Basin flyover won’t solve traffic woes

Some influential people in Wellington (including the editorial board of the Dominion Post) seem to have an unshakeable faith that a four-lane road from Levin to the airport, including a motorway bridge at the Basin Reserve, will solve substantial traffic problems in Wellington and support economic growth.

This will attract development and people. Yeah right.


Late last week, Wellington City Council split on a vote to oppose the Basin flyover, after a report from officials recommended it as the best option. The council now has no formal position regarding the project, which is opposed by the majority of residents. The Dominion Post criticised the Council for not caving to the bullying tactics of the New Zealand Transport Agency and supporting the project.

They can be forgiven for believing the engineers at the New Zealand Transport Agency, Wellington City Council and the consultants supporting them.

Unfortunately, traffic engineers have never been economists, and the traditional engineering approach to dealing with peak flows of vehicles does not take into account the economic reality of price sensitivity of people.

Traffic engineers since the 1950’s have been approaching traffic like they did water – building bigger and bigger pipes to accommodate peak flows of vehicles.

The flaw in this approach is that people are not water. They make different choices about where to locate and how to travel based on price, availability and convenience. If we spend billions making it cheaper and easier to drive at peak, more people will drive. This undermines the initial benefits of time-savings, and results in higher overall costs of transport for the economy. It also undermines the investment in public transport, because it competes directly and makes it less commercially viable.

Motorways and roads with high traffic volumes also degrade the urban environment, significantly reducing adjacent property values. This causes more new development to go to far-flung green fields sites, which require people to travel by car, increasing overall traffic.

For some trips, the car will always be the best option. But once we have an established road network, the cost of expanding it to deal with peak flows a few hours a day has steeply diminishing returns – especially if each car is only carrying an average of 1.2 people.

Across the developed world, transport professionals have realised this, and are now investing heavily in solutions that maximise the productivity, that is the amount of goods and people moved, of transport infrastructure. Bus lanes, cycle lanes and heavy rail are all able to move many more people at lower cost. By making it easier for some to travel without a car, it frees up the roads for freight and those for whom the best option is driving.

But it takes a while for a new approach to filter into practice, especially in New Zealand.

The WCC report evaluating options at the Basin Reserve is inherently flawed because it is mired in the old approach. It evaluates the options in terms of vehicles, not people and goods. It also assumes huge, unrealistic growth in vehicle trips at any cost.

The benefits extolled by the report are a time saving of up to 1.1 minutes eastbound, and up to 7.5 minutes westbound, during the peak. The traditional approach to assessing transport projects adds up the minutes saved and concludes there will be a material benefit to the economy.

If this isn’t “voodoo economics, I don’t know what is. There has never been any empirical evidence to support this theory. Indeed, former chief scientist at the London Department of Transportation, David Metz, wrote a book and several important papers on this subject in 2008, called “The Myth of Time Travel Savings”.

NZTA published a research report last year that backs up the international findings: “There was a very distinct propensity of respondents to report both their estimated commute time and their ideal commute time in 5 minute intervals. This could indicate that very small units of travel time savings (eg several seconds, or a minute or two) may be relatively meaningless to them, and hence should not be valued.”

There has also been significant research published in the last few years showing the traffic and economic benefits of removing elevated freeways in urban areas, such as the Institute for Transport & Development Policy’s “The Life and Death of Urban Highways”.

The argument against the flyover is not anti-car or anti-road. The argument is this project will not solve peak traffic problems. The engineering evaluation of options doesn’t take into account how humans respond in the real world, nor does it consider the factors most meaningful for the economy – how to move the most people and goods at lowest overall cost.

Those who want better transport and economic outcomes for Wellington should be sceptical of the proposed flyover and other measures that treat the roads of the city like a traffic sewer. A people- and good-oriented approach will reduce transport costs and improve property values. That is a far more likely way to support Wellington’s economy than hoping a new road will save a few minutes for car journeys at peak.

