AT Event PT Groundhog

Auckland Anniversary weekend, like many other long weekends, has long been associated with people packing up their car and fleeing the city, usually to beaches in places like the Coromandel Peninsula or North of Auckland. In the last few years in particular, we’ve also started to see Auckland growing into becoming an international city that is able to celebrate the anniversary weekend through a wide range of events. What’s more, many of these events are now being held in the city centre. Take yesterday for example, in the city centre we had:

The impact of this change and development of the city centre as a destination not just for work has been hugely positive and importantly popular too, going by the massive numbers of people drawn to the city to participate in the events.

Unfortunately, a cloud continues to hang over events like what took place yesterday – and the rest of the weekend, AT’s continued sole focus on the hunt for the great white commuter (the stereotypical 9-5 office worker). This is evident by the almost non-existent public transport that existed due to public holidays being treated with a Sunday timetable – with one exception, some extra trains to cater for the cricket.

But even the extra trains put on for the cricket would have been useless for most as there were only a few extra services put on at the expected start and finish time of the match. That meant throughout most of the day, the rail network continued to run with just 30 minute frequencies – a level at which most people would think makes using it just too hard.

And it’s not just the infrequent services that cause issues but also how long they run for. On Sunday, and like with New Year’s Eve, the final trains for the day left just minutes before the fireworks ended. On Monday, the same thing happened with the Laneway Festival as the last trains departed Britomart just before the festival ended.

To me this all represents a massive missed opportunity to showcase our PT network, which has been improving. It also likely means AT aren’t getting the most of their 99c child fares on weekends.

We know that by in large, most people are rational. Many are more than happy to use PT if a decent service is provided but what AT continues to provide on days like yesterday doesn’t even come close to a decent service.

Of course, the ultimate solution is for AT to not treat event days like this weekend separate at all but just to provide a decent base level of service every day. That is part of the philosophy behind the New Network but it’s notable that AT haven’t implemented the associated rail changes with it yet, these were described in AT’s Regional Public Transport Plan as:

This isn’t the first time I’ve raised issues about the provision PT and events and sadly I doubt it will be the last.

Did you have any PT experiences over the weekend and how did they go?

Santa Parade Groundhog

It’s groundhog time once again. Every year at around this time, we post a near identical post because every year Auckland Transport makes the same boneheaded decision. This all relates to what should be a cheerful occasion, the Santa Parade. You can see the previous posts below:

First, here’s what AT have to say.

Santa is coming to town on Sunday but the central city has changed a bit since his last visit. Santa says driving into town isn’t a great idea so he’s suggesting you take the family on a bus, train or ferry to the Farmers Santa Parade.

Public transport will be busier than usual but Auckland Transport is putting on some extra services to make sure everyone is in town for the 1pm parade.

On buses, trains and ferries, there will be some selected additional services but not too many and regular fares apply. The fare situation is a little different this year though since the introduction of simplified fares. The family pass no longer exists, although how hard it was to buy in the past – only available at a manned train or busway stations – I suspect it was rarely sold. Instead, a feature of Simplified Fares is that kids with a HOP card loaded with a child concession pay a maximum of 99c for a trip.

As an example, if all using HOP, a family of two adults and two children from the Ishmus or Lower North Shore zones will pay $16.36 for return trip while a family travelling from the Upper North Shore, Waitakere or Manukau North will pay $23.56.

But then they get the part about those who drive to town.

If you are planning to drive to the parade, please be aware that road closures and parking restrictions will be in place.

Public parking is free at the Downtown, Victoria Street and Civic car parks for vehicles parked by 11am and exited by 6pm. Exit after 6pm will incur a fee.

So after telling people they shouldn’t drive to town they offer free parking for those that do. Rather than writing the same thing again, I’m largely just going to quote from these old posts. Here’s what I said in 2013 about the same situation.

AT are making two of their parking buildings free for the afternoon. Are they completely insane?

