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The Future Design of Albert Street

Albert Street is going to be a mess for a few years while the City Rail Link is constructed and a report to the councils Auckland City Centre Advisory Board highlights that we can expect it to be reinstated looking better than it does now. The section involved is only that affected by the enabling works which is everything north of Wyndham St. They say there has been over 12 months of design and consultation to come up with the current plans which will create “a high-quality urban street which functions as a key bus corridor while providing improved pedestrian access and amenity“.

The history so far:

  • July 2014 – brief completed
  • August 2015 – consultant team engaged – ACADO
  • March 2015 – concept/reference design completed
  • April 2015 – brief updated to support findings from reference design work
  • May 2015 – consultant team engaged – Boffa/BECA
  • July 2015 – draft developed design completed for review and further feedback
  • August 2015-September 2015 – final amendments made, final option prepared for sign off
  • September 2015-October 2015 – Albert Street detail design/tender drawings

The developed design is below, if differs slightly from the reference design we saw in April with the biggest change seeming to be the lane layout of the downtown development – although there may be other changes that can’t be seen due to the low res image.

Lower Queen St and Albert St public realm Sep 15

Below are the key design outcomes that AT have come up with.

Albert St Key Design Outcomes

Most of this is good although a couple of potential concerns stand out. One being the last point that the section of Albert St between Customs and Quay Street will be bus only except for local traffic. That combined with some of the images below suggests that there will be access to underground parking in the middle of the bus interchange.

The other main concern is that there will be no segregated cycle provision. The street on these sections is very wide and my personal observations is that a lot of cyclists use Albert St to get up from Quay St up to the middle of town. It seems that having a cycle facility at least on the uphill section would be useful. It seems based on the latest image from AT on their planned city centre cycle map that they instead want cyclists to use Federal St which long term will be a shared space.

Below are some images of what’s proposed.

On the Wyndham to Swanson section the biggest difference is the wider footpaths. Currently there is space southbound for the bus stops and a separate bus lane however now it seems that will be combined in one lane. Similarly there is currently a separate right turn lane Northbound into Swanson St which will in future be combined with the general traffic lane.

Albert St Design - Wyndham to Swanson

On the Swanson to Customs Section there are a couple of notable differences to what exists now. The wider footpaths take over the parking/loading zone space outside Quay West building and the northbound bus stops are concentrated opposite this rather than split between that location and just south of Wolfe St

 

Albert St Design - Swanson to Customs

And here is an image of what it would look like – although it seems the traffic are on the wrong sides of the road.

Albert St Design - Swanson to Customs - graphic

And a prettier version from April.

Albert St post CRL

The section between Customs and Quay St where the bus interchange will be. As mentioned earlier you can see there appears to be an entrance to an underground carpark on the eastern side – where one exists now – although it appears not one further north to the HSBC building carpark. Perhaps this suggests the HSBC carpark with views overlooking the harbour will be redeveloped as part of the mall redevelopment.

 

Albert St Design - Customs to Quay

Albert St Design - Customs to Quay - 1

 

Albert St Design - Customs to Quay - 2They say the next steps are:

  • Tidy up plans, create supporting illustrations for communications. – September, October 2015
  • Get formal agreements for funding from relevant and various sources – October, November 2015
  • Complete and agree canopies to lower Albert (Downtown development surrounds) working with Precinct, AT, AC, ACPL combined. September, October 2015
  • Present design to relevant PCG’s, Committees, Boards for information. September, October 2015
  • Complete detail drawing as part of tender document for C2 contract. September, October 2015

It’s good to see some progress and the report notes that the advisory board have previously endorsed in principle the allocation of about $7 million from the City Centre Targeted Rate to go towards the street improvements.

Lastly it might be a while before they start focusing on it but I’m really interested to see how they’ll deal with the two sections south of Wyndham St which have service lanes narrowing the road space available.

65 comments to The Future Design of Albert Street

  • Max

    Any cross-sections? For local cycle access that will be rather important to see how wide the lanes are… should be either very wide or very narrow.

  • There is another new laneway coming for the first image: Mills Lane to Wyndham, top left block.

    Overall this is what Queen St should have been like after the last upgrade; it shows how a four lane inner city street with surface transit should be handled; pedestrian amenity first, then Transit priority, then delivery. All of which is largely achieved through the reduction of unnecessary low value passenger car traffic by simply not giving it so much space. And trees!

