Basin Bridge Board of Inquiry Hearing – Oral submission Cr Paul Bruce

Transcript of presentation day 60 – 16 May 2014- Page 6877­

 Personal background

 My name is Paul Bruce, Profession: Class One Meteorologist, recently retired as a lead forecaster at MetService.

I am now a third term Regional Councillor for Greater Wellington Regional Council, one of the five elected to the Wellington City ward, and enjoy the challenges of the position, as much as I did weather forecasting.

I own an electric scooter, and my wife a car. However, I mostly commute by cycle, and have done so all my life. I shifted to Wellington from Christchurch over 40 years ago, and cycling in Wellington has steadily become more dangerous over that time. However, I actually find cycling in the varied mix of hills and coastal routes much more fun and enjoyable than the flat terrain of Christchurch.

1            Introduction

The Basin Bridge proposal has been ongoing ever since I joined the Council, so I am keen to tell you a little about the process from the point of view of a Regional Councillor.

Following that, I would also like to discuss the two arguments –

1:            That the Basin Reserve Roundabout as it is, contributes to traffic congestion

2:        That a Bridge is a cost effective way of resolving congestion and improving traffic flow

 and then conclude by looking at sustainable solutions for the unaddressed issues.


I have included a number of graphs and tables, but will not address them directly unless a specific question is asked.

My position is that the Basin Bridge proposal will exacerbate problems that it sets out to address, rather than resolving them.  It also does not constitute Sustainable Management in terms of Section 5(2) of the RMA.


1            AM Peak Private Vehicle and PT Mode Shares to Wellington CBD by TA

2            Veh-km change 2011 to 2041

3            High popularity of city living in Wellington

4            Highway VKT over last 10 years, Wellington region

5            NZTA traffic counts 2008/2012 vicinity of Basin Reserve

6            Not because seniors don’t want to drive

7            Younger and older people make the most PT trips

8            Cycling – Value for money (Tim Hughes – NZTA 2008)

9            Capex and Crude Oil Production (Bloomberg)

10            Oil price required by oil companies (Goldman Sachs)


2            Regional Land Transport Strategy (RLTS) 2010

As noted in the Statutory Assessment, the Project is categorized as being a key part of the Wellington Northern Corridor RoNS programme. However, I do not agree that it is consistent with transport related policy in both the regional planning strategies and the district plans. In particular it doesn’t fit the key outcomes of the Regional Land Transport Strategy 2010-40.

The Regional Land Transport Strategy (RLTS) 2010 provides the strategic direction for developing the region’s transport network over the next 30 years. Its vision “to deliver an integrated land transport network that supports the region’s people and prosperity in a way that is economically, environmentally and socially sustainable” will not be met by the Bridge.


The RLTS objectives are:

•       Assist economic and regional development

•             Assist safety and personal security

•             Improve access, mobility and reliability

•             Protect and promote public health

•             Ensure environmental sustainability

•          Ensure that the Regional Land Transport Programme is affordable for the regional community


and the RLTS key outcomes are:

•             Increased peak period public transport mode share

•             Increased mode share for pedestrians and cyclists

•             Reduced greenhouse gas emissions

•            Reduced severe road congestion

•             Improved regional road safety

•             Improved land use and transport integration

•            Improved regional freight efficiency.

3             Addressing the RLTS objectives and key outcomes

 OPUS/ARUP modelling predicts dramatically increased traffic flows into the city, resulting from completion of the RoNS projects to the north, which works against all the key outcomes.

The Basin Bridge Project is tied to widening of Buckle St and Karo Drive to 3 lanes, duplication of the Mt Victoria Tunnel and four laning of Ruahine Street, all of which will induce new west/east private vehicle flows and effectively destroy the ability of a high capacity public transport project to attract significant patronage along the Growth Spine and from/to the eastern suburbs.

