggests that Chris Calvi-Freeman could sort this out but “may not be friends with everyone afterwards.” Frankly, the only way that the Basin is going to see any kind of transport progress is if Central Government gets involved. And the only way that National is going to engage is if they see it as an election issue. That’s important to remember. Because the fight for the 2017 General Election is underway and some movement in the transport space will could be propelled by efforts to win voters.

PCGM thinks that more cycleways are a certainty, but I am not so sure. It still feels as if we are playing around the edges, literally, with cycleways. The real answer is to make the CBD cycle friendly, if we want more people commuting by cycle. The thing is, no one is willing to tackle that because not only will they lose friends, they will also create enemies.

And this highlights a wider issue – instead of a balanced transport strategy, there’s been a single-eyed view that cycleways will fix everything. It’s not going to work. Cycling portfolio leader Sarah Free, in her latest blog, offers little confidence this is going to be resolved any time soon.

Eastern Suburbs parking woes are highlighted by PCGM, but it’s not just Miro and Kauri Streets that are under pressure, it’s the whole area. The Airport’s expensive parking drives people to park on the side streets. When you drive around you figure something out very quickly, it’s dangerous. Roads are narrowed and you have to stick your nose into the oncoming lane to see around parked traffic.

As movie production ramps up, there are more and more cars parked from Miramar South to Miramar North. With a slew of projects kicking off in February, it’s going to get worse. Add to that the fact that we now have multiple rental car companies in the suburb. GoRentals in Strathmore park in all the surrounding streets – dozens of vehicles, which are having an impact on the shopping centre. There are days where the only available parking is 300 meters from the shops. That means people move to places where there is free parking, bypassing local business.

For cyclists in the Eastern Suburbs, the safety risks are increasing. Narrow streets and blind spots are a significant hazard.

The fight over trolley buses is ongoing and once again, the WCC has little sway over the decision to keep them or not. The trolley buses contribute to traffic chaos, because they aren’t fast, fall off the wires, and are bound to specific routes. Weather hampers them as well; in a stiff breeze, wires come down and the network grinds to a halt.

Public transport certainly is a large piece of solving the puzzle. The perception is that it is expensive, slow, not a great experience from a customer perspective, and with planned changes likely to become worse. There need to be incentives for the operators to deliver a better, cost-effective service. Once again, the WCC has almost no sway, because buses are controlled by the GWRC who have been more interested in trains.

The City Council composition is a place where, when it comes to transport, there is conflict. The Greens vs the independents vs the right vs Labour has meant that there have been difficulties getting decisions over the line. Add in Andy Foster, who I suggest will not be able to walk away from his years of transport planning, and we have a veritable Middle East transport situation.

It would be nice to think that we can get the city moving again. Those of us out east have devised our own routes into the city. We travel through Miramar (avoiding the airport traffic) then through the back streets of Kilbirnie, up and over Mt Victoria, to drop down on the quays. At peak times that route is a lot faster though I notice it is becoming increasingly congested.

The reality is that we need a bi-partisan approach to all forms of transport if we are going to see improvements this term.


  1. TrevorH, 31. October 2016, 8:10

    There has been enormous growth out East over the 30 years we have lived here but virtually nothing has been done to provide the necessary transport infrastructure to support it. The last major project to improve connectivity to the rest of the region appears to have been the Mt Victoria tunnel in 1931.The focus on cycle-ways as a means of mass transport from the outer suburbs to the CBD and beyond has been a derisory misdirection of time and effort and a telling display of the Council’s incompetence and capture by special interests. The Gordian knot of the Basin Reserve must be addressed urgently. Is a a cut and cover underpass really that hard?

  2. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 31. October 2016, 9:54

    “The reality is that we need a bi-partisan approach to all forms of transport if we are going to see improvements this term.”

    Absolutely! In fact a multi-party approach. Anything less will see us going nowhere. While I was flattered by PCGM’s article, it certainly isn’t all about me. Sarah Free and I will lead the charge within the council for better roads and better transport. We’ll be drawing on Andy Foster’s extensive local experience and have been assured of his support, so hopefully wheels won’t be reinvented (unless absolutely necessary).

    From initial discussions with fellow councillors I don’t see much likelihood of party-political problems emerging in the civic centre. There will of course be a range of views on transport priorities but everyone wants to get Wellington moving and offer safer and more accessible streets with better cycling conditions and more reliable public transport.

