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Dunedin City Councillor David Benson-Pope is correct when he states in an Otago Daily Times video which appeared on January 20, 2022:
"This is not a council idea, this is the result of a very extensive public process with considerable expert engineering, traffic management and transportation planning advice."
Mr Benson-Pope can only be referring to the Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency (WKNZTA) endorsed proposal to retain the one-way system through Dunedin because only that option has public approval. That agreement is by a margin of 3 to 1 in favour of a one-way system. To be clear, that is not a narrow margin, it is overwhelming.
By contrast the "council idea" of changing to a two-way system received strong opposition in the public consultation process and achieved only a slim margin of ascendancy in a councillor closed-door discussion about the topic.
If we actually live in a democracy there can be only one choice — to retain a one-way system.
If elected councillors genuinely desire to enable decision-making by the community as per the Local Government Act 2002, there can be only one choice — to retain a one-way system.
Both options were considered by an expert assessment team commissioned by WKNZTA. On technical assessment, the scores were very close although the two-way proposal came with additional risk, complexity and cost. However, after considering public and stakeholder feedback, the preferred programme emerged clearly — to retain a one-way system.
Safety and cost are significant factors when public lives are on the line and public money is being spent. In the professional evaluation by experts, a better Death and Serious injury score (DSi) as well as a superior Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) were achieved by, you guessed it, a one-way system.
Pedestrian access is a different matter and I think that overhead walkways are a very cost-effective way to safely cross State Highway 1. The current hospital has such a walkway already and the new hospital buildings are planned to be linked across St Andrew St by a sophisticated set of structures. To me it seems obvious to further extend the connectivity by crossing the one-ways and perhaps going as far as Ward St and Great King St. This would provide easy transit to the bus hub, the St Andrew St car park across the railway line and to the harbourside industrial area, as well as the cycleway .
Demand might suggest that the St Andrew St car park could be extended skyward as many people complain about the lack of hospital parking currently. It would be a bad look to wait until we have an incident like the late-night nurse attack in Christchurch before anything was done.
It seems to me that there are nice amenity benefits to be had by slowing everything down with a two-way setup, however that comes at the expense of travel times and inhibited flow. It must be remembered that there are thousands of cars and hundreds of trucks passing through Dunedin on State Highway1, let alone the tens of thousands of cars coming in and out and around the town every day. A great many of those drivers simply cannot shift mode to walking, cycling or buses and State Highway1 cannot be moved elsewhere.
A two-way arrangement will only work if there is no growth in car numbers coupled with dramatic mode shift, otherwise, the city will grind to a halt.
The opposite is happening. Over the past five years there has been steady growth in traffic volumes plus our population projections have changed from no/low to medium/high growth.
There is already low public satisfaction with the flow of traffic through the central city at peak times and increasing concerns about congestion on the one-way system, so it would be courting disaster to constrict flow massively with a two-way proposal that has little public support in the hope of forcing drivers to change their ways.
A key factor that needs to happen is productive dialogue between the DCC and Otago Regional Council to improve bus usage. In my opinion, convenience is the key. If we can work together to make public transport more attractive to people, they will shift mode out of desire which is a far better result than trying to force them to change by beating with sticks of congestion, frustration and expense.
Along with other network flow improvements such as the harbour arterial path for heavy vehicles and cycleway extensions, WKNZTA has chosen a sensible course by selecting a one-way option for Dunedin.