Wellington Scoop

Congestion-free coalition will campaign for less dependence on cars

News from CFW
A Congestion-free Wellington (CFW) Coalition was set up at a public meeting in Wellington on Thursday night. About 80 people attended the meeting.

The chairman, regional councillor Roger Blakeley, welcomed Councillors Sue Kedgley and Ian McKinnon (GW), Chris Calvi-Freeman, and later, Iona Pannett and Andy Foster (WCC).

Tim Jones spoke about why the coalition had been formed. He outlined the history of the Basin Reserve flyover process (2014-15) when the Board of Enquiry (BOI) rejected the flyover. The process took 4 months instead of the expected 2 weeks. The NZTA made 34 challenges to the BOI result, all of which were rejected in the High Court.

A recent follow-up report from the NZTA, obtained under the OIA, does not include any admission that the flyover was an inappropriate solution for Wellington, opening up the possibility that the NZTA has not rejected a Basin flyover.

A triumvirate of the NZTA, the WCC and the Regional Council has been formed under the Let’s Get Wellington Moving (LGWM) project. It has set its objectives – to have a transport system that:
· enhances the liveability of the central city
· provides more efficient and reliable access for users
· reduces reliance on private vehicle travel
· improves safety for all users
· is adaptable to disruptions and future uncertainty.

LGWM is consulting the public and testing interventions in the formulation of scenarios to be put forward later in the year.

The CFW Coalition has been formed because it considers that LGWM’s suggested interventions are over-weighted towards state highway spending, heading towards a result likely to be incompatible with its own objectives. The light rail mass public transport option (LR) was not considered in the proposed interventions besides ‘protecting the route’.

Following Tim Jones’ briefing, there was wide-ranging audience participation covering Basin Reserve issues as well as wider transport considerations for the city.

Dr Neil Douglas said that light rail developments in Australia are pointers for Wellington. Neil, an international transport economist, discussed lessons to be learnt from the eight built and one cancelled LR projects in Australia. Under the inter-related factors of cost, technological and political considerations he noted —
Installation can be expensive, but there is huge variation — from $6 million per km of track in Tasmania to $240 million in Parramata, NSW. Costs have gone up steeply recently because of OSH considerations. Proper BCRs must be done. The technology is moving fast. Speeds achieved have varied widely across Australian schemes — from average 40kph on the recently built Gold Coast scheme to 16kph on Melbourne trams.

“In Canberra, when they included the uplift in urban value created by light rail, they got to a CBR of 0.5, and when they included ‘wider economic benefits’ the CBR was 1.3”.

When tested with respondents, light rail is the popular public transit option compared with buses — cities look better with LR (“rail is sexy, buses are boring”).

The chairman invited LGWM team leader Barry Mein to speak. Barry apologised for the delay in presenting the scenarios but said they require proper analysis and careful modelling. He said every transport option would be covered including congestion charging. Also other means of moving traffic, not just BRT and roading options. He made no specific mention of the light rail option.

Ten other people spoke from the floor. In response to a questioner who asked for proof that LGWM was not just an exercise to try and fob off the public while the real determination is to increase roads, Chris Calvi-Freeman responded. Chris is the WCC transport portfolio leader and a member of the governance group for LGWM. He stated that he thought he was not ‘just a patsy’. He believes the scope of the study has widened to allow proper consideration of light rail. He hopes that the best qualified consultants can be chosen to assess modes objectively.

John Rankin spoke on the Congestion-Free Wellington declaration:

AIM: Promote a more livable Wellington city, to be achieved by reducing reliance on the private car.
We want high-capacity, high-quality, all-electric, mass public transport, and more safe cycling and walking infrastructure.
We support the objectives of the LGWM project in an open and transparent process.
We consider LGWM’s suggested interventions are over-weighted towards state highway spending, heading towards a result likely to be incompatible with these objectives.
We see cities geared to public and active transport have less congestion than cities geared for private cars.

We therefore call on LGWM to stick to its objectives and put the emphasis squarely on public and active transport and managing travel demand, not on building more roads.

John stated that LGWM is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape the city’s future form. The problem is that the demand for road space exceeds supply; if we do nothing, congestion will continue to get worse. The root cause is that the least efficient users of road space, single occupancy vehicles, have captured most of the supply.

In response, we can do 3 things: add road supply, use the road space we have more efficiently, or manage down demand.

LGWM says we need multi-modal intervention, but in its suggested interventions the lion’s share of the money goes to adding roads. Light rail, the most space-efficient people mover for a city our size, isn’t even on the list. The walking and cycling interventions are equally modest.

“We want to send LGWM a message: spend most of the money on roads and you miss the opportunity of a lifetime. You can’t keep buying bigger trousers because you are putting on weight. Be bold and we will back you!”

Sue Kedgley said only two regional councillors had voted to retain the trolley buses — her and Paul Bruce. As a result we’ll get diesel or Wrightspeed with pollution. Our city has a unique opportunity to be congestion-free around public transport.

Paul Bruce said $ 2.7billion was being planned for Wellington roads. The fate of the trolley buses should be in LGWM’s brief.

