The Minster of Transport, Phil Twyford, has said that Wellington’s second Mt Victoria tunnel, planned as part of the Let’s Get Wellington Moving package of transport projects, could be for buses, cyclists and pedestrians rather than cars. This has led to accusations from Opposition MP Nicola Willis that the government has an anti-car bias.
This is interesting, because the Minister of Transport also said that this was a “could” rather than a “would”, and said a business case would determine the best form of the tunnel, and whether cars would be part of that. He was backed by the Associate Minister of Transport, Julie-Anne Genter, who said it was yet to be decided what form of transport the “four lanes to the planes” would be. That’s good, leaving it to the business case to show what form and function extra capacity between two points should take is the right way to do things. If public and active transport is the best way of managing congestion and improving journey times, then that should be the best way we could spend the $700m earmarked for the project. Simply saying “people in cars are sick of being in congestion and want their extra two lanes to drive in”. In my (experienced) view, simply wanting something isn’t the best way of deciding how to spend $700m. Would that be the best way? Let’s do a business case and find out, just as is proposed. Sounds good.
Except you wouldn’t think that reading this article. It turns the “could” into a “would” and rather than going into detail about how a business case would determine the best use of the proposed infrastructure, and thus best bang for buck, it instead laments that car users might “miss out”, and turns into a piece seemingly designed to drum up furore amongst motorists, and give the “anti-car bias” allegations of Willis credence. There is no mention at all that public and active transport investments have a benefit for motorists, nor that investing in road capacity, particularly along a constrained corridor, can have detrimental effects, which all exacerbates the misunderstanding, so prevalent in New Zealand, that only road and car based solutions will fix congestion.
So, what are my views on the prospects of a business case considering priority for different modes for the second Mt Victoria tunnel? I think that this is a truly positive and balanced approach to transport policy, something we haven’t seen much of in New Zealand. It’s nothing but net. Finally, we actually have a situation that is more “what form of transport do we build between point A and B” rather than “what form does the motorway take”. That’s good stuff. Bad stuff from the journalist though.