29 Comments Posted

  1. Julie-Anne,

    You might find this video interesting. While I don’t agree with the “smart house” ideas (I think most people won’t have the time for it, nor care to live in a home that geometrically “reinvents” itself), the Smart Car is nonetheless very interesting.

    They point out that with car-sharing and self-parking it can reduce the need for parking space by as much 28x that of conventional cars. All the more reason to consider abandoning minimum parking requirements – we have the options to evolve out of the need for it.

  2. That’s a pretty silly comment photonz1, unless you are suggesting that the entire population of Auckland needs to be moved via road or rail every day?

  3. JAG: Good points worth debating, although I don’t want to drag out the thread, the simple fact you have more behind your position than all of your caucus colleagues combined on theirs, makes it interesting (even if I disagree).

    “There is no empirical evidence those time savings reflect actual economic value”. Well there is evidence that people value travel time savings, because they will avoid delays by time shifting trips or rat running or pay to bypass them (toll lanes and new toll roads). People undertaken behaviours that impose a cost upon them, indicating there is a valued benefit. You may argue there isn’t much productivity gain in saving 7 minutes from a commute, although there is a resource gain (in saving fuel/VOC), which in themselves isn’t enough to justify any such projects. The acid test would be if you tolled the bridge, would people pay to use it, well probably not in sufficient numbers. If you charged all roads efficiently and a premium for congested ones, you may delay building the bridge by encouraging behaviour change, but you’d also may get to the point whereby demand grows and you have sufficiently revenue to build capacity to reflect that demand.

    Nobody claims travel time savings are a complete picture, but let’s remember that this is meant to reflect what those paying for the road want. Those paying are motorists, admittedly across the country, but they pay – not general taxpayers – and as a group they value time savings to the point that they reroute themselves to avoid delays and time shift. I know there is ideological resistance to treating hypothecated motoring taxes as if they are road charges paid for by road users buying services, but that is the basis for them. The charges are set informed by the CAM, which is based on allocating the benefits of NLTA expenditure fairly amongst groups of road users.

    Other points:
    – Effects on property go both ways, and the benefits to properties are also not taken into account (in this case those round the south and west of the Basin, and those in the Eastern Suburbs). Those adjacent to it can hardly complain given this has been on the cards for over 40 years in one form or another, with the land designated for it since then.

    – You claim there will be “increase in overall transport costs, which results from a reduction in access from more cost effective modes”. Why? In what conceivable way is there a reduction in access for pedestrians and cyclists, when it removes traffic from surface streets (and the main cycling route from the eastern suburbs)? How does it reduce access for buses, when it improves journey times and reliability? Simply nonsense in this case.

    – Yes, road users don’t face the marginal costs of their trips, yet you previously wanted to use pricing as a last resort, when it is clearly optimal. Fix the pricing of roads, then you’ll see people’s actual preferences and you also know the economic efficiency case for subsidising public transport evaporates. Of course, then you start to get transparency around people not really being willing to pay for many of their current urban motorised trips (all motorised modes), which you should endorse.

    – “We could cater for growth in travel demand by investing in alternatives for commuters, and this would be less costly and have greater benefit because it moves more people AND takes some pressure of the roads”. It isn’t just about people, it is about freight too, and it is a gross simplification to claim that the people using this route could ever have a competitive modal alternative. e.g. commuting from Kilbirnie to Tawa, or the Hutt to Seatoun. It is not a route primarily for radial trips.

    – A problem is your fundamental presumption that people don’t do what planners want them to do, and this must be addressed by transfers. “Trips that must go by road” are to be defined by you, not the people undertaking the trips. Why are you best placed to make that decision or to take from those who don’t travel by approved mode to subsidise those that do?

    – Auckland’s commercial tram system was of course in a very different environment. There were commercial steamship services carrying people to Australia and Europe too. The trams died out because people weren’t prepared to pay a fare premium over buses to renew the high capital cost of retaining them, but people were prepared to pay to own a vehicle of their own, for obvious reasons.

