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1960s thinking alive and well in Wellington

As much as I think Puhoi-Wellsford is a stupid project and a complete waste of money, I have now been convinced that it is nowhere near the worst of the Roads of National Significance. That incredibly dubious prize must, without a doubt, go to Wellington’s Northern Corridor RoNS. Not only does its Transmission Gully section have a pathetically low cost-benefit ratio of 0.6, its Kapiti Expressway slice through sacred grounds and split the community in half, but now we finally find out the details of exactly how horrific the Basin Reserve flyover will be in terms of its impact on the area. How bad is it? Pretty bad: Wow. These kinds of drawings always under-estimate the adverse impact of big structures (notice how the viaduct doesn’t cast much of a shadow) so in reality the roadway is going to look unbelievably horrific. Here’s another before and after: This is an iconic part of Wellington that is going to be completely ruined. The Basin Reserve is easily New Zealand’s most iconic cricket ground and is a massive landmark for the city. The long vistas along Cambridge and Kent terraces, looking towards the cricket ground are going to e ruined completely.

Typically, NZTA have offered a couple of options: the horrific and the slightly less horrific. The two options are outlined below: In the 1950s and 1960s many similar viaducts were built overseas (and in Auckland, see Victoria Park Viaduct as a shocking example). We had the Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco – which fortunately got nailed by the 1989 earthquake and has now been replaced by a brilliant open space: The Alaskan Freeway in Seattle is also going to be torn down – it was badly damaged in an earthquake, plus the city has come to the realisation that the freeway is destroying its waterfront: Both Seattle and San Francisco have come to the conclusion that elevated freeways through iconic parts of their cities are not really acceptable. Yet Wellington is about to have a 1950s solution forced on it, an elevated motorway through one of the most iconic parts of the city – potentially ruining it forever.

I know that the transport problem around the Basin Reserve is a very tough nut to crack. But there are other options here, with the bus tunnel in particular avoiding the whole mess. Why not focus on measures to further improve public transport along this corridor, to take pressure off the Basin Reserve bottleneck? That’s the beauty of public transport – you can achieve mobility without ruining the city. But I guess NZTA (and their political masters) really don’t care about ruining our cities.

37 comments to 1960s thinking alive and well in Wellington

  • Ross Clark

    Don’t forget the viaduct which takes the motorway into Central Wellington (from the north). A massive eyesore if you’re ever under it!

  • Matt L

    And in 20-30 years we will be paying even more to put the thing underground after we have heard Wellingtonians complaining about it since it opened.

    • Matt we won’t, demand will have shrunk, but we probably won’t be able to afford to take it down…. we’ve never got rid of the absurd disaster that is the New North/Great North flyovers in Eden Tce….. if these idiots build this it’ll stay. Requires a revolt by the people, but then our democratic institutions are weak.

      This is, of course, all about Joyce’s obsession with driving to airports. Interesting a much needed back-up to WGTN is being built up the coast: http://www.kapiticoastairport.co.nz/index.html

      Much needed why? Not demand, but because of the high likelihood of earthquakes and climate change ruining the current one.

      With this hub up and running there will be even less need to drive on the new highway from the growing Kapiti Coast, especially to WGTN airport. Idiots.

      • Doloras

        Actually, revolts by the people are more effective when democratic institutions are weak, because if everyone knows that the system is b0rked then they are more likely to go outside it. Which is why you get revolutions in pretend democracies like Egypt rather than functioning democracies like Sweden.

      • arnie03

        Patrick that was my immediate thought. Could we pack that up and ship down to save further on this project?

        Is there a real need for this project? I know the basin is a weird area for traffic but my recollection of the traffic issue there (mainly in taxis to the airport at peak hours) is that they aren’t really that huge. Sure the traffic isn’t free flowing but you kind of get that everywhere at rush hour. It’s essentially a dead end. Sure quite a few people live out that way (though the same number of people will live out there in the future as now- there is little chance for major extra housing) and there is the airport, but it’s not exactly Heathrow is it?

