Buses back in Manners Mall

10:56, Jun 09 2009
MALL SUPPORT: Maria van der Meel makes her views clear - the change will 'hurt the city in the long run'.

The roar of buses will return to Manners Mall after a Wellington City Council decision aimed at rejuvenating public transport on the Golden Mile.
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Councillors yesterday voted to allow buses through the mall as part of an $11.1 million plan to speed up and improve the reliability of the service, ending 30 years of pedestrian-only access.

Officials hope up to three minutes will be shaved off each bus trip.

GREEN LIGHT: A mock-up of how the mall will look with buses using it.

The plan will also restrict vehicle speeds on lower Cuba St, turning the area into a pedestrian mall but with restricted vehicle access. Work is expected to start about the middle of next year.

Mayor Kerry Prendergast said mall retailers would not be adversely affected by the bus-only plan.

"Lambton Quay is shared by buses, cars, cyclists and taxis and yet it has more pedestrian count and some of the highest rentals in New Zealand. We don't have retailers complaining there about buses running through."

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Ms Prendergast said the shoddy mall - which would have undergone a $1m-plus makeover if not opened to buses - would now be improved with wide footpaths.

But using the mall's disrepair as an excuse for change outraged Ronald Nelson, who organised a Facebook campaign and electronic petition signed by more than 5000 opponents of the plan.

"It is council who gave the resource consent to make it ugly. Their level of arrogance amazes me."

Maria van der Meel was involved in the Wgtn Loves Manners Mall poster campaign. She said the decision would "hurt the city in the long run".

"It is going to split us up by making Wellington a place that does not build communities."

The plan will also mean traffic signals installed at three pedestrian crossings on Courtenay Place, and the speed limit will be reduced to 30kmh.

About 40 car parks will be created in the area, generating revenue of about $200,000 a year.

To quell opposition to the loss of public space in the mall, enhanced public areas will be created in the next five years in Wakefield, Mercer and Willis streets. Parts of Dixon St could be used to enlarge a remodelled Te Aro Park. The project fits with the council's Urban Transport Strategy and Bus Priority Plan, as well as the Ngauranga to Airport traffic corridor plan.

Councillor Andy Foster said the plans aimed to increase public transport usage from 32 per cent of the population to 40 per cent during the next decade.

"Taking into account expected population growth, that is about a 50 per cent increase in the number of people travelling by bus."

Public consultation on aspects of the project has yet to take place.

30 YEARS TRAFFIC-FREE

* Manners Mall opened as a pedestrian-only mall in 1979.

* It was intended to emulate the success of Cuba Mall.

* It underwent a $1.6m council upgrade in 2003.

THE VOTE

For the buses: Mayor Kerry Prendergast, Deputy Mayor Ian McKinnon and councillors Helene Ritchie, Ngaire Best, John Morrison, Andy Foster, Stephanie Cook, Iona Pannett, Ray Ahipene-Mercer, Rob Goulden and Celia Wade-Brown.

Against: Hayley Wain, Jo Coughlan, Leonie Gill, Bryan Pepperell.

 

The Dominion Post