    Central government is of course already involved, in the form of NZTA, which owns the State Highway 1 route right through to the airport, and it’s a fair guess that the NZTA’s senior people are already aware of ministerial expectations with election year approaching. We need to work together to develop new solutions for the Basin and get the second tunnel back on the programme.

    And yes, the council needs to grapple quickly and meaningfully with the increasing parking problems in Miramar. Who’s going to drive that one? On hell, I guess that’s me!

  3. Keith Flinders, 31. October 2016, 11:58

    Ian writes: The trolley buses contribute to traffic chaos, because they aren’t fast, fall off the wires, and are bound to specific routes. Weather hampers them as well; in a stiff breeze, wires come down and the network grinds to a halt.

    Two main issues here. The overhead wiring structure received virtually no pro-active maintenance for nearly 25 years, and hence it became a reliability issue. However in the past two years virtually all routes have seen the overhead wiring infrastructure restored to full working order. Most of the few loss off poles incidents since are now due driver error. Lines coming down were due to lack of maintenance.

    Most current Wellington trolley buses use the motors and transmission from the smaller Red buses scrapped many years ago. In respect of recycling a good thing to do, but they are a little light on power output. None the less they aren’t the only cause of congestion and slower traffic speeds. Trolley buses operating extensively in San Francisco are as fast as diesel buses. That city is updating its trolley fleet, incidentally.

  4. Tony Jansen, 31. October 2016, 20:16

    Transport is a political hot potato. NZTA are a very aggressive negotiator. They will push for what the National Government wants not necessarily what Wellington people want. If only Ministers had holiday homes in the Eastern suburbs we’d have had a highway of national significance completed by now!
    If anyone thinks we can build the cut and cover and second tunnel whilst hundreds of trucks run to and from the airport to the quarries they need to think again. Factor in a pointless harbor dredging waste of money and you get a man made disaster.
    Cycle ways will not solve the congestion. The bizarrely named “iconic harbour cycle way” (was that really you Jo?) is poorly conceived and was rushed through council just prior the elections in a belated attempt to show that all the councilors could play nicely together. Sorry folks but the only way to cut the congestion in the short term at least, is to have less vehicles on the roads.
    That means Go Bus (Infratil) needs to up its game and the GWRC needs to get off its light rail hobbyhorse and start taking buses a bit more seriously.
    It will be interesting when Go Bus rolls out its new electric power plants which I understand have not actually been field tested in a large bus fleet yet…..
    Meanwhile not much will change for the residents of the Eastern suburbs.
    How about pushing Centreport to fix up Miramar wharf and running a ferry service to the Eastern Suburbs? Just a thought.

  5. The City is Ours, 31. October 2016, 22:42

    If I was an Eastern Councillor, I would be talking to civil defence about the possibility of the Eastern suburbs being cut off by an adverse event like an earthquake. Miramar Wharf is key, as Tony pointed out and must be repaired as soon as possible to offer residents a connection with the CBD by way of a ferry as suggested by Helene Ritchie in her answers to transport questions.

  6. Mark Shanks, 1. November 2016, 7:58

    Go Bus is not in the business of field testing by the sounds of the debacle in South Auckland. Sending drivers out on buses they have never even sat in before, expecting them the drive buses for which they do not have a license, and telling drivers to have their breaks on the bus. Sounds like a real concern for safety. Not! Reminds me of Infratil’s assurances of safety regarding the proposed Wellington airport extension, much debated by guess who…the drivers (pilots). And how’s this naff comment from some Go Bus spokesman “There will always be those who stand on the side lines hoping things will go wrong, but we work in the real world, which is appreciated by most people.” For your information mate the real world should have safety as its bottom line. If a driver of a bus or a plane has serious concerns then I have too! and I’m not getting onboard until he/she says it’s OK.

  7. City Lad, 1. November 2016, 11:59

    Ian Apperley doesn’t travel on trolley buses. His comments about their perceived inadequacies proves this.

  8. Mike Mellor, 1. November 2016, 13:00

    Just to clear up a misconception, there’s no connection between Go Bus and Infratil’s Go Wellington, apart from the similar name.

    GWRC does need to rethink its bus strategy, which includes reducing services to the eastern suburbs from 2018 and making them less reliable (though they aren’t telling us those things), and they should also be promoting the existing express buses, faster to the CBD than a car at peak times (and no, they aren’t telling us that either).

    But they also need to be looking strategically, and that’s where a proper look at light rail should come in.