        • There really is very little traffic in WGTN, and with some proper investment in passenger transport alternatives, esp railway station to airport and points between a lot of that demand could be managed down. But you do get a strong sense that NZTA really don’t want that- look at their projections- less traffic would mean less power and money and big road projects for them to do…???

  • A shocker. Is that a park they are driving the motorway over?

  • The Trickster

    I love how they show that there will be plants under the flyover – my reaction – ORLY?!

    Obviously they haven’t seen under the flyover in Custom St West.

  • KarlHansen

    @The trickster – well, you can see the glass panels in the sketch, so obviously the viaduct will be light-weight, arty and airy, and plants – as well as civic culture – will grow just fine under it.

    On revolutions – we don’t need revolutions. What we need is some massive protests against specific projects, that scare the heck out of government (for fear they will be kicked out, not for fear that they will be hung from trees).

    Like the protests in Germany against extending the Frankfurt Airport in the 1980s (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:069_Startbahn_West.jpg) and those against extending (gulp, not my favourite thing to protest against) the Stuttgart rail station (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stuttgart21Demonstration_2010-10-09.jpg). There’s lots more worldwide, these are just some that I am familiar with (having been in some of the 1980s airport protests in Germany myself).

    While neither of these long-running and large-scale protests managed to actually stop these projects, they sure can be used to put a damper on the crazier idea of politicans, support the growth of local community groups, and force better mitigation. I am surprised that nowhere in NZ such protests occur, except for small ones like the “Tunnel of Nothing” protests against Waterview (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tunnel_Nothing_Motorway_Protest_SH20.jpg).

    So why aren’t Kiwis protesting large-scale against such plans? Are we still too car-centric? Too small (not enough critical mass to push off larger protests)? Too used to Wellington dictating our lives?

  • PBY

    Not happy at all that this Flyover is being proposed without serious consideration of a public transport alternative.

    NZTA seems to be driven by a Minister of Roads to build these RoNS, without any consideration for the best outcomes of the community or local lifestyle.

    While the Basin Reserve Flyover will be a huge waste of millions of dollars, right next door the NZTA is penny pinching and building a new ground level road through the national war memorial.

    The Buckle St changes could be simply put in a cut and cover trench, with the outcome being a significant ground level park and national war memorial, with better pedestrian and cycle access across the current SH1 severance. But instead they are proposing to widen the SH1 severance, add additional traffic lights to SH1 and leave our national war memorial split in 2 by a busy road. Why do they want to waste money on the basin, but save money here?

  • Ross Clark

    From a reasonable degree of familarity with the area, as a driver, the aim should actually be to improve the traffic flows with some small fixes. Eg –

    * taking the carparking out of Cambridge/Kent Tce, as this would reduce the ‘side friction’ that people coming in and out of parks creates for the rest of the traffic flow.

    * Ditto for Adelaide Rd (the road due south of the Basin).

    * median lanes for bus traffic, which would provide traffic pre-emption for them. This would speed up the buses, which is the major thing needed in Wellington to improve their appeal.

    * Redirecting some of the traffic; Wellington’s ‘Round The Bays’ is an easier way of getting to the airport, as it happens, than fighting through the Mt Vic tunnel.

  • Christopher T

    I really recommend that you try and find a copy of W B Sutch’s ([Wellington]: Sweet & Maxwell [1965]). It’s a brief but highly impressive and forward-looking analysis of the then Ministry of Works’ plans to turn Wellington into a motorway behemoth. In light of these idiotic NZTA proposals the book’s even more relevant because what Sutch was predicting in 1965 would happen if the earlier plans were realised has well and truly come to fruition. Plus ça change; plus c’est la même chose!

  • Christopher T

    Sorry, the title of the book is Wellington: a sick city (can’t quite work out these HTML tags!).

