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Auckland’s missing pedestrian legs

A recently discussed on the blog, Auckland Council is making great strides in some of the more high profile City Centre Masterplan projects, with work recently starting on the O’Connell St and Upper Khartoum Place upgrades. However what I believe has been missing are much smaller scale interventions that can make things better for pedestrians. The Masterplan includes 9 outcomes, one of which is ‘A walkable and pedestrian-friendly city centre – well connected to its urban villages.’ This comes with 7 targets:

Target 1: More kilometres of pedestrian footpaths/walkways

Target 2: More kilometres of cycleways

Target 3: Reduction in pedestrian waiting times at intersections

Target 4: Reduction in use of left-turn slip lanes

Target 5: New mid-block pedestrian crossings

In this post I will focus on Target 3, reducing pedestrian wait times. While there are countless small interventions that are required, one obvious one I’ve noticed recently is the number of traffic lights that are missing pedestrian lights on one leg of the intersection. Coming across these while walking can be extremely frustrating, and if you are really unlucky have to wait for 4 or even 5 pedestrian lights, rather than making 1 simple crossing. One of the worst examples is the intersection of Halsey and Gaunt Street, where there is no crossing on the western leg.

halsey crossing

Intersection of Fanshawe and Halsey Streets

I recently timed how long it would take to cross what is only 30 metres direct. However one has to wait for 4 separate legs, not helped by the offset crossing on the eastern side where you cross Fanshawe Street. It took me over 4 minutes to cross here, which is just plain crazy. It is not like there are no potential pedestrians here, to the south east is Victoria Park and the Greenkeeper Cafe. Directly opposite is a major new office development under construction which will house the Fonterra headquarters in the first building, with more buildings planned. Clearly no one is going to bother heading to Victoria Park for their lunch break when 1/3 of the time is spent painfully crossing the road. Ideally people should be able to cross the road for their 10 minute morning coffee break if they want, not use it all up waiting!

However this example is far from unique, and I have mapped all the pedestrian crossings with missing legs below. Amazing there are 23 in the CBD alone! The three with green markers have had Barnes Dances added which has fixed the issue. So this could be a quick fix for some if the intersections with high pedestrian volumes. However Barnes Dances not desirable for all intersections, and they work best when they are double phased like on Queen St. So Auckland Transport really just need to bite the bullet and add pedestrian crossings to these missing legs. Of course these missing legs are even m0re prevalent outside the CBD, so these need to be worked on in other major pedestrian centers as well, could be a good job for local boards to get into as they have the ability to request Auckland Transport investigate matters like these.


View Missing Crossing Places in a larger map

If Auckland Council and Auckland Transport really want to get more people walking around our city and commuting to work, having walking stations set up around the city is not going to cut it. They need to get on with fixing these missing crossings, and make it easier for pedestrians to get around our city centre. 

60 comments to Auckland’s missing pedestrian legs

  • Christopher T

    The standard AT response to any request for more/better pedestrian facilities is ‘There’s no demand; we did a survey and there are insufficient numbers of pedestrians to warrant any change to the current situation.’ Having spent the past 60 or so years designing pedestrians off the street, it can hardly come as a surprise to AT traffic engineers that there are so few people willing to risk life and limb or to wait at signalised intersections for a not uncommon 4 minutes. Then again they might just be using the same survey organisation that conducts the New Zealand Herald’s Digi-polls.

    • TheBigWheel

      “Then again they might just be using the same survey organisation that conducts the New Zealand Herald’s Digi-polls”

      LOL… you mean the ones that rarely include the answer you might want to tick?!

  • Richard

    What are the other two targets?

    For my 2c, I just want to express supreme frustration at trying to safely cross at any roundabout ever. You’re waiting for a sufficient simultaneous break in traffic from all contributing roads, which is tricky. It is unsafe for drivers to be courteous and give you a gap, and you can be left stranded for quite sometime if you need extra time to get across (often I am pushing my wheelchair-bound sibling and getting back onto the curb is difficult). They’re just plain unsafe, especially when they’re multilaned (crossing four lanes of traffic with the lowest priority, maximum squishiness, least visibility, and slowest speed). They need pedestrian crossings, or to be converted to traffic lights.