    – How are private vehicle trips subsidised, beyond ratepayer funding of local roads (easily fixed with a 9c/l fuel tax hike)? There are costs of congestion, but these are born by those with a high value of time stuck in congestion. You can’t deny that car owners are willing to pay the costs of their vehicles and roads, by and large. Other externalities bring up other activities, like heating homes with solid fuels (bigger for noxious pollution than road transport) which you need to confront as well. Meanwhile much public transport can’t even come close to covering the basic costs of operating services and providing infrastructure. Let’s not even remotely pretend that Auckland rail will ever recover its operating costs let alone the $billion+ sunk cost of infrastructure poured into it, from users. Meanwhile, roads do generate revenue to maintain and improve the network, although there are fair arguments about how well that money is allocated for that.

    – Yes empty roads are a wasted resource, but who cares if privately owned cars and car parks are underutilised, as these costs are not socialised. I own a car which sits idle most of the week, but so what, it is valuable for shopping, social and trips into the countryside in weekends.

    – I agree with you on removing rules on parking at properties of course, but by no means is any government spending on infrastructures that doesn’t generate a return on capital an “investment”. That’s just lazy political speak for “something I think is good to other people’s money on”. In reality, most “investments” are a net destruction of wealth, which is what the Auckland rail network is – a generator of more costs than the benefits accruing to those willing to pay for it.

  4. Julie Anne says “That’s not true. Auckland had a fully commercial electric tram service all over the isthmus in 1902, when population was much smaller.”

    Are you serious? 1902? Before the invention of planes and cars and motorbikes?

    Julie Annes says “Secondly, why do you consider that wasteful,”

    You can’t see why spending large sums of public money in return for a $2 fare isn’t wasteful?

    The Greens have talked about huge investment in a rail network being able to transport 100,000 Aucklanders per day.

    Even if we built this dream system, the other 93% of Auckland or 1,300,000 people will still need to be catered for.

  5. “Good infrastructure, particularly roads, is the foundation of a strong economy.”

    Once you have a road network, expanding capacity to deal with peak, or duplicating links, has steeply diminishing returns.

    We would get greater economic benefits from using our existing infrastructure better (increasing the number of people and goods moved — rather than just increasing the flow of vehicles) and reducing the overall transport costs to the economy.

    We have high vehicle dependence due to transport market distortions caused by local govt regulations & central govt funding priorities. We stand to benefit from investing in alternatives and having a more balanced transport system in our towns and cities.

  6. “But we simply don’t have the population and density to have a highly efficient public transport system.”

    That’s not true. Auckland had a fully commercial electric tram service all over the isthmus in 1902, when population was much smaller. Perth has far greater rail patronage than Auckland, similar population, even lower density. The difference is that they actually invested substantially in their rail network. The reasons public transport isn’t as effective as it could be is 1) we continue to unintentionally subsidise private vehicle trips, and 2) we aren’t investing sufficiently in infrastructure to get the frequency that would attract more users. But every investment in new infrastructure in Auckland in the last decade has led to huge patronage growth. So there’s nothing stopping us from getting better results except govt policy.

    “I often see buses in the middle of the day with just two people on them, and one of those is the driver.”

    Interesting complaint. Firstly, you’re probably seeing them towards the beginning or end of their run. (What city?) Secondly, why do you consider that wasteful, when vast expanses of roads are sitting empty off-peak, and most cars are parked 95% of the time, and there are 4 empty car parks for every one being used? Isn’t that a huge waste of resource?

    The amount of money that households, business, central and local govt spend on a car-based transport system is far higher than one that is more balanced. And as we import all our vehicles and fuel, this is a direct opportunity cost to the economy.

  7. Photo NZ, the number of registered vehicles is not a relevant measure of the number of vehicles on the road. VKT is the best indicator and it has not increased, we also see average daily traffic volumes on state highways haven’t increased above 2004 levels.

