Are the Basin Reserve roading proposals really worthwhile?

Hiya!  Who wants to talk about the Basin Reserve flyover and money?  Tough.  We’re talking.

Let's see... money divided by big road projects equals...?

With apologies to all you admirable Ms. and Mr. Wizards out there, wearing your number caps and quadratic formula capes, I must declare: Math sucks.  Whether you make it a plural or not.  But it’s also darn helpful.  Sometimes, amidst all the jibber jabber debate surrounding infrastructure change, it’s roundly overlooked.  So, kudos to the new community group calling itself Community and Sustainable Transport (CAST) which has formed itself to respond to NZTA’s roading proposals for Wellington.

CAST is using math– goodness love them– to remind us all that cost and promised convenience are not the only things to consider in the initial planning stages of a giant land-, home-, and school-claiming project.  There’s also the value of the benefit.  It makes a ratio.  A cost-benefit ratio, even.

According to CAST, the $500 million project, as proposed, will require over 30 years to deliver $200 million in economic benefits.  This has David Laing, the group’s convener, asking why the government “is borrowing $500 million for such a poor return.”  He suggests that a bank deposit might yield a better return on the investment.  Wow.  Wouldn’t it be cool to have $500 million in your bank account?

CAST is cooking up some pretty tasty food for thought as we all mull over our submissions to the NZTA’s proposals (due on 26th August). First, vehicle kilometers travelled are static and falling.  As oil prices continue to rise, alternatives to fuel-consumption will likely be sought out by consumers.  That’s the demand part of innovation.  Unfortunately, the proposals respond to the reasonable demands of a fading era.

Second, CAST reminds us to take a look at the quality of life of Eastern suburb dwellers.  If Ruahine Road is widened, we don’t just lose a piece of the Town Belt, we  also expose those living within 200 meters of the road, as well as the students of Kilbirnie School and its adjacent Playcentre, to higher levels of pollution.

CAST is seeking better alternatives to the fairly limited options presented in NZTA’s proposals.  Instead of weighing the benefits of two different flyovers, a new tunnel and wider roads, it would prefer to see alternatives that include public transport, demand management, and cycling and walking components.  Not surprisingly, CAST is also seeking an alternative that delivers a more reasonable cost-benefit ratio.  Wise folks.

Those interested in learning more about CAST should make contact by writing to David dot Laing @ gmail dot com.   And everyone should take a moment to familiarize themselves with the NZTA proposals so they can chime in with their thoughts before the submission period ends in late August.


8 thoughts on “Are the Basin Reserve roading proposals really worthwhile?

  1. Bullitt

    I find the comments about how it will impact eastern suburbs residents interesting. There are many thousands of us delayed by the single lane in Ruahine Street and the tunnel every day including weekends. Every one of those people will benefit significantly by these proposals with the exception of at most a few hundred who should have been aware of these proposals well before they bought a house right beside SH1.


    1. atom

      I find it amusing that so many people prefer to sit in traffic, rather than take a bus (through the bus tunnel). Certainly many of them have legitimate reasons for taking a car (not to mention work-vans, trucks, etc) but how many of those cars could be taken off the road if more people used existing public transport? How about if money was spent improving public transport? Or even improving the “image” of public transport… After all, “It’s not just for poor people.”

      I wouldn’t say that “Every one of those people will benefit significantly by these proposals”. When govt money is spent on projects with negative ROI it benefits the few at the expense of the many: There’s no way around that.

      “In rush hour, there’s an average of 1.2 persons per car. At that rate 2 buses can carry as many people as a hundred cars. In a single lane the cars would stretch over a third of a mile; the buses only 90 feet – and that can reduce congestion, noise and air pollution by over 90%.” –

      Let’s crunch that… From Wellington RD & Ruahine ST to Paterson ST at the Basin is 1.8km (google-maps). That’s 1.1 miles. Assuming 1.2 people per car along that stretch of road (which does NOT include traffic ON Wellington RD) that traffic jam could be replaced by 7 buses. We need to spend more money building more roads?!?!


  2. Bullitt

    Lets try some different numbers. If I walk out my front gate and to the bus stop and the express bus arrives just as I get there so I dont have to wait it still takes me almost an hour to get to the railway station and its even worse if its not an express bus or I have to wait. In that time I can pushbike to work and have a shower and still be at my desk sooner.