    • JimboJones

      Most roundabouts in the UK have traffic lights at each entry/exit to both allow pedestrian crossings and to optimise traffic flow when busy – maybe that’s a better option. Would work well at royal oak for example.

  • Brendan

    All those pedestrian crossings along Fanshawe St where you have to wait for 2 or 3 lights just to cross the road in a straight line are also very frustrating, and a safety issue, as many people end up ignoring the lights and just risking it.

    For example, it can take five and a half minutes to get from one side to the other when walking along Beaumont St.

  • Ian Auld

    Auckland has a long way to go to improve its walkability. I was in Wellington last week and just loved how the whole CBD area from Mt Victoria / Oriental Bay to the Port and Kelburn to Newtown is just so east and pleasurable to walk around (or cycle). It gives the downtown area so much more of a buzz, it connects the city to its waterfront and is fantastic for visitors who don’t feel stranded by not having access to a car. Auckland CBD is so cut off from its surrounding suburbs by the motorway network, and pseudo motroways inside the city (Hobson and Nelson St, Quay St, Stanley St etc).

  • Barb Cuthbert

    Thanks Luke for another perceptive blog from you.

    It’s timely to highlight this topic as it makes a nonsense of all those eloquent aspirations in the many plans produced for Auckland in the past 3 years about making the city more accessible. Accessible for what and for whom?
    We are now building up good local data showing that retail and hospitality spending reflect volumes of people walking and cycling. Nothing new on this, as overseas studies show the same, but the tendency is to think we are a rare and unique species.

  • Bryce P

    So the brand new Kumeu New World has got it’s own set of traffic lights, 2 x slip lanes with no zebra crossings (off a 60km/h road) and advance stop boxes for bikes on a 60km/h road. I hang my head in despair.

  • Bbc

    The Fanshawe Street intersection did actually use to have a crossing where you indicate – it was blocked off a few years back and barricaded off. The pram kerbs etc are all still there.

  • Kent Lundberg

    Yikes. Quay Street.

    • Luke C

      yep shocker. Total failure of council to respond to changing land use patterns. Understandable when area was port and rail warehousing a few decades ago, but now is commercial, residential and recreational space should have been changed.
      Phasing of the per crossings walking along Quay St is awful too. Much more priority given to the handful or cars turning in and out of Gore and Britomart Place than the much higher volumes of pedestrians.

      • nonsense

        yep I live between quay st and beach road. It is literally faster and safer to take out the car from the garage and drive to countdown than cross all the traffic lights and risk your life through the slip lanes in Tangihua. And if you are pushing a pram it really pisses you off! Like a jail.

        • Luke C

          I think the cycleway works also involves removing those nasty Tangihua ones.

          • Loraxus

            I heard rumours that the trucking industry has successfully forced those back into the Beach Road plans. Because some seconds of average extra delay for trucks trumps urban quality and ped / cycle safety.

            I hope the rumours are wrong.

  • Bill E

    To all of the above: add in the engineers’ liking for roads with footpaths on only one side. Often busy (eg. motorway crossings), they enforce dangerous jay-walking (twice). I’m thinking St Marks Road, Greenlane, Western Springs, Kepa Rd. There is a 2nd footpath under construction on Orakei Rd (hurrah!) but closing one footpath still seems like the first choice for “temporary” construction sites and road works.

  • Ari

    Fanshawe is a heavy PT route. Impeding that flow is not going to happen. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Either delay as a pedestrian or delay on the bus, you can’t reduce both. Even if you stuck bus lanes all the way down to Britomart you still get the same issue. Conflicting modes. Also, Beach is a major Freight route. AT has KPI’s to meet and pedestrian delay is not one of them.

    • Steve D

      Auckland Transport’s KPIs need to change.

    • While you’re right that every route and place requires the juggling of competing modes and aims your statement is not really true in this example; that crossing phase can happen with the traffic phase from the south so not holding up any east west vehicles of any kind. This is just incompetent traffic engineering from an individual or institution with no regard for non-vehicular traffic.