    “For the past 15 years Britons have been making fewer journeys; they now go out in cars only slightly more often than in the 1970s. Pre-recession declines in per-person travel were also recorded in France, Spain, Italy, Australia, New Zealand and Belgium.”

    There is plenty of capacity on our roads for the traffic that has to go by road. The problems at peak are caused by commuters. Freight is 1% of the traffic in Auckland at peak. Just reducing demand at peak by 10% would make a significant difference to congestion (see school holiday time).

  8. Let’s not forget telecommuting. The ultimate form of transport efficiency is to remove the need for transport altogether.

    It’s a guess of course, but I predict we will reach a critical point where telecommuting “explodes” in’s a matter of the technology and systems supporting it developing to a point where it makes the best economic sense for a greater number of people. A bit like tablet pc’s: when they first came out they were premature, costing too much and doing too little. But now they are right and have hit the “big time”.

    When enough people are on Skype, and we have decent broadband, and webcams are positioned properly to get body-language and not just facial expression (which is amazingly important – try the difference!), and more companies base their operations online, and traffic congestion makes home-work more attractive..I think we might see a rapidly developing culture of home-working, with the systems supporting it further developing and compounding demand.

  9. Julie Anne asks “Photo NZ, where are those numbers on the increase in vehicles from? ”

    From NZTA. Total vehicle fleet was 4,136,442 on 30 June 2009. 4,248,612 on 30 June 2012.

    About half the increase was cars. The rest was light and heavy trucks, vans, utes, buses, campervans, motorbikes, trailers etc.

    Julie Anne says “We could cater for growth in travel demand by investing in alternatives for commuters..”

    What about all the traffic that’s not personal commuters – the tradies, couriers, buses, taxis, business vehicles, delivery trucks, etc, etc.

    We need to improve public transport AND improve our roads. But we simply don’t have the population and density to have a highly efficient public transport system. I often see buses in the middle of the day with just two people on them, and one of those is the driver.

    And the majority of the country doesn’t live in Wellington and Auckland.

    Julie Anne says “Just because they are building roads to a certain standard in 3rd world countries does not mean that is the best use of money, there or here in NZ.”

    Where good roads have been built in Africa, commerce and trade is bustling.

    Where the roads have not been improved, the people are poorer than they were 20 years ago. Their vehicles require much more maintenance, break down more often, cost more to run, and it takes longer to get anywhere.

    Good infrastructure, particularly roads, is the foundation of a strong economy.

  10. Hi Chuan-Zheng,

    I believe it is a bit of a red herring. We could improve public transport through the existing road layout at very low cost simply by giving greater priority to buses. Unfortunately, alternative options like that were not assessed.

  11. Photo NZ, where are those numbers on the increase in vehicles from? Data from NZTA shows that there has been virtually no increase in VKT for several years, a per capita reduction in vehicle kilometres travelled. (This trend is also happening in other developed countries).

    Even if there were growth in vkt, we have reason to believe that it is not a reflection of what is economically optimal because road users are not facing direct pricing of the marginal cost of their trips. There are a number of transport market distortions which have led to over-reliance on cars, and that is very costly to our economy. We could cater for growth in travel demand by investing in alternatives for commuters, and this would be less costly and have greater benefit because it moves more people AND takes some pressure of the roads. We could also maintain our existing roads to a much higher standard (as you seem to want) if we weren’t spending so much on increasing capacity or building duplicate routes at enormous cost.

    Just because they are building roads to a certain standard in 3rd world countries does not mean that is the best use of money, there or here in NZ.

  12. Liberty Scott,

    “You can’t claim the time savings are so small to be not worth it, yet will change land use patterns.”

    My point is that the concept of time travel savings is not an accurate or complete picture of the economic impacts of a given transport project. It only looks at vehicle mobility, and misses the fact that you can reduce transport costs and improve accessibility with very different projects, which arguably would be much more beneficial economically.