Firstly it completely undermines the any incentive for people to use public transport to get to the city, the one location that would be easiest to ramp up services to. But worse it is likely to cause nightmares on the day. The free parking only covers the Downtown and Victoria St carparks which according to the AT website have 1,890 and 850 spaces respectively so 2,740 all up. Even if every space was taken up with a car carrying the mythical nuclear family of two parents and two kids, that only represents about 11,000 people. That might seem like a lot but would only represent a small fraction of the overall crowd, often estimated at up to 300,000 but more realistically to be around the 80-90k mark.

The problem though is that lured by the potential for free parking heaps of people will then decide to drive to the CBD, after all why pay for a train or bus when you can get free parking in the CBD. Also worth pointing out that it isn’t possible to buy a family pass now unless you are at one of the handful of train stations that still sell them and it is also the same day that the rest of the Metrolink fleet switch over to HOP.

Those car parking spaces will be gone in a flash (probably before the free period even starts) and that will leave the CBD clogged with cars trying to find alternative places to park and will potentially even see people missing the event as a result.

Now I understand the free parking is possibly related to deals done some time ago but what I don’t understand is why AT don’t make public transport free too. I imagine a lot of families would be keen to use it. The main reason I suspect they don’t is they’re too scared their crappy weekend frequencies, even with a few extra services, would be easily overwhelmed.

AT seem to have finally learned to increase PT capacity before the annual March Madness, perhaps next year they’ll learn to put frequent services and free PT on for the Santa Parade.

A Quay Park stadium?

The concept of a downtown stadium is back in the news again, with new mayor Phil Goff proposing a site on the rail yards next to Vector Arena. It’s interesting that this keeps coming up, my theory is that the public are beginning to recognise the importance of well-located infrastructure and the value of centrality and good transport links. Perhaps a stadium is an easy focus for people to think about issues of location and accessibility?

In this post I wanted to explore a concept for how a stadium here might work, particularly from a transport and urban form perspective. Naturally this is a controversial topic so please bear with me and put issues like funding and whether we actually need a new stadium or not to one side. I’ll go on the record saying it’s unlikely to be an economically sound prospect, but let’s indulge ourselves a little and think what it could be like if it were.

So the Quay Park location. I think this site has three main things going for it for a stadium;

  • Location: It is located downtown, well just on the edge of downtown and walking distance from more or less everything the city has to offer. This includes a lot of hotel rooms, a lot of restaurants and bars, and indeed a hell of a lot of parking, most of which is highly underutilised outside of nine to five weekday times.
  • Acessibility: It is centrally located within the Auckland region, giving the best access from all over. In particular downtown is the centre of the regional transport system. All the motorways, the rail lines, the bus routes and ferries converge on downtown Auckland. Our transport system delivers about 100,000 people to central Auckland every morning, so the same system can easy handle 40,000 stadium patrons.
  • Existing land uses: Currently the old rail yards are underutilised land with the ability to actually construct a stadium there. There are few other pieces of land big enough anywhere in Auckland, let alone downtown where you can do all manner of sports games, events and concerts at any time. However right next door is the Vector Arena which has already set a precedent for what the Quay Park precinct might be all about.

A good site then, so on to the concept. What I’m proposing is a stadium sat just east of the Vector Arena and the old railway building. It would be a tight fit, requiring a rectangular field for football codes only (sorry cricket, but Western Springs looks great anyway) and a relatively compact full bowl to get in seating for 40,000+ people at maximum capacity. I like the concept of having two tiers of seating, with the lower level being used for smaller games and events and the upper only opened for blockbuster test matches. That way the place feels full and lively no matter the draw. The model shown in the photos is San Marmes Stadium in Bilbao, although I did shrink it slightly as San Marmes can support over 50,000 seated spectators.

stadium-test6

In addition to the new stadium I’d propose that the grand old railway building next door be re-purposed at the same time. Instead of student accommodation that wonderful building could be reconfigured into a small to medium size event space and function rooms. This would result in a sports and events precinct with three key facilities, the large open stadium, the medium size enclosed Vector Arena, and the smaller Old Railway event space.