    • Nick R

      Sorry but that is bullshit Ari. You can easily design Fanshawe St intersections that don’t unduly impede buses or pedestrians. Maybe if you take maximal private vehicle flow as an unwavering constant, then yes all other modes have to fight over the scraps, but we should be well beyond that sort of approach.

    • Brendan

      Clearly shows the saying that engineers “care about what they measure” – so we just need to get AT measuring what we care about .

      People, bikes, buses, trucks, cars – in that order :)

    • Kent Lundberg

      Best practice bus/ped integration according to the TRB states that pedestrians should not have to wait longer than 1 minute for signalised crossings (in order to access bus stops). I don’t think any civilised city has 2 minute cycles, complicated phasings, and such poor pedestrian priority as ours.

  • Molly Woppy

    I struck this yesterday catching the inner link bus up to the museum. Getting off at the stop they announce as “Museum” I then had to cross Ayr St (which has not one but two slip lanes) and then wait again to cross Parnell Rd. But at least I knew where to go – the signage is virtually non existant (as are some of the footpaths) so goodness knows how a tourist would find the museum.

  • doloras

    Can I mention the missing leg at New North Road, Hendon Ave and the Pak ‘n’ Save Carpark.

    • Steve D

      Oh, there’s tons and tons of missing legs outside the CBD. It’s a reflexive rejection of doing anything for pedestrians beyond the absolute minimum they can get away with.

      I have a straightforward KPI that I think would be a good benchmark – pedestrians shouldn’t have to wait longer than cars at an intersection. That’s “balanced”, right? Yet how many intersections pass even that simple test?

  • mfwic

    True story. Back in the early 80′s the Council got rid of Barnesdance at an intersection in Parnell. Someone wrote in complaining that the new parallel crossing wasn’t working for a group of disabled people who lived near it and in their letter asked “how are disabled people were supposed to get across the road now?”. The engineer who replied didn’t think it through and wrote back that they could cross one leg at a time like everyone else!

    • bbc

      Was only a few years ago under Banks that the council was proposing to remove the Barnes Dances from Queen Street. Back then the engineers also claimed there wouldn’t be any slow down for pedestrians.

      • bbc

        Here’s a report from 2001 when Road Engineers were more open with their thoughts, these days they just hide behind KPIs and other meaningless measurements but still think the same way.

        http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=205462

        • bbc

          Some nice quotes in there:

          “A week or two back, the diagonal crossings were surreptitiously abolished at intersections on Customs St to the east of Queen St. That, it seems, was just a start. The city traffic engineers have their beady eyes on Queen St and other city crossings as well.

          “Big savings in delays and costs can be achieved by the removal of the diagonal crossings,” said Auckland City’s traffic signals manager Graeme Raynel. “Most other countries have already done it.””

        • bbc

          I for one hope someone like Graeme Raynel doesn’t still work for Auckland Transport, however, I’d be surprised if he isn’t even further up the ranks, would be the only explanation for how slowly and often backwardly Auckland is moving in regards to pedestrians.

        • Bex C

          Nice article, although how did you manage to find one from 2001?? Past articles like this are always interesting to read, to highlight how very little progress has been made in the city (apart from the shared spaces).

  • A big shame is how both Beach/Customs and Quay are set up for traffic flow rather than human use… and how hard it will be to fix since Quay is the better one for vehicles east of Britomart Pl but Customs is the better one west of Britomart Pl. How can we get traffic off both Beach and west Quay without a good way to transfer traffic from east Quay to Customs?

  • Chris O

    Another eternal Auckland pedestrian mystery: Why is there no crosswalk linking High Street with Jean Batten Place? They’ve sort of narrowed the street a little to designate a crossing point, but there are no measures to slow traffic heading up or down Shortland Street.

    A personal frustration: the pedestrian phases on Customs Street.. The Barnes Dances are good for crossing Custom Steet itself, but are downright annoying when you just want to cross Gore or Commerce Street at the lights. When you arrive at the intersection, its inevitably during the never-ending east-west phase for Customs Street traffic. You *could* cross Gore or Commerce easily, but the little red man tells you not to. Then the light changes and you have to wait for the north-south traffic.

