Pedestrian vs Transit: The Wellington’s Golden Mile case
December 1, 2012
The Wellington’s Golden Mile case
The Wellington Golden Mile is an area of Down town Wellington, New Zealand, including noticeably Manners Mall, an historically important Transit spine:
Aggressive pedestrianism: the Kiwi version
Manners Mall, strategically located, full of shopping opportunities and pedestrians, made an ideal target for pedestrianization, what has been done toward the end of the 70’s. That was allowed by rerouting Transit on adjacent streets:
In 2008, the Wellington city council came with the project to reintroduce buses on the pedestrian mall:
The reasons for this project were to end the Transit issues caused by the rerouting (involved by the Pedestrian Mall) :
- poor journey time reliability
- indirect routings
- poor legibility
Needless, to say, the project has encountered fierce opposition: the arguments are known:
- What the heck such a few meter of pedestrianized road make a problem?
- There is plenty of road where the bus can goes: Why absolutely there?
- Give me a break: It is only a 5mn walk to the bus!
An example of argumentation:
In despite of the local Green Party support for the plan, citizen feedbacks were overwhelmy negative: 74% opposed to the re-opening of the pedestrian Mall to buses during the first public consultation , a sizable facebook group was constituted, and even a song has been written in defense of the pedestrian mall :
Alas for the pedestrian Mall, it is a case of Transit geometry. If one want to reduce auto reliance and have more pedestrians on the street; attractive transit is key, and good transit geometry is paramount. The Wellington people understood those reasons and the proposal was implemented in time for the 2011 Wolrd Rugby Cup.
Today The buses are flowing down on the once pedestrian only mall. Pedestrians are also the winner of this new configuration: A more direct bus route, open more pedestrianization possibilities, while still keeping pedestrian area accessible by transit, and here it was eventually an argument able to sell the project:
The new configuration, not only make sense from a transit perspective, but it also makes sense of a pedestrian perspective, by joining 2 pedestrian areas (that is via Cuba street), now irrigated; and not circumvoluted; by transit
That is in accord to the usually successful pedestrian philosophy at play in Europe, which is not to make life more complicate for transit, but to improve the city livability by discourage automobile use (see also )
AFAIK, transit geometry is a term coined by Jarret Walker, to recover some different transit concepts, which are concretely exposed on a real life example in part 2 from the circling the square series, by Peter Marriott, on the Pricetags blog. The transit geometry concept boils down to mirror the desire lines one (concept often associated to Gaston Bachelard )
Thought successful pedestrian areas are more often than not the result of a comprehensive transportation plan, addressing well identified problem, as seen in Europe , but also, more recently in New York , aggressive pedestrianism is a philosophy at 180 degree of it:
- A Vancouver example
A Bob Ransford’s post nearly perfectly syncretizes the aggressive pedestrianism philosophy. It illustrates why transit arteries – the path of least disturbance for motorists- are the main targets of the aggressive pedestrianism movement, which unfortunately is still getting lot of traction in Vancouver:
VPSN (@vpsn) November 29, 2012
For the out of town reader (and apparently the not so out of town too), What is at stake in the case raised in the Bob Ransford’s post is not 100 meters of road, but the fact that this 100m are on an important transit spine of the Vancouver network, with no obvious rerouting alternative .
 Central Area Bus Operational Review, Final report, Opus consultant, Wellington NZ, November 2009
 “Manners Mall Emo Song”, Robbie Ellis, 2009
 La poetique de l’espace, Gaston Bachelard, 1958, Paris
 see NYC DOT press release Release # 06-56, October 12, 2006; See World Class Streets: Remaking New York City’s Public Realm, New York City DOT, 2008
 Restoring the Golden Mile :Summary of Consultation, Wellington NZ, 2008.
 “mirror” because geometry is a rational term whereas “desire” is apriori not. In the case of Manners Mall, the sunny side of Manners mall has sidewalk 20% wider than the shaded side mirroring the pedestrian “line of desire” – Pedestrians, as transit users could prefer journeying thru vibrant street than others for reasons expressed in  (which could have to do with some anthropological gregarious trait of humanity among other reason)…