Bus congestion in Pirie St on a recent weekday morning
Residents around Pirie St will have noticed a letter from the Council this week about a proposed traffic resolution affecting the Hataitai bus tunnel. The letter suggests that the changes have the support of the Mt Victoria Residents Association, but unfortunately the Council is being somewhat economical with the facts.
The gist of what the traffic engineers are proposing is that the tunnel should be re-designated as a bus lane, which will permit the Council to enforce its use – effectively providing a deterrent to the sorts of drivers that badly injured Earl Krauskopf last year. So far, so good. But there are some essential facts missing from the letter.
The first is that the Council currently lacks the legal authority to enforce bus lanes. The Council’s Director of Infrastructure, Stavros Michael has said that:
“I advised that Council has now concluded a contract variation with our Parking Services agent …. and are in a position to commence the process pending a minor process confirmation by the Police Commissioner. In any event this ability will be available to Council well in advance of this proposed resolution been considered and adopted by Council.”
On the surface this sounds positive. However it’s clear that the enforcement authority is by no means a done deal, and there appears to be no project plan or timeline to implement the enforcement activity. In addition, we understand that the contractor only has a single enforcement camera to cover the entire Wellington region, so enforcement could be sporadic at best.
But the key problem is one that is not even mentioned by Council officers in their letter – that changing the designation will result in the tunnel being open slather for every bus in the city.
Currently the tunnel is governed by a Greater Wellington Regional Council bylaw that restricts the use of the tunnel to in-service commuter buses only – effectively Go Wellington, Valley Flyer and Airport Flyer services; not-in-service buses and tourist buses are banned. But changing the designation would open the flood-gates to every operator in the region, putting another estimated 70-90 buses a day up the narrow residential streets of the neighbourhood.
So the whole idea of making the tunnel safer seems to have gone completely out the window. Instead, we’ll have more buses, more congestion, and only sporadic enforcement. This is not what the Mt Victoria Residents Association signed up for at the meetings to discuss the matter with the Council, the bus company and the Police, and we feel deceived and let down by the officers concerned. It seems only fair that they are honest with local residents about what they are actually planning, and the implications of those decisions.
As noted in the Council’s letter, consultation on this poorly thought-through proposal is open until 5pm on Friday 9 July. We would encourage all local residents to oppose the traffic resolution, and to call their Ward Councillors to express their views.
Mt Victoria Residents Association