Wellington Scoop

Transport issues: Andy Foster

We’ve been asking mayoral candidates to tell us their views about transport issues in the city. The questions were prepared by the Transporting Wellington blog. Here’s the seventh response, from Andy Foster.

1 In what ways do you think transport in Wellington will change over the next twenty years?

There will be significant changes in population, technology and the environment.

Population: Wellington’s population is projected to grow from just over 200,000 today to at least 250,000 and possibly 300,000 over the next 30 years. While we are going to have one of New Zealand’s youngest populations, like everywhere else many more of us will be over 65, and living longer (currently 15% – projected 25% by 2048).

Meanwhile younger people will continue to choose to drive less. That’s good because if we keep trying to get around in the same way as we currently do, clearly our transport system will not cope. So we will need a greater proportion of people getting around on public transport, on foot, or on bikes, and that is what I have worked consistently to achieve.

The great news is that the proportion of Wellingtonians walking, running, cycling and taking public transport to work or study has risen consistently since 1991, and from levels already easily the highest in the country. The proportion in cars continues to fall. For every 100 Wellingtonians taking a car to work or education in 2001, 65 used public transport, walked or biked. In 2013 that had risen to 90 per 100 in cars. By contrast the rest of Wellington region is static on 28 per 100, Christchurch static on 20, Auckland’s risen from a mere 15 to 18 and New Zealand as a whole from just 16 to 17.

The number of public transport journeys a year in Wellington Region has gone from a nadir of 23 million in 1993 to 37 million now. The number of people in Wellington City on bikes has risen every census, doubling in the last 6 or 7 years, where the rest of the region has been either static or declining. Our compact urban form is obviously pivotal in encouraging that, and again I have led the work that’s reinforcing that compact city and allowed for and encouraged more sustainable residential development, particularly in the central city. The Central City and our suburban centres will be much more ‘people places’.

Technology: Our private vehicle fleet will be on the way to becoming fully electric as older vehicles are replaced. We are currently working with several private sector companies for them to install EV chargers around the city. We are also going to buy at least a couple of EV’s for Council’s fleet instead of fossil fuel vehicles. Because price is currently a barrier I am exploring whether we can get public access through Council to the Government / Local Government fleet purchasing scheme which would afford a significant price discount to people wanting an EV.

In public transport I expect our bus fleet will have been fully electric for almost 20 years. I think a core light rail spine will be in place from the city to the airport, and extensions to Island Bay and Karori are likely to be on the way. This is likely to fundamentally reshape public transport services – small shuttles – possibly AVs – could provide frequent link services around our suburbs.

In twenty years’ time, I think autonomous vehicles will be a well-established technology. I will be testing a Volvo AV with the Minister of Transport at the NZ Traffic Institute conference in November. That should be interesting – giving a new meaning to ‘hands free’ driving!

AVs will almost certainly fundamentally alter the small passenger transport industry. AVs and Car Share schemes will probably significantly change car ownership and use. The car for many people may well become something that we ‘call up’ when we need it, rather than having to own your own. (Cars currently sit idle on average approximately 95% of the time) All of that could also massively change our national import profile – close to 30% of our imports are oil and vehicle related.

Environment: Climate Change will be a reality for even the sceptics. In twenty years’ time reducing transport emissions will have long been a core part of national and international policy, and all the social, technological and behavioural changes I have described above will have reduced transport emissions to a fraction of 2016 levels.

2 Do you believe there is traffic congestion in Wellington? If so, to what extent does it affect Wellington residents and the wider economy?

Yes there is congestion at peak times. Simply too many of us are trying to get around at the same time, one person per car – often to the same locations. Congestion has become a substantial issue at weekends, exacerbated by having most of our major sports facilities in the south and east of the city while the bulk of the population live to the north and west. The variability in journey time impacts on planning our journeys. As our population grows, congestion will get substantially worse – but only if we do nothing.

