Road Expansion and Social Equity

01 APR 2021
Waka Kotahi have plans to widen Brougham Street - though to hear them you would not know it. Instead they are reallocating the existing space to create a safer road for all users. They have laudable climate and pollution goals, but when you dig into the details none of this is a good outcome for the local community.

The plan for Brougham Street is to add a third lane from the end of the Southern Motorway, through to Ensors Road. This is achieved by way of a 'temporary' clearway where now there is parking. Outside peak hours the parking spaces can be used. During peak hours these new traffic lanes will be T2 lanes - for the use of "high occupancy vehicles" - meaning two or more people in a car, or for buses. The enforcement of the lanes is unclear and there is a lot of handwaving about how this would work.

The notion is that this is not increasing capacity but instead is to incentivise car pooling, and to speed up buses along the route. But the T2 lane is not to be extended along the motorway because there is not enough demand... ie there is not enough congestion yet to warrant the T2 lane there. Which to my mind is bizarre thinking.

Waka Kotahi state that the way that the signalling will work is designed to maintain the same capacity on the road - and yet surely this will just keep the existing problem of idling cars clogging up neighbourhood streets... and increasing pollution. Indeed the project aims to reduce climate change gas emissions through a more efficient road network. But this is a reduction projected citywide - locally there will be more emissions.

And this is where there needs to be more consideration of social equity. Or as a recent Bloomberg article called it - Racial Justice - are a reason to halt expansion of roads where local communities of colour are affected. Surely such thinking should be applied to the Addington and Sydenham neighbourhoods too.

There is an effort to couch the NZUP-funded project as one that will improve the safety of the road. In their words: - "Making Brougham Street better will mean everyone can get along and across Brougham Street safely. Freight can get where it’s needed, to keep our economy thriving and people will have more travel choices that will work better for them and the environment."

I really would like to understand how they can justify such statements from the viewpoint of local residents.

And if there are going to be adverse pollution outcomes there needs to be mitigation for local residents. It really is a matter of Social Equity - the local neighbourhood should not pay in terms of declining health for the choices of people who don't even live in Christchurch but use the neighbourhood streets to get to Selwyn, and Lincoln.

And if Waka Kotahi truly want the better outcomes then there are better solutions rather than repeating the mistake of widening an already dangerous and polluting road. I'll touch on this in more detail in another future post and link it back here then.
By Hab3