Transport key to building a better city

The train system is an integral part of Wellington's transport network.

The train system is an integral part of Wellington's transport network.

OPINION: The success of liveable city-regions can so often be seen in their efficient and sustainable transport system. Wellington region enjoys a large patronage on public transport, a popular walking culture and increasing cycling.

However, if the region is to improve its liveability and productivity rankings, compared with Auckland and other Australasian metropolitan areas, it needs to be proactive in developing forward-looking integrated transport policies that have a tangible impact.

There is a significant difference between world cities and Wellington in terms of size, land use policies, city form, the nature of the public transport system and urban density. Their adopted models cannot be replicated in the Wellington region, but we can observe broad principles and learn from the collaborative processes many successful cities have adopted in delivering region-wide sustainable urban transport.

First, cities that are successfully confronting transport challenges have developed mechanisms to integrate different kinds of transport into one multimodal transport system for their users.

Multimodal transport systems – offering seamless connections between different forms of transport – provide more and realistic travel options to access work, education and shopping, and add value to the economic prosperity of a region.

While the Wellington region has a relatively interconnected road network that enables travel from point A to B, the same cannot be said for the public transport system.

The multifaceted economic activity and lifestyle the region is providing – coastal corridors of Kapiti Coast, the rural wine, tourism and agriculture of the Wairarapa, to the industries of the Hutt Valley and Porirua and the business and service hub of the Wellington City CBD – would benefit from an integrated public transport system.

Multimodal integration requires relatively small-scale projects, with strong roles for local government and communities in their planning and delivery, rather than mega projects requiring huge investment. The Wellington Bus review and integrated fare project are steps in the right direction.

Second, liveable cities are proactive in integrating residential and employment centres with the 

transport system to achieve real meaning for  slogans such as  a 'great city to live in' and 'a good place to do business'. The Wellington CBD is very important for the productivity of the region and its growth. However, we should not ignore places of future employment and growth in the region, and a mechanism to improve the region-wide strategic approach to these growth areas.

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Many cities promote high-quality transport corridors as a catalyst for property development and employment centres, attracting private investment and a highly skilled labour force. The Wellington region can adopt a similar strategy and promote a mix of intensified good quality development based on the strength of transport corridors.

The question is therefore, how to deliver a multimodal transport system and achieve an integrated land use and transport system in the Wellington region? In my view, the answer lies in institutional integration or enhanced collaboration.

The residents of the Wellington region cross several jurisdictional boundaries during their daily travel without bothering about who manages and funds the local roads, motorways, rail network and buses. The super city idea has been rejected, but are there alternative ways of achieving collaboration between different local government organisations on the integrated transport question?

What are the options to enhance the connectedness and efficiency of the region's transport network? Different cities have adopted different solutions and models. For example, in Victoria, one approach to institutional collaboration has been adopting participatory transport planning through the Melbourne Metropolitan Transport Forum.

The Forum provides a platform for ongoing transport discussion, provides meaningful engagement with communities and stakeholders in the development and delivery of integrated transport plans, lobbies higher levels of government for transport funding and develops mechanisms for collaboration and local representative control over region-wide transport decision making.

Like Melbourne, public transport successes in high ranked liveable cities such as Vancouver and Zurich were also made possible by greater public engagement and institutional collaboration.

Regardless of the optimal arrangements for the Wellington region, the development of a co-operative and collaborative approach to transport decision making has the potential to bring innovation in institutional relationships and a strong sense of ownership and pride to the citizenry.

A single and united voice from the Wellington region can compel central government to invest in public transport infrastructure as is happening in the case of the city rail link in Auckland.

Associate Professor Imran Muhammad teaches transport and urban planning at Massey University.

 - The Dominion Post


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