Wellington Transport Spine Study – Implications for Newtown

Three_Modes_image

The Regional Council has just published the results of the study, and at this point its bad news for central Newtown.  The  transport spine needs to integrate with the destinations it serves, our many submissions over the years as to how this might be achieved in Newtown have been overlooked.

Background

This is a component of the larger Ngauranga to Airport Corridor Plan (2008).  It was commissioned jointly by Greater Wellington Regional Council, Wellington City Council and the NZ Transport Agency.  The sharp edged issue the study was grappling with was that continuing to rely on conventional buses for public transport from the south and east of the city was simply going to turn the central city into a permanent traffic-jam.  The study looked at 3 options for modes of public transport, whittled down from an originally larger range.     The options costed out by the study were:

  • Bus Priority – Essentially the current bus and bus lane system on steroids;
  • Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) – Dedicated bus lanes for new bigger buses;
  • Light Rail Transit (LRT) – Lanes and tracks for new light rail vehicles.

Recommended Option

The study reports that Bus Priority would be ineffective, and the Light Rail would be unaffordable, leaving the Bus Rapid Transit as the “live” option.   At a headline level this all appears to make sense, but inevitably there will be some significant impacts on neighbourhoods along the proposed route……

Impact on Newtown

The Newtown section of the prefered BRT solution presented in the report would involve;

  • Two bus only lanes down the centre of Riddiford St from the John St intersection to Mein St.  This is identified as requiring 2m widening of the road for the short section north of the main hospital entrance, and the loss of parking;
  • One bus only lane down the centre of Riddiford St from Mein St to Constable St.   The planning assessment commissioned as part of the study notes:  There will also be the loss of some street planting and hard landscaping with the removal of parking. Overall these options will produce a significant change within the Newtown Town Centre particularly with the reconfiguration of the road and the loss of parking.” 

Riddiford BRT

  • Yes the BRT bus does drive as if on the wrong side of the road, but its not clear how zig – zagging around the median strip works……. (maybe the median strip is moveable am to pm)
  • This option effectively ends in Newtown, and (unlike the Bus Priority one) does not involve any road layout changes on the route up Constable St on to Kilbirnie, and simply has the buses mixing it with other traffic.

Cities are for people !

The planning assessment understates it. The prefered BRT and in fact all of the Transport Spine options significantly affect central Riddiford Street – removing ALL of our street trees  and demolishing our pedestrian friendly kerb extensions and central refuge islands. Expunging our suburban centre character elements through Riddiford Street (from Mein Street to Constable Street) has overlooked the safety and traffic calming reasons for which these features were created. Traffic movement is further favoured over pedestrian safety with 50% of the kerbside parking removed – putting moving vehicles hard against the gutter leaves no room for pedestrians to stumble.

Transport Spine – Newtown options Adelaide Road to Constable Streets shows changes for the spine end here in Riddiford Street and that Constable Street fares better, with parked cars remaining as a pedestrian buffer zone to live traffic lanes.

Destroying the safety and live-abilty of central Newtown is an unnecessary 315m segment at the very end of the preferred BRT option.

All public transport users are also pedestrians.  The transport spine needs to integrate with the destinations it serves – 250 metres shorter the proposal would work just as well and Newtown would be a pedestrian friendly welcoming transport hub.

Help Newtown be Heard

At this stage we can agree with this as the preferred option identified by the study, it’s the detail of how it fits the heart of Newtown  we need to influence.

Newtown’s many submissions over the years in favour of improved public transport and as to how the transport spine might be integrated through Newtown have been overlooked.

Please go to the “have your say” website where you can register and help save Newtown’s pedestrian friendly character. Encourage your friends to do the same.

The process from here will involve formal consultation by the Regional Council over the coming months with a view to decisions being made around the end of the year.

After that timeframes are quite long – construction for the new system would not be complete until 2021-22.

We plan to arrange someone from the Regional Council to come along to explain the study to the July monthly meeting. Hopefully visiting Newtown will give them a better understanding of local pedestrian safety.

Further Information

Appendix B from which the images of the Newtown section outlined here have been extracted shows the complete city layout. For those interested in understanding even more detail there is a wealth of information on the Greater Wellington website

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