Wainuiomata has about 16,800 residents. It’s a distinct suburb/town of Hutt City in the Greater Wellington metro area. It takes about 60 minutes to get from Wainuiomata to Central Wellington on a bus which has to go over the Wainuiomata Hill Road (which operates only in the peak, otherwise a bus goes as far as Lower Hutt and you can change for the train at Waterloo). Yet it only takes 20 minutes on the Days Bay Ferry from Days Bay to Wellington and Days Bay is just the other side of the hill from Wainuiomata.
The Eastern Harbour Regional Park owned by the GWRC lies between Days Bay and Wainui.
It’s the perfect place for an aerial gondola. I propose 3 stations over an approximately 4.5km route. One in the park near the Days Bay jetty. One near the intersection of Main Road, Fitzherbert St, and the Wainuiomata Road, just south of the main set of shops and one near a lookout on the Main Ridge Track (which would only be used in daylight hours, and supports people out for a walk).
The Wainuiomata station site is in the park shown below and the cable would go up to a tower on the ridge. There are only a very few houses (maybe only a couple that would be inconvenienced by over-flying. If they are upset buy the house at a good price and then sell it again to people who don’t mind being overflown for not much of a price difference)
Despite being surrounded by hills the floor of the valley is flat. So build lots of secure bike parking by the station. Everywhere in Wainui is only at most 15 minutes bike ride from the station. So to get to Wellington ride your bike to the station, hop straight on an aerial gondola without much of a wait and fly over the hill, wait for the ferry and 20 minutes later you’re in Wellington. With a few hundred people commuting from Wainui this way each day then it would be economic to up the frequency of the ferry, which is currently every 30 minutes in the peaks. Total journey time could be as low as half the bus commute time.
For those thinking that an aerial gondola is incompatible with the ethos of a public park I suggest they examine the Cairns SkyRail (see my guest post on the Gondola Project).
This could be a success if there is integrated ticketing and the combined ferry and aerial gondola trip is price competitive with the bus.
The gondola cabins chosen could seat between 4 and 10 people, and could accommodate bicycles and wheelchairs, depending on the design chosen.
The view down to Days Bay:
The view down to Wainui:
Maybe the Days Bay terminal would look a little like this (nicked from here):
The cost I guess would be in a low number of million dollars (20 perhaps?). I have no idea really. There’s nearly 17,000 people in the valley, a few more in Days Bay and Eastbourne (who could do their shopping at the Wainui shops instead of going into Lower Hutt) and the running costs would be a lot less than maintaining and staffing the fleet of buses. It’d also draw a few tourists out for the day and a few more hiking in the park. I think it a good idea worthy of more investigation. Certainly functional, useful, modern public transport is a better thing to spend public money on rather than the steam train proposal for the Rimutaka Incline or the White Elephant Motorway.