City Councillors voted in June to support the proposal in principle - subject to further consultation. A special consultative procedure is required under the Local Government Act to revoke Manners Mall's pedestrian mall status.
The Council last night agreed to undertake that special consultative procedure and approved the statement of proposal required for the consultation, subject to some minor amendments. Consultation is due to begin on Tuesday 29 September and submissions will be required by Friday 30 October. The Council will hear from any submitters that wish to speak in support of their submission in November and will receive a report back on the consultation in December.
Wellingtonians were asked last year what they thought of the idea of allowing buses through Manners Mall and the original plans have since been amended to provide public space improvements to compensate for the loss of public space in Manners Mall. Concept plans for public space in lower Cuba Street are included in the consultation documentation. Removal of buses from Dixon, Wakefield and Mercer streets would allow further public spaces to be created.
The Council is proposing that a two-lane 30 km/h roadway with wide footpaths on either side be built through what is now Manners Mall so buses could travel in both directions. Lower Cuba Street would be a shared public space where pedestrians would have priority. Vehicles would be able to travel through at walking speed and park, but drivers would have to give way to pedestrians.
The Council's Urban Development and Transport Portfolio Leader, Councillor Andy Foster, says the proposal to allow buses through what is now Manners Mall is part of an ongoing programme of measures designed to reduce delays and improve bus journey times through the central city. A reliable bus service is critical to remaining a sustainable city with a functioning transport system.
"During the first round of consultation many people told us that they supported the principle of a quicker, simpler, more obvious bus route but were reluctant to lose public space," he says. "We took that on board, looked again at lower Cuba Street in particular, but also at other streets that would be freed up, and have come up with a proposal that would benefit bus users and provide a stronger pedestrian link to Civic Square and the waterfront. We hope people will carefully consider the proposal and think about the future needs of the city and the transport network. I'm sure that people will also have creative suggestions to enhance the proposal."
Bus operators and transport planners at Opus International Consultants, who have looked closely at the bus route options for Wellington, believe that allowing buses to travel through Manners Mall is the single most beneficial change that could be made to improve bus travel times and reliability along the Golden Mile. It's predicted to reduce average bus travel time by between 35 and 162 seconds.