3.1            RLTS detail

a)            There are no guarantees that the Basin Bridge will result in increased public transport and active mode share. In fact there is scant detail and little evidence in the project of any application of thought on public transport and design. There is only the promise of its consideration in the Network Integration Plan if the proposal is approved. I note the GWRC officers’ own concerns on this, as well as other submitters comments on the positioning of bus stops.

The TN24: Baseline Forecasting Report, prepared for GWRC by ARUP/OPUS Dec 2012, concludes that the RONS and by implication the Basin Bridge Project will result in decreasing Public transport and active mode share from 2021.

 Table 1:             AM Peak Private Veh and PT Mode Shares to Wellington CBD by TA

Bus (and rail) boardings show a substantial increase between 2011 and 2021….However, this flattens out after 2021 with the introduction of the Wellington RoNS.” (p23 Fig. 2.7)

b)            Increased mode share for pedestrians and cyclists. The Basin Bridge Proposal includes a 400 metre cycle/walk flyover of a substandard width of 3m, which itself presents a new hazard in strong winds, and from possible crowding. The cycle/walk bridge is costed at $8 million, which contrasts with WCC budgeting $4.3 million in the current Annual Plan for cycling improvements within Wellington City, including an Island Bay to CBD cycleway.


There appears to be no other supporting cycle way design planned as part of the proposal,  and cyclists and walkers remain in an increasingly unsafe environment due to conflict with increased traffic flows.


c)            The TN24: Baseline Forecasting Report is that increased traffic from RoNS projects and the Basin Bridge, will outweigh the movement towards low emission vehicles, leading to increased greenhouse emissions until 2031. The assumption is then that accelerated vehicle efficiency will start to have an impact, though HCV fuel consumption increases steadily for each year through to 2041.


d)            There is no indication that a one way two lane 400 metre motorway bridge will

remove congestion, as current congestion results from peak traffic flows backing up from Mt Victoria Tunnel and the Taranaki Street intersection. Congestion is not where the Proposal says it is, and is not caused by the present roundabout configuration.


Veh-km in congested conditions are predicted to increase 2011-41 by about 96% in the AM Wellington city peak (ARUP/Opus fig 6-5). 


Table 2:             Veh-km change 2011 to 2041 (Arup/OPUS fig 6-5)


A strong contributory factor of peak hour congestion, is the fleet of single occupancy airport taxis, along with the drop off of school children by their parents at local schools, both of which can be addressed by other traffic management strategies.


Basin Reserve Alternatives NZTA/WCC report [page 86], predicts that Option A [the Basin Bridge proposal] will result in:


–            increased traffic flows of 19% vehicles per day on Vivian Street

–            increase of 9% vehicles per day on Kent Tce

–            two way flow increase of 13% per day on Adelaide Road

–            traffic flow increase of 13% per day on Buckle Street


e)            There is no indication that a one way two lane 400 metre motorway bridge will significantly improve travel times for public transport on the Growth Spine. My understanding from the evidence presented to the hearing is that north-south travel time savings are in the order of only one minute, which in my opinion is inconsequential and does not justify the cost and adverse effects of the Bridge.


f)             The biggest contribution to regional safety on our roads, is modal shift to public transport.  Instead, increased private car and heavy freight vehicle use is predicted

by the TN24: Baseline Forecasting Report, resulting in reduced road safety.


g)            There is nothing in the Bridge proposal to suggest improved land use and transport integration, apart from the construction of a substandard cycle/walk bridge. This could be achieved by giving the general public a greater range of transport choices from key areas, rather than building new roads. The latest census figures indicate the inner city residential areas have the fastest and strongest growth; not suburbs to the east [GWRC: May 2014]. The popularity of inner city living results in lower levels of car ownership and high levels of walking.  The 2013 census showed similar statistical trends in Newtown on the south side of the Basin Reserve.


