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designing hong kong
Low cost opportunity to reduce risk of traffic congestion in Wanchai forfeited

A response to the decision to exclude Happy Valley from the South Island Line

To conclude that there should be no station in Happy Valley for the MTR demonstrates that the evaluation of the costs and benefits of adding MTR stations is flawed.

Apparantly, based on patronage alone, Happy Valley does not generate sufficient direct financial benefits to justify the cost of building an MTR station. Even when taking into account the patronage during race meetings and the increasing number of public events at the Jockey Club, the returns do not meet the Government's requirements.

What we fail to take into account is that adding a Happy Valley station to the South Island Line now, is the lowest-cost opportunity we have will ever have to build an MTR station there. Once the South Island Line is in place, this option to relief vehicular traffic has been forfeited.

All major road junctions north, east and west of Happy Valley are heavily congested and traffic is only going to increase.

This is not only because of an increase in wealth and relaxation of controls on cross-border traffic, but because of new traffic generators in Wan Chai (Mega Tower (a.k.a. Hopewell II), urban renewal projects), the south side (Ocean Park hotels, Wong Chuk Hang "upzoning", Aberdeen Fisherman's Wharf, Wong Chuk Hang Estate redevelopment) and Causeway Bay (various developments). And there will be more given the reluctance to control private redevelopment rights.

There are no opportunities to increase vehicular road capacity. The land is simply not available to further widen roads and junctions. Quite the opposite, there is a need to improve the quality of life at street level by widening pavements and improving pedestrian movement, squeezing the space available for vehicles.

Any suggestion that a rationalisation of tunnel fares or the Central-Wan Chai bypass can bring relief is misplaced for various reasons we can go into another time.

Given the future risk of gridlock without any reasonable relief measure at hand, a high value must be assigned to every single reduction in vehicular movement that an MTR station in Happy Valley can generate.

In calculating the benefits of a station, a high value must also be placed on the ability of Happy Valley residents and Jockey Club visitors to use the MTR as an alternative mode of transport given the increased risk of gridlock due to accidents, events or other incidents.

Unfortunately, that is not how our Transport Department and officials responsible for the government's finances calculate things.

Nor will it be their problem, but one for future generations to resolve.

Based on a letter by Paul Zimmerman, founding member, Designing Hong Kong, following the rumoured decision not to build a station in Happy Valley, published in the South China Morning Post on January 16, 2009.
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