    • Bex C

      Indeed, this is a ridiculous junction in the city. So many pedestrians heading up and down High Street, and there is so often a backlog of people waiting to find a gap to cross. I would love for High Street (and I know this street has been brought up a number of times before) to be another shared space, with all that off-street parking gone. During both weekdays and weekends this is a lively and nice street full of people, however, the small footpaths are often overflowing, and the disproportionate volume of cars makes the parking here seem unjustified. High Street (and Lorne for that matter) have so much more potential!

    • That intersection is a pedestrian death waiting to happen.

      The best “rea city” answer (so not Auckland) would be to block the turn into Jean Batten with bollards and also block the exit from Shortland into Queen. There is no reason motorists should be able to go from Shortland on to Queen or vice versa. There are plenty of other ways to go.

      The Fort Street shared space should also be clocked with bollards at the Queen Street end.

      That would create a much better environment and would still leave full access to those areas for motorists (albeit less convenient and no through route for cars). It is another example of giving priority to cars and the Fort Street shared space is just used as a rat run now – although not as badly a Elliot Street.

  • Anthony McBride

    Even Ashburton where I work has missing legs on quite a few intersections, and it pisses me off greatly.

    • Steve D

      Wellington has missing legs on all of the three intersections outside the main railway station, plus missing legs on two of the four intersections directly surrounding Parliament. Not to mention plenty more dotted around in other parts of the CBD and Te Aro.

      My favourite is the intersection of Vivian/Cambridge/Pirie/Kent: http://goo.gl/maps/T9qeT – coming along Vivian Street, one might think there’s actually a crossing across the south side, and you get halfway across, only to discover that there’s no second leg on the far side. The crossing is just there to serve people using on-street parking along the big median between Kent and Cambridge. Not to let you actually walk anywhere.

      • Steve D

        Or maybe three out of four intersections around Parliament, depending on how you count whatever the hell’s going on here: http://goo.gl/maps/vUrKY

      • Mike

        At Vivian/Cambridge/Kent/Pirie, the first leg (with a crossing) is across WCC’s Cambridge Terrace, the second leg (without a crossing) is across NZTA’s SH1. This may be just a coincidence…

        And at the intersections round Parliament, people generally just cross at their convenience (no, it’s not jaywalking) – there’s generally not that much traffic to make it a problem.

        • Steve D

          If there’s not much traffic (and yeah, there really isn’t, I used to work next door) – all the more reason to put in the missing crossing legs. Still a bit nerve-wracking walking across four lanes of Bowen Street when you can’t see cars coming around the corner. Also weird with the driveway coming out in the middle of the intersection – there’s no lights controlling it…

          You’re probably right about Kent Terrace/SH1, though. I hadn’t thought of that. I can’t remember what the configuration was before Vivian Street was SH1. I do remember that NZTA (then-called-Transit) ripped out one of the legs on the corner of Vivian and Cuba, right outside Logan Brown. Took a few years to get that back.

          And of course, history repeats, and NZTA’s using the excuse of the Basin flyover to make Te Aro just a little bit worse, again. That’s widening the whole existing “bypass” from 2 lanes to 3, plus extra turning lanes on Willis Street, Victoria St, and more turning lanes and a slip lane at Taranaki Street. Plus, some still-mysterious “optimisation” of Vivian Street. Oh, and widening Victoria Street to 4 lanes.

  • As a Local Board Transport rep I am frequently given the opportunity to comment on proposed intersection layouts and have been very clear that there should be a pedestrian crossing for every leg of any signalised intersection, but have never managed to actually persuade the engineers.

    We have two test cases coming up, both T-junctions which should have three crossings, but the drawings we are shown only have two:

    1. The intersection of Great North Road and St. Lukes Road (opposite Motat) is to have a major upgrade; currently it has 3 crossings but the new design reduces the number of crossings to 2.

