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Bus Rapid Transit for Wellington’s future public transport

Media release

4 March 2014

It’s agreed: Bus Rapid Transit for Wellington’s future public transport spine

Bus Rapid Transit through central Wellington is the best solution for a high quality public transport spine through central Wellington, the Regional Transport Committee decided today.

The spine will run on a dedicated corridor along the Golden Mile, Kent and Cambridge Terraces, then around the Basin Reserve, along Adelaide Road to Wellington Hospital. Another branch will run through the future duplicated Mt Victoria tunnel, along Ruahine Street and Wellington Road to Kilbirnie town centre. An extension of the spine to the Airport will be future proofed.

BRT will be a progressive move from better Bus Priority – more bus lanes and more traffic signals giving buses right of way – over the next eight years. BRT vehicles will be introduced as operators renew their fleets and improved interchanges will be developed at Wellington Station, Wellington Hospital and Kilbirnie.

Fran Wilde, Chair of the Regional Transport Committee, says work can now begin on a first class, modern, bus system for Wellington City. “Wellington City is the daily destination for many thousands of commuters and others going to the hospital and the airport. BRT will move them rapidly though the Golden mile, as well as enabling residents in the growth areas of the southern and eastern suburbs to commute more directly and quickly.”

She says the spine will be a crucial part of the region’s integrated public transport network. “Along with other major improvements such as the metro rail upgrade and integrated fares and ticketing, public transport in the region is being transformed. We are creating the kind of step change that’s needed for people to make the switch from the car to the bus or the train.”

Mayor of Wellington, Celia Wade-Brown, says modern, progressive cities expect good public transport. “Progressing Bus Priority to Bus Rapid Transit through Wellington’s central city will boost capacity, reduce congestion and increase the use of public transport,” she says.

“By improving capacity, reducing “bus-jams” along the Golden Mile, and making the public transport system more reliable, we’re making the best choice for Wellington for now and keeping options open for the longer-term.”

"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 -benefits which Bus Rapid Transit is best placed to deliver,” says Transport Agency regional director Central Jenny Chetwynd.

Ms Chetwynd says today’s decision is an exciting milestone, and noted that the Public Transport Spine forms part of an integrated package of proposed improvements to Wellington's transport network, including highway improvements and walking and cycling facilities. Together with Greater Wellington, the Agency is also making other investments to make public transport more attractive, such as the new Matangi trains, park and ride facilities. and the proposed integrated ticketing system.

Fran Wilde says the new public transport spine will meet future needs as Wellington’s population grows. “The capacity of the Spine to meet the region’s growth was a valid issue that was raised in the recent public consultation and hearing process. The modelling showed that, despite the restraints of the narrow Golden Mile corridor, BRT will have more than sufficient capacity to meet projected growth to at least 2041.”

A joint Wellington City and Regional Council and NZTA project team will work over the next year or two on the detailed planning and design of the Spine, including the design of bus lanes within the street environment and on parts of the state highway, the design of stop and interchange facilities along the Spine corridor, completion of the design of the future City-wide bus network and consideration of the future, modern high capacity, low emission BRT vehicles that will be used.

“BRT gives us a fabulous opportunity to access the exciting sustainable technology being developed including a range of electric and hybrid engines. As the Matangi have taken train travel in Wellington to a whole new level, so will BRT for bus travel.”

For more information, see www.gw.govt.nz/ptspinestudy

Wellington’s Public Transport Spine: The journey so far
• The Ngauranga to Airport Corridor Plan identified the need for a high quality, high frequency public transport spine through central Wellington to reduce severe bus congestion, speed up travel times and meet the needs of future population growth.

• The Public Transport Spine Study was carried out from late 2011 – 2013 to identify the best options for a spine. The Study identified a ‘long list’ of 88 options combining a range of corridors and a range of modes from heavy rail through to personalised rapid transit pods.

• After assessment against criteria such as accessibility, attractiveness to users, ability to meet future demand and engineering and financial viability, eight options were evaluated further. These options were: on-street bus options along a central (Golden Mile / Kent & Cambridge Tce / Adelaide Rd) corridor and a waterfront corridor; bus rapid transit along both corridors; light rail along both corridors and heavy rail along a waterfront corridor and an underground corridor.

• The waterfront corridor was ruled largely because the route was not as accessible to as many people as a central corridor and there would be less potential for public transport patronage growth. A heavy rail underground option was not taken further because of the large costs and a particularly poor resilience rating. Heavy rail along the waterfront was ruled out largely because of the impact on urban design and how it would restrict access to the waterfront from the CBD.
• The three options identified for further evaluation and assessment were bus priority, bus rapid transit and light rail along a central corridor from Wellington Railway Station and along Adelaide Road to Wellington Hospital. Extension of a light rail and bus rapid transit spine out to Kilbirnie was also considered evaluating because of the strong travel demand predicted in Wellington’s southern and eastern suburbs.
• These three options were taken out for public consultation between 24 July and 1 October 2013. At the same time, the Regional Council and Wellington City Council carried out online surveys of about 2,500 people. A total of 278 submissions were received along with one petition, organised by Generation Zero, with 514 signatures.
• A hearings sub-committee heard submitters and considered the feedback at various times between November 2013 and February 2014. The Regional Transport Committee on 4 March 2014 accepted the subcommittee’s report and recommendations for a bus rapid transit spine through central Wellington to Wellington Hospital and out to Kilbirnie were presented to the Regional Transport Committee on 4 March 2014.
• Funding for the design and implementation of the BRT spine will be included in the Regional Land Transport Plan 2015 – 21.

• A joint project team of the Regional Council, Wellington City Council and the NZ Transport Agency will be set up to proceed with detailed planning and design of the spine. This work includes the design of bus lanes within the street environment and parts of the state highway; the design of stop and interchange facilities along the spine corridor; completion of the design of the future bus network; consideration of the future modern, high capacity, low emission BRT vehicles that will be used; and consideration of supporting infrastructure - such as traffic signal priorities and speeding up boarding through fare and ticketing systems.

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