    I agree Matt the bigger challenges are in the next two blocks; tiny to invisible footpaths, horrible vehicle crossings [clearly consented by city haters working at the previous Council], and those slip lanes and lovely basalt retaining walls.

    • Matthew W

      On the basis that the traffic lanes are primarily for local access (deliveries as you say), and transit is about longer distance trips, would it not make sense for transit to be on the centre lanes? I am sure I have seen images of transit planned for the centre lanes for Queen St, it would seem to be similarly logical here.

      This would also be better for cycling if no dedicated lanes are provided. Make the general traffic lanes narrow and 30kph and bikes can share with general vehicles (ideally there will be less of them than transit vehicles).

      • Centre Transit lanes require more width for stops than is available on Albert, certainly to do it with buses; there’s more room on Queen, also LRT uses a narrower cross section. Before we get centre Transit lanes on Queen with LRT we’ll get side bus lanes.

        • Matthew W

          Yeah I had previously thought that, but I have seen cross sections for LRT that isnt any narrower than bus lanes, and have never seen any evidence they are narrower. How wide is an LRT lane? A quick google suggests 11 or 12 foot is standard which is as wide or wider than a traffic lane which can be 3m. They make bus lanes wider in Aucklnad but only because/where it is expected that cyclists will share the lane, which wouldnt be the case for centre lanes.

          Do you know that Queen St will have side bus lanes before centre LRT? Andthat the reason is lane width?

          • Buses require even wider lanes by virtue of the fact they don’t run on rails, you have to give extra width to allow the driver some room to move. Furthermore if you put to bus lanes together in the centre you need to add a further separation median of about 1m or more to avoid head on collisions. Then when you want bus stops, you need wide side platforms either side (buses only have doors on the kerbside edge), and you bus lane needs to be a little wider again to allow maneuvering against the platform.

            Median bus lanes therefore need about 8-9m for the running lanes, stretching out to about 16m at stop locations. You can see this on the designs for AMETI busway, it’s not small. With side bus lanes you can do a pair of 3.5m lanes fronting the kerb (about 7m total), at a pinch.

            With LRT, if you’re tight you can get down to about 6m in the median for runnning lanes and 10m with an island platform.

          • Matthew W

            Is that right? We can go to 3m lanes on arterials in Auckland with just a pair of yellow lines to separate – in total 6m. That is for general traffic including trucks so shouldnt be any different for buses. Agree you would need more for a busway, but there is a difference between a high speed busway and a central city arterial. It looks like they are assuming 7m for AMETI on the cross sections in this doc for two way sections: https://at.govt.nz/media/1060990/AMETI-information-board-presentation-march-2015.pdf. At one point they have 1m shoulders but that does not appear to be the case generally.

            6m sounds very tight for LRT but maybe it has been done. It looks like 7m is more the standard in general.

          • Matthew W

            http://www.apta.com/resources/standards/Documents/APTA-RT-ST-GL-001-13.pdf

            This talks about 11 or 12 foot as normal for LRT, with 10 foot being very narrow.

          • Regardless, there isn’t room for centre Transit lanes whatever the technology on Albert. Side lanes make better sense, the stops can be on the wider footpath, buses can also use the general lanes to overtake and there is little problem for general traffic turning across bus lanes.

            Is is just the 105 that’s programmed to be running here, or is that just during the build?

          • Matthew W

            Hmm. How much wider is Queen St? I have tried to measure on google earth, I cant see any substantive difference in width between the two streets? Certainly both are wider than Dominion Road – another place where central transit lanes have been proposed.

          • Matt, there is no arterial in Auckland where you have just two 3m lanes with only a line between and kerbs to the side. I think you’ll find it’s either multiple lanes (including parking lane) or a flush median, or a lanes thats wider than 3m.

            Ok so AMETI is 7m for two bus lanes where there is a separator median to one side and cycle lane to the other. But you’ll note on the Pakuranga Rd section it’s 3.5m lanes with a 1m separator each side, so 9m in total. You still need stops however, which basically means you need two lanes for buses and two lanes for stops, or all four lanes dedicated to buses.

            ATs plans for Queen St remove the traffic lanes when LRT goes in. If you are willing to remove the traffic lanes from Albert St you can do the same with LRT or bus.