    2. Upgrading of the Morningside Drive/Exeter Street intersection (presently uncontrolled) to a signalised intersection serving the enlarged St. Lukes Mall. For pedestrians this will bring the benefit of a light controlled pedestrian crossing across Monringside Drive but it has been designed with only two pedestrian crossings despite having three legs.

    I have refused to sign off the current designs but am not confident that my “veto” will stand.

    Of course there are many others that already exist, but we should not be going backwards by allowing more of these substandard crossings.

    • Luke C

      haha I was sure someone would pick up on it. But wanted to give it a clear title, different to other previous and future posts on similar topics.

  • Instauration

    Too much focus on the Auckland CBD.
    Luke appears CBD myopic.
    The majority of pedestrians need Legs elsewhere.

    • Luke C

      I did say that is needed elsewhere too. But I do not have a time to make a map of the whole city! If there are 25 in the CBD where pedestrians do dominate people counts, then must be much worse in the suburbs. Roundabouts probably a bigger issue in the suburbs, lucky CBD has escaped them.

  • Anthony McBride

    On this section https://www.google.co.nz/maps/@-41.2797828,174.7797622,72m/data=!3m1!1e3
    I nearly got ran over by a driver in a jeep who teared around the corner and accelerated just as I just started walking across the road towards the McDonald’s from the Station, he was going so fast that I just ran and made it to the other side as he went behind me. He had the nerve to honk his horn. So I flipped him off. It’s so unlike me to do such a thing but I got such a fright.

    • Instauration

      Anthony
      A “Honk” I suspect was the use of a “warning device”. It is not legal to utilise the mandatory warning device of a registered and WOFed motor vehicle other than to signal danger. Were you presenting a danger to legitimate users of the vehicular byway and were you complying with your obligations of “due care” as a pedestrian ? I suspect the “Jeep” driver was exercising his obligation to warn in this regard as all licensed drivers are tested and certified accordingly- alas pedestrians can be anyone of any reason.
      I also suspect that your “flipped” response was futile, likely juvenile, and accorded nothing less than a lateral resonance of the head of the driver.

      • That’s a silly comment, defending someone accelerating toward a pedestrian? Pedestrian’s are required to cross only when it’s clear, but speeding or eratic motorists can make determining when it’s clear difficult, as the situation can go from a clear road to an occupied one very quickly.

        • Sailor Boy

          Also hard to tell because I am not familiar with the layout of Wellington, but if this was at the lights then the pedestrian has row

  • Ari

    @Patrick. I’m not sure how incompetence is involved here as it is pretty straight forward.
    Fact: There is only a limited pie of time to share out to each side of the road because this time is fixed.
    Fact: Because of this limited time,if you increase time for one direction, you take time off another direction.
    Fact: If you put in a 30m crossing on the western side, this requires at least 30 seconds for a pedestrian to cross.
    Fact: Whether it is a single pedestrian or 30 pedestrians the time taken is the same.
    Fact: Currently the cars from the south may only get 15-20s to exit, with the crossing they will get a minimum of 30s, but maybe more which will take time from Fanshawe.
    Fact: A bus is a vehicle.
    Extrapolation: You will increase vehicle delays on Fanshawe as they will have less time to use than before.
    Extrapolation: The many buses on Fanshawe will be delayed.
    Observation: Pedestrians often push the button then run across gaps in traffic and the crossing runs with no one using the crossing.
    Speculation: At peak times, one pedestrian could theoretically hold up 100 bus passengers for 10-15s each every time that crossing runs.
    Opinion: You cannot magically create extra time out of nowhere. Someone has to lose out here.
    Fact: It is usually pedestrians.

    @Kent, other cities usually have more one-way streets, more right turn bans and other restrictions in order to reduce the number of phases at each intersection which allows lower cycle times. For instance Toronto runs some intersections North-South and East/West only with no turns permitted and a Barnes dance phase. This allows a low cycle time with only 3 phases. But this cannot be applied everywhere. Best practice is a nice benchmark but not always achievable in the real world and certainly not in every situation under all conditions.

