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

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Back on track: Ngauranga to Airport submission

Monday was the deadline for submissions on the Ngauranga to Airport transport study, which sought public suggestions of possible solutions to growing transport demand through that part of the city. This is the study that appears to have triggered the "secret railway" article that I wrote about last month. That article was headed Rail link to airport considered, but as I discovered, the study itself makes no mention of rail for the airport, and in fact suggests no solutions at all: it was up to the public to promote whatever solutions they preferred.

So how many people took this opportunity to outline their vision for transport along this vital corridor? Thirteen.

Yes, a grand total of 13 individuals and organisations deemed this important enough to lodge a submission. I know that Wellingtonians are generally a contented lot (we're certainly not as miserable as Aucklanders), but surely if congestion is such a big problem, wouldn't more people have spoken up on this burning issue? I know that the publicity for this consultation has hardly been overwhelming, but surely a few more commuters who get regularly stuck in the Mt Vic tunnel or squeezed out of a bus from Newtown would have seen the articles and spoken up.

Anyway, regular WellUrbanites won't be surprised to learn that my submission promoted a public-transport-based approach, with light rail as its centrepiece. Given that the folks at Option 3 were also planning to support light rail in their submission, that means that at the very least, 15% of submissions mentioned this solution. If this doesn't come through as a serious option in the next round of consultation in July, we'll know that any previous talk of considering rail was purely lip service. Remember that Eric Whitfield (Transit's regional transportation manager ) said: "We anticipate some sort of rail [link] will come out of consultation... It's not just roads, we need to look at all modes of transport." Let's see whether the second phase backs that up.

For the record, here's what I submitted:
My primary wish for the study is that some form of Light Rail Transit (LRT) should be offered as one of the options at Phase 2 of the consultation. This could be achieved in two stages:
Any roading improvements should be explicitly aimed at benefiting public transport, rather than increasing road capacity.

Such a strategy would certainly be consistent with virtually all of the strategic considerations in section 5.3 of the Draft Problem Framing Report (1.3MB PDF). The only bullet point there that needs to be addressed is the last one: "Is it financially achievable?". When addressing this question, it will be vital to look at long-term social and environmental benefits, rather than making a narrow and short-term economic assessment. Realistic targets for farebox recovery rates and increased ridership, based upon overseas experience, are essential.

I take issue with the projected car ownership and peak time trip figures on paragraph 4 of section 4.1. These seem to be based on the old "predict and provide" model rather than realising that such trends can be changed through integrating transport planning with urban form, travel demand management and the provision of attractive alternatives.

If urban sprawl continues and no attempt is made to provide more capacity and higher quality for public transport, then of course vehicle trips will increase. But the WCC's focus on the Johnsonville-CBD-Airport growth spine, together with the increasing relative importance of the CBD (also in section 4.1), make this a prime route for a seamless, high-quality public transport link.


At 9:57 pm, May 17, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems as if I chose a busy time to move to Wellington. A few public comment periods have come and gone in the 2 months that I've been here. Unfortunately, that has left very little time to catch up on the background information required for any informed comment on the Ngauranga to Airport submission. However, that didn't stop me from talking to some of the people I work with about some of the issues. It's a small step, but a step nonetheless.

A few other things have been going on that I've been looking into:

Also recently passed is the comment period on the transit fare structure, for which I submitted my comments.

There was an article in The Wellingtonian, titled "Speed limit in cbd just plain 'dumb' - city cr" which got my attention, and has led me to read through The Gehl Report to put things into a bit of context.

I need a pause button on my day to get everything done that I want to do, but I'll catch up soon.

At 2:14 am, May 18, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Tom,

I've been reading your blog for a while now and thought it might be time to chime in...

I'm a Londoner who seems to share many interest of yours - I'm into urban issues, regeneration and the like, especially public transport led. I'm also big into urban space and change - manifesting itself in trying out as many new bars, gastro pubs etc... as I can.

Furthermore I spent some time in Wellington whilst travelling a few years ago and fell in love with the place. So your blog has a great deal which interests me - I'll probably pipe up a little more now I've broken the seal...

Anyway, on topic I thought when in Wellington that the public transport system was stunted, albeit much better than anywhere else in NZ. I thought maybe there could be an underground railway, like London's Thameslink which could run through the CBD and then go off somewhere else - but I understand there isn't much to the East!

The light rail idea is good though and cheaper, the Manchester system runs seamlessly through the city but when on the outskirts, really speeds up nicely. Would you suggest all the suburban lines to continue through to the CBD, or would you retain some at the terminus? You'd need something which would have a turn up and go frequency - a metro service is usually defined as upwards of 4 trains per hour.

Maybe the Upper Hutt and beyond routes could stay at the terminus, as well as long distance trains I suppose. Shouldn't they encourage public transport from further a field by expanding the trains which go to Palmerston North etc...?

Is the airport still tiny or has it been developed? You can't fly anywhere far at all, would greatly help Wellington if they put Dubai or Singapore flights on, preferably then on to London...

Is the Matterhorn still cool? I got very pissed on night with a couple of Hobbits there, cracking place it was...

Sorry, think I wrote too much!


At 2:57 pm, May 18, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

Greg: yep, it's all been a bit overwhelming. I didn't get a chance to comment on the fare structure, which was a pity since despite a simpler structure being a good thing, it has some anomalies that make certain journeys vastly more expensive.

Oh, and I thought about writing something about Cr Morrison's insane comments, but I think I'd have blown a blood vessel if I tried. Besides, there are encouraging signs that the Wellingtonian, under its acting editor, is reversing its usual pro-car stance, and there are a lot of letters in today's edition supporting that position.

CM: an underground railway would be much quicker, and it was certainly considered some decades ago (see the Brent Efford article that I've linked to before), but it would cost so much more than surface light rail that it's hard to justify with our population. The airport, and the increasing population along the route to it, would certainly justify some form of mass transit, though.

Efford and the Greens suggest only running the medium-range train services through the CBD. Beyond Upper Hutt and Pukerua Bay, they reccommend high-speed express services, electrified as far as Masterton and Otaki respectively. Commutes from those distances would justify changing at the station, whereas it's much more of a relative hassle if you're just coming from the J'Ville line.

The airport is still tiny, but the current upgrades will support 787 services to Dubai at least. That should be a huge boost for Wellington business and tourism (if the proposed AirNZ/Qantas merger doesn't squash us first), and the extra patronage will mean that we have to do something serious about getting them to the city.

Finally, opinion is divided on da 'Horn. Some say it's gone downhill and is full of boring pretentious people, and certainly the last time I was there late on a Saturday it was full of middle-aged property developers from Whitby trying to lead their drunken wives into rock'n'roll dancing to the Eggs. But midweek, or early on for dinner, it's still pretty stylish.

At 9:04 pm, May 18, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks guys.

The A380 is landing for the first time in at LHR today, funnily enough - can you imagine that bugger trying to fit in at Wellington...


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