Creating a fizzing city without the Southern Link
OPINION: For a long time, the Southern Link has divided this town into potential winners and losers. Nelsust is calling for all win solutions.
While we have issues with their modelling of future traffic growth, the New Zealand Transport Agency's latest report says that a new road is not needed in the near future.
So let's get on with projects that don't cleave the town into winners and losers.
We have a vision where Nelson is fizzing and alive with people. More people living in close. Close enough to walk or at least to bike or electric bike to town.
We have a vision, where there are attractive options to car commuting - where people aren't forced out of their cars - just given enticing alternatives.
We have a vision where it's easy to get in and out of town, to the beach, to the airport. Easy, not just in a car. We have a vision to make Nelson people-friendly, to enhance our communities rather than fragment them.
Our vision is to make Nelson a city for people, not a city choked with cars. Here we give our big three congestion busters and then focus on one project.
1. Making it easy and safe for kids to get to school under their own steam - in the school holidays, road congestion all but disappears. None of the older generations were carted to school in a car, why is it the norm now? If we make it safe, and enticing, to walk and cycle to school, more will do it - it's better for kids, it's better for parents.
2. More people living close in to town as these people don't need to commute by road. If you are within a kilometre of the city centre, you have the option of an easy walk or a short bike to get there.
These people are not the ones clogging our roads. We need to make it easier to do this by allowing two dwellings as of right for close in sections and creating a new inner residential zone where higher density is expected. We are not talking high rise here, just town houses like the wildly popular Hathaway Court.
3. Buses and trade vehicles in peak hour clearways - completely different to the failed Stoke Loop bus. Express commuter buses from Wakefield into Nelson were asked for by 1034 petitioners. These are specially for commuters, not the transport disadvantaged. Running in peak-hour clearway lanes, along with trade vehicles, means they wouldn't be held up by car commuters. And for trade vehicles to have access to this lane in peak times can only be a boon for business.
4. Building the Rocks Road esplanade is a great example of an all-win transport and amenity project. Who is against giving a wide shared path for walkers, scooters, buggies and wheelchairs, combined with on road cycle lanes for commuter cyclists that will link the city to the surf much better? With more people using the esplanade or the wider cycle lanes, a few less will be driving, helping improve the situation on the road.
Sure the traffic lanes will need to be state highway standard, but they should be that anyway to accommodate the big campervans that will always be using the route.
With the Rocks Road esplanade connected up to the Maitai Walkway at one end and through to the Railway Reserve at Annesbrook and Whakatu Drive cycleways at the other, it will be a real asset to the region.
Today is not the 1960s. We want progress, not regress. Things we thought were a good idea back in the 60s, like smoking in the car with your children and administering full frontal lobotomies for mental illness, no longer seem so bright.
Building a road because it seemed like a good idea last century is not a strong argument for building it now. We now know that building road capacity to ease congestion doesn't work: more road capacity means you soon have more cars and you are back to square one.
People of the central valley really enjoy the peace and tranquility of the Railway Reserve green corridor. This is not an efficient route to the port for trucks. Green corridors like this will become increasingly valuable as our city expands; it's too lovely to wreck.
And the NZTA say it's not needed, at least for years to come. Let's concentrate on projects that do work, where we are all winners.
Peter Olorenshaw is convenor of Nelsust, a transport strategy group that advocates for sustainable transport solutions. It was one of three parties that went to the Environment Court in 2004 opposing the Southern Link.