Other comments (among others) were that climate change must be considered; health aspects of transport were important; urban form needs to be considered; transport equity is needed as not all have cars; universal transport is not just for the fit; and a need to install smaller transport pollution units to cover streets at risk.

The audience was invited to “raise your hand if you support the congestion-free Wellington declaration”. A forest of raised arms indicated substantial unanimity.

The chairman assured the audience that their comments would be taken into consideration in the coalition’s formulation of a letter to LGWM. He invited people to keep up with congestion-free Wellington by visiting its web-site—



  1. Mike, 29. May 2017, 8:08

    It’s the silliest thing, they all drive cars and then form an anti-car “coalition”.

  2. Paul Bruce, 29. May 2017, 12:42

    Great report – Congestion free Wellington can come about by allowing better choices – better, high capacity public transport (light rail), safe cycle ways, walkability. It is surprising how many already walk, cycle and use public transport – however, billions of dollars of investment in roads is encouraging new car commuters, the most inefficient form of transit.

  3. John Rankin, 29. May 2017, 15:49

    It’s odd that @Mike labels congestion-free Wellington an “anti-car” coalition. Every person who chooses to walk, cycle or take public transport frees up road space for those in vehicles. The people who pay the highest cost from congestion are small businesses like electricians and plumbers, who need their vehicles to do their jobs. Stuck in traffic, they lose income. If Wellington can improve its transport system so that more people have realistic alternatives to the private car, these vehicle-dependent businesses will be among the biggest beneficiaries.

    Because single occupancy vehicles use road space so inefficiently, we want to facilitate high-value journeys, like the plumber rushing to an emergency, and discourage low-value journeys, like the person driving to the office instead of taking the bus. Dedicated public transport and cycle lanes reward space-efficient travel choices.

    Cities work best when people have a range of transport choices, because people have a range of mobility needs. By giving the private car priority over other transport modes, we restrict people’s choices, to the detriment of our economic, social and environmental well-being. Most of us choose to live in cities because they give us more options about how we lead our lives. I want a Wellington that’s designed around the needs of people, not cars.

  4. Michael Barnett, 29. May 2017, 20:34

    Mike. Congestion Free Wellington is not anti car. What it does stand for is a liveable city and better use of existing road road space. It is a fallacy to think that constructing more motorways will ease congestion in an urban area. Travel time savings will be short term at best and congestion will remain a problem. There is an adage known as Parkinson’s law that states: “work expands so as to fill the time available to complete the work.” The same principle applies to building motorways in an urban area; traffic will increase to fill the available space. There is evidence that the corollary is also true; reduce the available space and the traffic will adjust to fill the space that remains.

    Check what New York City authorities have been doing to sort out traffic chaos http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/06/nyregion/thecity/06stre.html. Or consider San Francisco, Portland Oregon, Milwaukee, Madrid, Seattle and Seoul, Six Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever – Gizmodo and see what happens when the vehicular carriageway is reduced or removed completely.

  5. syrahnose, 30. May 2017, 1:21

    Portland I know very well. It has 2 major north south interstate (I5, dividing into 504 and 205, with 17 branching off) and one east west highway (84, shifting into 26 west). These 4-8 lane highways feed into and through its CBD. Excepting 205, the one major bypass running through outer suburbs, all the rest tightly circle the CBD through a 4-8 lane ring road within 1/2 klm. On top of that a light rail or 405, 205 and 84 all will get you to the airport without problems. It’s more like 16 lanes to the planes, plus many, many, many alternative 4 lane arteries. It is this infrastructure which makes all the public transport work well (buses and light rail) in Portland. Without those roads flushing traffic in and out, the city would be a mess.

    The problem with Wellington is it hasn’t got to square one with building those essential arteries. And it has been crippled for years with the antiquated flow from tunnel to tunnel and on to the airport.

    There are two unforeseen issues. Portland has been expanding its population and economy by leaps and bounds (50-70k per year). But that is due to it being a great place to live with excellent job and manufacturing growth. That in turn has put pressure on a tunnel system with only 4 lanes which can’t expand further at this point. You get rush hour jams there entering from west. But overall, no one in Portland would ever consider removing a system of roads which outstrips anything anyone in NZ could dream of.

    Wellington needs both an expanded 4 lanes to the planes and better light rail and better buses. But like Portland, it needs to get the basic motorway system PDX had decades ago before its starts shutting down access to the city like the anti-car fringe who dominate these pages. Portland is a place that people want to move to because it has a vibrant economy that feeds its culture. It isn’t loosing businesses and population and the tax base that pays for its progressive outlook. Wellington is stagnant at best and in decline at worst. From what I know of all the other cities mentioned, excepting Seoul and Milwaukee which I haven’t visited, all have major highways in and out and around their centers, that easily feed in and out of the CBD.