  • James F

    I can’t disagree more on the option of sending more traffic round the bays – it’s already busy through there – once you get to Oriental Bay it starts becoming a nightmare. The number of cars passing through there is really damaging the charm of that area – if we’re going to have heavy traffic to the airport, keep as much of it away from the waterfront as possible.

    In terms of the heritage value of the Basin Reserve, I personally don’t find it to have any heritage value at all – it’s an ugly old cricket stand in the middle of an old swamp. Westpac Stadium is a better venue for sports, and for smaller matches there are plenty of other sports venues around the city. If you’re asking me, the Basin is an absolute eysore – though, admittedly, it’ll be even more of an eyesore when this project is completed.

  • LucyJH

    I had a reasonably surreal discussion with somebody from NZTA about this. We were like “but don’t you think this will be bad for walkign and cycling and encourage more poeple to drive into Wellington” and he was like “well yes, but Wellington does have the highest public transport mode share of any city in NZ” And I thought “What, so you’re trying to change that and make it more like the other cities where people never stop complaining about congestion?” And then we asked where all the cars would go when they reached the WEllington CBD and who would pay for their parking. And he didn’t say anything.

  • jeremy

    Christopher, thanks for the tip. You can read Wellington: A Sick City online here

  • Sam F

    All the charm of Auckland’s Lower Hobson Street in a handy central Wellington location!

  • The Trickster

    Looks like it was the same W.B Sutch (better known as Bill Sutch) who got accused of being a Soviet Spy… one has to wonder that having ideas such as his report above and being accused were connected? Just thought I’d throw that out there.

  • The Trickster

    Wow – that was one depressing read – essentially everything that Sutch was saying was going to happen in terms of motorways including the associated problems have happened – whereas none of the PT improvements suggested ever did.

  • Christopher T

    @ jeremy

    Thanks for the link!

    @ The Trickster

    Indeed it was the very same Bill Sutch: a remarkable mind, a generous thinker, a percipient critic and a truly remarkable New Zealander. He was, of course, pilloried by the National party and those of like sensibility – small-minded, venal, greedy pricks who would even sell their children in the pursuit of profit – who set their attack dogs at him on trumped up ‘evidence’. Believe it or not, they’re still at it. But read his text and you’ll see how good his analysis of the problem was. And I bet this was the first reference in New Zealand to Jane Jacob’s seminal text The death and life of great American cities (1961) (see p. 3).

  • Topcat

    Under that overpass might be a good place for a wind turbine and generator! As the wind regularly blows at 100kph you’d have to wonder how inhospitable it will be on a windy day.

    • More likely a hangout for the homeless and the odd mugger- that’s what decades of observed examples internationally show. Instant downgrading of place, at the cost of hundreds of millions- way to go Joyce, you’re a genius!

      • Renaissance77

        I think its rather insulting to Wellington’s homeless community to suggest they might want to hang out under such a hideous obstruction.

        Seriously, I can’t think of any city in the western world which has elevated inner-city roadways like this and doesn’t want to take them down. They invariably create noisy, empty, “blighted” areas that deplete property values and make people want to stay away.

        Surely there’s no chance they would actually build something like this in 2011?

  • Malcolm

    Its a terrible idea isn’t it. A tunnel to seperate north/south from east/west traffic may cost more, but surely its worth it in the long run so the Basin isn’t ruined and a huge ugly flyover isn’t built.

    For the kind of money they will spend on this ($75-90 million), think how many public transport and cycling improvements could be made to Wellington.

  • Denny

    For a considered alternative being put together by Wellington’s architecture and urban design community, go to http://architecture.org.nz/

    This team is trying to consider a solution from what is good for Wellington rather than what is good for motorists alone. Please visit the site and post your thoughts.

  • Funny how you will criticise the Kapiti expressway, a project which has a positive BCR and is to be built almost entirely on land designated for the purpose since the 1950s, will remove through traffic from two built up town centres, and make a significant difference to the ability of buses to service the rail hubs that exist there (as well as dramatically improving amenity for pedestrians and cyclists). You really ought to stop relying on the Green Party for anti-roads hysteria. Nothing quite splits Waikanae and Paraparaumu in half like SH1 currently does, effectively rendering the eastern half of Paraparaumu as segregated from the town centre, and the same for Waikanae.