            On Dominion Rd, note that AT worked out central bus lanes was unworkable and stuck with side bus lanes. LRT is presumably favored now because you can get more in to less width.

          • Queen St already has the widened footpaths proposed for Albert, and typically has five lanes at intersections where stops go, and is mega-wide south of Wellesley where a major stop would be.

            Anyway; what are the great advantages of centre buslanes that you see?

          • Matthew W

            The main advantages I see are reducing conflict with turning traffic/ traffic wanting to stop to make deliveries etc, as well as it being better for cyclists if they can be in a slow moving general traffic lane that is too narrow for parking.

          • Matthew W

            Pretty sure the central lanes on Onewa Road are 3m each.

            Regarding stops you can have them offset. I am not disagreeing that central lanes take more space, just wondering why it wasnt being proposed here whereas it apparently is for Queen St – however by the sounds of it Queen St will be pedestrianised where this is the case.

            Does this mean that for the proposed LRT network it will be predominantly in kerb lanes I wonder?

          • Yes but the centre lanes of Onewa each have another lane next to them, they aren’t constrained by bus stop islands in between the lanes.

            See here for LRT information: https://at.govt.nz/projects-roadworks/light-rail-network/ LRT lanes in the middle.

          • Matthew W

            Its interesting they dont list a narrower corridor as being an advantage if this was the deciding factor between central lanes on Dom Rd.

          • Dan C

            For domion rd ive heard they are looking again at centre running busses so that they can use double deckers as a stop gap capacity upgrade until such time as light rail is extended down dom rd.

    • wsomc

      The main challenge south of Wyndham St is that there’s only so many people interested in visiting one of those nice car park buildings. They take up maybe half of the frontage there.

      • I really hope AC/AT are talking to the owners of those buildings about the opportunities for up valuing the use of those buildings. Fewer and fewer people are going to want to drive this deep into the city… And the return on residential or office space is sure to be higher. Of course the sunk cost is a problem, this is why it is so regrettable that such poor use was ever consented for these sites. Those vehicle crossings alone onto Albert St should have been regected. All part of the glory that auto-priority give your city…. As for the hotel! The entire pedestrian realm there has been privatised and motorwayed.

  • Where in the previous and next steps is the public consultation? Or is this built for a totalitarian city?

    • They say the consultation was the public release of the images in April which is rubbish as they never said it was one. In saying that I also think they often have to consult on too much which can waste a lot of time and gets treated as a box ticking exercise i.e. We’ve decided but will consult to pretend we’ve listened

  • Bryce P

    I see there are cycle racks drawn in. LOL

  • Early Commuter

    Those footpaths are way too wide
    Much better movement outcomes from adding in cycle lanes and cutting away those footpaths a bit
    Most peds don’t move fast. Cycles do. Facilitate speed.

    • Hard to agree. City footpaths really can’t be too wide. Ideally they go from building edge to building edge, when they become true urban places.

      However Matt’s suggestion of cycle lanes to Wyndham St makes sense, then encouraging riders to use Federal St south of St Pats; transformed into a shared space, not one-way for riders.

      • Early Commuter

        Stop pushing your ideology of a particular Platonic ideal of a “true urban place.” I disagree with it; others do too. Not everyone wants some hipster wet dream of an inner city.

        This is a transport corridor. We need it to move buses, cycles, cars, and maybe trams from A to B as fast and as safely as possible.

        “Shared spaces” are just weasel words for “inefficient.”

        • Max

          Stop responding to another person’s opinions with agression.

        • stevenz

          When it comes to moving *people* – a dangerous idea, I know – shared spaces and footpaths are highly efficient and can handle more persons per km than most downtown streets. If you want to move cars, build streets. If you want to move people, build footpaths. Of course, both are needed. And if you don’t agree with those who feel differently than you, just keep in mind that they/we want urban places to be *urban* places, and yes, there are definitions of what that means.

        • “This is a transport corridor. We need it to move buses, cycles, cars, and maybe trams from A to B as fast and as safely as possible.”

          You left out pedestrians, surely we need to move them from A to B as fast and as safely as possible too?

