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Is it time Wellington City stopped building low-density, car-dependent subdivisions?

Rapid Transit using light rail in Wellington could be extended from the Railway Station or Kaiwharawhara to the proposed residential development at Lincolnshire Farms. It would be a costly project, but very effective if land-use was scaled to suit through TOD. This makes a wide range of options possible, including affordable housing. TOD could also showcase development styles not yet seen in New Zealand. Many New Zealanders object in theory to greater density, but surveys using photographs show that they would like to live in TOD areas with density done well.

The advantages of light rail to a large-scale, all-new residential development are:

  • High passenger capacity. Light rail is competitive between about 3000 and 12,000 passengers an hour;
  • Fast and reliable trips, on an off-road route fully independent of traffic congestion; and
  • Low energy-use, very low emissions and minimal carbon-emissions.

Light rail will allow planning for a much lower reliance on motor vehicles than is usual in New Zealand. Roads can be designed for safe walking and cycling—plus buses to Porirua and The Hutt—as well as cars. Each stage of development will offer immediate and substantial benefits, in health, safety, pollution and carbon-emissions. Areas close to light rail stops will be higher-density, to boost ridership at each stop. There are big advantages:

  • Low land and infrastructure costs, because of greater density and less need for traffic lanes and parking.
  • Rapidly growing public transport ridership because of a quality service and easy walking access, or easy cycling access for longer distances.
  • Easy and safe local trips for all purposes, by all modes: walking, cycling, public transport and motor vehicles.
  • Land allocated for other uses: parks, playgrounds, allotments and sports.
  • Leading the way to more general use of desirable, sustainable housing.

“Foundation” planning such as this allows a wide range of development styles in a relatively small area. Development could be similar to the densities, layouts and building heights to be seen in Newtown, Te Aro or Killbinie, with better street layouts. Other options are NZ-new styles such as those found in Freiburg (a German medieval city with five light rail lines), Vauban (a suburb of Heidelberg, in a converted garrison) and Houten, in the Netherlands. Houten is laid out within two-lane, low-speed ring-roads, arranged so that motor traffic uses the ring roads, while cycling and walking use the centres. Walking is often faster than taking the car, and safety is outstanding.

A likely route to Lincolnshire Farms is by the Ngauranga Gorge, or the Ngaio Gorge and a double-tracked Johnsonville Line, to Johnsonville. From there, light rail could run on a viaduct above the central reservation on SH1 (where necessary) as far as Grenada North, then a new alignment.

BRT could easily handle the initial ridership, but would be a big mistake. With no clear commitment to excellent public transport, TOD-style development will not go ahead, and the opportunities will be lost. Cities such as Vancouver and Calgary have proved that when you build light rail first, TOD follows.

Glossary

BRT
Bus Rapid Transit
light rail
An urban rapid mass transit system, segregated from general traffic as much as possible, with wide spacing between stops and priority at intersections, fast enough to compete with private car travel
SH1
State Highway 1
TOD
Transit Oriented Development

Glossary →

Page last modified 07 July 2018 at 02:54 PM