Table 3:            Popularity of city living [GWRC: May 2014]


The Basin Bridge proposal ignores this trend.



h)            Regional freight efficiency will deteriorate with the increased city traffic flows predicted [TN24: Baseline Forecasting Report]


4            The Process


4.1             The present Basin Bridge proposal goes back to 2008 to the Ngauranga to Airport Corridor proposal.


The larger roading projects in the Ngauranga to Wellington Airport Corridor Plan

September 2008, such as the Basin Reserve flyover, only attracted 25% support.

[N2A Report submission analysis GWRC August 2008]


40% opposed these projects while another 35% questioned their usefulness. The Basin Flyover itself generated very high interest, but only 21% of the comments specifically on the Flyover supported it.  38% directly opposed the flyover or wanted it delayed.


In contrast, submissions were strongly in favour of public transport including light rail, better facilities for cycling, and wanted more urgency placed on climate change …..


“The GW analysis noted that a considerable group that wanted more emphasis and urgency placed on global environmental issues such as climate change as principal factors for change.  Others questioned base figures used for the valuation of time for the public transport user and traffic volume projections. Others suggested a car-free CBD and the use of congestion charging.”


However, the final Ngauranga to Airport Plan adopted in October 2008, continued with what is termed a “multi-model” approach, prioritising all the major roading projects.


The N2A report also stated that private car ownership was still increasing, and car ownership levels were only likely to reach saturation level sometime beyond 2050.


I will repeat that: car ownership levels to reach saturation beyond 2050.


4.2             N2A forecast was wrong before it was even published.


WCC and GWRC Councillors were bulldozed into a “mixed approach” through the acceptance of erroneous information.


A “mixed approach”, decoded, means delays for public transport improvements, whilst further rounds of new roads are constructed.


I would just like to address this issue for a moment by showing a few tables.


Table 4            Highway VKT over last 10 years, Wellington

Table 5            NZTA traffic counts 2008/2012 vicinity of Basin Reserve


That statement gives a clue to the mindset of those setting the agenda behind these reports – largely in their 50s, 60s, who remain firmly attached to individual vehicles.

Younger age groups, teens up to the 30 year olds, are now less likely to use or own cars.


NZTA and GW transport modelling is only just beginning to acknowledge the changed paradigm in western countries, where per capita kms travelled have begun to decline, especially among the younger generations, and what that could imply for traffic flows.


Table 6            Not because seniors don’t want to drive

Table 7            Younger and older people make the most PT trips


And that younger demographic, are now looking for attractive alternatives … safe cycle ways, reliable affordable public transport and with access to social media.


NZ Super gold card users have also flocked to public transport for free off peak travel,

which has helped increase the utility of existing PT services.


It is indeed a happy coincidence, that at the very moment that young adults want better transport choices, there is global recognition that this is precisely what is necessary to get carbon emissions down and reduce dependency on increasingly scarce resources.


4.3            Consultation on the preferred location of two newly coined “bridge” proposals north of the Basin took place in July/August 2011.


Submitters were not asked to assess any other possibilities, such as Option X, the Architectural Centre’s tunnel proposal, or at-grade proposals, or a prioritisation of public transport or demand management improvements.


However, Wellington City Council made a submission to NZTA in August 2011,

supporting a tunnel option.


Greater Wellington’s Economic Wellbeing Committee accepted the Option A flyover as part of a larger report without full discussion of the issues.  That decision was opposed by a significant number of Councillors at the subsequent full Council meeting. A new vote was disallowed by the Chair.


4.4             The Government announced its decision to proceed with the Memorial Park Tunnel in August 2012. This decision changed potential interconnections within the Basin Reserve area, and provided an opportunity to revisit the NZTA decision of a flyover.


The NZTA announced its preferred Option A soon after in the same month.

I placed a motion on the full GWRC Agenda for 7th November 2012:

“In light of the decision to place Buckle Street in a tunnel, Greater Wellington should work with NZTA and WCC to ensure that the full range of options for freeing up public transport movements through the Basin Reserve are on the table”.

My motion was worded to include all three N2A parties in a reassessment of options that would support good public transport outcomes, rather than private car movements.