      • The standard urban street hierarchy is uncontroversial, it is usually illustrated by an inverted pyramid like the one below. There are various versions but I have never ever seen one without pedestrians at the top. Certainly you can argue that the proposed plan for Albert St should do more for people on bikes but it isn’t credible to claim that serving the pedestrian realm well isn’t the first job of any plan for a street like this, or is the result of some radical or contested ‘ideology’:

        • Thanks Patrick
          Was looking for that for another area needing an urban make over

        • Bryce P

          So, in a limited width transport corridor, where we acknowledge we need bus lanes and footpaths and are bound by some law that says we need 2 traffic lanes, do we add trees or cycle paths?

          • My vote in this case is certainly trees, or always trees, or rather it is a false opposition. Never allow yourself to be boxed into a corner to choose between two obviously positive things.

            But to stick to this case it’s a question of what is the quality or availability of any parallel routes?

          • We add footpath space, in which some trees can fit.

          • Bryce P

            What do people on bikes do to access businesses on Albert street?

          • BBC

            Don’t appear to be welcome, the NZ idea that people on bikes are merely commuting from home to work continues here with the desire that they’re kept off Albert St and relegated to Nelson. In fact all new street rebuilds should include cycle infrastructure, how else do bikes become a transport means to get anywhere and everywhere.

          • We don’t need special bike infrastructure on every street, any more than we need special bus infrastructure on every street, or car infrastructure on every street. I’m happy about the wide footpaths, and the bus lanes need to go somewhere. Maybe one day we won’t have buses in the CBD, and everyone will get in using the CRL or light rail. In the meantime, we have a shitload of buses to get through.

            People on bikes who are going elsewhere will have (or should have) routes on Queen Street, Victoria Street, and Hobson Street. If they have a specific destination on Albert Street they can ride in the general traffic lane for a block. Or if that doesn’t suit (e.g. new riders and kids), they can do what every other user of the street will do – get off and walk for a block. There won’t be carparking on Albert Street, or bus stops every block, after all – most car drivers and bus passengers will be walking at least one block.

            All that said, if we can fit bike lanes on Albert Street, why not? I’ve made a mockup of AT’s design as best I can (making assumptions about the lane widths, and using aerial photography to measure the street width as 24.4m: http://streetmix.net/nzsd/39/albert-st-proposed-by-at – have a play with it and see what you can do.

            Here’s a version where we get rid of the trees and use the footpath space to provide protected cycle lanes: http://streetmix.net/nzsd/40/albert-st-nibble-the-footpaths – note that the footpaths are nearly a metre narrow than they are today, let alone compared to what AT are proposing.

            Here’s a version where I drop a general traffic lane in one direction. The idea is that the bus lanes are continuous, but each block would alternate direction for general traffic. (There’s driveways opening onto Albert St, so we can’t get rid of general traffic entirely): http://streetmix.net/nzsd/41/albert-st-drop-a-traffic-lane – even doing that, the footpaths are only as wide as they are today, not as wide as AT are proposing. But I’ve managed to make a reasonable buffer from traffic, which could even have trees on it.

            What about the nuclear option? We drop all general traffic lanes, and tell local traffic to share with the buses. Imagine that we have numberplate-recognising cameras at every intersection, and all traffic other than bikes and buses are required to turn left at the next intersection, on pain of a ticket. (I assume, even so, this will significantly delay the buses.) – http://streetmix.net/nzsd/42/albert-st-drop-both-general-traffic-lanes and at bus stops, would look like this – http://streetmix.net/nzsd/43/albert-st-drop-both-general-traffic-lanes-bus-st (note that I’ve made it fit by taking away footpath space on the other side, so the bus stops would need to be staggered so they aren’t opposite each other.

            Thoughts?

          • Sailor Boy

            Bryce, safe routes on all of the narrow side streets up from Queen and down from Hobson with safe facilities would be good. I agree there should be cycle lanes North of Wyndham though….

          • Jonty

            This Streetmix thing is pretty cool. I made an Albert St that has a line of trees and a cycle lane. Why not both?

  • Max

    One thing that concerns me is the lack / removal of loading spaces – we all know that where they aren’t provided, vans & trucks park on footpaths and in bus/cycle lanes. I think we need more of them around town, not less.

  • BBC

    Why is it being rebuilt with bus lanes on the sides rather than in the centre which then removes conflicts at intersections. They’re also hobbled by being shared with left turning cars at all intersections, this is the main thing that ruins the bus lanes on Symonds St and Anzac Ave.

