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Progress on Symonds Street, plus Piece of Cake #2

Queing pedestrians at the Engineering building (note underground option widely publicised, and largely ignored)

People waiting at the Engineering building, note underground crossing available but ignored (silly human behaviour)

Here is some good news on the walkability front. Reader Luke C brought a problematic pedestrian signal timing issue to AT via Twitter and it was improved within a few days.  Here is his account:

I saw the mass of students trying the cross the Symonds St crossing outside the engineering building. There were so many people the green phase was too short for everyone to cross, so when the traffic lights turned green people were still crossing the road. I thought this was not right at all, and worried someone would get runover. So I sent a tweet to Auckland Transport letting them know this.

luke

The next day I got a Twitter DM saying they had logged it with their engineers. At lunchtime today I received a call from the Auckland Traffic Operations Centre asking me about this. I explained the issue a bit more fully to the guy on the phone, and he told me the red man was set to flash for 7 seconds once the green man had finished. However he could change that to 10 seconds, and would do that this afternoon! Sure enough half an hour later I went out at 1pm when the mass of students change classes, and sure enough the red light was now at 10 seconds! This seemed to be enough to help everyone clear in the allowable time. It is only a very small change, however very impressed what AT did in 3 days from a simple tweet!

As Luke admits this is a very modest improvement but it’s great to see how responsive The City was.  With that said, here is another Piece of Cake project sheet identifying some other dodgy signal timings. The Piece of Cake series is designed to identify simple solutions to problems for pedestrian movement and accessibility around Auckland, and from now on we will make sure they get directly to @akltransport for consideration.

poc

55 comments to Progress on Symonds Street, plus Piece of Cake #2

  • Gian

    But then I might lose 6 seconds everyday!
    Well done AT

  • Dan

    In these hi pedestrian areas, I really find the countdown timers (that have green man then count the number of seconds before red) much better. People have a much better idea whether or no there is time to scoot across or whether they should wait for the next phase.

    • Yep, more countdown times would be good and as you say, they are incredibly useful.

      • Christopher T

        Countdown times are great in most places around the world, except possibly in Auckland because they’d show exactly how marginalised pedestrians are when it comes to the timing of intersections. In some places, eg Clark Street in New Lynn, they’d probably have to show pedestrian wait times in minutes rather than seconds. And their use shouldn’t be restricted to high pedestrian flow areas; I noticed in Denmark that they use them pretty much everywhere and their use leads to happier, safer, pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.

        • Kent Lundberg

          A countdown times post is under development. If you can find a pedestrian-wait phase greater than 4:00 (there is one) you win.

          • Sailor Boy

            Smales Farn Bus Station to the North Shore Hospital, Wairau/ Tristam Roads, Carlisle/EastCoast/ Oteha Valley Roads are all pretty bad.
            4.00 is nonsense though

          • The Trickster

            Don’t know how long the one is at the pedestrian crossing on Queen to access Myers Park is, but I know that back in the day I used to be able to push the button, go into the dairy, make a purchase, come back out and still be waiting.

          • Ari

            Kent, I would bet $100 there is no normal intersection in Auckland that has a 4 min delay on a pedestrian to cross the road. although there are some exceptions such as at a level rail crossing where phases a locked on for safety reasons.

          • Brendan

            When walking along the footpath on the west side of Beaumont St just before 6pm today, it took me 5:37 to cross from near Victory Church to the Opus Building from the time I pushed the first button to the time I got to the other side. I doubt I was walking for 1:37, so I think i win! What do I win? $100 from Ari would be nice.

            The pedestrian crossing controls at the intersection are quite weird, the first one where you cross in front of traffic waiting to turn onto the motorway (http://goo.gl/maps/ZMSXT), when you push the button when the traffic light for motorway traffic is red gives you a green man immediately, then a red flashing man, then no man. Pushing the button again gives you another green man. Why don’t they just leave the green man on for the entire phase?

            Then it takes two more phases to get over Fanshawe St (http://goo.gl/maps/mdreo), even though there is enough time to cross the entire road, so lots of people just ignore the red man and walk in traffic on the north side that is at a red light. The pedestrian crossing on the north side of Fanshawe St should be a green man for almost all of the time that the traffic coming off the motorway has a red light.

            By comparison, walking the long way over the new fancy pedestrian bridge that connects to Jacobs ladder only takes 5:26, maybe the timing is to justify having the pedestrian bridge?