The good news is that we are doing really well in more of us using public transport, walking and cycling. I have been consistently working to encourage that both through direct investment supporting these modes, and critically through good urban planning. The location of facilities including schools are also important parts of long term planning. We will also need to improve the state highway roading network to get people around the city..

‘Let’s Get Wellington Moving’ is the major transport planning work happening at the moment. Celia and I represent the Council, working with Greater Wellington and NZTA. This is much more than the Basin Reserve and Mt Vic tunnel. We are planning everything from Port access in the north through the city to the Basin and then to the southern and eastern suburbs. It will be multi – modal; roading, public transport, walking, biking and definitely urban design.

One of the lessons from the previous Board of Inquiry process is the need for comprehensive community engagement, and wide consideration of options. So that is what we are doing.

We have agreed on a set of principles after over 10,000 people gave their views. There is the opportunity for all members of the public to submit ideas (now would be good). Ideas will be assessed and run through a brand new transport model. In the first quarter of 2017 you can expect to be consulted on a number of packages of initiatives, with final decisions by the end of the year. Then we can get stuck into delivering the agreed initiatives.

I am under no illusions that everyone will be happy with whatever the outcome is, but you can be sure the process to get there will be robust, and that there are no preconceived views going into this process.

I am also working on delivering the agreed comprehensive city cycleway network, and with Greater Wellington on dealing with the major bus congestion points.

3 People believe it is unlikely major transport projects in Wellington can be completed without the help of Central Government. In what ways have you shown you can work constructively with Central Government to deliver on major projects?

Government support is essential, because at least 50%, and in the case of State Highways 100%, of funding for all transport projects come from petrol taxes and Road User Charges, administered through NZTA. The Crown also invests directly at times – for example recent major investment in Wellington’s rail network upgrade, and currently through the Urban Cycleway Fund.

I understand the processes involved and have long, strong relationships with the key agencies involved in transport – in particular NZTA, MoT, and the Police who I would work with on a weekly basis, but also with a range of other agencies that operate in the Transport and Urban Development area like Heritage New Zealand, DoC, EECA, Ministry for the Environment etc. I also have good personal relationships with MPs from right across the political spectrum.

I currently represent the Council on the ‘Let’s Get Wellington Moving’ Governance Group with the Mayor. Some of the achievements I have contributed to through working with Government are:

Encouraging Government transport agencies to adopt scenario planning approach to the future, which MoT has well and truly taken up.
Adoption of the ‘safe systems’ philosophy incorporated into the 2010-2020 national Safer Journeys strategy.
Promotion of more funding at a national level for walking and cycling
Promotion of the Great Harbour Way (consent will be sought pre-Christmas)
Beginning the roll out of Red Light cameras in Auckland and Wellington.
Winning the ability for Councils to enforce bus lane use, rather than having to rely only on NZ Police.
Allowing local Councils greater ability to set appropriate speed limits rather than being straightjacketed by Government processes.
Advocacy for national road safety engineering funding
Negotiating and signing of an Accord and MOU with NZTA
Working with NZTA on the delivery of many projects – including Pukeahu, Basin Reserve mitigation works, Johnsonville Roading.projects.

4. In Wellington’s Urban Growth Plan 2014, there was a transport hierarchy where some people inferred cycling would be given higher priority than public transport and roading. Do you agree with that transport hierarchy?

Absolutely, as I had a very large hand in writing the Plan. It was incidentally agreed unanimously by councillors. However the interpretation needs clarification (see quote below from the Urban Growth Plan). To those who seem to now want to rewrite the balance, one of the things we are saying very clearly in the plan is that the balance, which for decades has been strongly tilted towards the private car, has to shift. Wellington is very much the leader in New Zealand. What we now need to do is focus on moving people, so the person on foot is not subservient to the person in a motor vehicle, but equal.

