Whanganui: Transporting ourselves into the future
Much busier in Whanganui than it’s ever been, though buses are also improving
Transport operators need to make a profit. If we do not use the bus services we have, they certainly will not survive long, let alone be expanded.
Igave up driving around town at “rush hour” seven years ago when I decided that the time for full-time work was up for me, one of the best decisions I have ever made.
But I still like to get out and about a bit, to pootle around town doing stuff that needs doing.
Recently I found myself out at the doctor’s place in Fitzherbert Ave getting my twice-yearly service and lube, checking that all systems are good for another few months. I left the surgery around 4.45pm, later in the day than usual for me. Well, I tried to leave.
I sat in the driveway of the carpark for many minutes watching the traffic go past up Fitzherbert Ave towards town, wondering what the story was. Silly me, it’s rush hour, and the traffic from Mosston Rd is now using Fitzherbert Ave as an arterial route. At some stage, I took my life in my hands and threw the red rocket into a space. We then began crawling along toward the traffic island at Carlton Ave.
The traffic was heavy, far heavier than I recall it being during the years I did the rush hour thing in Whanganui.
Getting on to Carlton Ave, everything came to a stop. Must be an accident. Goodness me, I’ll be late for Midsomer Murders at this rate.
It became clear in time that the only issue was traffic congestion at the Alma Rd traffic island. Got through and then, nek minnit, stopped again at the Liffiton St traffic island — more traffic. This is beginning to remind me of Wellington in the 70s.
On to the Cobham Bridge, across the river and, eventually after another stop or two, into Pū tiki. Twenty minutes had elapsed since I’d left the surgery — it’s usually a four to five-minute amble to this point.
Traffic lights at the bridge, no problem. Home.
Why am I telling you this?
Well, it’s nice to see Whanganui actually having a rush hour, even if it is only 20 to 30 minutes at the beginning and end of the day. There have always been choke points around town at these times — the City and Dublin St bridges, for sure — but to see more have developed in recent times indicates to this very amateur town planner that Whanganui seems to be thriving. I began wondering when we will see traffic lights along the arterial routes into town from the outer areas, especially the Castlecliff industrial area. I hope not soon, I actually prefer traffic islands, but I guess a saturation point arrives at some stage where more traffic control is needed.
While our population has not rocketed out of control in recent years, it is slowly rising. It does not seem to take much of a population increase to see the effect on traffic.
So it’s great to see the new bus routes starting up recently, with more opportunities for some to use public transport. I see that the new service does not come across the river at this stage. I hope the success of the new system will encourage the extension of the service to Whanganui East — even up the hills would be nice. I would love to be able to amble out, up the street, wait a while, get a bus to town, do what I need to do and then get the bus home. I grew up with this system in Lower Hutt.
In those days, the Railways Road Services ran bus services to all the Hutt suburbs, every 20 minutes in the mornings and afternoons and then hourly during the day. The service ran from the very early morning to about 11pm from memory, the last bus after the pictures. It was great. Cars were not as available then so public transport, cycling and walking were muchused options.
It started in the 1920s, feeding people to the railway stations who were travelling to Wellington for work. Whanganui has a proud history of public transport — rail, bus and tram. It worked well then, so it should be able to work again.
It all comes down to money, sadly. Transport operators need to make a profit. If we do not use the bus services we have, they certainly will not survive long, let alone be expanded. There is an increasing argument in these times of climate concerns that all public transport should be paid for or heavily subsidised by the state.
New Zealanders love their cars. The country is still virtually empty with no reliable public transport systems to speak of, especially in the provinces, so we need cars at the moment — just a fact of life. I, for one, cannot see that changing in the foreseeable future, other than a gradual move away from internal combustion-powered vehicles over many years. That is probably the cheaper and easier option for all, sadly.