A few facts
Fact 1 – there’s a large roundabout in south Wellington. It happens to have a cricket ground in it. And for the record, it is called the “Basin” because it was to be a shipping basin back in the days before the 1855 earthquake. Kent and Cambridge Terraces were made wide enough for shipping channels, not for cars. But that means it’s perfect for light rail.
Fact 2 – it is part of State Highway 1, which makes NZTA think it should be huge and fast and made for cars.
Fact 3 – it’s in the middle of a city and doesn’t really go anywhere. I mean, there isn’t much down there except an airport and a rather wide and unbridgeable strait. The real end of SH 1 is at the ferry terminal.
Fact 4 – it’s a bit congested at some times of the day. It can take whole seconds to get through it, perhaps even minutes on a very bad day. But you could say the same for Newtown. Or Kilbirnie. Or in fact most major intersections on Wellington’s main roads.
Fact 5 – some buses go through the Basin. Not all – a lot go up Taranaki Street or through the Pirie St bus tunnel. But quite a lot.
So let’s face it, it’s just another Wellington roundabout with the typical sort of congestion problems that you get in a city where too many people drive and the public transport system doesn’t work well enough.
So what should we to our problematic roundabout?
NZTA says we have to have grade separation. That means that cars going in one direction are above or below the cars going the other way. Voila! No intersection. No problem.
And they’ve looked at all the options and decided in their wisdom that the only affordable way to achieve that is to make some cars go upwards – build a bridge (that’s a flyover to everyone else).
The Architecture Centre had a look at it and said that while that might be cheaper, it would be much nastier. Making some cars go down through a tunnel would give us a lovely memorial park.
And Wellington City looked at it and said that they liked the idea of a park, but not the idea of spending more money right now, but they didn’t much like the flyover…
And Greater Wellington said that they felt obliged to support the flyover because it was the only answer to the public transport problems and what the Corridor Plan they had signed said we had to have.
Confused yet? You should be. Because….
Fact 6 – it isn’t what the Corridor Plan said had to happen. In fact, more road capacity at the Basin will probably have the opposite effect to what the Corridor Plan set out to achieve – improve public transport through the central city to the airport and make life easier for cyclists and pedestrians.
Fact 7 – you don’t need grade separation to fix the public transport problem. So that’s a red herring unless what you are discussing is a memorial park.
Fact 8 – grade separation of any sort costs a lot of money that could be spent on other things.
What we really need is…
Fix the inefficiencies in the bus system. Greater Wellington is in the middle of a review that is proposing to do just that, by creating a more efficient overall network. Go GW.
Provide bus priority through the whole Golden Mile, around the Basin and into Newtown. That can be done now. WCC has lots of designs – they just need more interest from councillors to doing it. But they are starting. Go WCC.
Those two measures will remove most of the delays for bus services from Island Bay, and give more frequent and reliable services.
And all by passing some bylaws and investing in some paint and other cheap things. And without grade separation.
And then we can spend all those other millions on light rail to the airport.
And then people will use public transport instead of taxis and cars, and we won’t need a second tunnel and an expressway through Hataitai.
And we’ll have even more money left over to spend on more exciting things…..
— Paula Warren