The relevant section of the Plan gives a very clear picture:

“Transport enables people to get where they need to go – home, work, education, business opportunities, and recreation areas, and to the services they need. Like other well-connected cities, we plan to support our sustainable transport hierarchy by encouraging walking, cycling and public transport over other modes of transport. However, cars will continue to be a necessary option for many people in a balanced transport system. The car can provide flexibility for many journeys but can also be inefficient, requiring parking space and creating congestion, especially at peak times. Our role is to make sure these transport choices are balanced and integrated to support the way we want the city to grow. This includes encouraging developments that will see more people living and working near major public transport routes and centres.”

5. Do you support the airport runway extension? Will your support/opposition change depending on how it is to be funded? Why?

Some candidates seem to assume it will make commercial and economic sense, others seem to have dialled back the rhetoric a bit. I support the resource consent process that is underway. It is clear that much of the business and educational community see runway extension as essential. However at the end of this process we have to make a hard-headed, evidence-led decision, especially given the scale of the proposed investment. That is exactly what the Chamber of Commerce has enjoined us to do.

If the extension is to proceed it needs to get through a series of hurdles – and make no mistake they are substantial hurdles:

Obtaining resource consent
Evidence of airline commitment to the right destinations, with sufficient frequency and long enough commitment.
Assessment of whether we could achieve similar economic benefit through direct relationships with airlines. For example you could buy in perpetuity something like 16 Singapore-Canberra deals for the interest cost on the runway extension.
Robust assessment of the economic benefits delivered through the runway extension.

This will be a big piece of work.

Obtaining funding. Some people and candidates have said that Infratil should pay 2/3rds as they have 2/3rds ownership of the airport company. Anyone who says that should be clear that they don’t support the extension. We need to split the financial benefit to the company (no chance of a commercial return on the investment) from economic benefit to the wider local, regional and national economy. It is those wider economic benefits that Councils and Government need to weigh up. The evidence to date suggests that it will probably not make the grade, but that is a decision to be made when we have that evidence.

I have always been adamant that we will not transfer public money on to the balance sheet of WIAL / Infratil. If the extension goes ahead, then the ownership of the runway extension should lie with a new company, held in the names of the funders according to their respective levels of funding. ‘Runway Extension Ltd (or whatever it is called) would receive a calculated portion of the landing fees from aircraft flying long haul routes, but not those flying existing short haul / domestic routes – as they do not need a runway extension.

The last point to make is that as much as possible all that information needs to be in the public domain at the time so that Wellingtonians will be able to read it, come to your own conclusions, and be able to ask tough questions which might add to the consideration of decision makers.

6. What would you like to see done to improve movements for pedestrians, bikes, buses and cars around the Basin Reserve?

The Basin is a key chokepoint in the city because large flows of NS and EW movement collide here.

I represent Wellington City Council with the Mayor on the Governance Group for ‘Let’s Get Wellington Moving’ which I have already discussed extensively above. We will be consulting on a range of options early next year which will need to benefit all modes.

The answer will also need to include urban design improvements most particularly boulevarding Kent and Cambridge Terraces and Adelaide Road. As well as tree lined streets, I hope to recover the Waitangi stream along at least part of the Terraces. They will need to provide for quality public transport priority and cycleways and walkways as well as motorised traffic. During the discussions pre the flyover proposal I obtained NZTA agreement to contribute to these works, especially as State Highway runs along Kent Terrace south of Vivian Street.

7. What do you believe should happen with the Island Bay Cycleway?

When we put the Island Bay cycleway in place, and even before the controversy broke out, because this was a new style of cycleway to Wellington and New Zealand – we said that we would undertake a safety audit post construction and act on the safety audit recommendations – which we have done. We also said we would review the project in a year’s time, which we are going to do.

I am a great fan of long term community planning exercises – indeed that is one of my campaign promises – and it’s great that the review of the Island Bay cycleway will be done in a wider community planning framework.