Now there is of course the existing Quay Park rail junction, The Strand station and a stabling facility to deal with. My plan is to build the stadium over the junction triangle, with a large pedestrian concourse level around the three facilities on a deck over the rail lines. I suppose this would be the time to grade separate the junction too, presumably by keeping the eastern line at a lower level longer while the Parnell branch runs over the top as it does today. This way all the rail movements, together with servicing and truck access to the three buildings, would be tucked away underneath a broad pedestrian plaza stretching around the stadia and linking it to the surrounding streets.

One could walk to the stadium from Quay St or The Strand, but also on new lanes alongside Vector or the Railway Building, or down a new lane in between. These lanes could be filled with bars and eateries to serve the three event facilities and the general public. Working in some offices and even apartments in and around the precinct could be a good idea too, to get extra value out of the development even when there isn’t a game on. You could even consider having the outward facing sides of the stadium full of commercial space, with several floors of offices taking advantage of the north facing harbour views.

So on to the transport. Number one is the excellent walking connectivity the stadium precinct would have to downtown and the surrounding neighbourhoods, by virtue of the elevated concourse wrapping around the three buildings.

stadium-test-10-max

The second part of the transport concept would be the double road frontages, one on the north side to Quay St, and the other on the south side to The Strand. These two roads could be enhanced as boulevards to separate through traffic and local movements, potentially even separating a SH16 extension alongside the stadium. In any case, both of these road frontages could be staging areas for buses and coaches, taxis and VIP parking, as well as access to the undercroft loading docks and service areas. I don’t propose any general parking on site, for a start people can use any of the multitude of parking buildings in town no more than ten minutes away, and secondly spreading this traffic demand across the city is far better than concentrating it all in one peak.

Thirdly, the rail. I’m suggesting a new Quay Park railway station immediately east of the stadium, and directly linked to the pedestrian concourse at one end, and The Strand overbridge at the other. I think this could do with three broad island platforms with six tracks and there is room for something this size. Two of these tracks would be used as a regular stop on the Eastern Line to and from the city (which once the CRL is built, also runs through to the Southern Line). This gives regular access to nearby offices and apartments, and during an event at the stadium or Vector you can simply increase the Southern-Eastern line to peak frequency to move a lot of people to the site.

The next two tracks would be used for intercity services and regional express trains. With the main CRL line on the next platform over this would allow Quay Park to be the main rail terminal for trains from the Waikato and the Bay of Plenty, without clogging up Britomart or the CRL. Naturally during big Rugby games these intercity platforms would be very busy also.

The final two tracks wouldn’t be used for regular trains, but they would be used during events to bring the Western and Onehunga lines in to Quay Park. I don’t propose diverting these lines via Quay Park routinely as that would add far too much time over them continuing to use the curve between Parnell and Britomart, but during events the extra access and capacity would be useful. These could be event only special trains from the West, or during events you could simply bounce the whole main line in and out like we do at Newmarket today.

stadium-test7

In summary, Quay Park station would be a new ‘metro’ stop on the main line between the east and the city/south all day, every day, while during events up to six platforms worth of trains could serve a huge amount of customers. According to a quick calculation such a station could accommodate sixty or seventy trains an hour in total, potentially enough to singlehandedly deliver a capacity crowd to the stadium in under an hour. There would also be a big benefit for operations on the CRL. Extra peak frequency could be staged from the station to pick up commuter crowds at Britomart, while the extra platforms could be used for interpeak stabling during the day on weekdays (assuming no blockbuster events happen 9-5 on work days).

All of this would be very expensive of course, with a lot of local opposition and competing schemes… and one must consider the value of this over simply working with the existing stadiums we have. However, it looks like the location would work well and the outcome would be great on several levels: a new premier stadium anchoring a combined sports and events precinct, a new rail station and terminal for local and intercity trains that also improves CRL operations, and fixed up local roads and streets to greatly enhances the Quay Park area and stitch it in between downtown and Parnell.

