The tunnel

A large part of my electorate is cut off from the city by a long row of hilly greenness that stretches from Oriental Bay down to Houghton Bay.  On the whole this is a good thing; A green belt with lots of trees, great walking tracks and bike trails and amazing views.  But occasionally people on one side of the hills want to get to people on the other side – especially if they work in town. They’ve got three options;  they can go around, via Oriental Bay, over, via Newtown, or through, via this:

The queue of cars in the picture has led many people to think we have a congestion problem. Rather than blaspheme by suggesting the cars are the problem, the tunnel has copped much of the blame.

And there are two broad categories of solutions.  We could either build another bigger shiny tunnel through the hill to allow for more conjestion, or we could encourage more people to use public transport and to cycle and walk about and thus reduce congestion.

The City Council has been ‘consulting’ widely on this issue although the mayor Kerry Prendergast said of the consultation process before it began:

‘I think there are some [things] we have to do,’ she told The Dominion Post.

…Ms Prendergast said a new Mt Victoria tunnel should be a high priority, regardless of what submitters to the study say.

There were many submisions from the public thanks to the hard work of Green councillors Celia Wade Brown and Iona Pannett, as well as other organisations.  And those submissions predominantly favoured light rail and other forms of public transport.  But as Object Dart reports, it didn’t quite work out that way:

The options for transport are a dog’s breakfast, and although the greater weight of submissions in a previous process were in favour of light rail as a public transport solution (which implies they would be at very least willing to utilise the service, if not actively support it), the paper dismisses it out of hand as prohibitively expensive. But, digging in a little further we find that costings for light rail are hidden on the very last page. And, they are $35million cheaper than what seems to be the preferred option to improve the corridor in question, a second Mt Vic tunnel…

And Gregory Bodnar says of the city’s plan for walking and cycling:

This section should really be placed higher than public transportation. It is far too common for pedestrian and cycle plans to be placed last in the list of priorities – a gross injustice to the residents of the city. In fact, the draft plan defers any planning for pedestrian and cycle activities for other projects and allocates no funds. Active modes are a vital aspect to a city with a small footprint. Instead of residents taking short trips in a car or on transit, many choose to travel by their own power, using minimal resources, leaving minimal waste and needing minimal infrastructure. Transportation planners must stop impeding active modes.

Anyone who has ever walked or cycled through that current tunnel knows its footpath wasn’t put there with pedestrians and cyclists at front of mind.  Unless I’m in a real hurry I always prefer to go over or around rather than through the tunnel’s fumes and car honks and general grotiness.

So, another tunnel to turn our green belt into swiss cheese?  No thanks

Thanks to Br3nda for the photo