The final thing to note is that post Island Bay we completely changed the engagement approach. In the Eastern Suburbs we started with a community consultative committee involving schools, residents’ associations, business improvement districts, the AA, Cycle Aware, Living Streets, NZTA and Greater Wellington. We also started further back in the process – identifying which destinations people wanted to get to, which of these corridors were the priorities, and we will now go on to engagement on specific route design. That gave the public opportunity to identify the things they most wanted us to focus on. That has come through into the refreshed cycleway programme agreed by councillors last week.

8. For cycling, given the choice of prioritizing either CBD cycling routes, suburban cycling routes or the Great Harbour Way, what order of priority would you choose?

The main purpose of cycleways is to make cycling safer, allowing people who would like to ride, but previously felt unsafe, to get on their bikes and ride to where they want to go. Cycling has grown strongly in the last decade – when across the rest of the region it has declined. However with a growing population and climate change we also need cycling to contribute more to the transport system.

We have agreed an overall network plan – actually several times, and at a high level it’s been very very similar since the first Cycling Plan in 2008. With our topography that is not at all surprising. There aren’t that many choices ! I want to see a citywide network delivered ideally within a 12 year timeframe. In terms of the question we have just unanimously agreed the next stage, which will deliver a balanced mix of suburban and coastal routes, which I agree with.

The Great Harbour Way has been a project the Mayor and I have strongly supported for many years. However I do not agree with the suggestion by one candidate that ‘a strategic investment in a harbourside cycleway’ will on its own give people on bikes ‘the same level of service as people in cars.’ We need to connect people to the places they want to go. I doubt we would consider it reasonable to tell us all as motorists that we have an adequate service if only a coastal route were provided and there was no ability to travel inland.

Over the next six years I expect to work with NZTA and communities to deliver:

The Great Harbour Way between Petone and Ngauranga,
The Hutt Road upgrade,
Thorndon Quay/Aotea Quay,
Uphill connections to Ngaio, Khandallah, Johnsonville, Newlands, Brooklyn and Karori,
Complete a Southern suburbs to city route,
The Eastern suburbs package including around Evans Bay-Oriental Bay,
Part of a central city network as part of Let’s Get Wellington Moving.

9. In what ways would you like to improve public transport in the Wellington area? WIf you think public transport is already good enough, tell us why.

We have the easily the highest level of public transport use in New Zealand. Our use of public transport has risen from 23 million passengers a year in 1993 to 37 million, reversing a previous long term decline (as cars became cheaper). That is way ahead of the rate of population growth too. The region’s population has grown by 20% since 1991, while public transport use is up 60%. However as I have said above, I want to see more use of public transport, walking and cycling, indeed we need that to happen.

The Regional Council holds the contracts with bus and rail operators. It sets routes, timetables, prices, customer service levels, runs the Metlink website, and provides park and ride facilities. The City Council’s role in public transport is to provide the roads, bus priority (bus lanes and at traffic lights), and many of the bus shelters. What we do in road management, in urban planning (guiding more development closer to public transport, and layout of greenfields areas so they can be well serviced by public transport), and management of parking are all crucial to support PT use.

In short we have to work together, and we do exactly that, very constructively. We now have reciprocal (non-voting) representation on each other’s relevant committees.

Looking ahead I will continue to work closely with Greater Wellington as it advances its new city bus network. This is a massive change, required under the 2013 Land Transport Management Act and Public Transport Operating Model. GWRC is about to tender for new operators, on new routes, new timetables, new customer service requirements, new vehicles, off peak discount fares. The overall model also gives regional councils much more access to information previously controlled by operators. Integrated ticketing and free transfers are critical components. The aim is to reduce delays, improve reliability, and to lift patronage significantly.

I am pushing for electric buses, for the best service we can get in terms of capacity, frequency, weekend and evening services where currently they don’t exist, and for the discount fares to come in as soon as possible.

