Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Wellingtonians: submissions on Ngauranga to Airport study

I blogged briefly about this some time ago, but since a couple of Wellington based blogs have made some comments, such as Eye of the Fish (which tends to be a little anti-road building) and Poneke, I thought I'd make some comments from a free market, economic rationalist perspective.
The Ngauranga to Airport study is a transport corridor study lead by Transit New Zealand including the Greater Wellington Regional Council and Wellington City Council, and it is about planning how the corridor/s from the junctions of State Highways 1 and 2 through to Wellington airport should be developed over the next 10 to 15 years. Submissions close at 5pm NZDST on 22 February.
My view is somewhat radical. I believe the road corridor is grossly inadequate and needs upgrading, with a second Terrace Tunnel, second Mt Victoria Tunnel and four lanes completed to Kilbirnie. I also believe Wellington needs a proper bypass between Mt Victoria and the Terrace Tunnel - covered trench, and that all of this can be paid for by peak time tolls for traffic entering the CBD. These tolls would reduce congestion significantly, encourage use of public transport, walking and cycling, and so greatly improve the flow of trucks, buses, taxis and cars - because the streets would no longer be run on the socialist principle of queuing, but rather the free market principle of price. With a large underground bypass linking the airport to the western and northern suburbs, and Porirua and the Hutt Valley, around a third of the traffic in Te Aro would be gone, as would the traffic along the waterfront. Friends of the Green Party view of less traffic might contemplate that, and visit Oslo to see what good toll funded bypass roads can do to the ambience of a city.
Public transport itself doesn't need special treatment. Light rail is popular, not least because some Wellingtonians, well travelled as they are, have seen trams in Melbourne, continental Europe and the like and "think they are cool", forgetting the enormous cost of triplicating infrastructure in putting them back in. Light rail needs tracks and overhead wires, that can't be used by other modes, but also simply can't serve the variety of locations of buses. Most importantly, the variety of origins and destinations for people bypassing downtown Wellington are such that high density public transport can't meet their needs. The efficient and profitable Flyer bus between the airport and the Hutt is a reasonable compromise that doesn't need others to pay for it.
In the meantime before tolling is introduced, bus lanes (also for trucks and taxis mind you) can be used to better allocate road space, and bus companies should be allowed to innovate more.
The study should allow for a innovative approach to transport along this critical corridor. It is quite a good report so far, with some decent tradeoffs to be made.
Wellington is vibrant, but is cauterised by a half finished motorway - still - depositing heavy volumes of traffic through its back door and along the waterfront. It's time to finish it and fund that and run the capital's roads on market principles - and see the difference. Oslo has.
UPDATE: A friend notes "The Chamber of Commerce had cute young blonde things in high-vis gear standing at traffic lights around the Basin last night handing out pro-forma submissions to the WRC on the Ngauranga to Airport study that's going on at the moment" Indeed it did. The Chamber of Commerce in fact takes a sensible approach on this.


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Anonymous said...

Hi Scott,

Just a quick follow up from the discussion on Eye.

I think I share your love of libertarian economics systems, and the N2A is a great chance to demonstrate some of the applications.

Congestion pricing if done well would be great, and I'lld love to get public transport going without subsidies.

I disagree over the new lanes through to Kilbernie. Given something of an uncertain future, the cost of the project, and the potential effects on the city, I think it would be unwise to start such a massive roading project now, especially as there is so much potential in peak distribution strategies and public transport. Its also commonly found that roads are counter inuitive, that often the car/road supply/demand will increase proportionately with new roads.

I'm not a huge fan of LRT either; the price/benefit ratio is still grey to me - there are so many conflicting economic analysis on either sides. That said if it is viable, its certainly a superb form of transit

Btw, the Transport 2000+ people have added a revision to their submission that covers congestion pricing.

Libertyscott said...

Cheers Philip, good news on Transport 2000 though I suspect they want congestion pricing to subsidise public transport.

I'd argue you're probably right about 4 lanes to Kilbirnie, as that shouldn't be the immediate priority. I'd happily see all of the road projects evaluated and prioritised following some decent economic analysis. I suspect the Basin Reserve upgrade would be first, but the full 4 laning and proper bypass is needed to relieve the waterfront/round the bays.