Tim Jones: Covers about to come off new Wellington transport plans

Save the Basin wants the Basin Reserve to be preserved and enhanced as a high-quality international cricket ground, a ...
MAARTEN HOLL/FAIRFAX NZ

Save the Basin wants the Basin Reserve to be preserved and enhanced as a high-quality international cricket ground, a community facility, and a green space close to the heart of the city.

OPINION: The proposed Basin Reserve flyover was a holdover from transport thinking that most modern cities abandoned decades ago. The defeat of that proposal provided a much-needed opportunity for a rethink – and we're about to find out the results of that rethink.

Ever since the flyover defeat, Government and council transport and urban planners have been working away under the "Let's Get Welly Moving" (LGWM) banner on new plans for Wellington transport.

Later this month, LGWM will present alternative scenarios for Wellington transport in a series of workshops – and once it's got feedback from those workshops, it will be developing a preferred solution that will then go out for consultation.

At the Basin Board of Inquiry, the Save the Basin Campaign and other groups opposed to the project successfully made the case that Wellington had system-wide transport issues to solve.

So we are very pleased that LGWM has taken a system-wide approach. Its research has identified a number of choke points in the Wellington transport system, for pedestrians and public transport users as well as drivers.

Around the world, cities have been moving away from transport and urban design "solutions" that maximise the throughput of cars, and towards solutions that emphasise the use of public transport, walking and cycling, while still making provisions for necessary vehicle journeys. That's better for cities, better for their residents, and better for the planet.

Will the LGWM scenarios reflect modern transport thinking, and national and local government commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? And will they be flexible enough to take account of the major changes in transport demand and transport technology that are currently occurring? That's what we're keenly waiting to find out.

While there's been a lot to like about the Let's Get Welly Moving process, it's had its flaws. After the Basin Board of Inquiry criticised the lack of openness, transparency and replicability of the decision-making process that led to the Basin Reserve flyover proposal, LGWM started off by making determined efforts to make its process as transparent as possible.

However, its March scenario workshops are open only to selected participants, and the process used to select those participants has been entirely opaque so far.

This raises the concern that these workshops – which provide the first chance for members of the public and community groups to comment on LGWM's transport scenarios – may not meet the required standards of openness and transparency, and that their outcomes could therefore be called into question.

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Another concern about the process is that it was set up with the deeply flawed 2013 Public Transport Spine Study (PTSS) as a precondition. The PTSS was an exercise in tipping the scales against light rail and in favour of bus rapid transit, which was the preferred option of a number of decision-makers at that time.

Within a day of its release, independent transport experts had pointed out the deep flaws in this study – but four years later, the PTSS has remained sacrosanct in official thinking.

We think there is a need for a study to determine the optimum route for light rail between the railway station and the airport, that will best support a high frequency, high speed, congestion-free public transport network for Wellington.

Save the Basin's bottom lines are very clear: we want the Basin Reserve to be preserved and enhanced as a high-quality international cricket ground, a community facility, and a green space close to the heart of the city, all of which means that we steadfastly oppose a flyover being built at or near the Basin.

But we do want to play a part in ensuring that Wellington remains a liveable, people-oriented city with a sustainable, multi-modal transport system that supports and enhances the best qualities of the city we love. That's the outcome we'd like to see from the LGWM process.

Tim Jones is co-convener of the Save the Basin Campaign Inc.

 - The Dominion Post

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