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Short and awkward with a big mouth

This is something that has always bugged me as I walk up and down Queen St. Take a look at the intersection of Airdale St. Airdale is a little left over remnant of a road that got sliced off by Mayoral Drive. It wasn’t much of a street to begin with, but now it almost doesn’t exist. But look at that intersection!

What really gets me is that the mouth of this street is 20m wide. That’s as wide as Queen St itself, and as wide as Dominion Rd including the footpaths. The street itself is only 70m long. It’s so wide the built a pedestrian refuge island halfway across.

I have to ask why this stubby ex-street required such a huge width? Why is the intersection almost twice as wide as a comparable minor street elsewhere in the city? It can’t have high traffic flows as it is a complete dead end. Not a cul de sac even, just a dead end. A quick scan reveals eight on street parking spaces, a loading zone, and access to two building’s garages. Neither of those are big carparking buildings mind, just a few dozen spots across two office buildings. Why widen it so much, presumably for high speed cornering geometry, but then go an build in a raised pedestrian table? The really funny thing is the pedestrian island and the curve of the curbs mean you can’t get two cars abreast at the intersection. The intersection is as wide as a four lane road for no reason I can see.

I should point out that this isn’t still the old intersection from the days when Airdale St was a long city street, this was designed this way only a few years ago when it was totally rebuilt as part of the Queen St streetscapes upgrades. Someone chose to make it this way. I wonder if the intersection wasn’t so wide then maybe they could have managed more than a solitary cabbage tree to green up the space, perhaps a little pocket park or similar feature. Maybe with more pedestrian space they MLC cafe could manage more than four chairs out front.

I’m no traffic engineer and I don’t really have any idea what informs these design decisions, but can somebody please enlighten me why such an insignificant service lane was recently built with such a huge intersection on the city’s busiest pedestrian corridor?

27 comments to Short and awkward with a big mouth

  • Matthew

    Maybe it was so there’d be more gutter space for all the smokers to throw their butts in?

  • Newnewt

    Nitpicking: Note that it’s Airedale not Airdale…

  • OrangeKiwi

    Presumably to aid drivers who turn like this: http://goo.gl/maps/Ma52F . Otherwise I’m at a loss too, let’s hear it from a traffic engineer’s point of view…

  • Ingolfson

    Possibly because they assumed a very large design vehicle? Like a truck-trailer combo? Once that was allowed for, they maybe then remembered that it was supposed to be a pedestrian-friendly upgrade, and stuck in the refuge island and the raised crossing. All told, not the worst result once those were in, but I agree that it could be better. A quick fix would be to put a zebra across. A more extensive fix would be to narrow the throat, so that a big truck would have to swerve over the opposing lane (totally feasible, especially here), and retain the ped table…

    [I am a traffic engineer, but was not involved...]

    • A truck-trailer combo simply couldn’t go into that street (or if it did the driver would have to reverse it out again). There is no way you could turn one in that dead end, you need to do a three point turn just to get a car around.

      My solution would be to extend the footpath from the northern side right across to the island, so only the southern part remains for vehicles in and out.

    • Liz

      Maybe not a truck-trailer, but trucks probably go in. The back entrance to the Transmission Room is in that street, maybe they asked for a wide street exit? I agree that it should be made a lot narrower, I always think it’s ridiculously wide when I walk across it.

  • Back in the day when it was a “whole st” – it has a telephone exchange (the biggest in NZ and the “main trunk” exchange for auckland) in the middle of it.
    We needed to access it in trucks, vans, with cranes, etc.. I’m guessing that’s why… iirc, the “service entrance and loading bay” were on the Queen St side. I only worked there briefly though, someone who was there in the 70s-80 (I started there in ’84) might be able to shed more light.

    • Don

      The telephone exchange (now exchanges) both have service entrances at the rear off Turner / White Streets so I doubt the shape of the Queen St intersection has anything to do with them. The current formation was created after Mayoral Drive was built.