          • Nice one Brendan. That is the one that was captured by another reader. I’ll leave it to Ari to report back on how this is an isolated exception.

          • Ari, I have personally waited seven minutes for a cross phase to get from the northern to southern side of Main Highway (commonly confused with Ellerslie-Panmure Highway, which doesn’t actually start until east of Michael’s Ave) at the intersection with Gavin Street. A friend who lives on the southern side (they were my destination) has waited 12 minutes for that same cross phase.

            So, how shall we handle the transaction for your $100? That’s not an isolated case, it’s the norm for that intersection to treat pedestrians as the lowest possible common denominator for phase priority. Four minutes would be blindingly fast for that intersection.

        • Lee

          This is a confusing post. The initial comment is regarding the timer that is displayed at the end of the pedestrian phase (as per the Queen St/Victoria St intersection). Subsequent comments seem to be talking about timers that display how long until the pedestrian phase (of which NZ doesn’t have any).

  • Stranded on the North Shore

    Regarding your photo caption: “People waiting at the Engineering building, note underground crossing available but ignored (silly human behaviour).”
    My response: I completely agree. Silly human behavour of the architects and the university for allowing to build Info Commons and the engineering building in such a way that the main entrances are on street level or above. If the buildings were designed in such a way that the underground walkway wasn’t in the most inaccessible location, starting and ending near nowhere practical, then maybe just maybe people would use it! The way it is designed right now encourages students NOT to use it, so I personally think that the students are the ones with much higher IQ here than the designers/architects. A complete waste of already existing infrastructure, and a huge risk to human lives due to bad planning.

    • asciimation

      When I was at Uni (OK 20 years ago now) I always used to use the underpasses. I went out of my way to scout out and find all the quiet, back ways between places like going through the car park under the science quad to get into the maths/physics building or ducking through the basement of the chemistry building to get to the big chemistry lecture theatre and labs.I don’t like crowds or masses of people though (I avoid Queen Street where possible for the same reasons). Seems to me that that particular Symonds Street underpass might be quicker than waiting above ground with the mindless herds waiting for a light to change? Unless they vastly changed the layout since my time (or increased the security!) an extra minutes walking isn’t really much of a hardship.

      Simon

      • Sailor Boy

        They have changed it, the signal goes every minute or so now, and also from the main floor of engineering basically the whole core of uni is above you so it doesn’t make sense to go down a flight of staire, cross the road at 60 degrees to a straight line and then go back up a flight of stairs unless you are going to the library.

  • Don

    I was bit dismayed when the pedestrian crossing was installed at this spot. I can recall the construction of the underpasses which were to reduce / remove the need for pedestrians crossing at road level. IMHO there a sturdy fence should have been constructed either side of the road at this point long enough to make the underpass the shortest option by far to cross the road.
    Ah but we wouldn’t want to restrict those traveling between varsity buildings now would we :-)

    • Scott

      That option was very seriously considered when symonds street was upgraded, with the addition of a pedestrian over bridge to supplement the underpass (and try to better match desire lines). I think a 1.6m or greater fence was considered.

      Im very glad this did not proceed. It would have been very ugly, The over bridge would have been expensive (and despite a lot of thought couldn’t be made to align with pedestrian desire well).

      The current installation of a signalised crossing matched well with desire lines, and i get the impression that it has a negligible impact on traffic throughput as the intersections either side seem to be the bottlenecks.

      I think the decision to put in a hard wearing garden rather than a fence is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

      • bbc

        @Don – if you don’t want to wait a few seconds then don’t drive down Symonds Street. Personally I think the road should be pretty well closed to cars through the university and only buses, pedestrians and cyclists allowed through. There should be a big fence to force the car drivers to take their newly built Grafton Gully motorway instead, but we wouldn’t want to restrict the flow of cars now would we?

    • David O

      And why is travelling between varsity buildings a less lofty or important ambition than whatever vital trips it is people are making up and down Symonds St? The underpass is badly designed and thought out, and gets about as much use as it deserves.

    • Sailor Boy

      I woulod say that in a full day at university there would be 40.000+ pedistrian crossings at 5000/hour, and we are worried about probably 10,000 vehicle movements at the absolute maximum being held up by 20 seconds at the very most?