As always, let us know what you think in the comments section below.

IPENZ Transport Careers Evening

ipenz-careers-meeting-2016

Are you passionate about cities? Interested in transport? Want to find out about potential careers in the transport industry?

Then come along to the IPENZ Transportation Careers evening. Come listen to speakers from a broad range of backgrounds talk about how they fell into a career in transport.

There will also be an opportunity to informally talk to people from a range of transport companies over some light refreshments.

Interested students from all universities, disciplines and stages of study are welcome to attend. Last year we had students from Arts, Science, Law, Commerce, Architecture and Engineering attend.

Speakers are:
Martin McMullan (National Zero Harm Manager, NZTA)
Michelle Ye (Transport Modeller – AECOM / Air New Zealand)
Georgia Luxton, Mark Fisher (84 Recruitment)
Niko Elsen (Generation Zero)

The networking will include representatives from the following sponsors:
NZTA, Auckland Transport, Ableys Transportation Consultants, AECOM, Aurecon, Beca, GHD, MRCagney, TDG, Tonkin +Taylor and Eighty4 Recruitment

Details:
29th September, 5pm
University of Auckland General Library, B28

Watch: Gil Penalosa in Auckland

On Wednesday the latest and one of the best Auckland Conversations took place with the renowned Gil Penalosa in Auckland and talking about creating vibrant and healthy cities. It’s something I think all current or aspiring politicians should watch.

The talk was full of energy and passion for improving cities for all residents regardless of age, wealth or social status. He focuses on the need to improve out public spaces to improve the health and livability of cities and that includes the single biggest source of publicly owned space in cities, our streets. To do that it also requires we deal effectively with the CAVE people (Citizens Against Virtually Everything) and how we need to stand up to the civic cadavers who resurrect themselves every few years to oppose change.

How can we create vibrant and healthy cities for everyone, regardless of age or social status? What is the role of streets – the largest public space in any city? How can parks improve the quality of life that attracts and retains people to their communities?

Gil answers these questions while also explaining a simple and effective principle for inclusive city building: ensuring the safety and joy of children and older adults (from 8 year olds to 80 year olds) are at the forefront of every decision we make in our cities. Drawing on his experience as Commissioner of Parks and Recreation in Bogota, Gil presents some of the now widely celebrated approaches to urban regeneration through investments in parks and public spaces. Gil also draws upon examples from cities around the world which demonstrate the power of parks and public space in making lives happier, communities better, and economies stronger.

and if you want an audio only version,

Did you go or have you watched the talk, if so what did you think.

Locked Out

6:45pm tonight at the AMI Netball Centre Northcote there is a housing affordability debate with some interesting speakers, head along:

Locked-Out-twitter-image

 

K Rd Open Streets a success

Who are you and what have you done with Auckland Transport?

For the third time in a week I find myself praising Auckland Transport for something related to walking and cycling. This time following the fantastic Open Streets on K Rd.

Image from Tina Plunkett

Image from Tina Plunkett

AT fixed the biggest issue from the last few years on Quay St when there simply wasn’t enough space for the tens of thousands of people out enjoying the day due to them leaving half of the road open to traffic. This time they closed off the entire street from Newton/Ponsonby Rd all the way through to Upper Queen St. The day also went longer than in the past with this year it opening to people from 12-7pm. The extra space and time were definitely needed with the event proving hugely popular and thousands flocking to the street. Given K Rd’s colourful history I suspect for many it might have been the first time in a long time – and what a way to see it.

AT worked with the K Rd business association to put on the day and I love that the organisers didn’t try to sanitise what makes K Rd unique, instead the event felt like a celebration of what K Rd is so wasn’t something else that was awkwardly shoehorned into it. From the music to street performers to the drag queens commenting on street football/limbo, the street’s culture and colour were vital in helping to make the event both interesting and also not feel manufactured.

The very nature of the street also played a big role, the subtle twists and turns as K Rd makes its way along the ridge helped too in breaking up the street and creating some mystery. As you come around a corner and the street opens up ahead of you, you found something new to check out and a heap more people.

