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Trapped on an Island

Auckland is in the process of changing from a city of cars to becoming more of city for people but in most places that still is not reflected in our infrastructure. That can often leave situations like you can see so perfectly illustrated below where a lot of people are crammed onto a small traffic island surrounded by a sea of roading with few vehicles on it. The image was provided by our friend Geogoose.

Just to highlight how much more efficient the people are, there are actually more of them on that island than in cars (based on an average occupancy of 1.2).

This happens to be the same intersection that is holding up the extension of the Nelson St cycleway, because some are adamant that without retaining those two left turn lanes, there will widespread chaos for drivers wanting to get to the motorway.

While we’ve seen some great improvements over the last few years, this is a good reminder that there is still so much that needs to be done.

27 comments to Trapped on an Island

  • David

    In Wellington they fixed it – by removing the island.

    • Dgd

      Hah! very droll but sadly its probably in the thinkspace of the roading droids

      • David

        They did though, at the intersection of Taranaki st and Courtenay place. The island was potentially too small for the number of people using it, so it was deemed a safety hazard and removed

    • 8-). Given how well and fast induced demand works, can we reduce demand by reducing provision? If we closed turn off for say repairs for 2 years, could we reduce traffic enough that it would never need to return?

      • That kind of thinking is great for people who live in the inner suburbs and already have good public transport. For those of us who live in poorly-served areas it just doubles the punishment. By all means reduce the road demand for cars, I’d vote for it, but improve the bus service first. Otherwise you’re just marginalising those who live in the middle and outer suburbs.

        • Yup and the two go hand in hand. It is no good waiting for some idealised future moment when AKL can be deemed to have some perfect standard of PT before any place improvements for pedestrians can happen.

          PT, including the bus service, are and have been improving substantially over multiple years. We all agree it has further to go, but that is underway with constant upgrades rolling out over the coming years, especially for buses and ferries. The rail system has had its big jump and won’t really haver another till the CRL opens.

          I am extremely wary of distant future improvements, especially the CRL, being used as the excuse to delay long overdue place upgrades. Because Nirvana never arrives; this is a futurising narrative that keeps the city more shit for longer, and can be extended in perpetuity.

          Furthermore place upgrades support the uptake of those PT services, and its is their increasing use that justifies more investment. The two go hand in hand.

          Or, as the great moaner of Manchester asked: ‘How soon is now?’

          • Dgd

            Back several years when there was some serious enthusiasm for a Hamilton-Auckland rail passenger service, the distant future improvement used to finally block any progress was the CRL. Very effective as that scheme is blocked for at least 10 years, 2013 to 2023, probably even longer.
            The next distant future improvement intercity blocker will likely be the 3rd main 🙁

        • Andy White

          What I don’t understand is why people don’t associate themselves as pedestrians. Unless you’re lucky enough to park in or at the same building you work in, or you have one bus stop right outside your house and another right outside your place of work, then your are a pedestrian for at least part of your journey. When I use the bus then I’m actually a pedestrian for at least 1.8km, but usually more like 3.2km of the total 15.5km journey. That difference is between using the closest stops to work and home vs. using the most time efficient, on the same bus route.

          Even if you do have a perfect door-to-door driving experience, do you not ever go out on foot during the day, to grab some lunch, nip to the shops or post office? My preferred lunch time shops are determined not by price, menu or even distance. In one direction I have to cross at 3 main roads, involving waiting many minutes at traffic signals, whereas I can walk a bit further in the other direction and only cross one minor road, that makes it a no-brainer for me.

  • stu donovan

    This intersection has been a i hate pedestrian zone for the 15 years I’ve lived in auckland. Its a good example of why i left auckland, and why i don’t feel much desire to return.

  • Waspman

    Nelson and Hobson Streets’ one way traffic width highlights how one takes their lives into their hands crossing those expanses if you are nowhere near a pedestrian crossing and with cars steaming down on you. Having crossed them many a time foot traffic is clearly not a consideration for our roading engineers.

  • Steve Cable

    quite often I take a bus through the left turn onto Fanshawe St at that intersection and the bus takes up much of both the left turn lanes as the turn is quite acute and downhill to make things more interesting

    a better question is are three right turn lanes needed?

  • Doug

    That count reminds me of the furore around one of the bicycle lanes created in Sydney three or four years ago. The usual carry-on about nobody will use it…

    A few months after it was opened official counts showed the bicycle lane moved more people than the adjacent general traffic lane. Unfortunately that wasn’t enough to stop the local tabloid from publishing lies and misinformation about it.

