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In my opinion there are several alternative designs that should be considered by the city council before it makes a decision on the upgrade.
The area of George St between Moray Pl and Frederick St could become void of any traffic and be turned into a public mall with outside seating, children's play area, small kiosks, etc. The planting and seating arrangements could be maintained as proposed, with the addition of a passenger transport system along the middle of the road.
There are two forms of passenger transport available to the city designers if they cared to make time to consider.
I understand that the Dunedin City Council owns four trams that used to operate in Dunedin in the early days and now of heritage status. One is on display at Toitu Museum and I understand there are three vehicles in storage. The three in storage would need to be restored to operational standard, which could be carried out by companies in Dunedin, thus keeping it local.
Alternatively, they could work with the Dunedin Heritage Light Rail Trust and provide the necessary support to help it complete the Mornington route project.
Currently, this line is proposed to end at the corner of High and Princes Sts but there is no reason why it could not be extended to travel up Princes St and through the central carriageway in the Octagon (which is also due for an upgrade) and then along George St to Frederick St and return.
This would also link into the already operational heritage precinct in the Exchange area. The only extra cost to the city above the trust's estimated $30million for the Mornington line would be the laying of dual tracks from the Exchange to Frederick St and return, stopping areas and safety features.
The cable cars are already under lease to the trust, with more to follow, and the operational system and storage is part of stage two of the trust's project. In that way, the need for "one-way vehicle traffic going south, and the proposed counter-flow cycle/scooter lane and a paved carriageway between Hanover St and St Andrews St where cyclists and pedestrians would have priority over motorists'' would not be necessary, thus creating a greater open mall area, free of any danger from vehicles, where the public can roam freely, leave their vehicles out of the CBD and ride on either a tram or cable car along the mall, hopping off and on along the way.
I have seen this situation in several overseas countries and it works a treat, with public-only busy hubs throughout the whole day. This would also assist the shopping precinct along Princes St, around the Octagon and along the George St mall.
The current proposal can lead to other troublesome activities, especially in the cycle/scooter lane, like skateboards, roller skates and possibly other forms of transport thus cluttering up the area and causing possible mayhem, putting pedestrians in greater danger of being injured than in the present proposal.
Recently, I attended a public meeting in the library where this proposal was discussed, and listening to the comments made by the attendees, their main concern was, will there be extensive consultation with the public or was it already a done deal, and they were advised that the design proposed and presented at the meeting was just an idea and further work and consultation would need to be carried out on the proposal and public opinion would be part of that process.
This whole project could become a mecca for the locals and visitors alike thus increasing the capital intake to the city, a safe place to visit and linger a while with heritage vehicles as transport, access to large shopping complex and an interesting area to rest a while and catch your breath.
This area proposed for an upgrade is where the public mingle and go about their shopping etc.
Most are city ratepayers and their family who in the long term will be funding the proposal. I am certain they will get behind it, as long as they are kept well informed, their opinions are considered and they feel safe to wander around in safety. The current plan does not appear provide for this.
- Neville Jemmett is chairman of the Dunedin Heritage Light Rail Trust.