I think the day would have also been great for businesses along the street, some of which don’t normally even open on a Sunday. All of the cafe’s and bars I saw were humming with people and their presence meant there wasn’t a need for things like food trucks which also helped in allowing for more space for people.

Everyone that I talked to, both on the street and online afterwards was extremely positive about the event with many also saying:

  • It should happen every Sunday
  • It needs to happen in many other town centres around the region.

If the K Rd event did become a regular event and even if only half as many people turned up it would still be hugely successful and see a far greater number of people use the road than had it been open to cars.

Following the previous events on Quay St, it feels like Auckland is now starting to tap into the right vein of what is needed to make events like this successful in the future. This includes

  • Closing the whole street to give people enough the space to move about
  • Tapping into the local community and letting them put their own flavour on things.
  • Not over manufacturing things

And as successful as the day was, I also couldn’t help imagine what it would be like once the CRL is open and thousands of people an hour are pouring out of the K Rd station.

There are a heap of photos from the event on twitter and I’m sure other social media too.

As part of the event Auckland Transport were also talking about the options for upgrading the streetscape of K Rd which includes adding cycleways. The project covers the area from the Newton/Ponsonby Rd intersection through to Symonds St. AT are still working on the design for it but were asking for feedback on which kind of cycleway design people liked best.

For most of the street where there’s enough space they asked for people’s preferences between three different cycleway options.

K Rd open street consultation - 3 cycleway options

While for the central section between Pitt St and Upper Queen St there were two options suggested. For these AT also had the ideas shown in virtual reality which gave a different perspective and definitely influenced my preference.

K Rd open street consultation - central cycleway options

And as of about 5:15pm, here’s how the voting AT had set up was looking. As you can see they were hugely in favour of physical separation in both cases. In the central section, after looking at the VR version I actually preferred the kerbside option as the extra width was noticeable and there’s less likely to be people walking over the cycleway.

K Rd open street consultation - voting

 

Overall an excellent day that was enjoyed by tens of thousands. Well done to all involved in organising this.

Did you go to the event, if so what did you think?

 

K Rd Open Streets

On Sunday 1st May, Karangahape Rd will be open to people with the latest Open Streets event.

Positively it appears that AT have learned from the event on Quay St last year where there was simply not enough space because half of it was still dedicated to moving vehicles while tens of thousands of people crammed in what little space existed. This time the the event will see the road completely vehicle free. In addition AT say they’ll be closing parts of Nelson St and Sturdee St to traffic so that people wanting to check out the Nelson St cycleway can get all the way to the waterfront safely.

I also like the idea of moving the event around to different locations and something I’ve suggested before.

Open Steets 2016 1

AT haven’t said yet how they’ll deal with bus services that pass like the inner Link that through the area.

Karangahape Rd will host Auckland’s biggest traffic-free street event of 2016 on Sunday 1 May from 12pm-7pm.

Open Streets 2016 is a chance to take in live music, street dining, art installations, pop up performances and more on Auckland’s famous street. It will be traffic-free between Upper Queen St and Ponsonby Rd.

Karangahape Rd, which is set for a streetscape enhancement, was chosen for Open Streets 2016 for a number of reasons says Auckland Transport’s Cycling and Walking Manager Kathryn King.

“It’s got a vibrant art, music and culture scene; rich heritage and historic buildings; celebrated eateries and bars; and a rapidly expanding residential community. It’s also centrally located with great connections to our growing network of cycleways, so we’re encouraging people to cycle or walk there on the day.

“The pink Lightpath is right behind Karangahape Rd so it’s a great chance for people to walk or cycle Lightpath and continue around the whole inner city cycle loop. They can also enjoy a drink, some food and listen to free music with friends and family on K Rd.”