  • Gary Young

    I’m not sure I accept the reasoning that left turn access is either important or required at that junction in order to reach the motorway. Access westward to SH1 from the CBD is already available on Wellesley St, Victoria St and Customs St. Driving northwards on Nelson to get to the motorway seems an unnecessary deviation from more direct options.

    I would advocate eliminating the left turn lanes entirely if that is the only justification for their retention.

    • Steve Cable

      “Driving northwards on Nelson to get to the motorway seems an unnecessary deviation from more direct options” except when those other options are clogged by other traffic including NZ Buses turning up Victoria, plus turning left onto Fanshawe gives a bus access to the through bus lane

    • mfwic

      No the left turns further up are hopeless. You sit there for ages waiting at a red light while the cycle lane has a green light but no cyclists.

  • Frederick

    Turn Hobson and Nelson into two way streets, and you’ll be halfway there.

  • Jeff T

    That’s a shocker. Share the land.

  • Yes, at heart, cities are entirely about what is summed up rather perfectly in that image: The economics, aesthetics, and politics of Space.

  • Jeff T

    Something else that is a bit picky but that I keep thinking about, and this picture shows it, is how narrow pedestrian walk lanes can be. Maybe from a time when there were fewer pedestrians?

    These days pedestrians spill out to a far greater width. The more diagonals we can get, the better.

  • Mike F

    24 people in cars, 28 on foot and 1 pedestrian in the foreground crossing on a red pedestrian light. Not a good look.

    • For pedestrians that’s the only way they can get around in a reasonable amount of time. I really hate it how pedestrian give a red man even if all conflicting traffic has red light as well. Even in trivial cases, like the at the entrance to the Lightpath. Pedestrians don’t automatically get green light while the off-ramps have red light.

  • Don M

    Installing a centre island so that pedestrians can cross halfway when the appropriate flow is red would help at many intersections. There is one in Fanshawe St but I have seen few of them elsewhere. Rain shelter on the island would be great as well but that is pure fantasty. 🙂

  • I only count 24 people on that island – who am I missing? Sure it looks busy but this is a single photo – if someone were to post a photo of a cycle lane with a solitary cyclist and say “why are we building all these cycle lanes” you’d be quick to point out it’s just one photo and the cycleway is probably busier at other times. The same is possibly true here: the photo was taken when the island was full but it may be empty most of the time normally.

    That said, if you want to dispense with the island and just run a pedestrian crossing from Nelson St directly over to the other side of Fanshawe St then I have no problem with that either. I know the island, I’ve used it and the crossing, and from memory it seems the island is almost redundant.

    And since someone else upthread mentioned making Hobson and Nelson two way streets again (an idea that keeps getting dusted off) because it’s supposedly so bad for pedestrians who can’t cross such a wide road, dare I ask why Auckland is so special? I’ve seen plenty of wide one way roads in big cities overseas (Manhattan, Barcelona, et al) so what is it about Auckland that we can’t manage to make it work?

    The system is working perfectly as it is now for vehicles: Hobson St funnels traffic directly onto two motorways, and Nelson St does the same but in reverse. So if pedestrians aren’t able to cross in time then how about giving them a longer phase? I don’t really understand how returning both streets to two way will make the width any shorter (and therefore quicker/safer) for pedestrians? Unless of course someone is planning to remove a lane or two to make the roads narrower and the footpaths even wider.

    • Sailor Boy

      “And since someone else upthread mentioned making Hobson and Nelson two way streets again (an idea that keeps getting dusted off) because it’s supposedly so bad for pedestrians who can’t cross such a wide road, dare I ask why Auckland is so special? I’ve seen plenty of wide one way roads in big cities overseas (Manhattan, Barcelona, et al) so what is it about Auckland that we can’t manage to make it work?”

      They don’t work overseas: six lane one way streets are always shit for pedestrians.

      “The system is working perfectly as it is now for vehicles”

      And terribly for everything else.

      “I don’t really understand how returning both streets to two way will make the width any shorter (and therefore quicker/safer) for pedestrians? Unless of course someone is planning to remove a lane or two to make the roads narrower and the footpaths even wider.”

      +1 to this. We could achieve the same thing by simply narrowing the streets to at most 3 lanes. They feed onto single lane onramps after all.

    • Ari

      I totally agree. Just take two lanes out of Nelson/Hobson and make it better for everyone. One-way streets are inherently safer for everyone, the problem is that our only examples are these giant 6 lane monsters that only cater for the vehicle demands of a few hours of the day. I would prefer more one way streets that use less space than two way options and are still probably just as efficient for cars and much better for pedestrians.

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