A carless Golden Mile?

Getting all the cars out of the Golden Mile within twenty years is a great election ploy. It sounds like a worthy aim. It sound green. It's lofty in its aspiration, and it's far enough out that no politician backing it now will be around when and if it becomes a reality. The practicalities of it don't matter that much, because the advocates of far out goals time wise can always acknowledge that there will be issues to be resolved along the way.

It's like the "Catch up with Australia" goal that National promotes from time to time, or the "NZ back into the top half of the OECD" that Labour promoted in its first years in office last time.  As slogans they sound great, and they are likely to gather public support - which is really what they are all about. Policies or slogans of that kind make the proponent sound like they have a vision for their country - or city in this case.

So well done Mayor Kerry, just the sort of policy needed to breathe fresh air into a mayoral campaign which could otherwise have faced the change of being old, stale and more of the same.

The other characteristic of such visionary policies is that the detractors and the critics sound mean minded and lowly because they ask practical questions like how will people in apartments along the Mile get out of the city if cars are banned.

Then there's the question of how businesses will get their supplies in and how the elderly and disabled will get around to do their shopping. Banning cars might be pedestrian friendly, but it isn't necessarily retailer friendly. The one way streets feeding in and out of the Mile would need to be reconfigured - not a small task.

Whatever is done should not damage the vibrant heart of Wellington - its retail sector. The compact nature of the city and its accessibility by car are very definitely features that visitors and residents appreciate.

Visitors doesn't just mean international tourists, or even those from Hamilton, New Plymouth, Napier and Nelson. Visitors also very definitely includes those from Kapiti, the Wairapara, Palmerston North and the Manawatu, who come to Wellington for high class shopping, perhaps combining that with an top class show - WOW, the Arts Festival and Waiting for Godot all spring to mind.

I can see a case from taking cars out of Courtenay Place, Manners Street and down Willis Street to Lambton Quay, but not for banning cars from the rest of the streets. Whether a carless golden mile, which still allows buses and perhaps service vehicles as well, will make traffic movement easier or lead to a better environment for pedestrians is unclear. Not many cars navigate their way through the city along the Golden Mile now. Jervois Quay, the Terrace or the motorway are better routes, and if buses, trucks, vans and taxis are still on the Mile, pedestrians are hardly going to be much safer or happier. But then practicalities are not what visionary policies are about.