  • Kent Lundberg

    May as well hope for jetpacks or full grade separation.

    • Sailor Boy

      By the looks of that picture the marority of action happens on the first floor and there are crossing every 100 m, that actually looks like a good use of an arterial like Ti Rakau.

      • Starnius

        Except most cities that attempt to to stuff like this find that it usually fails miserably. Also, it degrades the lowest level to a kind of shadow, dystopian existance, because with no crossings and car-dominance, who except car drivers would ever want to go there (and those who do are constantly at risk of being hit). Car drivers also drive faster in these environments.

    • I posted this image as a joke. This is the anti-city. It’s from the ‘bible’ of traffic planning- Traffic in Towns. Many of the solutions being discussed here- overbridges, underpasses, gates, cut and cover, originate with this approach to moving people in the city- the result is disastrous.

      • Sailor Boy

        I get the impression that they are disastrous because the cars are treated as the priority, if you treat the enviroment as the priority and thr traffic as something that has to be there but doesn’t matter as much then I see no reason for it to not work. It is of course better if the road is subterranean than if the ped crossings are elevated.

  • Dan Again

    This is a pretty common issue with signals here in nz, the making you wait for no reason issue. It seems they just get setup with the default phasing regardless of the.division.

    • Starnius

      And on some intersections, they seem to simply like playing with pedestrians, like at the top (south) end of Hobson Street, where there’s a one-way street that doesn’t even give pedestrians a green when all cars are stopped (no crossing movements over the ped crossing at all for 30-60 seconds). You still have to push the beg button, and woe to you if you are late by a second for the window in which they actually activate…

  • Feijoa

    Nice work AT and Luke C.

    While on the topic of Symonds Street and messed up signals, you can add to the list the crossing over Wakefield on Symonds St. Into Wakefield is a left turn slip lane and from the opposite direction a lit right turn arrow, but the green man only appears for 4 seconds of the roughly 2mins of traffic green on Symonds St.

  • obi

    So can the people in charge re-program (and possibly manually control) signals remotely, or do they have to go on site and tweak the signal itself?

    • Luke C

      the change happened within 30 minutes the AT traffic person ringing me up, and it sounded like it was all controlled by a central computer that he was sitting in front of.
      Also note this green light is timed to link with the other 2 at Grafton Road and Wellesley St, so often road is empty along the whole stretch apart form those handful of cars stopped at the light, so people can cross anywhere between Grafton and Wellesley.
      The underpass is clearly very badly designed, I hadnt actually noticed it all, clearly is not integrated into the buildings. And a fence and/or overpass would just have been plain madness. Look at that mad overbridge from Albert Park to AUT over Wellesley, almost no one uses it, despite poor signal wait times at the pedstrain crossing.

      I regards to a bad crossing wait time, crossing the North side of the Great North Road/Pt Chev intersection is very very slow. This is very important because the crossing leads to the Outer Link CBD bound bus stop, we were lucky that we had more the 5 minute spare before the bus arrived, if we didn’t, would of missed it!

    • Ari

      Obi, yes changes can be made remotely but the traffic people can’t see what is going on most the time.

    • Ari

      In Auckland, countdown timers should only be used at exclusive pedestrian crossings, not sites with vehicle/pedestrian conflict points.

      The Auckland section of the Better transport forum had an extensive thread discussing traffic signals.

  • bbc

    I go through this crossing almost every day and the last few days don’t seem any different, cars still get the green phase whilst large numbers of people are still walking. The phase for cars on the otherhand is so long there are usually no cars driving through for quite some time before the pedestrian get another crossing phase.

  • Chuck Norris Jnr

    That part of Symonds Street is ripe for cut and covering. Cost of land might almost might it viable in a few years.

    • Expensive and vile option compared to simply improving Transit options for access to the city. If we’re digging it’s the CRL that returns by far the better value for money and quality of place.

      • Sailor Boy

        I disagree, I think that here cut and cover is viable as the road needs to remain as it is a major heavy vehicle route, it can be done entirely within the Wellesly-Waterloo Block as well with a subterranean intersection with Grafton road. Also would allow a better bus lane with less pedestrian conflict.

        • Shaky

          I think this was investigated before the Central Connector project. The value of the land freed up actually made it viable. Espically when you got the benifit of unifing the entire UoA campus. It was a no go though due to Symonds St being the oversize load route from the port.