    • Matthew W

      This was my thought. Apparently there is a lack of space, but I havent seen any evidence this option was ever seriously considered.

      • BBC

        I’ve seen centre running buses on roads much narrower than Albert Street in Switzerland, it’s AT’s desire to keep the vehicle lanes so wide that is causing the problem. For example here: https://goo.gl/maps/dcSCqos1NYC2 Traffic lanes to the side, central running trams and buses. Works well, slows vehicles, plenty of crossing opportunities and no issues with cars blocking buses when they turn. The overall street environment is far more pleasant and human scaled than what we’ll end up with on Albert Street.

        • Matthew W

          Wow, thanks. That looks to be about 6m kerb to kerb in the stops. I guess that puts the idea that centre bus lanes need to be space hungry to bed.

          • BBC

            There are actually examples all over Zurich of combined bus/tram central stops on much narrower streets, here’s another: https://goo.gl/maps/dKvMvo2DqQy and this is one that was rebuilt around 1 year ago: https://goo.gl/maps/xP8XpCA9t6t
            These are also not stops with an occasional bus or tram, rather stops with trams and buses every few minutes in both directions, with passenger numbers higher than probably any single stop in Auckland.

            I don’t know whether AT’s designers are so anglophone focused they never look at what people outside the English speaking world but there never appears to be any influence in Auckland or NZ from countries that know how to do transit and do it well.

          • I think that’s a fair point about not just anglophone, but new world focus too; American and Australian. However the turning issue can be dealt with where ever the Transit lanes are by simply not allowing other vehicles in the Transit lane at any time, and controlling the turns with signals. First the buses or trams get a signal then the general traffic on each cycle. No use of Transit lanes whether turning or otherwise.

          • Ted F

            In New Orleans the trains run in the middle of the streets.

  • JeffT

    So, is the bus traffic going to shift from Queen to Albert Street? I also have to wonder with CRL tunnel work to be cut and cover if there might be some vibration at street level on Albert Street with the trains? It won’t be very deep for a while there, will it?

  • Bruce

    Someone from Tesla is working on electric buses. Imagine how pleasant Queen Street would be with noise levels cut and free of diesel fumes?
    http://www.engadget.com/2015/10/04/meet-the-electric-bus-that-could-push-every-other-polluting-bus/

    • BBC

      Queen Street buses will be gone soon enough when stage one of the tram/LRT plan is implemented, then only electric vehicles will be using it, which means no diesel buses and no cars – arguably Queen Street is unpleasant not because of the infrequent Inner Link and Airbus, but rather the tail to tail cars driving along it. That’s where all the noise and pollution is coming from.

  • kelvin

    If a section of the Quay st become shared space, we could have a very good walking integration between the wharfs and the britomart squares.

  • stevenz

    My reaction to the overall design quality is that this is a minimum standard. It’s certainly better than what’s there but a new treatment could be so much better than this design. Of course, the condition of the building frontages will overwhelm whatever design quality is in the public space, so the overall affect won’t be as big as it should be.

    As for footpath width, is it intended that Albert Street be a retail street? I would suggest not. If not, the footpaths could be a bit narrower.

    And why just to Wyndham? I thought Albert was going to be opened all the way to Wellesley. If so, what about that section?

    I would also like to see the construction-period mitigation plan for foot traffic and access to businesses.

  • mfwic

    “a high-quality urban street which functions as a key bus corridor while providing improved pedestrian access and amenity“. An oxymoron. Any street with that many buses and bus stops ends up low quality with poor pedestrian amenity.

  • Ted F

    Bryce P on which one and where? I can’t see them!

  • Jacques

    I personally like that AT picked Sturdee St, rather than having the cycle lane continue straight from Nelson St to the viaduct via Market Pl, because Sturdee St links directly with the arterial (Customs St), and most likely destinations for commuters, so that making this route safe for cyclists is the right choice. How they’ve done that however (in the consultation plans) is very unsatisfactory, and I don’t presume to have the solution as I’m not too familiar with the zone. Having cyclists transition through 2 pedestrian intersections before being able to rejoin the lane is not OK though, that’s just bad design. A proper cycle lane on Sturdee St would be the way to go.

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