Build it and they will change.

That’s the current Dunedin City Council way of doing things.

The DCC 2013 Transport Strategy document sets this Council’s goal that, by 2024, 40% of us will be commuting either by bike, bus or on foot as our main mode of transport (P.30 Strategic Approach-Overview). The $60 million conversion of the Central Business District’s main thoroughfare into a single lane for motor vehicles and a dedicated cycle way to allow a larger pedestrian zone is the next stage to prepare the city infrastructure for this target.

On foot realistically means those residing in the inner city, mainly students plus a few inner city apartment dwellers. Cyclists would primarily be those living on the flat suburbs and connected by the cycleway network from South Dunedin to North and around the harbour. The bus network has the greatest catchment area of all the hill and outer suburbs of the city.

In its planning for future bus transport, the NZTA (which funds the subsidy for buses) commissioned a national survey, published in 2013, on the use of buses and found that, in Dunedin, only 2% used the buses regularly (20 or more days p.a.). 4% uses them occasionally (10-19 days pa.). (click to enlarge).

While the DCC document did not provide a target split between the three non-vehicle modes of transport, buses, having the largest catchment area, would have to account for at least half the target. This would mean increasing regular bus transport from 2% to 20% of residents or, in people terms, from 2500 people to 25,000 people. If those 25,000 people had to be transported from their suburb to the city during the 7:00 – 8:30am peak departure times, with an average 20 minute trip from terminus to CBD, that would require over 200 buses on the road. And again on the afternoon return journey. The good news is that they would be running convenient 10 minute services to achieve that; the bad news is that at any one time there would be 70 buses trying to get into the CBD bus hub which has only ten set-down bays.

Walking is probably the next highest category in the target given the size of the inner city student population. A DCC 2013 survey of residents showed 14% walked to the city as their main mode of transport. That would align with the NZTA national figures and is credible given the student population. However it is unlikely to grow significantly by 2024 without either major growth in student numbers or in apartment development.

So in people numbers the 40% target represents 50,000 residents. 25,0000 would be catching one of the 200 buses to town, 18,000 will be walking, leaving 7,000 to be cycling along the cycleways and presumably looking for 7,000 bike parks within walking distance of their destination.

So as well as 200 buses and 7,000 bikes, the streets would still have to cope with the other 60% of residents in cars as well as delivery vehicles, emergency service vehicles of ambulance, fire and police, people moving around the city in work vehicles and out of town vehicles.

Are the Councillors actually digesting those numbers?

The above DCC artist’s image shows traffic (well actually only one car which is stretching artistic licence) driving one way- north to south down the CBD. So if someone driving from the south needs to get into the Meridian/ Golden Centre or Wall Street carparks what will they do? They will be forced to drive down the one way system to Hanover or Frederick Street and come onto the main street from there to join the north south traffic flow. Traffic will not be halved by changing to a one way street, it will mean the same traffic that currently occupies two lanes will then be driving in the one lane.

If Council’s plan for tightly constricting traffic flow in George street goes ahead at the same time that the hospital build constricts traffic flow on the one way system for 10+ years, then there will inevitably be the sort of traffic gridlock in our small city that would normally be associated with a Jakarta or Mumbai.

The redesign plan for the CBD area is based on having the appropriate infrastructure design in place for when the 2024 vision of 7,000 cyclists and 200 buses arriving into the CBD Bike Park/ Bus Hub, is realised. The Councillors are so convinced that this vision will be realised that they have now endorsed a budgeted $60 Million project to convert our main street to a town plaza. Have the DCC thought this through at all over the past six years of planning and implementation? 

At the very least, the six year old Transport Strategy goals should get an independent, professional performance review, following the significant investment over the past six years in cycle ways and the bus hub, before we commit to another $60 million converting the CBD. We need to know whether the “build it and they will change” policy over these past six years has actually made any significant difference to the actual modes of transport.

We know they want to do their bit to save the planet but, by the time the hospital gets built, half of the car users will probably be driving hybrid or electric cars anyway and the dramatic reduction in carbon exhausts will have been made by advanced technology not by forced reverting to the 1950’s. Civilisation is enhanced by meeting challenges and moving forward not by giving up and going backwards.

Footnote: 19 August 2019 and the official NZTA cycleway statistics are published. The jewel in the cycleway crown, Great King St right through the heart of the university precinct records a zero increase. The Victoria Rd cycleway, the ‘visionary’ concept of linking south Dunedin to the city by cycleway: a 7% decrease. Daily average cycle count last month was 130 from six different counters around the city; that of course does not account for the same cyclist being recorded on two or more of the six counters on the same day. And with all cyclists at least making a return journey, lets be generous and say there are 65 cyclists. NZTA concede that, while ‘not startling”, they are showing gradual growth. If that is acceptable growth after five years, just how low was the start base? They may see an average daily total of 130 from six counters as being acceptable, but that is still a long long way from the 7,000 the DCC strategy is counting on.

For more reading on the subject:

https://tonycollinsblog.com/2016/04/28/3906/

  1. #1 by Colin & Ngaire Chinn on June 23, 2019 - 9:00 pm

    Despite my desire to find fault in what you write I can’t for the life of me find fault in this little pearler.

    Your point that the Council should review the progress of their “Build it and they will change” approach, so far, is highly commendable. For starters I’m certain it would expose the folly of the miles of unused cycleways they have forced on you all.

    Was that the article you sent to “letters to the Editor “?

    Glad I’m not coming back to live in Dunedin in the next ten housand years.

    Think yourself lucky I don’t plan to send your blog to Anna any time soon. But if you piss me off by beating me in Super Rugby I just might.

    Sent from Samsung Mobile on O2

    Like

  2. #2 by Colin & Ngaire Chinn on June 24, 2019 - 1:24 am

    Don’t remember ever reading your “Seat of civilisation” blog before. Excellent piece! Shame the readership isn’t greater. Why don’t you try for the Mayor’s job? No doubt some hacker would check out your emails or past history and turn you into dog tucker overnighr, just like they’re trying to do with Boris right now.

    The very reason why ‘real’ people are not entering politics anymore. Fucked up world.

    Sent from Samsung Mobile on O2

    Like

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