WellUrban

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

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Bypassed


The bypass, a couple of hours after completionWell, it's done. The changeover to the southbound leg of the bypass happened without incident at just after 6 this morning, and while it's hard to tell for sure, there don't seem to be any major snarl-ups around town. Tomorrow will be a bigger test, once commuters hit the new layout in force, but we'll still have to wait for a while before we can see whether it achieves what it set out to do. Of course, the original proponents of the project are proactively covering their arses on that point, just in case.

What is already clear is that the claims of an "improved pedestrian environment" in Ghuznee St were misleading to say the least. As I suspected, while there are still some pavement widenings to come, there are some areas where the footpath has been narrowed to an alarming degree. Some of this is indeed to create bus stops (as LX said), but the section that I was most concerned about has been cannibalised to create car parks. There is absolutely no justification for this from a traffic flow point of view: it's just a nasty piece of opportunism. At least now pedestrians know where they stand: in this case, on a narrow, dangerous stretch of asphalt.

Car parks created by narrowing pavements in Ghuznee StAnd while we're at it, now that yet another section of Ghuznee St footpath has been chomped away to provide a turning lane into Victoria St, is there any way to stop Budget Rentals from blocking what's left of it with their big ugly cars?

Footpath blocked by rental cars in Ghuznee St

20 Comments:

At 5:33 pm, March 25, 2007, Anonymous Johnny-johnny said...

Today it was amusing watching a car pull out into the "right" lane of vivian street - because there were lots of cars in the left lane - only to meet an oncoming car...

Although it made me laugh, I hope no accidents occur as people get used to the change to a 2 way road.

 
At 6:39 pm, March 25, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't it all one way i.e south? Perhaps the oncoming car made a balls-up. Bound to happen at some point.

 
At 6:53 pm, March 25, 2007, Blogger Martin said...

Johnny, do you mean Ghuznee St, cos thats the one that became a 2 way today...

I was having a sneaky look down onto the new SH1 off-ramp from Kelburn this afternoon round about 4 - not too much traffic then, about 6 cars in each lane at red lights, but they were sorta crawling over the intersection at green lights - I suspect they will have to bring the lights along Vivian in sync (they might have already done that ;)) - looking forward to reports and motorists whinging about snarl ups ;))

 
At 11:32 am, March 26, 2007, Anonymous Johnny-johnny said...

Heh, yeh I do mean Ghuznee. I've never been one to actually get the names of those two streets correct!

 
At 1:43 pm, March 26, 2007, Anonymous bec said...

Sadly it's happening other places as well - the lovely Irish are apparently decimating one of their historic sites to make way for a motorway - see http://www.tarawatch.org

 
At 2:38 pm, March 26, 2007, Anonymous Raffe Smith said...

Well, it made not a jot of difference to my bus ride this morning. I catch the 11 from the corner of Bidwill & Wallace, and the traffic was backed up well down Wallace St, as it has been for a few months now. The very short phasing at the ungainly Buckle/Karo/Taranaki/Webb intersection seems to be the bottleneck. Once past there it is a relatively smooth ride down Taranaki St. Hopefully this can be tweaked.

Also, I walked along, around and across Guzhnee St yesterday, and was not impressed. There is no sense of generosity for the pedestrian. I am sure things will feel better once the paving and surfacing is complete. Those silly chained bollards really need to be removed.
It seemed like there was still a decent traffic flow on the street, and one couldn`t cross at leisure, like say on Dixon St. The traffic load seems to be coming down from the Terrace, rather than going along Vivian St.

I was cautiously optimistic about the bypass in general, and although I am not passing judgement yet, it seems like Transit really only have shifted the problem. The irony would be if the failure of the bypass puts transport firmly on the election agenda and led to the ousting of Mayor Kerry...

 
At 4:39 pm, March 26, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i came down the terrace on my bicycle yesterday and it was even then (on a sunday morning!) blocked back up because of ghuznee st. seems to me that they may not have really thought through the consequences of all the terrace traffic now looking to go down ghuznee then turn right into victoria to then get to vivian (or in my case on my evening cycle commute, carry on up into brooklyn). this is, of course, because they've severed the direct link for terrace traffic to the main east/southbound route. maybe they can solve that with a long dedicated right turn light phase out of ghuznee and into victoria.

all in all i'm finding it a real pain as a cyclist who travels across the new routes. in the morning i now have an additional major intersection to cross (karo dr). if only they had trenched it underneath.