    However, on the Basin Reserve you’re engaging in the type of hysterical lies that Sue Kedgley perpetuates. It is not a motorway, it will be a two lane one-way flyover, I suspect at 50km/h. It wont be anything remotely like the scale of the Embarcadero or Victoria Park Viaducts. Option A is on land owned and long designated for this purpose, so shouldn’t be considered anything new. The whole purpose of the flyover is clear – large amounts of east-west traffic (airport/eastern suburbs to western suburbs/Hutt/Porirua) clashing with north-south traffic (which includes major bus routes). You can have (and there already are) bus lanes for the north-south flow, but if it all has to stop at traffic lights for the east-west flow, then you have a permanent bottleneck. Removing the east-west flow, will remove the bottleneck for the north-south traffic completely, whereas the east-west flow will remain limited by the capacity on Buckle Street/Karo Drive and the intersections with those streets.

    The only way you could ever achieve the relief without this is road pricing, but even a central city cordon would still have to have an effective bypass between the airport and the region. Modern cities, even public transport oriented ones have this. Oslo, Zurich, Portland, Melbourne all have highly effective inner city bypasses because the diversity of origins/destinations for those trips is such that public transport can only ever be effective for a small minority of trips (and can never be time competitive because of transfers).

    This flyover, in and of itself, cannot induce traffic because it only relieves east-west not west-east traffic. It will improve flow from Mt Victoria Tunnel, which itself is constrained, but the biggest benefit is in removing large volumes of traffic from being adjacent to three schools.

    Talk of a tunnel is ridiculous because the inclines required, plus drainage to dig under what is reclaimed sand, would make it prohibitively expensive.

    You can get on the political soapbox that all new roads are bad, and that the only solution is to throw lots of money at public transport in the vain hope it will shift people, but absolutely nowhere in the world has that actually resolved a traffic bottleneck. The numbers who shift are tiny compared to the use of the road, and so it does not provide a sustainable solution.

    However, once the Basin Reserve flyover is built, a more strategic debate needs to be had about the tunnel duplications and the roads between them, and road pricing. My view is that you don’t duplicate the tunnels without building a proper cut and cover bypass between them, and implementing road pricing.

  • Nick

    I disagree, the insaneness of this idea is reinforced by the $11 million grandstand that will be built and paid for by nzta for the basin reserve. Its purpose is to hide the flyover from within the ground. The basin definitely doesn’t need a new grandstand for 1 test match a year. You have to wonder is this worth just aiding vehicular movement while it costs others who walk, cycle or watch cricket in the area. If this flyover was built on some farmland in the middle of nowhere is would be fine, but its in a middle of a city. This is the only option we’ve been given and thats unfair because it has some very nagative affects.

    • Name one negative effect for those who walk or cycle in the area.

      Removing half of the traffic circulating around 60% of the road and footpaths around the Basin? Making it far easier, safer and healthier to get around the Basin as a result.

      The additional grandstand is a nonsense of course, but then if it wasn’t for anti-road fanatics, Wellington would have had a cut and cover tunnel between the Terrace Tunnel and Basin Reserve some years ago, and the flyover that was planned in the 90s would have carried traffic in both directions. That would have removed one-third of the traffic through Te Aro, 20% from the waterfront, Kent and Cambridge Terrace and enabled serious cycle and bus lanes to have been implemented along both of the latter.

      Opponents of major urban road improvements quite simply ignore that they CAN be sustainable. Lambton Quay used to be a major thoroughfare for north-south traffic through the city, until the urban motorway was built. Now it is mostly a bus and pedestrian corridor, with limited localised taxi, delivery and car traffic. Tawa was bypassed in the 1950s and hasn’t looked back. Johnsonville likewise, it would hardly have grown as a suburban retail and commercial centre had it not been bypassed.