Part of Nelson St and Sturdee St (Nelson St Cycleway phase two) will be closed so people can cycle the entire inner city loop. The route starts at Lightpath, continues down Nelson St, Sturdee St to Quay St where cyclists can continue on the Beach Rd and Grafton Gully Cycleway and then back up to Lightpath at the bottom of Mercury Lane.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown says Open Streets is a great family event. “Last year it was held on Quay St and there was a huge crowd. This year on Karangahape Rd is a bigger space and I hope to see even more Aucklanders turning out.”

Auckland Transport is working closely with the Karangahape Rd Business Association on this year’s Open Streets, which will reflect the unique character of the destination.

Open Streets is tailor-made for K Road and this Open Streets will be home grown says Karangahape Business Association president, Ross Liew.

“We have a diverse and engaged community of creatives, businesses, NGOs and personalities whose value can be well realised through a platform such as this.”

The family-friendly day will see K’Rd businesses host activities and games for kids, sharing the food and drink from local eateries and showcasing the local artistic offerings through street performance, music and art.

Open Streets is an international initiative to temporarily make a road or area traffic-free to claim the street for walking, cycling, playing and socialising.

Staff from Auckland Council and Auckland Transport will be there on the day presenting early plans for the Karangahape Rd Streetscape Enhancements and Cycleway. It will be an opportunity for all Aucklanders to give feedback on and ask questions about this exciting project.

Auckland Conversations: Cities in Action

Auckland recently joined C40 which is a group of over 80 cities worldwide working to address climate change.

C40 City Map

The executive director of C40 was recently in Auckland and while he was here held an Auckland Conversations talk. During his talk a lot of the focus was on transport and the huge role it has on shaping cities, making them more liveable and of course it’s impact on the climate. If you weren’t at the event or haven’t seen the video it is worth a watch.

It’s also worth highlighting the next Auckland Conversation which looks good is just 10 days away on April 7.

The Value of Well-Designed Cities
7 April 2016, doors open at 5pm.

In association with the New Zealand Planning Institute (NZPI) Annual Conference. (link is external)

Joe Minicozzi, Principal of Urban3 (link is external), pioneers in geo-spatial representation of economic productivity. This helps communities make better decisions through the understanding of data and design. Joe’s work has prompted a paradigm shift in understanding the economic potency of well designed cities.

Joe’s multidisciplinary expertise with city planning in the public and private sectors, as well as his ingenuity with real estate finance, prompted the development of his award-winning analytical tools that have been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Planetizen, Planning, and New Urban News.

Urban3’s research illustrates the benefits of urban density, heritage conservation and mixed-use developments. These have an economic impact that lead to creating sustainable and vibrant cities.

Auckland Conversations: Skye Duncan video

On Tuesday evening was the latest Auckland Conversations event, with Skye Duncan, Global Street Design Director at NACTO. If you weren’t at the event here’s the video.

Over 1.2 million people die on global roads each year from traffic injuries. With three-quarters of the global population expected to be living in cities by 2050, cities must rethink, reimagine and redesign the most valuable real-estate space of streets to function more efficiently for the needs of more people.

Skye Duncan will present the upcoming Global Street Design Guide (link is external) and discuss opportunities for cities to be creative about the infrastructure they already have, and improve the capability of urban streets to support a healthy, livable, and sustainable future.

With input from transportation experts from 72 cities in 42 countries, this Guide is intended as a tool to inspire leaders, inform practitioners and empower communities to shift how they measure the success of streets to include goals of public health and safety, quality of life, social equity and environmental and economic sustainability.

Produced by the Global Designing Cities Initiative (link is external) (GDCI) in partnership with the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) (link is external), the Global Street Design Guide is funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies as part of the Bloomberg Initiative for Global Road Safety (link is external).

It was a great talk, showing lots of examples of how streets can be redesigned and it will be interesting to see how the Global Street Guide influences change. One interesting comment from the evening was actually from Ludo Campbell-Reid who said that Auckland Transport are currently leading the creation of a street design guide. It will be interesting to see what they come up with and how it compares to some of ideas shown in the global guide or that we’ve seen in many other cities in recent years.

 

Did you go to the event or have you watched it, if so What were your thoughts?