The Wellington City Council (WCC), never short of ways of spending ratepayers’ money, wants to improve the Golden Mile, with one option banning all private cars.
There is no shortage of people who don’t like private cars and don’t care much for business either, who will cheerfully go along with this thinking. Some fantasise about Wellington having European shopping streets with only foot traffic. Get real, we have just 200,000 people in the city with commuter workers adding to lunch time shopping. There are other places to shop and of course increasingly online.
Wellingtonians need a serious reality check. The private sector is struggling with much higher rates than residents for equivalent value properties, high costs and infrastructure weaknesses, including road access to the airport and Eastern Suburbs, to say nothing of stormwater failures.
On top of this we have a seismically challenged Civic Square including a library which might “require” $200 million to strengthen or rebuild, on top of the Town Hall which is costing at least $100 million. And then there is the Convention Centre underway at a cost of around $160 million. And don’t forget the Council is considering $30 million to re-work Frank Kitts park.
Some apartment owners are struggling under seismic requirements as are commercial property owners including the Amora Hotel. At times I wonder whether our Council is not in a fantasy land where some fairy godmother is just going to magic up the money for everyone.
The unusual geography of the city inevitably makes moving across the city rather challenging. As a long time Te Aro resident, I am familiar with the way traffic flows as well as foot traffic across the city. I don’t believe the WCC has proved there is a big problem requiring tens of millions.
The big transport issue for commerce and residents is a second tunnel and much better road access to the Eastern Suburbs and airport. That should be the priority.
While it would be desirable to the reduce the private traffic flow down the Golden Mile, it is critical the benefits of this outweigh the costs. None of the proposals in my view achieve this.
The low cost effective option is to eliminate all 99 private car parks on the Mile from Courtenay Place to Lambton Quay. Use that freed up space for a mix of wider footpaths, bike racks, seats and trees.