    It’s very easy to point to where roading has been removed or restricted, while ignoring where other roads have been expanded or tweaked. Fact is they have had basic infrastructure in place for decades that Wellington isn’t even close to having yet. Wellington twiddles its thumbs and whinges, perpetually standing still while telling itself how progressive and desirable it is. Look at the empty shopfronts down town or even in its shopping malls. Everywhere I go in the world today, commerce is increasingly flowing in and out of its airports and cargo depots. We don’t see that in Wellington.

  6. Durden, 30. May 2017, 11:38

    @Michael Barnett — Not sure how you can make both these statements in the same comment above – “Congestion Free Wellington is not anti car” and “and see what happens when the vehicular carriageway is reduced or removed completely” with a straight face. I agree with SyrahNose’s response.

    Here is a link to a very recent light rail project to get approval i.e. Durham and Orange light-rail. http://ourtransitfuture.com/projects/lrt/ 26,000 trips per day, 10/20m peak/off-peak frequency, 17.7 Miles distance with 18 stations of which half i.e. 9 are park-and-ride, and the costs which I understand some are claiming (ref below) is actually NOT US$2.476B but more like US$3.3B .

    The numbers don’t inspire hope. Wellington seems to have 24M trips per year, Orange-Durham can be no more than 9.5M. Will the frequency encourage uptake? Sure Wellington station to airport is about 8km but the difference in topography/terrain seems marked. I would welcome a comparison to Wellington from the learned people of CFC.


  7. Tony Jansen, 4. June 2017, 9:19

    Interesting that only two GWR councilors voted to retain the trolley buses. The rest have consigned us to a future of polluting and noisy diesel buses.
    Well, we all know who to vote out at the next election.
    I for one am sick of the GWRC destroying any chance of an integrated and ecologically sound regional transport solution.

    @Jansen Lambton

  8. Keith Flinders, 4. June 2017, 13:34

    Interesting to note that $500 million was spent on the electric suburban trains, including the uneconomic extension to Waikanae, when it would have been far less expensive to swap the trains out for buses and let NZTA pick up the cost of a 12 lane Hutt – Wellington motorway. Thank goodness that didn’t happen.

    Some incorrect information worked on by the GWRC in 2014 resulted in the vote to get rid of the trolley buses. This included that the buses were old, clapped out, unreliable, and that the total support infrastructure needed replacing at a cost of $52 million. Many trolley buses were built after 2000 and have another 10 years plus of service life. The infrastructure needs another $8 million, approximately, spent on it to extend its life beyond the life of the trolley buses. By that time battery technology should have advanced to give travel range at an affordable cost.

    The population of Piatra Neamt in Romania are more enlightened than those who are meant to serve us on the GWRC.

    “The closure of the Piatra Neamt trolleybus system on 31 March 2017 caused intensive political trouble and protests. On 25.April 2017 the board of he trolleybus company decided to follow the political thoughts and to reintroduce trolleybuses – for a first step only for peak hours – on 15.June 2017. Between closure and reopening of the system the time was used to repair the overhead system.”

    Interestingly a substantial section of the Wellington overhead wiring was upgraded at a cost of several millions AFTER the 2014 announcement, and is in the best condition it has been for over 20 years. Years of neglect in maintaining the infrastructure caused most of the reliability issues with the trolley buses.

  9. Mike Mellor, 5. June 2017, 14:54

    Re the trolleys, of note is that Wellington Cable Car Ltd reported to WCC on 24 May that the overhead decommissioning process is proceeding apace, and that the “reliability and quality” of the trolleys is such that they’re having to spend more (ratepayers’?) money on maintaining the overhead – see http://wellington.govt.nz/~/media/your-council/meetings/subcommittees/council-controlled-organisation-subcommittee/2017/05/2017-may-24—cco-agenda.pdf:

    “The Overhead Network team [of Wellington Cable Car Ltd] is currently very busy working on the [overhead] decommissioning project, with the tender evaluation process in its final stages and a preferred supplier being selected. Further details on this will be able to be advised in the last quarter of the 2016/17 year.

    “The team is also busy with a significant and exponential growth in requests for UFB attachments to the network by Chorus as part of the rollout of fibre optic connections within the Wellington city urban area.

    “The Company is continuing to liaise with potential purchasers of the pole network. However, no further progress has been made with this in the current quarter.”

    “…reactive maintenance expenditure on the network…has increased in March/April, unfortunately, due to the reliability and quality of the trolley buses being operated on the network.” (pp57/8)

    “…decommissioning the [trolleybus] network…is currently scheduled to commence in November 2017, dependent on (a) final confirmation of the date of cessation of Trolley Bus services and (b) the outcome of the procurement process for the decommissioning process.” (p208)

    “…decommissioning of the Trolley Bus overhead electrical network…is scheduled to commence in November 2017 with a planned completion date 12 months from commencement. This will include removal of 80 Km of network, associated electrical supply feeders, the electrical fault protection system and those poles not required to support critical infrastructure (including electricity supply cables, telecommunications ultra-fast broadband networks, street lighting, road signs and traffic lights). WCCL is also negotiating the potential sale of the remaining poles and is in the final stages of completing the last of the pole user license agreements with Telecommunications utility providers.” (p211)