    Once you have a road network, increasing capacity to deal with peak has steeply diminishing returns overall to the economy. The time travel savings theory is being used to justify very expensive projects. There is no empirical evidence those time savings reflect actual economic value. Because the user is not paying directly the cost of these improvements, there is good reason to believe demand response to new capacity does not reflect economic efficiency.

    The changes to land use may be seen as the capitalisation of time travel savings across the region. Journey times tend to stay the same, but people travel further away. The problem with the land use changes is that they are a transfer — not a productivity benefit. So we use time travel savings for vehicles to estimate the benefits of road improvements, but we don’t count the costs, namely the reduction in property values in the most valuable areas (city centres) and increase in overall transport costs, which results from a reduction in access from more cost effective modes.

  13. Julie Anne says “I am arguing that there will not be exogenous traffic growth. If there is any growth, it will be endogenous, or caused by the project, which means it wouldn’t have happened if we had pursued other solutions.”

    Even during the global financial crisis, and with significant rises in petrol prices, registration costs, insurance costs, parking costs etc – there has still been a continual rise in the number of cars on our roads (an increase of 112,000 vehicles from 09-12)

    We can either prepare for that, or put our head in the sand and say “there will not be exogenous traffic growth”.

    I’ve recently drove 10,000km in several third world and developing countries in Africa. New Zealand’s main highways will take decades of work just to get to where those countries are now.

  14. Photo NZ, it is not a contradiction. The methodology assumes exogenous traffic growth, that is the basis of the benefits. I am arguing that there will not be exogenous traffic growth. If there is any growth, it will be endogenous, or caused by the project, which means it wouldn’t have happened if we had pursued other solutions.

  15. Julie, a point raised often and repeatedly both by NZTA and in the WCC report is that the flyover is necessary, or at least helpful, in pursuit of improved public transport services through the Basin Reserve. That is, they seem to view the flyover as conducive to developing better public transport for Wellington—in the case of NZTA, they think it’s a requisite. I haven’t seen many (in fact, any) critics challenge this assertion directly. I’m just wondering what your thoughts are on it?

  16. Julie Anne – you argue that the flyover won’t save time because traffic will increase to more than what the designers expect.

    Then you claim money savings won’t be as great because designers have over estimated traffic growth.

    So at the same time you are arguing that there will be both more traffic, and less traffic, than what has been planned for.

    (just to add to the contradictions Libertyscott pointed out)

  17. JAG: Thanks for the response.

    Are the induced trips new, or a route transfer (there is a significant diversion away from the Basin Reserve at present around Evans Bay Parade and along the waterfront to avoid this and Mt Victoria Tunnel)? (It wont be modal) In either case, it is insignificant. In fact that effect will be significantly positive, because the “round the bays” route is one-third longer in distance than SH1 and exposes far more to noxious emissions, and conflicts between vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists (being a primary cycle route).

    You can’t claim the time savings are so small to be not worth it, yet will change land use patterns. That simply isn’t credible, noting that the bridge wont affect travel times in the other direction. Transmission Gully WILL have such changes, on a profound scale.

    If you oppose this bridge, why did the Greens not oppose the Dowse Dr grade separation in the Hutt, as this would do the same (knocking out two sets of traffic lights on a major highway that “competes” with a commuter railway)? Of course, the arguments for the Dowse Dr project were very strong across multiple dimensions.

    However, you have evaded my point. You argue it is bad because it generates new traffic, but if it doesn’t, it isn’t worth building anyway. The counterfactual is that if it sustainably eases congestion and doesn’t induce traffic measurably, it has done good.

    Your last points are noted, but Wellington already has limits on parking capacity downtown (maximum levels), already has pricing on all street parking to the CBD limits and beyond, high mode share for CBD commutes and a rabid intensification policy (it’s perfectly allowed to have high density development, just there are limits to the demand for it).

    The soundest argument against the Basin Reserve bridge is the BCR is poor. People can argue aesthetics of course, but arguments about it inducing traffic are exaggerated, as are claims that may make sense if it was a large expressway (e.g. the long canned “north west connector” motorway mooted for Wellington in the 1960s), but not a two lane one way bridge.