  • swan

    1. Pick up scale ruler
    2. Measure 20m
    3. Look up traffic standard XXX
    4. Requires pedestrian refuge
    5. Mark up drawings
    6. Job done.

    • But why so wide in the first place? They did Darby St, Durham St east, even Wynyard St (all pre-shared spaces) with much smaller intersections and much higher traffic counts.

      • swan

        Ah I see it has been rebuilt you say. It does seem to line up with the pre-existing buildings though. Perhaps it is as mundane a reason as the existing street is on an acute angle to Queen St, so the “throat” just ends up being that wide. And noone bothered to design it any different.

        It is a bit useless

        • Liz

          The acute angle thing might be why. A similar one I’ve noticed is the intersection of Knights Rd and Beach Rd (Rothesay Bay). Although at least that has a road rather than a dead-end.

  • Filde

    ATB should build a list on intersection fixes for AT. I’m sure they’d appreciate the low-hanging fruit.

  • AK-Sam

    Perfect spot for a Kiosk.
    Perhaps the current width of Airedale is to create an avenue to the Town Hall entrance? Originally it was designed to be much grander, and there was another street behind it (where Aotea Sq is today). Excellent pics here: http://timespanner.blogspot.co.nz/2011/12/100th-for-auckland-town-hall_23.html

  • This design is probably based around the retro pedestrian ‘refuge’. Instead of having priority fullstop, pedestrians are expected to be thankful to perch out an island waiting for cars to exert there pre-eminence.

    The refuge creates a knock-on effect. Each lane is designed for the largest vehicle type. In *most* cities large vehicles that are not common on particular streets would be expected to swing into the oncoming lanes to make the turn. The refuge physically prohibits this and the result is two very rounded kerb radii.

    My guess.

    .

  • Chris

    Shocking how little footpath is provided outside the soon to be opened Queens Court. All for three/four carparks which will be empty for most of the time.

  • patrick

    Could be an example where the council could have a shared space with the shopping mall opening soon

    • OrangeKiwi

      There’s a complete dead end, so traffic needs to be travelling in both directions and drivers would have to do a three-point turn to get out. Not ideal for a shared space. If possible, adjusting the width of the ‘mouth’ and perhaps – oh the humanity – losing a few parking spaces in front of the future mall to a widened footpath would probably be more suitable.

      • Nick R

        I’d say that is ideal for a shared space. Get rid of those few parks and no one needs to do a three point turn, the only people driving there would be going to or from the basement parking.

        • Chris

          I agree with Nick R. Woodward St in Wellington is also a dead end street which just goes to a small carpark and that works well as a shared space.

        • OrangeKiwi

          As long as there’s vehicular access to the street there will be people who drive and park there if it is a shared space. Just look at the current shared spaces. So either pedestrianise it fully and block (non-emergency) vehicles from accessing or have a regular street upgrade with retained access to the basement parking, widened footpaths, a finite amount of on-street parking (zero or above) and a road width that’s adjusted accordingly.

          • Nick R

            Or just have a shared space. Big deal if people stop there waiting to pick someone up or while making a delivery (people don’t park on the shares spaces, but they do loiter).

            And if it really is a big deal, then just enforce the rules more.

    • Luke C

      I love how that picture is captioned as being of a motorway. Thats exactly what Mayoral Drive should be called, must of been an appalling CBD desecration, and still cuts the CBD into piece in a dreadful way. Would love to know more about the history, and the mad reasons behind it. Wish council could start undoing some damage, no need for 60kmh plus road in CBD, also has far too many lanes.

  • pete

    There was no “design” it just happened because the only intelligent people around (probably the digger drivers) aren’t allowed to use common sense and fix the road when the cut it up. It’s always been this wide, it made sense when it was a busy road many years ago. The road is now a glorified right-of-way driveway, any normal person would have made it such. But city planners like to work the long way around everything…

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