GW Councillors supported the motion 8 to 6.

A workshop was held on 19th November 2012 to carry out the intent of the motion. However, the workshop was not scheduled to allow WCC councillors to attend, the public was not invited, and no information was provided by GWRC officers or NZTA officials on proposals that would free up public transport movements.


The workshop included a NZTA two hour presentation on detailed design of the proposed bridge and adjacent landscaping, plus reference to costing of the Architectural Centre’s Option X.


The oral report given to Councillors contained misrepresentations and incorrect

references to scientific evidence in favour of the flyover, and left Councillors with the strong impression that no alternative to the Basin Bridge proposal was worth pursuing.


For example, Option X was assessed as not feasible due to the presence of natural springs and streams. This was questioned at the workshop. However, on this matter, it took several months of further enquiries to establish that there was in fact no material difference between the hydrological nature of the ground under the Memorial Tunnel and the area of excavation that would be required for Option X.


For me, two questions remained unresolved:


–            why the Basin traffic lanes had not been optimised

–            quantification of gains to public transport from light phasing


NZTA discussed at considerable length the design of the flyover option.  However, questions relating to other options were treated with disdain, and at the end of the session, Councillors remained no wiser on how public and active transport modes were to be encouraged.


Richard Reid was excluded from that briefing and made his presentation to GW Councillors in a hostile environment.  His presentation was consequently quite short, probably only 15 or 20 minutes.


4.5                        Subsequent developments


a)        The Option A Basin Bridge proposal proceeded to a resource consent application.


b)        Utilisation of the existing pilot tunnel through Mt Victoria as a cycle/walkway and safety egress lane for the present Mt Victoria road tunnel was scrapped by NZTA. A WCC briefing meeting was held to explain the project, which was to be carried out over a Christmas period. I didn’t keep a record of the meeting, so am not sure of the dates.


c)            Transmission Gully and Kapiti Expressway were consented.


d)        High capacity light rail for the high density spine from the CBD to Newtown was rejected.


e)        The Petone to Wellington cycle/walkway is now being tired to the construction of a new 6 lane Petone to Grenada road (NZTA)


f)         Draft GWRC Public Transport Plan calls for the scrapping of our electric trolley buses.


5.0                        The process is flawed


I believe that the process is flawed, and the real question of how can we improve transport options and accessibility has not been addressed by GWRC or NZTA.


The question should not be how we can make a flyover fit the city.


Instead we must seek to improve accessibility through good urban form and the design of a sustainable transport network, including improved active modes.


5.1            The present roading configuration doesn’t contribute to traffic congestion. This has been addressed by a number of other submitters. Traffic blocks up at the Mt Victoria tunnel, Tory Street (before the Memorial Tunnel was commenced) and Taranaki Street intersection, rather than around the Basin Reserve Roundabout.


5.2            That a Basin Bridge is not a cost effective way of resolving congestion and improving traffic flow, and there are alternatives


a)             Redesign of traffic lanes around Basin Reserve Roundabout


A low cost at-grade alternative option based on maximising the current Basin Reserve Roundabout [known as BBREO] meets the current and foreseeable future needs and trends of traffic volumes.  This option could reasonably meet the objectives of the Project but without the same adverse impacts.  This alternative to the Proposal was not given proper consideration by the NZTA, was rejected at an early conceptual stage by WCC, and has never been put to affected parties or the public.


b)            Traffic demand management


This alternative approach would achieve the best outcome at a minimal cost.


Demand management measures, such as phasing of lights favouring public transport,

congestion charges, removing city parking, can all help increase the reliability and relative attractiveness of public transport.


Dramatic easing of traffic flows during the narrow peak can be achieved by addressing the two main contributor factors of children being driven to school, and the fleet of single occupancy taxis moving to the CBD from the airport.