          • Bryce P

            They can’t just use Grafton gully as an oversize load route? Oh, it would be slow and might hold some cars up on the motorway…..doh!

          • Sailor Boy

            We did an investigation into this for university project last year and there are actually very few other routes. Not all heavy tafiic is going onto the motorway, what about say a digger going to the top of Symonds Street. It is stuffed without Symonds Street through the uni.
            I personally thought that cut and cover was the best option.

          • David O

            Crazy but true that the only way out of the CBD to the south is Symonds St or Queen St – that’s how badly the CMJ has damaged connectivity in central Auckland. So regrettably Symonds St is the oversize vehicle route and covering it up to join up the campus is in the ‘too hard and too expensive’ basket. As Patrick pointed out a few months ago in a couple of posts, the CMJ really does have a lot to answer for – it truly is vast. It’s sobering to think that it is probably NZ’s largest single piece of infrastructure. What an achievement!

  • OrangeKiwi

    In these situations, where there is a one-way street so no possible conflicts, there should automatically be a green man for pedestrians. Could changing this be a “piece of cake” I wonder…

    Also, getting to a beg button too late when you’re the only one around and still approaching it is one thing, but sometimes people already waiting haven’t pushed the beg button and everyone needlessly misses the window. They appear to mostly be foreigners/tourists who presumably expect the lights to change automatically. Now isn’t that just telling.

    • mm

      another example is the corner of Mortimer Pass and Broadway in Newmarket – the one way street should have a green man for pedestrians at all times except for letting out Mortimer Pass traffic. A no-brainer really….

      • Good find mm. Will mention this one as well…

      • OrangeKiwi

        Yes it would be nice to have, but when the one-way traffic is stopped at this intersection the red pedestrian lights not in conflict are responsive almost immediately upon pressing the beg button even if the pedestrian cycle has already run during the vehicle phase (I believe this is called introduction and re-introduction). There are apparently similar intersections where this doesn’t happen i.e. you miss the window, you won’t get a green man during that cycle. Those I would like to see changed first.

      • OrangeKiwi

        Just realised that I’ve seen the red man being lit up there when one-way traffic has stopped and you would not actually think of begging to elicite an ‘introduction’ unless you’re one of those persons who begs no matter what colour the man is. That maybe explains why people do that in the first place :) So yes, good one.

  • OrangeKiwi

    The above was in reply to Starnius’ comment.

  • Ari

    :) Brendan, I would half concede, though it is not a normal intersection. There are two seperate crossings there. You are essentially crossing an off ramp and an onramp, much like any motorway interchange in Auckland. You could technically take up to 6min to cross any normal intersection if you had to make two crossings to get to your destination. my point is that nowhere in Auckland do you have to wait more than 4min for a any individual crossing to run. This is obviously far from ideal but just a fact.

    regarding the onramp crossing it is a matter of software. you can either allow reintroducing the phase or ‘walk for green’, NOT both. the difference is that the former works anytime the crossing timer fits, The latter only works if you push the button on time. if you miss the chance then you have to wait the full cycle.

    A similar feature is used at most of the Hobson/Nelson intersections on the protected side of the road. Hence why I prefer one way roads to two way roads. much safer for pedestrians as well as lower delays for pedestrians. A pity these two roads are so wide. I’d argue to take out a few lanes but keep them one way.

    • Brendan

      According to your logic, three crossings actually, two on-ramps and an off-ramp. I would argue that the on-ramps, off-ramps start to the west of all crossings, because on ramp is part of the motorway system, and the motorway system is uninterupted – which is why the motorway used to start/end at both sides of Sunset Road. Is a half concede $50? :)

      I don’t understand your on-ramp crossing software explanation.

      Given that the traffic waiting to turn onto motorway at this light goo.gl/maps/ZMSXT are stopped the whole time traffic heading west on Fanshawe St have the green, why isn’t there a green man showing the whole time?

      Give the traffic waiting coming off the motorway at this light goo.gl/maps/43HuJ are stopped for both the two Beaumont St phases, why isn’t there a green man showing the whole time? If this happened, then I could cross in two phases, not three.

  • BBC

    Well 6 months later (almost) and AT haven’t done anything about either of those messed up signals, I assume they’re too busy reprogramming signals elsewhere to ‘optimise’ flow by reducing pedestrian time.

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