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Bus rapid transit recommended for Wellington’s future

Bus rapid transit recommended for Wellington’s future public transport spine

A Bus Rapid Transit system has been recommended as the best option for a first class, modern and affordable public transport solution through central Wellington.

The Public Transport Spine Options Hearing Subcommittee considered 278 public submissions and heard 43 submitters on the options for a future public transport spine through central Wellington to manage congestion, enable economic growth and enhance Wellington’s vibrancy and attractiveness. The subcommittee also considered the results of market research carried out on behalf of Wellington City Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council.
Fran Wilde, Chair of the subcommittee, says submitters provided a great deal of thought-provoking material with a range of different perspectives. “We’d like to thank everyone for their feedback. We heard some thoughtful presentations by submitters who raised valid issues. We worked through these issues rigorously and I’m confident the process was as robust as it could be.”

Mayor of Wellington, Celia Wade-Brown, said “ Improving the quality and reliability of Wellington’s public transport is critical to our capital’s economic success, attractiveness and to minimising emissions. I’m delighted the subcommittee unanimously agreed we must increase public transport patronage and mode share. We heard many issues raised, asked questions of staff and the consultants and agreed that bus priority and progress to Bus Rapid Transit are the next significant improvements for the city’s public transport.

“Wellington City as a key role in working with partners to allocate road space between public transport, active modes and general traffic. We’ll make sure the urban streetscape is enhanced and the more immediate changes are compatible with future upgrades.

“Developing technologies such as optical guidance systems mean that a good bus rapid transit system can approach the smoothness and attractiveness of light rail while being more affordable. Designations of the routes will provide more certainty for urban renewal and investment.”

"While the issues we are considering are complex, what we're seeking to achieve is ultimately quite simple. We want to make public transport journeys along the spine quicker and more reliable so that people can use public transport with a high level of confidence that they will reach their destination at a particular time. The preference for Bus Rapid Transit reflects that it appears best placed to deliver these benefits,” says Transport Agency regional director Central Jenny Chetwynd.

Ms Chetwynd noted that the Public Transport Spine forms part of an integrated package of proposed improvements to Wellington's transport network, and improvements would be dependent on road space around the Basin Reserve being freed up by the proposed bridge, which is currently before a Board of Inquiry.
The subcommittee’s key draft recommendations are:

A core spine corridor with dedicated public transport lanes and other priority measures running from Wellington Railway Station along the Golden Mile, along Kent/Cambridge Terraces to the Basin Reserve, along Adelaide Road to the Regional Hospital, and through the duplicated SH1 Mt Victoria Tunnel and along Ruahine street, Wellington Road, and Kilbirnie Crescent to Kilbirnie town centre.

An open system designed to allow vehicles to leave the dedicated corridors and provide services to a wider catchment area.

Progressive implementation from Bus Priority to Bus Rapid Transit, with the phased introduction of higher capacity, low-floor vehicles using a more sustainable power source.

Infrastructure to support improved reliability, travel times and quality, including: signal priority at intersections; improved stop facilities; improved docking systems; improved customer information; and off-board ticketing.
Improved or new interchange facilities at the Wellington Central Railway Station, Kilbirnie town centre and the Regional Hospital.

Restrictions on general traffic access and parking where necessary to achieve dedicated public transport lanes.

Future proofing a route for a possible extension of the spine to the Airport.
Fran Wilde says a key issue was the location of the spine route. “Submitters proposed a wide range of alternatives, which included extending the core route or using alternative roads in some places. The subcommittee agreed that the primary purpose of the public transport spine is to provide one clear legible corridor through the city centre, as well as providing an efficient and frequent connection between the central city and the key intensification areas in the southern and eastern suburbs. Other suburban areas such as Hataitai will continue to have local services.

Another big issue for many submitters was light rail versus buses, particularly with regard to power source and the general look and feel. “We agree that Wellingtonians should have non-polluting and energy-efficient public transport. With the exciting new bus technology that is coming on stream, the buses of the future will in many ways look and operate like light rail. However the major benefit is that they are not confined on a fixed rail and so can move off the end of the spine without passengers having to change mode. Also, in the event of a major emergency such as an earthquake there is far greater flexibility if the vehicles do not require tracks,” says Fran Wilde.

The subcommittee’s draft recommendations will be considered by Wellington City and Greater Wellington Regional Councils. Final recommendations will go to the Regional Transport Committee in early March. Following a decision by that Committee, the partner organisations will identify the next steps, including detailed corridor design, procurement of vehicles, network design, ticketing systems, stop/station and interchange design. Implementation activities will be included in the next Regional Land Transport Plan for 2015.


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