One approach to managing the huge increase in motorway traffic entering the CBD from the north, predicted by OPUS/ARUP after 2021 with the completion of the RONS package, is to control entry of vehicles by light phasing into Vivian Street from SH1. Alternatively, and more appropriately, the duplication of the Terrace Tunnel should not proceed. This will be the single most determinate of traffic volumes in the CBD.


This management approach would be significantly helped by this Board of Inquiry declining the Basin Bridge proposal.


c)            Support for public transport and active modes


Support for public transport and active modes should be considered by NZTA as an alternative to new roading capacity for private vehicles.  Reducing private vehicles on the road in favour of public transport and in favour of walking and cycling also has the potential to lower living costs significantly.


A European Community report published last month (April 2014) states that the right technological solutions involve: “City-commitment to a strategy to roll out electric public transport modes including trolley busses, trams, shared mobility solutions etc. within an approach to integrated transport and to use their infrastructure to exchange surplus energy with the energy system – using ICT to manage energy flows.”


Table 8:            Cycling – Value for money (Tim Hughes – NZTA 2008)


A 2008 NZTA report calculated nett savings to the individual and regional economy of $35 per day for each person on a 5km commute, who shifted from a private car to cycling, and $30 per day for a shift from private car to public transport [Tim Hughes – NZTA 2008].



d)            Cycle/walk ways


There is a huge latent demand for a safe walk/cycle way from Haitaitai to the city.  If it was built to NZTA standard width of 5 metre, with adequate lighting and ventilation, a safe cycle walk way could take 10 to 20% off present traffic flows through the tunnel, and to the city.


e)            Light rail


The construction of high capacity public transport such as light rail along the Growth Spine through the CBD and along Adelaide Road, would support a shift to public transport and active modes.  The Spine Report hearing panel accepted the low forecasts of patronage growth from a potential light rail project, which is at odds with overseas experts such as Professor Peter Newman (John Curtin Distinguished Professor of Sustainability Director | Curtin University).


f)            Freight movement


Freight to the airport would be better served by overnight delivery rather than encouraging increased unsafe heavy traffic onto State Highway 1 during peak hours.


Finally, I would like to address more directly, climate change and resource depletion.


6.0             Increased traffic flows leads to increased greenhouse emissions


Mobile energy remains the highest single contributor of Wellington’s regional greenhouse emissions at 37% of the total.


As a Meteorologist and weather forecaster over a 39 year period, I am acutely aware of my responsibility to warn you of the health costs of greenhouse emissions.


We are very rapidly reaching climate tipping points, if we have not already passed them.  You will have read of the climate change impacts that are already evident around the globe from just one degree of warming.


The US National Climate Change Assessment says that “climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present”.  All climate scientists believe the window for action on climate change is rapidly closing.


A 2°C rise is sufficient to melt a significant portion of the world’s ice due to feedbacks that will hasten the melting. It will thus set the course to an ice-free world.



The world will have to cut the rate of carbon emissions by over 5 percent a year to stop global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees this century, according to a report released by PwC.  NZ emissions have been projected to grow by 75% through to 2028.


Thus increasing road capacity is not the way to go.


7.0             Declining resources


Cheap (conventional) oil is declining by 3 to 5% a year, a feature of peak oil.


New (non-conventional) oil cost is increasing by about 10% a year, outpacing revenues

by 2-3% per year. Half of US oil requires an oil price of $US120 a barrel, whereas the international price remains in the range of $100 to 110 a barrel.


Table 9:            Capex and Crude Oil Production (Bloomberg)

Table 10:            Oil price required by oil companies (Goldman Sachs)


8.0            Conclusion


New roading capacity is a 20th century idea, which is past its use-by date.


The applicant must instead address any traffic congestion in the vicinity of the Basin Reserve through improved utilisation of lanes, light phasing favouring public and active transport, alongside traffic demand management measures to ensure that present behaviour trends towards lower km travelled are cemented in.


The application must therefore be declined in its present form. It does not constitute Sustainable Management in terms of Section 5(2) of the RMA.





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