I am also working with Greater Wellington to identify key congestion points for buses so we can address them, and we are working together on hub location and design.

10. In a world where funds and political support is of no issue, what one transport related project or policy would you choose to approve?

Light rail, essentially adopting the Regional Council’s planned new core bus routes – what I refer to as a ‘Double Spine’ with an initial line from Johnsonville to the City (existing – either use heavy rail or convert to light rail) and then to the airport and eastern suburbs as the first line and then add connections to Island Bay and Karori. Between those two routes much of the city population is covered as are key destinations (Central City, airport and hospital). This essentially is the route structure proposed by myself and Generation Zero among others 6 years ago.

There would still be a need for buses from several areas (eg Brooklyn, Newlands) into the city. There could be the opportunity for high frequency mini buses (AVs ?) to link the hill areas into the rail network.

When the public transport spine study was reported back, I insisted that the City Council debated it and included a resolution that we keep open critical corridors for light rail should it ever be required (as buses ultimately exceed their capacity). That really means ensuring that development – especially in Newtown – does not prevent future light rail.


  1. time for change, 23. August 2016, 12:00

    Andy you have had over two decades on the council to try to sort things out. Wellington needs change. [abridged]

  2. CPH, 23. August 2016, 12:11

    This is all a bit meaningless given Foster’s flip flop on the Basin Reserve flyover. It’s all very well talking the talk at election time.

  3. Peter, 23. August 2016, 13:19

    ‘We’ve got to work together??’ Yeah right, after you sold us down the river with MDRA in Johnsonville! I really resent working a crap job for years to afford a house in a nice average area only to have the housing conditions deliberately rejigged so developers can come in and ruin the area with the vile rabbit hutches they’ve started to build.

  4. luke, 23. August 2016, 17:29

    Converting heavy rail from Johnsonville to light rail would be a backwards step. Added expense for lower capacity. However, definitely need light rail south of the railway station, with integrated ticketing and transfers. pt is a network.

  5. KB, 23. August 2016, 21:25

    Andy says car use is declining and this is why we must proceed with more light rail/bus investment, and then says how Autonomous on demand electric vehicles will change the concept of car ownership. He doesn’t seem to realize that his 2nd point will make his 1st point short sighted. Spending millions on a new fixed line transport system is a bad idea in 2016 (the only place it makes sense is in the extremely dense CBD, and even then Autonomous buses could do the same job for less. Taking it into suburbs is short sighted, and will likely be redundant before any rail plan finishes construction).

    I don’t think people are aware of what is coming in the next decade. It will be a taxi (driverless) that takes you point to point in comfort, at whatever time you want, but will cost a fraction of what a taxi costs today, and so will be similar in price to public transport. Who is going to want to take public transport? (which doesn’t take you point to point, requires you to find a way to and from a station/bus stop, runs to a set schedule you have to plan around, makes you share the space, is not 100% reliable and requires a ratepayer subsidy). Investing in fixed line (Light Rail) public transport today is the equivalent of investing in ocean liners right before jet airliners replaced them.

  6. Andrew, 23. August 2016, 22:09

    Sorry, not sold on that KB. How will the auto taxis be cheaper than currently? Less on wages, more on insurance. I’m such a cynic. VW/Audi etc had to fake their emissions testing. What else are auto manufacturers incapable of? Rushing out an auto car which may have a brain freeze the first time it is not in a controlled environment? All of these systems will need to interact. Do they do it passively, monitoring their environment, or via some kind of transponder system, so auto cars in the local area know what the others are doing? Apple cars versus Win cars? Compatibility issues? Widespread in ten years? Yeah nah.

  7. IanS, 24. August 2016, 9:08

    Andy, thank you for sharing your vision for the city. I wish you well with implementing it. I agree that you have been pushing for the development of more medium density housing areas along the key transport routes. These areas must include local green recreation and safe play spaces, walking and cycling lanes and planning rules that support local shops.