      Most opponents offer no other practicable solutions, like I said this is a one-way two-lane bridge to link Mt Victoria Tunnel westbound traffic to Buckle Street to feed onto the one-way system to the motorway. The problem is the Basin is IN a basin below both Buckle St and Mt Victoria Tunnel, and in the way of State Highway 1 westbound traffic that is trying to bypass the city.

  • Nick

    Try walking underneath a flyover and ask yourself was that an enjoyable experience? They create a dark, cold, unsafe environment underneath them that many people will have to pass through everyday. Additionally all of a sudden by elevating the road it’s in a lot more people’s faces. People who couldn’t see the road before now have a view of it. Do you think a cyclist will feel safe when they’re riding on a flyover with traffic on one side and a 8 metre drop on the other? European cities who have a lot more practice than us at making a livable urban environment hardly go whacking elevated roads right through their cities.

    I’m not sure what is sustainable about encouraging personal vehicle use that burn fossil fuels. From what I’ve heard traffic is not growing through this area of the city. With that knowledge and fuel prices climbing 20% in one year how is this a sustainable option? Surely what would be more sustainable is having more people on public transport instead of in single occupancy vehicles.

    The arch centre offers an alternative that does what you’re saying by splitting the n/s traffic from e/w, without the detrimental flyover affects: http://architecture.org.nz/2011/07/17/the-public-needs-a-real-choice-option-x/

  • Guy

    LibertyScott. “Most opponents offer no other practicable solutions,” you say – but Arch Centre are offering exactly that. While there are a lot of people who believe that there is no need for grade separation around the Basin, the Arch Centre have produced a scheme that offers more park, more walking connections, more dedicated bus lanes, more cycle routes, and faster connections by car – all without the much hated flyovers being proposed by NZTA. And no need for grandstands that would be unused for 95% of the year. Sort of seems like a winning situation really?

    • The Arch Centre proposal IS grade separation of course. I actually quite like it, but it has some major flaws:

      1. Traffic from Mt Victoria Tunnel has no means of entering Cambridge Terrace. At the moment around 25% of that traffic does this. A complex roundabout at the northern end would “fix” this but create enormous delays at the PM peak for westbound traffic from Mt Victoria Tunnel.

      2. Traffic from Adelaide Road has no means of entering Mt Victoria Tunnel, except a dog leg u-turn between Cambridge and Kent Tce. The alternative is that traffic pushes through central Newtown to go to Hataitai and the airport.

      3. The top end of Rugby St is particularly inaccessible from the north without a decent intersection in a rather constrained spot.

      4. Capacity constraining north-south traffic to/from Adelaide Road will shift traffic onto Taranaki/Wallace Streets, hardly a benefit for anyone, unless you want to remove bus services from that corridor so they aren’t jammed in Wallace St (no room for bus lanes there).

      It’s worth noting that the Tunnellink cut and cover trenched bypass, vehemently opposed by the Greens, would have seen the bypass coming out at the Basin going UNDER a Sussex St/Cambridge Tce overbridge and then sweeping up to the tunnels, and would have been less intrusive (let alone the dramatic drop in traffic throughout Te Aro).

  • Holly McQuillan

    I was recently in Dusseldorf, Germany where the city buried a 3km section of a motorway and built a beautiful greenspace on the surface where the road used to be to help to connect the city with the river. So many people riding their bikes, kids and parents, joggers, stalls, cafes, trees etc etc. It was beautiful. I went to Hamburg where they are rejuvenating the old port area into new residential/retail/office/mixed spaces with very few roads or parking for cars, only public transport/rail and bike/pedestrian lanes. German drivers stopped for pedestrians and cyclists, it was such a lovely experience. On the train between Berlin and hamburg I saw groups of wind turbines standing on private land feeding into the national grid, making the land owners money while supplying sustainable energy to consumers. Then I came home to New Zealand and felt ashamed.

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