    Sue Kedgley spent years harping on about how Karo Drive was to be a big multi-lane motorway carving the heart out of Te Aro. I wonder how many who supported her found the ensuing two lane one way street to be a lot less intrusive than she claimed.

    A campaign against a one way bridge to connect two tunnels, bypassing a bottleneck that jams up access to three schools, jams up traffic (including a major bus corridor) operating in the perpendicular direction, is misguided – a NIMBY protest at best, on land reserved for the purpose since the 1960s.

  18. Nice article, Julie! There are a myriad other sacrifices the use of street space has had to make for the pleasurable experience of just a few motorists.

    I highly recommend reading Fighting Traffic The dawn of the motor age in the American City by Peter D. Norton. In my opinion it has a very considered interpretation of the history of the rise of the motor car – over a hundred years ago.

    While it does not end with much hope of a release from the increasing motoring madness we all ‘enjoy’ today, it is a very telling read about the collaboration and conniving between private and public institutions in America at the time. The range of public perception hurdles to be overcome – like safety and the innocence of the child – I think the public should be shown more of the real life that can be lived outside of motor vehicle dependancy.

    That’s the main thing that the continued conniving of the NZTA (under the motoring-biased government currently directing them) will continue to distract us from.

  19. Liberty Scott, in either case building extra capacity is stupid. The time savings in the report are between two hypothetical modeled future scenarios: One with the flyover, and one without the flyover. (Both base case and options assume the rest of Wellington RoNS is built, and unrealistic traffic growth assumptions).

    The model takes into account some immediate induced trips; the report shows the number of vehicles increasing with the project. (More vehicles also means more emissions and pollution and oil used.)

    However, it does not take into account the changes to land use induced by the infrastructure, which could result in additional vehicle trips across the region. This means the project benefits would be reduced compared to the status quo.

    In the case of peak car and high oil prices, the benefits of the project are also reduced. Because in that case, the time saving difference between the project and the status quo (or other lower cost improvements to the entire transport network) is less. So both induced traffic and lower than expected general traffic growth reduce the relative benefits of the project.

    I agree peak hour congestion pricing can be justified, but it’s probably not necessary in NZ if we reform parking and increase PT, walking and cycling mode share by providing better infrastructure (which is also very low cost), and allow higher density development. The only places which have introduced congestion pricing already had a smaller parking supply, much more direct pricing for parking, higher density development, and far greater provision of pubic transport services. (City of London, Singapore, Stockholm). Go for the lowest hanging fruit first… then see if you need congestion pricing. We have so much capacity, I doubt we’d need it for a while.

  20. Tony says “Eventually, fuel and environmental costs will be too much to bear and the car (if there are still such things) will only be the option of last resort.”

    Yeah – my builder will be catching the bus, and be doing 50 trips to Placemakers, getting one plank at a time. And I’ll do ten bus trips to the tip to get rid of my garden prunings.

  21. “You are not logged in. You can reply by using the form below but your comment won’t be visible to others until it is approved. Log in to have your comments appear immediately.”

    Absolute total crap. I am logged in!

    As for the motorway from Levin the Wellington Airport, great idea, so long as it’s built solely on legally purchased land, does not encroach the quiet enjoyment of persons who live on Maori owned land, and the developers pay due compensation to aggrieved Maori owners who are disturbed by the Pakeha development.

  22. If the flyover is built, it will make the traffic in Mt Vic tunnel less lumpy.

    I started a conversation with Andy Foster about what that would do to the total amount of air pollution. I’ve seen a web-page which says it’s currently exhausted un-filtered into the grounds of a school. Neither of us knows the effect. Tee hee.

  23. For some trips, the car will always be the best option.

    Is this Green Party policy? Eventually, fuel and environmental costs will be too much to bear and the car (if there are still such things) will only be the option of last resort. Reading between the lines, economic growth also seems to be a desire. Some people, including greens, just can’t imagine a very different way of living.

