Let’s Get Wellington Moving: what’s that all about again? (it’s been so long)

The gossip says (again!) that the LGWM Cabinet announcement is imminent. If you’re anything like us, you’ve kinda forgotten… but it’s worth remembering, so a handy refresher!


Money ahoy!

Make no mistake: $4 billion odd, of which most is tax (not rates), is an incredible opportunity. Per capita, Wellington’s probably not entitled to quite so much! [Editor’s note: we were wrong about the per capita thing; see Update.]

Wellington won’t get this opportunity again for decades and decades. Plus the transport infrastructure it builds – for good or for ill – is big, city-moulding stuff that will shape our lives and especially our kids’.

So we need to get this right. Roughly right is fine, but not precisely wrong.

LGWM has some really weird flaws, which have come clear since the Big Reveal of its scenarios back in 2017.

Out of scope: 82,000 daily trips into Wellington

One flaw: the overwhelming majority of trips into Wellington city every weekday are… out of scope for LGWM. It cuts off at Ngauranga Gorge. Whoops.

Where’s the regional transport planning a la Auckland? Why are they even purporting to “fix Wellington transport” without dealing with all those journeys that end in the Head of the Fish?

We need to do our best with its money, but we must not let our leaders off the hook on this one. decent regional planning is absolutely crucial, so if we can only do it for transport, that’s a start.

Planning for the future… in goldfish years

Another flaw: LGWM’s had this really weird time horizon for planning, that’s bizarrely been focused on 10 years out. This is just weird; any self-respecting exercise like this is as least 30 years out. (You can’t even get your consents going for major infrastructure builds in that time, unless you’re planning emergency enabling legislation (a la Puke Ahu / Arras Tunnel).

And yet LGWM said so themselves: even in that time, residential population growth south of the Basin will be such that light rail is viable. Go figure.

Mandate ahoy! Against the odds, Wellington wants progressive

Public feedback in November 2017 on the four “scenarios” was enormous, the single biggest expression of people’s transport views ever in Wellington. (We like to think we helped!)

And when people have been steeped in car-dominated environments for the last 60-odd years, you’d expect them to be all “give us more space for driving! More parking!” Especially when the “scenarios” were presented, rather disingenuously, as a spectrum, from “do least” (A) to “do most” (D). And yet people came out powerfully asking for better choices, less reliance on driving private cars, fewer cars in the city centre. The themes were striking in this respect, as reported by project director Barry Mein. Greater Auckland commentators saw “tough choices ahead”.

themes from LGWM feedback

Over the subsequent months, LGWM worked away busily on the refined programme. There was the earthquake, which understandably sucked council’s resources away, and lots of work behind the scenes.

Um, weren’t you listening?

And yet, despite (a) international good practice (b) the current government’s unequivocal rebalancing of the transport system towards sustainable transport, and (c) the strongly-expressed desires of the populace… in a report in mid 2018, LGWM was looking pretty terrible. (We discussed it, with a possibly unkind metaphor).

It was in fact a leak, so certainly not the final word (phew).

Talking transport…

Since mid 2018 there’s been some dribs and drabs of material about LGWM in the public domain, mostly thanks to Stuff’s augmented transport reporting team. It’s included a few pieces looking at the housing cost of putting in bigger infrastructure. (Depressingly (and wrongly), some Stuff reporters have clearly assumed a bigger road tunnel was a sure thing out of LGWM.) Recently there was some buzz about “trackless trams” (a type of mass transit) sparked by some visiting gurus.

Bustastrophe has happened, and multiple suburban train line disruptions, denting people’s confidence in public transport (hopefully not enough to disrupt our generally decent trends). Bustastrophe was an important piece of context for LGWM, highlighting how things that should’ve been done years ago (bus priority lanes, anyone?) are now being cautiously talked about as “low hanging fruit” in LGWM.

And in other related developments, Auckland announced its Access For Everyone trial (significantly restricting cars’ access to the inner city, just like LGWM was supposed to, and prioritising people-friendly streets and efficient public transport). And is consulting a 30km city centre speed limit. Locally, we learned that the Inner City Bypass is failing on its own terms to be worth the investment. New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions are going up again, and globally, we learned that our spewing greenhouse gases indiscriminately is going to bite us really hard, all of us, really soon, unless we really change our ways. (58% of Wellingtonians’ greenhouse emissions are from transport!)

So what should Let’s Get Wellington Moving do?

In Autumn 2019, spurred by rumours of LGWM coming out “before Easter”, Talk Wellington summoned the Avengers (well, the ones with indomitable public spirit, wielding transport and urban form geek superpowers), and produced our series in the Dominion Post. In a massive team effort, it laid out what’s at stake, why it’s good to do right, and the vision for what LGWM should and shouldn’t do in Wellington. (We reckon it’s pretty good, and definitely worth a re-read. Especially the one with people’s voices, the “no bigger roads, and incentives” one, and the one with all the great pictures of streets and the map.)

Newshub asked the Wellington mayor his opinion about this, and on telly [excuse the terrible video] he made some encouraging noises about a 30km central city speed limit. He has also recently announced a re-election platform with “carfree Golden Mile”.

Since then, a few more false alarms about LGWM release, further delay on safer inner city cycling (cleverly protested), more Transmission Gully progress, and the Melling interchange under intense discussion.

Cross your fingers, folks

But the forces bearing down on politicians in a local body election year cannot be underestimated. While LGWM is a creature governed by partners (NZTA and GWRC as well as WCC), we hope very much there’s more than just WCC keeping the progressive flame alive.

Watch this space.

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