Wellington Bypass: One Year On

It’s been over a year since the much-maligned Wellington Bypass was opened. How does it stack up?
“The bypass” as it is invariably known was a motorway extension that knocked through one end of central Wellington’s bohemian arm to smooth out the east-west crossing. I wrote about it before, first back in Sept 2004 and then again when it opened this time last year. I also made a post that linked to a a good roundup at BuzzAndHum.
In the 2004 post I was a bit florid, but I still agree with what I wrote. Here’s the key bit in terms of what I expected would happen:

Cuba Street is the seat of the city’s creative energy, its endless innovation, its diversity. It is the city’s soul… [The bypass] will carve a symbolic wall through Cuba Street itself and cut it off from the extensions of the Cuba-Street-idea – places like Aro Valley, Brooklyn. It will have a huge effect on the city.
Now, I’m not saying that the bypass will definitely change everything or will definitely be the tipping point. There’s no way for us to know that. But it will cause significant change, of that we can be certain. If it comes to pass, Wellington will not feel the same. The balance will be shifted. If worst comes to worst, the balance will be completely upset.

(I also took a couple paragraphs to ridicule the pro-Bypass argument that it would add to business productivity by getting staff to work a few minutes earlier.)
I hit the same themes a year ago:

This is a significant step away from the kind of Wellington I feel we should have towards one that we should avoid… [The arguments against the new road are] speculative and subjective. There is no set of facts that could convince a Bypass-backer that the new road creates an unpleasant psychological barrier or squanders the area’s value. However, it is crucial to remember the other side of the coin, which is that the rationale given for the bypass was, and is, nonsensical. The bypass will not significantly improve congestion in the city, as car traffic will expand to meet the available roadspace. The bypass will not improve the productivity of Wellington’s business community, as was so earnestly claimed and debated in the Council Chambers. These claims are, quite simply, ridiculous. And they have cost us $40 million, and one more chunk of the city’s soul.

So, one year on, and Wellington’s new road is heavily used. I notice myself how it is now easier and faster to get from the motorway to the basin reserve; I wonder, however, how much of that is due to the rolling green lights that you always get on the bypass, rather then the new route itself.
I also notice how it’s made many other journeys through the city more annoying. Heading east from Aro is a nightmare, for one thing. The lanes and lights in many of the changed streets are a real nuisance. Crossing the bypass in either direction is usually a hassle.
However, I’m not a heavy driver and especially not in peak traffic times, so I can’t speak to the ultimate success or failure of the time-saving claims that built the bypass.
What I can say is that the bypass has indeed torn a swathe through a part of Wellington with a lot character. Upper Cuba and upper Willis, in particular, show the effects of the Bypass. The Bypass itself is lined with scenic gardens that no human will ever use, and beautifully restored residences that no sane human will want to live in. It’s notable how lifeless the bypass is, compared to all the other streets around it. It’s a corridor of dead space.
Overall, while I’m glad that I get to drive across town more easily, this increase in ease is hardly compensation for what has been lost. (And considering the environmental impact of driving, making it easier to drive is hardly a straightforward positive.) I feel that one year on, the key fears of the anti-bypass campaigners have been realised. A chunk of Wellington has been sacrificed for something that is, ultimately, of very little worth. The money should have been spent elsewhere, for example on public transport – Wellington’s public transport system is massively in need of investment.
That’s my take on the bypass, one year on. What say you?

Oscar Predictions 2008

I just don’t care this year, actually.
But for form’s sake: Coens, No Country, Day-Lewis, Christie, Wilkinson, Dee, Transformers for the techie awards, Atonement for the style awards, writing to Juno and No Country, doco to anyone but Moore, etc etc.
Please let Once get best song.

It Is Friday, So I Linky

Everybody loves Tintin, right? That intrepid ligne clair reporter with his quiff and his faithful dog who said “Whoa!” Soon to be a series of three major motion pictures directed by various luminaries and scribbled by new Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat?
Herge died with a Tintin tale in progress, Tintin And Alph-Art. Very rough pencil layouts were completed for half the book, and a few other notes survive, but that’s all. This work was published recently, sitting alongside ‘Land of the Soviets’ and ‘in the Congo’ as ones for completists only.
Now, heroic/obsessive Tintin fan Yves Rodier has taken it upon himself to finish Herge’s last book – transforming the sketched layouts into full-colour pages with Herge-style art and carrying on the story to a conclusion that seems appropriate.
It’s an incredible piece of work. Go see.
Issuu continues to grow by leaps and bounds, setting itself up as the YouTube of .pdf publishing. Loads of fascinating magazines to read, and when you find one you like you can blog-embed it. For example, a magazine consisting entirely of freaky-cool sculptures can be embedded like this:

Go have a nosy around. Lots of goodness.

