Yesterday Let’s move Wellington (LGWM) released four possibilities for consultation on the future of transport in the city and this represents a shift in focus from previous plans, although it remains to be seen if that will actually happen.
Before anyone asks why we Aucklanders are interested in this or have an opinion on it. Many of us have friends and family who live in Wellington, we want the city and all of our urban areas in New Zealand to be successful, to have better public transport options and active modes, more choice of housing and better public spaces. Also, if Wellington or other cities are doing the right thing, it can help increase the focus on getting better results in Auckland.
One or two things that are remarkable about all of the published options is that there is clearly a shift in focus away from airport service. This manifests itself in two ways.
- There is much more emphasis on public transport, and as such the “four lane for planes” thought has been abandoned. This means that no additional traffic lanes are planned through Mount Victoria.
- The primary focus of rapid transit options is now to serve the Island Bay Corridor rather than the airport and Miramar.
Much of this appears to be that, as with the light rail in Auckland, the focus is on using the investment to unlock housing growth and the Island Bay Corridor helps increase the number of homes.
The four options presented represent some key decisions.
The rapid mode of transport used
The LGWM examines two potential rapid transport modes, light rail or bus rapid transport.
- Light Rail – this would be similar to the surface option offered in Auckland with modern low-floor vehicles. LGWM suggests a capacity of these up to 300 people per vehicle
- Bus Rapid Transit – this would use modern electric buses that can accommodate up to 110 people each.
The type of new Mount Victoria tunnel and how the basin reserve is treated
In two of the options, a new four-lane tunnel is dug through Mount Victoria with two of the dedicated bus lanes and the other two cars. In this option, the existing tunnel would also be converted for use by the active modes.
The other two options would see cars continue to use the existing Mt Vic tunnel and buses using Haiti’s existing bus tunnel and a new tunnel dedicated to walking and cycling would be built.
Separately but also linked, three of the options would see the Arras tunnel in front of the National War Memorial extended to separate national road traffic on one side of the reserve from the basin. The fourth option removes rapid transit from much of the roundabout, making things easier.
Here are the options. In all the maps, this is the legend.
At $ 7.4 billion, it’s the most expensive option of the lot and includes both the light rail and the new Mount Victoria tunnel. One concern about this is the shared lane running south of the hospital which has the potential to introduce a level of unreliability.
South coast tram + new public transport tunnel – Move as many people as possible to and from Island Bay and the surrounding suburbs, beautify the basin reserve, support as many housing and urban development as possible, and make our streets better for everyone
Here is a cost breakdown
This option replaces the light rail with bus rapid transit and is the second most expensive option on the list at $ 7.0 billion. It is unclear whether there would actually be a large difference in performance or road space required between the BRT-only lanes and the continuous priority of the buses. I suspect there isn’t much as the travel time savings from the airport and Miramar are the same as on option 1.
Fast bus transport to the sea and the sky – Move more people to and from Island Bay and surrounding suburbs, eastern suburbs and the airport, but with less housing and urban development than Option 1.
And a cost breakdown.
This option concerns the light rail, but eliminates the new tunnel for vehicles at a total cost of 6.6 billion dollars. This suggests that the new road tunnel which does not add any additional capacity is expected to cost around $ 800 million.
South Coast Tram – Connect the most people between Wellington Station, Island Bay and the surrounding suburbs, encourage more housing and urban development, make our streets better for everyone, and improve public transportation to Hataitai, Miramar and the airport.
The distribution of costs
This is the cheapest option at $ 5.8 billion and saves money over Option 3 by removing the tunnel from the basin reserve with only minor upgrades needed. at the basin roundabout. Going through Taranaki Street also has the advantage that the land around it probably has more potential for change than the dwellings along Mount Victoria.
South Coast Tram Via Taranaki – Light rail to Island Bay and surrounding suburbs but via Taranaki Street, bypassing the basin reserve, beautifying the streets and encouraging more housing and urban development, for the lowest cost .
Cost breakdowns. It is not known why the Rapid Transit option is more expensive than the other options.
A table summarizing each of the options is below
All of these options are suggested to have the potential to enable 21,000 new homes, which is a significant amount for Wellington. It is also interesting to see how this measure is gaining more and more importance in the evaluation of large projects. We should do this kind of analysis on more urban projects.
Since they don’t add any private vehicle capacity, it’s hard to see how LGWM can justify spending nearly $ 1 billion on new road tunnels.
Overall, option 4 seems to be the best for me. It is not only the cheapest and would allow the most housing. In fact, maybe they could use the $ 1.6 billion saved to build thousands of houses to keep some of the benefits mentioned. However, none of the options seem to stack up very well from a BCR perspective.
BCRs for LGWM options were not released today, but are apparently 0.4-0.6 BUT this only counts the benefits of transport. It does not include any of the urban development / housing benefits which is one of the main goals of LGWM.
Makes the impression that the BCR system needs to be redesigned.
– Thomas Coughlan (@coughlthom) November 1, 2021
The consultation on options is open until December 10 But whichever option you choose, don’t expect something to happen anytime soon, as LGWM suggests construction won’t start until 2028.