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My Answers to Lets Get Welly Moving

July 30, 2019

Will we ever get Wellington moving? And what does that mean?
The Kilbirnie Lyall Bay Residents association recently asked Eastern Ward councilors to give their views on the following questions (These are also published on their Facebook page).

Here are my answers and I am happy to have feedback!

1. What’s your general thoughts about the LGWM plans – do you support it?

ANS: Yes, I support the LGWM proposal, and am particularly keen to see the mass transit prioritised and delivered as soon as possible right through to the airport.

2. Do you think these plans will improve congestion in Wellington?

ANS: Around 60 % of people in the eastern suburbs use private vehicles to get to work at present, much higher than most other parts of Wellington. This, combined with taxis to and from the airport and the influx of commuters coming in to the suburb to access schools, sports facilities and other services are contributing hugely to congestion in the eastern suburbs.
Affordable and convenient public transport along clearly defined routes connecting places people want to go will help reduce this congestion.

3. If so, how long do you think it will be before we see any improvement.

ANS: The rollout of the mass transport and associated roading changes will take a quite a few years, so there also needs to be pressure on GWRC to get the new bus system working much better and to do this as quickly as possible. Its good that GWRC have started a review of the bus services in the eastern suburbs;-they also need to look at passenger comfort, convenience and affordability, and driver recruitment and remuneration. WCC can and will do more to help with on the road infrastructure and bus priority. If this can be achieved and we also have better infrastructure for cycling, walking and micro-mobility, we should be able to see real improvements in a 12-24 month time frame. More could also be done to let people know about the airport flyer and the public bus services close to the airport.

4. Do you think these plans will improve congestion in the Eastern Suburbs and access to the airport If so, how long do you think it will be before we see any improvement.

ANS: Yes, the plans should definitely improve congestion. As to timeframe, please see the answer above.

5. What are your thoughts on Bus priority to and from the city along core routes scheduled for 2024-2029?

ANS: Bus priority is an important aspect of improving travel times and reliability. It is fair to say this probably didn’t get sufficient attention from either GWRC or WCC prior to the rollout of the new services in July 2015 (there was a lot of reliance from GWRC on simply reducing the numbers of buses down the Golden Mile), but improvements in this area are a big focus now.

6. Bus priority – Will it impact other traffic flows?

ANS: There are some things which can be done in the short term (for example, more bus priority at intersections, making sure buses can physically get around corners and along their routes easily)- which will probably have minimal overall impact on other traffic. Bus lanes of course, take road space from other users, so they have to be planned and rolled out with care. Lots of modelling is done to assess the impact on other users.

7. What do you think about the Cobham Drive walking and cycling crossing?

ANS: Something is needed there as it is a huge barrier to people trying to walk (or cycle) between Miramar and Kilbirnie. I would have preferred to see the road level raised with a short underpass for cyclists and walkers, but that would be extremely expensive. The lights are a relatively cheap option and if they are triggered a lot and slow traffic down too much, this could strengthen the case for a better solution.

8. What do you think about reduced speed limits on SH1 east of Mt Victoria?

ANS: I support a reduced speed on the Cobham Drive section to assist with the traffic lights. At busy times it will make little difference, and at other times the section is short enough that the additional time gained by accelerating to 70 km/hr then reducing speed at the roundabouts means there is little time saved.

9. Extra Mt Victoria tunnel – What do you think about the extra Mt Victoria tunnel by 2029?

ANS: I support an extra Mt Vic tunnel (or the widening of the existing tunnel) if it is needed, but I believe we should absolutely prioritise the mass transit first and then make that assessment. I will say that the current walking and cycling facility through there is completely inadequate, so in my mind that alone is a case for some improvement..

10. Extra Mt Victoria tunnel – How will this help the eastern suburbs if the Basin improvements and relocation of SH1 southbound from Vivian St into a new tunnel under Te Aro are not completed at the same time?

ANS: This is a good question. I know a lot of modelling is being done. But again, this illustrates why I think the mass transit needs to be a priority, as shifting some people out of private cars and onto convenient and affordable public transit will definitely help, as will more people walking and cycling. I should mention that there will also need to be step change in the provision of bus services all around the city to really achieve a good system;- the eastern suburbs do not exist in isolation from the rest of the city.

11. What do you think about Ruahine St/Wellington Rd widening being delayed until the 2024-2029 timeslot?

ANS: I support a really good look at how much widening needs to be done, and it makes sense to look at it in the context of the Mt Vic tunnel whenever this is.

12. Basin Improvements – What do you think about the reports/references to Basin improvements noting the report is vague on detail only stating Improvements will include:
-Minor at-grade changes in the short-term to improve reliable access for all modes
-Grade separation between north-south movements, east-west movements, and any mass transit corridors

ANS: We do not have much detail on the improvements, but the grade separation between North-South and East-West should achieve faster and more reliable journey times both for public transport and for other vehicles, which is a major goal of the project.

13. Basin Improvements – Do you agree or disagree this a failure of the report noting it is the main choke point on route between the eastern suburbs and the city and the history of the proposed flyover?.

ANS: There is obviously more detail to come.

14. Mass transit to airport is not scheduled till after 2029 – why isn’t this a priority?

ANS: I agree mass transit all the way from the station to the airport must be an absolute priority. I have made that point at Council and will continue to do so. The project was defined after all as the “Ngauranga to airport” corridor!

15. Light Rail Proposed route by FIT that seems to match the LGWM route – what are your thoughts as impacted residents have voiced concerns that this route will seriously impact the traffic flow along Coutts/Rongotai and seriously impact the residents of the side streets, i.e. Yule and Ross?

ANS: The route links the places people most want to go and that means bringing it from the hospital and zoo into Kilbirnie, the ASB Centre, to Miramar and the airport. The route has to go somewhere, and there’s also a strong argument that it will reduce traffic overall. Overseas experience also shows a good mass transit route adds a lot of value to surrounding areas.

Other thoughts?

ANS: We cannot forget about improving the bus system as this is what we will have in the short term.
I have been strongly advocating and will continue advocate to GWRC for the following:

Firstly, sorting out the capacity and service delivery so we get what’s been timetabled.
-seats back in buses and the delivery of all the promised new buses with bike racks -retention of the 18e
– the 18 to go to Kilbirnie rather than just Miramar
– restoring the express peak services, especially from the peninsula to the city
– more services from Strathmore Park to Newtown and the Basin Reserve
– better signage of bus services at the airport -more reliable connections for shuttle buses (eg the 28 connecting again with the 30x) -more weekend and off peak services
– bus layover stops near toilet facilities for bus drivers
– more bus shelters and RTI boards
In addition, WCC councillors have asked our Council to step up the rollout of new bus shelters, and to accelerate the bus priority programme. We are also working to formalise the way the two organisations work together and to build a stronger partnership.

Thanks for inviting me to give my thoughts. I am happy as always to take feedback. -Cr Sarah Free

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