By TOM FITZSIMONS - The Dominion Post
Private cars should be banned from Wellington's Golden Mile within 10 to 20 years, Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast says.
She wants the shopping and entertainment corridor devoted to a "premium public-transport route" – featuring European-style electric buses or light rail.
Removing cars would also make the city more pedestrian-friendly.
She would exclude retail vehicles and courier vans from the move, as well as taxis, which were a "form of public transport".
However, retailers and other transport leaders are unsure about the concept.
Millionaire property investor Sir Robert Jones, who plans to put up a mayoral candidate on the single platform of an exclusively pedestrian boulevard for the Golden Mile, said Ms Prendergast might have been influenced by him.
But buses should have no place in such a plan, and even trams were a nuisance.
Ms Prendergast's vision for the Golden Mile – which runs from Lambton Quay along Willis and Manners streets to Courtenay Place – was not enough for him to change his mind about putting up a mayoral candidate because she was looking 10 or 20 years into the future. "Why not do it now?"
Ms Prendergast, who has previously discounted the idea as something Wellington was "too young for", confirmed that Sir Robert's idea "focused my thinking" and she shared his desire for a better pedestrian space.
Her idea would follow planned developments such as opening Manners Mall to buses, overhauling roads near the Basin Reserve and building a second Mt Victoria Tunnel. The council hopes these developments will move traffic away from main city routes.
Ms Prendergast said her vision, which fitted with the council's transport strategy, was about moving more people on to public transport.
"To get people to move ... they have to be sure buses are No1 reliable."
Buses were being held up by cars in narrow parts of the route. Eliminating cars was the way to guarantee public transport's reliability.
She hoped for a new style of vehicle for the area. "Whether it's a modern electric-bus system like they have in Europe or light rail, I'm not sure."
Kirkcaldie & Stains managing director John Milford said closing Lambton Quay to shoppers' cars could also mean closing side streets where his customers parked. Wellington was already well-served by public transport.
Fran Wilde, who chairs the Greater Wellington regional council and the cross-council regional transport committee, said making the Golden Mile an effective public transport spine was crucial, but did not require removing cars.
Ms Prendergast also said a pilot programme using electronic signs to direct cars to parking buildings with vacant spots would start soon.