Ambitious scheme could transform congested Central
I support the comments made by Kevin Sinclair about pedestrianisation, in his column headlined, 'A quiet revolution on our busy city streets' (South China Morning Post, December 18).
However, more can be achieved in Central than he has indicated.
In June a working group consisting of professionals from the Chartered Institute of Transport and the Hong Kong Institute of Planners, released to the press and government departments a proposal to pedestrianise Des Voeux Road in Central.
Not only is this street the main street in our central business district (CBD), it is unique in having no vehicular access to any property from Pedder Street to Western Market and it has the convenience of an environmentally-friendly tram system going through it. It also is used by very few private vehicles.
An opportunity exists to do something significant in terms of improving the total environment of our world-class city. We have presented our proposal to a wide range of interested groups, including the Commissioner for Transport, Robert Footman and senior staff at the Transport Department, emphasising a vision of how our CBD could be brought up to world standards, while recognising the problems faced in implementing such a scheme.
We congratulate the Transport Department on the success of the relatively small schemes it has implemented in Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui. However, problems will continue to exist where traffic and pedestrians jointly use these areas. We have encouraged it to undertake our more ambitious Des Voeux Road scheme. In November the Des Voeux Road scheme was presented to Central and Western District Council and there was enthusiastic support for the proposal. The council members were receptive to implementing the scheme in phases and suggested that the initial closing of the west-bound lane was a realistic proposal as a first step. The proposal was also presented in a seminar to around 100 members of eight professionals' institutes, who urged us to continue to press for implementation. It was noted (as Mr Sinclair pointed out in his column) that Hong Kong was falling behind many mainland cities in respect of making significant improvements to their CBDs.
The main problem to be addressed is the progressive reorganisation of bus routes and closer integration of transport modes. Many buses going through Central do not need to be there and should be progressively removed and integrated with the expanding rail network. The priority should be an overwhelming desire to improve the total environment in Central, to significantly reduce road traffic, but maintain accessibility. We are now looking into how this could be achieved.
Our discussions have shown that there is support from a broad spectrum of the community. The district council, professional bodies, property owners, businessmen and some transport operators are all in favour of doing something important and significant in Central.
The support of the general public for the small schemes already completed elsewhere is already self-evident. However, the general feeling is that the Government will deliver something which is much less than what the public really wants in terms of an improved central city pedestrian environment.
We hope that with increased public support, together with the district council and the business community, it will be possible to adopt a broad vision for an extensive pedestrian environment in Central and convince the Government to establish a firm, phased programme for implementation.
The Transport Department's statement on pedestrianisation can be found on its Web site at www.info.gov.hk/td. I urge your readers to send their views directly to the Commissioner.
Joint Pedestrianisation Working Group
Hong Kong Institute of Planners and Chartered Institute of Transport