Recently I made my submission to Let’s Get Wellington Moving (LGWM), regarding the proposal to build a pedestrian crossing on Cobham Drive.
The idea for a pedestrian crossing is nonsensical and alternative options have not been considered. The submission form has only a few options to provide a counter proposal and is pre-loaded so you accept their proposal. However, somehow, I submitted my objection and alternative suggestions.
Clearly a solution is needed to allow people to cross Cobham Drive safely. LGWM stated a pedestrian crossing will improve road safety and reduce traffic (Dominion Post, 27 July 2021). Whilst a pedestrian crossing will allow people to cross the road safely, it will also create more congestion and slow traffic down, thus not reducing traffic.
My submission proposed that a cycleway and walking bridge would be a better solution. Wellington City Council (WCC) is budgeting $226 million on cycleways over the next 10 years. Surely, rather than spending a million dollars on a pedestrian crossing, why not use it for a bridge or overpass?
I agree with Wellington Airport Chief Executive, Steve Sanderson who said the “proposed pedestrian crossing would increase congestion and delays for 35,000 daily road users in favour of an estimated 250 walkers and cyclists” (Dominion Post, 27 July 2021). He also suggested, that an overpass or bridge would be more appropriate on this main arterial route. I drive approximately 22km from Auckland airport to central Auckland, in 25 minutes in rush hour. If you use Waterview tunnel, there is only one set of traffic lights and it is a very efficient route to travel. However, driving in rush hour from Wellington airport to central Wellington, approximately 11 km, it can take between 45 minutes to one hour. Sometimes I have had to consider multiple routes to get home. Adding a pedestrian crossing will make this journey longer, frustrating travellers and commuters. Thus, the proposed pedestrian crossing is an absurdity.
If an overpass or bridge was built, LGWM state that “other people may choose to drive, even for short trips…This adds to congestion and emissions”. (Dominion Post, 27 July 2021). This is an absurd statement which shows the latent bias in LGWM’s philosophy. I agree with those opposed to this proposal, in that LGWM is a misnomer. This organisation is ostensibly an anti-car funded government/WCC body that is not interested in providing long term alternative plans for Wellington’s traffic problems, other than focusing on light rail, cycleways, and pedestrians. As Nick Leggett has said, LGWM is myopically obsessed with cycleways and pedestrians. He adds, “To get things moving, we’ve got to stop slowing things down. This is our main state highway and vital route to Wellington’s airport – we don’t want to see time added to that journey without strong evidence. What is concerning is that they talk, but they don’t listen.” (Dominion Post, 27 July 2021).
The simple reality is that cars are a legitimate option for people to use, along with light rail, bikes, and buses. In time, cars will become either EVs (ala the current governments objective), hybrids and hopefully hydrogen cars. By not planning for this future, LGWM simply shows its latent and short-sighted bias.
This point is evidenced by LGWM’s main plan to remove cars from the “Golden Mile”. They are implementing the most radical option while ignoring legitimate concerns from the business community. Further, the plan to remove cars will not alleviate congestion, only exasperate the problem as traffic tries to find new and more congested ways to get round the city.
LGWM aim to build light rail from the railway station to either Island Bay and/or the airport, thus removing more roading for cars. This will make streets such as Customhouse Quay and Kent Terrace more congested. Travel time to the airport and the eastern suburbs will be further extended, and details for a new layout around the Basin Reserve are unclear.
Construction for the second Mt Victoria tunnel will not begin until 2029. LGWM and the government want to assess how light rail positively impacts on road congestion. The theory is that more people will commute on light rail rather than sitting in congested traffic. I suspect the intention is to make the roads so congested that people will be forced to use light rail, buses, bikes and walk to work. Hmm?
The second Mt Victoria tunnel might be for buses only. Again, this represents a misguided bias towards buses, because LGWM (and Labour) have a strong dislike for cars due to environmental concerns, even though over time, motor vehicles will become more climate friendly. As a result, carbon emissions will slowly diminish (side note – on average humans produce 7 tons of carbon emissions per year. To reach the climate change goals, that must come down to .7 tons per year. As the world population grows, that figure must get even smaller, a near impossible target. So, I am fully aware of the planet’s climate change problem). Why does LGWM want to demonise cars when government policy (and I suspect many of us), want us to drive more environmentally friendly vehicles overtime, yet they promote a policy that makes life unbearable when we know a long-term solution exists? The majority of people do not want to travel on a bus, or light rail, or can cycle or walk to work (currently the bus services near my place do not take me to where I want to go, nor do they turn up sometimes, as my neighbour has experienced). Motor vehicles are an important and legitimate and efficient means of transport. LGWM does not like this, nor do they want cars to be an efficient means of transport.
Lastly, there is no provision in the LGWM programme to expand the Terrace tunnel or do a cut and cover through Wellington, let alone a tunnel under Wellington. These options were removed by Julie-Anne Genter with her secret letter to WCC, to which Justin Lester, the mayor at the time, agreed to. Consequently, the overriding problem influencing congestion in central Wellington has been, for now, permanently removed from the equation.
While the proposed pedestrian crossing on Cobham Drive may seem a minor issue, it is part of a wider, blinkered and flawed policy of LGWM (a complete misnomer if ever there was one), to strangle Wellington traffic flow in the misguided belief that people will miraculously leave their cars at home and jump onto alternative forms of transport, all in the name of climate change. Yet knowing full well that congestion is totally counter-productive to reducing carbon emissions, while at the same-time knowing that government policy is to remove fossil fuel cars over time. This is nothing short of a minority of people forcing a misguided ideology on to the majority of us.