Longer south / east route options to be evaluated in Wellington public transport study

Bus rapid transit and light rail options running from Wellington Station to the south and east beyond Wellington Regional Hospital will now be fully explored and evaluated as part of the Wellington Public Transport Spine Study.

The study, being carried out by Greater Wellington Regional Council in partnership with Wellington City Council and the NZ Transport Agency, is investigating the best public transport options for Wellington in 20 to 30 years time.

Luke Troy, the Regional Council’s manager of the spine study project, says the study brief always included looking at connections to the north and south-east of the study area between Wellington Station and Wellington Regional Hospital.

“We’ve recently assessed the benefits of extending the public transport spine to the north including towards Johnsonville and south-east towards Kilbirnie, Miramar and the Airport. We’ve looked at the forecast future demand for all travel to Wellington CBD from these areas, the current mode share for public transport and the likelihood of increasing this in the next 20 years and the demand for travel through the CBD.

“We found there were some real benefits to extending a future public transport spine to the south/east beyond the Regional Hospital in Newtown. With strong travel demand predicted in these areas, there’s potential for significant increases in the use of public transport along these routes if a high quality public transport spine was implemented in future.”

Extending the public transport spine north of the Wellington railway station was found not to merit further evaluation as part of the study.

Regional Council Chair Fran Wilde says regardless of the mode finally chosen, investigating the route to the south and east of the regional hospital makes good sense, given the forecast future demand in those areas.

“There are really important regional destinations in both the core and extended study areas and a high quality public transport system would improve travel times for all road users.

“It’s imperative that Wellington City’s public transport spine meets future travel needs as the city and the region change and grow.”

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said the broadening of the study is important as it’s a key component of the Ngauranga to Airport Corridor plan.

“I’m excited about the possibility for linking Kilbirnie to the CBD better,” she said. “I look forward to this being a significant step to improve connectivity from the Airport to the city, which is clearly a desirable outcome for a world-class city.

“This area is an essential part of Wellington’s urban development plans.”

Jenny Chetwynd, the NZ Transport Agency’s Regional Director, says the longer-route investigation will help ensure the study’s findings reflect a long-term solution that will meet Wellington’s future public transport needs, as well as integrate with the wider transport network.

The current phase of the study involves defining in detail the routes, alignments and specifications of three options: bus priority, bus rapid transit and light rail. Then the benefits and costs will be modelled and evaluated.

The outcome of the final evaluation stage, and the study as a whole, is expected to be reported in April 2013. The findings will be taken out to public consultation after this.