    • Loraxus

      So? If we have a busway that is so important that it cannot be delayed, then we need more grade-separated crossings over it, or you will get back to the “Lets screw pedestrians, in favor of another mode” result. And I argue that in the Inner City, even buses have to give way to peds, literally.

    • Buses may be vehicles but they are vastly different to cars. Buses don’t need a lot of time to clear, you can easily move four or five through an intersection in 30 seconds. If they only get 30 seconds out of a two minute cycle you can still throughput 150 buses an hour each way.

      The only reason Fanshawe St has two and a half minute cycle times is for the traffic, if you’re not super focussed on the traffic then you’ve got stacks of time for heaps of buses and heaps of pedestrians.

    • Ari.

      Fact: Looking at Auckland street and road design the only possible conclusion is that traffic engineering is the institutionalisation of incompetence to career level: nothing more complex than one mode can seem to be catered for in any one place.

      The only sign of competent traffic engineering in Auckland output is on the motorway system, in other words this cadre of professionals seem to be only able to handle simple monocultures. I have heard that the training at the AK School is stuck in a time-warp, perhaps this is it? Flow, LOS, etc….

      Your answer suggests that the demands from the various modes at this intersection is just too hard for standard TE training to cope with. So one mode and one mode only is served at all well. Everything else is relegated to the left-overs or in the case of self-propelled humans; fenced off and ignored.

    • Luke Christensen

      the missing keg crosses in front of the buses. No need to delay Fanshawe St buses at all, they already get plenty of red lights. Might have to endure horror of delaying vehicles turning left from Halsey into Fanshawe, but there aren’t any buses doing that.

    • Brendan

      Fact: Pedestrians often push the button then cross in gaps in traffic, because the pedestrian phase has taken too long.

      This should be a AT KPI, number of pedestrians who decide to risk their life instead of being delayed. Ideal number: 0.

  • john smith

    FYI in central Melbourne (Hoddle grid) the main streets (not the ‘Little’ streets) are all two way, and to the best of my knowledge all or most allow left and right turns.

    Most of the traffic lights have two part cycles of about 80-90 seconds. Walking in a straight line, you face about 20 seconds of green man, 20 seconds of flashing red man, and 40 seconds of red man while the people on the other street have their turn.

    Right turns are hook turns. Two or three cars turning from south to east (let’s say) line up in the hook space, which you can think of as being the head of the queue of cars travelling from west to east. They complete their turn (if there has been no opportunity earlier) in the time between when the folks going south to north stop on the orange light, and when the light goes green for the folks going west to east. This is intuitively obvious as in the hook position they are in fact blocking the way of the folks going west to east.

    All very simple and reasonably friendly to pedestrians (compared with having 5 seconds of green man in a 2 minute cycle). The traffic moves too – slowly. If you insist on driving through the Hoddle grid, you can – there is just no priority to making it quick. That is as it should be.

    The hook turn exists so that right turning traffic doesn’t hold up trams. But it’s not essential. Without trams, it could equally be a right turn lane, and it doesn’t change the principle. Which is, you’d be susprised what you can do without long and complicated traffic light cycles, providing the traffic environment is managed to keep speeds low enough to be safe.

  • conan

    It’s not a missing leg, but the non crossing (there is an island) across Mayoral Drive in front of the Aotea Centre is another accident waiting to happen. It is not possible to cross the road at walking pace if the road is clear from traffic coming from the North when you first cross, but a car appears as you are crossing. Given this is the natural pedestrian flow from a bus stop where large numbers of western services stop through to Uni/AUT and the like it’s busy. I imagine the reason there isn’t one there is that ‘it’s complicated’ or ‘sight line are such that drivers won’t be able to see the pedestrians on the crossing in time’.

  • Bevan Woodward

    I note the impact of the high quality (and increased number) of pedestrian crossings on Queen Street, compared to the traffic sewer called Fanshaw St. These improved pedestrian crossings have resulted in Queen St having a lot less traffic (hence it’s reasonably safe & pleasant to cycle) and I reckon there’s far more pedestrians (because it’s less frustrating than driving) whilst supports a vibrant retail environment.

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