 
At 10:13 pm, March 26, 2007, Blogger libertyscott said...

I almost cry at those on this blog and the Green one talking about "if only it had been a trench, or overbridge". The cut and cover Tunnellink proposal would have made an incredible difference, removing one third of the traffic from Vivian, Ghuznee and Buckle Street, taking traffic off the waterfront, and providing a high quality arterial route from the hospital and airport to the wider region. Yes there would still be issues at Mt Victoria Tunnel, but the city would have been better for it.

 
At 9:22 am, March 27, 2007, Blogger Hadyn said...

I didn't know there was a tunnel option! I would have voted for that in a heartbeat!

I still think all traffic should go under the Basin in stead of around it.

 
At 9:45 am, March 27, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

Hadyn: any "tunnel" option would have been a cut-and-cover approach rather than actual "burrowing". That means digging a great big trench, resulting in even greater destruction to Te Aro, before covering it up again. And given what it cost to build a small trench, a short stretch of road and a bunch of traffic lights, God knows how many hundreds of millions of dollars would have been spent on it while our trains and buses rust away.

 
At 10:18 am, March 27, 2007, Anonymous Michael-D said...

I too was amazed at the volume that Ghuznee Street is carrying off the Terrace in the evening - far more than it has been designed for, and meaning that the bypass is ineffective at shifting the volume of traffic southward - away from the city centre. So now we have three arterial routes that cross Cuba rather than two??

...and how is Webb Street doing now??

 
At 10:23 am, March 27, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom is right to point out the flaws of the tunnel argument. It's far too simplistic to say the tunnel option should have been constructed without considering the immense amount of money it would have cost to build, let alone destruction it would have wrought on the landscape of Te Aro, the significant upheaval incurred by residents, business in the process, etc. Would it have met Transit's cost/benefit ratio? Probably not. What's the point in spending time speculating about the possible effect of pie in the sky roading projects when the decision makers could be investing time, money and innovative thought into alteratives to roading that take a long-term perspective. We have to stop catering for the unsustainable and irresponsible mode of transport that is the private motor vehicle. It frustrates the hell out of me when I am on the bus during rush hour, inching along the streets surrounded by predominately single-occupant vehicles. I suspect the majority of these occupants are heading to a home that is serviced by a bus route close by. Building bypasses, underground or above, ain't going to fix this.

 
At 10:48 am, March 27, 2007, Anonymous Jimmy said...

The other part of the new traffic flow that is particularly ugly is the Off-Motorway turn onto Victoria St.

This use to have a gentle sweep from Ghuznee but is now a sharp right from Vivian, and it seemed to be causing quite a bit of queueing yesterday afternoon.

 
At 2:11 pm, March 27, 2007, Anonymous erentz said...

I was out of town while the change over happened and got back into town at 8:00pm on Monday to find traffic was still pretty busy (for 8pm Monday!?). The cab driver was having a bit of a whinge about the "bypass disaster".

Wait and see if it settles down over the next week, it should do somewhat I think as the traffic adapts and people start taking alternative routes to avoid some intersections, etc.

Responding to a few points by a few people:

libertyscott, "The cut and cover Tunnellink proposal would have made an incredible difference..."

The Tunnellink proposal was never a covered trench. It was always the original full motorway through to the basin. It was called "Tunnellink" because it linked the two tunnels. You can see all the reports and sketches on this at the library, it is quite interesting and it would've been a _huge_ disaster for Te Aro if it had gone through. I think many Wellingtonians are deeply indebt to the people who managed to halt this. (I've taken some copies of the sketches I might upload later and post a link to on here for the curious to look at.)

There were alternative proposals around the time and since to build it as a covered trench, this would've likely had different configurations of on/off ramps. The option I felt was the best middle-ground was no on/off ramps except at Vivian/Ghuznee and a four lane covered trench following the current route with a portal and at grade/signaled intersection at Taranaki/Buckle streets. The reasoning is to remove most through traffic off the Ghuznee/Vivan/etc streets. Using an at grade intersection at Taranaki Street limits total flow, but who cares if cars queue inside the tunnel overall its still far more efficient and it is less distructive than on/offramps flowing up and down out of the earth.

