Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Pubic transport

Warning: irritable political post ahead. See my latest Wellingtonista post if you want something more lighthearted!

Some commentators claim to be "bored" by the Budget, but I'm just depressed and angry. $1,300,000,000 extra for roads, and $0 extra for public transport. Even more irritating is the headline writers' tendency to conflate "improved transport" with " more roads", something which is certainly not the case in Wellington where people have been switching to public transport to the point where more capacity is desparately needed. How many quiet, sustainable, upgraded trolley buses could have been funded with the $80 million put aside for just preliminary surveying and design of Transmission Gully? Why are improvements to rail services routinely derided as "unaffordable" when such vast sums are poured into private transport?

There's something grimly funny about the typo (or Freudian slip?) on page A5 of today's Dominion Post:
"The $1.3 billion Budget increase would plug the predicted $862 million funding gap ... Rising road construction costs, increased pubic [sic] transport services and falling fuel tax revenue were blamed for the shortfall."
So the only mention of public transport in the article is to blame it for reducing road funding! And the typo suggests that public transport has become the unmentionable nether regions of media discussion about transport.

On a related topic (because urban form is inextricably connected with transport issues), today is the last day for public input on Palmerston Middlish Lincolnshire Farm. Dougal List from the council kindly clarified some questions I had about the development, but I'm still concerned that this is car-centric thinking. Here's what I submitted:
I'm glad that this will not be a typical sprawling dormitory suburb, but will at least have some local employment, shops and some medium-density housing, and that it is largely based upon a form of grid plan rather than cul-de-sacs.. I also concede that if greenfield development of this sort has to occur, then it it's better here than in Upper Hutt or Kapiti.

However, I'm still appalled that while the structure plan (436kB PDF) mentions the "importance of making the connections", there is not a single mention of public transport. This development will be 3km from the nearest train station, and unless the Johnsonville line is extended as light rail through Newlands to here, commuters will be dependent upon cars and buses. There may be some potential to use the new development to connect bus routes from the surrounding suburbs and hence improve public transport connections for the area as a whole, but there is no discussion of this in the plan at all. This plan needs a concrete and measurable statement of public transport connection (with targets for frequency of service, travel times and proportion of residents within 400m of a stop) if it is to be compatible with the council's long-term plan to integrate transport planning with urban form.


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