    Plus if I chose to drive to work (I never have) Id do about 100ks a week which would cost about $20 compared to $35 for a bus. Obviously parking is on top of that but theres always ways around that. And as youve said yourself theres 1.2 people on average so some of those people are saving $70 or more worth of bus fares.

    From here it takes me about 15 minutes to drive to town with no traffic but it can be 40 if I strike alot of traffic and that can occur at midday on a Saturday not just rush hour. As soon as I’m through the tunnel traffic always speeds up. Plus without the tunnel backlog backing up back into Kent Terrace and Vivian St it will significantly reduce congestion through the whole CBD as well.

    Where I work plenty of people have flown in for the day, by the time they have to add in travelling time to and from the airport theres a significant amount of time spent not working, if 15 minutes could be taken off each persons journey (which would be pretty easy) that would be a significant saving, none of which could be captured by subsidising buses more than they already are.

    I admire Wellingtons train network which works well for Tawa and the Hutt (I’d say the best in NZ) due to the regions geography but public transport will never be practical for the eastern suburbs.


    1. atom

      $20/wk to drive to work? Huh? According to IRD the rate is 74c/km (includes fuel and normal wear, excludes parking). At that rate, two weeks of driving (100km/wk, excluding parking) would buy you a monthly bus pass. Even without parking fees, you’d have enough money left over for a blinky light or several fancy coffees… and still have two weeks of bus travel “free”.

      Of course, riding a bike is still the best option 🙂

      And the reason it takes the bus so long to get from A to B is… TOO MANY CARS. Increasing motor vehicle capacity through the tunnel and around the Basin will just move the mess farther along the road, and much of that mess will still be along bus routes.

      How about if the buses were 100% subsidized? Sounds too crazy to work? Check it out –

      Would that be enough to get people to leave the car at home?

      Instead of building more roads to make driving more attractive than public transport, that money could go a long way towards making public transport more attractive than driving… using the roads we already have, reducing congestion (and travel time), reducing pollution, making the roads safer for EVERYONE, etc, etc.

      Very simply, building more roads encourages more people to drive! That’s the LAST thing we want! There are better options, using the roads (and money) we already have.


  3. Bullitt

    I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. I will continue to biased against busses, I feel far safer having 100 cars pass me than one bus.

    As for the cost of driving to work the IRD mileage rate includes all costs of running a car including depreciation, rego, insurance etc on a late model car. As I already own the car most of those dont need to be accounted for if I chose to drive to work.

    My car is cheaper to run than most. Since the start of this year Ive driven 3,860 ks at an average fuel cost of 14.3c/km. Thats not all in bumper to bumper traffic but its mostly around town and no long distance trips so saying 20c/km doesn’t sound too unrealistic to me. Other than fuel the costs of those kind of distances on an already owned car would be minimal.


  4. Gosh, really?

    I’d WAY rather be passed by a driver who’s received hours of special training in handling their vehicle, who is accountable for getting it wrong and can be held to account easily by an email to their bosses, whose job depends on driving safely, and who is well aware of their responsibilities to other road users including cyclists.

    Or there’s the other 95% of us who got their drivers licence at 15 after a couple of trips round the block with mum or dad, and who haven’t had any training since.

    I know not all bus drivers are perfect, but on balance I’d rather be passed by a bus.


    1. atom

      (quoting from your link)

      “The study by AECOM found the network would deliver at least $506 million – or $3.88 for every dollar spent – in net economic benefits over 30 years, and reduce Sydney’s traffic congestion by 4.3 million car trips a year.”

      That’s like putting money into a savings account and getting more than 4.5% interest. Not bad at all by current standards. Note that AECOM is one of the engineering firms contracted by NZTA for these “improvements”.

      “The benefit in reducing congestion alone is estimated to be worth $97.8 million or $4.07 for every commuter switching from a car to bicycle during peak periods.”

      There’s an interesting dynamic… Public transport plays a HUGE role in reducing congestion… When congestion is reduced, more people feel safer riding their bikes for transportation… both cycling and PT play synergistic roles in reducing congestion, pollution and the exporting of NZ dollars (wealth) for cars (depreciating assets) and fuel (a consumable). The NZTA “improvements” give little more than lip service to walking, cycling and PT while encouraging modes of transport that will make NZ poor and fat.

      “The study found that building the network would provide $147.3 million in health benefits for the next 30 years, potentially saving Sydney commuters from a raft of chronic diseases from heart disease to Type 2 Diabetes.”

      Another reason NZ needs to do more walking, more cycling, and less driving –


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