    We need to support local regulations that ensure quality rental housing (the rental warrant of fitness) and continual upgrades of the City Council’s housing facilities.

    I am convinced that the GW proposal to introduce a bus rapid transport system will fail to deliver the change in capacity we need. Please closely question GW reports on the potential for passenger growth for the BRT system. I suspect that, shortly after this election, GW will decide to abandon the BRT proposal and recommend that we start designing a modern tram system, as described on the front page of the DomPost earlier this week. The Stage 1 tram system, through to Newtown, must be in use when the new bus contracts expire in 2025. There will be many challenges – the Wellington mayor’s job will be to push for this as part of the GetWellyMoving project.

  8. KB, 24. August 2016, 9:10

    @andrew: I will take the other side of that bet! AVs are based mostly on monitoring the environment (with cameras and Lidar systems) for obstacle/crash avoidance, while also relying on GPS and a stored library of location data for directions. So there is nothing to worry about in regard to “compatibility” between different car makes.

    94% of automobile deaths are caused by driver error – AVs remove the driver from the equation and promise an increase in car safety. And it’s not really new technology either – high end cars have offered active crash avoidance for several years. I’m sure there were many unsure people when we moved from horse & buggy to the “new fangled and dangerous” automobile. But once the benefit was obvious, the transition was swift.

  9. Andrew, 24. August 2016, 9:28

    Good stuff KB. It’s not that I’m unconvinced about the technology, I just don’t think 10 years is long enough, even for the whole liability issue to be sorted out. People drive cars off wharves or through rivers, just because the GPS said they could. If a driver with ‘intelligence’ could not figure it out, how is an AV computer going to?

    I guess GPS inaccuracies can be covered by dead reckoning. Tomtom were doing this in the mid 2000s to help, when in a gully or driving through a tunnel. If anything, needing more accurate positioning may push the technology along.

  10. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 24. August 2016, 9:31

    I’m with Andrew’s skepticism and IanS’s positivity at this stage. It will be fascinating to see how the case for light rail and/or the requirements for autonomous vehicles develop over the three years. As an experienced transport planner with hands-on familiarity with all the existing modes and a record of achievement in transforming Wellington’s public transport in the 80s and 90s, I relish the opportunity to contribute to the debate around the council table and help to get Wellington moving – safely, environmentally-soundly (if that’s a word!), fairly (access for all) and cost-effectively. WCC also needs to work much more closely with GWRC at councillor and officer level. And let’s not lose sight of goods transport, business servicing, cycling and walking as part of the mix.
    CCF (Capital City Fanatic)

  11. Regan Dooley, 24. August 2016, 12:09

    Credit to Andy for being the only respondent so far to spot the (deliberate?) trap in Q4 about the *sustainable* transport hierachy in the Urban Growth Plan. The most recent Long Term Plan also makes it clear on p60 how the council’s policy of prioritising sustainable modes of transport over private cars should be interpreted: “The network also provides limited choice and currently supports vehicle transport more effectively than other modes such as buses or cycles. Addressing these issues will require a balanced approach with stronger public transport and cycle options alongside vehicle network improvements.”

    It’s surprising how many mayoral candidates who are also current councillors seem to have forgotten, or not understood, a policy that they have repeatedly & unanimously approved over the past 3 years. Unfortunately, because of the way the question was worded it’s hard to discern from their answers exactly how committed they are to achieving an effective balance between cars and more sustainable modes.

  12. Regan Dooley, 24. August 2016, 12:11

    This has been a great series overall, and in general the questions and answers have been very good. Cheers.

  13. Trace, 24. August 2016, 15:49

    Long term community planning should involve the community, Andy. People despair at the money that has been spent on the Island Bay cycleway and what the community has been left with. And now the council is trying to wiggle out of supplying OIAd documentation, by charging people who want to look at the original Opus report your committee used in its decision-making. [Abridged.]