Then to reduce costs widening Buckle to four-lanes, and at a later stage completing the covered trench next to it in the reserve land. Cost for the first stange was at $120m back when the bypass was costed at its $40m. (Cheap really on the scheme of things for what you get back.)

Tom, "any "tunnel" option would have been a cut-and-cover approach rather than actual "burrowing". That means digging a great big trench, resulting in even greater destruction to Te Aro, before covering it up again."

This was an important argument of CBC at the time against the trench. I'm not sure why it's considered distruction given the path follows the exact same path of the current bypass. I think it is fair to call it a "disturbance" while the construction is taking place, but in the lifetime of the road vs. the construction time, I'm not sure this was a very major point myself. There were archeological issues to deal with as things were dug up, but hey, isn't it nice to discover these things at some point than just leave them in the ground forever? The simpler no on/off ramps option I described above wouldn't have destroyed any more buildings than the bypass, just dug up more dirt. If more money was spent on the structure at some points, some of the buildings could've been shifted off during construction, then shifted back ontop of the bypass in some locations such as the Willis/Abel Smith St intersections to retain the urban grid (although I happen to like Bodega where it is now).

Anonymous, "It's far too simplistic to say the tunnel option should have been constructed without considering the immense amount of money it would have cost to build, let alone destruction it would have wrought on the landscape of Te Aro, the significant upheaval incurred by residents, business in the process, etc."

The costs were known, we shifted all the people and moved all the buildings anyway, and in their place put a roadway. Its an argument of logic (at least to me) that if the bypass was a done deal politically (as it was), thus the destruction is going to happen anyway, you should maximise your return and get a tunnel with a park and reduced traffic on Vivian Street as opposed to a road and cars on the surface.

"Would it have met Transit's cost/benefit ratio? Probably not."

30,000 vehicles a day at $120 million is pretty darn good value compared to most other roading projects in Wellington. Jeeze just take a look at the tens of millions they're planing on throwing away just to investigate Transmission Gully.

"What's the point in spending time speculating about the possible effect of pie in the sky roading projects when the decision makers could be investing time, money and innovative thought into alteratives to roading that take a long-term perspective. We have to stop catering for the unsustainable and irresponsible mode of transport that is the private motor vehicle. It frustrates the hell out of me when I am on the bus during rush hour, inching along the streets surrounded by predominately single-occupant vehicles. I suspect the majority of these occupants are heading to a home that is serviced by a bus route close by. Building bypasses, underground or above, ain't going to fix this."

This is really important to clear up. The covered trench was not pie in the sky, it was completely feasible and affordable, and it delivered far more benefits to both private vehicle and public transport traffic. The people who supported the tunnel were never suggesting we don't spend more on public transport, they typically favoured more public transport but had enough vision to see how ineffective the bypass would be. It is important to note that in the scheme of these kinds of budgets an extra $80 million dollars is not a lot of a money. People need to stop looking at transport as an us vs. them game between private and public transport users, and start looking at it more holistically. They recognised that a tunnel would be more aesthetic for upper Te Aro, it would remove traffic from Vivian Street permitting another two-way cross-city connector, and thus would more readily allowing the closure (with less pain) of other streets for pedestrian and public transit uses.

For the record/disclaimer/whatever, I'm not a pro-roading person (in case my rant here gives the wrong impression). I don't have a license or drive a car, I take public transport everywhere because I've just never found a need or desire to drive. I have spent a lot of time studying transport solutions in Wellington (and other places).

/rant

 
At 3:19 pm, March 27, 2007, Anonymous erentz said...

The TunnelLink images as promised for the curious. Note the ramps on Victoria Street [3,4] and take a look at what becomes of Arthur and Buckle Streets [4,5] and the Basin Reserve [6]. Notice how in [4] Cuba Street is cut and replaced with an arched bridge for pedestrians to cross the motorway.

This is pretty hideous stuff.