Finally, another must-read Rolling Stone piece on the CheneyBush disinfo administration, this time revealing the truth behind some infamous high terrorism alerts in the US over the last 5 years (This is, of course, another contribution from the other, dancing, moose. Read his blog too.)

About That Tagging Thing

So the election season has rolled on, with the first big electoral policy initiative out of the incumbent Labour govt being war on taggers.
Obviously this is an image-correction maneuver by Clark. The electorate are sick of tagging, so it is valuable to be seen to be doing something. But a lot of people have missed that the new law is really intended for adult offenders; youth who tag are going to be dealt with exactly the same way (see the FAQ at the bottom of the press release for more).
The big impact on the kids is going to be restrictions on the sale of spray cans to teens. Leaving aside the rights and wrongs of such a restriction, it just doesn’t sound very effective in the face of an army of disenfranchised 13-year-olds with marker pens, older cousins and nothing to do with their time. Still, the FAQ has an answer to that:

It has been suggested that spray paint taggers will all start scratching glass or using marker pens. However, tagging has its own internal boundaries and ‘culture’. As spray paint is the chosen tool of this ‘culture’ it is expected that the movement to other types of graffiti implement will be small and we would expect to see an overall reduction in graffiti.

Heck, it could work. Tagging doesn’t have deep roots in this country anyway.
Overall it doesn’t seem to me like much change is possible from this legislation. It’s certainly not an important social problem. (Don’t get me started on that Broken Windows nonsense. And no, tagging is not a gateway crime. The taggers of today don’t become the home invaders of tomorrow.) No doubt some policy wonk has worked hard on it, but ultimately it just amounts to a flag in the ground saying Labour is not surrendering middle NZ without a fight.
Anyway. I’ve had a few interesting conversations about this recently. Tagging as an activity has always sat uneasily with me. Full-fledged graf art, I have a lot of love for that. Witty and weird little slogans scrawled in public places are a bonus in our urban landscape. Tagging, the runty little sideshow of graffiti, has never won me over. It isn’t the act itself that bugs me, but the thoughtless aesthetic placement of so much tagging. I mean, tagging some suburban garage? Tagging the side of a white suburban house? This doltish placement has always annoyed me. But the aesthetics of graffiti and tagging are subjective. Does graffiti add value or subtract value to an environment? Well, that depends on the graffiti, the environment, and the person. It’s an impossible equation.
It gets even curlier when you start talking about rights. Do suburban house owners have the right to a crisp, clean garage? Really? What are such property rights built on? Aren’t all such rights dependent on having a fair society which values all its members? Where does value even come from in our society? Do we have the right to clean walls?
I’m very wary of romanticising wall-scrawling. There’s some incredible stuff that happens through words and art on our streets – does anyone know what the “Gayskins” tag that turned up all over town late last year means? – but also there’s a bunch of selfish people who lack any empathy for those who have to cope with their actions.
End result, I guess: Labour’s big public stand is pandering to the talkback masses and that doesn’t make me happy. (Let’s not forget that this comes on the heels of a boy being murdered for tagging and the disgraceful way in which many elected leaders responded.) But if teens end up having trouble buying spray cans by themselves, well, that’s not going to cause me to lose any sleep over damaged civil rights.
Keith Ng has a good piece on the War on Taggers over at Public Address

Bringing It On!

Chris Sims has swapped out face-kicking for high-kicking because it’s Bring It On Week over at the ISB! If you, like me, have some sneaking (or not-so-sneaking) affection for the best race-relations cheerleader movie ever*, then get on over there for the stick-figure action and way more cheer-puns than you ever want to see.
But this is a blog with pretensions to social relevance, and that means my contribution to Bring It On week is obliged to harsh your high. Check it: one of these things is not like the other:

* No, Revenge of the Cheerleaders doesn’t count, no matter how many full-frontal Hoff shots it contains.

Castro Quits

Well, how about that.
He’s been sitting in the top job almost 50 years. Smart money was on him staying there until he died, I would have thought. Guess not.
Random association: watched the Fog of War doco the other day, about Robert McNamara. The Cuban Missile Crisis was discussed, and McNamara told an anecdote about sitting down with Castro and hearing that there were already nuclear missiles in Cuba, and that Castro had asked Khruschev to launch them at the US, knowing full well that Cuba would be destroyed as a result. McNamara’s eyes boggled as he told this story. He said Castro explained himself only by saying, “If it had been you in my position, you would have done exactly the same.”
Anyone reading this been to Cuba? Impressions?