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My ‘‘Hillside Hospital’’ opinion piece in 2017 anticipated the parking, congestion, and other problems of the proposed not-big-enough CBD hospital site, which has been most expensively bought without doing due diligence, and without checking that ground conditions were suitable for the originally proposed large hospital.
Last year I confronted Hospital Steering Group chairman Pete Hodgson face-to-face at the Farmers’ Market and asked again ‘‘What parking provision was planned for the new hospital site’’?
He replied that they ‘‘hoped to build 350 underground car parks’’, but subsequent confirmation of swampy ground conditions has made even this small number of parks unworkable. Hundreds of car parks have already been lost demolishing the space that is insufficient for a modern hospital design, on poor ground that requires exceptionally expensive deep foundations.
When senior nurse Karen Anderson asked SDHB CEO Chris Fleming a similar parking question at a concerned nurses’ meeting, Fleming replied that ‘‘by the time the hospital is built cars will be self-drive so extra parking won’t be needed’’. To me this suggests severe delusions, decades till planned completion, or both.
After five years of dodging parking questions, officials from the DCC and DHB to Transport Minister Michael Woods and Health Minister Andrew Little are still passing the buck, despite the recent lessons at Christchurch Hospital, where an extra 1000-space car park is urgently being built entirely over-budget because of similar car park planning incompetence.
DCC councillor Jim O’Malley this week said ‘‘it doesn’t make sense to build a hospital of this size and make no proper provision for ... parking’’ yet the previous week O’Malley promoted and voted for the DCC 10-year Plan Transportation $53 million spend that excluded even one new car park space.
The new hospital site is now given as a reason to divert, slow and two-way the one-way street system, with the claim that a major hospital cannot open out on to a one-way street for safety reasons.
Current plans to re-route north/south one-way traffic away from the new hospital across the rail-lines to loop around a Harbourside detour will ensure more delays and compounding congestion, especially at rail-crossing pinch-points and connections back on to arterial routes.
My suggestion for making the best of this new hospital mess comes at a cost that could have been avoided with almost any other site: Hillside, Oval, or Wakari.
Moving positively forward, we should move the failed ‘‘separated’’ cycleway off the one-way system and have a rideable cycleway run through the Gardens, the campus, and a 20kmh shared-space Leith Street instead, as sensibly proposed by others over the last decade.
We should then restore and upgrade the one-way system to a proper synchronised arterial route with a 60kmh speed limit along continuous three lanes each way, like the section that already flows easily from the Chinese Garden to the Oval.
Then we build a massive multi-story car park above the current Countdown car park with Hospital entrances at the second-story level, bridging over the one-way three lanes flowing north.
This would allow for safe pedestrian access to the hospital for all staff, patients, and visitors from closely adjacent easy parking, much like any major overseas airport.
Cyclists would have a safer calm two-way cycleway away from heavy traffic vehicles and the faster north/south traffic flows.
Our population, which is expected to increase by 10,000 people over the next seven years, will not only have safe and easy hospital access with significantly increased central city parking, but a much quicker uncongested route connecting North and South Dunedin which will also function as an effective by-pass.
Apart from the car park cost, changed hospital access and Leith St cycleway, this proposal would not require major building costs, demolition, or earthworks, and would optimise the more natural traffic corridors we already have.
History shows that new technology is what drives real social change, not activism or ideology. Current DCC leadership two-wheels-good, four-wheels-bad ideology is draining Dunedin’s development and choking our central city.
The new technology of much more efficient and eventually self-drive cars will see the end of Victorian modes of passenger transport, the tram, the train, and finally the blundering bus. They will all disappear because they can never cure the first-mile-last-mile problem, and because new efficient car and electric vehicle technology is already increasing our mobility at much less cost.
We should dump the latest $53 million of useless DCC transportation pet projects and instead invest in a better one-way, better hospital access, and better car parking that we actually need.