Figure 1.1
Figure 2
Figure 3
Figure 4
Figure 5
Figure 6

 
At 3:40 pm, March 27, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think the bypass was always a "done deal politically" (Erentz). If the Greens hadn't been shafted by Labour in the 2002 elections following the fallout associated with Nicky Hagar's corngate book it's quite possible that the bypass would have been a casualty of any coalition/confidence & supply arrangements made between the two parties. And remember the predecessors to the bypass languished in the political wilderness until the early 1990s (can't remember the exact year) when construction of a new road was placed back on the agenda of the WCC by the casting vote of then mayor Fran Wilde. In light of this, the destruction of Te Aro was not inevitable, and it does not therefore follow that we might as well plumped for something much bigger than the bypass.
Another thing, I don't think the debate is a simple matter of roads vs public transport, but rather redressing a severe imbalance in transport funding and initiatives that so far have priviliged new roads and subsidised their use and maintenance at the expense of public transport projects.

 
At 10:42 pm, March 27, 2007, Blogger Off-Black said...

As someone who is frequently passing through from the Hutt to Newtown or Hataitai, the bypass has noticeably decreased off-peak travelling time.

I haven't tried to negotiate it at peak hour yet.

 
At 8:11 pm, March 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem as I see it is the tendency for planners to minimise intersections and limit possible travel options. That, and one-way systems.

I've been drawing diagrams for the last hour trying to prove that more intersections and no one-way streets is a good thing, (i.e. having 6 cross-town options instead of the current 2-3 and also more opportunities to turn back half way along, like, this will be a controversial statement, but Glover Park should be half replace by a continuation of Bute Street. Similarly, Holland and a number of others between Tory and Taranaki should be opened up. It seems counter-intuitive to make things better for pedestrians by making more and smaller roads but I think it is :) and I will try and prove this with pretty pictures or if I'm lucky, mathematics) but I should be writing an essay so I won't tonight :)

 
At 10:18 am, March 29, 2007, Anonymous erentz said...

anonymous, I don't think what you're saying is ridiculous, I can't speak to the maths part, but just from experience being in other cities I've found a good contiguous grid "appears" to work very well at distributing traffic. I've always thought it would've been nice if Ghuznee St had always connected to Cambridge/Kent Tce, ditto if Abel Smith had too. If this had always been the case perhaps we might have ended a situation where Vivian carried southbound traffic and Abel Smith carried northbound traffic, or where Abel Smith carried bidirectional traffic with a contraflow. This would've been nice but would've been very destructive to do now. Good planning in advance though could've opened this up if as buildings came up for replacement the council bought back the portions of land necessary. (For a long period there was a huge patch of vacant land between Taranaki/Tory.)

 
At 1:21 am, June 07, 2007, Blogger libertyscott said...

Given the billions being thrown around at motorways in Auckland, and perhaps Transmission Gully, the Tunnellink project would have been a doddle price wise. Benefit/cost ratios aren't used anymore to ration major transport projects (and Tunnellink had a BCR of 2.6, great today, but too low back in the early 1990s for funding - costs AND traffic have grown since then).

I reckon about $350 million and it would have an invisible footprint across most of Te Aro, as so much traffic would disappear into it and Cuba Street WOULD have remained intact. Building shifted for the construction and placed on top of the cut and cover tunnel. The exhaust fans were to have had filters to remove particulates, but no - far better to have this half arsed little one way system.

The final Tunnellink proposal ultimately delayed and discarded was a full cut and cover tunnel from Vivian St to the Basin Reserve with on/off ramps at Victoria Street. Erentz, your images are of the previous proposal amended after public consultation (it went through 3 iterations).

A proper bypass will be back on the agenda, no matter how much public transport supporters want to claim, it will never provide an efficient option for freight or the majority of trips bypassing the CBD.

Wellington can choose to have a serious through route between the airport/hospital and the region, or pretend public transport will make much difference. PT will deliver for trips to and from downtown Wellington, but it wont for trips between parts of the region. It never has in any other new world city.

Of course, congestion pricing could fund a proper bypass and make an enormous difference to congestion and the quality of public transport trips peak and off peak. That's for another day, but I don't believe it is more than 10-15 years away.

 

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