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Residents chip away at tunnel bylaw plan

Jul 14th, 2010 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

BUS SNARL-UP: Peak time traffic

BUS SNARL-UP: Peak-time traffic on Pirie St, Mt Victoria.

PLANNED new restrictions on use of the Mt Victoria bus tunnel will increase the number of buses on residential streets without improving the tunnel’s safety, residents say.

A proposed bylaw change opens the way for extra buses, says Mt Victoria Residents’ Association acting president Kent Duston.

“Putting more buses through the bus tunnel completely fails to fix the basic problem of safety,” he says.

bus tunnel MAIN 2

NO ENTRY: Signage will change and bus numbers may increase.

Wellington City Council wants to amend its traffic bylaws to clarify that only buses may use the Pirie St tunnel, but the draft changes make it legal, for the first time, for “not in service” and non-local buses to go through. The council has asked the public for submissions.

Mr Duston says this is not the way to improve safety.

“I’m astounded that officers are wasting everybody’s time with such a poor quality proposal,” he says. The association will be making a submission.

Senior sergeant Richard Hocken, head of the Wellington police strategic traffic unit, says policing the new bylaw will not be a strategic focus for police. “The changes will not make a difference to us.”

He says changes that could make the tunnel safer are cost-prohibitive.

Deputy mayor Ian McKinnon says the bylaw will be enforceable on the basis that residents and council staff will report offenders.

Paul Barker, the council’s safe and sustainable transport manager, explains that moving violations (such as cars in the tunnel) are enforced by police unless an exemption is authorised by the commissioner of police.The council has applied to the commissioner and hopes to have authority to issue tickets by the end of the year, says Mr Barker. The current $150 fine for illegally driving through the bus tunnel will stay.

In a report outlining options available to the council, Mr Barker acknowledged safety concerns raised by the residents’ association over illegal use of the tunnel by private motor vehicles and pedestrians.

bus tunnel Main 1
SAFETY ISSUES: Buses only – but residents aren’t happy.

In 2009 a pedestrian, Earl Kraus-Kopf, was seriously injured by a car illegally in the tunnel.

Mr Barker says: “The most recent measured daily traffic volumes show that approximately 500 vehicles per day use the tunnel, in both directions. These comprise approximately 70 cars and 430 buses.”

Approximately 100-120 vehicles a day are illegally using the tunnel, he says.

Mr McKinnon, a city councillor for Lambton ward, says the changes will be well advertised and signposted and he expects most people will obey.

The bylaw helps to encourage bus patronage, he says. “This city has an aim to keep people on public transport.”

Greater Wellington Regional Council transport spokesperson Philippa Lagan says making the tunnel a bus-only lane will increase traffic, but a substantial amount of bus traffic around a bus tunnel is to be expected.

Mr Barker has acknowledged that it may be unwise to allow tour coaches and charter buses on top of existing local services, as they may cause delays.

The council recently extended the submissions period a week, to close at 5pm on Friday.

Council staff will report to the council’s 19 August strategy and policy committee, which will vote on the matter.

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