    Nuff said.

  24. The hypothesis behind this is “induced traffic”, which is much abused based on the provision of extra road capacity between major origins and destinations where there is already congestion and a public transport alternative (with its own corridor). This is patently not the case here. Indeed, there is enough evidence of what is now called by some as “peak car” which is that private car usage is peaking. In other words, people are driving as much as they want to now, and wont be induced to drive more in aggregate terms.

    You can’t argue that there is continuous growth in car traffic demand on the one hand, and say it has peaked on the other.

    Yes, very small savings aren’t worth it, in and of themselves, but you’ve been awfully selective about the time savings for the Basin in several ways:

    1. It is a westbound only bridge, so the eastbound incremental savings are bound to be insignificant. The key saving being the end of the tailback from southbound traffic conflicting with westbound traffic. So that’s a red herring.

    2. 7.5 minutes on a 1km road, which ought to take 2 minutes at typical 50km/h traffic is significant, in time and fuel savings, plus emissions. However, you ignore fuel and emissions because you presume this will magically induce more people to drive to work.

    3. There are also notable savings for the north-south traffic, which are the bus corridors, and are congested because of this conflict between traffic flows. You ignore these and ignore the benefits to those road users, including buses. Bus lanes can’t easily deliver much here with the bridge because of the weaving movements and lane drops around the Basin.

    Again you can’t have it both ways. Either people don’t value the time savings and so wont drive more or they do and it will.

    If the first, then your sole argument is that it isn’t worth the money (a case can be argued for that, I can only guess the sole reason to argue that is because it will bite you on inefficient rail projects).

    If the second, then you can’t argue it isn’t worth it, just that it should be accompanied by demand management measures like say tolling Mt Victoria Tunnel (not advocating it, but it is worthy of consideration from your perspective).

    Finally, the argument that it wont solve peak problems is demonstrably wrong. There are plenty of cases where grade separation projects in Wellington have done that. Most recently, Dowse Drive Interchange, Newlands Interchange, Mungavin Interchanges, and finally the urban motorway extension itself.

    You wont remember, but in the 1970s Lambton Quay was gridlocked with cars and trucks trying to get from Te Aro to the Hutt, northern suburbs and Porirua basin. The Urban motorway and Terrace Tunnel fixed that, although it left a problem at the end.

    The Basin bridge will make things better for pedestrians, cyclists and bus users, and the cars and trucks travelling from the airport to the rest of the region – people who simply wont mode shift, because the bridge essentially creates a freeflow for traffic through to Taranaki St to feed into Karo Drive and onto the motorway.

    Modern cities have decent urban bypasses, because transport planners acknowledge that you can’t get much mode shift for trips that aren’t radial in a small city. If you just opposed duplicating Mt Victoria Tunnel and the Terrace Tunnel, I’d respect that at least from a logical perspective, because those are the bottlenecks for capacity.

    If you want to argue consistently and logically, why not simply argue that Wellington should have congestion pricing then the case for more road capacity becomes weak indeed? Is it because the Greens want to be populist now?

  25. And what is the true solution?

    With full-automation coming soon, we will see small 2-seater hybrids platooning through small(ish) tunnels in electric-operation only mode. The under-passes might cost a quarter to build of a conventional tunnel, but have 4x or more the capacity.

    There’s your ultimate solution to traffic congestion – and pollution and costs. A new, basic under-pass network will rid us of congestion once and for all, and assist significantly in agglomeration advantages for a metropolitan city (especially Auckland, of course).

  26. “They can be forgiven for believing the engineers at the New Zealand Transport Agency, Wellington City Council and the consultants supporting them.”

    No they can’t. The council was elected to represent residents. If they are going to just rubber stamp whatever engineers and consultants say, they are serving no useful role and might as well be removed (which would save people a bit of money on rates). If they weren’t prepared to represent people against the claims of ‘experts’ they shouldn’t have taken on the job.

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