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The ‘‘Connecting Dunedin’’ advisory group seems to have lost the meaning of their title with a recent set of proposals put forward to shape Future Dunedin Transport. They featured in an article in the ODT on Monday, January 11, 2021 headlined “Wheels in Motion”.
The proposals are more like a set of constrictions to disconnect people from what they want and force them into undesirable transportation patterns instead of easy, safe and reliable travel choices to meet their needs. The DCC financial contribution required is substantial and I think more discussion should occur before money is spent.
- $9.5 million for car park monitoring, guidance, payment and enforcement? That amount of money could build at least 300 multi-level parks. How about we alleviate the parking problem instead of pointing at it?
- $5 million for Park and Ride facilities at Mosgiel and Burnside? Who wants to drive to a park that far out then take a bus to town? I have seen no local research to suggest anyone does. Certainly, rural folk I have spoken with do not. That money could build another 150 car parks, perhaps replacing the ones being lost from Dowling St.
- $3.8 million for more cycle lanes and Barnes Dance crossings? The purpose seems to be to congest traffic further and make negotiating Dunedin more difficult than ever. Where are the usage statistics that compel these alterations?
Instead of forcing people to do things they do not want, how about we create more attractive options that they embrace? Here are some suggestions that provide interconnection:
Starting with George St, it is abundantly clear that people prefer it to remain two-way. Not just stakeholders like business or building owners but shoppers too; 6500 of them signed a petition. Why impose a one-way? Here are 10 reasons to keep it two-way at this stage:
1: High rate of community acceptance.
2: Affected stakeholder buy in.
3: Enables an efficient loop bus.
4: Retains flow of goods and people.
5: Better access for young, old and disabled.
6: Logical transition from present.
7: Better business viability.
8: Safer after hours.
9: Less hospital disruption.
10: Less visitor confusion.
Next, we have the one-way system which should remain as it is. If it were changed to two two-ways, I have been told by experts that gridlock would ensue. Even with a heavy traffic bypass along Ward St, which is needed, the volume of state highway traffic is such that our roads would not cope.
The high number of letters to the editor in the ODT supporting retention of the one-way system and complaining about traffic constrictions indicate that we should be very hesitant about making things worse.
Parking has been the item of least resident satisfaction in recent years yet reduction continues apace. Simple alterations to lines and signs could make a dramatic difference in some areas such as reverse angle parks in Lees St for Oval sports, Sturdee St for industrial workers and Bedford St for beachgoers. A longer list could be readily compiled.
CBD parking is a more difficult situation but possibility exists for multilevel parks in St Andrew St, Frederick St and Rattray St. The most attractive of these is St Andrew St, just over the railway line from Anzac Ave and an easy overhead walkway distance from the Bus Hub and Ward St which would remove the need for Barnes Dances across the one-way and be safer. This site would service the new hospital, of course, which is a cause for concern of many already; just ask any staff member. Additionally, university and polytechnic people would welcome more parking, CBD workers, stadium visitors, tourists and travellers would appreciate the convenience of a transport hub on the outskirts of town. Campers, cars, bikes and scooters could be stored or hired.
Intrinsic to the functionality of this transport hub would be an effective loop bus or tram. Running in both directions along George and Princes Sts to the Exchange and Chinese Garden then via the one-way and Albany St back to George St. It would cater for commuters working perhaps at ACC, the Meridian mall or the museum thus freeing up inner city parks for customers and visitors. Students, shoppers and tourists would appreciate the convenience and the opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint. The busier it gets, the more frequently it could run. Melbourne has a pretty good example on a larger scale.
Public transport must be fast, frequent and reliable if it is to gain reasonable patronage. Many people have commented on the emptiness of our buses. Perhaps this loop bus might be a good introduction to a smaller, more nimble vehicle that could improve our overall service.
Demographics, weather and topography are central to any discussion about transport in Dunedin. These factors will always limit the practicality and uptake of active transport here which means “a build it and they will come” approach is not necessarily applicable in our case. Those factors also limit the alternatives for through routes which are vital for efficient business, so a careful balance must be struck to cater for all parties while ensuring ongoing business viability.
The geographical spread and low population density of our city means that cars are and will likely remain the predominant form of transport in Dunedin for the foreseeable future.
- Jules Radich is a Dunedin city councillor.