Wellington Scoop

Build motorways, prepare for more cars

What will be the result of completing Transmission Gully and the new motorway that’s being bulldozed through the quiet towns of the Kapiti Coast? Yes, you may be able to get to Levin in half the time. But worse: the new expressways are expected to bring over 11,000 more cars into the CBD – that’s 20 per cent more than now – every morning.

As Michael Forbes reports in the DomPost this morning:

While Auckland’s chronic traffic congestion is already apparent, Wellington’s is expected to get worse once the Kapiti expressway, Transmission Gully motorway, and Petone-Grenada highway are all built, making journeys in and out of the capital by road significantly easier. Recent studies by the Regional Council show that, even with continuing investment in public transport, there are expected to be 11,500 more cars entering Wellington during the morning rush in 2031.

And how to deal with this impossible situation?

Wellington recently joined forces with Auckland to lobby the Government for the law changes necessary to introduce user-pays charges as a means of reducing car use. Some of the ideas being floated include a congestion charge, such as the one used in central London, and fees that ramp up the cost of long-stay commuter parking.

But Luke Troy, the regional council’s general manager of strategy, says the need for more road pricing tools is still a long way off in Wellington. No need yet, apparently, to start worrying about 2031.

The new expressways have been enthusiastically supported by the Chamber of Commerce and the Automobile Association since they were first announced back in 2009. Back then, there was no thought of the threat to the Wellington CBD that would be created by such a big increase in vehicles. Till now, the focus has always been on “quicker journeys” rather than the impact of a huge increase in traffic arriving at the destinations.

The issue is already visible in Vivian Street, which is a blatant example of how the planners have failed to come up with any solution to the problem of too much traffic. This narrow inner city street is forced to have a double life – it’s also part of State Highway One and therefore (unconvincingly) also a road of national significance, albeit a most unsuccessful one which satisfies nobody.

Traffic lights on every block make a frustrating experience for drivers. And the endless traffic coming out of the single-lane Terrace Tunnel means that pedestrians wait forever at the lights, breathing traffic fumes and hoping for their brief moment to cross the significantly over-stressed street/road/highway. It’s easy to imagine the worsened situation for pedestrians if a second Terrace Tunnel is built and three lanes of traffic are emptied out into Vivian Street.

But of course pedestrians have no place in the plans for faster, wider roads.


  1. Traveller, 9. September 2015, 10:46

    The city council should be ensuring that there is no place in central Wellington for faster, wider roads. But there’s only silence from the councillors who should be speaking out to defend their inner city against more vehicular traffic.

  2. Luke, 9. September 2015, 11:08

    Vivian Street should be trenched/tunnelled. Cities are for people, not cars.

  3. Ian Apperley, 9. September 2015, 11:13

    It’s a shambles. The WCC has very little say over anything and tends to not be able to agree or hold a position on the stuff they do have control over.

    Congestion charging only works when other modes of transport are invested in to compensate. Like having a bus service that is actually ok, instead of somewhere between crap and mediocre. Ditto cycling lanes. Ditto traffic flow improvements around the city.

    Without looking at the entire issue it’s just pointless.

  4. Wellington Commuter, 9. September 2015, 12:38

    The WCC plans are also a shambles because they are so contradictory.

    Even while it complains our roads cannot take more commuters, the council continues to focus on investment and planning towards business (i.e. employment) growth in the CBD. As the WCC’s own Urban Growth Plan outlines “the central city will be the main focus area for more intensive residential and commercial developments.” I hear you say that better PT will solve things. Well, days ago the WCC decided that real Bus Rapid Transit will not work and so we are only going forward with additional bus lanes that will support only hundreds, not thousands, more commuters. So the council plans for employment growth in the CBD and then complains it cannot support residents getting to work from the suburbs by car or by bus. This would be a good joke if the joke wasn’t on us 🙁

    You are right Ian, it’s a shambles and more taxes won’t fix anything.

  5. splanned, 9. September 2015, 15:58

    This is the regional council’s doing – they can’t make real time work, they can’t plan a Rapid Bus Network in a way which gives us any confidence and they can’t give anyone south of the railway station a fair deal. Given we get all their initiatives mixed up with the WCC, we may as well remove them. At least then we can hold the WCC responsible. WRC delenda est

  6. Ross Clark, 9. September 2015, 20:42

    And where are these cars going to be *parked* ?

  7. syrahnose, 10. September 2015, 3:52

    Another logical and reasonable reason to get the Kapiti Expressway and TG built asap:

  8. Trish, 10. September 2015, 10:03

    All along the coast, building sections are for sale with signs saying how fast it will be to commute to Wellington when the expressway and gully are built. It seems that the game is over: Climate Change 1 – Globe 0.

  9. syrahnose, 10. September 2015, 20:23

    ‘All along the coast, building sections are for sale with signs saying how fast it will be to commute to Wellington when the expressway and gully are built. It seems that the game is over: Climate Change 1 – Globe 0.’

    It’s more complicated than that. The cars will be electric. And electric express buses could run that route on the fast expressway as fast or faster than trains. All those people will be living in houses and sending their kids to schools and using new businesses that are less expensive to heat there than in Wellington. More population equals more jobs, so kids don’t have to move overseas for work, and more money to improve local infrastructure and train services. Maybe even an international airport that wouldn’t cost to extend its runway.

  10. Gregor Fraser, 22. September 2015, 5:58

    Yep. The opposition to the Inner City Bypass back in late 90s-early 00s buggered it all up. It was compromised so much that the linking of it to the Arras and beyond could only involve significant negative impact on that corridor. With the ever present conflict between distracted drivers and distracted pedestrians all along Vivian and Ghuznee, and the need to not sever the north and south part of the district from each other, the options for improved traffic flow are just not palatable. Cut and cover tunneling is hideously expensive, and trenching with overpasses for all streets between Willis and Taranaki not much better cost wise.
    How about this? :- move the airport to Paraparaumu, and hurry the hell up with Petone-Grenada. A motorway from there to town is already underway, and the land at WLG could be returned to alternative use. In fact, that land wasn’t even there just 160 or so years ago – another big seismic event could see it vanish again. The land is already there in Paraparaumu and take-off/landings would be safer (and less terrifying). Infrastructure improvement needs in Wellington could be reduced to just fixing the Basin and smoothing out Ruahine Street’s junction with Wellington Rd.
    Just imagine.

  11. Wellington Commuter, 22. September 2015, 11:08

    You seem to be saying we should abandon Wellington City as a lost cause and focus on Kapiti, Porirua and the Hutt Valley.

  12. Paul, 23. September 2015, 14:54

    Shame the core info in this article is the worst kind of disinformation. Traffic levels are not suddenly going to dump 11,000 more cars into the CBD because of one road. Modelling and actual data world wide shows traffic levels staying constant and even dropping off despite new road building. The growing cost of fuel is only going to continue to drive that trend.

    NZTA is fond of pushing out this sort of false fearmongering to drive debate in their favour rather than releasing actual modeliing data that shows smarter roads, not more roads, is the solution. This is especially true when combined with well designed public transport options. Shame here in Wellington we will never see either.